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Forever associated with his creation of evil genius Dr Fu Manchu, a Chinese super-criminal scheming to destroy Western civilisation, Sax Rohmer (1883-1959) was the king of pulp exotica. At the height of his fame Rohmer was one of the most popular writers on the planet, but now he is largely remembered for outrageous attitudes and lurid Chinaphobia. Lord of Strange Deaths aForever associated with his creation of evil genius Dr Fu Manchu, a Chinese super-criminal scheming to destroy Western civilisation, Sax Rohmer (1883-1959) was the king of pulp exotica. At the height of his fame Rohmer was one of the most popular writers on the planet, but now he is largely remembered for outrageous attitudes and lurid Chinaphobia. Lord of Strange Deaths approaches Rohmer with something more than routine disapproval, and instead brings out the complexity and historical significance of his work.This is the first extended attempt to do justice to Rohmer, and it ranges across the spectrum of his output from music-hall writing to Theosophy. Contributors focus on subjects including Egyptology, 1890s decadence, Edwardian super-villains, graphic novels, cinema, the French Situationists, Chinese dragon ladies, and the Arabian Nights. The result is a testimony to the enduring fascination and relevance of Rohmer’s absurd, sinister and immensely atmospheric world....

Title : Lord of Strange Deaths: The Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer
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ISBN : 9781907222252
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 220 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Lord of Strange Deaths: The Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer Reviews

  • Tim Pendry
    2018-10-18 17:10

    Although a little repetitive in places, this has to be the definitive collection of essays on Sax Rohmer (actually Arthur Henry Ward), creator of that fascinating cultural artefact Fu Manchu. With one or two caveats, the essays are to a very high standard of scholarship.The authors might be regarded as part of an informal largely London-based salon of serious contemporary commentators on popular culture - Robert Irwin, Christopher Frayling, Clive Bloom, Alan Moore, Phil Baker, Kim Newman, Gary Baker. Mark Valentine and many more.The question inevitably arises - is Sax Rohmer worth all this attention? He was essentially a second rate pulp writer with one very interesting cultural product in his curiously attractive oriental villain and that villain's erotically charged dusky daughter and slaves.The answer is that he and his writings are largely of antiquarian interest (covered exhaustively here) but that his role within the decadent period of British imperialism and founding of a derivative American imperialism through to the communist scares is culturally significant.Although not originator of many memes about the Chinese, his work crystallised them as a mash-up of music hall, esoteric, pseudo-historical, cliched detective and political themes that has arguably had effects as far as China itself. Rohmer is a 'signifier' personality taking us from the decadence of the era of Oscar Wilde through the popular music hall and into the era of pulp serials and silent and then talking movies - he is a right-wing shadow, in this respect, of Charlie Chaplin (except, of course, for the decadence).If Chaplin offers us the 'little man' making his way in the world, Rohmer speaks for the anxieties and fears of other little men faced with threats from unknown political forces and competition for labour from foreigners. Fu Manchu makes those threats seem less mundane and more romantic.There are essays here on the yellow peril meme, on the late imperial music hall, on the Chinese historical roots of the mythos, on the relationship between super villains and fear of anarchists and socialists and on the sexual tensions created by racial sterotypes. Lots to enjoy there!Read as a whole, one emerges with a very clear understanding of how this entertaining second rate pulp writer whose Fu Manchu novels are still in print managed to encapsulate male erotic fantasies and cultural anxieties within that imperial context.His work was part of a much wider body of work by thriller and adventure writers that helped to give meaning to the clerical worker and the minor colonial civil servant otherwise caught up in the drudgery necessary to keep the machinery of a great empire oiled and working.This is, fortunately, no silly left-wing ideological tract against Rohmer - we are all now bored with that sort of thing as the dull-witted Eighties Post-Marxists head for their care homes - but an exercise in detached understanding of another time in the same place (for most of the writers).The mature approach here is to note that his characterisations were primitive and 'racist' but also complex and cynical (he wrote for money and was clear about that). The novels were part of an insecure and anxious cultural whole that cannot be wished away through outrage or censorship.The overall conclusion must be that Sax Rohmer will continue to be read by academics and ironists (one is not surprised to find him an influence on Guy Debord and the Situationists) but that his world is now as alien to us if still as entertaining as that of, say, Henry Fielding or Rider Haggard. Nevertheless, this collection is highly recommended (despite the repetitions) for its insights and its entertainments. I am not sure there is, honestly, much more to say on the subject other than to suggest reading one of the first half dozen Fu Manchu novels.