East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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In Egypt with Sax Rohmer

saxrohmer1Let’s kill two birds with a stone: today’s the birthday of Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, better known to the world at large by his pen name Sax Rohmer – the man who created the original Yellow Peril, Dr Fu Manchu.
A lower-class child that started a career as a civil servant before he turned to writing for a living and claimed to be part of the Order of the Golden Dawn, Rohmer would be 135 today.

His most famous creation, Dr Fu Manchu, first appeared in The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu, as a serial, in 1912. Two other novels followed,and then the character went on hiatus for about fifteen years, only to return with The Daughter of Fu Manchu in 1928. Continue reading



On Verne’s Birthday: Michael Strogoff

324_500_csupload_22715671And this being Jules Verne’s birthday, why not go and reread one of his books – or watch a movie basedon one of Verne’s books?
And KeithTaylor mentioned Michael Strogoff, and that’s quite a nice choice for Karavansara: an adventure yarn, set in the heart of Eurasia, and featuring chases, swashbuckling, heroics and derring-do.
All in a neat package, courtesy of one of the fathers of science fiction – but here applying his skills to a spy thriller of sorts.
It is also one of the titles on which my generation cut its teeth as readers. But we’ll get to that. Continue reading

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Viy: dark-fantasy swashbuckling adventure from Russia

viy-forbidden-empire-2014-posterOn the second of February, barring accidents, a Russian film will hit the screens (in Russia, if nowhere else) that features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Rutger Hauer and Charles Dance.
And it’s a sequel.
So, while we wait for the second serving, let me introduce you to an adventure movie you might have missed, and that, while not exactly a masterpiece, still is well worth a viewing if you feel like a serving of weird action fantasy, with a side of Hammer-like horror.
So, as we wait for Viy 2: Journey to China, let’s talk about Viy: Forbidden Empire.

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The Phantom Rickshaw

Nearly every other Station owns a ghost. There are said to be two at Simla, not counting the woman who blows the bellows at Syree dâk-bungalow on the Old Road; Mussoorie has a house haunted of a very lively Thing; a White Lady is supposed to do night-watchman round a house in Lahore; Dalhousie says that one of her houses “repeats” on autumn evenings all the incidents of a horrible horse-and-precipice accident; Murree has a merry ghost, and, now that she has been swept by cholera, will have room for a sorrowful one; there are Officers’ Quarters in Mian Mir whose doors open without reason, and whose furniture is guaranteed to creak, not with the heat of June but with the weight of Invisibles who come to lounge in the chairs; Peshawur possesses houses that none will willingly rent; and there is something—not fever—wrong with a big bungalow in Allahabad. The older Provinces simply bristle with haunted houses, and march phantom armies along their main thoroughfares.

The_Phantom_Rickshaw_&_Other_Eerie_TalesOriental ghost stories, we said, and let’s start with Kipling’s The Phantom Rickshaw and other ghost stories, that you can find in a variety of formats on Project Gutenberg.
The book was first published in 1888, but I think the Gutenberg edition is somehow later, because it includes an extra story, The Finest Story in the World, that’s not listed in the Wikipedia page devoted to the book.

The original stories in the book were written by Kipling in his twenties, and published by The Pioneer or the Civil and Military Gazette.

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Ghosts from the East

nightbird coverLet’s leave Egypt behind for a while.
Last week my friend Lucy published her new novel, the first with Acheron Books. It’s called Nightbird and it’s a ghost story1.
So we had the opportunity of talking a lot about ghost stories, and our favorite novels, movies and what not. It was fun. It also turned out that Lucy would love to write a vampire novel, while I’d love to write a few ghost stories. And as we talked about books, I realized that while I love Peter Straub’s Ghost Story or James Herbert’s David Ash books, what I really like is ghostly short stories. The sort you can read in one sitting, and be scared and entertained.
And so I started compiling a list of my favorite collections of ghost stories. Continue reading


Henry Rider Haggard’s Cleopatra

and_image_1366916320And talking about historical novels, Egypt and all this sort of stuff…
Henry Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon’s Mines and She, two books that are highly regarded here on Karavansara, also wrote a book called Cleopatra, published in 1889.

Now, it is sometimes an overlooked fact that Rider Haggard wrote a huge number of books (56 novels, 3 collections of stories and 10 non-fiction books), and while he is still best remembered for his Quatermain-Ayesha novels, but his catalog includes al sort of historical and exotic adventure.
And most if not all of it is available for free online.

But about Cleopatra, now… Continue reading

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Karavansara Free Library: Georg Ebers

4f33d756b86612f6bf4e199cca2a532b--literatureYou have to admit the idea had potential: popularize the subjects of Egyptology and Ancient History by writing historical romances.
And so Egyptologist Georg Moritz Ebers, a German that had pursued a legal career before he moved on to Egyptology, becoming teacher of Egyptian language in 1868 in Jena, decided to pursue a parallel career as a novelist.

The guy was a legit Egyptologist, and today is mostly known for the Ebers Papyrus, a medical text from 1550 BC, in the form of a scroll containing 700 magical spells and practical remedies.
Ebers had not actually “discovered” the papyrus – he had just purchased it from Edwin Smith, an American from Orlando, Florida, that lived in Egypt and acquired various documents from sources unknown.
This is not actually strange – a lot of Egyptian antiques were not discovered, but bought by Europeans and Americans from various purveyors of ancient goods. Continue reading