In 1916, Talbot Mundy wrote an adventure novel, called "King of the Khyber Rifles", about the exploits of Captain Athelstan King in British India during the start of the first World War.
This novel was an influence on one of my favourite writers, Robert E. Howard, and Mundy himself influenced such luminaries as Robert Heinlein, Fritz Leiber, Andre Norton, and others.
That book is the source of one of my idiosyncrasies: many times when visiting various places of interest -- museums, National Historic Registry sites, and such -- there is usually a guest book or visitors log which all and sundry are gently noodged into signing. I don't like to sign my actual name, and to avoid giving offence to the ever-so-earnest caretakers of such places, I will sign a pseudonym in lieu of my real name; Athelstan King being a particular favourite of mine -- see above.
Recently County business had me far from my usual haunts and with some time on my hands, so I did as I usually do and visited the local museum.
As usually happens, near the exit, a kindly little old lady guided me towards the Guestbook and eyebrowed me into picking up the pen.
Baby Officer was with me, and when that worthy bent to sign in turn, gave me the Old Hairy Eyeball and remarked, "I didn't know you were an S.M. Stirling fan."
Long story short, I have discovered the novel, "The Peshawar Lancers" by S.M. Stirling.
This is a wonderful book. It is an homage to Talbot Mundy -- the heroes of The Peshawar Lancers are Athelstan King and Yasmini -- yes, but also to H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and countless others.
There is continuous buckling of swashes, derring-do, steam-punkery, alternate history, Thuggery (capital 'T', please), playing of the Great Game, zeppelins, air pirates (!), horse cavalry charges, and the most awesomely EEEE-vil Bad Guy to come along in a long time -- all set in a turned-widdershins version of Victorian-era India.
A warning, though: S.M. Stirling has done an absolutely massive amount of research and brain-sweating for this book -- and it's all in there. Every last tittle and jot.
He also uses a great deal of Anglo-Indian slang, but doesn't provide a glossary. Readers unfamiliar with that sort of thing my find themselves a bit lost.
The book also presents benevolent colonialism as A Good Thing -- something I (a product of colonial West Africa) don't have a problem with, but it might get some Gentle Readers a bit cross-threaded.
All-in-all a thoroughly good read.