Constantine Pleshakov is an intriguing Russo-American writer now entering his prime. One can predict that when he is dead and buried biographers will be as eager as beetles to decompose him. In Russia he has been called ‘the gay Hemingway’ (erroneously on both counts) for his scurrilous and sometimes wittily obscene essays and fiction. In the US, where he has been inspiring the privileged students of Mount Holyoke, he has won a different reputation, as a historian specialising in the most spectacular catastrophes of Russia in the twentieth century. His books on the loss of Russia’s navies to the Japanese at Tsushima and on the fall of the Romanov dynasty logically lead to this study, of ten days in which more lives were lost, property demolished and illusions shattered than in any other ten days of human history.