East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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One night at the (Vampire) Circus

Having milked Dracula for all it was worth, in the early ’70s Hammer Films turned their gaze to other vampires and, taking advantage of the more relaxed censorship rules, created what is called the Karnstein Trilogy, very loosely based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla (that you can find here as a free download in case you missed it).
The three movies in the cycle are The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971), and are considered classics – and I will have to write about them sooner or later.
The Karnstein vampires are different from their Transylvanian counterparts, being generally female, much more inclined to nudity and most importantly being able to go about in open daylight.
The Karnstein vampires would make two more appearances in the Hammer Films catalog: once in Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, in 1974 and before that, a band of Karnstein vampires in all but name brought madness and death to a small Serbian Village in Vampire Circus (1972).

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A new deck for the collection

Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand was a very popular fortune teller during the Napoleonic era, that became (in)famous when she became the card reader and confidante of Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife. She was also arrested for espionage – and for witchcraft, but it was hard to make the accusation stick in post-Illuminist France. When she died she left a fortune to her only heir – that being a devout Catholic burned all of her stuff, and wanted nothing to do with her, but kept the money.
Better known as Mlle Lenormand, Marie also created her own tarot deck – and I received a packet this morning containing a new Lenormand Tarot deck for my collection.

And the Lenormand Tarot is particularly interesting if you want to use the cards for writing experiments.

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Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

No, this is not about the Jimmy Buffett song, or album.
It’s about something I realized last night, after spending 1.98 euro on two historical novels – I’ve been reading more historical novel than usual this last year, and while my science fiction reading remained steady, it’s fantasy that is taking a dip. Given the choice, I’d rather go for an historical novel, or a history essay than for a fantasy book.

So I started to wonder why, and came to the conclusion that I have three factors to blame…

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The Rose of Tibet

As expected, the effect of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors is making itself felt, causing my reading list to explode as I discover writers I have so far ignored.
First it was Margery Allingham, and now it’s the turn of Lionel Davidson.

A writer that was highly praised by Graham Greene and often compared to Eric Ambler, Lionel Davidson had three Gold Dagger Awards and was considered for a while a highly favoured contender, if an outsider, for the title of best British thriller writer.
One of his books was even made into a TV series by the BBC and his last book, published in 1994, received rave reviews.
But then for some reason he fell out of sight.

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It's not fantasy

I just found out my old paperback copy of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Italian edition published by Rusconi, which I bought in 1983 or 1984, goes for up to 150 bucks, second-hand, online.
I could give it a thought, really.

Apparently all the old editions of Tolkien’s doorstop novel are being called back and destroyed, or so it seems, as part of a complicated copyright infringement lawsuit that also branches out in a legal battle about slander and what not.
The crux of the problem: the current Italian publisher of Tolkien commissioned a new translation, and all hell broke loose. The old translation’s been accused of being inaccurate, the new translation’s been mocked for some choices and some have talked of twisting Tolkien’s word for the sake of political correctness. Then the current translator said the old translation featured “five hundred mistakes per page”, which was at least quite rude, and the old translator passed the thing to her lawyers.
It’s a mess, and the fans are going berserk.
In the meantime, the old versions are being pulped, or so it seems. Only the new translation will exist from now on.

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Two-Guns Bob at 114: on the need to start reading Robert Howard again

The first thing I ever read by Robert E. Howard was People of the Black Circle, the opener in Conan the Adventurer and still my favorite Conan story today. I bought the Italian edition in the early ’80s, the sturdy hardback with that gorgeous Karel Thole cover that gave me a lot of problems both at home and in school.

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