Saturday, 8 August 2015

Sax Rohmer's Chinatown.

First published in hardback in 1922 by Cassell books this lurid collection of tales by Sax Rohmer must be approached with eyes wide open to the life and imagined times of its author. From the fog enshrouded cobbled red brick streets and opium dens of Limehouse to the Jabba The Hutt palaces of old Shanghai come a series of tales concerning inscrutable(yes, One does cringe) orientals ,disembodied vengeful talloned hands, grotesque giant spiders guarding forbidden treasures and lethal madames with mischief on their minds. It is a caution off course and it is to be almost expected that the creator of Fu Manchu would have similar tales percolating in his inkwell. The work of Sax Rohmer is probably the single most persistent source of the cliche of the inscrutable oriental villain and his women swing between absolute femme fatales and delicate eastern flowers. Fearsome vixens abound in these tales as well as a peculiar breed of English gentlemen one comes across very rarely in fiction today.It seems one never left home without a hat and cane and the swarthiest of facial hair and always readily equipped with an eye for adventure.
             This wee volume feels like one of those Conan Doyle Holmes anthologies of cases and stories with some being better than others but all adding to the overall sense of curiously English Noir with an oriental flavor. Some with recurring characters, good and bad, and situations that bleed into each other. Well, they are all occurring in the same area of London, Limehouse, in the same time frame which really adds to the sense of place.The collection contains a story Tcheriapin which has appeared in other anthologies. It is one of those stories the reader might feel he or she has read before or is vaguely familiar without being aware that is a Sax Rohmer story.
             The foggy air is cold and damp and the streets resonate with the tap tap tap of well shod heels upon cobbles.Oh the game is afoot once more (as the Great Detective himself put it.) as night falls over Chinatown..