Back in the 1960s, a paperback publisher called Pyramid Books brought out a series of Sax Rohmer volumes. Many featured the evil genius, Dr. Fu Manchu, whose goal was World Domination. Standing against the awesome might of Fu Manchu and his minions is Sir Denis Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard. In book after book, Nayland Smith thwarted the maniacal plots of the evil doctor. The Mask of Fu Manchu is a bit unusual because it is not set in England as most of the books are. The novel opens in Afghanistan and Persia and moves to Egypt. Dr. Fu Manchu, and his equally evil daughter, Fah Lo Suce, practice their cunning schemes to stroke groups who see the golden mask of the past as the key to their future.

“Sax Rohmer” was the pseudonym of Arthur Wade. He wrote 14 Fu Manchu novels as well as other tales that contained supernatural elements. Several movies were made based on Sax Rohmer’s books. Were you a Fu Manchu fan? GRADE: B

20 thoughts on “FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOKS #618: THE MASK OF FU MANCHU By Sax Rohmer

  1. Steve Oerkfitz

    Tried reading one back in the sixties. Couldn’t get through it. Didn’t care much for the movie starring Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu either. So, not a fan.

  2. Michael Padgett

    I remember when the books were all over the place but they didn’t look like something I’d want to read and I never tried one. Pretty sure I made the right choice.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, the Fu Manchu series belongs to the genre of Evil Geniuses Who Want to Take Over the World. I know it’s silly, but when I was a kid, this kind of book appealed to me.

    1. george Post author

      Dan, exactly! As a kid, I missed all the racist allusions and aspersions. Today, THE MASK OF FU MANCHU makes for some uncomfortable reading. So, it’s true you Can’t Go Home Again.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    No, not really. I read one – the first – and never had an urge to read another. I saw a couple of movies but they didn’t interest me much either.

  4. maggie mason

    I had the paperbacks, but never read one. A friend was a big fan, but I don’t think I even tried one.

    I did see a movie recently with Myrna Loy as his daughter, IIRC Boris Karloff was fu manchu it was ok. Not sure I’ve seen other movies, but it’s possible

  5. wolf

    Saw the books everywhere in London in the 70s – really cheap second hand paperbacks but wasn’t too interested after having a look at some of them.
    The movies with Christopher Lee were a cult topic for some students in the late 60s, usually shown late night but I remember only watching one and being disappointed.
    The only thing I really remember from all those pulps then were the crazy illustrations, especially the covers!

  6. Jerry House

    I’ve read them all and, for my sins, I’m willing to re-read them. And, yes, they are bad. They date from a day when China was growing, the Boxer Rebellion was in the news, the Chinese had their secret societies and tongs, Japan was expanding, the West was absorbed (as always) with xenophobia, and the British Empire was still strong. Asians were a mysterious — and DIFFERENT — race of people and Limehouse was a place of danger.

    Fu Manchu never translated well in the movies for too many reasons, both technically and production-wise. (Although the 1923 serial with each if its 15 episodes covering a different adventure, sounds like it may — I haven’t seen it, nor am I sure it still exists — mirror Rohmer’s approach. And I do have warm feelings for 1931’s DAUGHTER OF THE DRAGON, but that is only because of Anna May Wong.) The 1956 television series, THE ADVENTURES OF DR. FU MANCHU mercifully lasted only 13 episodes — about 13 episodes too many.

    The current P.C. approach to these books is easily summed up:

    Beware of the peril yellow
    And that Fu Manchu fellow,
    With books racist and crass
    On which many will pass,
    Wanting their thrills much more mellow.

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, I have read most of the Fu Manchu novels, but not all of them. I have them all in various editions. The secret societies, the assassinations, the mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu with his beautiful daughter still appeal to me. But only in small doses.

  7. Scott Cupp

    For Christmas 1966 I had my parents order me all the Fu Manchu titles. I believe I got 8 at that time since some were out of print. Started a lifelong love with Rohmer and the Evil Geniuses that lingers to this day!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *