Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Another idea

People that do not write have a hard time understanding that ideas are everywhere. They’ll come to you and say “I’ve got this great idea for a novel, I’ll tell you so you’ll write it and we can share the money.”
They get it wrong on three counts – first, because they think there really is any serious money in writing (ah!), and second, they believe their idea is unique (it’s not).
Third, and final, you can’t write a book based on a single idea. You need at least two good ideas to rub together for a long work to have a hope in hell.

Ideas are everywhere, and a good writer – well, a decent writer… let’s say a serviceable hack – is the one that can recognize them as they pour around him.
A general rule of thumb is, when you are overworked, stretched thin and at the lowest point of a low period, you’ll start getting all these brilliant ideas.
It’s like an Egyptian curse.

Let me give you an example.

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Turntable: In Phil Marlowe’s Shoes

The first post in the Turntable series was so consistently ignored, one would be tempted to just close the lid of the record player and forget about the whole thing, but I actually like the idea of talking, here on my blog, of a different form of storytelling… and then I prepared a banner for the series!
I can’t use the banner just once, right?
I might as well do another post and see if something changes…

The old Ricordi music store in Via Roma/Piazza CLN, Turin, was on three floors – at ground floor they had pop and rock records, downstairs in the basement they had classic and opera, and upstairs they kept jazz and blues. If you happened to visit the store on a Saturday afternoon, you’d get crowded in the pop and rock section, but in the classic and jazz departments there would be precious little people, and air conditioning.

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Historical smoking and other unhealthy writing sins

I don’t smoke. I never did.
I consider it a foul habit and a waste of money. My parents did not smoke neither, my grandfathers both did (and it shortened their lives). As a kid, just walking by someone smoking usually caused me to break into a fit of cough. This was somewhat awkward during my teens and twenties, because it looked like everybody smoked then.
My girlfriend in high school smoked. Marlboros. Talk about awkward: it’s hard to be in love with someone and you start coughing like you’re about to spit a lung every time you get close to her.
But anyway…

I watched a lot of old movies, as I grew up.
I liked – and I still like today – old noirs.
Humphrey Bogart. High Sierra is one of my all-time favorites ever. The Big Sleep, too. But everything he did, really. He was a sort of role model, because like that guy said “We’re all Bogart at least once in our lives”. And Bogey always had his cigarette. The nails in my coffin, he called them.
And what about Robert Mitchum? What about all the other Marlowes of TV and Cinema?
Then there was Mike Hammer. Damn, the guy got routinely punched, stabbed and shot at, then he got home, took a shower, drank a shot of whiskey, lit a cigarette, and he was as fresh as a rose.
And don’t even get me started on James Bond.

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Going Noir in Faeryland

42989848_10215692319757653_2014258310848446464_nLess than 12 hours after the paintings by Astor Alexander started making the rounds, a call hit the usual suspects, for an anthology of pulp retellings of faery tales.
The only rule: not the ninbe princesses portrayed in the original paintings.
Which is a pity, because I love Pocahontas – Private Eye.
Anyway, that’s what writing to a call means – you go with the publisher’s requests.
And so I did some research, dug out Giambattista Basile, and sent a pitch straight away (and this makes three submissions to three different publishers this week). Continue reading


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The Mask of Dimitrios

I was rather surprised, a few hours ago, finding out that Eric Ambler is almost forgotten in my country.
What a strange fate for one of the fathers of espionage fiction, author of novels from which popular movies were made, and he himself an Academy-nominated screenwriter.

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Finding out about this strange state of affairs made me go back to the The Mask of Dimitrios, a novel I read in my first year in university, in a well-thumbed used copy I bought somewhere.
I was familiar with the 1944 movie adaptation featuring Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet, but the novel was quite a discovery. Continue reading