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      William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Linda Himelstein

The King of Vodka

Linda Himelstein

About the Author

Linda Himelstein is a veteran reporter and award-winning journalist. A graduate of Scripps College and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, she began her career in the Washington bureau of The Wall Street Journal, and from there went on to work for several national publications. In 1993, Linda joined BusinessWeek in New York as its legal affairs editor. One of her cover stories, titled the Bankers Trust Tapes, earned national headlines and helped BusinessWeek win the National Magazine Award. Linda also wrote about a lawsuit filed by members of the Smirnov family and began what turned out to be an almost five-year quest to uncover and tell the fascinating—and wrenching—tale in The King of Vodka.

About the Book

In this sweeping history of vodka scion Pyotr Smirnov and his family, distinguished journalist Linda Himelstein plumbs a great riddle of Russian history through the story of a humble serf who rose to create one of the most celebrated business empires the world has ever known. At the center of this vivid narrative, Pyotr Smirnov comes to life as a hero of wonderful complexity--a man of intense ambition and uncanny business sense, a patriarch of a family that would help define Russian society and suffer from the revolution's aftermath, and a loyalist to a nation that would one day honor him as a treasure of the state.

Critics / Reviews

The King of Vodka is "a colorful chronicle of the rise of a business. Ms. Himelstein, a veteran journalist, keeps her narrative moving neatly along, distilling complex matters of commerce into a clear and readable form."
— The Wall Street Journal

"The book is an impressive feat of research, told swiftly and enthusiastically, and brings depth and substance to a product that is otherwise bereft."
— San Francisco Chronicle

"Himelstein brings thorough research and strong writing to bear on a fascinating subject."
— Business Week

"The tale of Pyotr Smirnov --son of a 19th century Russian serf who rose to power and prestige as head of a vodka empire -- reads more like vivid cinematic script than meticulously researched nonfiction."
— San Jose Mercury News

"Himelstein makes Russian history and even current politics come alive through an unlikely narrative thread--the creation of a fortune and the eventual demise of a vodka-producing family."
— USA Today


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