Always very appreciative of coverage of our books.
Kent Hrbek is one of the players featured in our book, Minnesota’s 50 Greatest Baseball Players: From Town Ball to the Twins.
The story of Kent Hrbek is that of another local boy made good, but unlike Paul Molitor, Jack Morris or Dave Winfield, Hrbek spent his entire major league career playing for the local nine.
Hrbek was born May 21, 1960, in Minneapolis and grew up in Bloomington, site of Metropolitan Stadium, the home of the Twins and Vikings before they moved into the Metrodome. As a young player, he wore No. 6 in honor of his favorite player, Tony Oliva. Living close enough to ride his bike to the stadium, Hrbek spent plenty of time at the old Met.
Hrbek played his high school ball at Bloomington Kennedy High School, where he caught the eye of Met Stadium concession worker Smokey Teewalt. Teewalt’s son played against Hrbek for Bloomington Lincoln and Teewalt told the Twins they should check out that Hrbek kid.
Hrbek signed a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Minnesota, but was also drafted by the Twins in the 17th round of the 1978 draft. The Twins offered a $5,000 signing bonus, which Hrbek turned down. By the end of the summer, they upped the offer to $30,000 and Hrbek signed with the club.
In 14 years with the Twins, Hrbek played in 1,747 games for the team, behind only Harmon Killebrew, Joe Mauer and Kirby Puckett. He finished his career with a .282 average. His 293 home runs and 1,086 RBI are both second to Killebrew. His .481 slugging average and .848 OPS are both third-best in Twins history.
In 1995, the Twins retired his No. 14. He was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class in 2000. He was also a member of the Twins 40th Anniversary Team and the Twins All-Metrodome Team.
I’ve been aware of the Mysterious Wu Fang for years but resisted reading the series. To put it bluntly, I wasn’t in the mood to read to what I expected to be an at least slightly offensive “Yellow Peril” pulp.
A little background:
Wu Fang was clearly inspired by Fu Manchu, a popular fictional villain created by Sax Rohmer in 1913. Fu Manchu was an evil genius and scientist bent on world domination. He’s appeared in film, radio, television, comics and more.
Clearly looking to capitalize on this popularity, Popular Publications introduced The Mysterious Wu Fang in September 1935. The series was written by Robert J. Hogan of G-8 fame. Wu Fang was another Asian scientist looking to take over the world. Like Fu Manchu, he was opposed by a constant foil (former Secret Service agent Val Kildare instead of former police officer Naylan Smith). Popular even hired Fu Manchu illustrator John Richard Flanagan to illustrate the pulps.
Unlike the long-lived Fu Manchu , Wu Fang was gone in less than a year. After seven stories, the March 1936 issue ended his adventures. A cease-and-desist letter from Rohmer’s attorneys certainly didn’t help matters.
Just two months later, Popular made another attempt with Dr. Yen Sin. The doctor was a Chinese crime lord who (surprise!) had his eyes set on taking over the planet. Jerome Rozen, who had provided the cover art for Wu Fang did the same for the new title. Flanagan again illustrated the stories. These adventures were written by veteran pulp writer Donald Keyhoe. Yen Sin was opposed by Michael Traile, left unable to sleep by a botched brain operation. This attempt lasted only three issues, folding after the September/October 1936 issue, with threatened legal action again on the horizon.
Now, back to this adventure: I was pleasantly surprised by the first story. While Wu Fang may get the headline, he’s in the background for the vast majority of the story. Instead, we’re following Secret Service Agent Val Kildare and his partner, newspaper reporter Jerry Hazard. That set-up works great, as it makes Wu Fang more mysterious and sinister than it would if we spent a lot of time with the master villain.
It’s a fast-moving adventure, a quick read and an enjoyable trip by Robert J. Hogan. There were few, if any, of those cringe-worthy moments we tend to see when there is an Asian foil in the pulps. (I’ll freely admit I’m saying this as a white male, so perhaps others may be more offended.)
On to the presentation: The story is published by Altus Press/Steeger Books, which has reprinted all of Wu Fang’s adventures. It is very clean, with easy-to-read type, nice covers and only a handful of typos. It also includes original illustrations. Pulp purists may be unhappy as it doesn’t exactly replicate the pulp size and experience, but this is how I like to read my pulp stories. I look forward to reading the rest of Wu Fang’s adventures from Altus.
The top-selling items through our retail arm for April. As always, remember that we specialize in collectible items and niche categories, so it’s going to look a little different than your traditional best-seller list!
- The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction, Vol. 2 by Jonathan W. Sweet
- The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction by Jonathan W. Sweet
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- The Spider Returns 1941 movie serial DVD
- The Stand by Stephen King
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Minnesota’s 50 Greatest Baseball Players by Jonathan W. Sweet
- Tombstone & Speedy, Range Detective by W.C. Tuttle
- The Phantom Empire 1935 movie serial DVD
- Thrilling Detective Pulp Tales Vol. 2