Deuce Richardson is always looking out for his old shieldwall mate. He tipped me off to the blog of one Christopher Othen, who has explored some odd corners of the mad, bad 20th century.
Here’s how he describes himself:
I‘m an English writer currently based in Eastern Europe. My day jobs have included journalist, legal representative for asylum seekers, and English language teacher. In off-the-clock adventures I’ve interviewed retired mercenaries about African adventures, discussed lost causes with political extremists, and got drunk with an ex-mujahidin who knew Osama Bin Laden.
This blog is a home for the cultural and military weirdness I’ve come across while researching my books.
Anybody who can oscillate between Francisco Franco and Darby Crash, between merc Mike Hoare and gangster Joey Gallo (Joooo-ey! Joooo-ey! What made them want to come and blow you away?) and pull it off is a guy I wanna know.
Black-and-Tans in Central America? WTF?
Great subject matter, stylish writing. Here’s the start of a piece titled “Black Sheep of the British Empire”:
Sitting comfortably? Then put a new cigarette in its ivory holder and refresh your whisky and soda. Get the servants to stoke the fire because these old houses can get so cold at night. And make sure your service revolver in the desk drawer is loaded. Captain Grimes is coming round tonight to discuss the accounts.
The little matter of those post-dated cheques in the mess tin. You might be forced to take the gentleman’s way out. Or you might be forced to shoot Captain Grimes.
The wealthiest stratum of British society has always prided itself on loyalty and devotion to duty. But too many of the aristocrats, trust fund beneficiaries and members of the officer class who sit at the apex of Britain’s social triangle have a moral backbone like a bit of wet spaghetti. From Rupert Bellville to Simon Raven, the Earl of Erroll to John Aspinall, the most respectable part of the country has churned out black sheep on a production line scale.
So put away that portfolio of artistic French photographs and leave answering the love note from your brother’s wife until later. Let’s take a stroll through the last one hundred years of bankrupt aristocrats, corrupt golden youths, and frankly untrustworthy remittance men. Books and the odd flick will be our signposts.
We’ll start gently, with some flawed heroes. Let’s go back to the days when we still had an Empire … .
I dare you to stop there.
Othen has written books on Franco’s International Brigades, which has got to be chock full of cultural and military weirdness. All I know about that is the Irish fascists that joined the cause. Upholding the Mother Church, y’ know? And Katanga 1960-63… Nothing weirder or wilder than that gory saga.
Cool find, Deuce.
Fletcher Vredenburgh says
Freakin’ enablers, the pair of you!
I know it…
Don’t forget Othen’s OLD blog:
That’s how I discovered the NEW one. Othen almost wrote a book on Ungern-Sternberg before Palmer beat ‘im to it.
Too bad on the Bloody Baron. This guy’s writing style is perfect to take that weird tale on.
Well, that article on the black sheep of British aristocrats has ruined my appreciation of P. G. Wodehouse.
Honestly, reading about aristocracy always makes me more appreciative of Robert E. Howard. Whatever you could say about Conan and Kull, they at least earned their positions by their abilities. I’ll take them over someone who is handed everything in life and does nothing.
Second the motion.
I’m going to lose sleep reading this guy’s stuff. South African cop moonlighting as a bank robber. Ukrainian nationalists poisoned in Germany. Georgian mafia…
Breaker Morant says
As the other guy said-Enabler. Two books that I have to buy-How am I ever going to get to my Bartle Bull stack?
Per Franco’s International Brigade-
From “Quartered Safe Out Here”-one of George MacDonald Fraser’s mates in Burma was a professional soldier who had fought in the Spanish Civil War and Fraser thought he had fought for Franco because of a “Pungent” comment on the International (The Leftist One) Brigade.
I’m ordering the Katanga book tonight.
Yeah, the Katanga book sounds interesting. Hoare in some ways seems like a Robert E. Howard character an Irish soldier of fortune seeking loot and adventure in a far country. Communists called him “Mad’ and accused him of atrocities which may or may not be too. Soldier of Fortune magazine painted him as a lovable rogue which was probably a generous but I don’t know how much.
Gene Wolfe mentioned that reading about the Congo Wars inspired parts of his Book of the New Sun series. In the Congo, people with Tommy guns leading troops with spears. The book has soldiers with medieval weapons fighting along some with Sci-fi weapons. (It was also undoubtedly inspired by his service in the Korean War.
Interesting. I’ve heard good things of Wolfe. And the mash-up of ancient and modern always trips my trigger.
The Book of the New Sun is a series of four books The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, and The Citadel of the Autarch. (Conciliator, Lictor, and Autarch are all real words.) It’s set on an earth in the far, far future where we used to have a galaxy wide empire, but now have fallen back into a feudal society. The main character is a professional torturer. In a lot of ways it’s like Blood Meridian. Lots of rare words, gore, theological symbolism, and a bastard of a protagonist that you can’t actually hate.
You have me intrigued….
As I’ve said before, Jim, The Book of the New Sun is one of the greatest books/series of the second half of the 20th century. I think I’ve reread it 4 or 5 times. Wolfe is a huge fan of REH and JRRT and isn’t afraid to say so. Gene should be a multi-millionaire, not George RR Martin.
Ha! My will is strong. I’m immersed in 19th century Inner Asia at the moment, so Othen doesn’t have much to offer on that score. His piece on Ungern-Sternberg is what made me stop by his caravanserai, but I gotta ride. I’ll remember the road back, though.
Breaker Morant says
Halfway through “The Siege of Jadotville” set in Katanga that you previously posted on. Filmed in South Africa, however I Google imaged “Katanga Landscape” and they did a really good job of filming in a place that looks like Katanga.
Seems like it, yes.
Yes, deuce, Wolfe should be the multi-millionaire. Unfortunately, the world is unfair. I read excerpts from Martin’s books in Asimov’s back and the day. They did not blow me away. I might feel differently now and if I read the entire book.
Howard was really known as just one of the more popular Weird Tales writers by the few people who read WT. Lovecraft too. (This most popular writer at the time was Seabury Quinn who’s only known by pulp enthusiasts now.) Howard wasn’t served well by those who continued his legacy. (Friggin De Camp.)