Pulp, Reviews

Review: The Mysterious Wu Fang #1

wu fang sixThe Mysterious Wu Fang #1: The Case of the Six Coffins

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.

Pulp

Now available: Thrilling Detective Pulp Tales Volume 3

Thrilling Detective Vol. 3 Our latest pulp collection, Thrilling Detective Pulp Tales Vol. 3, is now available in both print and ebook format.

For more than 20 years, detectives and criminals found a home in the pages of Thrilling Detective. This edition collects six vintage pulp novels and stories from the tattered pages of the classic detective pulp: “Hijack Haul” by Lee Fredericks, “A Fourth Must Die” by Benton Braden, “Poor Economy” by Ray Cummings, “Hibiscus and Homicide” by William Campbell Gault, “Night Without End” by Wyatt Blassingame and “Death of a Dead Man” by Wayland Rice.

Pulp

Norbert Davis (1909-1949)

Norbert Davis coverIn his short career, Norbert Davis was one of the most reliable contributors to the detective pulps. He was born today in 1909.

Davis is one of the writers featured in The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction, Volume 2.

Davis was born in Illinois in 1909. His family moved to California and Davis studied law at Stanford University, but never took the bar exam.

He got his start with Black Mask in 1932 and quickly started selling stories to that magazine, as well as Dime Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly and Double Detective. Raymond Chandler was said to be a fan of his work.

In the 1940s, he began writing novels and selling stories to the slicks, including placing several stories in the prestigious Saturday Evening Post. In 1947, he collaborated with fellow pulp writer W.T. Ballard on a novel, Murder Picks the Jury.

In 1949, with his career slowing, Davis and his wife moved to Connecticut. In July of that year, the 40-year-old Davis died of carbon monoxide poisoning in an apparent suicide.

Pulp, Reviews

Ron Fortier reviews The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction Vol. 2

Pulp Guide Vol. 2-2The Beginner’s Guide to Pulp Fiction, Volume 2, is now available in print and ebook format. This is the second volume in our series, both of which have been No. 1 New Releases at Amazon.

And we’re happy to report it landed a positive review from Ron Fortier over at Pulp Fiction Reviews.

“Every page is filled with captivating data and a credit to the author’s intensive research to include all the major titles. … Reference books like these are invaluable to the true lover of pulp fiction and we tip our fedora to Jonathan Sweet and Brick Pickle Pulp.”

Read the full review on the Pulp Fiction Reviews website.