“Luxury Off the Rails”: The Peking Express Review

“For the rest of my life,” Lucy Aldrich wrote in the November 1923 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, “when I am ‘stalled’ conversationally, it will be a wonderful thing to fall back on: ‘Oh, I must tell you about the time I was captured by Chinese bandits.’ ”

Aldrich might have written lightly of the experience, but the ordeal had been a grueling one. On May 6, 1923, she was among 300 passengers on the Peking Express traveling overnight to Beijing when a bandit gang forced the train to derail. After looting the carriages, the outlaws took Aldrich and dozens of her fellow passengers hostage.

While some of the passengers, including Lucy Aldrich, quickly found their way to freedom, a handful of captive remained in the bandits’ hands for the next thirty-seven days. This is the story that China-based lawyer James M. Zimmerman narrates in his exciting new historical adventure, The Peking Express: The Bandits Who Stole a Train, Stunned the West, and Broke the Republic of China (Public Affairs, 2023).

Read my review of The Peking Express for the Wall Street Journal.

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