Eight Pieces of Empire: A 20-Year Journey Through the Soviet Collapse


EIGHT PIECES OF EMPIRE, a sweeping and kaleidoscopic portrait of the disintegration of what once was the mighty empire of the Soviet Union, is the story of Lawrence Scott Sheets, an American journalist and political analyst who has lived and worked in the region since 1990. Written in the tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski and told through Sheets’s fascinating firsthand accounts, the book is as deeply engaging as it is informative. The reader follows Sheets on his journey and meets a bevy of characters: black marketers, paramilitary men, flamboyant artists, gangsters, women flaunting their new sexual freedoms, women saboteurs, those who idolize Stalin—to name just a few. The reader is with Sheets when the KGB tries to recruit him; when he flees a burning city during a byzantine conflict in Georgia; and when he has tea with the terrorist Basayev. Through his intimate, impressionistic narrative, Sheets paints a broad and poignantly human picture of what happens to a society that is completely transformed overnight when a world ruled with an iron fist is suddenly one filled with the joy and terror of uncontrolled freedoms.



North American publisher: Crown Publishing Group

The Marsh Agency, Foreign Rights Management

Jessica Woollard (jessica@marsh-agency.co.uk) for the United Kingdom

Camilla Ferrier (Camilla@marsh-agency.co.uk) for Arabic World, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy*, Japan, The Netherlands**, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Jemma McDonagh (Jemma@marsh-agency.co.uk) for Baltic States, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Rupublic, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy**, Korea, The Netherlands*, Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Turkey


Foreign rights sold: Dutch to Nieuw Amsterdam

Film rights: Gillian MacKenzie (gmackenzie@gillianmackenzieagency.com)


"Sheets' suite of incidents bespeaks his Russian-fluent immersion among people unmoored by the Soviet collapse, a quality watchers of the Russian scene will appreciate."--Booklist


"“His book is an invaluable eyewitness account of the traumas of the Soviet collapse told through the lives of those who were caught up in it and often buried under it. The book is written with a disarming honesty, sympathy and humility.” --The Economist



"Eight Pieces of Empire is a vivid, largely anecdotal account of the chaos and confusion that has followed in the two decades since the fall of the massive communist entity that once obsessed America. It leaves the reader hungry for more."--Associated Press


"In an era when the media establishment supports foreign reporting less and less, Lawrence Sheets has lived a life of utter seriousness as a foreign correspondent: concentrating on one broad area - the former Soviet Union - in order to develop subject expertise, and then dedicating himself to indefatigable ground-level coverage of that area. Forget the pundits and the scandalmongers, this is a real journalist."--Robert D. Kaplan, journalist and author of Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power

"The unravelling of the Soviet empire has been going on for twenty years, and Sheets has seen it all.... Beautifully wrought and executed with admirable clarity, Sheets' gripping, intelligent and compassionate account of the years following the Soviet empire's end is a must-read for anyone interested in the human cost of change."--Vanora Bennett, journalist and author of The People's Queen


"This may read like a mad journey through some of the most dangerous places on earth, but it is much more than that as well. Sheets witnessed most of the wars, disasters and revolutions that followed the end of communism, and his accounts of them - from Chechnya to Chernobyl, and from Abkhazia to Afghanistan - serve as a passionate but considered obituary for the vanished Soviet empire."--Oliver Bullough, author of Let Our Fame Be Great


"Sheets captures you with a smoothly written and sensitively drawn personal portrait of the people and places he meets during the roiling collapse of the Soviet Union, and the furtive, now two-decade-long struggle of the resulting 15 states to construct something new. I have the feeling that people will be reading his account for a long time to come."--Steve LeVine, author of Putin's Labyrinth: Spies, Murder, and the Dark Heart of the New Russia


"Few Westerners understand the post-Soviet soul like Lawrence Sheets. Whether it is his hair-raising stories of the region's myriad armed conflicts or the black humor with which he captures the moral and physical impoverishment of a collapsing empire, Sheets brilliantly condenses twenty tumultous years into an eminently readable tale."--Matthew Brzezinski, author of Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age


"War reporter Lawrence Sheets' edgy memoir evokes exactly the fatalism, confusion and centrifugal forces that suddenly broke up the Soviet Union two decades ago. Refreshingly free of far-away theorizing, this book focuses on what people actually saw and experienced in those years - from the mind-numbing charnel houses of the Chechen war to the nobility of a house-proud, authority-defying survivor in the nuclear-poisoned woods around Chernobyl. Eight Pieces of Empire is a disturbing mosaic of moments in the millions of Soviet lives that were shattered by forces beyond their control, and a sobering reminder of what happens to ordinary people when superpower status turns out to be a passing moment of history."--Hugh Pope, author of Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East


"To capture the human cost of fallen empire with all its horror and absurdity, Sheets offers the right combination: the political insight of a top reporter and the power of a novelist."--Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park


"During his almost two decades living and reporting in several countries that are former Soviet Republics, Lawrence Sheets had a front-row seat to the human casualties and political fall-out of the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Eight Pieces of Empire vividly captures the lived-experiences of people caught on the sweeping waves of politics and history with intimacy and insight."--Robin Hessman, director/producer "My Perestroika"


"Things change, but the past never fully disappears. It is passed from one generation to the next - sometimes by accident. With Eight Pieces of Empire, Lawrence Scott Sheets brings a journalist's watchful eye, an essayist's sense of humor, and a scholar's mind to the legacy of Soviet Empire in all its color and complexity. This book is a great read, and its images linger in the mind long after the cover is closed."--Ian Bremmer, author of The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?


"Dean of Moscow press corps, Lawrence Scott Sheets has been everywhere and seen it all. Funny, engaged, and humane, he is a matchless guide to the tattered remnants of the Soviet empire."--Anna Reid, author of Borderland and The Shaman's Coat