East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The Haunting of Pemberley House

pemberley-coversmallThere was only one man who could write a pulp homage to gothic romance, dragging in references from Jane Austen to Edgar Rice Burroughs, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Lester Dent, and beyond, while making it deliciously naughty.
And that man was, of course, the late lamented Philip José Farmer.
The Evil in Pemberley House by Farmer and Win Scott Eckert – who completed the novel based on Farmer’s outline and notes – is exactly that: a P.J. Farmer tour de force featuring subtle (and not-so-subtle) references and tongue-in-cheek plot twists, feeding both the old master and his readers’ obsession for the pulps and the icons of popular literature.

The plot in brief: Pat Wildman, daughter of world famous adventurer/crimefighter Doc Wildman, moves to England after the loss of her parents. She has inherited old Pemberley House, with its ghosts and its curses, and carries a number of unresolved issues herself.
But what is happening really in Pemberley House, and what connections have the events that Pat is witnessing with the history of her family? Continue reading


NaNoWriMo… sort of

crest_square-1902dc8c2829c4d58f4cd667a59f9259November is NaNoWriMo month, and this year I am doing my own version of NaNoWriMo – I’m writing my doctorate thesis in one month.
Less than one month, actually.

It was not planned in advance – but real world engagements (such as, paying the bills and finding paying jobs thereof), caused the actual, sit-down-and-write work to slide further and further as the deadline loomed larger.
Then, in a final twist of fate, the email confirming the deadline was misplaced and popped up on my mail client with a delay of twenty days.

I don’t think this is going to count as a NaNoWriMo exercise (my thesis is not, after all, a novel), but actually I have to get 40.000 words – with images, bibliography and a few maps, ready for the 25th at the latest – and with ready I mean printed and sent to the Urbino University offices.

As most NaNoWriMo participants, I collected my material and coordinated my ideas well before the first of November – I have tons of notes, preliminary reports, articles, the works. The story… ehm, I mean, the dissertation paper is written in my head, illustrated with cool graphics, and accompanied by a solid map.
But I have to turn that ideal work into actual words on paper.
And ironically, this is going to engage all my pulp hack skills and tricks, this will be the final challenge, the ultimate workout.
If I come out of it alive, I will feel in the same league with the greats.
Pity I can’t use the Lester Dent formula on my thesis.

Now I’m toying with the idea of putting up a word counter, and enroll in the challenge itself.
But maybe not – after all, the judging commission might not appreciate the fact that I turned the sacred duty of writing down the results of my research in a challenge set to the standards of some weird Canadian thing.

But let’s see how it works out.
Any way it goes, it will be fun.


Lazarus Gray and my weekend plans

laz3coverMy plans for the weekend (including the updating of this blog) went belly up when Pro Se Press released, early this week, the third volume in Barry Reese‘s The Adventures of Lazarus Gray series.
As soon as I was aware of the book’s availability, I grabbed myself a copy (ebooks are just great – they are cheap and there’s no waiting for the postman!) and shelved every other project for a while.
The fun bit being, after all I can file the hours spent reading this baby as “research” (but more on that later).

For the uninitiated, Lazarus Gray is the central character in Barry Reese’s series of pulp stories set in Sovereign City in the 1930s, and featuring crime-busting, evil-thwarting team, Assistance Unlimited.
An obvious, heartfelt homage to such Lester Dent classics as Doc Savage and The Avenger, Lazarus Gray is a man of mystery and action – his past gone, he swears to bring justice to the city, and assistance to anyone in need.
And so he does.

The Lazarus Gray stories feature all the classic pulp elements – the stalwart, omnicompetent hero, his varied team of quirky assistants, a choice of villains, thrilling locations, superscience, ancient mysteries, the supernatural…
In a proper new pulp twist, Mr Reese approaches his materials with a modern sensibility, sidestepping the trap of political correctedness by providing us with a fresh, modern, intelligent take on “delicate” issues such as gender, race, politics.
This is pulp like in the days of old, but without the outdated and unpleasent biases of our grandfathers.

The third book picks up where the earlier entry in the series (Die Glocke) left off, and shows us that the universe in which the characters move is still evolving – there’s big changes in the air, there’s lots of stuff happening, old enemies are back in the game, new enemies are in, too.
The author’s willingness to let his characters grow, change and mutate is another element of fun and interest in the series. There is a dynamic quality, in Sovereign City and its denizens, that keeps the reader’s attention up.

This is new pulp as it’s meant to be, and to me, the Lazarus Gray stories are an almost perfect template of how it’s done – they are complex, tightly-plotted, hard-hitting, fun.
There’s a lot to learn, here, for someone trying to crack the genre.
That’s why I file ’em not as entertainment, but as research.

The ebook edition of the third volume in the series – which goes by the title of Eidolon, but let’s not spoil the fun by revealing more – also includes a short, gorgeous comic and a selection of black and white illustrations.
Not bad, for something like 3 euros.

There’s too little of it – the Lazarus Gray stories are a fast, fun read, and the new book’s over way too soon.

All in all, a highly entertaining, intelligent, stimulating read.
The whole series is highly recommended.