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Sam Eastland Shines With Inspector Pekkala Books

July 3, 2013

This winter I discovered, quite by accident thanks to Daedalus Books, a new author with a most intriguing protagonist.

TSAR

Sam Eastland has constructed riveting tales set in Stalin’s Russia where Inspector Pekkala deals with murder mysteries amidst historical changes taking place in his country.  After reading the first two books in the series, and having learned the fifth one is now finished, makes me wonder who Eastland used when fashioning Pekkala.

Now I know.

Inspector Pekkala is based on two people.

The first is a man named AT Vassileyev, who was the last serving director of the Tsar’s Okhrana prior to the Revolution. He escaped from Russia and made his way to Paris, where he lived in poverty until his death in the mid 1930’s. During this time, he wrote a book about his experiences, which was titled, simply, The Okhrana. The book was translated into English in 1932, I think, and very few copies were printed. I stumbled upon the book in an antique shop in Princeton, New Jersey, which is where I live and work. The book was in very bad condition. The pages were crumbling in my hands as I turned them. but it was as if Vassileyev himself was speaking the words inside my head. I was shocked at how many things he predicted for the future of Russia. Some of them appeared so outrageous that the translator felt obliged to write, in her foreword to the book, that these were obviously the ramblings of an unstable mind. But every one of them had come true by the time I read the book.
The second person is my grandfather, who served as a detective with the London Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard) from the 1930’s until the late 1950’s. He ran away from his home in Wales at the age of 16 and joined the police in London. One day, when he was chasing down a criminal, the suspect’s dog attacked him. He was taken to the hospital and ended up marrying the nurse who treated him that day. From my father, I heard many stories of my grandfather’s adventures in Scotland Yard. I was always very nervous around my grandfather. He was a tall man – 6’6” – and I do not remember him smiling very much. I still have the truncheon he carried during his early days in the police and also the whistle, with its distinctive sound, carried by all policemen in those days.

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