Time to start going through the pile of books – and the virtual pile of ebooks – I received as Christmas presents.
Despite my previously-vented decision to steer clear of Chinese-set stories for a while, I’m currently reading Robert J. Pearsall’s The Complete Adventures of Hazard & Partridge, a huge collection of stories that originally appeared in Adventure magazine in the ’20s.
The general setup is reminiscent of Sax Rhomer’s Fu Manchu but, as the great introductory essay by Nathan Vernon Madison points out, Pearsall was, unlike Rohmer, writing from a first-hand experience of China and the East.
The author had served overseas in the 1910s and his knowledge of China and the East makes his stories more vivid and “solid” than the Rohmer books.
As the two titular characters fight against Koshinga, a sinister Chinese mastermind hell-bent on world domination, the reader gets a nice serving of local color and historical detail.
In this sense, the Hazard & Partridge stories are a sort of “historical fiction” – because the author is well aware of real events in the past of China, and can tie them to the fictional events he’s describing.
And yet, these remain high adventure stories.
The best of both worlds, so to speak.
The stories are well-paced and fun, and the characters original enough to keep the sense of deja-vu at bay. Politically correct, they are not – but one does not read a 100-years-old adventure fiction looking for 21st century sensibilities.
I’m currently one-third through this 500+ pages colossus from Altus Press, and already I think I’d recommend it to fans of pulp stories and Oriental mysteries and adventures.