Wiktor Rooks, the second son of a Baltic Baron (an aristocrat with ethnic ties to Germany) lives in Russian-controlled Latvia, and he knows about rule following. A primary rule is that family and friends are cultured and refined, and the local Latvian peasants, the family manor's work force, are brutish louts and not to be acknowledged. His father explains, “The ruling classes choose the language...What good is it to learn Lettish?” Sadly, learning Lettish would have been wise, because in the winter of 1905, the Latvians, communicating in their own language, planned and executed the burning of 200 manor houses, leaving aristocratic carnage in their wake.
Wiktor, (the son destined for a military career) ends up, in 1915, as a liaison (and sometime spy) in the 12th Army Division which is composed of (supposedly) brave Russians and “ugly common Latvians.” Added to the underlying distrust among men and their officers, there is war itself, particularly the horrific effects of chlorine gas bombs which the Germans lob in abundance. Wiktor must reconcile his desire to help with the knowledge that nothing can be done for dying men. He realizes, “There were rules, even in war.” He also realizes that the Russian method of warfare consists of using the Letts for cannon fodder and then retreating. The advantage (which has been a plus for Russians on any war they fought on a grand scale) is that, “They could retreat for half the globe.”
After the Tsar's fall and a few interim governments, Wiktor works for the newest one, headed by Vladimir Lenin. Realizing that, “...being new rulers, they sent someone to explain the new rules,” he becomes a member of a cadre of Red riflemen called “Lenin's Harem.” When he returns to Latvia, after some time in Moscow, he sees that there are still hostilities but loyalties have shifted and the old rules don't work. After falling in love with a Latvian woman, he must deal with atrocities associated with the latest regime.
Lenin's Harem's author, William Burton McCormick, is a 1988 graduate of Boulder City High School and grandson of long-time BCHS principal, Bill McCormick. He'll have a book signing at the Boulder City Library on 2/7/2013 at 5:00pm. Come and meet the author of a book you won't be able to put down!
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org