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An epic tale about a land and a people Winston Churchill declared, "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
American cancer specialist, Dr. Alex Cousins is on a covert mission to the USSR. He is tasked with prolonging the life of Soviet Politburo Chief, Viktor Moiseyevich Dimitrov, who is suffering from advanced stage leukemia. But the tenuous confidence between the unlikely colleagues is shattered one night as Alex accidentally discovers Dimitrov's diabolical plans for a nuclear strike on China. Alex soon finds himself dispatched, homeward bound, on a six thousand mile journey aboard the Trans-Siberian Express; long enough, Alex realizes, to silence him from alerting the U.S. of the imminent destruction.
Reluctant, at first, to embark upon the journey, Alex is beckoned into the Siberian expanse by memories of his grandfather, Aleksandr Kuznetzov, who wove tales of magic and mystery into this seemingly desolate place. As the train lumbers east across snow-cloaked mountains, glimmering past a forest glow, watchful eyes rest on the American doctor. Surrounding him are people beaten and broken by life, each drawn to this emperor of trains in search of a brighter future. But most curious is Anna Petrovna Valentinova, the hauntingly beautiful history professor and Alex's alluring travelling companion. As Anna captivates Alex with illusions of her homeland, a passionate romance transcending political barriers unfolds under KGB surveillance.
A train attendant yearns for love, a deformed man seeks revenge on an old enemy, and a persecuted Jewish couple runs to a new home as the Trans-Siberian Express roars onward through a cavern of hopes and memories, coloring its tracks with tales of love, loss and nuclear intrigue from one end of Russia to the other.
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From the Inside Flap:
My Inspiration for Trans-Siberian Express
In the mid-seventies, I was having a drink in a pub in London with a British diplomat who was on leave from his post in the British Embassy in Beijing. It was around the height of the antagonism between China and the Soviet Union, and a relationship between China and the U. S. did not yet exist. In the midst of the Cold War era, we lived in a perpetual state of tension and uncertainty with the threat of a nuclear disaster always alive in our minds. Confrontational possibilities with the Soviets and Chinese, both real and imagined were projected by the media, and the fiction of John Le Carré and Frederick Forsyth dominated bookshelves and movie theaters.
Since China in those days was a closed society, I was eager to hear about my companion's experiences in this part of the world and, after a pint or two, he was happy to oblige. Most of his stories were sensational. He had played frequent tennis matches with George Bush, the elder, when he was Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in China. He told me about how his oldest child was fluent in Chinese courtesy of a Chinese nanny, about the poverty he saw, about the flavors he experienced, and how the diplomatic community was deliberately isolated by the Government. He described how he had periodically hand carried the Diplomatic pouch from Beijing to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, twice a month by rail, and how the Trans-Siberian Express entered China via Ulan Bator.
He had made the journey on the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow himself and as he described the experience, I became mesmerized. One must relate this meeting to the context of the times, and my world as a child growing up in the earlier part of the twentieth century. The train was the principal mode of travel in those days. Train journeys were exotic and far-reaching. Celebrity culture was created around trains and boats. Photographs of celebrities disembarking trains was a common image in our minds. Railroad stations were palaces. Grand Central Station in New York City itself was a work of art.
I learned that the Trans-Siberian Express was the longest railroad trip in the world, a 7,000 mile journey through numerous time zones, that its original route was from Moscow to Vladivostok, a naval base off-limits to foreigners. The diplomat talked about everything, Russian train engineering, the food on the train, and the ethnic diversity along the Siberian tundra. That encounter in the pub was a novelist's dream come true, it had everything: Cold War intrigue, espionage, state surveillance, the isolated worlds of the Soviet Union and China.
My imagination began to conjure up a story that would take place around the centerpiece of a journey on the Trans-Siberian Express. I was enraptured by the idea and presented it to my publisher at Putnam, the late Clyde Taylor. He too had grown up around the romanticism of train travel. The title Trans-Siberian Express, alone was enough to sell him. "Write it," he said. The book came out in 1977 and was hailed with positive reviews and sold well.
The six-thousand-mile route of the world's longest, most exotic railway, the legendary Trans-Siberian Express, is the setting for this enthralling tale with a diverse cast of unforgettable characters.
During the bad old days of the Soviet Union, famous American cancer specialist Dr. Alex Cousins is sent by the President of the United States to Russia to prolong the life of the Secretary General of the Politburo. While in Russia, Cousins learns that the Soviets plan to attack China. Suspecting that he knows their secret, the Soviets send him home via the Trans-Siberian Express, which, they hope, will keep him silent until it is too late to stop the attack. On the train, he meets a beautiful KGB Agent who has been ordered to keep him under surveillance until the trip is over. The inevitable occurs as Cousins and the gorgeous Soviet agent transcend political implications and fall desperately in love. This powerful love story will keep the reader transfixed and absorbed as the Trans-Siberian Express speeds its way across the vastness of Siberia.
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Book Description NY Putnam 1977., 1977. Hardcover. Dust Jacket Included. F. Dj has few small edgetears, o/w fine copy. First edition. Seller Inventory # 006978