Biographies in semi-fiction form of Tolstoi, Gorki and Chaliapine, covering chiefly their boyhood and early youth. There is much excellent material which could have been more diversified in order to make the individuals stand out, and to relieve a certain monotony in the text. Gorki comes out best -- but all three had thrills and adventures a-plenty in lives which might be expected to be fairly tame. Too bad the author feels impelled to inject a ""happy ending"" which results in lack of focus. There is a timely value in the interpretation of Russian temperament, in analysis of outward manifestation of Russian religious feeling, in the introduction of reference to Russian folk material. With so much that is good, unfortunately the mood of the book is set by the painful ghostlike portraits, suggesting death masks, drawn by Zhenya Gay.