A friendship in art : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

A friendship in art

Two disparate talents — pipemaker Mark Tinsky and novelist Jesse Bullington — connect in an improbable collaboration.

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Intro by Jesse Bullington

The relationship between fantasy and pipe smoking is as old as Middle-earth and as proud as a Proudfoot. After all, even if you don’t get genealogical jokes about that or any other famous hobbit family, it’s a pretty fair bet that when you hear the word “wizard,” your mind conjures up an image of a sage-looking fellow with a beard so prodigious its length is only exceeded by that of his pipe stem. We have J. R. R. Tolkien to thank for this association. While his enduring works are significant for many reasons, it is his exultant promotion of the pipe that concerns us today.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit is undoubtedly why I and countless other readers (and moviegoers) associate fantasy with pipe smoking. In addition to being a reader of fantasy, I am also a full-time author working in the same literary fields once cleared by Tolkien, Mervyn Peake and C. S. Lewis, among other preeminent pipe puffing fantasists. Unfortunately, none of my first three novels carry even the faintest whiff of pipeweed for the simple reason that they all took place in medieval or early Renaissance Europe, well before the hobby caught on. When I started a new project, however, one set in its own fantasy world a la Tolkien’s Middle-earth or George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, I had free reign to make pipe smoking an integral part of the native culture.
This project, called *A Crown for Cold Silver*, became the first volume in my *Crimson Empire* trilogy. This novel was released to some critical acclaim in 2015 under the pen name Alex Marshall and promptly translated into German, Dutch, Polish and Russian. My actual identity was kept tightly under wraps…

Then one day, scrolling down the second page of a random message board thread, I read a comment from Mark Tinsky — posted on Halloween, of all nights — that stopped me cold. That was over two years ago, and it was the start of a fine friendship and an incredibly fruitful collaboration.

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Category: Fall 2018, Feature Article

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