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After-dinner in the Crypt of Tears


Sometimes it’s good to have friends in Australia – here I am, sitting in the middle of nowhere while my country and much of the rest of the world is in lockdown, and yet I was able to pass an evening with the always delectable Hon. Phryne Fisher. And it was – interesting.For the uninitiated, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears is the first feature film based on the mystery novels by Kerry Underwood and the TV series that was made based on Underwood characters.The general premise: the last survivor of an aristocratic British family mostly killed off in the Great War, Australia-born adventuress Phryne Fisher becomes extravagantly wealthy and decides to set up a detective agency in Melbourne. Wh...
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Dusting off my French with Arsène Lupin


I have talked in the past about how, to Italian kids of my generation, Arsène Lupin, the character created at the turn of the last century by Maurice Leblanc, was a timely and much welcome introduction to tongue-in-cheek adventure and good-natured rule-breaking, jazz, sophistication and beautiful women, thanks to a wonderful TV series featuring the excellent Georges Descrières in the role of the gentleman thief.Indeed, Descrières as Lupin and Patrick Macnee as John Steed have a lot to answer about how I turned out as a person.Later came the Lupin books, often in strange translations and abridged editions to make them suitable for young readers, and later still the movies, but everything star...
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And so, tonight we fly


June 1935.While the second unit for Panthaira, Queen of the Amazons (Amalgamated Productions*) completes the filming of a bit of local color in Lima, Peru, the film director, the producer and the female lead, together with some members of the technical cast, will fly to Manaus, Brazil, for a publicity shot and a bit of location scouting along the Rio Negro.But things will take an unexpected turn, in The Treasure of Aguirre – episode 1: Flight of the Tin Goose.(*with a nod and a wink to my friend Andrea Sfiligoi)Original link
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The Friends of Mr Cairo


Joel Cairo is a character in Dash Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, and was portrayed by Peter Lorre in the 1941 movie, John Huston’s debut as a director, featuring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. The movie is, of course, an absolute classic, and a seminal proto-noir, and I’ve watched it a dozen times.The friends of Mr Cairo in the movie are the unsavoury, obsessed people that hunt for the Falcon, and have no compunction when it comes to killing. On a completely different note, The Friends of Mr Cairo is the title of an album from 1981, the second collaboration between Jon Anderson, better known as the voice of Yes, and producer and composer Vangelis of Chariots of Fire fame. The album features a ...
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Two nights in Arkham


Lovecraft purists often frown at Lovecraft-inspired fiction. The main charge raised by these people is, other writers are either too much like Lovecraft or not at all like him, often at the same time. The second most common accusation is that certain stories are too action-centered and adventure-oriented, filled with guns blazing and chanting cultists. They usually blame Lovecraft’s popularity with the gaming crowd as the main reason for these degenerate pastiches, in which Indiana Jones or Doc Savage seem to exert an influence stronger than Nyarlathotep’s.But I do like a bit of Lovecraft-flavored pulp adventure – and I do not mind action, gun-play and tongue-in-cheek name dropping.I guess I...
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Where the streets have no name


As I mentioned a few days back, I am working on my (first?) story for the Pro Se Productions “St Germain Project”, in which I will have to give new life to a character that was first and last published in 1938 – if she was actually published at all, because as it was explained to me, the publisher practically died as the first issues of its various magazines were en-route between the printing presses and the newsstands.So I am working on notes based on what we know, and as it usually happens in these cases, there are a few things we know in high detail, and quite a lot that are necessarily vague.And some were kept vague by choice – such as, the city in which the action takes place.If you thi...
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India & California

A little music today.It’s Sunday, after all.Let’s relax and enjoy…(this one goes well with Hope & Glory, my Indian steampunk roleplaying game)Original link
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Enough of this


When this whole quarantine/lockdown started, I set out to write a mini-series of short stories, 4 stories in 8 days. It was fun, sort of a show of strength. I wrote and published the first three in less than a week, and then all of a sudden the body count started rising, and we were all locked up at home, and I decided the last of the series could wait.Meanwhile, over my social networks, everybody tarted publishing post-apocalyptic stories about viruses, pandemics and assorted infections. And I sort of got tired of the game.It’s a method to exorcise the fear and the anxiety, sure – but as people keep dying and jobs vanish leaving people with bills and mortgages to pay, anxiety and fear can o...
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Murder in the countryside


It all started with a nice article on CrimeReads, about British cozy mystery TV series we could binge-watch during the lockdown. Because, really, what’s better than having a cup of tea and two biscuits, and watch some gruesome murder being investigated in Britain’s green and pleasant land. Now I like mysteries and I like cozy mysteries when they don’t get too silly or saccharine – and I have tried, once or twice, to write one, but find the genre very hard to pull in a convincing manner. A pity, because from the look of the Amazon lists, cozy mystery is one of those genres that never get old, and always find readers. Currently they seem to be filled with witches and cats playing detective, bu...
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My new project – back from the dead after 82 years


I have just mailed a signed contract and then I’ll start working seriously on the outline of a 10.000-words story that promises to be fun to write, challenging, and might be the start of a series. Which is a nice way to try and dispel the lethargy this lockdown brought about. What happened was this: Pro Se Productions, a publisher so reckless they even publish my stories (I mentioned Explorer Pulp a few days back, but there’s more), apparently went and licensed forty-two characters thatwere intended to form the stable of a little-known pulp magazine publisher based in St Louis, Missouri, a fly-by-night publishing company that was born and fizzed out in a matter of a few months, back in ’38. ...
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Wartime wisdom

Because I follow the best vloggers out there…Original link
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The first 25.000


Today I delivered the first half of a book I was supposed to have finished and published in time for the Turin Book Fair in May. Niche-but-intriguing historical essay by an up-and-coming publisher, with my name smack on the cover, possibly with a live presentation, Q&A, signing session, the works.But the Fair was cancelled – or postponed to a date yet to be established, and today I delivered the first 25.000 words.I was supposed to deliver the whole shebang, but I decided to take the weekend off to try and recharge my batteries.Because here’s the fun thing – if you are the sort that finds such stuff funny: while the world is grinding to a halt because of the pandemic, my life has not changed...
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Along the Silk Road on a Rolls-Royce


There’s a story of mine, called Queen of the Dead Lizards (you can find it in Pro Se Press’ Explorer Pulp, together with three other fine stories by three excellent authors). I will not spoil the story for those of you who might like to check it out, but let’s say that part of the action in Queen of the Dead Lizards hinges on a trip along the Silk Road on a Rolls-Royce … an accident in the real life of the last Khan of Bukhara.And what can I say – it felt like a good idea at the time.But through one of those curious series of connections that come up during rambling conversations, I just stumbled on another Rolls Royce ride across the steppes of Central Asia, in a book by an author that’s no...
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Quarantine reads: Cherryh and Hodgell, and Block


I decided I will devote some time in this quarantine period to read three series that have been on my radar for ages, now, and I have always kept for later – one of them, indeed, comes from one of my emergency boxes, the stashes of paperbacks I sometimes buy (especially when I find a good special offer) and save for the hard times.Well, the hard times are here, so here we go. I normally don’t like series anymore – as I grow old, I found out I prefer standalone novels, novellas, or series of short stories. But these cases are different. These are three series of which I have already read the first volume, and they are the work of three authors I greatly admire – so, no risk there, right?Scien...
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A Gentle Philosophy


A Gentle Philosophy (or A Kind Philosophy, or A Soft Philosophy, depending on the translation) is the title of a song I like a lot (maybe I’ll put the video below), and is something I thought about after my last post in which I mentioned the philosopher talking of “an alleged emergency” and basically treating the current state of affairs of our species as just another thought experiment.Through a series of different connections, thinking about philosophy, I came to the usual – my own philosophical gurus, and their teachings. Because we are creatures of science and philosophy, and there’s always something to learn from the classics.“Disease is an impediment to the body, but not to the will, u...
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Rationing


The news is that various areas in Italy are reaching the peak diffusion of the virus, and therefore the lockdown will be further restricted. Yesterday a wild story was circulated about army checkpoints and anti-contamination kits being distributed, one per family, and a lot of other rubbish. Easy to debunk, but a lot easier to spread, given the current psychological state of the citizens.People fabricating such stories should be sent to clean the bedpans of the sick in the hospitals.And incidentally, saying things like the last line I wrote is being denounced as a clear sign we are all turning into fascists: we should not invoke the punishment of those that in the end are just exercising the...
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Fantasy AGE for free


I mentioned Chris Pramas’ Fantasy AGE roleplaying game in a post a few days back – and now you can get a copy of the Basic Rulebook in PDF for free from the Green Ronin website, as a special offer in these days of quarantine.The Basic Rulebook is all you need to play one of the best fantasy roleplaying systems I’ve seen in recent times.Check it out.Original link
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A tiny snippet of my WIP

That goes to show that I always write about the same things, in the end…After crossing the Kin Tang bridge, and going east, the Chintang Strasse becomes Corso Vittorio Emanuele, and then turns into Petrograd Prospekt once you have passed Corso Trento. In less than two kilometers, a person who walks along this route will be subject to four different legal systems – Chinese, Austro-Hungarian, Italian and Russian, each administered by its own court. And yet, thanks to extraterritoriality, a citizen of one of the Eight Nations who breaks the law, anywhere in the Tianjin area, will be extradited to his sector. In a surreal variant of the classic joke, if there are an Italian, an Englishman and a ...
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Dreams


No, not the Fleetwood Mac song.Ever since I was a kid, during highly stressful times I either get insomnia, or I have the strangest, most distracting dreams. As I think I have mentioned in the past, a lot of these dreams take place in the same locale, a white city that is sometimes completely deserted.Two nights ago it was not.And yes, I also hate those people that go and tell you about their dreams, so I think it OK should you decide to stop reading here.Two nights ago I dreamed I was in a very crowded palace in the White City. There was some kind of literary event going on. I guess this is connected to the fact that I am working on a book that was supposed to be presented at the Turin Book...
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All I needed to know I learned… somewhere


There’s a lot of articles being posted on blogs and things about how to work from home. In Italy, a country that was criminally behind in terms of telecommuting jobs, the possibility of working via the net is causing a small quake, but it looks like all over the world we are seeing a sudden “discovery” of remote working.Another very popular topic on blogs and socials is what to read/watch/do while the country is in lockdown – huge to-read lists, playlists and what else. A lot of publishers and authors are giving away some of their books – I am doing it myself, because it’s nice to try and show some solidarity and manage to pass for human. And then there’s the vast population of nerds and gee...
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