The Peking Express

The Bandits Who Stole a Train, Stunned the West, and Broke the Republic of China

Regular Price $30

Regular Price $38 CAD

Regular Price $30

Regular Price $38 CAD

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On Sale

Apr 4, 2023

Page Count

352 Pages




A Murder on the Orient Expressstyle adventure, set in China’s republican era
In May 1923, when Shanghai publisher and reporter John Benjamin Powell bought a first-class ticket for the Peking Express, he pictured an idyllic overnight journey on a brand-new train of unprecedented luxury—exactly what the advertisements promised. Seeing his fellow passengers, including mysterious Italian lawyer Giuseppe Musso, a confidante of Mussolini and lawyer for the opium trade, and American heiress Lucy Aldrich, sister-in-law of John D. Rockefeller Jr., he knew it would be an unforgettable trip.
Charismatic bandit leader and populist rabble rouser Sun Mei-yao had also taken notice of the new train from Shanghai to Peking. On the night of Powell’s trip of a lifetime, Sun launched his plan to make a brazen political statement: he and a thousand fellow bandits descended on the train, capturing dozens of hostages.
Aided by local proxy authorities, the humiliated Peking government soon furiously gave chase. At the bandits’ mountain stronghold, a five-week siege began.
Brilliantly written, with new and original research, The Peking Express tells the incredible true story of a clash that shocked the world—becoming so celebrated it inspired several Hollywood movies—and set the course for China’s two-decade civil war.

Meet The Author: James M Zimmerman

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. 

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The Peking Express is a fascinating story, and the author has done an amazing amount of research. It’s really an intriguing, impressive work.”

Ian Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Souls of China
The Peking Express is a vivid, exhilarating account of China’s greatest train robbery of the early twentieth century. A true story about bandits, kidnapping, forced marches across the countryside, a pursuing Chinese army, diplomatic intrigue, and a cast of rather unique characters in 1923 China—what’s not to love???”—Paul French, author of Midnight in Peking and City of Devils
The Peking Express is a dramatic story of survival, heroism, and political intrigue. It takes the reader from the bustling cosmopolitan city of Shanghai to the impoverished, rural landscape of the mysterious and breathtakingly beautiful mountains of southern Shandong. Zimmerman delivers a gripping account that captivates the reader from beginning to end—an ending that is both climatic and riveting in its description of the horrors and excesses of China’s Warlord Era. This is a book that readers will never forget!”—Lingling Wei, award-winning journalist; chief China correspondent, the Wall Street Journal; and coauthor of Superpower Showdown
“After a diet of turgid perorations by Xi Jinping, a reader needs relief. Zimmerman’s tale of the 1923 hijacking of the Peking Express is just such an antidote. Not only has he done his research, but he spins a helluva good yarn!”—Orville Schell, author of My Old Home
The Peking Express takes readers on a journey across China’s countryside where a train robbery opens windows onto the tumultuous politics of twentieth-century China. Painting lively portraits of heroes, villains, saviors, and victims—but which was which?—Zimmerman tells a story that sets the stage for war and revolution, with echoes that persist to this day.”—Jay Carter, author of Champions Day
“[A] gripping debut history… Zimmerman weaves in snapshots of a country in turmoil, contrasting walled cities and starving villagers caught in the cross fire between bandits and warlords with thriving metropolises built by foreign interests. Dramatic and meticulously researched, it’s an immersive look at a forgotten chapter of Chinese history.”—Publishers Weekly
“Vividly characterized… Tremendous insight into little-remembered yet crucial events at the beginning of the formation of modern China.” —Kirkus Reviews
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