Sax Rohmer (1883-1959)

Sax Rohmer (1883-1959)

Arthur Henry “Sarsfield” Ward (15 February 1883 – 1 June 1959), better known as Sax Rohmer, was a prolific English novelist. He is best remembered for his series of novels featuring the master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu.

Born in Birmingham to a working-class family, Arthur Ward initially pursued a career as a civil servant before concentrating on writing full-time. He worked as a poet, songwriter and comedy sketch writer for music hall performers before creating the Sax Rohmer persona and pursuing a career writing fiction.

Like his contemporaries Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen, Rohmer claimed membership to one of the factions of the qabbalistic Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Rohmer also claimed ties to the Rosicrucians, but the validity of his claims has been questioned. His doctor and family friend Dr R.Watson Councell may have been his only legitimate connection to such organisations.

His first published work was issued in 1903, when the short story “The Mysterious Mummy” was sold to Pearson’s Weekly. Rohmer’s main literary influences seem to have been Edgar Allan PoeArthur Conan Doyle and M.P. Shiel. He gradually transitioned from writing for music hall performers to concentrating on short stories and serials for magazine publication. In 1909 he married Rose Elizabeth Knox.

He published his first book Pause! anonymously in 1910. After penning Little Tich in 1911 (as ghostwriter for the music hall entertainer of the same name) he issued the first Fu Manchu novel, The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu, serialised from October 1912 to June 1913. It was an immediate success, with its fast-paced story of Denis Nayland Smith and Dr.Petrie facing the worldwide conspiracy of the “Yellow Peril“.

The Fu Manchu stories, together with his more conventional detective series characters — Paul Harley, Gaston Max, Red Kerry, Morris Klaw (an occult detective), and the Crime Magnet — made Rohmer one of the most successful and financially rewarded authors of the 1920s and 1930s.

The first three Fu Manchu books were published in the four years between 1913–1917; but it was not until 1931 (some 14 years after the third book in the series) that Rohmer returned to the series with Daughter of Fu Manchu. The reason for the long interval was that Rohmer wanted to be rid of the series after The Si-Fan Mysteries. The first three books had been successfully filmed by Stoll in the twenties as a pair of serials. In 1928, Rohmer finally bowed to pressure and agreed to write a fourth novel as a serial for Collier’sParamount had the first Warner Oland picture gearing up for production and the daily newspaper strip based on the series was in the offing.

Rohmer’s first effort at reviving the Fu Manchu property was ultimately reworked as The Emperor of America. The original intent had been for the head of the organisation to be Fu Manchu’s daughter. He kept Head Centre as a female criminal mastermind to combat Drake Roscoe, but was very unhappy with the book both as it started and in its finished form. He would later return to Drake Roscoe and his female supervillain for the Sumuru series. In the meantime, he tried again to focus his energies on what was first titled Fu Manchu’s Daughter for Collier’s in 1930, but with an older (now knighted) Denis Nayland Smith as the protagonist once more. The results were infinitely better and jump-started the series in the process.

In the 28 years from 1931 to 1959, Rohmer added a further 10 books to the Fu Manchu series, meaning the series totals 13 books in all (not counting the posthumous short story collection The Wrath of Fu Manchu and Other Stories). The Fu Manchu series drew much criticism from the Chinese government and Chinese communities in the U.S. for what was seen as negative ethnic stereotyping. Sociologist Virginia Berridge has stated that Rohmer created a false image of London’s Chinese community as crime-ridden, further claiming that the Limehouse Chinese were one of the most law-abiding of London’s ethnic minorities. Critic Jack Adrian has written: “Rohmer’s own racism was careless and casual, a mere symptom of his times”.

Rohmer became a friend of escapologist Harry Houdini, who wrote to him in praise of Rohmer’s The Romance of Sorcery. Rohmer based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini.

The Orchard of Tears is an odd book in the context of Sax Rohmer’s other work. There are no Oriental villains or exotic locations; rather, there are gentle rabbits and lambs in pastoral settings and a great deal of philosophical musing. As much as he enjoyed Fu Manchu — and the notoriety and income the character provided — Rohmer had other interests and a markedly serious side. The departure from his expected subject matter is plainly signalled by the book’s dedication: “To the slaves of the pomegranate, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, who drink at the fountain of life, this chalice is offered as a loving-cup”.

In The Quest of the Sacred Slipper (1919) terror comes to Britain when a self-centered archaeologist unearths one of Islam’s holiest relics—the sacred slipper of the prophet Mohammed. Until it is returned to its rightful people, the implacable Hassan of Aleppo vows his reign of death and destruction shall not cease. Behind these inhuman outrages is a secret group of fanatics. Not even the best men of Scotland Yard seem able to apprehend them.

Tales of Chinatown is a collection of 10 short stories published in 1922. All of the stories first appeared in magazine format. This collection includes a story that is considered to be one of his best and also has been anthologised many times: “Tcheriapin”. The story “The Hand of the Mandarin Quong” was rewritten for this book; first published as “Hand of the White Sheikh”, Rohmer changed the setting to a Chinatown background and published it as “The Mystery of the Shriveled Hand”; the title was then changed again for this collection. Rohmer also wrote several novels of supernatural horror, including Brood of the Witch-Queen, described by Adrian as “Rohmer’s masterpiece”.

Rohmer was very poor at managing his wealth, however, and made several disastrous business decisions that hampered him throughout his career. His final success came with a series of novels featuring a female variation on Fu Manchu, Sumuru. The Sumuru series consists of five books. Rohmer also wrote numerous short stories; “The Master of Hollow Grange” (1920) is a homage to M. R. James‘ story “Lost Hearts”, featuring a mad scientist who preys on children.

Rohmer’s work was banned in Nazi Germany, causing Rohmer to complain that he could not understand such censorship, stating “my stories are not inimical to Nazi ideals”. After World War II, Rohmer and his wife moved to New York, only returning to London shortly before his death. He died in 1959 at the age of 76, due to an outbreak of “Asian flu“.

His wife, Rose Elizabeth (Knox) Ward (1886–1979), published her own mystery novel, Bianca in Black, in 1958 under the pen name Elizabeth Sax Rohmer. Some editions of the book mistakenly credit her as Rohmer’s daughter. She and Cay Van Ash (1918–1994), her husband’s former assistant, wrote a biography of the author, Master of Villainy: A Biography of Sax Rohmer, published in 1972. For Rohmer’s bibliography, see his full list of work. (Wikipedia)

Zeventig jaar geleden: Aldous Huxley feliciteert George Orwell

Zeventig jaar geleden: Aldous Huxley feliciteert George Orwell

Vandaag is het zeventig jaar geleden dat Aldous Huxley (links), de auteur van “Brave New World”, zijn collega George Orwell (rechts) een brief stuurt om hem te feliciteren met “1984”. Aanleiding om even te mijmeren over het genre science-fiction…

Zou Bertolt Brecht van science-fiction hebben gehouden? Ik betwijfel het. En nochtans is er geen enkel genre, waarin het vervreemdingseffect een grotere rol speelt. Elk SF-verhaal bouwt immers z’n eigen wereld op en de kijker of lezer moet zich telkens opnieuw een aantal codes eigen maken.
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James Bond (1900-1989)

James Bond (1900-1989)

Vandaag is het dertig jaar geleden dat James Bond is gestorven. Hoezo? zal men zeggen, heeft die dan echt bestaan? Wel ja en euh… nee. Er bestond wel degelijk “een” James Bond, maar die man was een gerenommeerd ornitoloog en had buiten zijn naam niks vandoen met de roemruchte geheim agent die werd gecreëerd door Ian Fleming…

Eleanor Burford (1906-1993)

Eleanor Burford (1906-1993)

Het is al 25 jaar geleden dat Eleanor Burford is gestorven. Ik durf wedden dat deze naam bij niemand onder jullie een belletje doet rinkelen en toch is zij één van de meest gelezen schrijfsters van de twintigste eeuw. De reden waarom haar naam ons niks zegt is tweeledig. Enerzijds gebruikte zij tal van pseudoniemen. Zij was actief in diverse genres en voor elk genre gebruikte ze een ander pseudoniem. Anderzijds wordt het meeste van haar werk tot pulpliteratuur gerekend en bijgevolg wordt er weinig aandacht aan besteed. Toch heb ik ergens op het internet (ik ben natuurlijk weer slordig geweest wat bronvermelding betreft) een ernstig en uitgebreid stuk over haar gevonden. Ik heb het een beetje ingekort en bewerkt. Het resultaat vindt u hieronder.
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105 jaar geleden: de eerste aflevering van “Tarzan of the Apes”

105 jaar geleden: de eerste aflevering van “Tarzan of the Apes”

Vandaag is het 105 jaar geleden dat de eerste aflevering van “Tarzan of the Apes” is verschenen. Tarzan of the Apes is a novel by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first in a series of books about the title character Tarzan. It was first published in the pulp magazine All-Story Magazine in October 1912. So popular was the character that Burroughs continued the series into the 1940s with two dozen sequels.

1913 A la recherche du temps perdu (Marcel Proust)
1914 Dubliners (James Joyce)
Lente (Sigrid Undset)
Pygmalion (G.B.Shaw)
1915 Der Golem (Gustav Meyrink)
1916 Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
Pallieter (Felix Timmermans)
1917 Dagon (Howard Phillips Lovecraft)
De Chinese muur (Franz Kafka)
Gone to earth (Mary Webb)
Hoe het groeide (Knut Hamsun)
The secret house (“Het meisje en het eenzame huis”, Edgar Wallace)
1919 Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen (Johan Huizinga)
Winesburg, Ohio (Sherwood Anderson)
1920 De bruidskrans (deel één van “Kristin Lavransdochter”, Sigrid Undset)
De witte (Ernest Claes)
Jack O’Judgment (« Steeds weer klaverboer », Edgar Wallace)
L’Atlantide (Pierre Benoit)
The age of innocence (Edith Wharton)
The great impersonation (« De treffende gelijkenis », E.Phillips Oppenheim)
Wij (Evgeny Zamyatin)
1921 Bezette stad (Paul van Ostayen)
The Law of the Four Just Men (“De vier rechtvaardige mannen”, Edgar Wallace)
Vrouw (deel twee van “Kristin Lavransdochter”, Sigrid Undset)
1922 Een hongerkunstenaar (Franz Kafka)
Het kruis (deel drie van “Kristin Lavransdochter”, Sigrid Undset)
The angel of terror (ook wel “The destroying angel”, Edgar Wallace)
Ulysses (James Joyce)
1923 Liederen van Leed (debuut van Gerard Walschap)
Mademoiselle de la Ferté (Pierre Benoit)
Saint Joan (George Bernard Shaw)
The inimitable Jeeves (P.G.Wodehouse)
Whose body? (“Het lijk met de pince-nez”, Dorothy Sayers)
1924 Arrowsmith (Sinclair Lewis)
Der Zauberberg (Thomas Mann)
De scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (Johan Fabricius)
Double Dan (“Het meisje en de onbekende”, Edgar Wallace)
Het snoer der ontferming (Louis Couperus)
Knock ou le triomphe de la médecine (Jules Romains)
Manifeste du surréalisme (André Breton)
1925 Der Prozess (Franz Kafka)
Kiki (Ernest Claes)
Le puits de Jacob (Pierre Benoit)
Merijntje Gijzen (A.M.De Jong)
Mrs.Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
Olav Audunszoon op Hestviken (Sigrid Undset)
1926 Das Schloss (Franz Kafka)
The incredulity of Father Brown (“Father Brown laat zich niet foppen”, Gilbert Keith Chesterton)
The silver spoon (John Galsworthy)
The torrents of spring (Ernest Hemingway)
The yellow snake (Edgar Wallace)
Uleken (Cyriel Buysse)
Winnie the Pooh (Alan Alexander Milne)
1927 Amerika (Franz Kafka)
Der Steppenwolf (Hermann Hesse)
De Wonderdoktoor (Jos Janssen)
The forger (“De valsemunter”, Edgar Wallace)
The sun also rises (in 1949 heruitgegeven als “Fiesta”, Ernest Hemingway)
1928 A king by night (“De wurgende hand”, Edgar Wallace)
Die Dreigroschenoper (Bertolt Brecht)
Emil und die Detective (Erich Kästner, in 1947 in Engeland door Michael Crichton verfilmd als “Hue and Cry”)
Lady Chatterley’s Lover (D.H.Lawrence)
Lobbe en Sefa (Antoon Longerstaey)
Orlando (Virginia Woolf)
Twee helden (Maurice Roelants)
1929 A farewell to arms (Ernest Hemingway)
Berlin Alexanderplatz (Alfred Döblin)
Contes et légendes de Bretagne (François Cadic)
De onverschilligen (Alberto Moravia)
Erromango (Pierre Benoit)
Het geheim van De Drie Snoeken (Lode Baekelmans)
The green ribbon (“Renpaarden en nachtmerries”, Edgar Wallace)
The Roman hat mystery (debuut van Ellery Queen, een schrijversduo bestaande uit Frederic Dannay, 1905-1982, en Manfred B.Lee, 1905-1971, in het Nederlands uitgegeven als “Het mysterie van de hoge hoeden”)
1930 Cakes and ale (Somerset Maugham)
Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (Robert Musil)
1066 and all that (W.C.Sellar & R.J.Yeatman)
The documents in the case (“Documenten in de zaak Harrison”, Dorothy Sayers)
Tintin au Pays des Soviets (Hergé)
1931 All passion spent (“Een gelaten leven”, Vita Sackville-West)
De koning drinkt (Jos Janssen)
Het verhaal van Babar, het olifantje (Jean de Brunhoff)
Judith (Jean Giraudoux, 1882-1944)
Rembrandt (debuut van Theun de Vries, 1907-2005)
The Waves (Virginia Woolf)
1932 Brave new world (Aldous Huxley)
Ida Elisabeth (Sigrid Undset)
The Egyptian Cross Mystery (“Het Egyptische teken”, Ellery Queen)
The tragedy of Y (“Een moordenaar pleegt plagiaat”, Ellery Queen)
1933 Ann Vickers (Sinclair Lewis)
De Paradijsvogels (Gaston Martens)
King Kong (Edgar Wallace)
La condition humaine (André Malraux)
Lost horizon (James Hilton)
The progress of Julius (Daphne Du Maurier)
The red pony (John Steinbeck)
Trouwen (Gerard Walschap)
1934 Celibaat (Gerard Walschap)
Drei Männer im Schnee (Erich Kästner)
Driestuiversroman (Bertolt Brecht)
Mary Poppins (Pamela Lyndon Travers)
The blind barber (“De moord met het scheermes”, John Dickson Carr)
The Chinese orange mystery (“Moord achterstevoren”, Ellery Queen)
The nine tailors (“De negen slagen”, Dorothy Sayers)
1935 England made me (in 1953 heruitgegeven als “The Shipwrecked”, in het Nederlands “Kind van Albion”, Graham Greene)
Enter a murderer (“De dood speelt geen toneel”, Ngaio Marsh)
Green hills of Africa (Ernest Hemingway)
Heaven’s my destination (“De hemel mijn beloning”, Thornton Wilder)
Spoken op de ruwe heide (John Flanders)
1936 Een mens van goede wil (Gerard Walschap)
Elias of het gevecht met de nachtegalen (Maurice Gilliams)
Eyeless in Gaza (Aldous Huxley)
Gone with the wind (Margaret Mitchell, 1900-1949)
Jamaica Inn (Daphne du Maurier)
La dame de l’ouest (Pierre Benoit)
1937 Bushman’s honeymoon (“Met de dood op huwelijksreis”, Dorothy Sayers)
(De klucht van) De brave moordenaar (Jos Janssen)
Dumb witness (Agatha Christie)
I have been here before (J.B.Priestley)
My name is Aram (William Saroyan)
L’espoir (André Malraux)
Of mice and men (John Steinbeck)
Out of Africa (Karen Blixen)
Pieter Bas (Godfried Bomans)
The hobbit (J.R.R.Tolkien)
Time and the Conways (J.B.Priestley)
To have and have not (Ernest Hemingway)
1938
Brighton rock (Graham Greene)
Death in a white tie (« Dood in rok », Ngaio Marsh)
Jody en het hertejong (Marjorie K.Rawlings)
La nausée (Jean-Paul Sartre)
Le théâtre et son double (Antonin Artaud)
Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)
Too many cooks (Rex Stout)
1939
The little foxes (Lillian Hellman)
Gojim (Johan Daisne)
Het kind (Gerard Walschap)
Houtekiet (Gerard Walschap)
Overture to death (“Dodelijk akkoord”, Ngaio Marsh)
The fifth column and the first forty-nine stories (in 1977 heruitgegeven als “The snows of Kilimanjaro”, Ernest Hemingway)
The grapes of wrath (John Steinbeck)
1940
For whom the bell tolls (Ernest Hemingway)
Maria Speermalie (Herman Teirlinck)
Native son (Richard Wright)
The power and the glory (Graham Greene)
Tobacco road (Erskine Caldwell)
1941 Erik of het kleine insectenboek (Godfried Bomans)
Frenchman’s creek (“Lady Dona”, Daphne du Maurier)
Soo Moereman (Gerard Walschap)
The case of the constant suicides (« De moordenaar was een Schot », John Dickson Carr)
The man in grey (Eleanor Smith)
1942 A shortened history of England (G.M.Trevelyan)
De jeugd van Tijl Uilenspiegel (Raf Verhulst, postuum)
De trap van steen en wolken (Johan Daisne)
De voorstad groeit (Louis Paul Boon)
L’étranger (Albert Camus)
1943 Colour scheme (Ngaio Marsh)
Don Juan en de laatste nimf (Hubert Lampo)
Genezing door aspirine (Gerard Walschap)
Here is your war (Ernie Pyle)
Le petit prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
Les dossiers de l’Agence ‘0’ (Georges Simenon)
The fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
The four quartets (T.S.Eliot)
1944 Cluny Brown (Margery Sharp)
Forever Amber (Kathleen Winsor)
Gigi (Colette)
Het hart en de klok (Piet van Aken)
Notre-dame des fleurs (Jean Genet)
1945 Animal farm (George Orwell)
A tree of night (Truman Capote)
Cannery Row (John Steinbeck)
Pippi Langkous (Astrid Lindgren)
Sparkling cyanide (“Bruisende drank”, Agatha Christie)
The glass menagerie (Tennessee Williams)
The pearl (John Steinbeck)
1946 All the king’s men (Robert Penn Warren)
Convoy to West Africa (Graham Greene)
Het dwaallicht (Willem Elsschot)
Jeroom en Benzamien (Ernest Claes)
Paulus de boskabouter (Jean Dulieu, pseudoniem van Jan van Oort, 1921-2006)
Sprookjes (Godfried Bomans)
1947
An inspector calls (J.B.Priestley)
A streetcar named desire (Tennessee Williams)
De avonden (Gerard Reve)
Final curtain (“De laatste scène”, Ngaio Marsh)
Het achterhuis (Anne Frank, postuum)
Het geheim van Matsuoka (Marc Sleen)
Kopstukken (Godfried Bomans)
The Linden Tree (J.B.Priestley)
The wayward bus (John Steinbeck)
Under the volcano (Malcolm Lowry)
1948
Bill Clifford (Godfried Bomans)
Buitelingen (Godfried Bomans)
Camino Real (Tennessee Williams)
Christus wordt weer gekruisigd (Nikos Kazandzakis)
De trein der traagheid (Johan Daisne)
De weg naar Klockrike (Harry Martinson)
Eenzaam avontuur (Anna Blaman)
1984 (George Orwell)
Het B-gevaar (Marc Sleen)
Het zeespook (Marc Sleen)
Registreren (Hugo Claus)
Zwart en wit (Gerard Walschap)