Friday, October 19, 2018

Charlie Chan

So I am reading Charlie Chan stories.  Because they are probably less racist than the Sax Rohmer Fu Manchu books.

For those not in the know.... In the 30s a white dude wanted to write a book series where the protagonist was a) Asian, and b) a little less stereotypical.  Remember, before this, Asians were generally the Inscrutable Orientals at best, and the Yellow Scourge at worst.  Charle Chan was a Honolulu police inspector of Chinese descent, and was quite skilled.  Several movies were made, most famously by Sidney Toler, a white actor in 'yellow face.'  In the 40s.  Despite a this little flavor of bigotry... just a whiff, really... Asian movie audiences took to Charlie Chan because he was the hero and that's the first time they had seen Asian heroes on the silver screen.

With modern sensibilities, and plenty of positive role models in Hollywood these days, Charlie Chan is less popular now.  But I enjoy reading these old stories as they are a window to their time, and I go in recognizing there.

But this first story I got is weird.  And it's the fifth of 6 books written about him.  But Charlie doesn't appear in the book except in a reminiscence until 54% of the way through the book! (thanks Kindle for keep track of that)  I found that odd, and slightly intriguing.  Charlie Chan Carries On.  A round the world trip stops in London, a murder happens in the travel party, and the Scotland Yard detective assigned to the care is a buddy of Chan's.  The have no distinct suspects so the police can't hold the party and it travels on.  More murders happen.  Eventually Scotland Yard, Charlie Chan, the Excursion, all end up in Honolulu on the last leg of the trip and Charlie can apply himself to the problem.  But he must solve it before Liner reaches San Francisco and the party scatters to their homes throughout the US.

Standard Drawing Room style police procedural, ala Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Lord Peter Whimsy, or Holmes. 


ProudHillbilly said...

I still love and watch the Sidney Tolar and Warner Oland movies. Was recently thinking of seeing if I could track down the books as well.

Chris Morton said...

I'm surprised that nobody has recast Fu Manchu as the hero.