A few years ago we did a profile for Gold Coast magazine on Ted Bell, a Palm Beach writer of adventure novels. It was a second career for Bell, who had previously been president of the giant Leo Burnett advertising agency, and later vice chairman and Worldwide creative director at Young & Rubicam. He was doing well with his series of Alexander Hawke spy novels, and had made The New York Times best seller list. But it was apparent during our interview and research of his background that Ted Bell was more than a successful advertising executive with a flair for writing.
He had studied international matters in England, and had extensive experience in foreign affairs, serving on various U.S. defense committees and as an advisor to the U.S. State Department. One of his books dealt with the rise of the “new Russia” and the return of the KGB.
In the course of our conversation, he said much of interest, including the fact that he was a great F. Scott Fitzgerald fan. He had even visited Fitzgerald's childhood home in St. Paul, Minn. He said whenever he wanted to relax he would read something by Fitzgerald. It did not matter what. Our kind of guy.
He also cited his background as a source for some of his fiction. All those European and U.S. government contacts gave him a rare perception into the geopolitical world. It occurred to us at the time that he likely had CIA contacts, knowingly or unknowingly, and may well have been a source for the agency. We did not mention that hunch in the piece, but we did mention a startling observation he made about Russia. He said his sources seemed certain that Russia would soon attempt to rebuild its former Soviet Union, dominating the countries adjacent to it in eastern Europe. He said the first target would be Estonia.
We say startling, because at the time it appeared the Cold War was history, and that the satellite nations once controlled by Russia had taken a decided lean toward western democracy. The new power man, Vladimir Putin, was viewed with suspicion, because of his KGB background and indications that he did not tolerate dissent. But nobody thought he would go back to the days when Russia cracked down brutally on Hungary in the 1950s. Nobody but Ted Bell.
It turns out he had the right information, just the wrong country.