East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Birthday book haul, a preview: going Baroque

At the end of May I am in the habit of celebrating my birthday – because life cycles, growing older and wiser, that sort of stuff.
I usually celebrate with a fine dinner (details as soon as we’ve settled for a menu), and by spending an inordinate amount of money in books and ebooks.
This year I started early, because special offers and massive discounts don’t wait for the aforementioned cycles.
So yes, it’s still two weeks away, but I went and bought a few ebooks “for my birthday”.

And right now I’ve just finished cleaning up and setting straight my old Kindle reader, because one of the birthday books is the complete Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson.
All the 3500 pages of it.

Neal Stephenson and Peter F. Hamilton are, to me, the best reason to invest in an e-reader: the guys write great books, but also, alas, BIG books. They don’t seem to be able to keep it under 1000 pages.
This means their books, while being a lot of fun, are also heavy, expensive, and require a lot of shelf space.
And believe me, I’ve fallen asleep while reading Hamilton’s Great North Road, and it hurt.

So, I spent an hour looking for online how-tos and stuff, and breathed new life in my old Kindle, and then loaded the 4 mega file of the Baroque books.
It will be a pleasant summer night read.

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The 2018 Christmas Book Haul, a gallery

Is there anything better than receiving a few Amazon Gift Credits for Christmas? Well, yes, there’s the fact that a few publishers are doing a massive holiday sale on their ebooks. And so one can indulge in that most decadent of pleasures–browse the Amazon shelves and just throw stuff in the shopping basket, without a care in the world.
Add the books that friends and family give you for Christmas, and you end up with a HUGE book haul.

So, why not put up a gallery?

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Working on the Whale

I have just posted a new story on Amazon KDP, and right now the oompa-loompas in the service of Jeff Bezos are busy working on a conversion of the text.


The story is a Lovecraftian pastiche called The Miskatonic Whale Run, a short piece written under the nefarious influence of one-too-many viewings of John Landis’ Animal House.
Watch this space – I’ll let you know when the ebook’s available.


Karavansara Free Library: 5 by Sir Aurel Stein

Aurel Stein was a man who obsessed about Alexander’s expedition in India, and as a consequence became the trailblazer in the rediscovery of the Silk Road at the turn of the 19th and 20th century.
Explorer, archaeologist, ethnographer, geographer, linguist, map-maker, Stein was born in Budapest in 1862 but later moved to England and became a citizen in 1904.
He was Sven Hedin‘s major competitor in the exploration of Central Asia and the Silk Route, and was probably also a spy in those areas in which British and Russians played the Great Game.
He discovered an unprecedented wealth of documents in Dunhuang (including the world’s oldest printed text), and also the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas.
He died in 1942, at the age of 80, and is buried in Kabul, Afghanistan.

His production of works was enormous – maps, photos, articles and books, the latter often aimed at the general public.

What follows is a very small selection found in the Internet Archive.

1904 – Sand-buried Ruins of Khotan

1912 – Ruins Of Desert Cathay

1929 – On Alexander Track To The Indus

1933 On Ancient Central Asian Tracks

1949 – Old Routes Of Western Iran

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The Abode of Snow

What’s Christmas without snow?
Should snow be scarce – just as it is where I am sitting right now – we can always find it in a good book.

Scotsman Andrew Wilson was a Journalist for the Bombay Times and later with the China Mail, in the second half of the 19th century.
Later still he became editor for the Times of India and the Bombay Gazette.
He chronicled the campaigns of Colonel Gordon in China, but his literary fame rests on a collection of travel writings that goes under the title of The Abode of Snow: Observations on a Journey from Chinese Tibet to the Indian Caucasus through the Upper Valleys of the Himalaya.


You can find it, in a number of handy electronic formats, in the Internet Archive.
It’s quite an interesting read in these long winter nights.

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Achmed Abdullah

PHOTOSPIN TRAVEL OBJECT AND BACKGROUNDS © 1997 PHOTOSPIN www.photospin.comFemale fans of Tom Jones used to throw their hotel room keys (and sometimes their bras) at him, during concerts.

My fans sometimes throw books at me – and thank goodness for ebooks, because some of the things they throw at me – often selected from my Amazon wish list – would be hefty, and potentially dangerous, paper volumes.

The Achmed Abdullah Megapack, for instance, which landed on my Kindle last night, courtesy of a kind reader of mine (thanks!!), is a 20-stories collection of vintage pulp goodness that would run to 420 pages in the material world.
Enough to knock me senseless.

23863284217880916Achmed Abdullah was not his real name – his name was Alexander Nicholayevitch Romanoff, and was connected bybirth with the Czar of Russia.
After his mother – an Afghan princess – tried to poison his father – a Russian, cousin to the Czar, and with a penchant for adultery – the resulting divorce caused Alex to move to England.

He studied in Eton and Oxford, joined the army and served for seventeen years in Asia and Africa.
Captured and interned as spy by the Germans during the Great War, he then moved to the US of A, where he started a carreer as a pulp writer and movie scriptwriter.
{9056AABD-BE75-4C50-B352-3F45B20465FB}Img400He wrote the script for Douglas Fairbanks Jr‘s 1924 The Thief of Baghdad.
And he wrote a lot for the pulps – fantasy, horror, adventure, mysteries – mostly with Oriental or African settings.
He wrote for Adventure, for Oriental Stories, for Weird Tales.

The megapack is – like most Wildside Press Megapacks – nothing fancy: just a lot of great fiction, with a good introduction by Darrell Schweitzer.
This is the “I want as much good fiction as possible with me with the least fuss” approach, and I like it.
The stories listed cover the whole spectrum of genres and subgenres Achmed Abdullah wrote, and promise long hours of delight.

It’s not the key to some lady’s hotel room, but it’s great!
Thanks again!