Novelist, born Arthur Henry Ward in Birmingham on 15 February 1883, the son of Irish immigrant parents who moved to London in 1886. Little is known of his early life except that he had an ambition to serve in the Civil Service in the East. On failing the entrance examination he progressed from being a clerk to more literary pursuits, including writing for the music hall. His early success with short stories led to his writing The sins of Severac Babylon, a serial that appeared in Cassell’s Magazine in 1912 under his new pseudonym, Sax Rohmer.
His early interest in Oriental mysticism was used this enthusiasm in most of his subsequent work. Fu Manchu, his most memorable character, became very popular and appeared in fifteen books. The villain was the leader of a secret society at Limehouse, in the East End of London, and first appeared in The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu, serialized 1912-13 and published in book form a year later.
Arthur Ward dabbled in further theatrical writing and adaptation but found that the niche he had created with exotic oriental thrillers was a winner and magazine serializations continued to appear until after World War II. When such publishing was on the wane, he moved to the USA, in 1947, where there were many more opportunities for radio and film work. He sold the media rights to Fu Manchu for four million dollars in 1955.
Despite his success, he was never considered to be of significant literary importance. Although his writing shows imagination, the simple colourful style, the rather repetitive plots and the stylized characters led to his work being dismissed as second-rate.
The following works are available in the West Midlands Creative Literature Collection:-
Bride of Fu Manchu
Daughter of Fu-Manchu (1931)
The drums of Fu Manchu (1939)
Emperor Fu Manchu
Emperor of America
Hand of Fu Manchu
Island of Fu Manchu
Mask of Fu Manchu
Moon of madness (1927)
Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu
Orchard of tears
President Fu Manchu (1936)
Quest of the sacred slipper
Re-enter Dr Fu Manchu (1957)
Tales of Chinatown (1922)
Trail of Fu Manchu (1934)
The yellow claw (1915)
Project Gutenburg has a selection of complete Sax Rohmer novels available for download in plain text format, including The yellow claw and The return of Dr. Fu-Manchu. Some of these have been converted to Microsoft® Reader format and are freely available from Blackmask Online.
Page created 9 February 2001 and last
updated 28 October 2002
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