Alexander Lebedev is best known as the Russian businessman and public figure who bought the Evening Standard and The Independent newspapers in the UK. A former KGB intelligence officer in the USSR's London Embassy, his book covers the years from his birth in 1959 to 2016.
Written in a wry and humorous manner, the book is mainly a memoir of Lebedev's own hair-raising experiences as someone who aspires to show that an 'honest banker' is not an oxymoron. There is the thread of a whodunit as his attempts at constructive and charitable business enterprises are systematically torpedoed by a person or persons unknown. He describes the dirty tricks used against him and the attempt to assassinate him and details how the Russian and international political and business elite live.
Lebedev openly tells of his relations with leading politicians, businessmen and cultural figures in Russia and abroad, and investigates corruption scandals, dodgy multi-billion-dollar deals and contract killings. A comical episode on how he faced five years of imprisonment for a minor fracas during a television talk show, and how world show business stars (Elton John, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, John Malkovich, Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry) rallied to his defence. He describes in detail how and why he became involved with two prominent UK newspapers.
Lebedev reveals his access to inside sources of information, with policemen and secret policemen slipping him memoirs and transcripts of episodes which would otherwise have remained unknown. It is ultimately a portrait of a political system which ensures that genuine attempts to improve the fortunes of his country and its citizens are built on sand.