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Runaway Heart

Runaway Heart

4.5 6
by Stephen J. Cannell, Nick Sullivan (Read by)

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Moscow-a city under siege by hardcore Communists threatening to plunge the country back into Stalinist darkness. Into the heart of the firestorm, American ambassador Stephen Metcalf has been summoned to find the one man who controls the levers of power in absolute secrecy-an official known only as the Dirizhor. His support of the bloody coup will bring the entire


Moscow-a city under siege by hardcore Communists threatening to plunge the country back into Stalinist darkness. Into the heart of the firestorm, American ambassador Stephen Metcalf has been summoned to find the one man who controls the levers of power in absolute secrecy-an official known only as the Dirizhor. His support of the bloody coup will bring the entire world to the brink of nuclear war. Metcalfe is the only man with the cunning to reach him and to convince him to resist. It's up to Metcalf to change the course of history. He's done it before.

For Metcalf, returning to Russia is also a personal mission that will stretch across three continents and fifty years into his past where the loyalties of a former love-a woman both impossibly beautiful and possibly treacherous-were tested; where the shadow of a Nazi assassin still haunts; a debauched German aristocrat manipulated the destiny of everyone he touched. Now, as past and present converge, Metcalf braces himself for a new trial of trust and betrayal, one with chilling implications that could threaten what remains of the free world.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Barbra Streisand, a mutant monkey, alien DNA, Dred Scott, Donald Trump, hush-hush government shenanigans--somehow in the hands of veteran TV writer Cannell these all come together and actually work. With adjectives, metaphors, and similes jostling each other for equal time in a sentence, Cannell tells the tale of a liberal do-gooder lawyer with a bum heart who heads something called the Institute for Planetary Justice. The lawyer has just been laughed out of court for trying to protect monarch butterflies when he finds himself and his equally ambitious daughter in one heck of a military conspiracy that lands him smack in the middle of Area 51. Reader Nick Sullivan, who has voiced other Cannell novels, brings the right amount of humor to these characters and infuses them with personalities without resorting to over-the-top vocalizations. Despite the sappy title, this book will find a ready audience in all public libraries. Recommended.--Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., Lompoc, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From the ranks of dead bestselling authors comes yet another probable bestseller. So peaceful, the grave. No distractions, no need to keep up with the world. No pressure to update the information. No arguments with editors. This is how it must have been for Barbara Cartland in those last golden 50 years, when she was so practiced she simply dictated books from the comfort of one of her several Louis Quinze settees. In fact, a posthumous Ludlum reads almost like a manly Cartland. If there is a waist, it will be tiny. If there is a buttock, it will be tight. If there is a Vichy hostess, she will be a tart. And if there is a plot . . . . Well, of course there is a plot. This is, after all, a Ludlum, so there are layers upon layers of oh-so-reliably nasty Nazis and Bolsheviks against whom is pitted one rich handsome Ivy League polyglot straight-shooting Russo-Yank intelligence agent, Stephen Metcalfe, whose exciting impersonation of an Argentine playboy in Paris in 1940 is interrupted by an assignment to Moscow, where Metcalfe is to test the leanings of the debauched German aristocrat attached to the Reich's embassy to see if he might be turned. Or so Stephen has been told. But nothing is as it seems, for-and here the late hand of the master reaches for one of the great metaphors of '80s spycraft and its supporting literature-there are mirrors upon mirrors. The repulsive nobleman is currently the protector of Svetlana "Lana" Baranova, beautiful star of the Bolshoi and a Great Love among the many loves in Stephen's busy past. (Not out of his 20s, the lad seems never to have slept alone). As corpse after corpse falls in his path, some garroted by a sadistic (of course), violin-playing SSofficer with exceptional olfactories, some just blasted by the Bolsheviks, it dawns on Stephen that his masters are simply using him to get to Lana, who will herself be used. The fate of the democratic West is at stake! Nurse, another lap robe, there's a good girl. First printing of 750,000
From the Publisher
"Cannell has a genius for creating memorable characters and quirky, gripping plots.... This is a fun read."

Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.68(w) x 7.04(h) x 1.59(d)

Read an Excerpt

Moscow, August 1991

The sleek black limousine, with its polycarbonate-laminate bullet-resistant windows and its run-flat tires, its high-tech ceramic armor and dual-hardness carbon-steel armor plate, was jarringly out of place as it pulled into the Bittsevsky forest in the southwest area of the city. This was ancient terrain, forest primeval, densely overgrown with birch and aspen groves interspersed with pine trees, elms, and maples; it spoke of nomadic Stone Age tribes that roamed the glacier-scarred terrain, hunting mammoths with hand-carved javelins, amid nature red in tooth and claw. Whereas the armored Lincoln Continental spoke of another kind of civilization entirely with another sort of violence, an era of snipers and terrorists wielding submachine guns and fragmentation grenades.

Moscow was a city under siege. It was the capital of a superpower on the brink of collapse. A cabal of Communist hard-liners was preparing to take back Russia from the forces of reform. Tens of thousands of troops filled the city, ready to fire at its citizens. Columns of tanks and armored personnel carriers rumbled down Kutuzovsky Prospekt and the Minskoye Chausse. Tanks surrounded Moscow City Hall, TV broadcasting facilities, newspaper offices, the parliament building. The radio was broadcasting nothing but the decrees of the cabal, which called itself the State Committee for the State of Emergency. After years of progress toward democracy, the Soviet Union was on the verge of being retumed to the dark forces of totalitarianism.

Inside the limousine sat an elderly man, silver-haired, with handsome, aristocratic features. He was Ambassador Stephen Metcalfe, an icon of the American Establishment, an adviser to five Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt, an extremely wealthy man who had devoted his life to serving his government. Ambassador Metcalfe, though now retired, the title purely honorific, had been urgently summoned to Moscow by an old friend who was highly placed in the inner circles of Soviet power. He and his old friend had not met face-to-face for decades: their relationship was a deeply buried secret, known to no one in Moscow or Washington. That his Russian friend-code-named "Kurwenal"--insisted on a rendezvous in this deserted location was worrying, but these were worrying times.

Lost in thought, visibly nervous, the old man got out of his limousine only once he glimpsed the figure of his friend, the three-star general, limping heavily on a prosthetic leg. The American's seasoned eyes scanned the forest as he
began to walk, and then his blood ran cold.

He detected a watcher in the trees. A second, a third! Surveillance. He and the Russian code--named Kurwenal--had just been spotted!

This would be a disaster for them both!

Metcalfe wanted to call out to his old friend, to warn him, but then he noticed the glint of a scoped rifle in the late-afternoon sun. It was an ambush!

Terrified, the elderly ambassador spun around and loped as quickly as his arthritic limbs would take him back toward his armored limousine. He had no bodyguard; he never traveled with one. He had only his driver, an unarmed American marine supplied by the embassy.

Suddenly men were running toward him from all around. Black-uniformed men in black paramilitary berets, bearing machine guns. They surrounded him and he began to struggle, but he was no longer a young man, as he had to keep reminding himself. Was this a kidnapping? Was he being taken hostage? He shouted hoarsely to his driver.

The black-clad men escorted Metcalfe to another armored limousine, a Russian ZIL. Frightened, he climbed into the passenger compartment. There, already seated, was the three-star general.

"What the hell is this?" Metcalfe croaked, his panic subsiding.

"My deepest apologies," replied the Russian. "These are hazardous, unstable times, and I could not take the chance of anything happening to you, even here in the woods. These are my men, under my command, and they're trained in counterterrorist measures. You are far too important an individual to expose to any dangers."

Metcalfe shook the Russian's hand. The general was eighty years old, his hair white, though his profile remained hawklike. He nodded at the driver, and the car began to move.

"I thank you for coming to Moscow--I realize my urgent summons must have struck you as cryptic."

"I knew it had to be about the coup," Metcalfe said.

"Matters are developing more rapidly than anticipated," the Russian said in a low voice. "They have secured the blessing of the man known as the Dirizhor--the Conductor. It may already be too late to stop the seizure of power."

"My friends in the White House are watching with great concern. But they feel paralyzed--the consensus in the National Security Council seems to be that to intervene might be to risk nuclear war."

"An apt fear. These men are desperate to overthrow the Gorbachev regime. They will resort to anything. You've seen the tanks on the streets of Moscow--now all that remains is for the conspirators to order their forces to strike. To attack civilians. It will be a bloodbath. Thousands will be killed! But the orders to strike will not be issued unless the Dirizhor gives his approval. Everything hangs on him--he is the linchpin."

"But he's not one of the plotters?"

"No. As you know, he's the ultimate insider, a man who controls the levers of power in absolute secrecy. He will never appear at a news conference; he acts in stealth. But he is in sympathy with the coup plotters. Without his support, the coup must fail. With his support, the coup will surely succeed. And Russia will once again become a Stalinist dictatorship--and the world will be at the brink of nuclear war."

"Why did you call me here?" asked Metcalfe. "Why me?"

The general turned to face Metcalfe, and in his eyes Metcalfe could see fear. "Because you're the only one I trust. And you're the only one who has a chance of reaching him. The Dirizhor."

"And why will the Dirizhor listen to me?"

"I think you know," said the Russian quietly. "You can change history, my friend. After all, we both know you did it before."

Copyright 2003 by Robert Ludlum

Meet the Author

Stephen J. Cannell, an Emmy Award–winning writer, has created over forty TV series including The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, and The Greatest American Hero. His bestselling thrillers include The Tin Collectors and The Viking Funeral. He lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and children.


Tony Plana, an award-winning actor originally from Havana, Cuba, is best known for his role as Betty Suarez's father, Ignacio Suarez, on the ABC show Ugly Betty. Tony has also appeared in Commander in Chief, 24, CSI and many others. His film credits include An Officer and a Gentleman, Three Amigos!, Goal!, and Lone Star. Tony is the voice of Manny Calavera in the Lucasarts adventure game Grim Fandango. He read Stephen J. Cannell's Runaway Heart, published by Macmillan Audio.

Brief Biography

Pasadena, California
Date of Birth:
February 5, 1941
Place of Birth:
Los Angeles, California
B.S., University of Oregon

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Runaway Heart 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever since the early 1970s, when TV private detective Jim Rockford would regularly find himself in harm's way due to the larcenous antics of his 'good friend' Angel, Stephen Cannell's been entertaining us with great 'buddy' stories. His newest suspense novel, 'Runaway Heart,' tells the story of environmental attorney Herman Strockmire, an overweight, unmade bed of man -- a modern-day Don Quixote who, against all the odds, battles against government misdeads. Herman, who is forever popping heart pills and blood thinners to fight off the heart arrhythmia that, with regularity, nearly takes his life, finds himself in another life and death battle. This time it's against a top secret government agency that is creating a super breed of genetically engineered animals programmed to be perfect killing machines. Herman finds himself thrown together with Jack Wirta, a pain killer addicted ex-LAPD detective with a heavy-duty chip on his shoulder. In a story that crackles with funny, biting dialog and more twists than California's Coast Highway, Herman and Jack find themselves at odds with what seems to be the whole U.S. government. It moves breathlessly toward a climax where they must do battle with both the genetically engineered animals and the agency that created them. It's a book you won't be able to put down.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
What I love most about all of Mr. Cannell's Novels is that they all deal with important issues of the day and are based in a realistic world. This book is a great detective story but has animal rights as the underlining theme which gives it a heart that is not felt in most detective novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This one's a winner. Stephen Cannell proves that he can write not just action, but a story with heart. In Runaway Heart, he has created a wonderfully endearing Don Quixote in attorney Herman Strockmeyer, who is a champion of lost causes in a world of corporate greed. Herman and his beautiful daughter Susan, enlist the help of PI Jack Wirta, after accidentally uncovering a deadly military experiment that quickly threatens their freedom and their lives. Wirta, a jaded ex-cop, is a reluctant recruit who becomes an unlikely hero to an idealistic young woman and her ailing father. Not only does Cannell treat the reader to a wild ride with enough twists and turns to keep you up at night, he takes the reader on a journey of the heart.