The Insidious Fu Manchu : Being a Somewhat Detailed Account of the Amazing Adventures of Nayland (1911)
Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government--which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.
As you can tell from the description above and from the subtitle of the book, Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu novels aren't exactly politically correct. But as I write this in May 1999, we have a president who's a weird cross between Willie Stark and The Manchurian Candidate, the Cox Report has just been released, detailing the wholesale penetration of our nuclear program by Red China, the 10th anniversary of Tianamen Square is a couple weeks away and the Pakistan/Indian border is a free fire zone, what better time to read about the Yellow Peril.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series (and the excellent comic book series of yore, Master of Kung Fu) the stories detail the battle of Nayland Smith, a mysteriously powerful British intelligence operative, and his sidekick, Dr. Petrie, against the malevolent Dr. Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu's plans are seldom explained, but we're damn certain they are bad news for the West.
If you don't mind the admittedly dated aspersions that are cast on our Asian brethren, the books make for an entertaining diversion. This first one has two weaknesses, it's overly episodic and repetitive, because Rohmer cobbled it together from several separate short stories. But if you think of it in terms of an old time movie serial, you'll quickly get over these quibbles and enjoy yourself immensely.
Copyright 1998-2015 Orrin Judd