THE MYSTERY OF FU-MANCHU by Sax Rohmer

Titan Books
Pub date: Feb 14, 2012

Friends, it’s confession time. I know we just met and all, but I feel confident that I can tell you this. ::clears throat::
I love pulp. Give me Doc Savage. The Shadow. Not in the mood for heroes? Fast forward a bit and I’m game for the two-fisted tales of Mike Hammer. Prefer the supernatural tales? Let’s go back to the stories of Lovecraft? Feeling ambitious? How about a little WORLD DOMINATION? How about…
FU-MANCHU?

So you can imagine my joy when I discovered a delivery at the front door from Titan Books. Turns out the good folks at Titan are rereleasing the entire Fu-Manchu catalogue in beautiful editions for the current generation. And they are beautiful. With stylized cover and spine art, these books look fantastic on the shelf. As a bonus, also included is a very interesting essay entitled “Appreciating Dr. Fu-Manchu” by Leslie S. Klinger. And it’s this essay that many readers will need to understand the times the stories were written in, and shed some light on “The Yellow Peril” of the era.

But is the current generation ready for Fu-Manchu?

The tales contained within this volume, and “Mystery” does indeed read like a short story collection, chronicle the adventures of Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie as they attempt to stop the incursion of Fu-Manchu into England. These are fast moving, exciting tales. Originally published in Collier’s in 1913, they are told in the vein of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Dr. Petrie is our narrator as the duo try again and again to solve the riddle of Fu-Manchu, as the evil genius attempts to solidify a beachhead in England for the Chinese empire.

This brings us back to my question from a moment ago: Is the current generation ready for Fu-Manchu?

While skillfully told, the crux of these stories revolve around the Yellow Peril. Please remember, friends, these stories were written in 1913. They are rife with racial stereotypes. They are products of their time. Fu-Manchu is “the Devil Doctor.” He has “feline eyes” and “a face like Satan.” He is the embodiment of the West’s fear and distrust of the East. Obviously, some of the turns of phrase can be shocking. But taken as a sample of the times they were written, that “fear of the Yellow Peril” is what drives the action of the stories.

From filthy opium dens to mysterious locked room mysteries, Smith and Petrie seem to always be a step behind as they do all they can to pierce the Doctor’s evil network. Using his matchless knowledge of “Eastern Science,” Fu-Manchu is bent on eliminating all who pose a threat to his plans of domination. The Doctor has many tools to accomplish his mission: everything from strange and deadly insects that are unknown to the West, his network of savage assassins who can infiltrate any English domicile, to a matchless knowledge of science that borders on dark magic. Can he even raise the dead?!
These stories are an important window into the times and attitude they were written in. With that being said, they are fun, fast moving tales that still read well today. An important addition to the library of any pulp fan.