East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Pulp History: nobody does it better

Me and my big mouth!
I promise a short post in a few hours.
Yes, you genius… about what?!

About the pulps, and adventure, and exotic locales, of course – because that’s what we deal in, here on Karavansara.

And when it comes to adventure, and the pulps, to me nothing beats reality.
It’s a tough statement from someone writing books with tentacles on the cover, but it’s one of my most rock-solid certainties: no matter how good is your pulp, the real world can trump that.
In fact, to be a good writer, you have to be as outrageous, unlikely, absurd and strange as only reality can be.
It takes practice.

running_the_show5One of the best places in which to practice is history – not so much the slam-bang, big numbers history of great men and nations, but the small-scale, local, oft-forgotten, “useless” sort of history.

Consider, if you will, a book like Running the Show, by Stephanie Williams, roughly 500 pages of paperback dealing with those faceless bureaucrats that managed the affairs of the British Empire.
Boring, right?
Not so.
In this globetrotting overview of the men (and women) that ran the Empire, we find no end of adventures, madness, tragic death, slapstick, espionage, two-fisted diplomacy and the natives are restless tonight.
Not faceless paper-pushers but often young men in search of their place in the world, the heroes (and villains) of this book are a good example of the way in which history can hit you with a curved ball when it comes to plausibility.

It’s good – and thanks goodness, there’s a lot of books dealing with this shadier, pulpier side of history.
I should know – I wrote one.