Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy birthday Sax Rohmer!

That is, today would have been Sax Rohmer's birthday if he hadn't died in 1959.

Rohmer wrote around fifty novels in the detective/adventure genre, but he's best remembered for being the creator of Fu Manchu, the archetypal "yellow peril" villain.

I've often seen Rohmer's work called racist and it does give me pause. Prior to reading his books I assumed they were heavily racist, but the actual content threw me. Considering how in the Fu Manchu stories protagonist Nayland Smith is quick to announce his prejudices against anyone from the east it would be easy to see this as Rohmer's mindset, and yet the actual narrator Dr. Petrie disagrees with Smith and ultimately proves him wrong where Karamaneh is concerned. And Karamaneh was a real surprise - a 1910s heroine who wound up saving Smith & Petrie more than they ever saved her, and she's the one who put a bullet in Fu Manchu's brain in the 2nd novel!

If you've never tried Rohmer's work but you enjoy authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan or Ian Fleming, I think you'd enjoy Rohmer's best; try the Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu or the Dream Detective some time!

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