Thursday, December 26, 2013
“The Martian Baby” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from November 15, 1954 to February 5, 1955. The story gets underway in another tranquil setting with Flash and Dale enjoying a picnic in the country(Dale is supporting a very short, but stylish new haircut) only to have their peaceful interlude disturbed by a flying saucer that buzzes them so closely they are forced to run for cover. The saucer lands and reveals its occupant is a Martian baby crying for its mother. The baby is far heavier than it appears, absorbs all moisture (staying dry during rain), and munches away on flowers. Apart from that, the little tyke with the Mohawk seems human. While Dale’s maternal instincts quickly come to the fore, another saucer appears and obliterates the baby’s ship with a death ray beam. Flash, Dale, and the baby seek shelter in the woods. Dan Barry gives readers a glimpse of the exotic and beautiful alien female piloting the saucer which immediately defuses the seriousness of the threat in accordance with the gender views of the fifties. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Monday, December 23, 2013
“Peril Park” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from August 31 to November 13, 1954. I’ve begun to develop a fondness for Barry’s rather unique take on the character. He is a far cry from Alex Raymond, but his version is not without charm and these early 1950s strips did much to influence the Flash Gordon television series of the fifties. “Peril Park” opens with a tranquil scene of Flash and Dale enjoying a summer day boating on the lake when Flash discovers a message in a bottle. The twist is that the message was written 600 years in the future by a woman called Elda who claims to be held captive on an island in the very lake where Flash and Dale are relaxing. Dale is eager to let the matter lie, but Flash cannot and, with Dr. Zarkov’s help, he whisks forward six centuries via the time-space projector in Zarkov’s lab. The time travel scenes are rendered in a highly inventive fashion that suggests an influence on the trippy astral projection art pioneered by Steve Ditko on Marvel’s Doctor Strange a decade later. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Many pulp writers were influenced by the success of Sax Rohmer’s Yellow Peril criminal mastermind, Dr. Fu Manchu. The best of the early imitators was Achmed Abdullah’s The Blue-Eyed Manchu while the pulp era brought Robert J. Hogan’s The Mysterious Wu-Fang and Donald Keyhoe’s Dr. Yen-Sin to give the Devil Doctor a run for his money. Today, the best remembered Fu Manchu clone is undoubtedly Ian Fleming’s Dr. No. Marvel Comics’ The Mandarin and The Yellow Claw are the other two characters who have burrowed the furthest into popular culture’s collective memory of the past century. Having to choose the one of the scores of imitations that came closest to matching Rohmer for style and yet was distinct enough to avoid being nothing more than a shameless copy, I would have to single out Robert E. Howard’s Skull-Face and Erlik Khan, the Lord of the Dead. Howard’s reputation as a story-teller has grown over the past few decades to allow him to escape the looming shadow of his immensely popular sword and sorcery hero, Conan the Barbarian and be recognized as a singular talent who mastered many genres during his all too brief life. Sadly, his Yellow Peril thrillers are still largely unknown outside the circle of Howard completists. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE TOMORROW.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
World War I veteran, H. C. McNeile (better known by his nom de plume of “Sapper”) was a bestselling author of the last century whose works are quickly fading into obscurity. His most famous creation, Bulldog Drummond is best remembered for the old-time movie and radio series rather than the nearly twenty novels where the character first appeared. “Sapper” also wrote numerous stories and books about a Holmes-like consulting detective, Ronald Standish as well as two books about Jim Maitland, the monocle-wearing two-fisted defender of honor who personified the ideals of the British Empire while traveling abroad. Maitland first appeared in the 1923 collection, Jim Maitland, a fix-up of several short stories that chronicle his adventures before and immediately following the Great War. Modern critics have dismissed Maitland as an overgrown bully. This is a slur against the character that fails to recognize the extremes of nationalistic fervor in the last century. The worst example of this occurs in the tale where Jim overhears a “bloody foreigner” speak out against the British Empire and insists on settling the matter of dishonor with a duel to the death. It is interesting to note that the Old West’s concepts of lawlessness and devaluing of human life were not unique. To Continue Reading This Article, Please Visit The Black Gate on Friday.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Norbert Jacques’ Weimar Republic criminal mastermind, Dr. Mabuse has proven a potent allegorical figure for communicating the chaos of socio-economic collapse. From the original Roaring Twenties figure of Jacques’ fiction and Fritz Lang’s epic two-part silent film and its Depression-era sequel to the character’s rebirth which bookended the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the modern police state with its intricate and intrusive surveillance systems, Mabuse’s long cinematic history incorporates Expressionism, film noir, krimi, Euro-trash, and now modern independent film. Ansel Faraj is the ambitious young man who has brought Dr. Mabuse into the twenty-first century. A mere twenty-one years old, Faraj has already written and directed twenty-five independent films for his Hollinsworth Productions over the past seven years. Dr. Mabuse, newly released on DVD, shows a surprising polish and sense of artistry rarely found in the work of young filmmakers. Most surprising is how well Faraj makes use of his modest budget to the film’s overall advantage instead of its detriment. The Spartan production values assist in creating the dreamlike quality of the film. This can best be appreciated by watching the film in its entirety. Judging the results by the trailer fails to do justice to the neo-Expressionistic mood Faraj has managed to capture here. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Without Fu Manchu in my life, I would never have started down the path of penning these articles. One thing I was certain of was that there were no more surprises. I had found ever official appearance of Sax Rohmer’s master villain and would, in due course, cover all of them in this blog eventually. So it seems appropriate that in this the year that marks the centennial of the first Fu Manchu novel, my 200th article covers a hitherto unknown official piece of Fu Manchu history. A few weeks ago, I attended Classicon in Michigan and convention organizer, Ray Walsh handed me the January 1933 issue of Movie Mirror with Joan Bennet on the cover. The second feature was The Mask of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer. I suspected it was an unknown excerpt from the book and was intrigued I hadn’t been aware that it had turned up in print. What the issue actually contained was something far more valuable: an 11-page “fictionization” of the 1932 MGM film starring Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy, fully illustrated with stills from the film, some of which were quite rare. The adaptation was credited to Constance Brighton, an author I have found no other information concerning which makes me suspect the name is a pseudonym. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE TOMORROW.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
For twenty years now, George Vanderburgh’s Battered Silicon Dispatch Box has been publishing quality hardcover and trade paperback reprints of titles one might never otherwise discover. Their books rarely appear on Amazon or eBay, so the devoted bibliophile who ven-tures to http://www.batteredbox.com is among the few to find such treasures. Initially focusing on Sherlockian pastiches and scholarly efforts as well as reprinting long unavailable titles from Arkham House and Mycroft & Moran, BSDB has broadened their catalog to include other more obscure treasures. Their two most recent titles are The Crimes of Hanoi Shan by H. Ashton-Wolfe and The Last of the Borgias by Fred M. White. Both books were edited by acclaimed pulp historian Rick Lai whose own works were spotlighted in last week’s column. To Continue Reading This Article, Please Visit The Black Gate Tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Some readers find the literary game of treating fictional characters and their worlds as real to be off-putting. It has certainly delighted, confounded, and divided Sherlockians for decades. The Wold Newton approach merely added a new wrinkle by suggesting a fabric woven between various works could form a patchwork that is more fascinating than the individual pieces. From my own perspective, I have always been less concerned with the conclusions drawn than I am by the value of the scholarship involved. Rick Lai has done more than I could ever hope to repay by inspiring my own fiction and provoking thoughts on literary titles I thought I knew inside out or had initially disregarded as trivial. The more one delves into Lai’s speculative studies, the more one finds avenues missed and new paths down familiar roads. Unsurprisingly, Lai’s research sparked his own creativity. Reading the two Secret Histories volumes from Altus Press inevitably suggests that someone could or should take Lai’s theories and present them in story form. Appropriately enough, Lai has begun to do just that with the Shadows of the Opera trilogy and its companion trilogy, Sisters of the Shadows. Wild Cat Books published the first volume, The Mark of the Revenant in 2011 with Black Coat Press picking up the second installment, Retribution in Blood and the first companion volume, The Cagliostro Curse for publication this year. TO ENJOY THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Pulp fiction is alive and well in the new millennium as a niche market fed by reprints of classic pulps, revivals of countless public domain properties, licensed continuations that protect aging copyright claims, and even new pulp fiction cut from the cloth of the classic originals. The evolution of western hero to an archetypal pulp hero has happened once more in this fringe market in the case of western author Thomas McNulty. A veteran western writer in the Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour tradition, McNulty has made the transition from cowboy hero to pulp hero with his latest novel, Jack Ripcord. The title character for a planned trilogy of books, there is no mistaking that Jack Ripcord is an alter ego of the author from the cover character portrait to the way that the story functions as a synthesis of all of McNulty’s interests. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Marvel Comics quickly responded to the news that the creative team behind the legendary Tomb of Dracula series had moved over to Dark Horse to relaunch the property as Curse of Dracula. Marvel put together their own creative team to try to give fans of the original series what they wanted. Glenn Greenberg wrote the script for the three-part Dracula, Lord of the Undead limited series and Pat Olliffe provided artwork that recalled Gene Colan’s work. Colan’s original inker, Tom Palmer was back on board as well and his contributions cannot be underestimated (and were very much lacking in the Dark Horse series). The story opens in contemporary Transylvania where Dracula still terrorizes the locals. The scene quickly shifts to London where we meet Dr. Charles Seward, great grandson of Dr. John Seward who fought alongside Abraham Van Helsing to combat Dracula in the late 19th Century. Young Seward is a research scientist whose marriage is falling apart due to his obsessive devotion to his research. Seward’s mysterious and sinister employer has hired him to develop a cure for vampirism. To this end, his employer has recently ransacked Castle Dracula and successfully captured a vampire to serve as a guinea pig. Seward’s serum makes blood indigestible for vampires dooming them to starvation, but it also unleashes a highly contagious blood disease that threatens to wipe out the human race. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Marvel Comics’ long-running Tomb of Dracula series by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan was a landmark in the medium. The award-winning series set a standard in the industry that is still felt four decades on. Marvel shamefully squandered their efforts to turn the controversial monthly title into an adult-oriented comic magazine free from the strictures of the Comics Code Authority. A dozen years later, the duo reunited to revive the series for Marvel’s Epic Comics line, but this highly underrated four-part limited series was not granted the accolades or the follow-up it deserved. Flash forward to 1998 and Dark Horse Comics offered Wolfman and Colan a three-part limited series to reinvent the property for the up and coming rival in the field. The only tragedy is that The Curse of Dracula ended up being another one-shot limited series despite the storyline’s potential to be expanded further. Much of the Dark Horse series recalls the story and artwork in the Epic Comics limited series from earlier in the decade. The plot is equally complex and adult and the art pushes the boundaries to the edge yet again. Once again, Marv Wolfman is crafting a new set of vampire hunters and has Dracula rooted in the world of politics. The new protagonists are an interesting lot led by Jonathan Van Helsing, a cerebral but physically unchallenging character whose vocal chords were destroyed by vampires ten years before. Jonathan is the CEO of Sunlight Industries and is a regular feature on the television talk show and convention circuit. His father and grandfather died staking Count Dracula at his castle in Italy in 1979. Sadly, Jonathan learns the vampire has been resurrected. He prays after each battle, not for his own lost soul, but to retain his sanity after the atrocities he has witnessed and committed. TO CONTINUE THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The nostalgia for the 1950s has been with us for over forty years now. Blame George Lucas and American Graffiti (actually set during the Kennedy administration, but responsible for engendering nostalgia for the previous decade) for making us so fondly recall the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and the popularity of sock hops, drive-in movies, and the introduction of a fad for 3-D movies that is currently enjoying its third vogue, appropriately enough. The popular mindset tends to ignore the influential role played by be-bop jazz, the beat poets, film noir’s move to television, and the introduction of Cinemascope in the same decade. Beneath the artificially clean post-war American dream where everyone on the big screen and small screen appeared to be white, upper middle class and enjoying cocktails and cigarettes with no ill effects while watching Rock Hudson pursuing a virginal Doris Day, there were the McCarthy witch hunts, the Red scare, atomic fears, juvenile delinquency, and shell-shocked WWII veterans unable to readjust to civilian life. It was in this world that the third wave of the horror film took hold. The steadily growing move from splitting the atom to racing to the moon saw science fiction take a steady hold on the genre that took it far from the space fantasy of decades past into an allegorical means of confronting the dark fears behind the baby boomers’ dream world. One of the most potent and influential b-movies to fill drive-ins during the late 1950s was The Blob. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Monday, September 30, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Drums of Fu Manchu was first serialized in Collier’s from April 1 to June 3, 1939. It was published in book form later that year by Cassel in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The last quarter of the book picks up with Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Bart Kerrigan having witnessed Dr. Fu Manchu’s meeting with German dictator Rudolf Adlon. Der Fuhrer receives his final warning from the Si-Fan and is given one hour to leave Venice or else he will be assassinated. Smith and Kerrigan make their way through the villa and come upon the lotus room with the trap floor once more. Inside the room is Ardatha with a set of keys on a mission of mercy to save them from their fates. She leads both men out of the house giving Smith a key to lock the door behind him, but refuses to flee with them. Sir Denis quickly raises the Venetian police to raid the villa in the hopes of rescuing Rudolf Adlon who disappeared the previous night and has still not returned. The raid fails as the villa is deserted except for the steward who denies all knowledge of any Asian visitors and informs them the villa is the property of James Brownlow Wilton, an American newspaper tycoon, munitions manufacturer, and Nazi sympathizer (and a fairly transparent analogue of William Randolph Hearst). Mr. Wilton has just left his villa for his yacht, Silver Heels. To Continue Reading This Article, Please Visit The Black Gate on Friday, October 11.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Drums of Fu Manchu was first serialized in Collier’s from April 1 to June 3, 1939. It was published in book form later that year by Cassel in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The third quarter of the book picks up with Ardatha having risked her life to warn Bart Kerrigan to leave Venice immediately. The beautiful Eurasian climbs through the startled Englishman’s window in his canal-side hotel room and pleads with him to cease interfering in the Si-Fan’s plans to assassinate German dictator Rudolf Adlon. While Kerrigan’s mind reels at the thought that Ardatha shares the same feelings for him as he does for her, the two are interrupted by the sound of footsteps outside. They fall silent fearing she has been followed, but when the footsteps pass, the two fall into one another’s arms and make love in their desperation. After Ardatha departs into the night, Kerrigan first fears for her safety and then is overcome with guilt at the thought that she acted the part of a decoy who kept him from his duty of watching over Sir Denis. He rushes to his room and finds Smith has disappeared. Kerrigan is forced to realize that while he made love with Ardatha, Sir Denis fell into the hands of the Si-Fan and their efforts to protect Rudolf Adlon from assassination have been compromised as a result. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Drums of Fu Manchu was first serialized in Collier’s from April 1 to June 3, 1939. It was published in book form later that year by Cassel in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The second quarter of the book picks up with a weary Sir Denis Nayland Smith contemplating whether he is too old to continue warring with Dr. Fu Manchu and the Si-Fan. Their conflict has stretched for nearly thirty years and the Si-Fan is growing in strength while Nayland Smith is growing old. Chief Inspector Gallaho of Scotland Yard brings news that galvanizes Smith back into action. Dr. Martin Jasper, research director of Caxton armament factory, has received his final notice from the Si-Fan. Smith, Bart Kerrigan, and Gallaho immediately depart for Jasper’s Suffolk estate, Great Oaks. Naturally, they arrive too late. The staff of the great house is in an uproar as their master has barricaded himself in his laboratory and is believed to be dead. Breaking through the barricade, they discover the latest victim of the Green Death is not Dr. Jasper, but his Japanese employer, Mr. Osaki. While interviewing the staff, Smith learns Dr. Jasper had a frequent Eurasian visitor - a woman whose description does not match Ardatha, to Kerrigan’s relief, but rather Fah lo Suee, the now deceased daughter of Fu Manchu. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Drums of Fu Manchu was first serialized in Collier’s from April 1 to June 3, 1939. It was published in book form later that year by Cassel in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The book marked a welcome return to the first person narrative voice in the tradition of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmesmysteries and constituted a return to the series’ roots with a close re-creation of the very first Fu Manchu episode, “The Zayat Kiss” in the opening chapters of the new novel. The narrator is Fleet Street journalist Bart Kerrigan, a Dr. Petrie substitute who is an old friend of Sir Denis Nayland Smith from his days as a colonial administrator. As in the first book, our narrator is disturbed one night by the unexpected arrival of Nayland Smith seeking shelter from the Si-Fan agents on his tail. Smith has once again returned to London to save the life of a man marked for death by the Si-Fan. Smith and Kerrigan rush to the home of Sir Malcolm Locke. Sir Malcolm’s house guest, General Quinto is Italian dictator Pietro Monaghani’s right hand man. Quinto has foolishly disregarded his three written warnings from the Si-Fan. Upon Smith and Kerrigan’s arrival, they learn the General has mysteriously died from what Smith calls “the Green Death.” TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Last year Skyhorse Publishing commemorated the centennial of Bram Stoker’s death by collecting his three lesser known horror novels in one massive volume edited by Stephen Jones and published under the title, The Lost Novels of Bram Stoker. The title is a bit of a misnomer since none of these books can really claim to have been lost. Although having recently read all three in sequence, one may be able to make a convincing argument that at least a couple of them deserve to be buried. The Jewel of the Seven Stars (1903) opens the collection and is far and away the best of the three titles. Often referred to as Stoker’s Mummy novel, it concerns reincarnation, possession, obsession, and even a Biblical damning of those who dare too much. This well-written novel recalls Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing style far more than Stoker’s early triumph with Dracula, but that is hardly a fault. The style is more modern and the pacing and characterization are excellent until the stilted finale which falls surprisingly flat. This opinion appeared to have been universal for Stoker’s publisher later deleted a lengthy chapter with background information (which was published separately as a short story) and had the author rewrite the ending. Regrettably, this only made matters worse for the revised chapter is an unconvincing happy ending that convinces no one. Stoker seemed to be building toward a sense of doom with the Divine Hand of Justice smiting the participants in this sacrilegious rite with the same sense of inevitability as befell Lot’s wife and the wayward citizens of Sodom in the Old Testament. Yet somehow he seemed unable to carry it off convincingly. Rather strange coming from the author who created the defining vampire story with its juxtaposition of Old World religion and superstition outstripping the Modern World’s rationalism and science. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, August 30, 2013
“Circea” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from March 22 to May 29, 1954. This lighthearted story begins with Zarkov encouraging Flash to propose to Dale. Just as he starts to ask her to marry him, the gravity of the area around them is thrown off and Flash and Dale find themselves hurtling past the clouds while the oxygen grows rapidly thinner. They recover consciousness to find themselves in a rocketship hurtling through space. They leave our galaxy and pass through a comet unscathed before entering the atmosphere of an unknown planetoid in a far distant galaxy. They are brought to rest through the skylight of a large installation perched high on a cliff. They find themselves facing a beautiful woman named Circea who has observed Flash from afar and become infatuated with him. Circea’s dangerous obsession with Flash has gone far beyond abducting him from Earth. Jealous of her rival, she sends Dale to her death by pitching her off the edge of the building into the sea of fire below. An anguished Flash jumps off to either die with Dale or save her. Distraught at losing the object of her desire, Circea operates an enormous asbestos net to captures Flash and Dale just before they plunge into the sea of flames. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Monday, August 26, 2013
“The Lost Continent” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from October 26, 1953 to March 20, 1954. This is the story where Dan Barry finally realized his potential and would serve as the model for his best work on the strip over the next four decades. His art and plotting are reminiscent of the classic original work by Alex Raymond and rank alongside Al Williamson’s later work as the most faithful interpretations of Raymond’s unique style. The story gets underway with Flash, Dale, and Zarkov enjoying a deep sea fishing trip in the West Indies when they are caught in a hurricane. Their yacht strikes a bathysphere in the storm and is washed ashore with it on the island of Bimini. A panel on the bathysphere opens and Flash, Dale, and Zarkov enter to find a pair of Neanderthals who quickly suffocate in the open air. The dying Neanderthals manage to speak a few words in their strange language and Zarkov makes out “Poseidon” and concludes they hail from the legendary capitol of the lost continent of Atlantis. Dale discovers a cache of gold coins in the flooring while Zarkov discovers a recording machine that translates thoughts. The device translates the Atlan language to several different languages including English through which they learn the Neanderthals were on a mission to flood the markets of the surface world with the cache of gold in order to destroy the world economy to pave the way for an invasion. The trio resolves to pilot the bathysphere down to Atlantis to prevent their plans after giving the Neanderthals a proper burial on Bimini. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, August 23, 2013
“The Space Kids on Zoran” was Dan Barry’s first "Flash Gordon" storyline following the departure of Harvey Kurtzman from the strip. It was published by King Features Syndicate from April 21 to October 24, 1953. The storyline shows the influence of "Captain Video and his Video Rangers," the seminal series that was to the first television generation what the Buster Crabbe "Flash Gordon" serials had been to their parents. As the storyline progresses, Barry incorporates another Biblical parable this time offering up a space age twist on the Christ story. Dan Barry had settled into a more comfortable style with the characters that was recognizably his own take on Alex Raymond’s original work. This style would remain constant until the early 1980s. The story begins with Flash and Dale driving to visit Ray Carson who has set up a club called the Space Kids at an abandoned site. The boys have built a full-size model rocket out of wood and spare parts Ray’s father gave him. Flash agrees to help the boys that weekend. There is a definite switch to a more juvenile approach to the strip with the portrayal of the kids more reminiscent of Harvey Comics than a dramatic adventure strip. The sight of Flash smoking a pipe as he surveys the youngsters’ work is also somewhat disconcerting. From there, Flash leaves for a meeting with aeronautics industrialist, J. B. Pennington who is employing Ray’s dad to build a rocket and has hired Flash to fly it. Pennington is the stereotypical capitalist authority figure. He is dismissive of his employees and unloving to his young son, Cyril. Flash’s contemptuous attitude is meant to endear him to the young readers of the strip more than it is to offer social criticism as the generation gap becomes one of the major themes of the storyline. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
So another season of pulp conventions has come and gone. As in the past, part of the fun of being able to attend conventions and meet people that share your passions and appreciate your work is meeting other authors you might otherwise have never chanced upon. Such was the case with Dick Enos at this year’s PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Enos is the author of the "Rick Steele" adventure series published by Mirror Publishing. Enos lists his principal influences as the long-running newspaper adventure strip, "Steve Canyon;" the Old Time Radio show and Golden Age television series, "Sky King;" and Mickey Spillane’s venerable "Mike Hammer." To continue reading this article, please visit The Black Gate.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Marvel Comics’ mature readers imprint, Epic Comics published a "Tomb of Dracula" limited series in 1991 entitled, “Day of Blood, Night of Redemption.” Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan reunited from the original series and teamed with Al Williamson to produce this visually stunning and highly ambitious four-part epic. The script faltered a bit by the end as it really needed at least two more issues to realize its full potential, but this was an excellent effort and a welcome return to form that is deserving of more attention for its high standard of quality throughout. The third issue gets underway with a quiet interlude shattered when a street gang makes the mistake of harassing the vampire after discovering him alone on the streets of Washington D.C. There is an unmistakable cathartic glee to the scene where Dracula literally drags the leader of the gang to his death. This is followed by a brief segment that establishes Katinka as having joined Frank Drake and Blade in their hunt for the vampire. Her character proves the necessary bridge to smooth the rough partnership rekindled between these two very different men. She also functions as a Van Helsing substitute who is seeking a scientific cure for Marlene’s possession. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Marvel Comics’ mature readers imprint, Epic Comics published a "Tomb of Dracula" limited series in 1991 entitled, “Day of Blood, Night of Redemption.” Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan reunited from the original series and teamed with Al Williamson to produce this visually stunning and highly ambitious four-part epic. The script faltered a bit by the end as it really needed at least two more issues to realize its full potential, but this was an excellent effort and a welcome return to form that is deserving of more attention for its high standard of quality throughout. The story gets underway with the introduction of two attractive young college students, Becky and Lila who are having an affair. Becky is obsessed with the occult and unintentionally burns herself to death during a Satanic ritual one night after a rendezvous with Lila. From there the scene shifts to a beautiful young attorney, Marlene McKenna who is suffering from night terrors and under the care of Dr. Gregor Smirnoff. Marlene’s night terrors stem from the fact that she is married to Frank Drake and she has become obsessed with Frank’s ex-lover, the now deceased Rachel Van Helsing. Marlene has sought out her husband’s psychiatrist to treat her for her recurring nightmares of Dracula and belief that she is being possessed by the spirit of Rachel Van Helsing. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Bram Stoker’s immortal vampire had left an indelible mark on the comic book industry of the 1970s with Marvel Comics’ award-winning "Tomb of Dracula" series and its spin-offs. By the following decade, Marvel was ready to put the final stake in the now tired property. The storyline to rid the Marvel Universe of vampires was spread across multiple titles in 1982 and 1983 beginning with Marvel’s biggest title of the decade, "The Uncanny X-Men." Writer Chris Claremont and artist Bill Sienkiewicz kicked the storyline off in Issue #159 of "The Uncanny X-Men" in a clever update of the Stoker novel that sees Storm falling victim to Dracula. Claremont cleverly starts off with the team frantically rushing to the hospital where their friend has been hospitalized from dramatic blood loss stemming from a mysterious throat wound. Storm remembers nothing of the attack, has mystified the attending physician by her seemingly miraculous recovery, and yet is decidedly not herself exhibiting a peculiar morbid fixation. The one flaw is the story is too rushed. Claremont and Sienkiewicz’s handling of Dracula is the best since Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, if lacking in their unique style and flair. What should have been a multi-part storyline is truncated to fit in a single issue. Happily, the story served as a prelude to that year’s "Uncanny X-Men" Annual #6 which developed the storyline further with Storm struggling with Dracula’s hold over her soul, Kitty Pryde falling to possession by Lilith, Dracula’s daughter, Rachel Van Helsing turned into Dracula’s vampire bride, and the Lord of Vampires seeking possession once more of the mystical tome, the Darkhold which contains the Montesi Formula, the fabled key to wiping out all vampires from the face of the Earth. Once again, the fault is that the story needs far more space than it was allotted. It is a joy to see so many plot strands from "Tomb of Dracula" being taken up and it is clear that the story is building to a greater story arc, but these stories could have been so much more and with a talented writer and artist team such as Claremont and Sienkiewicz, it is unfortunate they were not. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s "The Invisible President" was originally serialized in "Collier’s" from February 29 to May 16, 1936. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US under the title "President Fu Manchu." The novel is the first in the series to fictionalize real events with characters based on familiar figures in the US in the 1930s such as Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin. More than one critic has noted the story may have influenced the classic Cold War conspiracy thriller "The Manchurian Candidate." The key to tracking down Fu Manchu comes from the most unlikely of sources. It is Robbie Adair, Moya’s four-year old son, who mentions to Mark Hepburn about the mad man who lives at the Stratton Building, the high-rise across the street from Robbie’s apartment, who makes sculptures of a bust and hurls them down to the street below. Robbie also mentions “Yellow Uncle” who is kind to him and gave him his own auto for his birthday. Moya dismissed the stories as a little boy’s imagination, but Hepburn realizes the auto is in fact a toy car and “Yellow Uncle” is very real. The mad man Robbie sees is Professor Morgenstahl, a brilliant German scientist believed dead who is now a slave to the Si-Fan and installed at the Stratton Building. During his free hours each day, he sculpts a bust of Fu Manchu and hurls it to the pavement below in impotent rage. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s "The Invisible President" was originally serialized in Collier’s from February 29 to May 16, 1936. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US under the title "President Fu Manchu." The novel is the first in the series to fictionalize real events with characters based on familiar figures in the US in the 1930s such as Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin. More than one critic has noted the story may have influenced the classic Cold War conspiracy thriller "The Manchurian Candidate." The presidential debate is the centerpiece of the book and is masterfully played out by Rohmer. Abbot Donegal turns up and is taken into protective custody by the FBI. Dr. Prescott attends the debate at Carnegie Hall and, thanks to his having been drugged by Fu Manchu earlier, makes a complete shambles of countering the progressive candidate, Harvey Bragg. The audience at Carnegie Hall and those listening around the country to the radio broadcast are shocked at how badly the conservative candidate loses the debate. As the triumphant Bragg tells the press afterwards that he will transform the United States and then the rest of the world, one of his union backers, Paul Salvaletti clicks off the names of the continents. As he says “Asia,” Herman Grosset’s brainwashed programming clicks into gear. He brandishes a pistol and shoots and kills Harvey Bragg on the spot. Bragg’s security guards turn their weapons on Grosset and shoot him dead seconds later. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s "The Invisible President" was originally serialized in Collier’s from February 29 to May 16, 1936. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US under the title "President Fu Manchu." The novel is the first in the series to fictionalize real events with characters based on familiar figures in the US in the 1930s such as Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin. More than one critic has noted the story may have influenced the classic Cold War conspiracy thriller "The Manchurian Candidate." The hotel where Sir Denis Nayland Smith and his FBI counterpart, Mark Hepburn are staying is thrown into a panic over the unexpected arrival of James Richet, Abbot Donegal’s secretary, who is wanted by the authorities as a member of the Si-Fan. Richet arrives by taxi outside the hotel before collapsing. His corpse is discovered inexplicably covered with mysterious red spots. When first introduced, Richet came under suspicion for no better reason than Smith detecting Eurasian blood in his background. Strangely, Smith’s valet Fey is also Eurasian and while other characters sometimes express doubts about Fey’s loyalty, Sir Denis never questions it. One wishes that Rohmer would have given Smith a more concrete reason to suspect Richet other than racial profiling. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, June 28, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s "The Invisible President" was originally serialized in Collier’s from February 29 to May 16, 1936. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US under the title "President Fu Manchu." The novel is the first in the series to fictionalize real events with characters based on familiar figures in the US in the 1930s such as Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin. More than one critic has noted that the story may have influenced the classic Cold War conspiracy thriller "The Manchurian Candidate." The novel gets underway with Sir Denis Nayland Smith on special assignment with the FBI in a reworking of the Parson Dan episode from the very first Fu Manchu novel over twenty years before. Rohmer is much more comfortable with his second effort at a third person narrative for the series. The early chapters do an admirable job of introducing Smith and his opposite number, FBI Agent Mark Hepburn into the lives of the highly controversial radio talk show host, Father Patrick Donegal. The celebrated Catholic priest had his manuscript on the forces threatening the USA stolen from his studio at the Tower of the Holy Thorn during his most recent broadcast. Abbot Donegal can recall nothing of the theft or even the contents of the manuscript he prepared. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.
Friday, June 14, 2013
“Mr. Murlin” was artist Dan Barry and writer Harvey Kurtzman’s follow-up to “The Awful Forest” and was published by King Features Syndicate from December 31, 1952 to April 20, 1953. The story would be the last pairing for the team, although Barry would continue on with the strip until 1990. Their finale marks another departure from the formula. Flash and Ray stumble upon a medieval cottage in a forest clearing and knocking upon the door, they encounter Mr. Murlin, an alchemist from 14th Century Earth who inexplicably recognizes Flash and Ray. The old man has an adolescent daughter, Marilyn with whom Ray has his first crush. Murlin explains how he invented a time case through which he traveled far into the future and to another world. Flash views the future by looking in the time case and sees he is reunited with Dale. Eager to know when the reunion will occur, Flash is startled to see Dale emerge from the back of the cottage. Murlin tells him he found her wandering in a dazed state in the forest and gave her refuge. Dale explains she looked into the time case and saw that she would be reunited with Flash in the cottage and so has waited for him. This accounts for Murlin’s knowledge of Flash and Ray’s identities. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
“The Awful Forest” was artist Dan Barry and writer Harvey Kurtzman’s follow-up to “Tartarus” and was published by King Features Syndicate from October 20 to December 30, 1952. The story shows a marked step forward in quality in Barry’s artwork. At times, he equals Alex Raymond barring his love of EC-style comic grotesqueries which likely reflect Kurtzman’s involvement in the creative process. Flash, Marla, Kent, and Ray arrive on horseback at the edge of the Awful Forest along with a party of satyr porters from Tartarus. The rain is pouring down steadily and the setting is clearly meant to call to mind Germany’s Black Forest. No sooner do they arrive in the Awful Forest, they encounter the figure of a gibbering madman who pleads with them to turn back before rushing off into the woods in abject terror. Their porters recognize this strange figure as the Black Duke, Lucifan’s cousin who abducted Dale from the deposed king’s court. What should be an effective sequence of mounting suspense is let down by the depiction of the mad Duke as a comic loony who would have been at home in an early issue of "Mad." TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT WEEK.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
“The Butterfly Men” was artist Dan Barry and writer Harvey Kurtzman’s follow-up to “The City of Ice” and was published by King Features Syndicate from June 16 to August 9, 1952. The storyline is a simple sci-fi hokum but one not previously seen in the series. Flash and Queen Marla materialize on the planet Tanium in the Alpha Centauri system. Of course, it is sheer luck that has brought them to the same planet that Dale and the crew of the X-3 have journeyed to in their quest for the missing Dr. Carson. It is also sheer coincidence that Flash and Marla are met by Ray Carson, the doctor’s young son who broke away from the crew of the X-3 in his eagerness to search for his father. The trio reaches the ship only to discover it deserted and signs of a struggle including Dale’s torn, bloodstained clothing. Weakened by their hunger and thirst they encounter a giant insect. Marla shoots the creature with a heat ray although Flash is convinced it is harmless. The wounded creature limps off and spins a cocoon around its body. The visitors then see the strange sight of giant butterflies with the bodies of men descending upon them. The butterfly men are the dominant life form of Tanium and are the adult form of the strange giant insects following their natural metamorphosis. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Monday, May 27, 2013
While Mac Raboy kept alive the "Flash Gordon" Sunday strip from 1948 until his death in 1967, Dan Barry emerged on the scene to take the reins of a revived daily strip in November 1951. Barry became the longest running artist ever associated with the character and eventually took over the Sunday strip after Mac Raboy’s untimely death. He illustrated the strip for nearly forty years stepping down in 1990. Interestingly, Barry’s revival of the daily strip marked a radical departure from past continuity and would be seen as a reboot of the property in modern parlance. The strip established Flash Gordon and his girlfriend Dale Arden as seasoned space explorers who have visited Mars on more than one occasion and are currently leading an expedition to Jupiter. This marks Earth’s third Jupiter mission (the first two having ended in disaster). As an amusing aside, the strip places the site of the U.S. space program in Ohio. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Mac Raboy succeeded Austin Briggs in illustrating the "Flash Gordon" Sunday strip from 1948 until his death in 1967. As an artist, Raboy was heavily influenced by the strip’s creator, Alex Raymond and did a fine job of continuing the series. Dark Horse reprinted the entire Mac Raboy run in four oversized monochrome trade paperbacks a few years ago. Titan Books will reprint the series in full color as part of their ongoing hardcover reprints of the entire run of the series. At present, I have only two Mac Raboy stories (one early and one late-period) as a sample of his two decade run on the strip. “Yeti” was serialized by King Features Syndicate from July 21 to November 17, 1963. Raboy’s artwork was not as strong by this point as it had been earlier, but having succeeded Don Moore in writing his own scripts, it is clear that Raboy was taking a cue from Dan Barry’s concurrent daily strip in moving the series away from Alex Raymond’s original template. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Mac Raboy succeeded Austin Briggs in illustrating the "Flash Gordon" Sunday strip from 1948 until his death in 1967. As an artist, Raboy was heavily influenced by the strip’s creator, Alex Raymond and did a fine job of continuing the series. Dark Horse reprinted the entire Mac Raboy run in four oversized monochrome trade paperbacks a few years ago. Titan Books will reprint the series in full color as part of their ongoing hardcover reprints of the entire run of the series. At present, I have only two Mac Raboy stories (one early and one late-period) as a sample of his two decade run on the strip. “Polaria” was serialized by King Features Syndicate from September 18, 1949 to January 1, 1950. Raboy’s artwork never approached the grandeur of Alex Raymond’s vistas (to be fair, he wasn’t allotted the space), but the realism of his characters (particularly their windswept hair) exceeded the originals. Don Moore’s scripts remained unchanged fifteen years after the fact as the storyline concerned yet another regional monarch’s desire to become Emperor of Mongo and follow in the footsteps of both Ming the Merciless and Kang the Cruel. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT HERE.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
This review wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m up in the Albian wastes in Alberta for my day job and the review that was scheduled to run this week fell through. John O’Neill came to my rescue with an advance copy of a short ebook being published by Samhain Publishing this summer. The book is called "The Skates" and it is part of the series of "Renner and Quist" adventures written by Mark Rigney. I’ll be honest up front in stating I had not heard of publisher, author, or series before this time. My main relief was that John allowed me to get an article done without missing a week and the ebook was short enough to read through it in barely an hour. Then I read the damn thing and my perception changed instantly. I curse simply because I envy Rigney for his talents. This wasn’t a fun, enjoyable read so much as it was a story I instantly loved. I’m sure the folks at Samhain Publishing are nice people, but why hasn’t Rigney’s fiction been noticed by editors at major publishing houses? Yes, it is that good. I’m fairly familiar with the New Pulp world and Rigney can write circles around most of us as he seamlessly blurs the lines between genres and switches voice from one first person narrator to the other. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Attending Windy City Pulp and Paper Con in Chicago reinforced the fact that the burgeoning New Pulp world is quickly becoming as diverse as the classic originals. While most people tend to stereotype pulp as falling between sword & sorcery, hardboiled detective fiction, and costumed avengers it was really far more broad in its appeal encompassing everything from sci-fi to swashbucklers to boxing tales to romance to humor. A few months ago I spotlighted "Pro Se Presents" for doing an excellent job of bringing diversity back to contemporary pulp fiction. This week’s article looks at two new titles from New Pulp publishers and creators that push the boundaries in unexpected directions. First off is the new title from Airship 27 from the team of Richard Kellogg and Gary Kato. It is no surprise to see Airship 27 continuing the tradition of giving readers new Sherlock Holmes titles to enjoy. What is surprising is that Kellogg and Kato’s book, "Barry Baskerville Solves a Case," is aimed at children. The title is equal parts Encyclopedia Brown, Nate the Great, and Sherlock Holmes. While my own kids are too big to enjoy this, I can’t wait to read this title to my grandkids one day. Barry Baskerville is an absolute hoot for Holmes fans. Each page is dripping with wonderful references to the canon that parents will love (a bit like finding Easter eggs on a DVD). Best of all the many references never detract from the story to spoil the fun for kids who will want to be just like Barry. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
"Waters of Darkness" is the new novel from David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna published by Damnation Books. Longtime readers of my column will recognize Bonadonna as the author of the well-received sword & sorcery title, "Mad Shadows" and the recent space fantasy, "Three Against the Stars." David C. Smith will be familiar to Robert E. Howard fans for his series of "Red Sonja" novels in the 1980s. The shade of Robert E. Howard lingers over every page of "Waters of Darkness," the first collaboration by these two talented authors to see print. The principal characters, Crimson Kate O’Toole and Bloody Red Buchanan would have fit in nicely had this 17th Century swashbuckler first seen print in the pages of "Weird Tales" in the 1930s. A quest for fabled treasure sets these two buccaneers sailing for the Isle of Shadow in the far distant Eastern Seas. They find themselves combating an evil priest of Dagon and the sorcerer in his thrall along the way and most of the crew of the Raven pays the cost for their having crossed paths. This book is extremely fast-paced and is perhaps the new pulp title that most closely rings with the authentic flavor of classic pulp. It is not surprising since David C. Smith was always among the top echelon of Robert E, Howard pastiche writers and Joe Bonadonna has quickly established himself as a breath of fresh air in the new pulp world. Together the mixing of both men’s styles (classic pulp of the finest caliber with quirky and highly literate mixing of fantasy, hard-boiled humor, and an expansive cinematic vocabulary) produces what will doubtless be hailed as one of the finest new pulp titles of the year. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Longtime readers will be well aware of my love for Dr. Phibes, the cult classic character played by Vincent Price in two campy AIP productions forty years ago. “Phibes is special” is how my old friend, Chris Winland summarized the property a couple decades ago and his understatement couldn’t be more accurate. Equal parts horror, comedy, thriller, and romance the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Part of what made Phibes special is there were only two films despite several attempts over the years to get a third film as well as a TV series off the ground. A few years ago, the character’s co-creator, William Goldstein acquired the literary rights to his property from MGM who control the AIP catalog. At the time, Goldstein had to contend with unlicensed comic book appearances and an attempt by his former writing partner to revive the series with a new film. Having settled legal matters, Goldstein set about reviving the book series. Forty years ago, Goldstein not only novelized the screenplay he co-authored for the original film but he also novelized the sequel he helped develop. The movie tie-in novels are a very different beast from the films. Devoid of the eye-popping art deco sets and costumes, the campy scores and the scene-stealing performances by the likes of Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton, Robert Quarry, and Terry-Thomas; the books read like old-fashioned pulp thrillers with an exceptionally keen eye for historical detail. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
No writer enjoys receiving a bad review of their work. Sometimes the reviewer pinpoints a genuine weakness and the writer benefits from constructive criticism. Many times, the writer is left feeling the reviewer was influenced by petty jealousy or an unspecified bias or just fond of exercising the power of the pen to tear others down and amuse their own regular readers. I don’t enjoy receiving bad reviews and I can’t say I enjoy writing them either. If I take the time to read a book, I want to walk away having felt it was time well-spent. I am not a fan of "Hammett Unwritten" by Gordon McAlpine writing as Owen Fitzstephen. McAlpine is a good writer. I do not have much in the way of constructive criticism to offer. I disliked his book because I am biased. I considered dropping the review entirely. After all, why make an enemy of the author or his friends? Nothing is worse than typing the title of your book in a search engine only to find some hack tearing you to shreds for no good reason. It was the recognition of my bias against the book that I felt justified in sharing why it rubbed me the wrong way. I revere the work of Dashiell Hammett. Beyond the books and short stories, I’ve read every Hammett biography and critical analysis I could find. I’ve read his published letters. I’ve read works of fiction involving Hammett as the principal character. Some, such as Joe Gores’ "Hammett" and Ace Atkins’ "Devil’s Garden," were brilliant works that rang true in their portrayal of Hammett the man and their evocation of Hammett’s writing style. Others, such as William F. Nolan’s "Black Mask Boys" series and McAlpine’s "Hammett Unwritten," left a bad taste solely because I wanted to love the books but walked away disappointed. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Angel’s Gate is the third entry in P. G. Sturges’ award-winning Shortcut Man hardboiled mystery series. The book sat on my night stand untouched for a week or so as I couldn’t shake the suspicion that it would mark the descent into formula that befalls most series. It would still be amusing and Sturges’ prose would still be engaging, but it would be the inevitable come down after the joy and freshness of the first two titles. Early on in the book there is a sequence where Dick Henry, the Shortcut Man, is hired by a client to find her sister who came out to Hollywood seeking fame and fortune ten years before and has since fallen off the map. It’s a familiar scene that immediately recalls Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, likewise a hardboiled mystery about Hollywood scandal and hypocrisy. That book was Chandler’s fifth and, while still essential reading, it lacks the freshness and vitality of his early Philip Marlowe mysteries. I was certain I would feel the same way about Angel’s Gate. Happily, I was dead wrong. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Trail of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from April 28 to July 14, 1934. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The book marked the first time Rohmer employed third person narrative in the series and dispensed with the first person narrative voice modeled on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. The results dilute what would otherwise have been a stronger novel that saw the series return to its roots. The story picks up in the aftermath of the Limehouse explosion one week earlier. Surprisingly, Sam Pak’s opium den only sustained minor structural damage. No bodies have been recovered nor did the police launch sight any boat escaping on the Thames prior to the explosion. Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Chief Inspector Gallaho are hopeful that Fu Manchu might actually be dead, but unless bodies are recovered, Smith does not feel secure. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTCLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Trail of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from April 28 to July 14, 1934. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The book marked the first time Rohmer employed third person narrative in the series and dispensed with the first person narrative voice modeled on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. The results dilute what would otherwise have been a stronger novel that saw the series return to its roots. Chief Inspector Gallaho leads a police raid on Sam Pak’s opium den and begins the descent to the tunnel system below the Thames where Fu Manchu is transmuting base metal to gold in an alchemical process utilizing human bodies fed into a giant underground furnace. Alan Sterling has been sent to labor in the boiler room while Sir Denis Nayland Smith has been condemned to death alongside Fah lo Suee, Fu Manchu’s treacherous daughter. Sir Denis is puzzled why Fah lo Suee has forfeited her own life in a failed effort to save his own. He is startled when she confesses the reason is that she has loved him for many years as the man who did not fear to stand up to her father. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Trail of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from April 28 to July 14, 1934. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The book marked the first time Rohmer employed third person narrative in the series and dispensed with the first person narrative voice modeled on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. The results dilute what would otherwise have been a stronger novel that saw the series return to its roots. Sir Denis Nayland Smith, Alan Sterling, and Chief Inspector Gallaho follow Fah lo Suee from Sam Pak’s Limehouse opium den to the Ambassador’s Club where the daughter of Fu Manchu has a rendezvous with Sir Bertram Morgan. The reader learns in short order that Fah lo Suee met Sir Bertram three years ago in Cairo and so has retained her old identity of Madame Ingomar. The old financier has fallen madly in love with the seductive Eurasian beauty. Sir Denis and company follow their car to Rowan House in Surrey, the former residence of Sir Lionel Barton, where Madame Ingomar’s father now resides. Once again, Rohmer refers back to the first book in the series for it was at Rowan House where Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie first encountered Sir Lionel Barton. Sir Bertram Morgan arrives at Rowan House and is introduced to Dr. Fu Manchu, posing as the Marquis Chang Hu, he informs Morgan that he has mastered the secret of alchemy and is able to transmute base metal into gold. Sir Bertram is allowed to examine a gold ingot as proof of his claims. Bewitched by the wonders before him, Sir Bertram forgets his anger at Madame Ingomar’s father for having whipped his daughter so cruelly as to have left her back permanently scarred. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Trail of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from April 28 to July 14, 1934. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The book marked the first time Rohmer employed third person narrative in the series and dispensed with the first person narrative voice modeled on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. The results dilute what would otherwise have been a stronger novel that saw the series return to its roots. The book gets off to an atmospheric start on a foggy night in London where a lone constable is standing guard outside Professor Pietro Ambroso’s art studio. He catches a glimpse of a shambling figure approaching the studio several times, but the crouching man eludes capture. A woman’s cries for help send the constable away from his post to investigate, but he finds no one. When he returns to his post, he finds the front door to Professor Ambroso’s studio open and upon investigating finds the studio deserted. The scene shifts to Scotland Yard where Sir Denis Nayland Smith is in conference with Chief Inspector Gallaho who succeeded Inspector Weymouth after the latter became Police Superintendant in Cairo. The reader is somewhat surprised to learn that Professor Ambroso is also the focus of their concern. The Professor has attained fame as an artist and sculptor. His latest work is The Sleeping Venus, a stunningly beautiful porcelain nude. Ambroso had requested police protection upon his arrival in London. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, February 22, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Bride of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from May 6 to July 8, 1933 under the variant title, Fu Manchu’s Bride. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The US edition retained the original magazine title until the 1960s when the UK book title was adopted for the paperback edition published by Pyramid Books. Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Alan Sterling lead the police raid of Mahdi Bey’s Riviera estate. Moving deep below sea level in the underground catacombs, they find themselves cut off by steel doors which descend on both sides. Fearing for their lives and plunged in darkness, they are startled to hear the voice of Fu Manchu informing them he is leaving by submarine and that Dr. Petrie and Fleurette go with him. He explains he is sparing their lives only because Sir Denis and Sterling spared his when they both encountered him in his opium trance. Smith and Sterling manage to climb through an opening in the catacombs and descend into the underground stream and swim across until they can climb the rocks leading to the beach at St. Claire. Sir Denis notes that Petrie could never have made the journey to the submarine in his weakened condition and sees evidence of oil trails that suggest that another party has left the beach via motorboat. The question remains where the motor boat will meet up with the submarine. Smith suspects their destination would be a yacht with which to transport the party to the rendezvous. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Sax Rohmer’s The Bride of Fu Manchu was originally serialized in Collier’s from May 6 to July 8, 1933 under the variant title, Fu Manchu’s Bride. It was published in book form later that year by Cassell in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The US edition retained the original magazine title until the 1960s when the UK book title was adopted for the paperback edition published by Pyramid Books. Our narrator and hero, botanist Alan Sterling has found himself a Companion of the Si-Fan along with numerous other scientific geniuses conscripted into their service after falling victim to the catalepsy-inducing drug that leads the outside world to believe them dead. Fah lo Suee, the daughter of Fu Manchu, has conspired to prevent Sterling from being subjected to her father’s mind control drug in order to use him as a pawn to remove Fleurette, raised since childhood to bear Fu Manchu a son, from the household. Attempting to escape, Sterling stumbles upon Fu Manchu in an opium trance. He considers murdering him to avenge Dr. Petrie’s death, but finds he is unable to lift a hand against him for some unknown reason. Retracing his steps, Sterling works to find an escape route through the elaborate cave system that leads from Mahdi Bey’s estate down to the beach at Ste. Claire. Rohmer builds suspense well as Sterling’s path through the dark is made more dramatic as he becomes aware someone is stalking him. Both Sterling and the reader are startled to learn the pursuer is none other than Nayland Smith. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Friday, February 8, 2013
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Thursday, February 7, 2013
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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Blogging Austin Briggs’ Flash Gordon - “The Storm Queen of Valkr” / “The Wizard King of the Fur Men”
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Friday, January 18, 2013
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Sunday, January 13, 2013
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Sunday, January 6, 2013
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