A sinister oriental mastermind matches wit with a G-Man and an investigative reporter!
The Mysterious Wu Fang: The Case of the Six Coffins by Robert J Hogan
The Mysterious Wu Fang initially launched in September 1935. This title was the third of the magazine run. The series saw Robert J. Hogan, creator of flying ace G-8 and other air ace series for Popular Publications, dive into the world of Oriental intrigue.
Addressing the elephant in the room, it is hard not to compare this villain with Doctor Fu Manchu, Sax Rohmer's masterful Lord of Death. The two Chinamen are virtually identical. Val Kildare and Jerry Hazard take the roles held by Dennis Nayland Smith and Doctor Petrie.
There is a beautiful woman, Mohara, who, like Romar's own Kâramanèh, sympathizes with Jerry and helps all she can without completely deserting Wu Fang. Newsboy Cappy is the one truly unique character and helps elevate the story beyond a mirror image of Fu Manchu. He is in the thick of things, selflessly aiding the investigators.
That isn't to say that Val Kildare and Jerry Hazard are not characters that stand on their own, nor are they simply clones of Smith and Petrie. The addition of Cappy adds an element of child endangerment that makes Wu Fang all the more wicked. Mohara is more than a clone of Kâramanèh, possibly not as brainwashed as the later. Only Wu Fang appears too much like the character that obviously inspired him. In this story, an inventor makes a deadly liquid gas that spreads quickly and is one hundred percent fatal. Wu Fang has a sample only and half of a note that will reveal the name of the genius that created it.
The gas is being shipped in six casks, specially padded to keep the glass bottles from breaking and spreading death. Wu Fang wants those casks.
Wu is armed with a series of human and animal threats. These include tiny poisonous spiders, scorpions, and small rodents with a poison bite. Deathtraps of every conceivable variety fill every hideout Kildare and Hazard manage to infiltrate.
The mystery in the story is fairly good, but in the end, it’s a semi-rip-off of an established author. By the time this story was printed in September of 1935, Sax Rhomer had published seven Fu Manchu novels…
I like the action and am willing to overlook all but the most egregious instances of copying Fu Manchu. I give the book four stars…
Quoth the Raven…