Friday, 2 October 2015
Hello from Morocco! As many of you know, I'm spending October in Tangier writing my next novel. It's set here, so my being here isn't just writerly indulgence. :-) Internet access will be a bit sporadic so I probably won't be blogging as regularly as usual. In fact, this post was written before I left!
This fine castle is the Kasbah Tourit, in Ouarzazate, southern Morocco. Kasbahs are fortified homes or walled private villages for the various tribal rulers of premodern Morocco, and this one is one of the best-preserved and most famous. It was one of the many forts of the Glaoui Berber tribe. They ruled over much of southern Morocco and the Atlas Mountains and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were one of the most powerful tribes in North Africa.
Under the rule of T'hami Glaoui (ruled 1912-1956), they were at the height of their power. He held the title of Pasha of Marrakesh, and his rule extended far beyond that important city. He was one of the richest men in the world and hobnobbed with the leading figures of his day, including Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth. On the other hand, he ruled like a feudal monarch. When he wasn't torturing people in his dungeons or putting the severed heads of rebels and thieves on the city walls, he was building golf courses in the desert or relaxing with his large harem of concubines.
He also played politics, steering the course of Morocco's future as it went from being a colony to an independent state and securing lasting rights for the Berber peoples in the face of Arab domination of the government. He also left behind numerous fine buildings such as this one.
Below is a back view. Both photos are from Wikimedia Commons. I visited this Kasbah many years ago, but didn't have the time this week to dig out my old shots, made back when I still had a film camera. Remember when we had to pay for every picture?
Hope to blog again soon!
Tuesday, 29 September 2015
As regular readers of this blog know, I will be spending the entire month of October working on a novel in Tangier. While I'll be busy with work and hanging out with my friends there, I'll also make time for a few side trips. Two places I very much want to see are the historic towns of Tétouan and Arzila.
Here are a few shots of Arzila, taken from Wikimedia Commons since I haven't been there yet. My own photos will come soon!
Arzila started as a Phoenician trading port on the Atlantic coast back in 1500 BC. It passed through various hands over the centuries, including the Moroccans, the Portuguese, and the Spanish. It has a well preserved medina (old city) with winding medieval streets and touches of old architecture. Its city walls still stand as a memory of regular raids. Sometimes it was the locals doing the raiding--it was a den of pirates during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
I'll be visiting in October, but I'm going to have to return sometime in the summer when there's a huge, two-month arts and cultural festival. While it's sure to be crazy busy with visitors at that time, the festival is apparently stunning and well worth hacking through the crowds.
Sounds pretty interesting, and it's only 50 kilometers from Tangier!
Friday, 25 September 2015
Next week I'm heading to Tangier, Morocco, to spend a month finishing up a novel set there. So I'm in a Moroccan frame of mind. This week, here's Eugene Delacroix's 1863 Orientalist painting "Arabs Skirmishing in the Mountains." A detail is below.
I'll be popping up to the mountains once or twice during my stay. Hopefully I won't get involved anything like this!
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
I took this shot in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, back in 2013. This is one of the many wires in the city festooned with shoes. A local explained to me that the university students throw shoes up there in celebration of the end of term.
At least that's what it means in Slovenia. In the United States, shoes hanging on a wire is a common sign that a drug dealer operates on that street.
In the Arab world, shoes on a wire mean something absolutely different. The sole of the shoe is dirty and it's considered rude to sit in a way that shows the sole, or to touch someone with it. That's why after the fall of Baghdad we saw those pictures of Iraqis slapping statues of Saddam Hussein with their shoes. In the West Bank, I saw shoes hanging on wires over many streets. They had been thrown there by Palestinians in order to insult the Israeli patrols as they walked under them.
I suppose that other countries have their own meanings. Can you name any I've missed?
Monday, 21 September 2015
We Had Flags, the third in my Toxic World series of post-apocalyptic novels, is out now. The series starts with Radio Hope and continues with Refugees from the Righteous Horde. The Scavenger is a novelette in the same world.
In We Had Flags, the residents of New City face their biggest challenges yet. For those of you familiar with the series, the main characters in this volume are the Doctor, Pablo Cruz, and someone you haven't met yet. A blurb is below.
A law doesn't work if everyone breaks it.
For forty years, New City has been a bastion of order in a fallen world. One crucial law has maintained the peace--it is illegal to place responsibility for the collapse of civilization on any one group. Anyone found guilty of Blaming is branded and stripped of citizenship.
But when some unwelcome visitors arrive from across the sea, old wounds break open, and no one is safe from Blame.
We Had Flags is available via Kindle's Prime program, so if you're a member you can read it for free!
Saturday, 19 September 2015
No Man's Land is the third full novel in my Trench Raiders series of WWI action novels and is slightly different in tone than the first two. While those were more over-the-top (pardon the pun) action, this one is more about sneaking around between the trenches at night, with our heroes playing a cat and mouse game with a German trench raiding party.
I'm glad I got this done now, because in less than two weeks I'm headed off to Tangier for a month-long writing project. Yep, it's another novel, but I don't want to talk much about it since it's still in the early stages. It will be set in contemporary Tangier, so staying there has obvious advantages. I also have to get a couple of freelance projects out of the way before I go. I always seem to be busiest before going on a trip!
Friday, 18 September 2015
|Apache Revolver, c. 1875, Curtius Museum, Liege. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons user Latente Flickr.|
This curious weapon is called an Apache Revolver. It wasn't used by the famous Native American tribe, but by the underworld culture of Parisian street gangs that used their name in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
As you can see, the gun combined a six-chamber revolver that shot 7mm bullets, brass knuckles, and a spike. The revolver would have been inaccurate at anything other than point-blank range since it has no barrel and no sights, but the Apaches got down and dirty in their fights. In one famous brawl between rival Apache factions near Notre Dame, the police intervened to break them up, and the rival factions combined to beat up the cops!
A great advantage of this undersized weapon was that the whole thing could fold in on itself and be carried safely and inconspicuously in a pocket.
|Folded Apache revolver in the National Firearms Museum, courtesy Wikimedia Commons user Amendola90.|
I'm reading a fascinating book on the Apache right now. I might have to use them in an upcoming novel!
|The Apaches at play. Image courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.|