Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Along the Silk Road on a Rolls-Royce

There’s a story of mine, called Queen of the Dead Lizards (you can find it in Pro Se Press’ Explorer Pulp, together with three other fine stories by three excellent authors). I will not spoil the story for those of you who might like to check it out, but let’s say that part of the action in Queen of the Dead Lizards hinges on a trip along the Silk Road on a Rolls-Royce … an accident in the real life of the last Khan of Bukhara.
And what can I say – it felt like a good idea at the time.
But through one of those curious series of connections that come up during rambling conversations, I just stumbled on another Rolls Royce ride across the steppes of Central Asia, in a book by an author that’s not often remembered today, and that’s a pity.
So, let me take a rather circuitous route here…

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The Rose of Tibet

As expected, the effect of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors is making itself felt, causing my reading list to explode as I discover writers I have so far ignored.
First it was Margery Allingham, and now it’s the turn of Lionel Davidson.

A writer that was highly praised by Graham Greene and often compared to Eric Ambler, Lionel Davidson had three Gold Dagger Awards and was considered for a while a highly favoured contender, if an outsider, for the title of best British thriller writer.
One of his books was even made into a TV series by the BBC and his last book, published in 1994, received rave reviews.
But then for some reason he fell out of sight.

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A tour on the Minibus

As expected, the night spent reading Chris Fowler’s book about forgotten writers has started wreaking havoc with my reading plans, or at least with my to-read pile of books and ebooks.

Having read Fowler’s fun collection of short bios, I found it to be excuse enough to finally go and check out a writer that’s been on my radars for years now, but I never found the time, or motivation, or that extra bit of curiosity that would make me go and spend money and time on one of her books.

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Gone but not forgotten: Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors

When was the last time that, against all good sense and sanity, you spent a whole night up to read a new book from cover to cover? Wrapped in a blanket, drinking hot tea, while the countryside outside was silent and mist-shrouded under the moon, it happened to me last night, and I am now typing this before I crawl in bed, my day’s schedule completely scrambled, but who cares.

Yesterday (my goodness, it was only yesterday!) I received as a gift an ebook copy of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors, and as it usually happens, I checked the first pages, just to see how it felt. I was preparing dinner, and I was in fact putting the soup up on the stove.
I went through the foreword, and them, after dinner, I said to myself I’d check a few pages.
And now here I am, bleary-eyed, the book finished, and the certain knowledge that it will have a terrible influence on my 2020.

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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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