East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Tientsin, 1934

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Know what?
I’m writing.
And believe it or not, despite what I said before, I’m back in China in the 1930s.
But not in Shanghai.
Somewhere up north and east instead.


Tientsin – which today is called Tianjin – was a Treaty Town, back before the Second World War: the eight countries that had fought against the Boxers in 1901 each got a piece of the city, and maintained there a concession enjoying extraterritorial status.
And this included Italy.

The Italian Concession in Tientsin was small, but it was there the Italian Viceroy in Asia resided (when he was in Asia, at least), together with about one hundred other Italian diplomats, Navy officers and their families. The whole non-Chinese population of the twelve-blocks of Italy in China did not reach the 600 units.


The Italian Concession was squeezed between the Russian and the Austrian sections of town.
But in the ’30s, both Austria and Russia, defeated in war and swallowed up in revolution respectively, had lost their rights, and so the Italian neighborhood sat in the middle of a no-man’s-land, flush along the railway, on the wrong side of the river.
It was a very dangerous place.

0_a5f7d_d2651cdb_XXLSo I’m writing a story set in the late summer of 1934, in Tientsin.
I’ve got an outline, and about 2000 words as I am writing this, and a thick folder of notes. The plan is doing at least a 6000-words story, the old pulp way – as fast as possible, as best as I can. And we’ll see what happens.
It’s something I’m writing especially for the readers that were kind enough to pick up and enjoy my novel, The Ministry of Thunder.
It’s short a story about a freshly cashiered Italian Air Force mechanic and a sultry Russian Duchess with blue hair1.

There’s an armored train2 in it, and White Russians, and a Chinese warlord known as “The Ogre”, that should be dead but is not, and…
Oh, you want to know more about it?
Maybe you want to read it?
Then, please watch this space – and drop by at our party, on the 19th (or the 20th, depending on your time zone).
You bring your own drink, I’ll bring the book.
Who needs sleep anyway?

ministry party banner

ADDENDUM: the late summer of ’34 just turned into the winter of ’35 – so that historical events will click more easily into place.

  1. Well, she claimed to be a Russian Duchess, anyway. 
  2. all because of my friend Angelo. I hope you’re happy now! 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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