East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Macbeth as a mystery novel

“It was a stupid mistake to make,” said the American woman I had met at my hotel in the English lake country, “but it was on the counter with the other Penguin books – the little sixpenny ones, you know; with the paper covers – and I supposed of course it was a detective story All the others were detective stories.”

truancy2Believe it or not, but the lines above have been haunting me for something like 35 years.

I read them – and the story they belong to – when I was around 12, as I browsed my school anthology trying to keep boredom at bay… why?
I can’t remember.

I just remember I was bored out of my mind, I reading in class, and I chanced upon a story in my reading anthology, and I read it. Continue reading

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All the right rules

support-authorDo you guys read reviews on Amazon, or Goodreads?
I do – not only those for my books, but also those for other people’s books.
I try and write a few reviews, too – feedback is important, and it’s good to try and help spread the word about good books.

So, yesterday, I was waiting for dinner time browsing a few amazon reviews, and I chanced upon a thing that sort of scared me.

No, really, I was scared.

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Brushing up my Egyptian Magic

Cover of "Egyptian Magic"

Cover of Egyptian Magic

The question might be phrased like this – do I read for fun anymore?
Some days it seems I do not any longer.

Back when I was a student – a BSc student, then a PhD student – I found myself reading an awful lot of geology-related books… not just for study, but for the fun of it.
Indeed, some of my teachers observed I was reading too much geology, and getting strange ideas, like this was the ’80s or the ’90s and not, as they seemed to believe, 1958.

And ever since I started working seriously on my writing, I also started reading a lot of stuff which is great fun indeed, but can still be filed under “research”.

Case in point – I’m reading Egyptian Magic, by the venerable E.A. Wallis-Budge.
Wallis-Budge was for a long time the leading authority on Egyptian magic and religion, and I’ve got a few books of his – including a wonderful thing that’s called The Mummy: A Handbook of Egyptian Funerary Archaeology.
As I said, this is actually fun reading… no, really!

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A Silk Road novel

2479945I took the Sunday off, and decided to relax with a good book.
Silk Road is a very fine historical fantasy by Jeanne Larsen.
It was published in 1989 – my copy is a Henry Holt hardback I bought second hand about two or three years back, and then decided to save it for a good time.

From what I can see, the novel was not marketed as fantasy – the tag line reads “a novel of eight-century China”, and I guess this was sold as straight historical fiction.

And yet, there’s a lot of imaginative stuff, between these covers – gods and goddesses, ghosts, dragons.
There’s a nice dollop of Taoist magic, and a lot of Chinese mythology. Continue reading


Templars – a quick fix

PrintAs I think I mentioned elsewhere, part of the fun of writing historical and psaeudo-historical fiction is, you get to read a lot of great books and file the experience under “research“.

And indeed, I’ve collected a huge library of books through the years, because of research.
Visitors to my house normally get the “I can’t see what this book may have to do with your work!” vibe quite fast.

Currently I’m trying to get some background and texture for a new project, and this means I can fully enjoy Graeme Davis‘ excellent Knights Templar, A Secret History, and pretend it’s hard work and not just great fun.
Because it is. Continue reading

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cover39953-mediumI’ve just had the opportunity of browsing a copy of Philip Parker’s Himalaya, and I’m absolutely impressed.
The subtitle – The Exploration & Conquest of the Greatest Mountains on Earth – gives a good idea of what’s to be expected.
But the quality of the volume is surprising.

The book, published by Conway, is an absolutely gorgeous, one-stop reference on the geography and history of the Himalayan chain, featuring concise but nicely varied chapters on the major topics and a selection of great images.

Mountain climbers provide extra contents by remiscing on their experiences, while specialist authors cover geology, geography, politics and related topics.
The foreword is by Peter Hilary.

Himalaya is available both in hard-copy and in digital format – but I guess a color-able ereader or a tablet are indispensable to appreciate the graphic contents of this book.