THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION is a novel about America edging toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It would be a war that might kill hundreds of millions of people and poison the atmosphere for fifty years.
In October 1962, American spy planes photographed missiles loaded with nuclear warheads in Cuba. The Soviet Union was installing the missiles, and they could reach targets in the USA within minutes. President Kennedy was trying to find a way out of the Cuban Missile Crisis without recourse to war.
The US armed forces were confident about attacking the Soviet Union in one all-out nuclear war, certain they would win. President John Kennedy was doubtful about their advice and motives, cautious after they told him similar gung-ho things about the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
The Eve of Destruction is the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Luke could hear the roar of the huge printing presses in the background. He was sitting opposite Walt who smiled delightedly, unable to understand what this was about. Luke listened to the sound and smell of the printing, he imagined the newspapers whizzing down to the collection point to be bundled; he could smell the newsprint, the fresh paper, the molten lead.
‘I sure like to read this The White Nation, Mr McBain. That was a brilliant story about those sex-mad niggers. I sure need to keep an eye on those niggers live next door to me, don’t know what they might get up to at night. Yes Sir! Sure is an enlightening newspaper.’
‘That’s what I want to talk to you about Walt.’
‘Walt, don’t make this any more difficult. . . . ‘ They faced each other across the table, Luke struggling for choice words.
‘I won’t say a word,’ he stared a Luke with a smile on his lips.
‘D-do you like . . . working for The White Nation?’
Walt smiled broadly. ‘Why sure I do! I get paid! It’s a damn good job.’
‘Could you get another job easily?’
‘I don’t rightly know. You can’t tell till you got it in your hand. I do something wrong? You want to get rid of me?’
‘No. How do . . . they treat you here?’
‘Why just like a regular nigger, Sir! I ain’t got no grievance. No sir. I sure pleased dem white folks are looking out for me.’
‘Fuck you Walt. Be serious. I want to know what you think of this war they are writing about.’
‘War? We not at war.’
‘You said you read The White Nation, then you would know the paper is . . . advocating an all out nuclear war.’
‘Yes sir, I read The White Nation, but I don’t pay it no mind. It’s white folks business, so I don’t read it much, just enough to do my work. We niggers keep to ourselves, sir.’
‘If there is a war—if they destroyed Miami, would you care? It would be your business then.’
Walt was quiet a moment, gathering his thoughts. ‘No sir. If that bomb blows up Miami, and it makes us poor coons lose our rented shacks, and we got no work, not much food, and our kids get sick and we get sick and we’re not allowed in the good hospitals, and the Russians come here and arrest us and say we are bad people and beat us up in police stations and put us in jail when we ain’t done nothin’, and we not allowed to go to good schools and they keep us out of colleges ’cause we just black niggers, and we not allowed to vote in elections ’cause we are too dumb to read, and we got to stand up to eat in Woolworth, and sit at the back of the bus, and people think if they talk to niggers they gonna get radiation sickness so’s they keep right away—if all that happens to us niggers after the bomb goes off, then Sir, I says how would we know the bomb dropped? How we gonna tell the bomb gone off when our lives is just the same? Now ain’t that the livin’ truth? Now some of them white folks—they sure gonna know if the bomb falls, cause if Miami becomes a godawful slum, burnt out buildings, rats, sick people, no electricity, no cars, no newspapers, no color TV, well those white folks would have to move to Beverly Hills, or even Dallas. Yes sir, it’d sure hurt those white folks if they had to get a movin’ truck. Mr McBain sir, I sure one dumb coon, and I ain’t sure I’ve given you a clear answer to your question. Have I?’
‘Yes, you have Walt.’ He paused, then slowly said, ‘What about The White Nation? You ever feel like . . . just if there was some way you could close it down you’d be happy?’
‘Why Sir! I loves and respects The White Nation. We coons, got to know our place. We is getting paid good money by Mr Barsby. We loyal workers.’
‘Cut out the shit, Walt.’
‘No Sir! It be true. We get paid, we wouldn’t do nothing to hurt Mr Barsby.’ He paused and looked at Luke quizzically, ‘Sir, are you working for Mr Hoover?’
‘Man, you sure asking some strange questions.’
‘Yeah.’ Luke got up and walked out. It was hopeless.