East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Jane Austen and the Wolfman

It was ten months ago that I mentioned The League of Extraordinary Ladies Writers, a crowdfunding project of the French publisher Les Moutons Electriques – a series of novellas pitching famous writers against classic monsters.
At the time I was too broke to support the crowdfunding, but even without me the project landed 195% of the target figure, and despite some delays due to the COVID-19 thing, now the books have finally hit the shelves.

And how could I resist?
After all, it’s for a good cause – to wit, the improvement of my shaky French skills.
So I went, and bought myself a copy of Jane Austen contre le Loup-garou

And boy do I need exercise!

But the good news is, when the story is intriguing, well-written and smart, we feel compelled to go on even if some words baffle us. Marianne Ciaudo, who wrote this 130-pages romp, is certainly a fine writer.

And so off I am, to 1800 Hampshire, in a story that, for its patently ridiculous premise, is turning out to be tight, suspenseful and scary, with more than a nod at the old Hammer movies.
And a great exercise.
Looks like I’ll have to get the whole series, in the end.
But Jane Austen comes first…

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Hunting the Kamongo in the Black Lagoon

I was home alone for lunch, so I cooked myself a bowl of rice, and then I watched The Creature from the Black Lagoon, from 1954. Because it’s a movie I like, because it’s been a long time since last I watched it, and because in a couple of weeks I’ll have to record a podcast about it and I want to sound smart and say intelligent stuff.

And as I was quietly enjoying the show, something suddenly … ah!

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Going through the Second Barrage

A lot of online reviewers were less than kind with Black Lagoon‘s second season – called The Second Barrage. Most lamented the absence of Dutch and Benny from many episodes, the excessive focus on Rock and Revy’s “relationship”, and the less frantic action. So I was rather curious to see what it would look like.
And to me it looks… quite interesting.

To recap, Black Lagoon is an early 2000s anime/manga series set in the ’90s, and focusing on the day-to-day lives of a team of mercenaries, the Black Lagoon Trading Co., operating in the South China Sea. The first season follows four successive narrative arcs, throwing in a lot of firepower and an ample cast of supporting characters – including an organization of gun-running nuns, a Triad’s boss that is obviously Chow Yun Fat from A better tomorrow II, and a formidable unit of former Soviet special forces, known as Hotel Moscow, now working for the Russian Mafia.

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Into the Black Lagoon

It was a very stressful day, the prelude to a week that promises – you guessed it – even more stressful. But not everything was bad, and as a recipe of my own devising was broiling in the slow cooker, I was finally able to get to the bottom of the first season of Black Lagoon.
That’s a good way to wash away some stress.

I found out about Black Lagoon a few years back, as I was doing a research on the classic Universal monster, the Gill Man, aka The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Google searches being what they are, I stumbled on this thing called Black Lagoon
Japanese anime. Does it feature a Creature? No, it looks like straight action.
Straight action anime, references to a movie I like… let’s check it out.

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Dark Agnes

It’s the 11th of June, Robert E. Howard’s anniversary, and just 36 hours a go I did a post on my Italian blog about sword & sorcery, and mentioned Dark Agnes de Chastillon. And then yesterday, as we were recording our podcast, my friend Lucy and I talked briefly about Robert E. Howard’s women – because he did write a few very interesting women, and Dark Agnes was one of them.

I first met Dark Agnes de Chastillon, also known as Agnes de la Fere (a name that might ring a bell with those that have read Dumas) in the mid-80s. Having broken into the habit of reading in English, a whole world opened up for me, and I raided the shelves of the cheap paperbacks in the Sevagram bookstore. Some books I picked because of the author, others just because of the cover.
Sword Woman was perfect on both counts.

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