East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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In Egypt with Sax Rohmer

saxrohmer1Let’s kill two birds with a stone: today’s the birthday of Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, better known to the world at large by his pen name Sax Rohmer – the man who created the original Yellow Peril, Dr Fu Manchu.
A lower-class child that started a career as a civil servant before he turned to writing for a living and claimed to be part of the Order of the Golden Dawn, Rohmer would be 135 today.

His most famous creation, Dr Fu Manchu, first appeared in The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu, as a serial, in 1912. Two other novels followed,and then the character went on hiatus for about fifteen years, only to return with The Daughter of Fu Manchu in 1928. Continue reading


Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru in Space

Yesterday, taking a pause from my writing to enjoy a serving of chocolate cake, I watched one of the worst movies I ever saw.
And I saw plenty of bad movies.

The thing is called Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru, it was shot in 2003 and it goes more or lesslike this…

If you are perplexed, so was I.
And if you are not, let me bring you up to speed… Continue reading

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Yellow Peril

Time to start going through the pile of books – and the virtual pile of ebooks – I received as Christmas presents.

5103HNt1jfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_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.

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Yellow Peril

cover38282-mediumReading Yellow Peril! – An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear, by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats, is a weird experience.
As the sub-title points out, this big book is a huge collection of texts and images mapping the relationship between the East and the West.
The East as imagined by the West, to be exact.

The effect can be shocking.
Especially for someone who grew up in a generally liberal household, in a country which had not (at the time) any experience with foreign immigration, reading old pulps – that’s me.

Understanding the actual racism behind some classic genre tropes is eye-opening, and helps put in perspective a number of cliches and stereotypes.

This is an important book, and highly recommended – but will raise a number of issues with the reader.
Which is a good thing, if not overly comfortable.

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Fu Manchu, the 1938 serial

Here’s something pretty unusual – a restored first episode of Drums of Fu Manchu – the original, long lost 1938 movie serial, featuring Henry Brandon in the role of the Yellow Peril himself.
Note how the titles specify the story was “suggested” by Sax Rohmer‘s works.