I’ve heard the name of Fu-Manchu as a child, but as I had no means to know what the hell is that one about (talk about the availability of pulp literature under the Commies in Czechoslovakia during 1980s), it was only later in my life that I encountered the dreaded Chinese villain.
Only recently I have decided to ease my mind with some good ole pulp stories. I already have some (all?) Fu-Manchu movies in my movie collections (although I haven’t actually watched any of them, believe it or not), so the choice was quite clear.
To my pleasant surprise, I haven’t needed to browse the lists of second-hand dealers with pricy first edition copies, as UK publisher Titan Books has published – not so long ago, in 2012 – this first part of the complete Fu-Manchu series by Sax Rohmer. Talk about bookworm’s delight!
All 14 paperbacks have basically the same cover except the colour of the curtains and the illustration within them are different from one volume to another, and this creates a nice feel of a compact set one can’t help but get to his library. My fate exactly.
Now, for those of you who haven’t encountered this famous pulp fiction, let’s be brief. The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu introduces the aforementioned Chinese genius villain – compared to whom Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame would be a mere apprentice – and two (well, three) of the main characters, Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie, who do slightly resemble Doyle’s characters, and Karamaneh, the Oriental slave of Fu-Manchu turned Dr. Petrie’s helper (and, later, his wife).
The story is exactly what the pulp stories are. Straight to the point, no need to bore the reader with a myriads of characters (hello, Mr. Martin!) and gazillions of descriptions. The villain strikes (or is posing to strike) and our heroes run like hell to save the day and the whole White race from the Yellow Peril.
Yes, dear readers, this is a beginning of 20. century and nobody gives a damn about any political correctness. Far from being an offensive read, on the contrary, this novel provides an exact quasi-detailed look into the minds and enviroments of Britain in the dawn of the new era, and the reader is advised to have this in mind when reading this (and following) stories.
If you want to just relax with a great, gripping story and you are already familiar with the resident of Baker Street 221b (and who doesn’t, right?), you can’t go wrong with Smith & Petrie chasing Chinese arch-criminal.
Kudos to Titan Books for bringing these Rohmer’s stories back to print for a modern reader, and as for availability, you should grab them easily either from Titan Books web or from your local Amazon.