East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Twenty-one years without Emily Hahn

Writer, journalist, earth scientist, world traveler, opium smoker, primates expert, the self-proclaimed “bad girl” that started her autobiography with the phrase…

Not long after my family moved from St Louis to Chicago, I ran away from home.

… died on this day in 1997.

emily hahn

One of my projects for this year (and maybe the next two) is to read every one of Emily Hahn’s 50-odd books.

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St. Valentine’s Day Self-Present

Is there anything sadder than buying ourselves presents on St. Valentine’s Day?
Probably not, but what the heck, I’m living a solitary existence in the hills of Astigianistan, I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me… might as well put down a few bucks and give myself a present.
After all, St. Valentine’s Day is the sort of celebration that can really get you depressed, with all your friends that post pictures of their significant others and offer compassionate support to you, usually with the effect of making you feel even more sad and lonely.

downloadSo I decided to throw myself a party, with chocolate and a good book – and the good book is the paperback edition of Emily Hahn’s No Hurry to Get Home, Hahn’s memoir of her adventures between Africa and China, that was published originally in 1970.
Amazon still carries the 2000 Seal Press edition – and now there’s also a new ebook version available via Open Road Media.

It’s a fitting choice, I think, for a self-Valentine: I love Emily Hahn, her style and her attitude and her adventures, and this memoir will be a fine addition to my collection.
I’ll take a day off, curl up under a blanket, eat chocolate and read about this wonderful woman.
It will be great.

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The Tiger House Party

hahnA different kind of medium, today – plain old written word, the oldest and most widespread form of information transfer.

As I am putting the finishing touches to “The Snowball Caper”, the first novelette in my new Hope & Glory series, I’ve had the sheer luck of chancing upon the delightful The Tiger House Party: the Last Days of the Maharajas, by the delectable Emily Hahn.
Once again, a demonstration that there’s nothing more entertaining than doing research. Continue reading


A bad girl, or so she said

I fall easily in love with the women of yesterday – especially those that I discover in my search for what I usually call pulp history.

220px-Emily_HahnFor instance – Shanghai, 1930s, a party in the Italian consulate, one of the guests is a beautiful woman chaperoning a gibbon wearing a diaper.
I put that in my novel, The Ministry of Thunder, and I was told I was silly.
But it’s a historical fact : the gibbon was called Mr Mills.
The beautiful lady was Emily Hahn.

Born in 1906 in St. Louis, Missouri, Emily Hahn was the first woman in America to get a degree in Mining Engineering – basically because she had been told she would never get it, and it was an unsuitable job for a woman.
And indeed it was – in the sense that she was ostracized, and had to find another way to make a living. So she started writing.

Sort of. Continue reading


The sort of women that would look at us and consider us gnats

There this meme doing the rounds – and yes, I already told you that I can’t see why they call’em memes, but anyway…

The idea is to list five (or ten, depending on what version you find) women writers that have somehow influenced you and your world-view.
And there’s a lot of people listing fiction writers – and indeed I think I will do a women fictioneers post, maybe next week.
Right now, though, I think I’ll do my own list of authors that were and are indispensable to me… and I’ll focus on nonfiction.
But I think I’ll do six – just to be my usual wayward self.
And as a bonus, I’ll also give you a book title to check out.

Here goes, in random order…

Continue reading