Eric Stedman of The Serial Squadron has a well-deserved reputation for restoring vintage serials (in many cases salvaging otherwise lost serials) and preserving them for posterity. As Sax Rohmer’s 133rd birthday is rapidly approaching, I thought I would turn our attention to a vintage 1919 serial that borrowed quite a few elements from Rohmer’s work, The Trail of the Octopus. The Serial Squadron released their restored version of this forgotten gem in 2012.
The original serial produced by Hallmark Pictures nearly a century earlier comprises 15 chapters. The serial is centered around an Asian criminal mastermind, Wang Foo (known as “The Octopus”) who commands an international gang of Egyptians, Chinese, Africans, Turks, Jews, even a cult of devil worshippers in pursuit of an ancient Egyptian artifact, the Sacred Talisman of Set. While Fu Manchu was the head of an international secret society that contained Europeans as well as Asians and Arabs, it’s impossible not to see that The Octopus commands all of the stereotypical foreign and/or exotic elements feared by white Europeans just after the First World War.
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So another season of pulp conventions has come and gone. As in the past, part of the fun of being able to attend conventions and meet people that share your passions and appreciate your work is meeting other authors you might otherwise have never chanced upon. Such was the case with Dick Enos at this year’s PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio.
Mr. Enos is the author of the Rick Steele adventure series, published by Mirror Publishing. Enos lists his principal influences as the long-running newspaper adventure strip, Steve Canyon; the Old Time Radio show and Golden Age television series, Sky King; and Mickey Spillane’s venerable hard-boiled detective character, Mike Hammer.
Steele is a hard-living Korean War veteran turned test pilot who can’t seem to avoid adventures. He is aided by his loyal war buddy, Joey Campbell; his love interest, the very capable Dr. Kate Gallagher; and Kate’s polyglot assistant, Thelma McCally. My introduction to these characters was in Enos’s latest novel, The Lost City of Azgara. The book is an old-fashioned jungle adventure set in Africa, involving a Nazi war criminal and occultist who has uncovered a map to a lost city of gold with which he hopes to finance the rise of the Fourth Reich.
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