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Nemesis

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Biography of Arnold Rothstein

View attachment 24436

If you ever wanted to know about Rothstein or just the criminal world of the US East Coast before the rise of the Mafia, it'd be hard to find a better book. It's written in a very direct style like reading the transcript of a good public lecture avoiding academese so it doesn't feel like a heavy read.
This sounds fascinating. Doesn't Peaky Blinders occur during the same period but in England?
 

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Biography of Arnold Rothstein

If you ever wanted to know about Rothstein or just the criminal world of the US East Coast before the rise of the Mafia, it'd be hard to find a better book. It's written in a very direct style like reading the transcript of a good public lecture avoiding academese so it doesn't feel like a heavy read.

Sounds very interesting. I've been intrigued by Rothstein since seeing Eight Men Out, but I've never read anything about him.
 

Nobby-W

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This sounds fascinating. Doesn't Peaky Blinders occur during the same period but in England?
A little bit later. It's set in the 1920s, a little after the first world war, and the Mafia make an appearance around season 3 or 4 which puts it into the Prohibition era. Having said that, I think it plays a little fast and loose with history.
 

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Sounds very interesting. I've been intrigued by Rothstein since seeing Eight Men Out, but I've never read anything about him.
I first became familiar with him from Michael Stuhlbarg's excellent portrayal in Boardwalk Empire. Probably my favourite character in the whole show.
 

Voros

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Biography of Arnold Rothstein

View attachment 24436

If you ever wanted to know about Rothstein or just the criminal world of the US East Coast before the rise of the Mafia, it'd be hard to find a better book. It's written in a very direct style like reading the transcript of a good public lecture avoiding academese so it doesn't feel like a heavy read.

Found this on Audible and added it to my wishlist. Big fan of reading histories on crime and Eight Men Out is an amazing movie.
 

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Over the last week or so, my pleasure reading has been mainly Miles Pattenden, Pius IV and the Fall of the Carafa: Nepotism and Papal Authority in Counter-Reformation Rome (Oxford University Press, 2013). Normally I wouldn't mention a title like that, but I was reading it for gaming-related reasons: the thread on LotFP in Rome 1560 got me interested in the subject.

Although it is a revised Ph.D. dissertation, it is well worth reading, if you are interested in the subject. I didn't realize just how much had been written on the Carafas' career and fall from grace, though much of it was composed a century ago or more. Pattenden's main contribution to this literature seems to be his more practically-minded interpretation of the events. Where earlier writers tended to see the Carafa's demise as a deliberate attempt by Pius IV to change the rules about papal nepotism, a kind of turning-point in papal practice, Pattenden sees it as a move by a pope who was on somewhat shaky ground at the beginning of his pontificate to build up his own power by cowing the cardinals. He also notes that, despite Pius having expert knowledge of civil and canon law, the case against the Carafas was somewhat legally incoherent. The point was to get a conviction, not rewrite practice about nepotism--which Pius IV was practicing on a grand scale for his own relatives, like Carlo Borromeo.
 
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Reading Bad Company, the 2000ad future war/heart of darkness story from back in the day. Written by Pete Milligan and drawn by the incomparable Brett Ewins. No one drew cyberpunk retro SF (as it is now) like him.

Didn't appreciate the story as a kid but I did enjoy it. Now, it's one of the most subversive and fucked up things 2000ad ever put out.
 
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Lofgeornost

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That's one strong tail!

Inspired by the LotFP Rome 1560 thread, I've been making my way through Peter Partner's Renaissance Rome, 1500-1559: Portrait of a Society (University of California Press, 1976). It's aging a bit now, but it's very readable and provides a nice survey of both social and intellectual/religious/architectural history, without going into a great deal of depth on any of them. I've owned it for years but this is the first time I've tried to read it through, as opposed to dipping into it for some particular topic.
 

Lofgeornost

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Some more LotFP Rome 1560 inspired reading: Francis Burkle-Young and Michael Doerrer, The Life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte: A Scandal in Scarlet (Edward Mellen Press, 1997). Though it has some useful information in it, I can't recommend it. The writing is not very good; the book is padded with a good deal of extraneous information, and it lapses into speculation about what people must have been thinking or doing far too often without making this clear. It's a pity, since a good biography of Innocenzo could be both a page-turner and useful for understanding the Early Modern papacy.
 

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War Lord by Bernard Cornwell.

he actually wrote a conclusion. With the padding of the series, I wasn't sure if he was ever going to get there.
 

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I do love me some Bernard Cornwell. Been reading his many, many, series on and off for years. I found the early Sharpe novels really added something to my appreciation of playing Imperial Guard in 40K. Mostly his stuff is very readable. Maybe also not great, but pretty darn not bad.
 

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Bernard Cornwell's Waterloo was probably my favorite book I read this year. Been thinking about trying out some of his fiction, although I'm always cautious about an author that cranks out novels as quickly as he seems to.
 

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Bernard Cornwell is quality "comfort food" writing. Dependable, not a whole lot of surprises, but satisfying and enjoyable.
 

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Rewatched Seven Psychopaths and it reminded me how much I love the writing of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards...) so I thought I should check out his award winning plays.

B00JPAS88M.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SX500_.jpg
 

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Rewatched Seven Psychopaths and it reminded me how much I love the writing of Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Three Billboards...) so I thought I should check out his award winning plays.

View attachment 24835
My parents saw one of his plays a few years back and raved about it for months.
 
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Lofgeornost

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Lowering the tone a bit here.

Again courtesy of the online service Hoopla, I’ve read the first four issues of Arthus Trivium. It’s a French comic, originally, by Raule and Landa, but there is an electronic English edition published by Europe Comics, a line apparently supported financially by the European Union.

It’s set in France, c. 1565, and focuses on Nostradamus and his three apprentices or agents, with the unlikely names Arthus Trivium, Angulus Dante, and Angelica Obscura (these code names are explained, sort of). They are dispatched on missions to deal with problems both mundane (a bishop who is molesting children, swindlers exploiting a plague outbreak) and supernatural. Real historical personages beyond Nostradamus make appearances in the comic, ranging from the young king of France through (in flashbacks) famous occultists like Agrippa and Paracelsus, and (inevitably) Leonardo da Vinci. It’s an enjoyable read and the art is evocative of the 16th century, though Angelica’s outfit is a bit too ‘comic book’ for my taste, compared to the other costuming. There is also some inventive supernatural material, including an evocative (and creepy) demonic take on vampires.

One of the big challenges in a work like this—popular fiction with a historical setting—is successfully mediating between the past and present. The book needs to have some contemporary resonance, or it will not engage the audience, but too much anachronism hurts the illusion of the historical setting. How much is too much depends on the reader, of course. For my admittedly odd tastes, the series crossed the line, though not fatally. People less interested in the 1500s would probably feel differently.
 
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E-Rocker

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Been reading a series of articles about how the WCW pro wrestling company went completely off the rails in 1999. My favorite example so far is that they had Raven lose a no-disqualification match... by getting disqualified.
 

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I have finished Children of Dune. It was long, full of twists and turns and completely engaging. I need a break from Dune though before continuing on with God Emperor of Dune.
Next up I'll be reading A Canticle for Leibowitz.
 

Nobby-W

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I have finished Children of Dune. It was long, full of twists and turns and completely engaging. I need a break from Dune though before continuing on with God Emperor of Dune.
Next up I'll be reading A Canticle for Leibowitz.
That's a fabulous book. Aside from some references to cold-war era tech, it's pretty much a timeless classic.
 

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I've had some time now to digest Children of Dune and here are my thoughts.
I feel that it's a level above the previous 2 books. The first book was a great Lawrence of Arabia style adventure book with a weird future setting, Dune Messiah felt more like an expansion rather than a sequel to Dune. Then Children of Dune just turns everything up to 11, more political intrigue, more religion, more attempts at describing drug trips. And to top it all off I think it changes the genre of the series from a far-future Sci-Fi to a full on Fantasy.
I genuinely have no idea where it can go from here.
So Leto II molded a bunch of sandtrout onto himself and no wants to create an era of peace that will lead to a stagnation of humanity, all while creating his own human eugenics program, to do what? Cause the end of the universe? I don't want any spoilers or such but I genuinly am unsure as to what his endgoal is. I'm wondering if Frank Herbert ever brought the story to a satisfying conclusion with his books. As I've heard that his son wrote a couple of sequel books before going into prequels.
 

TristramEvans

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I've had some time now to digest Children of Dune and here are my thoughts.
I feel that it's a level above the previous 2 books. The first book was a great Lawrence of Arabia style adventure book with a weird future setting, Dune Messiah felt more like an expansion rather than a sequel to Dune. Then Children of Dune just turns everything up to 11, more political intrigue, more religion, more attempts at describing drug trips. And to top it all off I think it changes the genre of the series from a far-future Sci-Fi to a full on Fantasy.
I genuinely have no idea where it can go from here.
So Leto II molded a bunch of sandtrout onto himself and no wants to create an era of peace that will lead to a stagnation of humanity, all while creating his own human eugenics program, to do what? Cause the end of the universe? I don't want any spoilers or such but I genuinly am unsure as to what his endgoal is. I'm wondering if Frank Herbert ever brought the story to a satisfying conclusion with his books. As I've heard that his son wrote a couple of sequel books before going into prequels.

God Emperor is my favourite of the Dune books. Will be interested in hearing what you think of Leto's plan after reading it.
 

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The excellent aforementioned book by John Gray has led me to the short stories of Colette and the essays of the contrarian and perverse Mary Gaitskill.

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Thanks to a weird OSR-related rabbit hole, I am now reading Michael Oakeshotte's On Human Conduct, which is marvelous so far.
 

Voros

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Thanks to a weird OSR-related rabbit hole, I am now reading Michael Oakeshotte's On Human Conduct, which is marvelous so far.

Oakeshott, like Burke, Scruton and Shelby, is one of the few serious, intellectually rigorous conservative philosophers I've found.

Like those others he rarely convinces me wholesale, same is true of a lot of far left thinkers, but he's a good writer and makes me think.

Not sure what he could possibily have to do with the OSR, I'd probably regret finding out.
 

Lofgeornost

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Thanks to a weird OSR-related rabbit hole, I am now reading Michael Oakeshotte's On Human Conduct, which is marvelous so far.

This screams out for explanation--that must be one odd rabbit-hole. Though the old MERP modules did tend to cite Braudel's Civilization and Capitalism in their suggested reading...
 

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This screams out for explanation--that must be one odd rabbit-hole. Though the old MERP modules did tend to cite Braudel's Civilization and Capitalism in their suggested reading...
So I recently purchased and have been enjoying immensely an RPG product called Yoon-Suin. I found out that the author of said product has a blog called Monsters and Manuals, which I found to also be excellent. On that blog there is a post from several months ago that consists solely of quotes about adventure and the adventuring spirit. Several of the quotes were from Oakeshotte's On Human Conduct, and I liked them enough to hunt down a copy to read in it's entirety.
 

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'Reading' may be overstating it, but I've just finished 'The Wanderer', a black&white line-art illustrations fairy tale (for kids, allegedly, but whatevs.)
It shows (don't tell) the story of a paper boat and its voyage across the world seas. A bit like Little Nemo in Waterland.
You can read it to pre-schoolers, firing their imagination, or just enjoy it yourself.

The-Wanderer-1_NEW.jpg


Zwerveling-1.jpg
 

under_score

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I'm about finished with Black Flags, Blue Waters by Eric Jay Dolin. It's not great. Having just recent read Cornwell's Waterloo, which is probably my favorite book I read this year, it was hard not to contrast them as I read. Where Cornwell had a clear narrative ("Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles"); Dolin sort of wants to tell how piracy ties into the American history, but it's less a narrative and more an arbitrary boundary that he ignores plenty (lots of talk of piracy in the Red Sea) but randomly declares topics outside the scope of the book because they aren't really about America. Waterloo is sprinkled with dozens of excerpts from first hand accounts; even when Dolin is citing a first hand account he almost never gives a full quote, instead handwaving the details. Cornwell provides plenty of strategic analysis - discussions of weapons, formations, tactics employed, limitations, and so on. Dolin just regularly tells that the pirates captured 50 ships, often capturing larger, more powerful, better armed ships, without any commentary on how that was possible.
Honestly, the book reads like a collection of poorly sourced wikipedia articles mangled into something vaguely resembling a coherent theme. Can't recommend it, but I'd like to hear if anyone else has recommendations of better books about this period of history.
 

Voros

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I'm about finished with Black Flags, Blue Waters by Eric Jay Dolin. It's not great. Having just recent read Cornwell's Waterloo, which is probably my favorite book I read this year, it was hard not to contrast them as I read. Where Cornwell had a clear narrative ("Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles"); Dolin sort of wants to tell how piracy ties into the American history, but it's less a narrative and more an arbitrary boundary that he ignores plenty (lots of talk of piracy in the Red Sea) but randomly declares topics outside the scope of the book because they aren't really about America. Waterloo is sprinkled with dozens of excerpts from first hand accounts; even when Dolin is citing a first hand account he almost never gives a full quote, instead handwaving the details. Cornwell provides plenty of strategic analysis - discussions of weapons, formations, tactics employed, limitations, and so on. Dolin just regularly tells that the pirates captured 50 ships, often capturing larger, more powerful, better armed ships, without any commentary on how that was possible.
Honestly, the book reads like a collection of poorly sourced wikipedia articles mangled into something vaguely resembling a coherent theme. Can't recommend it, but I'd like to hear if anyone else has recommendations of better books about this period of history.

Depends what kind of history writing you prefer but I found Adam Zamoyski's recent biography of Napoleon excellent. It is very wide-ranging of course and doesn't go into (relatively) extensive detail on the battles.

I've got my eye on this book by the same author, sounds fascinating, athough later it may be more up your alley as a military history.

91jX2p4ItGL.jpg

He has also written books on more specific periods of Napoleon's life and career.

images.jpeg download.jpeg
 

Voros

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Thanks, I was actually referring to history on piracy, but these look like they'd be great additions to my reading list. 2021 is looking like a good year.

Ah, yeah sorry I was going off the mention of Cornwell.

I'm also interested in reading a good book on piracy. I bought this one for my wife who also loves pirates and she enjoyed it although I've yet to read it myself.

51KI-rOAzaL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
 

Nemesis

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Depends what kind of history writing you prefer but I found Adam Zamoyski's recent biography of Napoleon excellent. It is very wide-ranging of course and doesn't go into (relatively) extensive detail on the battles.

I've got my eye on this book by the same author, sounds fascinating, athough later it may be more up your alley as a military history.

View attachment 25129

He has also written books on more specific periods of Napoleon's life and career.

View attachment 25130 View attachment 25131
These covers remind me of the David McCullough's classic:

71B9K5jdSpL.jpg
 

under_score

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I was just complaining the other day that it's so much harder to find American history books I want to read. Go into Barnes & Nobles or just browse the top Amazon sellers and it's all political crap. [gonna self-edit out all my rants here]
This looks like a good read though, I'll check it out.
 

Lofgeornost

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Thanks, I was actually referring to history on piracy, but these look like they'd be great additions to my reading list. 2021 is looking like a good year.

On pirates, I enjoyed Robert Ritchie's Captain Kidd and the War Against the Pirates. It's getting on a bit--it was first published in 1989--but that means used copies are pretty cheap. Marcus Rediker's Villains of All Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age is interesting, too, but I found myself suspecting it romanticized them a bit.

In the last week or so, I’ve read two comics omnibuses that are both pastiches and extrapolations of Victorian/Edwardian fiction: Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula 1895: Seven Days of Mayhem and Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century. Both are enjoyable, though Moore’s work is more impressive.

I devoured the original Anno Dracula novel when it appeared; it was a fun alternate-history title, and I was impressed by its encyclopedic remixing of characters and elements from Victorian occult and adventure stories. I also liked Bloody Red Baron, the sequel which brought the story up to World War I, but not enough to read the rest of the series, which moved the action to 1959 and later. The comic takes place between the first novel and the second. It features some of the same characters, focusing on Kate Reed the vampiric journalist and opponent of Dracula. Much of the plot is apparently a riff on G.K. Chesterton’ s The Man Who was Thursday, about a secret cell of insurrectionists in London. (I’ve not read the novel—or anything of Chesterton’s beyond a Father Brown story or two—so I’m not sure how close to the original it is). But other elements get into the mix as well, including some Fu Manchu (‘the Lord of Strange Deaths’), MacHeath (from Brecht’s Three-Penny Opera), and Irma Vep (‘the anagrammatical adventuress’) from a French silent-film series. The story was engaging, but it did not seem as inventive or interesting as the first novel and the art was a little too well-lit for the tale.

At first, I did not think that Century lived up to the first two League of Extraordinary Gentlemen titles, which I had really enjoyed. The overarching plot, about an occultist society’s attempt to create an anti-Christ figure who will usher in a ‘strange new aeon’ seems to owe a little to Hellboy, though it could be that Mignola and Moore are just drinking at the same well of apocalypticism. The first installment, set in 1910, is the closest to the original two books. It adds some members to the League: the occult detective Carnacki, Raffles, and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, here re-imagined as a somewhat dim eternal warrior and dandy, though with the sex-switching element intact. Much of the story focuses on Nemo’s daughter Janni and her attempt to escape her father’s legacy. She disappears from the series after that. The second and third installments, set in 1969 and 2009, concentrate more on the attempted apocalypse, and pare the main characters down to Mina Harker, Alan Quartermain, and Orlando. As things turn out, they remain somewhat peripheral to the action. I almost lost interest in the book during the 1969 sequence, which features a number of scenes without any of the key characters, but I’m glad I kept going, since the conclusion in the final series was audacious, inventive, and satisfying.

One remarkable thing about Century is the way that Moore seamlessly incorporates a synoptic array of pop-culture characters and references. Some of these are shared with Anno Dracula—MacHeath plays a role in both titles, though a larger one in Century—but Moore’s greater chronological scope opens the door for far more. In its middle and final sections, the book bristles with elements riffing on Michael Moorcock, Dr. Who, James Bond films, British noir, etc., and some prominent characters of English children’s literature play a surprising role in the end of the story (I can’t say more for fear of spoiling it). Much of this is actually done through the art, rather than the text—much more so than in Anno Dracula. I wonder if this is because Newman is fundamentally a novelist, not a comics writer?

I’m also struck by how internet search engines have changed the experience of reading works like this, with their rich veins of allusion and reference to often-obscure materials. When I read the novel Anno Dracula back in 1992 or 1993, I either got the references, or I didn’t. Part of the fun was ‘spot the borrowing,’ and I remember being impressed by the depth of Newman’s knowledge of his sources. Now a Google search makes explicating the references easy. I no doubt understand more of them, but they’re also less impressive.
 

Simon Hogwood

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At first, I did not think that Century lived up to the first two League of Extraordinary Gentlemen titles, which I had really enjoyed. The overarching plot, about an occultist society’s attempt to create an anti-Christ figure who will usher in a ‘strange new aeon’ seems to owe a little to Hellboy, though it could be that Mignola and Moore are just drinking at the same well of apocalypticism. The first installment, set in 1910, is the closest to the original two books. It adds some members to the League: the occult detective Carnacki, Raffles, and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, here re-imagined as a somewhat dim eternal warrior and dandy, though with the sex-switching element intact. Much of the story focuses on Nemo’s daughter Janni and her attempt to escape her father’s legacy. She disappears from the series after that. The second and third installments, set in 1969 and 2009, concentrate more on the attempted apocalypse, and pare the main characters down to Mina Harker, Alan Quartermain, and Orlando. As things turn out, they remain somewhat peripheral to the action. I almost lost interest in the book during the 1969 sequence, which features a number of scenes without any of the key characters, but I’m glad I kept going, since the conclusion in the final series was audacious, inventive, and satisfying.
Captain Janni Nemo actually has her own spin-off trilogy, consisting of Heart of Ice, Roses of Berlin, and River of Ghosts. I've never actually read Century, but I thought Moore was already loosing the thread, so to speak, by Black Dossier. Knowing the spoilers you're about to allude to, though, I can't help but have the mental image of that Predator handshake meme, with the two hands labeled "Alan Moore" and "Christian Fundamentalists", and the handshake labeled "Harry Potter is the Antichrist".

One remarkable thing about Century is the way that Moore seamlessly incorporates a synoptic array of pop-culture characters and references. Some of these are shared with Anno Dracula—MacHeath plays a role in both titles, though a larger one in Century—but Moore’s greater chronological scope opens the door for far more. In its middle and final sections, the book bristles with elements riffing on Michael Moorcock, Dr. Who, James Bond films, British noir, etc., and some prominent characters of English children’s literature play a surprising role in the end of the story (I can’t say more for fear of spoiling it). Much of this is actually done through the art, rather than the text—much more so than in Anno Dracula. I wonder if this is because Newman is fundamentally a novelist, not a comics writer?
Personally, I've always thought Newman's best work was done in the short story/novelette sphere. Some of my favorite works of his are actually novel-length collections of linked shorts, such as Back in the U.S.S.A, Professor Moriarty: Hound of the D'Ubervilles, and Angels of Music. Some of the later Anno Dracula books are like that, too.

I’m also struck by how internet search engines have changed the experience of reading works like this, with their rich veins of allusion and reference to often-obscure materials. When I read the novel Anno Dracula back in 1992 or 1993, I either got the references, or I didn’t. Part of the fun was ‘spot the borrowing,’ and I remember being impressed by the depth of Newman’s knowledge of his sources. Now a Google search makes explicating the references easy. I no doubt understand more of them, but they’re also less impressive.
The Internet no doubt make both writing and spotting such references easier, but I find it's also pushing authors to be more subtle and creative with their shoutouts than just name- or description-dropping. If anyone is interested in that kind of thing, I recommend the Tales of the Shadowmen series from Black Coat Press, and the Royal Occultist stories by Joshua Reynolds (yes, the Warhammer author).

(Say, wasn't Kim Newman a Warhammer author, too?)
 
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