Dad would love your feedback! Got a few minutes to write a review?
Write a Review

The Friends of Fu Manchu

By Dad All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Thriller


The master criminal can be much more fascinating a character than the detective who dogs his trail. When Sax Rohmer created Fu Manchu in 1912 he was following a line of fictional villains that had fascinated the reading public since the arch criminal Moriarity fell into the Reichenbach Falls with Sherlock Holmes. Clever thieves, and gentlemen burglars, joined with crime lords and con men to create a sub-genre of villainy where the focus is on the criminal, and the villain slips easily into the role of protagonist.


I’ve spent my life, well mostly, somewhere in yesterday. I’m not apologizing; I’m trying to explain. I started reading too early. I don’t really know whose fault that was, the world’s our oyster, education oriented, forward looking world I grew up in at the end of the second world war, or just me. It was probably just me, but it’s so much easier to blame other people.

In any case I slipped into the nineteenth century and didn’t quite belong in the twentieth, and now I’m in the twenty-first. To borrow a phrase from a fellow named Ralph Cramden, who I have found only a few people remember: “What a revoltin’ development this is.” I was only ten when I first read the poetry of “L. E. L.” Leticia Elizabeth Landon, who died a hundred and ten years before I was born, and had two degrees under my belt before I found a college professor who knew who she was.

I was also ten when I bought a book for ten cents and sold it for five dollars. I’ve sort of been doing that for over half a century now. The book was Men of Iron, by Howard Pyle. So I just sort of started reading, recognizing great things and selling them. Okay, terribly self-indulgent. I love to read and I hate to work so I somehow pulled a profession out of that. More of a love affair that paid it’s own way really, but it is so nice to consider yourself a ‘professional.’

In any case I look around and I see a whole bunch of half-ass attempts to do what’s been done. And most of it is so bad and, apparently so profitable that I want to shout, ‘It’s half-assed.’ Twilight is romantic vampires? Oh please, Clarimond was so beautiful she seduced a priest. Villains who get caught? That’s a villain? Fantomas, Dr. Nikola never did, they were better than that; and the woman who could lead you to hell, the ultimate femme fatale? That was the daughter of Pan, Helen Vaughan.

I know these things, and no one has surpassed them. It seems they don’t know the best. So with my stock of great things, great old and better things, I decided to do something about it. I’m taking the greatest of the old, sub-genre by sub-genre and publishing it. The best of four or five printings of them, it’s called editing, should probably be done by a psychic medium, but I don’t know a good one, with some translation thrown in (lot of French, bit of German and the odd Italian, but I suck at Italian).

The Friends of Fu Manchu

The master criminal can be much more fascinating a character than the detective who dogs his trail. When Sax Rohmer created Fu Manchu in 1912 he was following a line of fictional villains that had fascinated the reading public since the arch criminal Moriarity fell into the Reichenbach Falls with Sherlock Holmes. Clever thieves, and gentlemen burglars, joined with crime lords and con men to create a sub-genre of villainy where the focus is on the criminal, and the villain slips easily into the role of protagonist.

The crime lord or super villain can be downright scary, witness Rohmer’s description of Dr. Fu Manchu:

“Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, ...”

The villain in these stories is more than a worthy adversary, and even comes out on top occasionally. Even if they fail, they usually get away, and in more than one case death itself was not an impediment to a sequel. The villain becomes the focus and the hero is lost in the shuffle.

These villains are not averse to portraying stereotypes that frighten us. Fu Manchu embodies the “yellow peril,” a racist fear of Asians that originated in the late nineteenth century. Fantomas was often shown to be a serial killer, a man lacking conventional morality or even the most rudimentary sense of right and wrong, the stereotypical sociopath. Yet they are portrayed as clever, talented and even as geniuses.

According to Rohmer, Fu Manchu was:

“ giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present...”

Guy Boothby’s Dr. Nikola was likewise endowed with a super human intelligence and a mastery of science.

The thieves are masters of their craft. There is no vault strong enough, no safe that cannot be cracked by thieves like Arsene Lupin and A. J. Raffles.

They are masters of disguise. The thieves that walk past you into the vault, and the con men, like Grant Allen’s Colonel Clay that lurk behind false faces to slip their hand into your pocket.

Perhaps we all have a vicarious tie to these rogues, something about their freedom from the confines of civilization, their nose thumbing at our conventions and sense of morality. The French avant garde admit to a fascination with Fantomas, as a surreal character, Apollonaire openly declared the Fantomas series to be “ of the richest works that exist.“And the painter, Rene Magritte also acknowledged the influence of Fantomas.

The fascination with the criminal may be attributable, in some way to H. L. Mencken’s observation about human nature: “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." Perhaps the sub-genre of villainy is built for those times, and vicariously satisfies the temptation to begin slitting throats.

In one sense they frighten us, but in another we identify with them. Although, on reflection that identification itself can be frightening, revealing a tendency within us that we don’t often acknowledge. We actually want a thief like Raffles to be successful, because we can imagine ourselves as the suave, gentleman burglar. We all harbor some anti-social tendencies that make us vicariously rebel against the confines of society and the characters that exist outside of those confines fascinate us in much the same way a poisonous snake might draw us into the reptile house at the zoo.

The literature of villainy is alive and well. The genre actually expanded into motion pictures with the demise of the Hays office, finally allowing the bad guy to win occasionally. No Country for Old Men won the 2007 Oscar with a story firmly entrenched in sub-genre. Anton Chigurh is a classic villain, and walks away with his ill-gotten gains in tact. Donald Westlake’s anti-heros Parker and Alan Grofield are classic villains as well as protagonists.

They don’t always win, but then they keep the other side from a perfect record, and they are some of the most fascinating characters in literature. These are the villains who plied their trade a century ago, as the nineteenth century faded into the twentieth; these are the friends of Fu Manchu.

Continue Reading Next Chapter
Further Recommendations

SandraHan1: This story is very descriptive, with vivid scenes from the very beginning, which made for a good scene setting. I love the symbolism in names, such as “Naysayers”, “Hadd”, etc . The story itself is revolutionary, intriguing, emotional and exciting. I was very pleased to see that there is a happy ...

allisonflin: Without a doubt the most well written story that I have read on this site. Informative, discriptive, well punctuated. Then we have the story itself, which by the way I am waiting on the edge of my seat for part two of, the characters are more than likeable, you feel them and their emotions...

aliasgar Amir: I am looking forward for the 2nd book to get out.. Not as excited though because all i wanted to know has already been revealed. Overall great story. At times it feels like the writer is pushing it too far involving all kinds of stuff just jumbled in together. Would i continue on with it if anoth...

N_F_G: This story was fantastic! It was really enjoyable, and the characters and locations felt real to me as I read the story! Celeste was an amazing character, who survived all her struggles, and I felt the author did an excellent job writing about suicide and self harm- in a sensitive, authentic mann...

William Elliott Kern: Long story, the plot uncovered midway through the story. From beginning, the story was fast moving. Then dragged on for quite some time. The Author was good in describing her characters, their clothing, etc. but a lot of that disclosure distracted from the story moving fast.Not withstanding, the...

William Elliott Kern: Whew. one telling his story, in the Bar, to his friend, who questions some circumstances that need clarity, The Confusion comes from a man, carrying his dead friend Chappies, while conversing with himself, and Chappies, and his alter ego......a broken mind, not yet forgotten..........The Author ...

izzymerchant: This book is truly special. The plot, the characters and the way the story flows is so engrossing and magical that I found it virtually impossible to put down. The character relationships were particularly fascinating and Melenthia's character was fascinating. Cannot wait to see what happens next!

More Recommendations

Wendi Getz: Very powerful and moving story! A great read, especially for young women. I loved how it pulled the reader down the slippery slope that is domestic abuse and gave us an inside view of how easy it is to end up in that situation.

Ashley Kimler: I love the drama and the darkness of this story. Sadly, I was distracted my editorial errors and couldn't delve into it. The grammar mistakes kept me from being able to forget where I was and immerse in the story. If not for that, I think I would have given this chapter 5 stars. My advice to the ...

Ro-Ange Olson: This is such a different romance story. I loved it. The book was very long and could be split into 2-3 books in my opinion, but I'd hate to have to wait to read the next part too. I loved the chapter from Darius's point of view. It was a really different way for the writer to cover time and also ...

nehmeyasmin: It was the most heart warming but heart breaking story ever and I want the next part right away. It kept me hooked until the end even though there were a couple mistakes it was truly amazing. I think this book could go far if it wanted to

rihannabkj2: Great story,I can hardly stop reading this novel. it shows that compassion and love can still exist after so many years between two persons. I most say well done to the Author who wrote this book. Others should read this book inorder to know that there can still be LOVE among two persons no matt...

{{ contest.story_page_sticky_bar_text }} Be the first to recommend this story.

About Us:

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.