In the summer of 1936, the American journalist Edgar Snow left Peking for China’s northwest to visit the new territory taken over by the Chinese Communist Party. There he conducted a number of lengthy interviews with the party leader Mao Tse-tung. He wrote them up and published them as The Mao Tse-tung Autobiography, the first and only extensive account of his life Mao ever gave. Snow interviewed other Communist leaders and then converted all his material into his own book, Red Star over China, published in English in 1937–1938.

At the time, Snow was thirty-two years old. Born in Kansas City, he had gone to China soon after he graduated from the University of Missouri. There he became a moderately successful correspondent for the New York Herald-Tribune, the Saturday Evening Post, and other newspapers. Overnight, his book transformed him into a bestselling author and an international celebrity.

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