Friday, February 25, 2011

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu, Part Six – “The Silver Buddha”

“The Silver Buddha” was the sixth installment of Sax Rohmer’s Fu-Manchu and Company. The story was first published in Collier’s on May 15, 1915 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 18-20 of the second Fu-Manchu novel, The Devil Doctor first published in the UK in 1916 by Cassell and in the US by McBride & Nast under the variant title, The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu.

The story sets off at a frantic pace with a desperate Dr. Petrie returning to J. Salaman’s antique shop on Museum Street where he believes he glimpsed Karamaneh in the previous installment. Petrie has foolishly decided to investigate the shop without informing Nayland Smith of his plans.

Posing as an antique collector, he is compelled to handle a silver Buddha that the shopkeeper tells him has already been sold. The statuette in question releases a concealed door and Petrie unexpectedly finds himself face to face with Dr. Fu-Manchu.

Petrie writes of the Devil Doctor’s awesome presence noting the supernatural force that seems to emanate from his oddly opaque eyes (that he likens to both a bird’s and a cat’s once more) that prevents anyone from summoning the courage to attack him. This force that Rohmer emphasizes is undoubtedly the vril he discussed in an earlier installment. Naturally, Petrie’s wonderment at finding himself in the presence of Fu-Manchu comes to a violent end when he is struck on the head and rendered unconscious.

Pulp thrillers, like their literary cousin the hardboiled mystery, have a habit of first person narrators being repeatedly knocked unconscious without ever suffering permanent ill effects or even a fractured skull. Petrie awakens abound captive in Dr. Fu-Manchu’s laboratory. As happened before, Fu-Manchu erroneously believes Petrie to be a genius rivaling his own intellect. He notes that he is preparing to brainwash Petrie so that he can send him back to China to serve the same organization bent on establishing a New World Order based in the East.


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