East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The Rose of Tibet

As expected, the effect of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors is making itself felt, causing my reading list to explode as I discover writers I have so far ignored.
First it was Margery Allingham, and now it’s the turn of Lionel Davidson.

A writer that was highly praised by Graham Greene and often compared to Eric Ambler, Lionel Davidson had three Gold Dagger Awards and was considered for a while a highly favoured contender, if an outsider, for the title of best British thriller writer.
One of his books was even made into a TV series by the BBC and his last book, published in 1994, received rave reviews.
But then for some reason he fell out of sight.

Continue reading


Explore the world and help the others

The title of this post sums up the sort of answer I would have given when I was, say, twelve years old, when somebody asked “what are you going to be when you grow up?” (one of the questions that have plagued kids for generations). I would not have said it in so many words, but that was the idea – I had been raised on documentaries and adventure stories, and I had this sui generis image in my mind of what a scientist would do – go out there, learn the world, help people see those wonders, teach.

I realize now that, had it been considered an option, I would probably have loved to make documentaries, or be a nature photographer.
But those were not “serious jobs”, so I focused on university, and became a paleontologist and a geologist.
I did research and teaching for a while, and then ended up in this dead village in the hills of Astigianistan, saddled with debts other people had made, and too old to do any job because hey, you’re over 45, you should be either rich or dead.

So it’s back to adventure stories – because if I can’t go out there and do it, I can at least try and inspire others to do it.
Or dream about inspiring them – most of my readers are my same age or older, and “adventure” is today something somebody set up, and you can go through it for a price, and everything’s perfectly controlled.
You don’t get to see the world but that small slice they will allow you to see.
Most places are too dangerous, or too weird, or just plain uninteresting.

It gets depressing.
And I, sitting here in this small village lost in a countryside where curiosity and youth are ills that must be cured as soon as possible… today I find some solace learning foreign languages, trying my hand at cooking exotic recipes, and paying a small amount of money to some charity – usually through things like Humbe Bundle or such.

I’m starting to feel old and useless, I need to find something new to explore.
Any ideas?


Where the wind leads us

This is another ramble written in a single sitting and without thinking.
You’ve been warned.
Because you see, we were talking about adventure, with my friend Lucy.
She’s a scuba diver and a cyclist – the sort of person that goes on the road with her bike as a form of vacation, cycling for miles.
I write about adventures. Make believe adventures.


I was all set, I studied geology and paleontology because I wanted to go out there – deserts, jungles, far off places…
I ended up in a lab and a classroom, first, and now in a small cold house in the middle of nowhere.
I should have been smarter, I’ve been told, I should have sought a post at the post office, or as a bank teller.
Everybody told me so, ever since I was 10, ever since I started saying I wanted to go dig dinosaurs or climb volcanoes.
End they were right.
Or were they?
After all, my chat with my friend Lucy started because there’s an organization out there handing out the European Adventurer of the Year Award.
What would our families, our teachers and our successful white-collar friends say, should they ever find out? Continue reading


How Adventures Changed How We Think About Death

selection_555Now this is a topic, right?
Blame the Portent Content Idea Geneator, that spat this one out when I put in the topic “Adventure”.
And it works, in a certain way.
Let me see if I can get this going – and incidentally, by “adventures” I will mean “adventure fiction”, be it novels, movies, comics or games.

Now, death is a fact.
We all know that we are sitting in this grand theatre and watching this movie, and one day when we least expect it the lights will go out forever, and we will never see how the movie ends.
6186And to be completely honest, that’s what peeves me the most – not seeing how the stories that I see unfurling in front of me will go after I’m gone.
I subscribe to Roger Zelazny’s idea of immortality – eternal life is an eternal sequence of unique moments and experiences, so don’t come and whine about how an eternal life would, in the end, be boring.
Not for me, sorry.
I’m currently going through the roughest time in my life, and I’m having lots of fun.
I’m sorry there’ are other people involved, and I get some very bad moods and I’m often anxious because I could end up living under a bridge in a few weeks, but God forgive me, it’s also exciting.

Which leads us to adventure fiction. Continue reading


At last, The Far Pavilions

The_Far_PavilionsMy goodness, it’s been 18 months!
In January 2015, I announced my intention of reading M.M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions1 as part of my reading list of adventure/historical novels set in India.
I got me a cheap, second-hand, printed-so-small-you’ll-burn-your-eyes hardback copy of the Italian translation2, and then all hell broke loose, my priorities changed, the book got buried at the bottom of my reading pile, and I picked it up again five days ago.
I’m going through it like a speeding train – basically because it’s a novel that reads like a breeze. It will be over by Wednesday.

Now, some personal background – I’m pretty sure my mother read The Far Pavilions when it came out in Italian in 1980. My aunt lent my mom her copy – I have this faint memory of the two of them talking about it. And both my mom and my aunt were into it because of the romantic element – about which, more later.

So, what’s the deal with The Far Pavilions? Continue reading

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Shameless adventures

adventure_19350815Do you mind if I rant?
You see, I don’t always call other people cretins, but when I do, it is usually because they pretend to know what they are talking about when they in fact they do not know.

Yesterday I was told that adventure stories – and genre fiction in general – is a second-rate form of cheap entertainment, aimed at housewives and blue-collar working-class brutes that can’t appreciate a good, solid, proper “real novel”.
And the word cretin erupted through my lips before I could think about something more scathing and cruel.

Then I launched in a long-winded rant the gist of which I will now inflict on Karavansara readers.
Because like a guy once said, I suffered for my art, now it’s your turn. Continue reading