Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Alfonso Azpiri, 1947-2017

Spanish comic artist and illustrator Alfonso Azpiri passed away a few hours ago.
Azpiri was one of the many graphic artists whose works I cherished.
Wikipedia classifies him in the “adult oriented” field, but his stories, that ranged from science fiction to horror, while often incredibly racy, were also a fun mix of caricature and satire, and his pneumatic, big-haired trademark female characters were both sexy and absurd, sultry and silly.

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With the character of Lorna, he created a silly, naughty mix of Star Wars and Barbarella.

Here is a small gallery of his works, in memoriam.
And yes, depending on where you are, some of this might be considered NSFW. Continue reading


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August reading

I spent most of the last two weeks reading instead of writing.
Granted, three books of mine came out in the last four weeks, so I can’t really complain, but I know there will be hell to pay to hit deadlines and be good. And yet, right now fatigue both physical and mental was such that I needed to stop and recharge my batteries.
I’ve found out I slowed down somewhat, and gone are the summers in which I’d read three or four novels per week. But it’s not a race, so it’s OK.

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My friend Claire over at Scribblings did a post on her reading week, and I thought, why not?
A simple list of what I’ve been reading recently.
Just for fun. Continue reading


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On the border with Bogart & Bacall

1And talking about Old Time Radio.

There’s a series about a guy with a boat.
He’s an adventurer, and in the early ’50s he gets involved in a series of intrigues, mysteries and thrilling adventures. He moves on the border between the civilized world and the changing water margin of islands and ports and strange places.
The series takes its name from the name of his boat.

Only it’s not The Corsair – much as the basic premise appears to be the same.
It’s called Bold Venture, and the hero of the piece is Humphrey Bogart.
And there’s Lauren Bacall in it, too!
I can only hang my head and accept the fact that I’ve been trumped.
And I can enjoy the show, of course. Continue reading


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Old Time Radio: One World Flight

I think I already mentioned in the past the Old Time Radio Researchers Group, a community of old time radio aficionados devoted to bringing accurate reproductions of old radio shows to the attention of the public.
I am not an expert of Old Time Radio – I know the basics, I’ve heard a few of the best known shows – and the OTRR Group is to me a source of endless surprises.

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Browsing their collections of the Internet Archive is always a source of delight, and yesterday I discovered One World Flight, a 1947 documentary series by Norman Corwin (a giant in the history of American broadcasting). Continue reading


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My ghost decade: 1953

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.

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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. Continue reading


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A postcard from Hanzhong

acheron_the__ministry_of_thunderWhen I wrote my first novel, The Ministry of Thunder, it was originally called Beyul Express. It was the first in a hypothetical series, and I had written the first draft in eight days. The second draft took six months, and expanded from 48.000 words to 78.000.
The book got some great reviews, and was generally well-received.
Later, I wrote another story featuring Felice Sabatini.
A lot of people had asked to learn more about Helena Saratova, Sabatini’s old partner, and Cynical Little Angels, set about two years before the events in Ministry, described the first meeting between the Italian pilot and the blue-haired adventuress.

angelsTwo nights ago I was going through one of my usual bouts of insomnia. This has been a rough time for me – rougher than usual. Lots of thoughts and stuff. In the last ten days I’ve been unable to write anything good – and you may have noticed my posts on Karavansara became erratic and short.
So two nights ago, nursing a hell of a headache, at about 2am I fired up a txt file, and started writing.
Write to the block, write through your worries.
At 6am the neighbor’s dogs started barking their hearts out at the dawn, and I found myself with 3500 words of The Ministry of Lightning, the sequel to Thunder, taking place in Shanghai, about six months after the last page of the first novel.

As the story opens Felice Sabatini, having walked the 7000 miles back from the Taklamakan desert, rolls back in Shanghai in the sidecar of a stolen motorbike driven by a Korean expatriate. The city is getting ready for trouble – there are sand bags in the streets, and lots of soldiers carrying weapons.
The motorbike enters the Italian-style garden of a mansion on Bubbling Well Road.
“Are you sure this is the place?” the Korean asks, looking dubious.
“I’m sure,” Sabatini replies.
He knocks on the door. A girl in a sailor uniform opens the door, stares at him, starts screaming, and slams the door shut.
Sabatini gives a reassuring grin at the Korean guy, that looks even more dubious.
Then the door opens again, and it goes more or less like this… Continue reading


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Swashathon! The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974)

swashathon-2-musketeersIt’s the day of the Swashathon!
The day in which we celebrate adventure movies in which wits are sharp as rapiers and dialogues are snappy and furious, and action is, too.

You can find a full list of the Swashathon participants at The Movies Silently, that set up this party.
Or should we say this raid?
Adventurers, Arabian princes, pirates, outlaws…
And of course musketeers.

 

And Karavansara here is ready for a double feature, featuring the only two musketeer movies you need to watch in your life: Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974).
Two movies that changed the industry. Here we go…

Continue reading