Friday, August 29, 2014

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Shadow of Fu Manchu, Part Two

The Shadow of Fu Manchu was serialized in Collier’s from May 8 to June 12, 1948. Hardcover editions followed later that year from Doubleday in the U.S. and Herbert Jenkins in the U.K. Sax Rohmer’s eleventh Fu Manchu thriller gets underway with Sir Denis Nayland Smith in New York on special assignment with the FBI. He is partnered with FBI Agent Raymond Harkness to investigate why agents from various nations are converging on Manhattan. Sir Denis suspects the object of international attention is the special project being handled by The Huston Research Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Morris Craig. However, Smith initially chooses to keep the FBI in the dark on this matter until he is certain. The Si-Fan has succeeded in closing in on The Huston Research Laboratory by drawing a net around the parent corporation Huston Electric’s director, millionaire Michael Frobisher and his wife, Stella. The Frobisher marriage is not a happy one. Michael lives in fear that his flirtatious wife is unfaithful to him and Stella is likewise tormented by a series of neuroses. The family physician, Dr. Pardoe recommends an eminent European psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Professor Hoffmeyer to treat Stella Frobisher. Both Mr. and Mrs. Frobisher are concerned that Asians have been spying on them, going so far as to break into their home and infiltrate their country club. As their marriage is not a healthy one, neither husband nor wife confide in the other, but rather let their paranoia grow until their nerves have frayed. What neither suspects is that Carl Hoffmeyer is really Dr. Fu Manchu in disguise. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Shadow of Fu Manchu, Part One

The Shadow of Fu Manchu was serialized in Collier’s from May 8 to June 12, 1948. Hardcover editions followed later that year from Doubleday in the U.S. and Herbert Jenkins in the U.K. The book was Sax Rohmer’s eleventh Fu Manchu thriller and was also the last of the perennial series to make the bestseller lists. The story had its origins in a stage play Rohmer had developed for several years that failed to get off the ground. It became instead the first new Fu Manchu novel in seven years, during which time the property had begun to fade from the public eye. It had been eight years since the character last appeared on the big screen and since the radio series had reached its conclusion. Detective Comics had long since finished reprinting the newspaper strip as a back-up feature for Batman. As far as the public was concerned Fu Manchu was a part of the past that seemed far removed from a world transformed by the Second World War. The initial three novels in the series were written before and during the First World War, but were set in a pre-war Britain where the paranoid delusions of the Yellow Peril personified offered a much needed dose of escapism from the realities of war in Europe. The Yellow Peril itself was a stereotype based on a turn-of-the-century conflict that became an early example of the “foreign-other” bogeymen who would increasingly feed the fears of the West in this new century. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE,PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Long-Awaited Return of Bulldog Drummond

Even more than the sinister Dr. Fu Manchu, Bulldog Drummond has become more and more obscure with each passing decade. The original ten novels and five short stories penned by H. C. McNeile (better known by his pen name, Sapper) were bestsellers in the 1920s and 1930s and were an obvious and admitted influence upon the creation of James Bond. Gerard Fairlie turned Sapper’s final story outline into a bestselling novel in 1938 and went on to pen six more original novels featuring the character through 1954. While the Fairlie titles sold well enough in the UK, the American market for the character had begun to dry up with the proliferation of hardboiled detective fiction. By the time, Fairlie decided to throw in the towel, the long-running movie series and radio series had also reached the finish line. Apart from an unsuccessful television pilot, the character remained dormant for a decade until he was updated as one of many 007 imitations who swung through a pair of campy spy movies during the Swinging Sixties. Henry Reymond adapted both screenplays for a pair of paperback originals, but these efforts barely registered outside the UK. Fifteen years later, Jack Smithers brought Drummond out of retirement (literally) to join up with several of his clubland contemporaries in Combined Forces (1983). Smithers’ tribute was a sincere effort that found a very limited market to appreciate its cult celebration of the heroes of several generations past. Finally thirty years later, Drummond is back in the first of three new period-piece thrillers from the unlikely pen of fantasy writer Stephen Deas. In a uniquely twenty-first century wrinkle, the three new thrillers are being published exclusively as e-books by Piqwiq. TO CONTINUE READING THIS REVIEW,PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Must for Sax Rohmer Fans - A Rohmer Miscellany

John Robert Colombo is a Canadian author and poet with over 200 titles to his credit. Apart from the acclaim his creative work has brought him, he is also a lifelong Sax Rohmer fan and collector who has distinguished himself in this rarified circle. A charter member of the now-defunct Sax Rohmer Society and early contributor to the society’s official publication, The Rohmer Review, Colombo never lost his passion for the weird fiction of this former bestselling thriller author. Rather late in his prestigious literary career, Colombo decided to contribute to Rohmerania by expanding the author’s catalogue in conjunction with Dr. George Vanderburgh’s Battered Silicon Dispatch Box imprint. Colombo edited the definitive collection of Rohmer’s female Fu Manchu with The Sumuru Omnibus, a massive tome which brought together all five Sumuru novels penned during the author’s last decade and preserved them in their original unexpurgated text. Colombo also compiled a monograph of Sumuru’s aphorisms direct from Rohmer’s original text with Tears of Our Lady. The unique feature of the monograph being that this same title exists within the fictional universe of the books and is referred to and quoted from frequently. Now, thanks to Colombo’s efforts, Sumuru’s fictional monograph exists as a real world collectible. Colombo and Vanderburgh also competed (unknowingly at first) with Will Murray and Altus Press in publishing the first book to collect all of Rohmer’s tales of The Crime Magnet. Still later, they teamed to produce the first anthology of Rohmer’s non-fiction articles and autobiographical essays, Pipe Dream spanning the author’s entire career. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Pulp delivers its own Occult Anti-Hero in Magee

I’ll come right out and admit I have mixed feelings about ebooks. I travel considerably for my day job and don’t mind having portable versions of books I own for quick reference, but the idea of owning books that cannot be found in print editions on my shelves at home irks me. That said, I recognize the market for digital-only titles is steadily growing, particularly among small press publishers. This, of course, is having its impact on the “New Pulp” community. Witness Pro Se Press’s decision earlier this year to discontinue their pulp magazine, Pro Se Presents and replace it with their Single Shot Signatures line of short stories available exclusively as ebooks. My first sampling of the above is the newly published Magee, Volume One – “Knight from Hell” by David White. At first glance, I was struck by the apparent illustration of publisher Tommy Hancock on the cover, but on second glance I determined it was actually author David White wearing one of Tommy’s trademark hats. Of course, I was wrong on both counts since the illustration actually depicts the anti-hero of the piece, Magee. Magee, it transpires, is actually the fallen angel Malachi who was exiled from Heaven after a fight over a woman with the archangel Michael. We’ll pause right here and note that David White is not a theologian and plays fast and loose with Christian tradition on such celestial matters. Following that disclaimer, we’ll make mention of the fact that Michael likewise banished the archangel Lucifer from Heaven following a similar fight. It seems that God is an absentee deity in these proceedings as He has abandoned Heaven to putter around in the Garden of Eden for several thousand years now. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Five – “The Final Count”

Sapper’s The Final Count (1926) saw the Bulldog Drummond formula being shaken and stirred yet again. The first four books in the series are the most popular because they chronicle Drummond’s ongoing battle with criminal mastermind Carl Peterson. The interesting factor is how different the four books are from one another. Sapper seemed determined to cast aside the idea of the series following a template and the result kept the series fresh as well as atypical. The most striking feature this time is the decision to opt for a first person narrator in the form of John Stockton, the newest member of Drummond’s gang. While Drummond’s wife, Phyllis played a crucial role in the first book, she barely registers in the first three sequels. One would have expected Sapper to have continued the damsel in distress formula with Phyllis in peril, but he really only exploits this angle in the second book in the series, The Black Gang (1922). The Black Gang reappear here, if only briefly, and are quickly dispatched by the more competent and deadly threat they face. This befits the more serious tone of this book which has very few humorous passages. The reason for the somber tone is the focus is on a scientific discovery of devastating consequence that threatens to either revolutionize war or end its threat forever. Robin Gaunt is the tragic genius whose invention of a deadly poison that could wipe out a city the size of London by being released into the air proved eerily prescient. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blogging Sax Rohmer…In the Beginning, Part Two

“The Green Spider” marked Sax Rohmer’s third foray into short fiction. Still writing under the pen name of A. Sarsfield Ward, the story first appeared in the October 1904 issue of Pearson’s Magazine. It was not reprinted until 65 years later in Issue #3 of The Rohmer Review in 1969. Subsequently, a corrupted version with an altered ending courtesy of the editor appeared in the May 1973 issue of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. The restored text was included in the 1979 anthology, Science Fiction Rivals of H. G. Wells. More recently the story has appeared in the 1992 anthology, Victorian Tales of Mystery and Detection, the September 2005 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and as the title story in the first volume of Black Dog Books’ Sax Rohmer Library, The Green Spider and Other Forgotten Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2011). The story itself shares in common with Rohmer’s first effort, “The Mysterious Mummy” the presentation of a seemingly supernatural mystery that has a rational explanation. In the nine months that elapsed between the publication of “The Leopard Couch” and “The Green Spider,” Rohmer honed his writing skills and became a more devoted student of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and deductive reasoning. “The Green Spider” concerns the disappearance of the celebrated Professor Brayme-Skepley on the eve of an important scientific presentation. It appears to onlookers and Scotland Yard that the Professor has been murdered by a giant green spider that apparently made off with his corpse. The unraveling of the mystery reveals the green spider is no more authentic a threat than the phantom hound of the Baskervilles. While a minor effort, the story retains its charm more than a century on and shows that the mysterious A. Sarsfield Ward was steadily improving as an author. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.