East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Not so bad, but not so good: Royal Flash, 1974

Yesterday I wasted 100 minutes watching for the umpteenth time Richard Lester’s Royal Flash, the 1974 adaptation of the novel by the same title by George MacDonald-Fraser. A movie that on paper should have been HUGE: great director, excellent cast, based on a fun novel and adapted by the author himself… what could ever go wrong?

For the uninitiated, Royal Flash sees our “hero” Harry Flashman (here portrayed by Malcolm McDowell) caught up the plan by Otto Bismark (Oliver Reed) to manipulate the local politics of a minor German state. The plot is basically The Prisoner of Zenda, with Flash Harry forced to take the place of a Danish prince to marry the German Duchess Irma (Britt Ekland). Lola Montez (Florinda Bolkan) has a part in the plot, and Flashy needs to match wits with Bismark’s accomplice, Rudi Von Sternberg (Alan Bates).

Once again, what could ever go wrong?

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Salvaging water-damaged books

Two weeks after spending a weekend in fear of the river coming here and soaking all my books, I received a second-hand volume I had ordered a while back, and it turned out to be water-damaged – and not “very fine” as the vendor claimed. The pages are warped and some of them are sticking together.
Oh, drat.

The book is only a reading copy, sure, so the warped pages are not a real problem. But this being a photo book, the pages sticking together are a real problems.

So I started looking around, and found out that the best way for un-sticking the pages is to steam them, and then use a very thin and rigid object – say a sheet of plastic file cover or such – and push it gently between the pages.
Which is what I will try and do, hoping not to cause more damage.

As for the book, I’m quite eager to be able to read it properly – it is called Ghosts, by Sian Evans, and it was published by the British National Trust. It is a collection of haunted places, with beautiful black and white photographs, and reports from national Trust employees about their experiences in the places themselves.
Perfect Christmas-time reading.

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Three for December (plus two)

Like every month, I have received a series of open calls from various magazines and publishers that are looking for submission, and so I am ready to start the game of writing on spec.

Right now I have on my list

  • A post-apocalyptic story, in the Mad Max tradition, but somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
  • A vampire story (this would me my second vampire story ever… wow!)
  • A folk horror story that will be hypothetically set here in Astigianistan.

All these are in the 4000-8000 words range, and are therefore quite feasible. I plan on writing one per week this month.

Then there is the opportunity for a new weird western – the first one sold nicely, now why not go back and explore the same setting again?

Finally, there is the matter of the story I’ll need to write for my Patrons and that, due to my commitment to the Seven Lives project, will feature a cat in some way or other. Maybe a story of the Corsair?

Apart from this, I am working on a new RPG setting that is very promising and is at the same time different enough from my themes and close enough to my interests to make this job quite interesting. But that’s for the future.


Christmas, sooner than expected

Back in the heyday of my blogging, I did a review of a Kim Stanley Robinson story called The Lucky Strike – a classic what-if alternate history that imagined a different development of the bombing of Hiroshima.
A good story, with a strong anti-war theme and message.
Some comments on my Italian blog were scathing, to say the least: war is good, bombing Hiroshima was a great idea, thing could never have worked any other way, who’s this Kim Stanley Robinson chap anyway?

It was very instructive.

The story The Lucky Strike was published in a small volume with a dark red back, in a series called Outspoken Authors. The volume included not just the story, but also extra material, an interview with the author and more.
I said to myself I’d have to check out more books in that series.

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Curse of the Golden Bat III – the First Superhero

After meeting a horrid human being like General Doihara, we need something to lift our spirits, and so this third instalment of the post series based on my research for Guillotine Wind and the strange case of the Golden Bat cigarettes.
And we go in a whole new direction as we go back to 1931, and meet a character created as a tie-in with the cigarette brand.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ogon Bat

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Curse of the Golden Bat II – Lawrence of Manchuria

Second post in the “Golden Bat” trilogy of posts, a spin-off of my research for Guillotine Wind.
We have seen how the Japanese created a Golen Bat Export brand of cigarettes with extra heroin, specifically for the Chinese market.
This plan to get the Chinese smokers hooked on heroin was the brainchild of a man called Kenji Doihara, aka “Lawrence of Manchuria”.
And boy was he a Grade A scumbag.

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