It was a collaboration that stretched across 5,378 miles. Or, if you were Russian, like Nick Perumov, you would write it as 8,655 kilometers. My end of the literary tether was in Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico. Nick's - St. Petersburg, Russia.

On the surface, it might appear that the differences between us were too great. Not only were our nationalities and cultures different, but our two countries were once locked in a Cold War that had kept the world on the edge of nuclear annihilation for nearly half a century.

Nick hailed from a family of scientists, and had served in the military. My late father had been a CIA operative during that period and I was raised abroad in many of the world's hot spots. Before becoming an author, I had been a journalist. Nick a scientist. His ancestors were Russian/Armenian nobility; mine Irish peasants. He was born in 1963. I was born in 1943.

At the time the collaboration was suggested, Nick's English was rather rough. My Russian consisted of only a few necessaries: Pozhalujsta (Please); Spasiba (thank you); Da (Yes); Nyet (No); Vodka (vodka); Nostrovia (Cheers); Gde tualet (where is the toilet); and, most importantly, Moio sudno na vozdušnoy poduške polno ugrey (My hovercraft is full of eels.)

Yet, despite these apparent differences, we were embarking on the first-ever Russian/ American literary collaboration.

The idea was championed by our mutual Russian publisher - Cosmos Books. They'd done an impressive job with the Sten series, which I co-authored with the late Chris Bunch. More than ten million hardback copies were sold, and the books remained at the top of the Moscow best-seller list for well over two years.

Meanwhile, Nick Perumov was a fast- rising star in the Russian fantasy community. A former scientist, Nick was a ardent admirer of Tolkien. When the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it funding for science, Nick threw everything he had into writing. Against all odds, his efforts resulted in a series of critically acclaimed best-selling novels.

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