In 1904, en route on the Trans-Siberian Railway with thousands of other conscripts to fight in the Russo-Japanese War, 16-year-old Gregory Sandiuesky becomes the orderly to an officer who he thinks is the father who abandoned him and his mother years earlier. At the front in Manchuria, though wounded, he escapes to Shanghai and then to America, where he becomes a famous Hollywood film director. But he never stops looking for his father.
Joseph gives an overview of the book:
I scrambled across the frozen field, past trees shattered by mortar fire and ground strewn with ordnance and mangled corpses. Writhing beneath barbed wire, I crossed trenches sheathed in mud and ice, finally reaching the main encampment about midnight.
There I passed soldiers huddling beside meager fires, steam curling from their cups of tea or borscht and hands scrabbling to light cigarettes and pipes. Their stares bore right past me, as if I were invisible or already dead. Even the soldiers guarding the colonel’s tent merely glanced in my direction before turning away: they were used to me entering his quarters and hadn’t been told I’d been banished to sentry duty at the far perimeter of camp.
Just inside, a tripod brazier flared, while on a bench beside it a Victrola, its recording needle stuck, played a mazurka’s final notes over and over.
Hands trembling, I slid out a dagger from beneath my tunic.
The colonel lay on his back, arms folded, eyes closed, and snoring softly, despite the camphor lamp flickering from the ridgepole overhead. His greatcoat was draped over him and his boots stood at the end of the cot gleaming as if they’d just been polished—and I wondered who his new orderly was.
Suddenly a gust of wind blew in; it clawed at the lamp so that metal clanged against metal and light caromed about the tent. Still he did not stir. I thought wretchedly: why had the colonel taken me to be his orderly from among the scores of recruits? Had he seen something—the curve of my mouth, the shape of my nose, the color of my hair and eyes—that reminded him of someone? He had said he knew my family, but was it my mother who he knew best, and, like so many men, had fallen in love with her?
I let out my breath. My hands now steady, I held the knife close to his throat. I could smell his familiar cologne, see his breath condense in the air. Then I lowered my dagger. I couldn’t do it. Instead I leaned in closer and brushed my lips against his cheek—the cheek of the man who I once hoped might be my father—and then hurried from the tent.
Available free from Scribd (http://www.scribd.com/doc/47769350/Red-Lotus-Book-1), Also check out its sequel, PRACHECHNY BRIDGE, serialized with biweekly updates (1st and 3rd Saturdays) on http://longtaleshort.com.