By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Simon Vance
Change is neither good nor evil but at times in history it seems more of one than the other.
“White Blood” captures one’s imagination after slogging through the first half of its story. Written by James Fleming, an English author, “White Blood” is a pale version of “A Tale of Two Cities”. Rather than the French Revolution, Fleming tells the story of the 1917 Russian Revolution.
Fleming wastes too much time setting the table for his story. The book really begins when a listener reaches its halfway point. In fairness, the devlopment of the main character is critical to the suspension of disbelief in the second half of the book but the hero’s vocational aptitude for murder and his passion could have been more succinctly presented.
Fleming creates Charlie Doig, an ex-patriot of Czarist Russia, raised in England. Doig is descended from a royal family in Czarist Russia that has lost most of his family’s fortune. Doig chooses to become a naturalist, sweating, puking, and “doink-ing” prostitutes in the Far East to discover life, particularly beetles, birds, and conjugal bliss. Doig’s experience as a naturalist, killing and mounting living species, broadly prepares him for the death and destruction of WWI and the Russian Revolution.
Just prior to the outbreak of WWI, Doig receives a grant to study a bird species in his native country. War breaks out and money for the study dries up. Doig decides to visit his aristocratic relatives in Smolensk, an eastern Russian town founded in 882. He falls in love with his Russian cousin and marries her just before the revolution.
The Russian’ revolution is seared with the same fire that consumed France in 1789. The monumental gap between the rich and poor boils to the surface in an orgy of rape and murder. The complacent rich ignore the warning signs; deluding themselves with the belief that they are feeding the poor by being rich employers of peasants that deserve their stultified lives because they were not born into wealth.
The broad theme of inequality based on inheritance and tradition rather than equality of opportunity and freedom are played out in the details of Doig’s life. The great “unwashed” visit Doig’s family home in the guise of two travelers that are Russian but seem untethered from Russian tradition. The two travelers arrive in a 1917 fall snow storm seeking food and rest, one seems morose and rude; the other officious and diplomatic. The morose and rude traveler exudes threat. From this point forward, Fleming’s book becomes a thriller.
Fleming’s book is another signal to the wealthy that believe trickle-down economics and survival of the fittest are the lynch pins of society. America needs to listen to the “Occupy Wall Street” marchers; Assad to his Syrian people, Royalty to its Arab Spring protesters, and Israel to its Palestinian neighbors. The status quo is not a safe haven. Change is inevitable; preferably not by revolution but by compromise that curtails slavery, embraces freedom, and offers equality of opportunity. [contact-form-7 id=”1710″ title=”Contact form 1″]