Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Travelers’ tales, gossip and word of mouth

220px-Herodotos_Met_91.8This guy here on the right is Herodotus.
Or an acceptable likeness thereof – a Roman copy of a Grecian bust.
The Romans loved Herodotus – and according to Cicero he was the Father of history.
To me, he’s a fun read, and also the first stop for me when I decide to write a new Aculeo & Amunet story.

The Histories of Herodotus provide a wonderful collection of facts, hearsay and speculation about the Ancient World…

This is the display of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, so that things done by man not be forgotten in time, and that great and marvelous deeds, some displayed by the Hellenes, some by the barbarians, not lose their glory, including among others what was the cause of their waging war on each other.

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Karavansara Free Library: 5 by Sir Aurel Stein

Aurel Stein was a man who obsessed about Alexander’s expedition in India, and as a consequence became the trailblazer in the rediscovery of the Silk Road at the turn of the 19th and 20th century.
Explorer, archaeologist, ethnographer, geographer, linguist, map-maker, Stein was born in Budapest in 1862 but later moved to England and became a citizen in 1904.
He was Sven Hedin‘s major competitor in the exploration of Central Asia and the Silk Route, and was probably also a spy in those areas in which British and Russians played the Great Game.
He discovered an unprecedented wealth of documents in Dunhuang (including the world’s oldest printed text), and also the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas.
He died in 1942, at the age of 80, and is buried in Kabul, Afghanistan.

His production of works was enormous – maps, photos, articles and books, the latter often aimed at the general public.

What follows is a very small selection found in the Internet Archive.

1904 – Sand-buried Ruins of Khotan

1912 – Ruins Of Desert Cathay

1929 – On Alexander Track To The Indus

1933 On Ancient Central Asian Tracks

1949 – Old Routes Of Western Iran


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I’m writing a planetary romance (so there!)

brackettI think I mentioned in the past how much I like Leigh Brackett’s stories.
I loved the Skaith books, and I actually read Bracket’s The Sword of Rhiannon well before I discovered Edgar Rice Burrough’s Marian novels.
You can find a few of Brackett’s stories for free download out there, and I’ll provide links at the end of this post, but the reason I’m writing this is because I’m putting together a 5000-words story I plan to submit to a magazine next month. It’s going to be a planetary romance sort of thing, and it will be set on Mars, and so last night I went to the shelf and took down Sea Kings of Mars1 for a quick recap.
To soak-up Bracket’s language, if you will, to see if I can learn her secrets (wishful thinking). Continue reading


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Karavansara Free Library: 2+1 by Richard Halliburton

Something for the weekend.

Adventurer, world-traveler, daredevil, there was a time when Richard Halliburton was a household name, and families would sit around their radio to hear his tales of far-off lands and wild adventures.

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His books were popular too, and are now almost completely forgotten.
Which is a pity, because Richard Halliburton was good at telling a story.
In 1939, Halliburton – the man that had crossed the Alps riding an elephant – disappeared at sea while trying to cross the Pacific ocean in a Chinese junk.

Now, the Karavansara Free Library, as usual with the help of the Internet Archive, is here to offer a small selection of Halliburton’s intelligent, highly entertaining books.
A look into that strange world that was, not even one hundred years ago, in which the world was larger, and there was a lot to be seen (and told) for the first time.

1925 – The Royal Road To Romance

1927 – The Glorious Advanture

1940 – Richard Halliburton His Story Of His Life’s Adventure As Told In Letters To His Mother And Father 

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Karavansara Free Library: 7 books by Sven Hedin

sven hedinThe Karavansara Free Library does Sven Hedin, and it’s quite a feat.
A true explorers’ explorer, Hedin had a colossal output of writings, and he is certainly one of the essential authors when it comes to Central Asia and the Silk Road.
“Geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, travel writer, and illustrator of his own works”, to quote Wikipedia, Hedin did more than anyone else for the exploration of Central Asia, and his accounts are a collection of sharp scientific observation, anecdotal narrative and adventure.
Sometimes more academical than the works of Rosita Forbes and Emily Hahn, Hedin’s books can sometimes sound a tiny little bit self-celebratory, but really, the man was all over Asia and really went where no man had gone before. Well, no European man at least.
Granted, he sometimes sounds like he was too much in love of his own myth, and certainly being chummy with Hitler (that was a fan of his) did not do any good for his post-war popularity, but in all fairness he soon found out what monsters he was being chummy with, and he did what he could to stop their madness.

“He was a pioneer and pathfinder in the transitional period to a century of specialized research. No other single person illuminated and represented unknown territories more extensively than he.”

The Internet Archive holds a wealth of his books, but here we will only list a few titles, let’s say Sven Hedin’s Essential Bookshelf. Continue reading


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Karavansara Free Library: Six books by Emily Hahn

The Internet Archive is a treasure trove of free ebooks somehow related to Karavansara’s themes and topics.

220px-Emily_HahnWe started the Karavansara Free Library with a few titles from Rosita Forbes, and now we follow up with another woman I find absolutely fascinating: Emily Hahn.
Another traveler, journalist and adventuress, American Emily Hahn was the woman that attended posh parties in Shanghai in the ’30s in the company of a diaper-wearing monkey – a fact that I mentioned in my novel The Ministry of Thunder, and I was criticized for writing rubbish. Ah!

Emily Hahn was also an expert on primates, a walking, breathing scandal, an opium addict (for a while), and a damn fine writer.
In her career as a writer she did comedy, politics, history, science and biography, art and travel memoirs.
When she was arrested by the Japanese after the fall of Hong Kong and was asked how could she have given birth to a child out of wedlock, she replied

I am a bad girl.

The Internet Archive has four books from her huge catalog ready for download…

1941 – The Soong Sisters

1946 – Raffles of Singapore, a Biography

1956 – All About Leonardo da Vinci

1959 – The Tiger House Party: The Last Days Of The Maharajas

hahn… and as a little extra, there’s two more volumes in the Gutenberg Project, Emily Hahn’s first two books.

1930 – Seductio ad Absurdum

1931 – Beginners Luck

All in all a fair selection, that shows the style, wit, skill and versatility of Hahn’s writing.

More books by Emily Hahn are currently being reprinted by Open Road Media, and are highly recommended.


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Karavansara Free Library: Nine books by Rosita Forbes

I was putting together my latest post, the one about the reading list, and I got back to thinking about Rosita Forbes.
Old-time readers of Karavansara will remember that I did a post about Rosita Forbes in the earliest days of this blog, basically because I am in love with the lady.
To recap: independent and adventurous, Rosita married young, divorced, sold her wedding ring and left for good. She did a gig driving an ambulance during the Great War. Then she embarked in a tour of the world with a friend, gatecrashed the Paris Peace Conference, did a bit of spying for the British, and was a pioneer of documentary cinema. And found a lost city in the Sahara desert.
She met both Hitler and Mussolini, and Gandhi, and wrote about it.
And she also wrote a number of travel books and memoirs.

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And these are the books we are interested in, of course, because they provide us with the opportunity of seeing the world in the first half of the 20th century through the eyes of an adventuress. And an adventuress that could write.
Perfect.
And even better now that (mostly) the Digital Library of India has uploaded a fat stack of Rosita Forbes books on the Internet Archive – so that you can go there and download and read them, and what’s not to love about it?

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So here it is, for the love of adventure, good books and Rosita Forbes, a selection of links1.

1919 – Unconducted Wanderers

1921 – The Secret of the Sahara: Kufara

1921 – Adventure : being a gipsy–some incidents, excitements and impressions of twelve highly – seasoned years

1925 – From Red Sea To Blue Nile, Abyssinian Adventure

1927 – Forbidden Road: Kabul to Samarkand

1939 – India of the Princes

1940 – These men I knew

1944 – Gypsy in the Sun

1946 – Appointment with destiny

Not a bad selection, what?
I hope you enjoy these books – and any comment is welcome, as usual.


  1. and why not start a new series of posts, called Karavansara Free Library – legally free ebooks, a selection curated by yours truly. Might be fun, don’t you think?