After working for Time magazine in London, Wendell Steavenson spent two years in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Stories I Stole captures the exuberance of a fledgling nation of local despots, mountain tribes, blood feuds, and an unlimited flow of red wine. From President Shevardnadze's rigged elections to horse races high in the mountains; from the eerie roadside artifacts of the Soviet era to the farcical power outages in the dead of winter, here is Georgia: weird, invigorating, and still coming to grips with the legacy of its most famous son, Joseph Stalin. Far more than a travel book, this is a scintillating menagerie of true stories peopled by vivid -- and sometimes insane -- characters. In the beach resort of Sukhumi, once the destination of every fashionable Russian but now wrecked by civil war, Wendell plays hangman with a secret policeman. In the capital, Tbilisi -- ensconced in Levan's Magic Room or lounging in the steam baths -- she hears about the latest duel or kidnapping. In Khevsureti, the meadows are dotted with blue-painted beehives and yellow flowers, while just over the border there is war in Chechnya. Stories I Stole is a candid, engaging, and quietly lyrical book about a land and its people.