(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Although only one-quarter of Sax Rohmer’s mystery novels and collected stories feature the insidious Fu Manchu, it is that character who guaranteed Rohmer’s fame and success as a mystery writer. Although he neither invented the genre of the thriller nor created the “Yellow Peril” plot, it was he who combined the two aspects most successfully during the first half of the twentieth century. The stories of Fu Manchu appeared over the course of five decades, which is strong evidence that Rohmer’s creation was popular throughout most of his writing career. Fu Manchu himself underwent a gradual metamorphosis, changing from, in 1912, a self-serving villain to, by the late 1940’s, an anticommunist. The character appeared on radio, in film, and on television. Fu Manchu was also the pattern for many other evil Asian geniuses in popular culture.

Although Rohmer’s major contribution to the writing of mystery fiction is a villain, his detectives do deserve some mention. Fu Manchu’s worthy adversary was usually Sir Denis Nayland Smith or a similar type who had lived in the East and had studied the techniques of Asia. The stories themselves are in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, wherein the brilliant Holmes/Smith matches wits with the equally brilliant Moriarty/Fu Manchu. Similarly, the stories are recorded by an associate, Dr. Petrie, who plays the role of the bumbling Dr. Watson. Over his long writing career Rohmer used many other detectives and villains. None, however, is as memorable as Fu Manchu.

Sax Rohmer Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Chan, Jachinson. Chinese American Masculinities: From Fu Manchu to Bruce Lee. New York: Routledge, 2001. Study of the gendering of iconic Chinese American male characters, including Fu Manchu, in film and fiction.

Chen, Tina. “Dissecting the ’Devil Doctor’: Stereotype and Sensationalism in Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu.” In Double Agency: Acts of Impersonation in Asian American Literature and Culture. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005. Discussion of the intersection of the conventions of racial stereotype and sensationalist fiction in the figure of Fu Manchu.

Christensen, Peter. “Political Appeal of Dr. Fu Manchu.” In The Devil Himself: Villainy in Detective Fiction and Film, edited by Stacy Gillis and Philippa Gates. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Examines the ideologies of race and nation that lie behind the popularity of the Fu Manchu character.

Clegg, Jenny. Fu Manchu and the Yellow Peril: The Making of a Racist Myth. Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England: Trentham Books, 1994. Brief but focused study of the nationalist and racist agendas behind Rohmer’s characterization of Fu Manchu.

Frayling, Christopher. “Criminal Tendencies: Sax Rohmer and the Devil Doctor.” London Magazine 13 (June/July, 1973): 65-80. Extended discussion of Rohmer and Fu Manchu, his most famous creation.

Kingsbury, Karen. “Yellow Peril, Dark Hero: Fu Manchu and the ’Gothic Bedevilment’ of Racist Intent.” In The Gothic Other: Racial and Social Constructions in the Literary Imagination, edited by Ruth Bienstock Anolik and Douglas L. Howard. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004. Argues that Rohmer’s works represent a version of gothic fiction and that his specific methods of representing racial otherness employ gothic modes of othering.

Van Ash, Cay, and Elizabeth Sax Rohmer. Master of Villainy: A Biography of Sax Rohmer, edited by Robert E. Briney. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1972. Extended study of the life and fiction of Sax Rohmer.