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ANTON PREHZNEV

prehznev_anton_bk_ass prehznev_anton_bk_stoan
 
Full Name: Anton Prehznev
Nationality: Russian
Organization: None
Occupation Other - Nihilist

Creator: William Le Queux
Time Span: 1892 - 1896

ABOUT THE SERIES

       Anton Prehznev is an agent of the Russian Nihilist Party.
       Vladimir Mihalovitch (last name unknown) is also an agent of that organization.
       First a few words about the Nihilists, a group working out of London as part of an illegal but quite active pact of revolutionists. The online Oxford Dictionary provides a historic definition of a 'nihilist' as "a supporter of an extreme Russian revolutionary party c. 1900 which found nothing to approve of in the established social order".
       Russia in the mid-1800's was ruled by Alexander II, a man known as the Liberator who emancipated the Russian serfs in 1861 as just one of his many steps to reform the autocratic rule over the huge empire of the Russia's. For all his efforts to, in his mind, make life better for the common man in Russia, he was still the target of revolutionists who wanted even more reforms that they were seeing and in 1881 he was assassinated by explosives thrown by a three-man team.
       The new Tzar was Alexander III who, by most reports, favored a return to the belief of absolute power of the nobility resulting in a crackdown on the dissidents and anarchists who had advocated change, regardless of their having had any part in the killing of his father. This would only inflame the anger of these people, many of whom had to flee Russia for their safety and took up residence in London.
       There are two men are mentioned at the top of this text: Anton and Vladimir. Both men are the same individual.
       In 1892, a series of stories concerning the adventure of Vladimir were released in (possibly) magazine format. They detail the life of a well-to-do young boy of Jewish parents who along with his sister, Mascha, enjoyed life growing up in St. Petersburg where his parents were considered prominent members of "good society". Weekly parties and gatherings were common and his prospects were exceptional.
       When Vladimir reached mandatory age for service in the military, he willingly left to do his duty. Had he not been of Jewish descent he would certainly have been made an officer but being a "Hebrew" was limited to the enlisted ranks. Nevertheless, he was still succeeding in his new career.
       It was a couple years after he left that a change happened back home; his father having somehow fallen out of favor with the Tsar was arrested by the "Security Section" and a fortnight later shipped off to Siberia to die soon after. His mother and Mascha were left out in the street to beg for bread. When Vladimir was finally able to end his enlistment and return home, his mother was hours from death.
       Mascha, rejecting the lascivious offers of a high ranking government official, was accosted and when she fought back was severely beaten with a whip. When Vladimir tried to help her, he was labeled a Nihilist and immediately sentenced to work in the silver mines in Siberia.
       As Vladimir explains it, though he had never dreamed of rebelling against the Tsar's rule, from the moment of his arrest after seeing the treatment of his beloved sister, he was devoted to the Nihilist cause. When he was finally able to escape captivity and make his way to London, he was launched on his new career as an espionage agent of that group.


       Now on to Anton Prehznev.
       Four years after the release of the dozen tales depicting major events in Vladimir's life, a book was released containing the same adventures as well as three additional escapades. However, no mention existed in the new versions of Vladimir. Instead the name of the man was Anton. Many of the street names are altered and names of people that Vladimir/Anton will interact with are changed as well. Additional statements and observations are thrown in but everything that Vladimir's versions contained remain in Anton's.
       It would be safe to say that other than the name changes, the Anton version is just like Vladimir's but with more explanation and additional detail.


       Throughout all of Anton/Vladimir's recounting of his espionage activities to bring down the autocracy of the Tsar, he describes over and over the malfeasance and evil that has corrupted Russia's leaders. At the end of the last adventure in Vladimir's version, he mentions that "at present, the Russian people are disloyal and socialistic, their stifled patriotic feelings being concealed beneath the iron mask of Nihilism".
       He predicts, "Until the new era dawns - as it certainly must ere long - the Great White Terror will continute to combat Autocracy and Officialdom, its Damoclean force becoming stronger and more irresistible, until it brings a disaster upon the House of the Romanoffs that will startle the world". Anton's version adds, "then a time will follow like that under Ivan the Terrible."
       The revolution that Anton/Vladimir predicts and so desperately wants would not come in actuality for two decades but it would come. Unfortunately for the Russian people, the resultant government would not be quite as idyllic as Anton/Vladimir was craving.

BOOKS

Number of Books:2
First Appearance:1892
Last Appearance:1896

     There is a fair amount of variance in describing the adventures of Anton Prehznev (or Vladimir Mihalovitch) and I suppose I will just be adding to the mix.

     Most listings for the works of William Le Queux which put a distinction between his novels and his collections of short stories have both of the volumes listed below as falling in the former section, that of novels. I put it in the latter with his other collections.
     I do this because the chapters that make up these stories may build on previous ones, they are all, to me, self-sufficient and could have been published separately should the author have been so inclined. Plus the author had marked the contents of the book(s) as 'Tales', implying more than one. Flimsy foundation, I grant you.
     Still, it is better than a couple of listings I have noticed which puts the book in the Non-Fiction category.


     This is the second published work of Le Queux, coming the year after his first book, Guilty Bonds another book about a person involved with the Nihilist movement.
     The version of the book that I have was printed by the Cassell Publishing Company of New York City as part of its Cassell's Sunshine Series. That series came out once a week for a while before switching to semi-monthly. This book was #130 in the series which ran from May of 1888 to some time in 1895 with a total of (approx.) 166 issues.
     Le Queux was British and his works all likely came out there before or simultaneously with the American publications but I have not found who published the British version.

1 Strange Tales Of A Nihilist Strange Tales Of A Nihilist
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

A collection of 12 stories concerning Vladimir Mikhalovitch. The stories are
A Crooked Fate
On Trackless Snow
My Friend, The Princess
The Burlesque Of Death
Sophie Zagarovna's Secret
By A Vanished Hand
The Judas Kiss
An Imperial Sugar Plum
False Zero
The Mystery Of Lady Gladys
An Ikon Oath
The Tzar's Spy

2 A Secret Service A Secret Service
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1896

Subtitled "Being Strange Tales Of A Nihilist" A collection of 15 stories concerning Anton Prehzev. The stories are:
Why I Became A Nihilist
On Trackless Snow
My Friend, The Princess
The Burlesque Of Death
Sophie Zagarovna's Secret
By A Vanished Hand
A Romance Of The Steppe
The Velvet Paw
The Judas Kiss
An Imperial Sugar Plum
The Confession Of Vassilii
False Zero
The Fate Of The Traitor
An Ikon Oath
The Tzar's Spy

NOVELLAS AND SHORT STORIES

Number of Stories:15
First Appearance:1892
Last Appearance:1896

1 A Crooked Fate A Crooked Fate
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then retitled Why I Became A Nihilist in the collection A Secret Service.
Describes how Anton Prehznev went from being a pampered young man to becoming a soldier in the Russian Army and then, seeing his family torn apart and his sister beaten, is arrested and sentenced to Siberia, a fate that turns him into a lifelong Nihilist.
Click here to read the story.

2 On Trackless Snow On Trackless Snow
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
Anton Prehznev/Vladimir Mikhalovitch spends six months in prison before being condemned to a life of hard labor in Siberia. He is sent to the silver mines in the area beyond Lake Baikal. After an escape while being chased by Cossacks, he comes across the dead body of Ivan Drukovitch, messenger in the service of His Imperial Majesty the Tzar. He assumes the man's identity.
Click here to read the story.

3 My Friend, The Princess My Friend, The Princess
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
Escaping finally to England, Anton/Vladimir gladly joins up with the Nihilist Party in London and because of his fluency in English and French is selected by the Executive to "perform certain special duties of espionage". One of these is the assassination of a Russian Princess, a loyal subject of the Tzar and enemy of the Nihilists, now residing in England.
Click here to read the story.

4 The Burlesque Of Death The Burlesque Of Death
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
The Nihilists have decided the time has come to attempt the assassination of the Tsar while he winters in St. Petersburg. Anton Prehznev is in charge of maintaining security but he finds himself under the watchful eye of a visiting French detective, making Prehznev believe there is a traitor in their ranks.
Click here to read the story.

5 Sophie Zagarovna's Secret Sophie Zagarovna's Secret
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
Anton Prehznev is assigned the task of shadowing and monitoring a Russian recently arrived in England, certain that while he was supposedly representing a Moscow merchant, he was actually an agent of the Secret Police. While doing so, he was surprised to be approached by a lovely high class lady who passes him a note in secret. She is Sophie Zagarovna, "one of the most daring of the Zurich Nihilists". In question then is why she is in London and what help does she need from Prehznev.
Click here to read the story.

6 By A Vanished Hand By A Vanished Hand
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
On an evening walk in the Whitechapel area, Anton Prehznev happens upon "an aged, decrepit, blind man" who turns out to be a Russian exile, recently in the country with his young daughter. Befriending him, Prehznev grows to become closer to him but the more he learns, the more mysterious the old man and young girl become.
Click here to read the story.

7 A Romance Of The Steppe A Romance Of The Steppe
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1896

Contained in the collection A Secret Service.
Anton Prehznev was on a secret mission to the little Russian town of Lebiazhia when an old friend in the Tsar's Dragoons asked if a friend of his could travel with him to Irkutsk. Prehznev was quite surprised when that friend turned out to be Mariana Nestoff, "an exceedingly handsome, dark-eyed young lady of about 22". The long journey would reveal they both had secrets.
Click here to read the story.

8 The Velvet Paw The Velvet Paw
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1896

Contained in the collection A Secret Service.
In London again, Anton Prehznev is approached by a young woman who, in Russian, compliments him on his magazine articles against tyranny and begs him for help. She says she is in great peril and asks him to accompany her to her home to meet with her brother to discuss the trouble. Agreeing, Prehznev will find himself waiting alone in a room in their apartments, a room that was sealed to turn it into a lethal chamber!
Click here to read the story.

9 The Judas Kiss The Judas Kiss
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
[plot unknown]
Click here to read the story.

10 An Imperial Sugar Plum An Imperial Sugar Plum
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
[plot unknown]
Click here to read the story.

11 The Confession Of Vassilii The Confession Of Vassilii
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1896

Contained in the collection A Secret Service.
[plot unknown]
Click here to read the story.

12 False Zero False Zero
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
[plot unknown]
Click here to read the story.

13 The Mystery Of Lady Gladys The Mystery Of Lady Gladys
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then retitled The Fate Of The Traitor in the collection A Secret Service.
[plot unknown]
Click here to read the story.

14 An Ikon Oath An Ikon Oath
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
[plot unknown]
Click here to read the story.

15 The Tzar's Spy The Tzar's Spy
short story
Written by William Le Queux
Copyright: 1892

Contained first in the collection Strange Tales Of A Nihilist and then in the collection A Secret Service.
[plot unknown]
Click here to read the story.

MY COMMENTS

     I have a special spot in my literary heart for the works of William Le Queux. He is widely considered these days, and has been so thought for many decades, to have been a bombastic shouter of doom and gloom and imminent invasion. I would quite agree with that assessment.
     He was also quite enjoyable to read especially when I am in the mood to transport myself back over a hundred years ago.
     Le Queux wrote a ton of books over his nearly 40 years of production. His primary set of notable works would come twenty years after these stories as he got up a major head of steam in his condemnation of the Kaiser and his plans for, if not world domination, certainly European supremacy. It is interesting to note that his first area of literary interest was not German intrigue but Russian.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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