Laura and Sam are obsessed with film noir. In their sun-drenched apartment in Miami, they watch 1940s black and white movies whose characters move in shadows and narrow slats of light. They 're fascinated by a Hollywood genre without happy endings where everyone is corrupt, where lovers betray one another, where the war might be over and the boys might be home, but nothing is going back to the way it was. And in Miami in 1986, the tide of another war is about to sweep in. Refugees are arriving from Central America. Cocaine kings cruise the highways with impressive artillery. Mercenaries rehearse in the Everglades for involvement in the Contra War. By November, 304 people have been killed in Miami. Anything can happen there.


In the dying days of South Africa’s Apartheid Era, as protests around the world call for an end to minority white rule, Cobus Steyn is on patrol with his local Commando Unit near the isolated Afrikaans village where lives. His beloved wife Sannie and their young son are at the centre of his world and his news comes from Apartheid government broadcasts and alarmist gossip. Warned that terrorists will lay siege by bombing water towers, cutting phone lines, and attacking homesteads, Cobus dutifully spends his Saturdays searching for armed members of the liberation struggle, watching for movements in the bush as he clutches his assault rifle. But when a sadistic Lieutenant baits him, Cobus finds himself battered by memories of the brutality he experienced as a conscript in the South African Defence Force. And as Cobus recollects the rite of passage he endured – starved, humiliated, and berated by his military superiors – he reassesses which side of the war he is on. ‘Trigger’ is a story about how brutal regimes maintain power and the costs and possibilities of challenging that power.


Managua is a haunted city for Alex Grossmeyer, a New York journalist there to report on the revolution in 1986. As she wanders the ruined streets during the Contra War, passes the shattered silhouettes of derelict apartment blocks, and watches cows graze on the empty lots where houses once stood, she remembers her refugee mother’s stories about Germany: ‘a wheelbarrow of cash she saw during the years of Germany’s inflation, the non-Jewish family who took her in towards the end of the war, dust raining down during the bombing of Frankfurt.’ By night Alex finds herself in the air-conditioned bar at the Intercontinental -- one of the few undamaged hotels in the city – drinking alone while with others, a rookie among war correspondents who are thicker skinned. Then Daniel Rappaport, an American supporter of the Sandinistas, encourages her to come with him to the mountains, into the heart of the region where there are frequent Contra attacks. There, in an isolated community where some of the children have gone missing, Alex finds herself confronting the violence she has always imagined was at the periphery and struggling with her mother’s legacy during a different war.