You may know my penchant for 1920s pulp fiction. A side effect of reading old books is that you learn new words. Here are some from Jimgrim by Talbot Mundy, published 1922 in Adventure magazine. The extracts give a taste of Mundy’s prose. To explain, the story is set in post-armistice Jerusalem, seething with intrigue.
“Believe me, effendi,” he urged, “many a soul has been consoled in hell-fire by the knowledge that his adversaries would be cut off in their prime by friends who are true to their given word.”
The remainder of your stay in Palestine would be about as exciting as pushing a perambulator in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.
A man in Arab deshabille with a red tarboosh awry, thrust out his head and drew it in again quickly.
Moreover, you could not sit well back on the saddle to balance matters, because of the high cantle.
Nowadays he’s more or less dependable, unless he gets a skin-full of redeye.
“But a school is a good idea, and under my auspices you will succeed.”
And not all the kings and kaisers, cardinals and courtezans rolled into one great swaggering splurge of majesty could hold a candle to a ragged Bedouin chief on a flea-bitten pony, on the way to a small-town mejlis.
The few words he pronounced about asking God to bless the assembled notables with wisdom, in order that they might reach a right decision, would have been perfectly in place in the Capitol at Washington, or anywhere else where men foregather to decide on peace or war.
The demagog who can find a million men all responsive to the same emotion can swing them as easily as a hundred if he knows his business.
Jihad—green banner—holy war—all the East and Northern Africa alight while the French snaffle Syria.
As he plunged into the crowd that checked and surged immediately in front of the line of Sikhs, a small man in Arab costume with the lower part of his face well covered by the kaffiyi, rushed out from the corner behind the bootblacks and drove a long knife home to the hilt between the policeman’s shoulder-blades.
So whenever the despot was in the city he conferred on Yussuf the inestimable privilege of supplying him with coffee at odd moments, under threat of the bastinado if the stuff were not suitably sweet and hot.
Suliman led me by the hand down David Street, through the smelly-yelly moil of flies and barter, past the meat and vegetable stalls, beneath the crusader arches from which Jewish women peered through trellised windows, across three transversing lanes of the ancient suk, and halted at Yussuf’s door.
I paid him a half piastre for it, which is half the proper price, and utterly ignored his expostulation.
Spies, and people of that kind, usually have plenty of money for their needs, so that by acting the part of a man unused to spending except in minute driblets I stood a better chance of not being detected.
His ravenish, unpleasant voice seemed to act on the company like a chill wind, depriving treason of its warm sociableness but leaving in the sting.
You could have guessed just as easily what an alligator was thinking about, and I tried to emulate him, pretending to go off into the brown study that the Turks call kaif, out of which it is considered bad manners to disturb your best friend, let alone a stranger.
There was one man—a cursed interfering jackanapes of an American, whom they all call Jimgrim, of whom I was afraid.
He saluted, and the salute was returned punctiliously but with that reserve toward a foreigner that the Englishman puts on unconsciously.
I had to clap my hand over his mouth; whereat he promptly bit my finger, resentful because he knew then that I knew he was afraid.
Then I was cautioned gruffly in an unknown tongue and told to “imshi!” It isn’t a bad plan to “imshi” rather quickly when a Sikh platoon suggests your doing it.
The unostentatious mechanism of it seemed more weird and terrible than the conspiracy itself.
“Dead or alive, sahib.”
His manner was brisk, brusk, striding over trifles.