Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Unleash the Little Ghost! – The Seventh Curse (1986)

There was a time, in the 1990s, when I watched an awful lot of Hong Kong movies. With the Hong Kong Handover drawing closer and serious critics suddenly discovering John Woo and Tsui Hark, it was quite easy to get a lot of 1980s Golden Harvest and Shaw Brothers flicks. And I really liked some of them, and happily forgot about a lot of others, like, right after the end titles stopped rolling.

One of such forgotten movies came up two days ago in a chat with some friends – having just been reviewed by a popular vlogger – and I said to myself, hey, I saw this one, but I actually can’t remember how it was—let’s see it again!

So, here’s a quick review of that weirdest of things, The Seventh Curse.

Continue reading


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Karavansara Free Library: Arnold Wright (and Hope & Glory)

The Internet Archive is a treasure trove. Right now my browser informs me it is undergoing maintenance, but when it’s up (it should be up briefly), you can listen to Old Radio shows, you can peruse pulp magazines, and you can find a number of excellent resources for your writing and your games.

For instance, let’s consider the catalog of books by Arnold Wright, former journalist of the Times of India and then London editor of the Yorkshire post, who made a nice career for himself as an author of reference books about the East. Continue reading


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Yellowthread Street, the series (1990)

And so I went and started watching Yellowthread Street, the ITV-produced TV series from 1990 based on the wonderful – and highly recommended – novels by William Leonard Marshall.
So far I had only seen the title sequence… admittedly not much to express an informed opinion.

But Emma, in the comments, pointed me towards a handful of episodes available on YouTube. Only one season was produced, and there’s only six episodes available at the time of writing, but six is better than nothing.

Now, based on the general wisdom, I was led to believe that the series sucked. And it was easy to believe the general wisdom, because it is difficult to imagine someone being able to translate on the screen the mayhem and the intricacies of Marshall’s novels.
But talk is cheap.
What do the episodes really look like? Continue reading


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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


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A hard trick to pull – Yellowthread Street

Marshall-YSYesterday’s writing prompt reminded me of Yellowthread Street – a series of crime novels by Australian author William Leonard Marshall.

And I don’t know if Marshall being an Australian this qualifies as Other People’s Pulp, but I thought I’d do a post on the subject just in case.
After all, the theme of the novels fits the theme of this blog, so… Continue reading


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Writing Prompt – Neo-Noir

As the sun goes down over Hong Kong

rain11

Now this would be an excellent opening shot for a hard-boiled story…
(the image is credited to Christophe Jacrot)


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How I revealed the Secrets of the Triads

triadi cover master titoloSounds pulpy, right?
The title, I mean?

Well, it went like this – in 2009 I was asked to submit a learned article about the statistics of organized crime in Hong Kong.
As a paleontologist, I am quite proficient – or so they say – in statistical analysis of ecological data.
The idea was – can we look at crime from an ecological point of view, and define statistically behavioural patterns and rituals in gangland violence?
And should patterns emerge, do they conform to the known rituals of the criminal organization?
Is there a map in the numbers? Continue reading