East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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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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Shanghai Under Fire


The snippet above is the opening of Shanghai Under Fire: July 1937 – March 1938, a 120-pages book published by the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury that provides a day-by-day breakdown of what came to be known as The Battle of Shanghai.


You can find relatively cheap reprints on Amazon, or a digitized copy in the Internet Archive, which is the one I am using right now. Continue reading


Karavansara Free Library: Nine books by Rosita Forbes

I was putting together my latest post, the one about the reading list, and I got back to thinking about Rosita Forbes.
Old-time readers of Karavansara will remember that I did a post about Rosita Forbes in the earliest days of this blog, basically because I am in love with the lady.
To recap: independent and adventurous, Rosita married young, divorced, sold her wedding ring and left for good. She did a gig driving an ambulance during the Great War. Then she embarked in a tour of the world with a friend, gatecrashed the Paris Peace Conference, did a bit of spying for the British, and was a pioneer of documentary cinema. And found a lost city in the Sahara desert.
She met both Hitler and Mussolini, and Gandhi, and wrote about it.
And she also wrote a number of travel books and memoirs.


And these are the books we are interested in, of course, because they provide us with the opportunity of seeing the world in the first half of the 20th century through the eyes of an adventuress. And an adventuress that could write.
And even better now that (mostly) the Digital Library of India has uploaded a fat stack of Rosita Forbes books on the Internet Archive – so that you can go there and download and read them, and what’s not to love about it?


So here it is, for the love of adventure, good books and Rosita Forbes, a selection of links1.

1919 – Unconducted Wanderers

1921 – The Secret of the Sahara: Kufara

1921 – Adventure : being a gipsy–some incidents, excitements and impressions of twelve highly – seasoned years

1925 – From Red Sea To Blue Nile, Abyssinian Adventure

1927 – Forbidden Road: Kabul to Samarkand

1939 – India of the Princes

1940 – These men I knew

1944 – Gypsy in the Sun

1946 – Appointment with destiny

Not a bad selection, what?
I hope you enjoy these books – and any comment is welcome, as usual.

  1. and why not start a new series of posts, called Karavansara Free Library – legally free ebooks, a selection curated by yours truly. Might be fun, don’t you think? 

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Otto & Carl’s Excellent Adventure

I’m still collecting material about Otto Torvik and Carl Persson – that were part of the Swdish Mission in East Turkestan in the 1930s.
While I collect more stuff, anyone interested in the Swedish Mission might like to get a look at the Swedish Mission Project on the Internet Archives – which collects all of the films and audio recordings from th eexpedition, plus a link to a nice book on the subject.

An excellent resource.

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Other People’s Pulp: James De Mille’s Copper Cylinder

It occurred as far back as February 15, 1850. It happened on that day that the yacht Falcon lay becalmed upon the ocean between the Canaries and the Madeira Islands. This yacht Falcon was the property of Lord Featherstone, who, being weary of life in England, had taken a few congenial friends for a winter’s cruise in these southern latitudes. They had visited the Azores, the Canaries, and the Madeira Islands, and were now on their way to the Mediterranean.


I’ll spend the weekend reading the recent Italian translation of James De Mille‘s A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder.
An early example of lost world novel, De Mille’s book was published as a serial by Harper’s Weekly in 1888 – eight years after the author’s death – and it was greeted as a rip-off of Henry Rider Haggard‘s bestsellers.

The idea of a “tropical” volcanic island in the Antarctic was to become a standard cliché in pulp and adventure literature, but De Mille (a prolific Canadian author of popular fiction in the 19th century) is probably one of the earlier proponents of this concept in popular adventure fiction.


But maybe adventure was not what De Milel had in mind.
Copper Cylinder is often compared to the works of Verne, but its satyrical intents place it closer to the works of Albert Robida, and his Voyages très extraordinaires de Saturnin Farandoul.

English-speaking readers have the good fortune of being able to peruse De Mille’s book thanks to Project Gutenberg, while Francophone readers might like to take a look at Robida’s story in the Internet Archive.
Me, I’ll be curling up with the Italian version of the Copper Cylinder.
Project Gutenberg holds ten other novels by James De Mille, and they might be worth a look, too.
Happy reading!


Pat Novak for Hire

jack webb 4A few days back I posted a silly infographic about being in a film noir.
In the comments, Bill Ziegler suggested I check out Pat Novak for Hire, a radio show from the ’40s I knew nothing about.

I checked it out. And it’s a great show.
The stories are tight and off-beat, the tone is ironic in the way old hard boiled detectives were ironic.
Lots of great one-liners.
The stars Jack Webb in the titular role, and we all know Jack Webb from Dragnet.
Pat Novak is a man for hire, an unlicensed detective, in the same vein of Travis McGee.
The sort of character that I like very much.

So, here’s a sample.

Two separate series were done – one in ’46/’47, and a later series in ’49 (with higher production values but basically the same cast). The scripts were by Richard L. Breen, that would go on to win an Oscar as the screenwriter of 1953’s Titanic.
If you’re interested, you can legally download a fair chunk of the series through the Internet Archive.

And a big thank you to Bill, for pointing me in the direction of this great show.

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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.