Not Quite a Ghost Story


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Sir ThomasOnce upon a time, I received a strange call from a lady with a German accent, who desired to know if she could speak with the author of Lo Specchio Convesso – that is to say, The Convex Mirror, my first published novel. On being told that not only she could, but she was doing it already – the lady introduced herself as a researcher for the Clan Urquhart.

“The descendants of Sir Thomas?” asked I, entirely astounded. Because, you see, Sir Thomas was an adventurer and scholar in Seventeenth Century Scotland and, incidentally, a character in my novel… Continue reading

Second Language


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LanguageThis one I’m pilfering straight from Karavansara – where my friend Dave posted a link to Sasha A. Palmer’s article about Five benefits of writing in your second language.

Well, I write in my second language and Joseph Conrad is one of my literary heroes, and whenever I approach a new language, I can’t wait to play games with it, to use it, to tell stories: the article just beckoned – and thank you, D.

Did I find it interesting? Very. Do I agree with Palmer’s view of the matter? Not entirely. Or perhaps, not that much, considering that I can subscribe to two and a half out of her five points… Continue reading



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BillyOne thing of the English world that I wholeheartedly admire is the ability and will to keep the classics alive. In Italy we have this disastrous tendency to keep our Authors under glass, to be uncritically admired or nothing else…

Hardly a way to promote independent thinking or an active love of literature, alas – and, as a result, Dante, Manzoni and the others languish under thick layers of dust and the unconfessed boredom of schoolchildren, while Shakespeare is very much alive. Continue reading

On Entering Books (or Hesitating on the Threshold)


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Enteringbooks“Imagine you can spend a day inside a book,” was the prompt – one of those things going around on Facebook, you know, that a friend passed on to me. “What would you choose?”

My first reaction was one of eager glee – entering books having always been one of my fondest imaginings, together with, or even a little ahead of, time-travel. So this was a game I was most happy to play… or so I thought, until it came to really choosing. Continue reading

How I Met Alan Breck


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AlanBookOne day many years ago, in Edinburgh,  I took shelter from yet another icy downpour in a little bookshop – and what could I do, but browse the shelves? For some reason, a small blue book caught my attention: Kidnapped, by R.L. Stevenson. I’d read Treasure Island, of course, and Jekill&Hyde – who doesn’t? – and The Black Arrow had been a childhood favourite. Now another historical novel from the same author, and with a Scottish setting to boot, seemed like a good idea, even though it was printed on flimsy grey paper, in a font so small to imperil one’s eyesight… Still, buy it I did, and after the bookshop, ensconced myself in a nearby tea room, ordered tea and scones, and began to read. Continue reading

A History of Historical Films


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Can you read French? If not, you may want to rely on some online translator, just this once, because Hervé Dumont’s Encyclopédie du film historique – that is, the encyclopedia of historical films, is a real treasure trove.

DumontRight now, I think that all you can find in English is the Author’s Note, explaining what and why. Amongst other things, you’ll find that Swiss film historian Dumont quotes Stanley Kubrick’s notion that “one of the things the cinema knows how to do better than any of the other arts, is to bring to the screen historical subjects.” Continue reading

War of the Muses: Melpomene and the Uncompromising Violin


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motivo_musica_y_patrimonioOnce upon a time, we had two musicians – a cello and a violin – to provide incidental music from a play.

They were both young and quite good, and while called in rather at the last minute, they brought a couple of longer pieces for the beginning and end, and a handful of “musical accents” for the key moments of the play.

And I say “play”, but in truth it was to be a one-off kind of glorified staged reading, with a tight deadline and an alarmingly short time to rehearse – so the musicians arrived right in the middle of chaos. Still, we somehow managed something like a coherent rehearsal for them, to see how the music worked… Continue reading

Backstage Blogathon: John Ford’s Upstream


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backstage-blogathon-show-peopleSo, this is my contribution to the Backstage Blogathon, an exploration of how the movies used to portray themselves and the other performing arts – co-hosted by Movies Silently and Sister Celluloid.

I’m sure you won’t be shocked to find out I chose a movie about… theatre folks – and the movie is John Ford‘s once lost silent “Upstream.”

Shall we?

Upstream had been on my Treasure Hunt List for some time – actually, since I heard about its European début at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto di Pordenone, back in 2010. I must say I’m not a Ford fan, but I find it hard to resist the appeal of things lost and found – and, more significantly, this was a tale about theatre…  Continue reading


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