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Sax Rohmer (1883 - 1959)

Related: British literature - pulp fiction - Harry Alan Towers

Contemporaries: Franz Kafka


Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward (February 15, 1883 - June 1, 1959), better known as Sax Rohmer, was a prolific English novelist. He is most remembered for his series of novels featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu.

Born in Birmingham he had a entirely working class education and early career before beginning to write. His first published work was in 1903, the short story The Mysterious Mummy for Pearson's Weekly. He made his early living writing comedy sketches for performers and short stories and serials for magazines. In 1909 he married Rose Knox. He published his first novel in 1910, Pause! and the first Fu Manchu story, The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu was serialized over 1912-13. It was an immediate success with its pacy and racist story of Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie facing the worldwide conspiracy of the 'Yellow Peril'. The Fu Manchu stories, together with those featuring Gaston Max or Morris Klaw, made Rohmer one of the most successful and well-paid writers in of the 1920s and 1930s. But Rohmer was very poor at handling his wealth. After World War II the Rohmers moved to New York.

A number of films were made featuring Dr. Fu Manchu. The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), featuring Boris Karloff, was the best of those produced in the 1930s, mainly because of a wonderfully slinky and sadistic performance by Myrna Loy as Fa Lo See, Fu Manchu's evil daughter. The name was revived in a very variable series starring Christopher Lee in the 1960s with The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967), and The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968). Pulp film legend Harry Alan Towers produced two films based on the Sumuru character in the 1960s, and an updated space fantasy version in 2002. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sax_Rohmer [Jul 2005]

The Mysterious Mummy (1903) - Sax Rohmer

It was about five o'clock on a hot August afternoon, that a tall, thin man, wearing a weedy beard, and made conspicious by an ill-fitting frock-coat and an almost napless silk hat, walked into the entrance hall of the Great Portland Square Museum. He carried no stick, and, looking about him, as though unfamiliar with the building, he ultimately mounted the principal staircase, walking with a pronounced stoop, and at intervals coughing with a hollow sound. --Sax Rohmer via http://www.harvestfields.ca/horror/004/169.htm of the Dark Moon - Gothic Tales, Horror, Mystery's, Pulp collection[Jul 2005]

see also: fiction - 1903

Fu Manchu and the yellow peril

Mask of Fu Manchu () - Sax Rohmer
cover of unidentified edition
image sourced here. [Jul 2005]

The Yellow Peril figure has, without question, been a negative one in Western culture. As recent events involving American spy planes have shown, anti-Asian & anti-Chinese bias continues to remain close to the surface of the American psyche, over 80 years after the introduction of the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. One of the most interesting examples of this bias is the Yellow Peril/Fu Manchu figure, which has appeared in several forms over the decades. What most people do not realize, however, is that the Yellow Peril figure significantly predates Arthur "Sax Rohmer" Ward's writings; Fu Manchu, while the most archetypal of the Yellow Perils, stands as the high point for the stereotype, neither at the beginning nor at the end of the stereotype's history. --http://www.violetbooks.com/yellowperil.html [Jul 2005]

Yellow Peril (sometimes Yellow Terror) was a phrase that originated in the late 19th century with greater immigration of Chinese and Japanese laborers to various Western countries, notably the United States. The term, a color metaphor for race refers to the skin color of east Asians, and the fear that the mass immigration of Asians threatened white wages, standards of living and indeed, civilization itself. The phrase "yellow peril" was common in the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst.

Many sources credit Kaiser Wilhelm II with coining the phrase "Yellow Peril" (in German, "gelbe Gefahr") in September 1895 and popularizing it by circulating a lurid illustration of a menacing, airborne Buddha riding a dragon across Asia towards Europe, carving a path of destruction and trailing thunder clouds. While immigration of Asians was not a major issue in Europe, the rise of Japan as a major world power was a cause of anxiety for some Europeans.

1898 M. P. Shiel published a short story serial The Yellow Danger. Shiel took the murder of two German missionaries in Kiau-Tschou 1897 to spread his anti-Chinese feelings. In later editions the serial was named The Yellow Peril. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_peril [Jul 2005]

Edgar Wallace and Sax Rohmer in the public domain?

Franco was brought to the attention of Harry Alan Towers by his 1967 surrealism-tinged opus, "Succubus". The producer was mining a lucrative seam by adapting the public domain works of Sax Rohmer and Edgar Wallace for the screen, and was looking for a suitable director to helm a feature based on the work of the Marquis de Sade. The dreamlike eroticism of "Succubus" convinced him Franco was the man for the job! The director was set to work on the latest in a series of Fu Manchu films ("The Blood of Fu Manchu") while Towers thrashed out a screenplay under his pen-name, Peter Welbeck. The film was eventually shot in Barcelona amid buildings designed by 19th century architect Antonio Gaudi and a virtual who's who of Euro-cult cinema. It's one of the most sumptuous looking Franco movies but is ultimately a rather stilted affair; even the eroticism is rather discreetly done, and the film ends up feeling not really representative of either Franco or de Sade. --http://www.horrorview.com/Marquis%20De%20Sade's%20Justine.htm [Jul 2005]

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