Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Great Pumpkin was here

We all know that on Halloween Night, the Great Pumpkin rises from the pumpkin patch and brings gifts to all good boys and girls. And evidently, I have been a good boy this year (mostly, let’s admit it, for a distinctive lack of opportunities), and this Halloween the Great Pumpkin came to visit a little before the fateful midnight.
Or thereabouts.

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Good night, miss Nelson Douglas

I am saddened by the news of the death of American writer Carole Nelson Douglas. A prolific author of both mysteries and fantasy (both straight and urban), I discovered her work in 1992 when I bought in a London bookstore the first two novels of her Irene Adler series, Good Night, Mister Holmes, and Good Morning, Irene. The Irene Adler novels (there’s six more of them) are Sherlockian pastiches focusing on the adventures of The Woman, and are among the best Holmes-related fiction I ever read.

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Hands and feet

So it’s now a week since the doctors removed the Zimmer Bar that was holding my left pinky in position, and I am slowly trying to go back to normal.
Yesterday I went to the baker, to buy some bread, and discovered that as I can’t properly close my left fist, I can’t hold the change. The lady in the shop handed me the money, I tried to close my hand over it, and I dropped a shower of coins on the floor. This is how things stand now, and how they will stand for quite a while.

I can write, though, even if I find it extremely hard.
Which is not good, considering I have to deliver 50.000 words by Christmas, and roughly 75.000 words for the end of January. But this is not so much a physical thing as a mental thing. The forced idleness of the past month has slowed down my systems, and the various worries connected with my broken hand have weighed me down.
I’ll need to get back in the saddle.
There are contracts and deadlines to be respected.
In one week I went from no show to 1000 words per day.
I’ll need to keep increasing the output. There’s bills to pay.

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Tits & Sand: The Adventures of Hajji Baba (1954)

It’s been a while since I last reviewed a Tits & Sand movie – to use the label coined by Maureen O’Hara. These 1001 Nights-style movies were a staple of my childhood, and I thought I had seen them all, repeatedly. And yet, I’ve just found a movie I had missed – which is quite strange.

The film is called The Adventures of Hajji Baba, and it was directed in 1954 by Don Weiss, a director with a long TV experience, whose best known films are probably The Affairs of Dobie Gills and the beach party classic The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, with Boris Karlof.
The Adventures of Hajji Baba features John Derek, an actor I always found insufferable, and this might explain why I never watched this specific film. Opposite Derek – who portrays the titular Persian barber – is Elaine Stewart, in the role of bratty, spoiled princess Fawzia of Ispharan.

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Ghosts and Vampires (with the occasional Mummy)

Everybody’s having a party for Halloween, that is still twenty days away. And it’s fine, because we all love a spooky story, and it’s mighty fine.

I was thinking the other day that in the end I seem to like both kinds of horror – both ghost stories and vampire stories.
And what I mean is, doing a quick inventory of the horror books and the horror movies on my shelves, it looks like ghosts and vampires are the main form of spooks I like to read about and watch on the screen.

I was never big on slashers, zombies and the like.
I love a good mummy story or movie, and I still like the Creature from the Black Lagoon, that’s criminally under-represented in literature.
But the modern horrors leave me cold.

The reason, I believe, is that ghost stories (in print) and the Hammer vampire movies (on the screen) were the first form of horror stories I enjoyed.
I guess I should throw in the original run of Scooby Doo in there, too.

And so, while my friends cheer the new gorefests available on paper and on film, I think I will spend the days that precede Halloween reading old ghost stories, after diner, in my darkened room.
There’s a lot of them available out there – there’s some fine new collections and there’s the old classics on Project Gutenberg. And on Youtube we can find a lot of Ghost Stories for Christmas, and spooky Old Time Radio shows. It’s a good world.

Maybe I am not avant gard, but really, who cares?
In the next few days I’ll publish a reading, watching and listening list for anyone who’s interested.