Monday, May 6, 2013

Preview: Race to Tibet

Race to Tibet
3 Courageous Explorers Determined To Be the First Living European To Reach Lhasa.
1 Woman on a Quest To Find Her Missing Husband.
What they discover is a land of mystery and intrigue, a land of danger that promises them only one thing:  death.

In the end, just one of these intrepid adventurers will succeed  in reaching Tibet, but he will be haunted by it for the rest of his life.

"Race to Tibet" is the story of Gabriel Bonvalot, the determined, but overconfident French explorer whose greatest ambition is to be the first living European to reach Lhasa, the forbidden capital of Tibet

When the pretender to the French throne, Robert, Duke of Chartres, offers to finance Bonvalot's latest expedition on condition that he take along his dissolute son, Prince Henri d'Orléans, Bonvalot's dream seems almost guaranteed. Before he leaves, Bonvalot is approached by a beautiful young woman, Camille de Villiers, who offers to pay him 2,000 francs to join his caravan so she can search for her husband who disappeared among the passes. Bonvalot refuses, and he and Prince Henri set off. Along the way, Bonvalot is plagued by debilitating hallucinations brought on by the dead Russian explorer, Nikolai Prejevalsky, who is drawing Bonvalot deeper under his spell, giving him advice that is calculated to kill him the closer he gets to Lhasa

Unbeknownst to Bonvalot, a pair of rival explorers, Francis Younghusband and the Russian Bronislav Grombchevsky, are also mounting their own expeditions to Tibet, and will do anything to sabotage Bonvalot's chances. When Bonvalot reaches the Russian Consulate in Kuldja, Turkestan, he meets up with Camille once again. She has been holed up there for weeks, trying to put together her own caravan, but has not been able to recruit any of the local guides. The Consul begs Bonvalot to take her off his hands, which Bonvalot agrees to do, but only on condition that the resident Belgian missionary, Father Dedeken—who is fluent in Chinese—accompanies his caravan to Tibet.

During the journey, Bonvalot's caravan runs into a gamut of problems from freezing temperatures to impossible altitudes, blinding sandstorms, snow squalls, suspicious Tibetans, hostile Chinese Ambans, and brutal nomadic bandits. When Camille learns the truth about her husband, she decides to take revenge, a miscalculation that almost costs them their lives. Pushed to the brink of his physical and mental limits, Bonvalot must decide if reaching Lhasa is worth paying the ultimate price. In the end, only one of these three explorers will succeed in reaching Lhasa, but he will be haunted by it for the rest of his life.

Inspired by a True Story
Coming in 2014

When everyone is dead, the Great Game is finished. Not before.
—Rudyard Kipling


  1. Intriguing! What a great story. It reminds me of Jesse Blackadder's Chasing the Light - about early women explorers in Antarctica.

    Best of luck with the book:)

    1. Thank you, Elisabeth! I'm also intrigued about "Chasing the Light" and I can't wait until it becomes available in the US.

  2. Tibet is such a iconic place to me - in both a mythic and symbolic way (I have a bumper sticker that says Free Tibet,which is a mystery to most people where I live in deep South Texas).I am really looking forward to reading this book. Although you don't say so in this post, are you the author?

    1. Hi Judith,
      Yes, I am the writer, and I have been researching "Race to Tibet" for two years and I've already learned so much. Most people don't realize that the Chinese swallowed up Tibet and blurred the border lines on maps to obscure this fact even though Tibet was an independent country for thousands of years. Tibet formed their own branch of Buddhism, which the French call Bouddhisme Lamaïste, or Lamaist Buddhism, and as spiritual head, they didn't just have the Dalai Lama, they also had the Panchen Lama, which the Chinese also tried to suppress. My book focuses on the obsession of Victorian era explorers in being the first living European to reach Lhasa, which was jealously guarded from outsiders. In my book, I focus on the rivalry between a French explorer, Gabriel Bonvalot, an English one, Francis Younghusband, and a Russian, Bronislav Grombchevsky. They resort to all forms of trickery to wreck their opponents' chances and the journey becomes quite hazardous! Writing "Race to Tibet" really has been a labor of love!

    2. Wonderful! I am familiar with the Younghusband expedition and the Great Game of that time. As a longtime student of Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism I will be anxious to read your book. As you no doubt know, the Chinese have almost destroyed the Tibetan culture. They are now resorting to rebuilding/building fake temples, including Lhasa, as Chinese sponsored tourist attractions. A good friend just returned from there and said it was impossibly plastic and lacked any real cultural aura or feeling.
      It's a trip one should make, though, before everything is gone. I missed a great oppotunity to travel with Robert Thurmann a few years ago and now my health prohibits going to that altitude. . . Big sigh.

    3. Oh, I didn't realize you were so knowledgeable about the subject. I'm quite impressed. I have an idea about the extent of the cultural devastation going on in Tibet through books like "Tibet, Tibet" by Patrick French and travel blogs. It's quite sad and tragic. I am hoping that "Race to Tibet" will bring that time in history alive again in a literal sense, and hopefully foment more interest in the subject. I would love to hear about how you became interested in Tibet and how you learned of the Younghusband expedition!

  3. I couldn't resist commenting,I was so thrilled to see your book preview. I have a layman's knowledge and am by no means an expert.My interest started with meditation courses I attended when I lived in San Francisco and worked as a fund-raiser for Public Broadcasting. The Bay area has a large population of Nepalese and Tibetan communities and up the street from my house was a restaurant run by emigrants from Nepal who became my friends. And so on! It's fairly easy to be touched by Tibet in that city.
    And I am a compulsive reader! Ergo, I found my way to the Younghusband expedition (I have always thought that was such an interesting name).
    I write historical fiction and will soon have my first novel published via time travel/historical set in the 5th century BC and the present day.
    By the way, I found your blog via my on-going interest in the ancient world through a link from J.A. Coffey and her novel Hetaera.
    Best regards.

    1. That sounds terrific, Judith. I will try to blog more on the subject, about interesting tidbits that I discover along the way and hopefully get more people interested in this obscure subject.

      Additionally, I would love to interview you when your book comes out and perhaps post an excerpt. Time travel novels are enjoying immense popularity right now. Would love to hear about your inspirations and influences. It truly is a great time to be a writer!