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Reviews by C. Alan Loewen

The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu

by Sax Rohmer

In The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu (1916), we return to the London of Dr. Petrie, the erstwhile friend of Sir Denis Nayland Smith, a colonial police commissioner in Burma. In the first book, The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, Fu-Manchu is introduced as an agent and assassin for a Chinese secret society called the Si-Fan. Throughout the tale, Fu-Manchu causes a lot of problems for Smith and Petrie and at the end, Fu-Manchu’s plans have been thwarted and he has escaped back to China. Now, three years later, Petrie has resumed his medical practice in London and Smith is back in Burma, but Fu-Manchu is not dead and his threats and danger are very present and very real.

The only irritation I have about the early stories is the incredible ease by which Smith and Petrie fall into Fu-Manchu’s traps. In Chapter 28, Fu-Manchu actually goes into a traditional villain’s monologue mocking them for their stupidity in falling for his traps time and again, never learning from their past mistakes.

And that is before Fu-Manchu introduces the readers and Smith to the Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom, an ingenious torture device consisting of a segmented body cage and the introduction of four starved rats.

“In China,” resumed Fu-Manchu, “we call this quaint fancy the Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom. The first gate, by which the rats are admitted, is called the Gate of Joyous Hope; the second, the Gate of Mirthful Doubt. The third gate is poetically named the Gate of True Rapture, and the fourth, the Gate of Gentle Sorrow. I once was honored in the friendship of an exalted mandarin who sustained the course of Joyful Wisdom to the raising of the Fifth Gate (called the Gate of Sweet Desires) and the admission of the twentieth rat. I esteem him almost equally with my ancestors. The Sixth, or Gate Celestial—whereby a man enters into the Joy of Complete Understanding—I have dispensed with…

Yeah, this is a great pulp series that in spite of its flaws can still thrill the reader.

Reviewed on 2015.12.02

Acres of Diamonds

by Russell H. Conwell

Russell Herman Conwell (1843 – 1925) was an American Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, lawyer, and writer. He is best remembered as the founder and first president of Temple University as well as his inspirational lecture, Acres of Diamonds. Before his death in 1925, Conwell would deliver his Acres of Diamonds lecture 6,152 times around the world.

In contrary to the one star review this book has received, the thrust of Conwell’s lecture is that everyone has the capability to become effective in following their true desires meeting needs and taking advantages of opportunities in their own community and that the resulting monies from such efforts are to be used for charitable purposes. It is call to hard work and increasing one’s altruistic vision through well-earned monies working toward a worthy and honorable goal.

From his lecture fees, Conwell founded Temple University as well as other civic projects. After his death, proceeds from the printed version of Acres of Diamonds were donated to a Philadelphia homeless shelter still in existence today that certainly defeats the statement that the lecture “encourages selfishness and intolerance.”

Reviewed on 2015.11.18

Practical Skunk Raising

by William Edwin Pratt

Self-published in 1915, this was William Pratt's stab at getting rich by telling other people how they can get rich, in this case, by raising skunks for their fur.

The trend still continues. As of this writing, various self-publishing houses are selling reprints of Pratt's 15-page pamphlet on for outlandish prices and one company is actually selling a reprint (not the original document, mind you) for a whopping $710.00!

And, the information is horrendous. Health issues are listed in this order: greed, cannibalism, murder, distemper, mange, and worms and this will come as a surprise to those who never thought greed and murder were illnesses. Oh, and of course he mentions rabies, right? A disease so deadly and insidious that the mortality rate dances close to 100% and as skunks are the predominant rabies reservoirs in the United State, there should be a whole chapter on this disease, right?

Nope. Not a word.

And what about the skunk's most famous attribute, their ability to spray you down with a musk so potent that it can make your eyes water? Well, we're advised that as long as you hold the animal "by the tail" you're okay.

I wonder if Mr. Pratt even ever raised a skunk by himself?

Nobody will ever know how many bought Pratt's book with stars in their eyes and dreams of swelling bank accounts, but I suspect only Mr. Pratt got rich off of this business venture.

C. Alan Loewen

Reviewed on 2014.11.30

Some Adventures of Mr. Surelock Keys

by Herbert Beeman

Herbert Beeman was a canadian and served as secretary of the Vancouver Board of Trade in the early 1920s. During this period he published an obscure hardcover, F.O.B. For Our Bureau which was a collection of poems. He has also been credited with writing “Some Adventures Of Mr Surelock Keys, Hitherto Unrecorded” in 1913, “The Halfway House Of The Empire” in 1929 and a broadside/poem called "How to Pronounce Burrard." Beeman died in 1931.

The humor is “Some Adventures Of Mr Surelock Keys, Hitherto Unrecorded” is humor writing that at the time was considered quaint and amusing, but today's tastes would see as only silly and irrelevant.

Alan Loewen

Reviewed on 2014.11.24

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