A different kind of medium, today – plain old written word, the oldest and most widespread form of information transfer.
As I am putting the finishing touches to “The Snowball Caper”, the first novelette in my new Hope & Glory series, I’ve had the sheer luck of chancing upon the delightful The Tiger House Party: the Last Days of the Maharajas, by the delectable Emily Hahn.
Once again, a demonstration that there’s nothing more entertaining than doing research.
The book, published in 1959, is – just as it says on the label – a memoir of the very last days of the so-called “Princely States”, a galaxy of about 550 not-exactly-independent states that were part of British India, and that were variously dismissed when the Sub-Continent achieved its independence.
Much of the color and exoticism that the general reader of adventure fiction associates with India… basically, much of what we saw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom… is a romantic take on the Princely States – micronations ruled by an eccentric autarch, sitting in a lavish palace and throwing wild parties for dozens of guests. And of course arranging tiger-hunting parties.
As it happens, history is usually much more complicated than that – but I am writing adventure, and therefore it’s the folklore and exoticism I’m looking for.
And Emily Hahn’s book is witty, observant, full of color and detail and no little gossip… while remaining a solid, if biased, overview of a very specific moment in the history of India. A treasure trove for both readers seeking something different and writers looking for that little extra to make their story more vivid.
And the good news is, the book is available for free download from the Internet Archive, in a variety of digital formats.
It’s highly recommended – a quick, light read for a spring Sunday afternoon.