S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the category “Russian Revolution”

July 17, Anniversary of The Regicide

In the early hours of 17 July 1918, the Cheka firing squad (the Soviet secret police) fired volley after volley into Nicholas Romanov, Czar of all the Russias, and his family: Empress Alexandra, son Nikkei, and four daughters, Maria, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia.

In the March 1917 Revolution, the Bolsheviks successfully overthrew the Romanov’s régime of Russia. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Union of Socialist’s Republics. His clutch on power was tenuous—two White Armies were in revolt against his Communist dictatorial rule. Western armies had invaded Murmansk, the Caucasus, and the Japanese captured Vladivostok. And the large and well-armed Czech Legion had captured the Trans-Siberian Railroad and was fighting its way to the Pacific.

Lenin, fearful that Romanovs could rally the proletariat to fully support the White armies, had the royal family imprisoned in the Ipatiev House in the Siberia city Ekaterinburg. Lenin and his Bolsheviks cohorts dubbed this place “The House of Special Purpose.”

Around 0200 hours, Cheka guards awoke the royal family and told them to dress, and led them to the basement. The guards told the family that this move was for their protection—elements of Admiral’s Kolchak’s White Army were close by as were the Czech’s trains. In the upcoming fire-fights, this house would be in danger.

Yakov Yurovsky, the Bolshevik commanding officer, insured that the family was positioned correctly and ordered, “Fire.”


To those who have an interest in this topic, please enjoy the following short story from my book, Aviators, Adventurers, and Assassins, a conglomeration of 20th Century novellas, short stories, and flash fiction quips. Some of the characters are real (usually disguised in a nom de plume), some are fiction, some of the stories are based on real incidents, and some are figments of my imagination. Nonetheless, take none seriously—even though your empathy may be intense. Also, at the end of the story a free book offer! 

The Regicide


Kremlin, Moscow

16 July 1918

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is writing at his desk with an intense focus. He wears a grey suit with a scarlet tie over his off-white shirt. It is a dark afternoon that matches the dull grey of his suit and office. On the walls are photographs and posters extolling the virtues of collectivism.

Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution, is now the Chairman of the People’s Commissars of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He is fifty-eight-years old, bald, with a full mustache and a Van Dyke beard. His deep brown eyes are alive with passionate fervor.Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 9.53.57 AM

He writes with slow precision on a paper bearing the official seal of the Soviet government—the hammer and sickle in yellow on a red background—then he puts down the pen and leans back in his chair. As he reads the document, a faint smile spreads over his face.

Satisfied, he hands it to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the ruthless leader of Lenin’s secret police, the Cheka. He is exactly the kind of unbridled sociopath that Lenin wants as his lead henchman. Dzerzhinsky is a medium-sized man with a brown, stony face and a fixed expression. He wears a walrus mustache and a short, pointed Van Dyke beard. Lenin leans forward and dictates, “Read it, Felix. Read it out loud. I want to hear how it sounds. I want the world to hear it. Read it now!”

Dzerzhinsky looks mildly interested as he begins to read the short note. Now, seriously interested, he reads it again, then once again. He looks up from the document to Lenin and tentatively asks him, “You are positive that this is the correct action at this time?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

Dzerzhinsky, with a mild retort, suggests, “Comrade, my point is that I wonder if it would not be prudent to wait until we have consolidated more control over the country. Our political and military positions are still in flux.”

Lenin snaps, “Comrade Dzerzhinsky, you keep the Cheka working to eliminate the counter-revolutionaries and I will lead our socialist country.” Irritated, he shifts in his chair, then picks up a pen and taps it on his desk. He stares blankly out a window as the Kremlin glows scarlet in the dusk. Clearly, he is evaluating Dzerzhinsky’s comments because they have a ring of truth. The tap, tap, tap of the pen continues. Lenin puzzles over the scarlet sunset. Is it an omen—red for Red?

After a minute or so he shifts in his chair to face Grigory Zinoviev, the third man in the room. Lenin holds him in a thoughtful gaze for a few moments then says in a spirited voice, “Let us hear what Comrade Zinoviev has to say.”

Dzerzhinsky turns to Grigory Zinoviev, the Interior Minister, revolutionary, and close confidant to Lenin. Zinoviev is a big brute of a man with icy blue eyes and long midnight-black hair. His face is littered with smallpox scars, but he is clean shaven, almost proud of his disfigurement.

After a brief pause and in a gruff bass voice Zinoviev responds, “My respects, Comrade Lenin, but I ask you to reconsider. The majority of the proletariat still loves their Czar, who is also the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church. Such an audacious action will cause many loyal people to question your motives. I do not recommend this precipitous order. Over the next few months, let us reflect on some of the alternatives.”

Lenin shouts, “Stop! Stop it, Zinoviev. Am I surrounded by naysayers? The Communist Party and the Third International Congress of Soviets made me Party Chairman and Head of State. I know what is best for our Soviet Union. The peasants will do as the State directs.”

Zinoviev, who has remained standing, straightens his shoulders and responds deferentially, yet with conviction, “If you insist on this course of action, our socialist government will be in extreme peril and may well fall to the Western imperialists. We are fighting them on five fronts. The White Armies of General Denikin and Admiral Kolchak defeat our Red Army in every engagement. Our desertion rates are excessively high. The Northern Russian Expedition of fourteen battalions of British Commonwealth, American, and French colonial troops have occupied Murmansk and Archangel, and they are advancing into the interior.”

Lenin is clearly annoyed that his old friend should question his judgment. He rises from his chair, glares at Zinoviev, shakes his closed fist at him and snaps, “The Soviet Union will prevail over these Western interlopers. Our allies—the sharp winter and the vast steppes—ultimately will engulf and destroy them.”

Zinoviev, stunned by Lenin’s sharp rebuke, looks to Dzerzhinsky for support. Dzerzhinsky looks away and shakes his head from side to side. Then he says, “Comrade Lenin has made his decision. I manage the Cheka on his authority.”

Realizing that he is alone in this discussion, Zinoviev counters, “Comrade Lenin, we have been together for years. Please do not dismiss my report with such a cavalier comment, or underestimate the seriousness of these Westerners on our soil. Hear me out.”

Lenin, still irritated, returns to his chair, and says, “Speak your piece, Grigory.”

“There is more. American and Japanese troops have occupied Vladivostok, and the Japanese are moving up the peninsula and assembling at our border with Mongolia near Nomanhan. They have occupied all of Sakhalin Island. The Japanese are continuing the war of 1904 unopposed, in violation of the Treaty of Portsmouth. British and Indian troops have invaded the Southern Caucasus. And perhaps most important, the Czech Legion has control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Kazan to Novosibirsk.”

Lenin snaps, “Your point, Comrade? Make it. I have a country to run.”

Zinoviev responds forcefully, “Comrade Lenin, my point is critical. We cannot defeat them all. We are isolated from the rest of the world. If our socialist government is to survive we must have peace—peace at any cost. We do not need more armed hostility. We need Western recognition and wheat, lots of wheat, if we are to survive this winter. I implore you to reconsider.”

“Zinoviev, you were my loyal ally in our Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the Czar and his imperialist lackeys. Remain loyal to me now. Read my telegram. Read it out loud.” demands Lenin.

With trepidation Zinoviev whispers, “Your telegram is headed Top Secret. It reads: ‘To: Comrade Major Vasili Yurovsky, Commanding Officer, Cheka, Ekaterinburg. No later than tomorrow evening, you are to execute the prisoners held in the Ipatiev House. Specifically, I name the Romanov royal family of Imperial Russia, the Czar Nicholas, Empress Alexandra, Czarevich Alexis, and the Grand Duchesses Marie, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia. Confirm results. Signed, Lenin.”

Lenin smirks and tells Zinoviev, “Give this telegram to Comrade Roman Malinovsky, our new Commissar of Posts and Telegraphs. Have him encrypt it in our Omega code for immediate transmission.”

Ipatiev House, Ekaterinburg, Siberia,

17 July 1918

The corner windows in the second story are lit in the Ipatiev House, an elegant two-story dacha on several hundred acres of well-tended gardens, fountains, ponds, and virgin birch forest. The Bolsheviks have dubbed this dacha “The House of Special Purpose.” It is shortly before midnight, but the house is astir with activity.

The imperial family has been prisoners of the Cheka in this house since April, closely confined and daily suffering the insults of their Red guards. Their only comfort is the fact that they are together. Rumors of impending rescue reach them periodically, but each time they wait in vain.

This evening the family calmly retired at the usual time. About an hour later, the sergeant of the guard aroused them and ordered them to dress and hurry downstairs to the cellar. He explains that the Czech Legion and a unit of the White Army are approaching Ekaterinburg, and the Regional Soviet has ordered that they be moved.

The family rushes to dress and pack a few personal belongings. “Put on your blue dress,” Alexandra whispers to Anastasia as they pass in the upstairs hallway. When the family arrives in the cellar, the sergeant tells them that their transportation will arrive shortly. A Cheka guard brings a chair for the Empress. For a moment, Alexandra’s heart fills with hope. If the Czech and White Army are so near, rescue might be imminent. Soon they might all be free, on their way to England. She was right, she thinks, not to send Anastasia away on her own. Now the family will be together. She puts an arm around her youngest daughter’s waist. Thanks be to God.

Suddenly a squad of Cheka soldiers with their rifles at port arms marches single file and at double time into the cellar. After the last soldier is in position, the first sergeant commands, “Squad, halt! Right face.” The soldiers turn to face the Romanovs. After a moment, the sergeant shouts, “Squad, ah-ten-hut!” The sound of rifle butts hitting the concrete floor reverberates throughout the cellar.

Several minutes later, Major Vasili Yurovsky enters. He is the senior Cheka office in the area. He wears the summer grey short-sleeved tunic uniform with red piping and his major’s pips on the shoulder boards.

“Present. Arms!” commands the first sergeant.

The soldiers bring their rifles to the present-arms position to salute their commanding officer.

In return, Major Yurovsky returns a snappy hand salute.

The Czarevich giggles in delight at the military prompt.

However, fear and concern race through the rest of the Romanov family. Alexandra knows exactly what is happening. The Czar, Anastasia, and her three sisters wonder what this military demonstration has to do with their rescue by the Whites or the Czech Legion.

“Order arms!” commands the sergeant. The soldiers return their rifles to their right side. The pounding of the rifle butts hitting the concrete floor sends chills through the Romanovs, causing them to wonder what is happening.

Yurovsky orders Alexandra to stand. The indignity of this crass Bolshevik officer ordering the Empress of All the Russias to comply with his command is unthinkable. She stares with smoldering hostility at Yurovsky. But, no longer enjoying the resources of royal status, she complies. After a moment or two she slowly moves a few paces to her left, next to Anastasia.

With his arms akimbo, Yurovsky walks down the line of the imperial family. He stops in front of each person and looks intently into their eyes. All but the Empress turn away from him. Summoning all her courage, she returns her most imperious glower of disdain. He smiles faintly at her feeble attempt at bravado.

The Czarevich is dressed in his sailor uniform. Maintaining proper military protocol, he salutes Yurovsky. The major stares at him contemptuously and does not return the salute.

This military display does not look like a rescue to the four daughters. Extreme apprehension engulfs Maria and Tatiana. Unsure of what is happening and fearing the worst, they cannot control their fear and sob softly.

Major Yurovsky turns to the first sergeant and snaps, “On my orders!”

“As you say. Sir!”

Yurovsky moves to the cement steps and climbs three. “Port arms!” he shouts. He surveys the scene to ensure that the Romanovs are positioned correctly and that his soldiers are ready.

Satisfied that the staging is correct, Yurovsky commands, “Fix bayonets!”

There is a loud clanging of metal as the soldiers snap their bayonets onto their rifles.

Anastasia now understands with crystal clarity the task that her mother assigned to her so long ago. They are not going to be rescued, and she and her family are going to be murdered by the Bolsheviks. An overwhelming fear of death engulfs her. Her family is in this cellar for an execution. She fights to be brave and to hold back her tears. Her mother cannot help her.

“Load!” The soldiers pull back the bolts of their rifles, then jam the bolts forward, loading a round into the rifles’ chambers. The metal-on-metal clicking sends a vibration of horror through the cellar.

The other three daughters begin to sob and make the sign of the cross as they realize their fate is death. Alexandra commands, “Be brave. You are Romanovs. St. Nicholas will guide you.”

The Czar has been standing silently, as if he were in a dream. Aroused by the loud clicking of metal, he exclaims, “What!”

“Aim!” The riflemen select the nearest target.

The Romanovs see the loaded rifles with bayonets pointed at them. Their fate is all too clear. Cries. Screams.

The deafening thunder of the first volley reverberates through the cellar. Agonized screams! Another volley. Another. And another. Silence.

Major Yurovsky, obeying Lenin’s orders, has assassinated the Romanov imperial family. He cannot see clearly in the small, smoke-filled cellar. He checks the mutilated human forms askew on the concrete floor. There are no heartbeats. There is no light in any of the eyes. He grimaces at the bloody corpses. Even for a hardened Cheka officer it is a gruesome scene. In a few minutes, the basement window goes dark.Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 9.55.51 AM

Satisfied that the regicide has been successfully executed, he orders his communications officer to send an encoded telegram to Lenin and Dzerzhinsky, in care of the Presidium of the Central Executive Council, Moscow: “The Romanovs are dead this night. Yurovsky.” In the upstairs lounge, he and his Cheka soldiers celebrate the foul deed well done, and toast frequently with shots of vodka.


Some believe that the youngest daughter, Anastasia escaped the assassins. My book, St. Catherine’s Crown tells the story of Anastasia making a perilous journey across Siberia via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Starting today, the anniversary of the assassination of the royal family, my book, St. Catherine’s Crown will be available for free from Amazon. Enjoy this free download with my compliments from July 17-21.

crown frt


BOOK REVIEW: The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappaport

RomanovsThis powerful account of the Romanovs’ internment and regicide at “The House of Special Purpose” at Ekaterinburg, July 1918, is compelling, evocative, and horrifying. I suspect that Rappaport’s book on this ghoulish event is the most meticulously researched and accurate account of the Bolshevik’s liquidation of Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their five children.

She weaves the historical events in a storybook style that imbues life into the Royal Family.  We look askance at the Czar who lacks moral courage, is fearful of innovation and change, and refuses to see the social and political problems engulfing Russia. We wonder at Empress Alexandra’s idiosyncratic brand of Victorian prudery, her impulsive sensuality and her hysterical passion, and her onerous addiction to narcotics: morphine and cocaine.  We empathize with soft tears at the naive innocence of their daughters: Maria, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia.  We sympathize with the hemophiliac, Tsarevich Alexy.

We abhor the Bolsheviks’ regicide of the Royal Family as they perished in a fusillade of bullets, bayonets, and blood.  We are appalled that the family’s servants also were included in this senseless butchery: their physician, Doctor Eugene Botkin; valet. Alexey Trupp; cook, Ivan Kharitanov; and maid Anya Demidova.

Lastly, we recoil at the senseless killing of Tatiana’s Pekinese dog “Jimmy”.

We damn Vladimir Lenin who ordered the regicide, Commissar Yakov Yurovsky, the leader of the assassination squad, and the Cheka guards who took unbridled, and unnatural pleasure in their perverse passion.

I wonder if Rappaport had to detail the gruesome details of the regicide and the Cheka’s inept attempts to destroy the corpses.

The Last Days of the Romanovs is a must read for the aficionados of the Russian Revolution.  For the faint of heart, I would suggest an alternate book.

You may also read St. Catherine’s Crown, historical fiction based on the regicide that begs the question, what if Anastasia survived?

Putin, Chamberlain, and Hitler

On 2 March 2014, President of Russia, Vladimir Putin ordered Russian motorized infantry to invade the Ukraine’s CrimeanPeninsula.  Such a military incursion violates international treaties and specifically the Soviet Union’s/Ukraine’s treaty of 1954.  The Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, deeded the Crimea to the Ukraine as a gesture of good will to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s incorporation into Czarist Russia.

Putin’s rationale for his invasion was that he “…reserves the right to use all means…to protect Russian speakers in the country’s (Ukraine’s) south and east if they are in danger.”

On 15 March 1939, on Adolph Hitler’s ordered the Nazi Wehrmact to invade the Sudetenland, a province of Czechoslovakia. His rationale was to protect the German-speaking people of this province from the “accursed” Slavs.  Within a few days, the Nazis had occupied all of Czechoslovakia, in direct violation of international law and the 30 September 1938 Munich Agreement between Germany, Great Britain, France, and Fascists Italy; all without consulting the Czechoslovakian government.

This Munich Agreement was an appeasement treaty by Great Britain and France to avoid another world war over an insignificant country—created in the Treaty of Versailles in 1918.  “Peace for out time,” was British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s proclamation.

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland and the world was engulfed in another world war.

I wonder if history repeats itself.

Russian Julian Calendar

Imperial Russia used the “old style” Julian calendar that was seriously out of kilter with the solar seasons and religious holidays—in particular Christmas and Easter.   The Russian Orthodox Church had political and religious issues with the Pope in Rome that dated back centuries, and refused to change to Pope Gregory XIII’s Gregorian reform calendar introduced in 1582.

The Julian calendar lagged the Gregorian calendar by 12 days.  For example, Christmas, 25 December 1916 in the Gregorian calendar was 7 January 1916 in the Julian calendar.  On the first of February 1918, Vladimir Lenin ordered the Soviet government to switch to the “new style” Gregorian calendar—so that the USSR would be in synchronization with the rest of the world.


 Julius Caesar, Emperor of Rome. (July 100 BC to 44 BC)

Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 45 BCE (Before Common Era) to reform the old Roman calendar that was inordinately complex and seriously out of date.  Over the following years, most of the civilized world adopted this calendar—even though it had serious errors.  For example, this calendar introduced a one-day gain every 128 years, or about three days every four centuries as compared to the equinox and the seasons.

I invite you to join the Czar Nicholas’ Christmas ball on the 7th of  January 1917 in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Imperial Russia— set in my historical novel titled St. Catherine’s Crown.   Formal gowns for the ladies and with a tiare russe and gentlemen with white-tie, tails, and miniature medals if you’ve earned them.


Romanov Jewelry

Fabulous hardly describes the vast treasure of the Romanov jewelry cache.  Below are a few samples of this vast collection.  For those who have a keener interest I recommend the book titled Jewels of the Romanovs, Stefano Papi, Thames&Hudson, New York, 2010.

The Imperial Arms of the House of Romanov

The Imperial Arms of the House of Romanov

Faberge Emerald Necklace

Faberge Emerald Necklace


Empress Alexandria's Double-Eagle Pendant

Empress Alexandria’s Double-Eagle Pendant

Faberge Egg with Diamond

Faberge Egg with Diamond

Coronet Created for Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna

Coronet Created for Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna

Diamond and Emerald Kokoshnik for a Grand Duchess

Diamond and Emerald Kokoshnik for a Grand Duchess

Imperial Nuptial Crown, 1840 with Antique Brazilian  Diamonds at 275 Carats

Imperial Nuptial Crown, 1840 with Antique Brazilian Diamonds at 275 Carats

Imperial Orb, in Red Gold, 1784 with Diamond Surround and Indian Light-Blue Diamonds of 47 Carats

Imperial Orb, in Red Gold, 1784 with Diamond Surround and Indian Light-Blue Diamonds of 47 Carats

Diamond and Sapphire Ring

Diamond and Sapphire Ring

Join the Czar’s1916 Christmas Ball in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg—formal gown or white tie and tails required—as seen in the narrative of my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown.   See the diamond encrusted Imperial Crown on Empress Alexandra, the magnificent collier ruse on Grand Duchess Tatiana,  The diamond chain of the Order of Saint Andrew on Grand Duchess Maria, the coronet of diamonds and emeralds on Grand Duchess Olga, and the double-strand diamond collier d’esclave on Grand Duchess Anastasia.

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Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great of Russia, (1729 to 1796). Reigned from 9 July 1762 to 17 November 1796. Catherine became Czarina on the death of her husband, Czar Peter III.  Her reign is a study in contrast. Legend has it that she organized a plot to have some of her sycophants murder Peter, and that her sexual proclivities were legend.  On the other hand, the actual historical record is replete with accomplishments. Catherine the Great

In 1757, Voltaire called her an “enlightened despot.” For example, Catherine established the Free Economic Society in 1765 to encourage the modernization of agriculture and industry. She promoted trade and the development of under-populated regions by inviting foreign settlers, and she founded new towns. Catherine patronized the arts, letters, and education. She permitted the establishment of private printing presses and relaxed censorship rules. Under her guidance, the University of Moscow and the Academy of Sciences became internationally recognized centers of learning; she also increased the number of state and private schools. Finally, Catherine greatly expanded the Russian empire–prizes from two successful wars with Turkey. After her death, the Russian Orthodox Church proclaimed her a saint.

In my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown  Catherine the Great’s diadem is the raison d’être that threads the narrative and is the Alfred Hitchcock’s MacGuffin.  Follow the adventures and trials of those Whites that want to keep the crown from the Bolsheviks, and those Reds that want to recover and exploit it.  Follow from afar, I might suggest.  The narrative is fraught with hidden perils.

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Trans-Siberian Railroad

The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the longest railway line in the world connecting Moscow to Vladivostok at 5,753 miles, and has branch lines to Ulan-Bator, Mongolia; Beijing, China, 4,888 miles; and Pyongyang, North Korea, 6,380 miles.   This railroad spans seven times zones and takes eight days to complete the Moscow to Vladivostok trip.

Transiberian Railroad

By the mid nineteenth century, Russia was in serious need for a Pacific deep-water port.  Accordingly, in 1860 Czar Alexander II authorized construction of Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan.  By 1880, Vladivostok had grown into a major port.   Soon the authorities realized the obvious problem that there was not an adequate transportation link between European Russia and its Far Eastern and Pacific provinces.  In 1891, Czar Alexander III authorized the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and it was completed in 1916 under the aegis of his son Czar Nicholas II.  By-and-large, convicts and political prisoners did most of the work.

Hop aboard the Trans-Siberian Railroad and relax in the opulent coach reserved for important Soviet apparatchiks.  In my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown the train lumbers through Siberia mile after mile after mile.  Perhaps I ought to caution you to be wary of Nadia, the hostess in this car.  She is available (for a fee) and duplicitous to a fare-thee-well.

Hop aboard the Trans-Siberian Railroad and relax in the opulent coach reserved for important Soviet apparatchiks.  In my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown the train lumbers through Siberia mile after mile after mile.  Perhaps I ought to caution you to be wary of Nadia, the hostess in this car.  She is available (for a fee) and duplicitous to a fare-thee-well.  


What compelled me to pen this historical novel, St. Catherine’s Crown, about the Russian Revolution?

St. Catherine's Crown Final Cover

I chose to write about the Russian Revolution—the overthrow of the monarchy and installation of an atheistic Communist regime—to refresh our minds of its monumental impact on world events for seventy years.    The Bolshevik’s leaders—Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Felix Dzerzhinsky head of the Soviet secret police, for examples—exercised their unmitigated evil and bilious paranoia by slaughtering some twenty- to thirty-million Russians.  The malevolent cruelty and manifestly unnecessary regicide, is a horror of their rabid Communist orthodoxy that engendered the slaughtered of Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their five children, including their youngest daughter, Anastasia.

The Comintern apparatchiks spread its tenancies worldwide to overthrow western democracies and corrupt its citizens with agitprop in the media, films, and universities.  For several decades, we fought the Soviets in Winston Churchill’s  “Cold War,” oftentimes on the cusp of a real nuclear war.

Since I was a nipper, I had interest in Anastasia because of the films, stories, and flimflam hustlers hawking the fiction that she survived the regicide and was living incognito in some exotic locale.  During my naval career and after retirement, I studied Russian/Soviet and modern-day Chinese history.

Scribing St. Catherine’s Crown was a classic evolution process.  It started as a short story about fifteen-years ago.   I combine my two interests: Russia and China into one narrative. I started with the tale of the regicide and the then acceptable idea that Anastasia survived and escaped to a refuge in China.

As a young lad, I enjoyed stories about the orient—especially the comic strip titled “Terry and the Pirates,” by Milton Caniff—who featured such gorgeous femme fatales as the Dragon Lady, Burma, and CopperCanyon.

My tale grew into a novella as I developed Anastasia’s China adventures with blackguards that included the femme fatale, Black Orchid: whom I based on The Dragon Lady.

For reasons I cannot explain I could not leave this tale alone.  Then several years ago, I stumbled on an article about the Czech Legion—never heard of this outfit.   Did research, got interested, and decided to incorporate the Legion into my narrative.  My novella evolved into a complete historical novel.

St. Catherine’s Crown will be available for purchase in August 2013.

Vladimir Lenin


Vladimir Llich Lenin

Lenin was born into a wealthy middle-class family in Simbirsk, Russia—a town on the Volga river about 850 miles east of Moscow.  He became a leftist revolutionary after the OHKRANA (the Czar’s secret police)  arrested and executed his brother in 1887. He attending the Kazan State University, but he was suspended for his anti-Tsarist protests.  Eventually he earned a law degree, and embraced radical politics and became an avid Marxist.

In 1893, while in St. Petersburg, the OHKRANA arrested Lenin for sedition and exiled him to Siberia for three years.  After his release, he married Nadezhda Krupskaya, and lived in Western Europe.   In 1909, Lenin published Materialism and Empirio-criticism that set the course for socialist revolution, and became the philosophic foundation of Marxism-Leninism.  At the start of World War I in 1914, he was living in Switzerland and in poverty.

The February Revolution of 1917, precipitated by the Russian military disasters on the Eastern Front and the revolutionary chaos forced, Czar Nicholas II to abdicate.  Germany seized this opportunity to weaken the Russia war effort by sending the rabble-rouser Lenin to St. Petersburg in a sealed train.

Lenin realized that his Bolshevik party had the advantage and must seize the moment.  From the steps of the post and telegraph building, he shouted the mantra of the Marxist revolution: “Workers of the world unite! Throw off your chains. You are the vanguard of the proletariat. Today, the armed revolution has begun,  We will have peace, land, and bread.”


This is the locomotive that brought Lenin to St. Petersburg in 1917

Young Lenin

Lenin in disguise in 1917: clean-shaven and with wig

Then, much to Lenin’s chagrin, the Petrograd Soviet, with its Menshevik and Socialist majority, elects Alexander Kerensky as minister of justice and commander-in-chief of the army. In effect, Kerensky becomes the premier of the provisional government. He promises democracy, abolition of the death penalty, and a continuation of the war.


 Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970)

 The provisional government under Kerensky isolated the Czar and his family at the TsarskoeSeloPalace—about thirty miles from St. Petersburg.  And, on March 21, Kerensky placed Czar Nicholas and his family under house arrest.

 In late October, Lenin’s Bolsheviks launch the second revolution with the goal to overthrow Kerensky’s provisional government. Bolshevik troops invade the Duma of Deputies in Petrograd and arrest the top two hundred leaders, including Kerensky and Leon Trotsky.


 Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

 On November 8, the Bolsheviks’ All-Russian Congress of Soviets elected Lenin chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars—in essence, the head of government.  Lenin pronounced, “Communism is Soviet power. “Henceforth the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will be totalitarian Communism.” Bolshevik commissars throughout Russia establish socialist Soviet Councils of Workers’ Deputies to govern provinces and cities. Felix Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka begins the Red Terror.

On March 3, 1918, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, ending its participation in World War.

Lenin ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for the next seven years with an iron-hand dictatorship.  His secret police, the Cheka, reigned unchecked and murdered an estimated 2,000,000 people—anyone who opposed him, or his revolutionary policies.

The Royal family was under house arrest in the “House of Special Purpose” in Ekaterinburg, Siberia,   On 17 July 1918 Lenin signed the regicide telegram that ordered his Cheka lieutenant to eliminate the Czar, the Empress and their five children and others in their entourage.

Lenin died of a massive stroke on 21st January 1924.

It’s a gloomy day in the Kremlin and Lenin sits at his desk in my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown.  He solicits comments from his revolutionary comrades about the regicide telegram he has just drafted.   When he asks for your opinion, try to dissuade him from signing that telegram—the regicide will engender the enmity of the western nations.  May I suggest that soon afterward you skedaddle tout de suite to the nearest friendly border and seek asylum.   The Cheka has alerted its worldwide network to arrest you:  or to “terminate with prejudice.”

Black Orchid

A key character in my novel St. Catherine’s Crown is Black Orchid—an incredibly beautiful and seductive female—as only an oriental female can be.   She is narcissistic to a faretheewell.  Quick to hot temper when provoked, inordinately vain, and having no moral compass; she gets what she wants by whatever means are necessary: treachery, seduction, prevarication.

Black Orchid

My inspiration for Black Orchid was triggered by the character The Dragon Lady in the comic strip “Terry and the Pirates,” by Milton Caniff.  This strip started in the early 1930’s and continued for about twenty years. In those days, most comic strips developed a continuing narrative.  Caniff kept his current story alive from two to three months.

The Dragon Lady was a Chinese pirate raiding shipping in the South China Seas and the Yangtze.  She was exquisitely alluring, fiercely determined, and a dangerous enemy.  When not pirating, she wore beautiful clothes that enhanced her seductive figure.  At times she was brutal—gunning down any threat, perceived or in fact.  Yet she had, as the occasion dictated, a soft heart—falling in love with Terry’s sidekick, Pat Ryan, teaching Terry to dance, and caring for orphans.  During the Japanese  war, she developed her pirate gang into a highly effective guerrilla fighting force.

If I’ve piqued your interested, please visit amazon.com and search for “Terry and the Pirates” and enjoy Caniff’s masterful drawings, dramatic dialogue, and intriguing stories.”

 Black Orchid has no soft heart.  Nonetheless, I invite you to romp with Black Orchid in my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown.  Beware!  You’ve been warned.

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