Grandmaster

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Overview

Otto Penzler and the Mystery Writers of America present Grandmaster by Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran, winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Paperback Original in 1985.

Two men, born on the same day on opposite sides of the world, driven to oppose each other—for only one man may be the Grandmaster.

Justin Gilead and Alexander Zharkov, two men driven by powerful forces they can neither understand nor ...

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Overview

Otto Penzler and the Mystery Writers of America present Grandmaster by Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran, winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Paperback Original in 1985.

Two men, born on the same day on opposite sides of the world, driven to oppose each other—for only one man may be the Grandmaster.

Justin Gilead and Alexander Zharkov, two men driven by powerful forces they can neither understand nor deny—driven to fight each other in a battle for power that only one of them may win.

Gilead, a magnificent athlete, an American, a genius, and a spy. Zharkov, a master strategist, head of the feared secret service agency, Nichevo, a determined, ambitious man.

They first meet as ten-year-old chess prodigies-both lonely, both meaning to win, both born under the magical sign of the gold coiled serpent. They will come to know the uses of pleasure, the secrets of pain, the impact of evil turned upon itself. They will understand the deadly forces that grip the world in swift violence, sudden death. And they will finally know that only one man may be the Grandmaster.

Grandmaster is an extraordinary tale of spymasters and assassins, murder and intrigue played against a background of Far Eastern mysticism from Moscow to Washington, from Havana to Tibet.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
More than 20 years after its original publication, Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran's Edgar Allan Poe Award-winning novel Grandmaster -- a unique thriller that Cochran describes as "a twisted macramé of espionage, metaphysics, romance, fantasy and suspense" -- is finally back in print.

At the age of ten, Justin Gilead was an American chess prodigy. While competing in an international tournament in Paris, he fatefully met the adversary who would both shape and destroy his future. Born in Russia on the same day as Gilead, Alexander Zharkov is the American's exact opposite. But while both are chess masters and brilliant strategists, they are mere pawns in a much larger game controlled by international politics and meddlesome gods. Decades later, with Gilead as an unstoppable CIA operative and Zharkov as the ruthless head of a Russian secret service agency, the two are pitted against one another again in a real-life chess match where only one opponent can survive. And the future of the free world hangs in the balance.

While Grandmaster is categorized under mystery and suspense, it's so much more than a novel about the life-and-death battle between international spies. It's about mysticism, love, the eternal struggle between good and evil -- and chess. Cochran states in the novel's preface: "[I]t's about the spiritual core inside us all, some unknowable part of us that is eternal and perfect." Mystery fans looking for a truly singular read will certainly find that and more in Murphy and Cochran's classic spy thriller. Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly
Otto Penzler and the Mystery Writers of America present Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran's Grandmaster, which won an Edgar Award for best paperback original in 1985. As Penzler notes in his introduction, this thriller is a classic battle between good and evil, pitting an extraordinary American spy against his Soviet counterpart. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This espionage thriller, winner of an Edgar Award when first released in 1985, revolves around two men born on the same day on opposite sides of the world-and politics-who must destroy each other. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765311634
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Series: Otto Penzler Presents Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,478,845
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

WARREN MURPHY's books and stories have sold fifty million copies worldwide and won a dozen national awards. He has created a number of book series, including the Trace series and the long-running satiric adventure, The Destroyer.

MOLLY COCHRAN has written more than twenty-five books, including The Temple Dogs, High Priest, The Hand of Lazarus, and World Without End.

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Read an Excerpt

GRANDMASTER

BOOK ONE

THE COILED SNAKE

PROLOGUE

Somewhere a bell faintly tinkled. The room was as large as a castle courtyard, lit by clusters of tall scented candles in each of the four corners, but the ceilings were so high that no light reached there, and looking up gave him the feeling of staring up at a dead sky, on a night without stars.

Figures scurried by along the base of the walls. Their movements were soft, and although he could see only shadows, he knew that they were women.

Three feather-filled cushions, each of them eight feet square, were piled atop each other in the center of the room. A woman lay on the cushions, and he knew, without knowing, that she was the one he had been summoned to see.

He hesitated, but the woman beckoned him forward with a slow movement of her graceful arm. She was naked but for a golden chain wrapped three times around her waist. As he drew closer he could see that her hair was black and long, pulled forward over her left shoulder so that it draped across her breasts. Even in the dim candlelight, her hair glistened like oiled glass and her eyes seemed made up of thousands of individual amber crystals, each of them reflecting the light from the candles in the room. Closer to her, the scent of incense was stronger, almost overpowering. He drew it deep into his lungs and felt warmth radiate from inside him.

He stood now in front of the cushions, his knees almost touching them, looking down at the woman. Her body was as artfully arranged as an old master's composition; though she was naked, the placement of her hair and the shadows that darkened her made it impossible for him to see her clearly.

"Do you know why I have had you brought here?" she asked him inRussian. Her voice was musical, its pitch exactly the same as that of the bell that still tinged softly from one of the far corners of the room. He breathed deeply again; his body felt as if it were losing its muscles; he wondered if she had spoken or if he had merely imagined the bell was speaking to him.

She was looking at him, waiting for an answer. He tried to speak, but no words came. He shook his head.

"Because you belong to me," she said softly. Her eyes never left his face.

Belong to her? No. No one belonged to anyone else. He summoned up his will and again tried to speak. This time, with effort, he forced the words out. "Madam, I ..."

She ignored him. "From the day of your birth, you have belonged to me."

"And if I do not so choose?" he said thickly. He was surprised that he had been able to speak the words; speaking was such an effort.

"The choice is not yours," she said, a hint of annoyance tingeing the smooth, throaty sounds. "You are only a man. Do not forget that. You are limited by your senses, your mortality. But I will make you more than a man."

She paused as if awaiting an answer, but he could no longer speak. The very presence of the woman seemed to obliterate his sensibility and reason. He wanted only to be invited to lie down with her on the soft cushions, to rest his body and his aching, confused mind.

"You are my chosen one," she said. "I have searched the earth for you."

He stared at her, unable to tear his eyes away from her shadowy face. "Why?" he asked softly, feeling cold. "Who am I to you?"

A smile flickered around the edge of her mouth. "In all things there is opposition, reversal. Yin and yang, light and darkness, good and evil. In those beings of power, there are also two sides. Do you understand?"

He drew a deep breath to try to clear his mind, but instead his lungs were filled again with the sinuous fire of the incense. This place was somehow infused with magic, he knew, powerful magic. Lapping around the borders of his consciousness was fear. The woman was soft and dark and smooth and rich as dreams, but there was no comfort in her for him.

"Is there someone who will come to this place?" he asked. "Someone to challenge me, perhaps? An evil man ..."

The woman's smile broadened into a coarse, harsh laugh that resounded through the room.

The man did not understand. He waited for her to explain, but instead she rolled over onto her back without speaking. Suddenly her body came alive, breasts thrust forward, the dark curled hair between her legs sharply visible in the candlelight. She was holding something in her hands. It was a snake fashioned out of gold, long and curved into an S. Its scales were meticulously carved, its mouth open with its tongue darting out as if it sensed danger.

She placed it between her legs and drew it slowly between her thighs. Her eyes deigned to meet his. "Come to me," she commanded.

He came.

She held the gold snake up to him. Its luster seemed to grow in intensity, hurting his eyes. He feared the snake.

"Take it," she said.

Trembling, he accepted the carved serpent. It burned his hands. His very soul seemed to gasp at the contact.

"An evil man has already come," she purred. Her voice licked him with promise. "The Prince of Death has come. My evil man."

He closed his eyes. He understood. "My goddess," he said.

She placed her silky hands on top of his. At her touch, his fear of the snake's power vanished. With a sigh, he snapped the golden serpent in two.

"Yes," she said softly into his ear, filling him with a deep, perverse lust that he realized he had longed for all his life. She had been right: He had no choice. His destiny was to serve her, to drink her magic, to live in spheres high above the scrambling and rutting of common men.

"My Prince of Death. You have the seeds of greatness in you. I will make those seeds bloom, my prince. And you will kill the golden snake for me."

"I will," he promised.

Then she opened to him and wrapped her body around his and, as the bell still faintly tinkled and the air grew heavier with the scents of incense and carnality, she took him into the depths of his own darkness.

Copyright © 1984 by Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific thriller

    They were born on the same day on different continents as Justin Gilead is an American and Alexander Zharkov is a Russian. They first meet at ten years of age over a chess game. However, that night Justin watches assassins kill his father in a seedy Paris bar. He is rescued from the same fate by monks from the highest mountains in Asia who were looking for him as they believe he is the latest reincarnation of Brahma. For the next decade and a half he lives and studies Buddhism under their tutelage. --- However Russian troops attack and burn down the remote monastery. Justin survives but is filled with rage and a need for vengeance against the Russians. He obtains work for the CIA enabling him to focus on his target Zarkhov, the chief of the Russian top secret espionage elite unit Nichevo. The life and death chess game between two masters will leave one as the GRANDMASTER and the other dead. --- Readers will quickly understand why this novel won an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1985 though the Iron Curtain has since fallen, turning what was contemporary back then into historical especially the insight into the life and death of grandmaster chess as played by the Russian Bears. Justin moves the action-packed plot forward as his Buddhist trained skills enable him to accomplish seemingly impossible achievements on the other hand Zarkhov is a vestige of the Soviet Union adding to the sense that this is a historical thriller. Fans will marvel at how newlyweds (at that time) Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran gifted their readers with a novel that remains tense and exciting though the perspective has changed. --- Harriet Klausner

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