Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part Six – “The House of Hashish”

Friday, December 16th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

hand-original1sifanmys“The House of Hashish” was the sixth installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on February 17, 1917 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 22 – 26 of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“The House of Hashish” starts off with a wonderfully atmospheric opening with Dr. Petrie keeping a lonely nighttime vigil in the now abandoned shadow-filled wharf-side Joy Shop with only the sound of lapping waves and the incessant squealing of rats to accompany him. From a window, he watches Nayland Smith approach an old beggar woman and overhears their conversation. The old woman claims to have twisted her ankle and begs Smith to help her to the rooms she keeps in a wharf-side warehouse. Smith obliges and, of course, walks into a ruse as a dacoit leaps upon his back and quickly wraps a cord around his neck and begins strangling him. Fearing he is witnessing his friend’s death and helpless to stop him, Petrie is flabbergasted to see Smith’s apparent twin arrive to the rescue. Smith’s double beats off the dacoit and hurls the man into the Thames.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part Five – “The Zagazig Cryptogram”

Friday, December 9th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

hand-titan1return-titan1“The Zagazig Cryptogram” was the fifth installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on January 26, 1917 (two months after the fourth installment) and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 19 – 21 of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“The Zagazig Cryptogram” picks up two weeks after the last installment with Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie joining Inspector Weymouth at the River Depot police station to examine a corpse. A Burmese dacoit has been fished out of the Thames along the wharf where the Joy Shop sits. The coroner’s report reveals that the man was strangled rather than drowned as initially suspected. Smith spies in the Times’ personal column a mysterious message has been posted consisting of nothing more than the word Zagazig written seven times in a row. While Petrie dismisses it as nonsense, Smith points out that Zagazig is a town in Lower Egypt. He is convinced that the mysterious code and the murdered dacoit are somehow connected to the Si-Fan.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part Four – “The Queen of Hearts”

Friday, December 2nd, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

stoll-fu-3stoll-fu-4“The Queen of Hearts” was the fourth installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on November 25, 1916 (after a surprising gap of five months after the last installment) and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 15 – 18 of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“The Queen of Hearts” finally gives readers the return of the Devil Doctor they had been so eagerly awaiting since first learning Fu-Manchu still lived six months earlier. The story starts with Rohmer’s trademark abrupt beginnings (in this instance Dr. Petrie yells, “Come in!” rather than “Who’s there?” in the opening line) with the unexpected arrival of a telegram from Cairo announcing that Petrie’s fiancée, Karamaneh will reach London by boat the next day. Nayland Smith speculates that the Si-Fan is the cause of her sudden departure from Egypt. That night, Smith awakens Petrie to inform him that Sir Baldwin Fraser, the prominent surgeon has been abducted and the description of the cab driver suggests that Zarmi has resumed her earlier disguise. They are joined by Inspector Weymouth at Sir Baldwin’s home in Half-Moon Street where they interrogate the surgeon’s secretary and learn that a beautiful Eurasian (whose description matches Zarmi) had been an unexpected visitor the prior night claiming her mother needed immediate medical attention. It was only after Sir Baldwin failed to return that his secretary learned the address given was a false one.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part Three – “Golden Pomegranates”

Friday, November 25th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

book1untitled2“Golden Pomegranates” was the third installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on June 24, 1916 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 10 – 14 of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“Golden Pomegranates” opens with two colorful characters, Meyerstein and Lewison appraising the Si-Fan’s sealed treasure chest in Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie’s apartment at the New Louvre Hotel. They identify the chest as a rare Tulun-Nur design dating from the sixteenth century or earlier and explain that such chests are secured using a complicated system of knobs being pressed or turned rather than relying upon a traditional lock and key. Smith refuses to allow them to attempt opening the chest and turns down Mr. Meyerstein’s offer to purchase the chest and pay Smith a percentage on its unknown contents. After the appraisers depart, Smith confides in Petrie that he has recently received a premonition not to open the chest.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part Two – “Zarmi of the Joy Shop”

Friday, November 18th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

si-fan-germanhand-pyramid“Zarmi of the Joy Shop” was the second installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on May 13, 1916 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 5 – 9 of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“Zarmi of the Joy Shop” gets off to a cracking start with Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie bringing the purloined brass box belonging to the Si-Fan to Inspector Weymouth’s office. The Inspector introduces them to Detective Sergeant Fletcher who patrols Limehouse. Fletcher tells them of John Ki’s Joy Shop, a gambling house of ill repute which has recently had two new arrivals: a beautiful Eurasian woman called Zarmi and a mysterious crippled man who walks on crutches who has excited much interest among the gambling house’s denizens. Weymouth associated Smith and Petrie’s mysterious ‘man with a limp” with Fletcher’s mysterious cripple. Zarmi has recently approached Fletcher, who was working undercover, to find another “big strong feller” to help her with a job. Smith agrees to accompany Fletcher to the Joy Shop in disguise the following night after depositing the brass box in a bank safe in the morning.

A sentimental Petrie bids Smith farewell at the New Louvre Hotel where the dreary November weather turns Petrie’s mind to Cairo where he left his fiancée, Karamaneh behind. Rohmer does a wonderful job contrasting the gray London so familiar to his readers with the paradise of sunny Cairo with its domes and minarets that recall Burton’s translation of 1001 Arabian Nights that was so close to the author’s heart. Petrie spends the day visiting a colleague, Dr. Murray, who purchased Petrie’s old practice from him after he moved to Cairo to prepare for his wedding with Karamaneh. Upon his return in the evening, he learns that Smith failed to turn up at Weymouth’s office and failed to deposit the brass box at the bank in the morning. Only then does Petrie recall that the taxi Smith stepped in was driven by an effeminate-looking dark-skinned man. He immediately deduces that Smith has fallen into the hands of the Si-Fan.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part One – “The Flower of Silence”

Friday, November 11th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

si-fan-mysterieshand-of-fu-manchu“The Flower of Silence” was the first installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on April 8, 1916 and was later expanded to comprise the first four chapters of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. This third serial began only four months after the second concluded. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“The Flower of Silence” finds Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie rooming at the New Louvre Hotel in London. Smith has been recalled from Cairo by his superiors. When the story opens on a chilly November night, Smith has returned to their apartment to inform Petrie that he has just leaned the name of the mysterious secret society that the late Dr. Fu-Manchu served; it is the Si-Fan and is based in Tibet. The reason for Smith’s recall to London is that Great Britain’s former Ambassador to Peking, Sir Gregory Hale has recently returned to London following the completion of his expedition to Mongolia. Sir Gregory was to have delivered a report on Tibetan Lamaism to the India Office but has failed to do so. Sir Gregory has not left his suite at the New Louvre Hotel since his return for Sir Gregory has uncovered the existence of the Si-Fan and will only share that secret with Nayland Smith.

Upon their arrival at his suite, Smith and Petrie learn from Sir Gregory’s valet, Beeton that the former Ambassador has been struck dumb and can only mutter incoherently. He dies in his bed shortly after Smith and Petrie’s arrival but leaves behind a cryptic message scrawled in a notebook containing the mysterious phrases:

 “Guard brass box…Tibetan frontier…Key of India…Beware man with the limp…Yellow rising…Watch Tibet…the Si-Fan”

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu, Part Ten – “The Mummy”

Friday, April 1st, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

mummy1blood-of-fu-manchu-1968-01-g-1“The Mummy” was the tenth and final installment of Sax Rohmer’s Fu-Manchu and Company. The story was first published in Collier’s on December 4, 1915 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 31-33 of the second Fu-Manchu novel, The Devil Doctor first published in the UK in 1916 by Cassell and in the US by McBride & Nast under the variant title, The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu.

Following on from the unbearably suspenseful sadomasochistic tour de force of “The Six Gates,” this final installment of the second Fu-Manchu serial opens with Petrie sleeping securely for the first time in months aboard a ship’s cabin as he crosses the Mediterranean when his rest is disturbed by an urgent telegraph message that has just been received from an unknown destination. The message reads simply, “Dr. Petrie – my shadow lies upon you all.” It serves as a chilling reminder that, though believed dead after being shot by Karamaneh at the conclusion of the next episode, Dr. Fu-Manchu’s servants may yet take vengeance for her betrayal.

No sooner has this fact occurred to them than all concerned are startled by the sound of Karamaneh screaming. They rush to her cabin along with her brother Aziz and find her hysterical after an attempt on her life by an Egyptian mummy she claims entered her cabin through the porthole and attempted to strangle her in her sleep. Of course there is no sign of an intruder anywhere.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu, Part Eight – “The Fiery Hand”

Friday, March 18th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

fiery-hand“The Fiery Hand” was the eighth installment of Sax Rohmer’s Fu-Manchu and Company.   The story was first published in Collier’s on September 25, 1915 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 24-26 of the second Fu-Manchu novel, The Devil Doctor first published in the UK in 1916 by Cassell and in the US by McBride & Nast under the variant title, The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu.

8073861This serves as Rohmer’s variation on the haunted house story and mines the same territory as countless Sherlock Holmes pastiches where the reader is assured that the detective will arrive at a rational explanation because the other characters are convinced that the mysterious goings-on must be of supernatural origin from the start. That said, the story is an excellent one and finds Rohmer in fine form.

Inspector Weymouth calls on Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie to enlist Smith’s aid in investigating the Gables, a property in Hampstead that appears to have been haunted for the past two years. The previous owners, a Quaker family who lived at the house for over forty years sold it after manifestations of a fiery hand holding a flaming dagger appeared. They said nothing of the incident at the time for fear of not being able to sell the property.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu, Part Seven – “Cragmire Tower”

Friday, March 4th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

3306898731_67e5eb0109“Cragmire Tower” was the seventh installment of Sax Rohmer’s Fu-Manchu and Company. The story was first published in Collier’s on July 17, 1915 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 21-23 of the second Fu-Manchu novel, The Devil Doctor first published in the UK in 1916 by Cassell and in the US by McBride & Nast under the variant title, The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu.

returnPicking up where the last installment left off, the story gets underway with Inspector Weymouth’s fruitless raid on J. Salaman’s antique shop which has now been abandoned by Fu-Manchu and his gang. Nayland Smith rapidly informs Petrie that the American adventurer and psychic investigator Kegan Van Roon is completing a book about his experiences in China where he ran afoul of a fanatical group in Ho-Nan. Van Roon has leased Cragmire Tower in Somersetshire to finish his book. Naturally, Smith believes Van Roon’s life is in jeopardy as Fu-Manchu will not wish him to finish the book for publication.

Of course, Rohmer is repeating himself for Van Roon reads like a variation on Sir Lionel Barton and Cragmire Tower recalls Reverend Eltham’s beloved Redmoat. The familiarity of the trappings does little to spoil the proceedings for this is Rohmer at his peak and sees him introducing an occult element to the series. Rohmer had a lifelong fascination with the occult and secret societies. “Cragmire Tower” remains unique in its successful blend of Yellow Peril thriller with supernatural mystery.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu, Part Six – “The Silver Buddha”

Friday, February 25th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

silver-buddha-full“The Silver Buddha” was the sixth installment of Sax Rohmer’s Fu-Manchu and Company. The story was first published in Collier’s on May 15, 1915 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 18-20 of the second Fu-Manchu novel, The Devil Doctor first published in the UK in 1916 by Cassell and in the US by McBride & Nast under the variant title, The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu.returnofdrfumanchu

The story sets off at a frantic pace with a desperate Dr. Petrie returning to J. Salaman’s antique shop on Museum Street where he believes he glimpsed Karamaneh in the previous installment. Petrie has foolishly decided to investigate the shop without informing Nayland Smith of his plans.

Posing as an antique collector, he is compelled to handle a silver Buddha that the shopkeeper tells him has already been sold. The statuette in question releases a concealed door and Petrie unexpectedly finds himself face to face with Dr. Fu-Manchu.

 

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