The Wrath of Fu Manchu: Final and fun footnotes of Fu

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Wrath of Fu Manchu by Sax RohmerThe Wrath of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Previously here on FanLit, I placed an article that discussed every one of the 13 Fu Manchu novels that British author Sax Rohmer produced over a period of decades. But there was one Fu book that I did not discuss therein, for the simple reason that it is not a full-length novel, but rather a collection of miscellaneous items. The Wrath of Fu Manchu is the 14th and final book in Rohmer’s FU MANCHU series. I refer here to the original DAW publication of 1976, which included four short stories dealing with the good doctor, as well as some other Rohmer stories not related to the series but interesting in their own right. The four Fu stories serve as mere footnotes or codas to the previous 13 novels, but all are interesting, and a must for Fu completists.

The first two stories in the book, “The Wrath of Fu Manchu” and “The Eyes of Fu Manchu,” fill in the gaps between the last novels of the series. “Wrath” is certainly the best of the bunch, and features the final appearance of Fah Lo Suee, Fu’s daughter. In this one, Fu threatens to contaminate the gold supply of Fort Knox (years before Auric Goldfinger hatched a similar scheme!), and Nayland Smith infiltrates a meeting of the Council of Seven to stop him. It is a pretty suspenseful tale. The high point of “Eyes” is a cameo appearance by Dr. Petrie, the narrator of the earliest Fu novels. In this story, Fu kidnaps a scientist and tries to make him work on Fu’s life-prolongation experiments. It is a short but satisfying tale.

The remaining two Fu stories in the book are “The Word of Fu Manchu,” in which freelance journalist Malcolm Forbes (!!!) accompanies Smith as he tries to find out how a CID agent has been killed, and “The Mind of Fu Manchu,” in which the good doctor steals the plans for a flying saucer. These last two stories are short shorts and are over very quickly; sadly, they are anticlimaxes to a wonderful series of books.
The other, non-Fu stories in the collection are a mixed bag, some in the supernatural vein, many tales of Egyptian adventure. In “Nightmare House,” a curse from the Middle Ages afflicts a lonely estate in Cornwall. “The Leopard-Couch” tells of an ancient Egyptian curio that houses the spirit of a dead priestess. “The Mystery of the Fabulous Lamp” is a sweet little O. Henry-ish story of a couple that buys a lamp that changes that couple’s life. “A Date at Shepheard’s” treats of modern-day (i.e., 1950) Egypt and how the harem customs have persisted. “The Mark of Maat” is also a tale of modern-day (1944) Egypt, and deals with the strange vengeance that that ancient deity seems to exact on a tomb raider. “The Treasure of Taia” is a beautifully written — almost poetically written — story of the plot against a struggling archeologist, again in 20th century Egypt.

“Crime Takes a Cruise” is a delightful thriller set in Port Said, in which a young American girl and an Irish secret serviceman join forces to flush out a dealer in Nazi treasures. Finally, there is the supernatural tale “A House Possessed,” in which an English estate is cursed by a student of Nostradamus himself. This tale does elicit some nice shuddery moments. Many of the stories just mentioned are unsatisfying, in that mundane explanations are presented for events that the reader would probably prefer to remain unexplained or supernatural.

As usual, Rohmeresque anachronisms and inconsistencies are present. For example, in “Nightmare House,” events are described that supposedly took place around the time of the second Plantagenet (the early 1200s). However, harquebusses (a type of musket) are being used, and they didn’t come in until around the 1400s! These harquebusses are also said to shoot arrows. Did muskets shoot arrows back then? Somehow, I doubt it! In “A House Possessed,” the house is supposed to have been built before 1640, based on designs by English architect John Vanbrugh. But Vanbrugh wasn’t born until 1664! Like I said, Rohmer was in critical need of a good copy editor, and, sadly, never seemed to get one. Still, the book has ample charms, and I do recommend it.


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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2 comments

  1. Ulrich /

    As to “Eyes”: “Fu kidnaps a scientist and tries to make him work on Fu’s life-prolongation experiments”

    A nice coincidence. The story came out in the English magazine “This Week” in October 1957 (two days after Sputnik 1 was launched: quite a week). The DAW of 1976 edition was the first US publication, reprinting the 1973 Tom Stacey hc. The plot synopsis makes it sound almost like an inspiration for Robert Silverberg’s last “pre-retirement” novel, “Shadrach in the Furnace”, also published in 1976, as if RS had decided that you could take the most hoary of pulp clichés and turn it into something worthwhile: the Oriental dictator and his doctor’s quest for immortality. Nonsense, of course (though RS may have been working along those lines), but still a nice red herring to dangle before unwary academics.

  2. sandy ferber /

    I loved that “Shadrach in the Furnace” novel, Ulrich. As a matter of fact, Kat and I BOTH gave the book glowing reviews here on FanLit….

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