Almost forgotten today, Talbot Mundy was one of the great adventure writers of the first half of the twentieth century. It was fellow bibliophile and curiosity seeker Stephen Bresnehan who put me onto Mundy, sending me a copy of ‘King – of the Khyber Rifles’, a thrashingly good tale of derring-do in the days of the British Raj. What struck me reading KotKR was the sense of place the story had, how convincing the description was of India, Afghanistan and its people. While some of the characters showed the casual racism of the time, this wasn’t universal, and Mundy’s portrayal of the Indians and Afghanis was positive, respectful and without condescension. It was evident, too, from the events of the novel, that Mundy was fascinated by the spiritual aspects of life in India and how these differed from Western practices.
Intrigued, I went Mundy chasing – and found an extraordinary life.