Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Stories of the amazing - by Mike Dash for the Smithsonian & Robert Worth for the NYT Magazine

There's two different magazine pieces I saw last week that stood out as amazing true stories that were written well.

For the Smithsonian Magazine, Mike Dash provided "For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II." As incredible as the title would indicate, the story told is of a Russian Orthodox family that entered Siberia in 1936 to escape religious persecution and remained isolated from the rest of civilization until a chance encounter with geologists in 1978. The details as described by Dash are remarkable and bring to mind another Smithsonian piece of his that I posted on and linked to a year ago, "The Mysterious Mr. Zedzed: the Wickedest Man in the World."

The other recent piece that struck me as telling an amazing true tale was "The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much" on French author Gérard de Villiers. Written by Robert Worth for the New York Times Magazine, it details de Villiers and his 200+ spy thrillers described by Worth as being "gruesome and decadent" books. In terms of readership, the de Villiers S.A.S. series is said to have sold some 100 million copies, but what's most striking in this piece is description of the level of inside or classified information the books are said to contain. Worth details how a de Villiers book will have detail around military and intelligence operations simply not seen anywhere else. In fact, it's noted in the piece how de Villiers in his books has at times presaged historical events with him having written novels that covered events to come in both Benghazi and Egypt.