East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Arthur Conan Doyle’s Mummies

It is Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday!
The man that gave us Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger deserves a little celebration, and what better way to celebrate a storyteller than through his stories?
So here we go – a Ladybird Horror Classic, The Mummy, based on ACD’s own Lot n. 249.

And here you can get the original, as an illustrated PDF, as published by Harper’s Magazine.



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A few nights with the Ace of Wands

tyrantking1A few nights ago, for the usual reason that I was suffering from one of my bouts of insomnia, I went browsing on Youtube, looking for something interesting.
In particular, I was looking for episodes of a very old British TV series called The Tyrant King, that I saw as a kid and which is part of those many shows that influenced my growth (or lack thereof), it being a mystery/espionage story featuring a T. Rex.
I was able to find very little on Youtube, but through a succession of links and cross-references and spurious serendipity, I discovered Ace of Wands, which is something I am sure some old friend mentioned twenty-odd years ago, but here I am now, and the series had been keeping me company these last few night. Continue reading

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In Cairo with OSS 117

s-l300Strangely enough, secret agent 117 was born four years before secret agent 007.
It was 1949 and French writer Jean Bruce published Tu parles d’une ingénue, the first of the eighty-eight novels he’d write featuring agent OSS 117 before dying an untimely death in 1963.
At this point, his wife Josette took over, penning another 143 volumes in the series between 1963 and 1985. At that point, Josette’s daughter Martine took over, and wrote the remaining 23 books in the series, between 1987 and 1992.
Through a total of 254 novels, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, an American of French descent, born in Louisiana, goes from working for the Office of Strategic Services to the CIA and finally the NSC, basically doing a hardboiled version of the James Bond thing but, as noted above, being actually the one that started first. Continue reading

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Faux-noir: Pulp, 1972

Pulp is a 1972 comedy/drama, written and directed by Michael Hodges, who is mostly famous for directing the British noir Get Carter featuring Michael Caine.
Caine stars in Pulp, too – and is also a co-producer.

Originally titled Memoirs of a Ghostwriter, the movie is a flawed gem, one that probably suffers from striving too hard. It plays with hard boiled, Chandleresque fiction, and at times it’s quite funny, but the end result is ultimately inferior to the sum of its parts. There could be an intelligent satire, hiding inside of the film, but it’s sometimes hard to catch glimpses of it. Continue reading

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A Robert Abbett gallery

31948661_10216048628478867_190594267591213056_oOne never stops learning.
I was trying to impress a lady with my knowledge of vintage paperback illustrators, and I promptly identified the image here on the right as the work of Robert McGinnis.
Thankfully I was smart enough to add “… or someone that got McGinnis’ technique down to pat”, because it is not McGinnis, after all.
It’s Robert Abbett.
Oh, damn.
I can blame the poor state in which my insomnia has reduced me. But still…

Abbett (1926-2015) worked on a number of different genres, such as war novels, detective novels, thrillers, historical fiction and science fiction. He illustrated a number of Edgar Rice Burroughs titles. He was also a fine nature and wildlife illustrator, often featuring hunt-related subjects.

And so, to atone for my blunder, here is a gallery of Robert Abbett’s illustrations.
Enjoy! Continue reading

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Corto Maltese in Manchuria

The Russo-Japanese war was a complicated affair. So complicated, in fact, that the Wikipedia entry on the subject is longer on political background than on the actual war.
In a nutshell: Japan was eager to flex some muscles and define its role as a modern imperial power in the East. Russia was eager to get a year-round port on the Pacific, and maybe acquire a large chunk of China. Russia was an enormous nation, which messed up logistics. Japan had better commanding officers.

The war lasted between 1904 and 1905, and was the first big conflict of the 20th century.

And Corto Maltese was in it, and so was his perpetual friend/adversary, Rasputin.
Because this is Corto Maltese, the Youth. Continue reading