East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Leave a comment

Hope & Glory – Sandokan was here

It’s about time we talked about Sandokan.
Sandokan is a pirate, created by the fevered mind of Italian swashbuckler/adventure writer Emilio Salgari.
Salgari was born in Verona in 1862, the year after the unification of Italy, and died committing seppuku in 1911.
With over 200 books in his catalog, he was a poor man, and he blamed his publishers for his poverty – he probably had his reasons: not only he was a certified best-seller, but he is still one of the 40 most translated authors right now, 107 years after his death.

Emilio_Salgari_ritrattoSalgari was a strange man, that lived most of his life in Turin – where I was born – and the farther East he ever went was the local library. But he was animated by a colossal imagination, that fuelled his stories and hooked thousands of readers. He wrote pirate stories and swashbucklers, westerns, exotic adventure and the occasional Verne-esque science fiction.
Weirdly enough, while Italy was gearing up for its ill-fated and belated Imperial Adventure, Salgari was an anti-imperialist, and a champion of the underdog. His heroes are normally outsiders, outcasts and people that’s been robbed, cheated and betrayed and is coming back for revenge. Pirates, adventurers, swashbucklers all.

I know a few Salgari enthusiast in the English-speaking world, but he’s a big deal in the Latin countries – in Italy, in Spain, in South America.
Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez were fanboys.
Umberto Eco too. Continue reading


Other People’s Pulps: A hero worth resurrecting

The newcomer was a man of thirty-three, maybe thirty-four, and therefore a little older than his companion. He was of average height, very fit, his skin incredibly white, his features regular, his eyes gray and cunning, his lips mocking, and thin, a sign of an iron will. On first sight it was clear he was European, not only, but he belonged to some southern race.

Who is this mysterious stranger?
Now, let me take a circuitous way.

fd5429b1a5adc48216a9f254fd2e3c27Two nights ago I pitched a story for a forthcoming anthology by ProSe Press. The book will be called The Further Adventures of Ned Land, and it will feature… well, the further adventures of the harpoon-man from Jules Verne’s 20.000 Leagues under the Sea. The same character that in the 1954 Disney movie was portrayed by Kirk Douglas.
Now, I’m a big fan of both Disney’s film and of Douglas’ character – so as soon as I saw an opening, I threw myself in.
Will my pitch persuade the editors? We’ll see.

But after emailing my pitch, as I was having a glass of ice-cold Moroccan spearmint tea to toast a work well done, I started thinking about other out-of-copyright characters that it would be worth resurrecting for a series of all-new adventures.
And granted, there’s an awful lot of pulp characters out there that have fallen into the public domain, and would really deserve a comeback, but, what about Yanez de Gomera? Continue reading


Other People’s Pulps – Emilio Salgari

Emilio Salgari, the famous Italian writer of &...

Emilio Salgari, the famous Italian writer of “Sandokan”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I thought about Emilio Salgari.
For my generation – and for three generations before mine – Salgari was the name of adventure well before Indiana Jones started plying his trade.

At the turn of the last century, Salgari was stranded in Turin, former capital of Italy but hardly the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Trapped in a rather anonymous office job as a clerk, Salgari dreamed up exotic adventures and put them to paper.

Back when I was a kid I did not like Salgari very much – his were the sort of books that old aunts with fake smiles pushed on you saying “You will absolutely love this story!”, and making it clear that anything less than absolute love for Sandokan, or Jolanda, would cause no end of grief in the family.
So sue me, I did not love him that much – and yet no one was any worse for it. Continue reading