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The thrilling true story of train-robbing revolutionaries and passengers who got more than they paid for.
In 1923 Shanghai, native and foreign travelers alike are enthralled by the establishment of a new railway line to distant Peking. With this new line comes the Peking Express, a luxurious express train on the cutting edge of China’s continental transportation.
Among those drawn to the train are oil heiress Lucy Aldrich, journalist John Benjamin Powell, and vacationing Army Majors Roland Pinger and Robert Allen, wives and children in tow. These errant Americans and their eclectic fellow passengers all eagerly anticipate an idyllic overnight journey in first class.
But the train’s passengers are not the only ones enchanted by the Peking Express. The bandit revolutionary Sun Mei-yao sees in it the promise of a reckoning long overdue. From his vantage in Shantung Province, a conflict-ravaged region through which the train must pass, he identifies the Peking Express as a means of commanding the global stage. By disrupting the train and taking its wealthy passengers hostage, he can draw international attention to the plight of Shantung and, he hopes, thereby secure a solution.
In the first hours of May 6, 1923, Sun and his bandit troops enact their daring plan. Wrested from the pleasures of their luxury cabins, dozens of travelers including Aldrich, Powell, Pinger, and Allen are plunged into the unfamiliar Shantung terrain. Pursued by warlords and led by their captors, they must make their way to the bandits’ mountain stronghold and there await their fate.
The Peking Express is the incredible, long-forgotten story of a hostage crisis that shocked China and the West. It vividly captures the events that made international headlines and later inspired Josef von Sternberg’s 1932 Hollywood masterpiece Shanghai Express.
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James M. Zimmerman is a Beijing-based lawyer who has lived and worked in China for over 25 years. He is among China’s leading foreign lawyers and represents companies and individuals confronted with the political and legal complexities of doing business in Mainland China. He is the author of the China Law Deskbook, published by the American Bar Association, and is frequently featured as a political commentator on US-China relations in various print and broadcast media around the globe. He is the former four-term Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. In addition to Beijing, he maintains a home in San Diego, California.