This was an interesting one for me. It began with the idea of doing a Cold War spy story about an American agent posing as an officer in the Soviet navy so he could get access to a secret project aboard a submarine. The submarine was being built at Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk by a scientist who’d defected from the USA to the USSR.
The story was coming along, though it seemed a bit large for a short story with a 10,000-word limit. Then I decided to expand upon the opening paragraph, which mentioned how he’d infiltrated the base by killing a Russian soldier on his way there and stealing the man’s transfer papers. That seemed like an interesting short scene I could add at the beginning.
When I began writing it, I instantly knew that was the story I wanted to write—the story of a man ordered to kill a soldier (technically, a sailor), and what happens when he meets his target face-to-face and discovers he finds the man interesting and likeable. Will he go through with it, even after they spend a train trip becoming friends… and perhaps more than friends?
So I set the other story aside and focused on this one.
Train to Sevmash takes place in 1964, during the Brezhnev era and just two years after the Bay of Pigs. It was a time when a gay man had to be extremely cautious about showing interest in another man, and this becomes part of the dance between Agent Jax Colby and Lt. Yuri Veselov, as they spend a long night traveling from Leningrad to Severodvinsk. And the entire time, Colby is aware of the cigarette case in his jacket which carries the means of Veselov’s execution….