East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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A Waiting Game – the wait is over

And so it’s out, my friend Shanmei’s A Waiting Game, which I translated in the past weeks.
If you like mysteries and the east and the early 20th century, this might be your cup of tea.
The story is very loosely based on a real character, but the story is entirely fictional – a small mystery, with a touch of espionage.
Hopefully, more is to come, with Shanmei already working on a new story, and plotting a full-blown novel.


In the meantime, A Waiting Game goes for one buck and a half, and it reads like a breeze.
Check it out.

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Other people’s pulps: Roco Vargas

I mentioned The Adventures of Roco Vargas as one of my influences in a post back in 2013, a post I closed saying I’d have to write something about the series.
Well, better late than never, right?

Spanish comic book artist Daniel Torres started writing Roco Vargas in 1983. A specialist in “retrofuturist” settings and stories, Torres referenced streamlined design, Bell Geddes architecture and 1940s-1950s style in his stories.


Roco Vargas, the star of the eponymous series, is a science fiction writer, night-club owner, former space pilot and ladies’ man based in the city of Puerto Bahia. Modeled on classic pulp adventurers, Vargas has a mysterious past, snippets of which we discover throughout the series: he was part of a team of science adventurers, together with Saxxon and Panama Kid, working for professor Kowalski, and they were known as the Space Kids. Continue reading


A cartload of books and the Curse of the Pharaoh

I went to a friend’s lecture last night, hosted in the wonderful hall of the local historical society – a former church, now holding an impressive collection of baroque paintings.
We were there early, and we noticed a big 19th century-style cart, in the back, loaded with books.
We found our places, saw some old friends, started chatting.
At this point, the spokesman for the society taps the mike and explains that,while we are waiting, we might like to take a look at the books on the cart.
These are used books.
They come from the local library, and they were retired.

If anyone feels like taking a few home, you are welcome- help yourself.

Me and my friend Marco traded a glance.
Help ourselves? Continue reading

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Savage Scrolls: a brief review

I promised a review of Savage Scrolls, a collection of Hyborian lore by Fred Blosser.
Here we go.

Blosser’s book is a thorough survey of Conan’s Hyborian world, expanding to include many other Robert E. Howard characters and cycles. The basic idea is to take all the details Howard scattered through his stories, and collate them into a curated history book.
Culture, history, politics, natural sciences… the book covers all the bases, in a straightforward, engaging tone.
We meet characters, we visit cities and wild jungles, we learn the history of the Hyborian era. We discover connections, influences, references.
We catch a glimpse of Conan’s wolrd before and after Conan.
And where the original stories don’t go – or where Howard actually offered conflicting takes on certain elements – Blosser interpolates and speculates, filling the blanks with plausible hypotheses, doing a wonderful job.

The book reads in a breeze, it’s quite fun and it will probably send you back to your Conan collection for a re-read of some of the stories referenced.

Savage Scrolls is a good addition to the REH bookshelf, and apparently the first in a series – and we can only hope Volume 2 will be as good and solid as volume 1.

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More Mummy

Something has been nagging at the back of my mind since I posted my non-review of The Mummy, and finally this afternoon – possibly inspired by the Egyptian-desert-grade heat here where I live – I finally got it.
Because there was something – ¬†the new mummy movie featuring Tom Cruise is actually closer to a “reboot” of the 1971 Hammer classic Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb than than any Universal Mummy film.

We get the lot: the cursed, evil Egyptian queen, the resurrection/reincarnation bit, and the world shattering plot.
Nice and smooth. Continue reading

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Hyborian Lore: Savage Scrolls

51NbxDlPurL._SY346_Then of course something happens that throws all your plans in disarray.
In this case, was the discovery of Savage Scrolls, the first volume in a wide and deep study of all things R.E. Howard.
The book, written by Fred Blosser, was published early this week, and it’s a steal at about 4 bucks in ebook.

Coupled with my current total lack of interest for writing (I’m going through one of my bouts of dark moods and insomnia), spending the next 36 hours reading the “speculative essays” contained in this volume looks like a nice way to get my brain back in working order.
I’ll let you know what I think of the book ASAP.

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A little hype: Shanmei’s “The Waiting Game”

I just delivered the translation of my friend Shanmei’s short story The Waiting Game, and I guess the ebook will be available as soon as the cover is ready.

Meanwhile, why not start with a little publicity?
Here is the blurb…

Peking, 1902

In the cosmopolitan China of the early 20th century, following the violence and horror of the Boxer Rebellion, lieutenant Luigi Bianchi, serving in Huang Tsun, is involved in the investigation of the death of a wealthy French merchant, poisoned while dining at the Golden Phoenix restaurant.
A Chinese waiter has been arrested for the murder, but is he really the killer?
And why the Japanese embassy seems to hide some details?

A short colonial mystery, with a dash of spy story, the first in a series set between 1900 and 1905, featuring an Italian soldier with a knack for investigations.

Would you buy it?
(I would, but being the translator, I get my copy for free)