Always very appreciative of coverage of our books.
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 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.
This book takes a decidedly different approach to the pulps. And that’s what makes it a useful guide for anyone looking to learn more about this genre.
Nevins analyzes the pulps by looking at the stats behind them year by year from 1918 to 1953. That means taking a look at the number of titles and issues published and what percentage each genre is responsible for. That makes for an easy way to tell, at a glance, what market segments were most popular at any given time.
This approach highlights the surprising strength of the spicy pulps and the surprisingly smaller impact of the detective pulps, to offer just two examples.
It’s a useful and interesting reference book. My only word of advice is if you are pondering the purchase, pick up the paperback version instead. I found myself struggling with the Kindle format making it difficult to flip back and forth. (I’ve since purchased the paper version as well.)
Sherlock Holmes: The Affair of the Chronic Argonaut by Fred Adams Jr./Published by Pro Se Press * 5/5 stars
I feel like a broken record every time I review a Fred Adams Jr. book. But it’s worth saying again: Adams is quite possibly the best writer working in new pulp today. I have yet to read a bad book or story by him.
This short book (142 pages) collects two Sherlock Holmes novellas by Adams. In the first, Holmes and Watson have to solve a locked room mystery with only a piece of yellow paper as a clue. As the murders mount, the two must venture to Limehouse (Chinatown) to solve this weird series of killings.
In the second, the under-construction tunnels of the London Underground are the site of cannibalistic murders, with an odd man delivering advance notice of the killings.
Both are quick, enjoyable reads. A caveat for Holmes fans: I’ve read more non-canon Holmes stories than those by Arthur Conan Doyle. That means I’m not the best judge of how these stories fit in that canon. These stories both rely on the occult and sci-fi elements to explain their mysteries, so if that deviation from Holmes bothers you, these aren’t the stories for you.
That said, if you want a good read and an enjoyable mystery, check out this book.