Friday, April 6, 2012

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Yellow Claw – Part One

Sax Rohmer’s The Yellow Claw was originally serialized in five installments in Lippincott’s from February through June 1915. The serial was subsequently published in book form later that same year by Methuen Press in the UK and McBride & Nast in the US. The novel chooses to divide the story into four sections which is how we shall examine the title over the next four weeks.

Rohmer’s first Yellow Peril thriller outside the Fu Manchu series is chiefly remembered today for having introduced the character of his dapper French detective, Gaston Max of the Surete. Max went on to feature in three other novels [The Golden Scorpion (1918), The Day the World Ended (1929), and Seven Sins (1943)] as well as the BBC radio series, Myself and Gaston Max adapted from a series of short stories about an entirely different Rohmer character known as The Crime Magnet.

Gaston Max was highly influenced by Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin, the series detective who did much to direct the development of the mystery genre and was a primary source of inspiration for both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Max was not Rohmer’s first attempt at fashioning his own French detective after Dupin’s example. His very first novel, The Sins of Severac Bablon (1912) featured Gaston Max’s prototype, Victor Lemage. The interesting feature is that while elements of Yellow Peril thrillers will surface in the book, Rohmer was trying hard to write a more conventional and realistic detective story in a direct break from the thrillers that made his name.


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