Vintage Pulp Jan 6 2024
CLAWS FOR ALARM
Me? Why should I touch it? You’re the one always going on about how you can tell everything about a man from his handshake.

British author Sax Rohmer, aka Arthur Henry Ward, wrote many novels but made his reputation with the Fu Manchu series. Tales of Chinatown doesn’t feature that famous character, but instead deals in short story form with other characters and various unsavory goings-on in the Chinese underworld of London’s Limehouse district. There are problems with Rohmer’s depictions of Chinese, Jews, and other groups, but the writing is more than a century old, so no surprise there.

In terms of execution, there’s a sinister mood of a type here that's quite effective. "The Daughter of Huang Chow," the opening tale, deals with a series of fatal poisonings among the Limehouse criminal set, and the mysterious contents of an ornamental coffin. "The Hand of the Mandarin Quong," from which the cover is derived, is set in Singapore and London, and tells the story of a man who loses a hand in a failed attempt to rescue his kidnapped wife, but whose severed body part continues to haunt and hunt the kidnapper.

Tales of Chinatown is an atmospheric collection, well written and imaginatively conceived. It's easy to see why Rohmer became an international sensation. Many of his tropes are by now familiar if not hackneyed (and his racialized musings are deservingly excoriated), but back when his ideas were fresh they must have given his readers the megacreeps. Crime, suspense, mystery, mysticism, horror—Tales of Chinatown has all that. It first appeared in 1922, and this Popular Library edition with art by Rudolph Belarski is from 1949.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 15 2009
HANGOVER CURE
There's only one sure way to get rid of a headache. Murder him.


Hangover House was originally conceived as a stage play and was written by Sax Rohmer, aka Arthur Henry Ward, and his wife, Elizabeth Sax Rohmer, who obviously borrowed his pseudonym. We haven't read the play, but the novel is one of those fun British murder mysteries where everyone is stuck in a mansion as cops try to solve the crime. But the police are secondary. The main guy here is private investigator Storm Kennedy, also stranded in Hangover House after being hired to keep an eye on one of the guests, the young and beautiful Lady Hilary Bruton. In his efforts to protect Lady Hilary, Kennedy becomes the prime murder suspect. By 1949, when this was originally written, guys like Cain and Hammett had taken crime fiction to violent, depraved places, so Hangover House may seem to some readers both overly genteel and too romantic—“Oh, Storm, will you save me from myself!”—but we liked it anyway. The surprise ending actually did surprise us. This Graphic Books paperback appeared in 1954, and the cover artist is uncredited. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 21
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
June 20
1967—Muhammad Ali Sentenced for Draft Evasion
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was known as Cassius Clay before his conversion to Islam, is sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. In elucidating his opposition to serving, he uttered the now-famous phrase, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”
June 19
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
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