East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Character Profile – Old Master Wei

So – we’ve met the leading lady and my favorite bad guy from The Ministry of Thunder.
Let’s meet another member of “Team Sabatini”.

bb11bfb723a231ace354dfc95409846cOld Wei has the dubious honor of appearing on stage even before the main character is introduced, and he slips in and out of the novel, suggesting herbal infusions and being terribly mysterious.

What’s the deal with the old man? Continue reading

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Peter Fleming

“São Paulo is like Reading, only much farther away.”

imageI admit a long-standing fascination for espionage at its most basic – not james Bond ultratech but Deighton spycraft, in other words.
Espionage as people, not gadgets.
From the Elizabethan Secrert Service to the black ops of recent years, I’ve collected books, handbooks, stuff.

And in terms of espionage, one has to wonder at the personnel of the WW2 British secret outfits.
David Niven and Christopher Lee working with commandos and Information Services…
Occult bestseller author Dennis Wheatley churning out plans and fake papers to be leaked to the Germans (including a complete plan for the invasion of Europe, written on a single weekend, fueled only by champagne and turkish cigarettes)…
Rosita Forbes travelling the world and taking notes, Elizabeth David (the food writer) wandering through the Mediterranean and Southern France…
John Blofeld, sure, and of course the Fleming Brothers, Ian and Peter.

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John Blofeld

His father was the inspiration for the James Bond villain.

6273610-MI discovered John Blofeld‘s The Secret and the Sublime when I was sixteen.
The book, in its gaudy, cheap Italian paperback edition, was interesting for two reasons.
First, because it connected with my growing interest for zen and taoism.
Second, because it promised to reveal Taoist Mysteries and Magic – which was extremely good, because I was tired of the standard, psaeudo-celtic, or D&D-derived magic in fantasy stories, and was looking for some off-beat inspiration*.

In the end, the book was useless in developing my own magic system – but in retrospect, it was probably instrumental in convincing me that “magic system” is the wrong idea when writing fantasy.
Magic should be magic – and sure as hell it feels that way in Blofeld’s book.
On the other hand, Blofeld’s book fueled my interest in the East, which is one of the reasons I’m writing this blog, and I still feel a strong affection for this small book. Continue reading