East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The man from the Nile

In July, 1878, when serving as lieutenant in H. I. H. the Crown Prince Rudolph’s regiment, the 19th Foot, on the Bosnian frontier, I received a letter from General Gordon, inviting me to come to the Sudan and take service with the Egyptian Government, under his direction.

Rudolf_Carl_von_SlatinRudolf Carl von Slatin, later known as Slatin Pasha, was born near Vienna in 1857. In 1873, while attending a commercial school, he heard about a German bookseller in Cairo that needed an assistant, and he left for Egypt.
He ended up in Karthoum, and he traveled extensively before he had to return to Austria to fulfill his conscription in the army.
While in the Austrian army, he was contacted by Gemneral Gordon, ad mentioned in the opening of his 1896 best-seller Fire and Sword in the Sudan.
Because when he finally accepted Gordon’s invitation, things got interesting: appointed governor of Dara, and when rebellion erupted in 1882, Slating tried to face the music, but without much success. Continue reading


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An interview with Christina Dodwell

So, I am opening this 2018 with a something big, and of which I’m very proud and happy.
And here’s a little introduction…
147XChristina Dodwell’s been one of my real-life heroes for the last 25 years, ever since I discovered her books in a London bookstore (Hatchard’s, if you really must know).
My personal favorites are An Explorer’s Handbook (great fun, and a great resource for a writer) and A Traveller in China (because of my old fascination with China and all that — we discussed this already), followed suit by A Traveler on Horseback in Eastern Turkey and Iran.

Now, the great news: I was granted permission to reprint an interview that was originally posted on the website of the Long Riders’ Guild, in which Miss Dodwell talks about her experiences as a traveler and an explorer.

I am extremely grateful to Christina Dodwell, to Basha O’Reilly who conducted the original interview, and everybody at the Long Riders’ Guild, for this great opportunity.

So, here goes. I’m sure you guys will enjoy the ride. Continue reading

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The alphabet ends at Y

51Gg8fx8UeL.SX160.SY160I have just got the sad news that author Sue Grafton passed away on the 28th of December, at the age of 77.
I enjoyed her novel, A is for Aalibi when I discovered it in the early ’90s during one of my mystery bouts.

It was her will that her novels should not be turned into movies or a TV series, and the family has announced no one will continue writing the Kinsey Milhone novels, also known as The Alphabet Series. The last novel in this solid PI series came out in 2017, Y is for Yesterday.
The alphabet stops here.



C. Aubrey Smith

This is very very circuitous.
I was looking for details about A Night in Cairo, a 1933 movie better known as The Barbarian – a pre-Code movie that features Ramon Novarro and Myrna Loy.
The reason is simply explained.
First, of course, there is my veneration for Myrna Loy, especially in her younger roles. And second, the movie is set in a Cairo hotel that is a pretty close reconstruction of the Shephaerd’s Hotel… that is the place in which the first episode of AMARNA opens.
So, research, and Myrna Loy – and her famous bath-tub and rose petals scene…

Annex - Loy, Myrna (Barbarian, The)_01

While I was looking for more details about The Barbarian, I checked out the cast listing, and I found a name that’s well known to lovers of old movies: C. Aubrey Smith.
And I thought, what the heck, I might as well do a post about the old chap. Continue reading


The Miskatonic Repository

On the 12th of this month, Chaosium announced on their blog the forthcoming Miskatonic Repository, basically doing what D&D and TORG and other roleplaying games are doing: opening the door to user-created content.


Through the Miskatonic Repository, it will be possible to create and distribute Call of Cthulhu material on DriveThruRPG…

Here’s how it works – you create content, format it to our design template, and then upload the PDF to the site. Your work becomes part of the Miskatonic Repository content on DriveThruRPG – able to be accessed by the community and, optionally, providing a financial return to you.

Meaning it will be possible to distribute these contents as pay what you want, or for free, or for a fixed price. Continue reading

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Crooks in history

I have just delivered a 33.000 unproofed manuscript to all those that last summer supported my crowdfunding for the fist Italian-language outing of BUSCAFUSCO.
The book is called La Storia Fatta coi Cialtroni (literally “History made with slobs”) and it is a first collection of eccentrics, adventurers, loose women and other assorted crooks and cranks across the last three centuries.

The proper book will come out (hopefully) for Christmas or (more likely) for Twelfth Night, and it was a hoot to put together and a cow to edit.
That’s why I sent off an unproofed version.

My Patreon supporters will probably get new excerpts of a second volume, and some English-language snippets of the first.

Because it’s fun.