East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


India’s Illuminati: The Nine Unknown Men

Strange – or not so strange – connections.
I was going through the Talbot Mundy catalog and, leaving Yasmini behind for a moment, I checked out The Nine Unknown, one of Mundy’s most Theosophical novels, originally published in 1923 in Adventure magazine.


And I mentioned it with my brother, who is the serious Orientalist in our home, and thus I found out that the Nine Unknown Men are not something the Theosophists or Mundy cooked up, but are actually part of the real history of India. Continue reading


Dr Jazz vs the Nazis

New year, I’ll start boring your socks off again about the joys of research.
I just pitched a story for an anthology, and I’ve been doing some preventive research on the subjects.
Which, in this case, means listening to a lot of jazz, and Django Reinhardt in particular.

Looking into the history of Reinhardt, I discovered Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a Luftwaffe officer who, when Reinhardt was arrested (he was of Gipsy origin and a jazzman – both categories being on the Nazi black book), signed a letter and allowed him and his family to go free back to Paris. Continue reading


Any cold iron

An interesting discussion started last day with a friend of mine, a fine author, about what the Italian equivalent is of cold iron – as cold iron is well known as a tool against spirits, witches and demons.
The sort of thing that writers tend to notice, and file for later.
And it turns out there is no equivalent of cold iron because, basically, cold iron is plain old iron, but sharpened.


Francis Grose’s 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defines cold iron as “A sword, or any other weapon for cutting or stabbing.”

… says Wikipedia.
And Kipling, of course, used the expression to mean “weapon”. Continue reading

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Nicholas Roerich & The Sacred Union of the East

Like most readers of supernatural fiction, I first heard the name Roerich in H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, in which the Gentleman from Providence references the

“strange and disturbing paintings of Nicholas Roerich”


I would meet this unusual character much later, as I started collecting books and stories about the Silk Road, the mysteries of Central Asia, and the Himalayas. Continue reading