Note that some booksellers, libraries, and even dust jackets confuse Lamb's historical fiction and biographies. None of the titles listed here are history books.
Nur Mahal is a beautiful widow who captures the eye of Jahangir, Mogul of India. A summary within the first few pages of the book describes the crux of the novel nicely ". . .she [Nur Mahal] did not meet Jahangir again until he was a middle-aged despot brutalized with power, wine, drugs, and pleasure. Fighting the enmity of the palace-born harem and the cabals of a court built on intrigue, she kept the last sparks of life in Jahangir's debauched body while she ruled the empire for him."
Jahangir, Nur Mahal, and all the colorful members of their court come to life in this novel. Lamb does an admirable job of portraying the struggles of a strong-willed Moslem woman who must somehow hold the kingdom together against numerous intrigues, and do it from behind the veil. The book concludes with commentary about the actual people and events that Lamb based the book upon--and from the sound of things, Nur Mahal really was pretty amazing.
Though out of print, many libraries have copies, and used copies seem readiliy available.
Omar Khayyam is an adventure tale featuring a man who never lifts a sword; an odd circumstance in a Lamb story, to be sure. Omar is blessed with an intellect for mathematics and a love of the stars that catapults him to favor and then puts him at odds with powerful religious conservatives. Along the way he writes some epic poetry (this being the same Omar Khayyam whose poetry was translated by Fitzgerald). Lamb brings this moody tale of medieval Iran to life with vivid depictions of commoners and royalty alike. His atypical hero wends his way through the story, searching only for a little happiness and a place to build his astronomer's tower. It concludes with a nice afterword about the actual historical people and events portrayed in the novel, and an analysis of Khayyam's poetry.
was printed in various versions and though currently out of print is
easy to come by. Many public libraries retain copies of it.
in and out, above, about, below,
From Edward Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
(Appleton, 1920. Reprinted 1981 by Hyperion)
Marching Sands compiles the 4-part serial first printed in Argosy under the same title. There is something very cinematic about the pacing of this tale of a lost explorer, an ancient city, and a mysterious forgotten race. Readers today will undoubtedly find the chaste romance of the central characters quaint, but must remember that the story was written in the days before the pill and Playboy. Then too there is the lost white race of China (apparently an actual legend of China and not Lamb's invention) which may come off a little sour in more politically correct times. All in all, it was an enjoyable read, sweeping the reader along like a raft on the rapids. The plot's nearly as melodramatic as an old-time movie serial and it's not Lamb's best work, but it's easy to envision a good screen writer updating it into an exciting Indiana Jones-like film.
Because it was reprinted so recently, copies are plentiful.
This is the collected edition of the 6-part Caravan of the Dead originally published in Argosy in 1920. As with Marching Sands, it reads like an old-time movie serial, but leans even further toward melodrama and does not speed along at Marching Sands' breakneck pace. Within the pages you will meet a villanous but courteous spy, a heroine who needs protection, and a heroic western man who leads a lost valley full of Asians.
Good luck finding this one--the only copy I ever saw for sale was immediately purchased by me. <g> Your best bet is interlibrary loan.
I was able to finish this novel only because I had spare time on my hands. A sort of fog seems to have settled over the characters, slowing them down and obscuring their motivation, not to mention the plot. In an article for Pulpdom Al Lybeck describes the novel better than I could do, as I've already forgotten most of it: ". . .an atypical effort in which major characters seem to seek their identities following the dislocations of World War II. There is a touch of pulpish imagination with a 7000-year-old artifact, mountain-top ruins of a forgotten people, Soviet military expansion, even the inevitable East-West Border, but the net summation seems less than whatever Lamb had intended."
Lybeck is kind, and his summary makes the book sound far more exciting than it is. A Garden to the Eastward is, sadly, dull. As luck would have it, copies are plentiful. If only Lamb's other fiction was so readily available!
(Lybeck's entertaining and informative article, published in 1996, discusses many Lamb stories in detail, and can be purchased for a very small fee from Pulpdom.)