Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Golden Scorpion, Part Three – “At the House of Ah-Fang-Fu”

Sax Rohmer’s The Golden Scorpion was first printed in its entirety in The Illustrated London News Christmas Number in December 1918. It was published in book form in the UK the following year by Methuen and in the US in 1920 by McBride & Nast. Rohmer divided the novel into four sections. This week we shall examine the third part of the book, “At the House of Ah-Fang-Fu” which comprises eight chapters.

The story picks up at Scotland Yard where Gaston Max, Inspector Dunbar, and Dr. Keppel Stuart have gathered in the Assistant Commissioner’s office. Max suggests that the veiled figure known as the Scorpion that Dr. Stuart glimpsed in China five years earlier is likely the same criminal known as the Scorpion currently operating out of Limehouse. The Frenchman also believes that Mademoiselle Dorian aka Zara el-Khala aka Miska is likewise an essential key to unravelling the mystery.

Max suggests a connection exists between Mr. King (from Rohmer’s 1915 novel, The Yellow Claw) and the Scorpion. Specifically, the Frenchman theorizes that the two criminals belong to the same Chinese or Tibetan organization whose tentacles have seemingly enveloped the globe. Having named the secret criminal society in the third and, at the time, final Fu Manchu thriller, The Hand of Fu Manchu published the previous year; Rohmer now desired to link his two Gaston Max Limehouse mysteries to the earlier series’ continuity. This is an interesting change of direction as Rohmer had originally taken great pains to separate the more realistic Yellow Claw from the outlandish mayhem of his Fu Manchu thrillers. This reversal not only signalled the fact that he wasn’t entirely ready to be done with the character, but was seeking creative ways of continuing the series without resorting to a purely formulaic approach.


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