Guest Review | Philip Marsden | The Sabres of Paradise, Lesley Blanch

The Sabres of Paradise was first published in 1960, a hundred years after the story it recounts had ended, after the Russian conquest of the Caucasus was at last complete. Nikita Khrushchev was in the Kremlin. President Kennedy was running for the White House. Soviet power was at its height. The republics of the Caucasus were just another comer of the vast Soviet empire cowed into conformity by the brutalities of Stalin. The episode of Imam Shamyl’s thirty-year resistance to Russian expansion − perhaps the most dramatic story ever to emerge from the Caucasus (where dramatic stories are hardly in short supply) − had receded to its rightful place in ancient history. The days of small bands of mountain guerrillas raiding, hostage-taking, hiding up in the thick Chechen forests were long gone; whole divisions being tied down by such tactics was unthinkable in an age overshadowed by nuclear weapons.

Forty years on, the story looks a little different and a lot more relevant; now − post-Vietnam, post-Afghanistan, post-Soviet Union and post-September 11. Who, in 1960, would have dared predict that the heirs of the Red Army − that vast force which had done so much to shape the geo-politics of the late twentieth century, already humiliated by the Afghan mujahideen − should in 1996 be defeated, run out of its own territory by a band of lightly-armed Chechens which rarely exceeded a few thousand in number?

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Review | Two perfect his ‘n’ hers reads by Lesley Blanch

Lesley Blanch: always interesting, always flirtatiously alive, always passionate – Barnaby Rogerson, Country Life

Of Lesley Blanch’s biographies, The Sabres of Paradise: Conquest and Vengeance in the Caucasus was her favourite. Thorough research, a balanced approach and dramatic storytelling skills bring to life Imam Shamyl, the ‘Lion of Daghestan’, leader of the warring mountain tribes of Daghestan and Chechnya. From 1834-59 they fought to remain independent of Russia, strengthened only by the desire for an independent Caucasus and their religious faith. The Tzar took Shamyl’s eldest son as a hostage to St Petersburg. Shamyl captured two Georgian princesses (from the Tzarina’s entourage), a French governess and the children, and kept them in his harem until they could be exchanged for his son.

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Viva BookBlast®! | est. 1997

What is BookBlast®?

A brand is your personality, so the saying goes. The agency’s mission has always been to foster diversity across cultures and markets via translation; promote independent voices from beyond the mainstream. I am a blasty kind of person and an idealist when it comes to getting original writing and ideas out into the world whichever way possible. BookBlast® is a reflection of this.

I dreamed up the name for the London-based writing agency founded in 1997. In 2009, we registered the trademark BookBlast® in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America in Classes 35 and 41 for services relating to promotion, marketing, advertising, writers agency matters, publication of electronic books and the provision of information in relation to books. The first company website went live in 2000. Since which time much of the writing and  self-publishing community has been inspired by the concept of BookBlast® online.

The Founder of BookBlast®

For over twenty-five years − as an editor, agent, book publicist, literary executor and translator − I have cross-pollinated ideas, connected the dots and contributed to making major book projects happen, often against the odds. Since 2005, I have contributed as an occasional writer to words without borders , 3:AM magazine and various publications.

On 5 March 2015, the company website bookblast.com was selected by the curators of Bodleian Electronic Archives and Manuscripts, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford as being of lasting research value and worthy of permanent preservation in their Web Archive.

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