Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu and the Panama Canal was first serialized in Liberty Magazine from November 16, 1940 to February 1, 1941. It was published in book form as The Island of Fu Manchu by Doubleday in the US and Cassell in the UK in 1941. The book serves as a direct follow-up to Rohmer’s 1939 bestseller, The Drums of Fu Manchu and is again narrated by Fleet Street journalist, Bart Kerrigan.
The previous book in the series was published just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe. Rohmer chose to portray characters such as Hitler and Mussolini under thinly disguised aliases. More critically, he chose to have these threats to world peace removed by the conclusion of the book as he naively believed a Second World War would be avoided at all costs. Over a year into the war, Rohmer had to address these issues for his readers. His excuse was a brilliant one. The prior narrative had been censored by the Home Office. Bart Kerrigan was forced to alter names and events. Hitler and Mussolini yet lived.
Interestingly, Rohmer chose to pick up the story some months after the last title and reflect changes in the lives of his characters. The Si-Fan has fallen under an unnamed pro-Fascist president who counts Fu Manchu’s duplicitous daughter among his closest allies. The Devil Doctor himself has fallen from grace within the Si-Fan as he opposes fascism at all costs. This rift threatens to tear the secret society apart as much as the war was doing the same to governments around the world.