Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Mystery Of Doctor Fu Manchu.

"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high shouldered with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan" this was how Nayland Smith, late off Burma, describes Doctor Fu Manchu to his friend Doctor Petrie (who awe-struck can barely comprehend the existence of such a wicked being.) This was Nayland Smiths well intentioned attempt to capture the very essence of the evil they faced whilst not underestimating the brilliance of their nemesis. And it is a quite well worded and terrifying description as he makes for an excellent arch enemy does Fu Manchu at once exotic and brilliant. A master of sciences shunned by learned men the world over, Part evil alchemist part wizard of chemistry and master of medical and surgical skills beyond the knowledge of even the present day. So much smarter than any one who stands against him and possessed of an almost arcane determination to forward an agenda for world domination those who oppose him can only guess at.He is actually so much smarter and wilier than those who stand between him and his goals it is a wonder that his plans can be undone. Brilliant, exotic and ruthless he is unpredictable and fierce in reprisal.
              Enter stage right the venerable Nayland smith himself, chasing this fiend from the orient. It would be generous to say that he is the very embodiment of crumbling empire. To modern eyes and ears he comes across as little more than a swaggering colonialist stooge whose tawdry and mean spirited observations about the dangers of the" yellow peril" and other ethnic visitors to the shores of Albion make him sound like a bit of a  John Bull when he is actually a more layered character than that. I suppose you have to allow for the ignorance of the age and look with kinder eyes than that. (Not forgive, just understand and be glad it is over.Well, it should be.) and enjoy the rip roaring boys own quality of the writing and the home grown swarthy exuberance of Sax Rohmer. A one man tsunami of exotic adventures on the fog soaked cobbles of old London Town there is a lot to enjoy.One can only hope that in time he also saw the mind boggling scarlet inking that passed for racial understanding and appreciation of ethnic diversity within his stories as  the Stereotype Sax Rohmer helped create was reinforced by the success of the stories in this book. The stories had previously appeared elsewhere but were collected in this incredibly successful first volume. Their influence has bled down through the culture over the decades since the stories saw print coloring everything from pulp serials to other iconic dramas such as the adventures of the good doctor. Who could ever forget the absolute classic Talons Of Weng Chiang, a veritable tick-box of ripperesque phantasmagoria..
               You have heard Nayland Smith's words with regard to Doctor Fu Manchu now here are the Devil Doctor's words about himself; "Out of Fire I Came-The Smoldering Fire Of A Thing One Day To Be a Consuming Flame. Into Fire I Go.Seek Not My Ashes, I Am The Lord Of The Fires..."
                Blimey. Would not want to bump into him in a dark foggy alley in 1922  Limehouse ,as it were.