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A little hype: Shanmei’s “The Waiting Game”


I just delivered the translation of my friend Shanmei’s short story The Waiting Game, and I guess the ebook will be available as soon as the cover is ready. Meanwhile, why not start with a little publicity? Here is the blurb… Peking, 1902 In the cosmopolitan China of the early 20th century, following the violence and horror of the Boxer Rebellion, lieutenant Luigi Bianchi, serving in Huang Tsun, is involved in the investigation of the death of a wealthy French merchant, poisoned while dining at the Golden Phoenix restaurant. A Chinese waiter has been arrested for the murder, but is he really the killer? And why the Japanese embassy seems to hide some details? A short colonial mystery, with a...
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The case of the stolen brainbox


And talking about using this place where I live as an inspiration for stories: two nights ago somebody stole the brain of a saint. I’m not kidding. Now, in this area there’s a lot of towns and villages called Castelnuovo – which means New Castle, and the Montferrat territory is dotted with castles and fortifications. So to tell one place from another, they add something to the name. Castelnuovo Belbo , where I live, takes its name from the Belbo river flowing by (and sometimes through) the village. Castelnuovo Don Bosco takes its name from Saint Giovanni Bosco , founder of the Salesians of Don Bosco , a Roman Catholic religious institute – back in the times of yore boys-only, now open to the...
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Clod & Dagger


One of the things I’m working on is a sword & sorcery story for a forthcoming anthology of Italian low fantasy , known as “Zappa & Spada” 1 . The idea is to do a humorous – if possible – collection of grim stories about the lower classes in a fantasy setting. My idea is moderately humorous but not overly grim 2 , and evolves around the lady of a small feudal holding that, while her husband and all the “able men” are away to fight for the emperor, has to patch together an army of peasants, poachers and women to hold back a marauding band of raiders. Not an overly original idea I will admit – George MacDonald Fraser used something similar in his The Candlemass Road , and a great little...
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Day of the Republic


Today we celebrate the Republic here in Italy, which means that we are in for a long weekend of nothingness. Today I got a haircut and then took the day off to read and clear my systems after weeks spent writing and re-writing for Hope & Glory. I’m quite enjoying Cthulhu Cymraeg that, as the title suggest, collects a series of Lovecraftian stories set in Wales . I’ll do a proper review as soon as possible. On the weekend proper, I’ll be writing, because I have two stories long overdue. Three, actually. I’ll post about those works, I think, as soon as I nail them shut. I am also making some notes and plans for my next project or two. Original link
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A book for the rest of my life


And in the end I gave myself a gift for my fiftieth birthday. I wanted a good book, one that I’ll be able to take along for the remaining years of my life. A book I’ll be able to read and re-read, and that I’ll have placed in my casket when the day comes. So, I have this mild fetishism for the Everyman Library books. They are beautiful and sturdy and come with this Victorian conceit: a library of classics in classy edition for the common readers. Now that’s something. It was conceived in 1905 by London publisher Joseph Malaby Dent , whose goal was to create a 1,000 volume library of world literature that was affordable for, and that appealed to, every kind of person, from students to the wor...
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A good day


It’s been a good day. I finalized the revised draft (90.000 words) of Hope & Glory, tha basic handbook for my roleplaying game. And I’ve sent a pitch to Abaddon Books for a novel, who knows, maybe the first in a series. Now I think I’ll take the evening off. Original link
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My birthday with Sherlock & Sexton


In case you are wondering, I spent half my birthday writing (I finally delivered the revision of the first 45.000 words of the first Hope & Glory handbook) and the other half watching old episodes of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series. I also dug out two of my three Sexton Blake anthologies. The third, which is actually the first, the 1986 Sexton Blake Wins that started my interest in the character, is buried somewhere in some crate or box. I read the Wordsworth edition of The Casebook of Sexton Blake when it came out, but for some reason the massive Sexton Blake Detective remained on my shelf waiting for better days. Which, I decided today, have come. And I instantly recalled what thos...
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And so it’s fifty years.


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Scaramouche’s cynicism


Life imitates art, or something. I was looking for some light entertainment, and so I started reading Rafael Sabatini ‘s Scaramouche . Published in 1921, Scaramouche is one of Sabatini’s most famous novels. Set during the French Revolution , it follows the adventures – and the growth – of Andre-Louis Moreau a lawyer turned adventurer and revolutionary, as he joins a company of comedians to escape his enemies, assuming the titular role of a sword-wielding buffoon. The novel combines a fine historical background with some great swashbuckling action, and it is a fun read indeed. The novel was quite popular and was turned into a number of movies, the most famous of which is probably the 1952 ver...
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Mitchell Hooks – a gallery


If the art of Robert McGinnis was one of the reasons why I decided I’d like to write pulp fiction , there was another artist, whose style was an inspiration, and whose designs were frequently imitated in Italian crime paperbacks when I was a kid. Detroit-born Mitchell Hooks was a prolific artist in the world of paperback originals , and is today recognized as a master of the art of illustrating pulp stories paperback covers. His designs are darker and “dirtier” than McGinnis’, but are equally suggestive. Here is a small cover gallery. Original link
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Other People’s Pulps: That Carruthers chap


… and then they ask you where your ideas come from. I was looking up M. Y. Halidom last night. Halidom was the alias of one Alexander Huth, that published a number of supernatural tales and novels in the late 19th and early 20th century. I learned of his existence when I found out about the three volumes of Tales of the Wonder Club, a collection of “club stories” about a bunch of individuals that meet in a pub (the quaintly-named “Ye Headless Lady”) to trade strange and chilling stories. A small clique or brotherhood, known as “The Wonder Club,” had been nightly in the habit of assembling here for years, and this served to bring grist to the mill. Some of the eminent men from the neighbourin...
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My girl’s gonna be popular soon (well, maybe)


I wonder if this will have any impact on my sales. Yes, I’m as mercenary-minded as they come, but really, bear witrh me. Here are the trailers for the forthcoming reboot of the Mummy franchise.   Now, to be completely honest, my interest in this movie is not very high – I liked the first Brendan Fraser Mummy movie, great pulp entertainment, but the rest of the series bored me somewhat. This new one does not tickle my fancy. Oh, I’ll see it, one way or another, sooner or later, because, you know, it’s in my field and all that, but I’m not overly eager to buy a ticket. But now turns out the mummy of the movie is the mummy of an evil Egyptian queen called… Amunet. And that sort of rings a bell,...
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Somewhere, I’m sure, the future is bright: big enough dreams


I stumbled on something that looks like it’s been made for me, the other day. It’s called Sapiens Plurum : Sapiens Plurum (Latin for “wisdom of many”) was named to reflect humankind’s evolving connected intelligence. Our mission is to inspire us — the first species that can intentionally impact its own evolution — to aspire beyond what was humanly possible. The rising generation, the Sapiens Plurum generation, will have the power of gods of ancient myth: to heal, to transform, to battle and to better the future of humankind, to overcome problems that have plagued civilization for millennia: thirst, hunger, disease, pollution, brutality, tyranny and environmental degradation. Now it’s easy to...
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Philip Marlowe, Private Eye


These last two nights I took some time to watch a few episodes – that you can find on Youtube – of Philip Marlowe Private Eye, a mid-80s TV series by HBO starring the late Powers Boothe in the titular role. Back when this aired in my country for the first time I watched maybe two episodes and let it go: it was late at night, it was dubbed awfully, and Boothe was nothing like Bogart or Mitchum. But later, when I caught it in original, I was much more positively impressed. Boothe’s deadpan voiceover fits nicely the Chandler style, and Boothe is a good Marlowe all things considered, nicely physical and at the same time both classy but cheap. There is a strange thing going on in the series, and ...
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Neo-mythology: Translating the peplums


The true problem, of course, is that I get mortally bored when I translate something I wrote. I think it is because I already know how the story is going, and so there’s no fun in translating it. But we’ll talk about this later. Maybe. Because you see, considering that right now about 90% of my Amazon income comes from English-language sales, I’ve been thinking about translating some of the things I published in Italian, to see how they would work on the international market. Right now I’d like to give it a try with my Asteria series of sword & sandal novelettes, but here I crash against two problems. The first, as mentioned above, is the fact that I find translating myself mindbogglingly bo...
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Sunshine Blogger Award


So I got nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award. And already I hear you say, Man, this is Karavansara, we’re all adventurers and swashbucklers here! This blog once got a Boomstick Award! What’s a Sunshine Award? Some kind of touchy-feely new-agey thingie? But Jessica Bakkers, the freelance writer that owns the eponymous blog (), did nominate me and Karavansara, and I’m quite happy with it. So here I will try to follow the rules and do my part – once again thanking Jessica for her kindness. So… What is the Sunshine Blogger Award? The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring while spreading sunshine to the blogging community. How Does It Work: Thank the...
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Other People’s Pulps: Belphègor, the Ghost of the Louvre

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OK, this is a weird post, and I’ll ramble a bit. It all started because there is a new book out called Scarred for Life, a 750 tome about entertainment in the ’70s (specifically in Britain, but we in continental Europe got most of the same, maybe with a one-year delay). The book looks like a lot of fun, as it focuses on all the scary and traumatic TV series, comics, books, toys and movies of that decade. In case you are interested, you find it on Lulu.com. As kids, my generation was exposed to pretty scary stuff, without many filters. We survived, and thrived, and I sometimes blog about those old scares we got. So I was discussing this book with some friends, and something popped up that cas...
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Lawrence Block’s lives in crime

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It has been observed—I forget where or by whom—that only kids have heroes. I’m not entirely sure that’s true, but I do think you have to stop being a fan in order to become wholly a professional. You can continue to admire and delight in the work of another writer, but if you’re slavish in your devotion, if you’re stuck in the role of full-blown fan, your own growth will be limited. I can really relate to that. It’s taken from The Crime of Our Lives, an excellent book by Lawrence Block, collecting the author’s essays, introductions and columns about his colleagues and his experiences in the field of genre fiction. It is not as one might think, an autobiography (and I realize the title of thi...
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A turning point and the Legion of Space

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OK, I already wrote about this, a few years ago, on my Italian blog, but I thought I’d do a reboot. Fact is, in a few days I’ll turn fifty, and I’m getting a bit melancholic and all that, and then a discussion popped up in which our earlier readings came up, and one thing led to the other, and here we are. Anyway… Forty years ago exactly I was about to turn ten. As I think I have mentioned frequently, I was a kid that loved adventure TV series, who soaked up documentaries about space and dinosaurs and aquanauts and what else, and I loved reading – comic books and mysteries. As my birthday was approaching, my grandmother Maria went to the bookshop two blocks from her house and asked the guy t...
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49 cents worth of Pulp

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Last night I completed a long and heavy writing job (because sometimes insomnia is good for you), and to celebrate a job well done I invested 49 eurocents in a 1200 pages ebook. Because I’m cheap. But who said that expensive ebooks are better? The book I gave myself as a good job, old man! gift is called SCIENCE-FANTASY Ultimate Collection: Time Travel Adventures, Sword & Sorcery Tales, Space Fantasies and much more. Which seems to be just the sort of stuff I like. And sure is, because the guy that wrote all that stuff was Otis Adelbert Kline – pulp writer, amateur orientalist and frequent contributor to Argosy,  Weird Tales (of which he was the editor for one issue) and Oriental Stories...
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