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    WELCOME TO THE BLACK RUSSIAN BLOG--DEDICATED TO TOPICS CONNECTED WITH, AND CIRCLING AROUND, MY BIOGRAPHY OF FREDERICK BRUCE THOMAS, THE SON OF MISSISSIPPI SLAVES WHO BECAME A MILLIONAIRE IMPRESARIO IN PRE-REVOLUTIONARY MOSCOW AND 'THE SULTAN OF JAZZ' IN CONSTANTINOPLE To subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, please click on the icon above

    Entries in Boris Savinkov (2)

    The Black Russian Lives at The Mark Twain House and Museum

    I learned a great deal while working on The Black Russian—not only about Frederick Thomas’s life and times, of course, but also about all aspects of writing a book for a trade publisher (which differs markedly from academic publishing).

    I am very pleased to have the chance to share what I’ve learned at a workshop this coming Saturday, September 6, 1:00 - 4:00 pm, at The Mark Twain House and Museum, 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut  (see their website to register and purchase a ticket or click on the logo below).

     

     

    Entitled “Writing Historical Biography,” the workshop will cover all aspects of creating a non-fiction book—specifically, a biography of a person from the past—for publication by a trade press.  Topics to include:  subjects that trade presses might find attractive, how to research your subject, write the book, write a proposal, find and pitch an agent, work with a publishing house when your book is sold, and publicize the book both before and after it appears. 

    In addition to my experiences with The Black Russian, the workshop will be based on my preliminary research for two possible books dealing with Russia and the American Civil War.  I will also refer to my current project—a biography of Boris Savinkov, the remarkable Russian terrorist, revolutionary, writer, and political activist who waged wars against the tsar, Lenin, and the Bolsheviks.  Winston Churchill, who knew and admired Savinkov, included an essay about him in his book Great Contemporaries, where he said about him: “when all is said and done . . . few men tried more, gave more, dared more and suffered more for the Russian people.”  Another Englishman, the eminent writer W. Somerset Maugham, admitted: “I think Boris Savinkov the most extraordinary man I have ever met.”  In the eyes of the Soviet political police in the 1920s, Savinkov was so dangerous that no effort was spared to neutralize him.

    I gave a book talk at the Mark Twain House and Museum last winter and also participated in a "Writer's Weekend" there last spring.  I’m looking forward to supporting this wonderful institution once again via my workshop.

    A Digression from Frederick Thomas to a Revolutionary Terrorist

    The twenty years that Frederick spent in Russia, starting in 1899, were marked by ever-increasing violence and social upheaval—political assassinations, strikes, pogroms, the imperial regime’s executions of revolutionaries and demonstrators, the revolution of 1905, millions of deaths during the Great War—all culminating in the revolutions of 1917 and the civil war of 1917-1921.

    I’m in London now to do research on a person who played a role in much of this violence, the revolutionary terrorist Boris Savinkov—the subject of my next book.  An implacable foe of the imperial regime, he orchestrated the assassination of a prime minister in 1904 and of a grand duke, the tsar’s uncle, in 1905 (who was literally blown to bits inside the Kremlin).  Although a socialist himself, Savinkov hated the Bolsheviks, whom he saw as betraying the needs of Russia’s largely agrarian population.  Thus, after the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, he started uprisings against them in several cities near Moscow and plotted to assassinate Lenin and Trotsky.  He also did not trust the Whites who were fighting the Reds in the Russian civil war and organized a Russian army in Poland to fight the Bolsheviks. When this failed, he tried to get several European leaders to help him in his campaign, including Churchill and Mussolini.  However, in the end, the Soviet political police managed to lure Savinkov back to Russia, and he died under murky circumstances in the notorious Lubyanka prison in Moscow in 1925.  The official version was that he committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window. 

    This is a very incomplete sketch of just some of the activities of this remarkable man.  Among other things, he wrote novels, poetry, journalism, and a memoir, all of which are extremely interesting sources of information about him.

    The British paid keen attention to Russia during the Great War and afterwards, as a result of which the National Archives in London hold a rich store of documents about this period.  There are also some valuable documents about Savinkov’s activities from 1917 onward.  The National Archives are a wonderful place to work—comfortable, efficient (you get the documents you want in 40 minutes or less), very user-friendly in all respects.  I had worked in them before, when I was researching Frederick’s life.

    It is remarkable to think that Frederick and Savinkov were contemporaries.  Although there is no evidence that they met, one could easily fantasize about their passing each other on a street in Moscow in 1905.  And there is no doubt that Frederick had heard of Savinkov because of how notorious the latter had become after Frederick settled in Moscow.

    The National Archives, Kew, London, England