The Third Power, first published in 1980, “is nothing less than a scenario for World War III. The hot spot is South Africa, where the Prime Minister is threatening to use atomic warheads on neighboring Zimbabwe if Soviet-inspired invaders do not leave the country. The President of the United States flies to South Africa, hoping to prevent the catastrophe. During negotiations he visits a gold mine, where he is trapped while doomsday approaches. In the United States, his hawkish Vice President is sworn in, and the country goes on Red Alert. So does the Soviet Union.” –The New York Times, March 1981
The Story Behind the Book
When I began work on The Third Power in the late 1970s, Rhodesia was in its death throes, about to be reborn as Zimbabwe. I was writing fiction based on real events in southern Africa, and from one day to the next there was no knowing whether I would have to rewrite the previous day’s output, or whether real events and the novel’s trajectory were on the same track. It was exhilarating. Read More
“Be calm,” the voice said softly. “Take the black one first. Line up the wires just below the throat, and gently, gently…” So begins the nightmare that the world has long feared. What starts as an assassination becomes a civil war and the conflict spreads until half the African continent is threatened by annihilation. Mistrust and suspicion force the superpowers into confrontation as they strive to protect their interests in Africa. As the terrorist leader responsible for it all watches his last and most dangerous gamble spiral out of control, rescuers struggle to reach the U.S. President. Trapped in an underground cavern, he is powerless to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.
Political conspiracy, an unusual love affair, and the threat to world peace will keep you hypnotized until the chilling conclusion. The Third Power takes place at the height of the Cold War, when it was an all-too-possible blueprint for disaster in the political environment of the 1980s.
"A cliffhanger in Zimbabwe, where the British and American effort at political settlement is threatened with Armageddon by a Communist-planned collapse… The Third Power is a well-constructed first novel that moves at a fair speed, keeping a large cast of characters clearly distinguishable. Best of all, the suspense is real, the climax unexpected, and the background well realized… It’s impossible to guess whether Frankel can produce…another novel with as much originality as this. If so, his will be a name to watch."Derrick Murdoch,
"One of the great and all too rare delights of reviewing books is to pick up an unheralded book by an unknown author and find that it surpasses all of one’s expectations. Neville Frankel’s The Third Power is such a book. The story is set primarily in Frankel’s native South Africa. The assassination of the black prime minister of neighboring Zimbabwe has touched off a political crisis in that country that threatens to spill over into South Africa. The U.S. and the Soviet Union are both nervous and the saber-rattling begins. The U.S. president flies into South Africa to try to defuse the situation, but in what was supposed to be a routine visit to a gold mine… he is trapped by cave-ins. His hawkish vice president takes the reins of power in the U.S. The prime minister of South Africa is about to level the capitals of several black African allies of the Soviets and Russian subs are standing by to retaliate not only against South Africa but against the U.S. as well. Frankel weaves all of these elements together in a very plausible manner. What gives the reader pause is the uneasy feeling that, in light of all that’s really going on in the world today, such a scenario could just be the next round of headlines leading us inexorably into the final holocaust of World War III. The miscalculations and errors and judgment by all parties in this novel are just too real for comfort. This is a writer to keep your eye on."Edgar Miller,
"Great novelists of the modern era who have made an impact on the general public could be counted on the fingers of one hand. As an example, let’s cite Graham Greene, since he is durable, popular and current… The Third Power is another of those imaginative novels that grip the reader. Neville Frankel is a South African novelist who writes with great candor about his divided country. As the black extremists press on South Africa, a U.S. president is trapped in a gold mine while the prime minister of South Africa prepares to use nuclear weapons against his black extremists. The U.S. is ready to shoot down South Africa’s nuclear arms to prevent Russian intervention. That’s a powerful scenario, and it’s highly readable."Fred Barnes,
"Mr. Frankel’s plot is full of byzantine maneuverings, and he has stacked the cards a bit. Yet there is nothing in his story that strains belief, and in this touchy world of ours, events conceivably could develop along the lines indicated in The Third Power. Certainly the subject is big enough to command the reader’s attention, and Mr. Frankel handles it quite nicely. He is, by the way, a South African now living in Canada, and he knows a good deal about the mentality of and tendency toward paranoia of South Africans. He is also well enough acquainted with the United States to create a President somewhat patterned after Jimmy Carter. But The Third Power is not a roman à clef. As a scary projection of current world events, it might make nervous readers start digging a personalized bomb shelter with the nearest pick ax."Newgate Callender,