Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

My ghost decade: 1953

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Two days and The Devil Under the Sea hits the shelves (but you can preorder it right now), and I got thinking about the 1950s.
Now, the 1950s are sort of a gray area as far as I am concerned – a gray area for my generation of Italians, really: the history program in school stopped at the Second World War, and we were born in the late 1960s, so the ’50s sort of fell between what we learned and what we experienced. A sort of “ghost decade”.

And yet, with hindsight, it was a pretty exciting decade1.
It was the decade of bebop and rock’n’roll.
It was the decade of revolutions and uphevals.
It was the decade of the New Look, and of the Dolce Vita.
A lot of stuff happened, and the world was shrinking.

1950s_decade_montage

The density of events in the 1950s is both a joy and a horror when writing The Corsair.
I wrote about 20 pages of what was planned as the third story, set in Egypt in 1953/54, before I checked my facts and found out the whole action took place during a coup that basically locked down the nation under martial law.
Oooops.
Scrap the thing, redo from start.

But I already told you I like doing research, and after all the events in the ’50s were quite influential on my life, and exploring the decade is becoming a hobby (another one!) of mine.

The Devil Under the Sea takes place in 1953.
The Year the USA acquired the Hydrogen Bomb (thank you, Mr Truman) and the first year without Stalin (who died in 1953). Both these events cast their (admittedly, faint) shadow over the story.
And it was Coronation Year for the British.920ca538cd844c73aadd7e969e8d0e3d
Elvis made his first recording, and Dean Martin recorded That’s Amore taking the charts by storm2.
Cole Porter was on Brodway with Can-Can.
Vaughn-Williams Symphonia Antartica premiered, conducted by Sir Arthur Barbirolli.

… and incidentally, yes, I like to check the music that was likely to be on the radio inside my stories. Sort of an alternative soundtrack, but also as important, in my opinion, just as the news, in defining and describing the moods and concerns of a specific time.
Same goes for the books the characters could be reading…

1953 is the year of Chandler’s The Long Goodbye and Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. It’s the year of Fahrenheit 451, and The Demolished Man and More Than Human.

1953 is the year of From Here to Eternity and Shane, that were my father’s two favorite movies – he caught them both that year or the year later, when he was 13 or 14.
But this was also the year of Roman Holiday.
In 1953 Marilyn Monroe had a field day with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire (and she was also on the Jack Benny Show on TV).
And of course in 1953 It Came from Outer Space.

Quite a year, what?

Through the first half of 1953 earthquakes shook the eastern Mediterranean – a fact that forced me to change the time frame of The Devil Under the Sea, another case of “… I should have checked before I started writing”.

This was also the year of Istanbul (Not Constantinople), but I think I’ll leave here the Caterina valente version, that was actually recorded in 1954.
Which is just fine, because the Corsair is going to dock in Istanbul only in 1954… but that’s another story (literally, one I’ll publish in 2018).


  1. but, really, was there a decade in the 20th century that was not exciting? 
  2. on a personal note, I love Dean Martin’s work, but cordially detest his “Italian” songs, That’s Amore first and foremost. 
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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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