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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 April, 2004, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Oligarch fiction stranger than fact

Sarah Rainsford
BBC Moscow correspondent

From jailed tycoon to fictional love interest - Mikhail Khodorkovsky is fast becoming a household name in Russia in more ways than one.

The former Yukos boss has been awaiting trial in prison since October. The fraud and tax evasion charges against him are widely seen as the Kremlin's revenge for his unapproved foray into politics.
Mikhail  Khodorkovsky
Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been in custody since November 2003

But for best-selling pulp fiction writer Tatyana Ustinova, Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a hero. Her latest detective story stars a character based on the oligarch.

She calls the novel, "The Oligarch and the Great Bear," a tribute to a man she greatly admires.

Tatyana Ustinova says she was inspired to model her hero on the oil chief when she saw his arrest on the news. The billionaire was dragged off his jet at gunpoint, by men in masks.

The writer insists most Russians have a false impression of the oligarchs - the men who made their millions in the controversial privatisation deals of the 1990s. So her novel serves as a sort of oligarch PR job.

Tatyana Ustinova
Tatyana Ustinova hopes her book will be a best seller

"I admire him very much. He is a very strong, a very unusual character," Tatyana told the BBC.

"There are very few people like Khodorkovsky in the world. I thought writing about him would help me understand his personality."

Tatyana's tale starts as her hero tastes freedom again. Once rich and powerful, he leaves jail with nothing.

Happy endings

But like his prototype, the fictional oligarch is used to winning. A dashing hero, he battles poverty, misery, and attempted murder - and even gets the girl in the end.

It's the sort of happy finale the real-life Khodorkovsky might dream of.
I hope he'll enjoy it, most of all - and I hope other people will too.
Tatyana Ustinova, Authoress

As the first copies of Tatyana's pulp fiction came hot off the press, the author signed one especially for her role model. Her agent says Mikhail Khodorkovsky has asked for a copy to be sent to him, in his cell.

Sympathy

The former Yukos boss is currently working through piles of evidence against him.

But Tatyana hopes he'll find time between case notes, to flick through her feel-good take on his future.

Tatyana Ustinova authoress
You can't always tell a book by its cover.....

"I hope he'll enjoy it, most of all," she says. "And I hope other people will too. I want them to sympathise with my hero. To follow his life, and his victory."

Tatyana Ustinova is in the minority here, but the author at least is certain the Oligarch will triumph in the end.



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