East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Scaramouche’s cynicism

Life imitates art, or something.
I was looking for some light entertainment, and so I started reading Rafael Sabatini‘s Scaramouche.
Published in 1921, Scaramouche is one of Sabatini’s most famous novels.
Set during the French Revolution, it follows the adventures – and the growth – of Andre-Louis Moreau a lawyer turned adventurer and revolutionary, as he joins a company of comedians to escape his enemies, assuming the titular role of a sword-wielding buffoon.
The novel combines a fine historical background with some great swashbuckling action, and it is a fun read indeed. Continue reading


Mitchell Hooks – a gallery

If the art of Robert McGinnis was one of the reasons why I decided I’d like to write pulp fiction, there was another artist, whose style was an inspiration, and whose designs were frequently imitated in Italian crime paperbacks when I was a kid.
Detroit-born Mitchell Hooks was a prolific artist in the world of paperback originals, and is today recognized as a master of the art of illustrating pulp stories paperback covers.
His designs are darker and “dirtier” than McGinnis’, but are equally suggestive.

Here is a small cover gallery.


Sir Roger Moore, 1927-2017

My favorite James Bond is dead.
I have just got the news about the death, at the age of 89, of Sir Roger Moore.
To me, it feels like losing a favorite uncle.
I grew up with Roger Moore on television.
The highly apocryphal but fun adaptation of Scott’s Ivanhoe.
The Saint, of course.
And then The Persuaders, that really was a cornerstone of my generation’s culture and attitude. So sue me, there were worse models.
And then the movies – a lot of adventure and war movies.
He even was Inspecteur Clouseau in a (alas, pretty lame) Pink Panther movie – and in that lame movie, his was certainly the best bit. Continue reading

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Other People’s Pulps: That Carruthers chap

… and then they ask you where your ideas come from.
I was looking up M. Y. Halidom last night.
Halidom was the alias of one Alexander Huth, that published a number of supernatural tales and novels in the late 19th and early 20th century.
I learned of his existence when I found out about the three volumes of Tales of the Wonder Club, a collection of “club stories” about a bunch of individuals that meet in a pub (the quaintly-named “Ye Headless Lady”) to trade strange and chilling stories.

A small clique or brotherhood, known as “The Wonder Club,” had been nightly in the habit of assembling here for years, and this served to bring grist to the mill. Some of the eminent men from the neighbouring village, among whom were the doctor, the lawyer, an antiquary, an analytical chemist, and others, had formed among themselves a club, which was to consist only of very choice spirits, like themselves, and if any guest were introduced among them, it was only to be with a letter of introduction and the full consent of all parties. By these strict rules they hoped to keep the club select. A room at the inn was set apart for them, into which no one not belonging to the club ever presumed to enter, unless it was the landlord, who would be called every now and then to[7] replenish the bowl, and whom sometimes the guests of the club would “draw out,” as it was whispered in the village that the landlord of the “Headless Lady” knew a rare lot of stories, he did; also how to tell ’em, too, my word! but these he generally reserved for his more intimate customers. One strict law of the club that we have not yet mentioned was that no guest invited was to be a “business man.”

The set-up is strikingly similar to Ike Asimov’s Black Widowers stories, but here the slant is towards the weird, the horrific and the supernatural. With a bit of humor thrown in for good measure.
And to make things more fun for collectors, Huth that was Halidom published the first book of the series under another alias, Dryasdust.

Interested parties can find an illustrated edition of the three volumes of Tales from the Wonder Club on the Project Gutenberg.
I will probably post on each of the three volumes separately. Continue reading


Stationary traveler

Today I was totally sure it was Saturday.
That’s a bad sign – losing the perception of time when your life becomes a continuum of

Wake up
Sit at the PC and write
Prepare lunch
Sit at the PC and write
Prepare dinner
Sit at the PC and write
Go to sleep

Add to this increasing panic attacks as soon as my mind gets off the work at hand, and this month is really being hell.
And there’s this voice at the back of my head mocking me… *oh, so you wanted the life of the pulp writers of old, uh? Well, chump, I hope you’re enjoying the ride!”

Art by July Pluto

And indeed, one of the worst bits of all this is losing the enjoyment I usually got out of writing. It’s turning into a chore, and that’s bad.
Not only because writing pays the bills, but because writing to me always was fun.
So I decided I’ll take a vacation.
A short, cheap1 but much needed vacation – I booked a guided tour of the area where I live. We’ll be taking it the next weekend. Continue reading