The Bat Flies Low by Sax Rohmer © 1935, P.F. Collier & Son hardcover, Orient Edition (see text) 1930s – mystery-adventure-mystical
this is the 69th in my series of forgotten books
First, the book and it’s edition, my thoughts on the story afterward. This information thanks to the very fine “The Page of Fu Manchu” The specific information about this edition is found here: Orient Edition.
The Sax Rohmer works, The Orient Edition were distinctive editions published by the P. F. Collier & Son Corporation “By Special Arrangement with Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc.” They were uniform in appearance with a design blind-stamped into each cover. The design depicted an oriental face centered in a spider’s web with the words “Mystery,” “Love” and “Intrigue.” A spider dangled from the web. The spines were printed in gold and bore a smaller version of the web design. They were sold in plain white dust wrappers with a hole cut out on the spine to allow the title to show. The only dates included were the copyright dates.
The order of publication and dates of publication (1930s) are not known. Curiously, The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu is not known to have been included. The various titles may have been printed in two or more batches.
The 15 titles known to exist:
- Daughter of Fu Manchu
- The Mask of Fu Manchu
- Fu Manchu’s Bride
- The Emperor of America
- The Day the World Ended
- Yu’an Hee See Laughs
- The Trail of Fu Manchu
- President Fu Manchu
- The Drums of Fu Manchu
- Brood of the Witch Queen
- Yellow Shadows
- She Who Sleeps
- The Bat Flies Low
- White Velvet
- Grey Face
Since it appears the books were shipped in boxes of six volumes, one could conjecture, with no solid proof of any kind, that there may have been, or at least had been planned 18 volumes. An intriguing, if totally unsupported, idea.
Now to the book itself. It’s difficult to know how to describe or evaluate this one. I’ll begin by saying I’ve read some – not all – of the Fu Manchu books and have enjoyed them for what they are: super-villain adventure novels and stories, atmospheric, exciting, fun to read. This book has some of that, in places it’s all those things, but the plot wanders a good deal, the protagonist isn’t particularly likeable, though portrayed as very capable, and most of all, who is doing what and why is cloaked in a veil of conflicting viewpoints.
The MacGuffin in this one is a lamp of ancient Egyptian manufacture, from “the world before the world we know”, which casts an incredible pure light requiring no energy or wiring. Lincoln Hayes, the protagonist here, happens to own the foremost lighting company in America, and his associate Captain Rorke (they were in the military together) has found a fragment of parchment from a tomb rumored to be very old, which mentions this lamp. This together with a fragment discovered by Hayes years before are pieces in a puzzle taking them to Egypt and into a confrontation with Mohammed Ahmes Bey, who seems to have mystical powers at his disposal, including the ability to cloud men’s minds, or at least hypnotize them in some way.
This all leads to a journey across the burning sands, strange occurrences, a hidden fortress, secret temple and Facts Revealed. Trailing them all the way are the agents of Hayes major competitor in the light business, and the agents of Bey, and who knows whom else. Slap on a big conclusion back in the States and there you have it.
I’m not sorry I took the time to read this one, but in future I’ll probably stick to Rohmer’s Fu Manchu works.
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links to all of the Forgotten Book posts can be found on Patti Abbott’s blog, Pattinase