Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Old Mars!

Color me happy. After literally ages I’ve been able to complete the trilogy of Martian adventures that Michael Moorcock wrote in the mid-60s using the pen-name Edward Powys Bradbury. I read the first book in the series, City of the Beast (also known as Warrior of Mars), back in the mid ’80s, having found a battered copy of the NEL edition on a bookshelf in a bookstore long gone now. I was just out of the Barsoom series, and I wanted more of the same, only different – yes, it’s a bit confused.
In the span of a short summer I read Leigh Bracket’s Martian novels, C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories, a sampling of Lin Carter’s Callisto books, a few Dray Prescott Skorpio novels, and then Michael Kane’s Martian adventures.

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Some other cavemen

Sometimes I say I’ll hung my keyboard to the wall and move to a career as a tarot reader in the pubs of the area. I mean this only half-jokingly, and for a series of reasons it’s becoming increasingly more attractive. And it turns out I wouldn’t even be the first – one of my favorite writers, back when I was a kid, apparently ditched a career as an award-winning novelist and journalist to become an astrologer.

Jane Gaskell was born in 1941 and wrote her first novel at 14, and published it at 16. It’s called Strange Evil and it’s a strange roller-coaster of magic, imagination and sexual suggestions. I read it in 1985 – give or take a few months – because of the Borius Vallejo cover, and because I had just been through Gaskell’s Atlan saga, again picked up because of Boris, and I was a fan.

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The Beast with Five Fingers

As a Christmas gift, I’ve just received a copy of W.F. Harvey’s collection The Beast with Five Fingers, a massive volume featuring fifty odd-stories by this lesser known British practitioner of supernatural and horror fiction.

A Quaker, Harvey had a degree in medicine and had served as a surgeon during the Great War, and writing was not his main career until his early retirement in 1925, aged 40, due to ill health (his lungs had been damaged during a rescue operation at sea during the war). The Beast with Five Fingers is probably his best-known short story, it was originally pyblished in The New Decameron in 1919, and gave the title to the author’s second collection, published in 1928.
In case you are interested, you can read it in Famous Modern Ghost Stories, a fine collection from the ’20s you can download for free as an ebook on the Project Gutenberg (and that features also Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert W. Chambers and Ambrose Bierce, among many others).

And while I am waiting to find the time to read this beauty, last night I went and watched the movie featuring Peter Lorre that in 1946 was based on the Harvey story, and on a script by Curt Siodmak. And here’s my impressions.

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A Halloween reading list

Halloween, Halloween… it’s weird when you find yourself doing more posts about Halloween than you will ever do about, say, Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
It’s like Halloween has become the Web’s main festivity.
A festival of ghosts, spooks and dead people.
Seems fitting.

So, why not suggest a reading list for Halloween?
And considering we are cheapskates, why not a list of free ebooks?

Let’s see… Continue reading


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Karavansara Free Library: The Well of the Unicorn

I’m writing a story.
Big deal, you say.
But no, wait, because it’s interesting.
The story is set in some unnamed American town, somewhere in 1948 or maybe 1949. As the story opens, the main character works as a reader for an old lady who’s losing her sight. My character spends three afternoons every week in the old lady’s parlor, reading her aloud from a book.
What book?
The_Well_of_the_UnicornNow, the book is not essential in the story. It’s just a prop, something my character can cling to as the events in her life suddenly start twisting in a whole new direction.
A hardback, then.
A good solid hardback she’ll be able to clutch to her chest like it’s an armor in that single scene right at the beginning.

And so I did a quick check.
I just needed a hardback published in 1948.
And Fletcher Pratt’s The Well of the Unicorn was published in that year.
Bingo.
There is something good, for me, about a young woman reading aloud from The Well of the Unicorn, and then embarking on a life-changing adventure. Continue reading


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Hope & Glory – the criminal mind

Here is where a few topics we discussed in the last few weeks collide and then we download a free ebook.

6778502A reader of mine (thank you!!) just sent me a book – a wonderful copy of The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, by Ransom Riggs.
The volume is a beautiful compact hardbound book, sturdy and very “Victorian looking”, and it covers the whole of the Holmesian lore concerning the Great Detective’s methods, tools and practices.
I am reading it very slowly to make it last, but it’s a perfect complement for a Sherlockian shelf, and it’s also the sort of handy reference one might need to check when writing.
Beautiful, and (hopefully) not too expensive.
I’ll do a full review as soon as I’m finished, but right now on my first impression, I feel like recommending it.
It might also be a good tool for roleplayer playing Victoria settings.
Just saying.

But there is another handbook I’ve been browsing that is worth mentioning.
I used it marginally as part of my research for Hope & Glory, at the very beginning – and maybe because of this I think it is not listed in the suggested reading list in the handbook.  Continue reading


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Hope & Glory – Winston Churchill’s (minimal) contribution

How does it feel to have your grandmother read your book, and tell you…

It clearly shows your lack of experience with women

… Awkward, uh?
And it’s even worse, I guess, when your grandmother is Frances, Duchess of Marlborough, and you are a young army officer who wrote the book on your way to India, and your name is Winston S. Churchill.

ruritania_zenda_1938_by_mbhdesign-d8zcnf3One of the many bits and pieces that went into Hope & Glory is the literary genre (or sub-genre) of Ruritanian Romance, those stories of passion and derring-do set in unlikely small European nations, like Anthony Hope’s Ruritania or George Barr McCutcheon’s Graustark.
And right now I am working on a small sourcebook for Hope & Glory, set in one of these micro-nations that dot the post-Catastrope landscape of Lost Europe, and in particular a place called Valiria – a fantasy name if ever there was one – which is perched on the Pyrenees, between the iced plains of France and the wind-swept steppes of Spain, where the mammoth roam. Continue reading