All right, I may as well be honest. As I continue with a review of another short story collection you might enjoy browsing at the beach this month, I make no pretense today to literature, or the finer points of planting clues for the reader to find, or for brilliant characterization or plotting. No, what I have to offer today is, I think, perfect summertime fare - the kind of mindless sensationalism you could expect from a wide range of thriller writers in the early years of the 20th century. It's a collection of short stories by Sax Rohmer, the man who went on to create the infamous Dr. Fu Manchu. It's called "The Green Spider: and Other Forgotten Tales of Mystery and Suspense," and it is the subject of today's review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Hey, it's summer time, and these rather mindless short stories are nothing more than out-and-out fun, designed to make you look nervously over your shoulder for some evil person - or horrid creature - before it's time to roll over at the beach and bake the other side.
What kind of writing am I talking about? From the title story:
"Professor Brayme-Skepley has been murdered!"
"Murdered!" echoed Harborne.
"And no mortal hand has done the thing, sir!" continued the frightened man. "Heaven grant I never see the like again!"
He's talking about "a thing, like a kind of green spider - only with a body twice the size of that football!"
Actually, when you get past the lurid details, it's a pretty good mystery story (NOT a supernatural horror story). There are 13 stories in this collection, most dating from the first couple of decades of the 20th century. There are even two stories which were the precursors of the Fu Manchu series. This anthology has been published by Black Dog Books with a very lively and informative introduction by Gene Christie. You'll find an odd little story about a mummy that manages to loot a museum, an impossible-murder story set on the desolate English moors, and lots more. Stories with lurid titles: "The Sedgley Abbey Tragedies," "The Secret of Holm Peel," "The Haunting of Low Fennel," "The Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom."
Great literature? No. Great fun? Yes. A warning to the sensitive: These stories, like much of Rohmer's work, may be considered racially offensive by some. It's the way things were at the beginning of the last century - in fact, Earl Derr Biggers' Charlie Chan stories were a reaction against Rohmer's kind of stories. Take them for what they are and enjoy them.