Friday, March 05, 2010

The Bloody White Baron

Interesting interview here with James Palmer, writer of The Bloody White Baron, which ended up being the best non-fiction work I read last year.

Quick description of the book lifted from the interview:

"James Palmer, a British writer who lives in Beijing and has a fascination for all things Mongolian, has produced a captivating biography of Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, a Baltic nobleman who fought in the service of the Russian tsar in World War I. Following the Bolshevik Revolution, Ungern led a ragtag White army to capture Mongolia, where he styled himself the human manifestation of a Buddhist god of war. Mongolia would never be the same again."

It's a period of history, and a part of the world, about which I know very little, but the book fills in the gaps very skillfully, without ever turning into a textbook, or skimming too lightly over the subject. But my favourite aspect of the book? Palmer is a regular at (which is where I first heard about it) so when he's talking about Ungern considering himself to be an avator of the Buddhist god of war, I can be can be fairly confident that he too is thinking 'ooh, what if he really was and start assigning hit points and weapons skills accordingly.

(For the norms among you however, be assured you could the entire book and never guess the author's dark and terrible secret, so don't let that put you off).


Anonymous said...

I wish that had existed when I studied the Russian Revolution at uni - he was one of the bit part characters I always wondered about!

Unknown said...

Now I'm wondering who on you are. Anyway, my mum will be pleased to hear of your approval, since she's a gigantic Green Wing fan.


James Henry said...

Aww, hello! I'm a very minor poster on (james1889), so you probably wouldn't have come across me there. Big hello to your mum! (GW did seem to go down surprisingly well with the mum demographic).

Now go and write more books.