Pulp historian Rick Lai is perhaps best known for his definitive chronologies of Doc Savage and The Shadow published by Altus Press. The comprehensive nature of these works has inspired more than one reader to wish Lai had dedicated his career to producing similar volumes for all other pulp series. While that particular wish may not be possible to accommodate, he has devoted much of his time and energy for the past quarter century authoring speculative articles on works of imaginative fiction. Some of his literary investigations fall within the Wold Newton framework established by Philip Jose Farmer, while others do not. Much like a dedicated theosophist indifferent to sectarianism, Lai seeks the truth regardless of where the path leads.
Altus Press subsequently published two volumes collecting all of Rick’s articles under the titles Daring Adventurers and Criminal Masterminds. The former features articles concerning the classic pulp hero, The Avenger; as well as more obscure characters created by Talbot Mundy and Robert E. Howard; and multiple articles concerning such well-loved characters as Peter the Brazen, Raffles, Professor Challenger, Arsene Lupin, and Jules de Grandin. The second volume shifts the focus to the villains readers loved to hate such as Fu Manchu and various Yellow Peril clones including Hanoi Shan and Sumuru; Jules Verne’s seminal super criminals, Captain Nemo and Robur the Conqueror; Guy Boothby’s highly obscure Dr. Nikola; Bulldog Drummond’s arch-nemesis, Carl Peterson; and the most famous criminal mastermind of all, Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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Regular readers of my articles will be aware of my fascination with the works of British thriller writer, Sax Rohmer. Along with penning several series of articles, I was fortunate enough to be authorized by Rohmer’s estate to write two new Fu Manchu thrillers for Black Coat Press in an effort to bring new readers to the originals. For several decades, Rohmer’s work has been largely out of print and much of it has fallen into obscurity. Happily, this has recently started to change.
Last year, Titan Books licensed Rohmer’s catalog and began an ambitious reprint series at the start of this year, beginning with Rohmer’s fourteen Fu Manchu titles. All of the books are being printed in affordable trade paperback editions. The first three titles are available at present and the next two may be pre-ordered from Amazon. These attractive uniform editions recall the lurid retro cover art on Penguin’s recent trade paperback editions of Ian Fleming’s fourteen James Bond thrillers.
Of course, while the Devil Doctor may have been Rohmer’s most famous work, it doesn’t even come close to scraping the surface of this prolific author’s voluminous output. While Titan is committed to bringing his many novels back into print, Rohmer has several dozen uncollected stories that were published exclusively in magazines and newspapers in the first half of the last century. Tom Roberts’ Black Dog Books have made an indelible mark by launching their Sax Rohmer Library series. Rohmer scholar Gene Christie has begun compiling several collections of rare early material, much of which is otherwise unavailable and would have likely remained lost without his efforts.
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