One hundred years ago, a Russian physician named Nicholas Russel (alias Nikolai Konstantinovich Sudzilovskii) stormed the Golden State from San Francisco to Soapweed and penned an unvarnished account of campers and cranks, country dances and cutthroat capitalism. Russel's testy travelogue - entertaining, outspoken, often outraged, sometimes outrageous - was unearthed a century later in a Moscow archive by Stanford historian Terence Emmons, who oversaw its translation. Emmons's further inquiry into Russel's bizarre background yields the portrait of a man whose cantankerous spirit eventually led him into a dogfight with the Russian Orthodox Church, election to the presidency of the Hawaiian Senate, paternity at age 68, and a plan to incite an invasion of pre-Revolutionary Russia by Mongolian partisans.
The result? Around California in 1891 - a feisty slice of California history the Chamber of Commerce may have forgotten to mention.