The Wrath of Fu Manchu was a 50-page short story serialized in five installments in The Toronto Star weekly supplement from January 26 to February 23, 1952 under the unlikely title Green Devil Mask. It was given its current title when Rohmer scholar, Dr. Robert E. Briney made it the centerpiece of a posthumous hardcover collection of previously uncollected short fiction, The Wrath of Fu Manchu and Other New Stories first published in the U.K. in 1973 by Tom Stacey. A U.S. mass market paperback edition from DAW Books followed in 1976. It was subsequently reprinted in Allison & Busby’s Fu Manchu Omnibus – Volume 5 in 2001. Titan Books will reprint the original collection as a trade paperback in March 2016.
The story was initially published only in Canada due to a copyright loophole. Rohmer had recently sold the option to the television rights to the Fu Manchu characters and was prohibited from publishing new works about the characters in Britain or the United States until the courts resolved a dispute over whether the literary rights transferred with the agreement. This situation persisted for the next five years until the literary rights were eventually restored to the author. The character was an easy money-maker for Rohmer at a time when his bank account was suffering. Rohmer’s desire to fly under the radar with the Canadian publication of the story likely accounts for his original decision to avoid using the name Fu Manchu in the title of the story.
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A couple weeks ago, I finally read Mr. Towers of London, the posthumously published memoirs of Harry Alan Towers, the unflappable veteran British radio/TV/film writer-producer with well over a hundred works to his credit. It wasn’t Towers’s first stab at writing his memoirs, but this final work was notable as his most personal.
Anyone who actually knows major figures in the entertainment industry is likely aware of some of the salacious stories of debauchery, sometimes even criminal activity, that are never far from the surface. Towers’s memoirs are unique for being perhaps the most honest ever committed to print. If he pulls any punches or whitewashes any parts of his adventures, he can surely be forgiven for what he does dish out about himself and others.
That said, the most disappointing part of the book for me is that he tells the reader very little about his experiences as a writer. I would have loved to have understood more about the more private side of his profession as the book places all of the emphasis on his role as a producer. Today, he is unfairly remembered as the producer of genre films and exploitation fare. While that accounted for much of his output after 1960, he was also a respected writer-producer of family drama who frequently cast some of the biggest stars in Hollywood in his radio, TV, and film productions.
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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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