WWW Wednesday 1-21-2015

BVC members have picked up this meme from shouldbereading:

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Gloriously cheezy!

Gloriously cheezy!

Couple of days ago I picked up one of my limited edition hardcover Sumuru novels by Sax Rohmer, and now I’m bingeing on Sumuru! Here’s a classic cover for SINISTER MADONNA, from the original paperback.

Sumuru is far and away more satisfying than Fu Manchu, Rohmer’s more famous ongoing villain. Sumuru is eternally young yet agelessly old (yeah, that’s how Rohmer writes), fascinating, charismatic, hypnotic, seductive, megalomaniacal and yet completely emotionally self-controlled. She runs an international organization—dare I call it a Secret Cabal?—of feminists, all of whom are excruciatingly lovely women. She also collects beautiful men, and will sometimes grant her followers “permission to love” so as to get exquisitely beautiful children into her cult. They learn to scorn the powers and wisdoms of patriarchy and work tirelessly toward the day when the world will be run by beauty, when the ugliness created by warlike Man is done away with, et cetera. In this one, Sumuru gets her paws on the Seal of Solomon, and only the desperate and fearless efforts of Inspector Gilligan, one of Rohmer’s classic lantern-jawed, two-fisted he-man heroes, can get it away from her. What exactly Rohmer thought she might do with this mighty talisman is left completely up to the imagination of the reader, possibly because he didn’t have any ideas, or maybe because the incredibly tight limitations of these very short thriller novels meant that he couldn’t spend the words to spell out the threat. This book features that horrible product of vivisection, The Puma, who is Sumuru’s monster enforcer du jour, victim-creation of her handsome yet evil chief physician, Ariosto. Highly satisfying.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Less cheezy. You just don't see craftsmanship in cheezy covers any more.

Less cheezy. You just don’t see craftsmanship in cheezy covers any more.

The book I read before SINISTER MADONNA was SINS OF SUMURU. Here’s a more recent cover, far less satisfying. In this story, Dr. Steel Maitland (another lantern-jawed Rohmer hero) is trying to get a beautiful and yet brilliant damsel (yes, that’s the language he uses) away from Sumuru before she takes the fatal step of Offering Herself Up to Our Lady. (This is a rite performed in the nude, with a chorus of lovely Initiates standing by oo-ing and ah-ing.) Dr. Maitland is aided by a handsome, impetuous young reporter who falls in love with the lovely damsel when she flees (naked under her borrowed full-length mink coat) the fell intentions of Ariosto and stumbles into the young hero’s arms during a London pea-souper fog. As is his wont, Ariosto employs that fiendish poison, rigor kubus, spores of a little-known Sumatran plant, to turn Sumuru’s enemies to stone! Lots of italics surrounding the horrors and amazements of these stories. Sumuru has the most luxurious Sekrit Lairs, always including a bathing pool inhabited by golden orf which are trained to jump into her hand out of the water, and she spends the requisite number of scenes lounging on piles of costly mink rugs wearing the Eastern indoor dress of the hareem, whose diaphanous folds reveal and accentuate rather than conceal the voluptuous lineaments of her figure. One of her followers is her exact double, very handy when Sumuru needs to be in two places at once. This girl lacks Sumuru’s irresistible charisma but physically resembles her, except for the lobes of her ears. (Sumuru’s ears lack lobes, like the ears of a faun—where did Rohmer get these ideas? Whoever said that fauns lack earlobes? The guy was a genius. He made Dick Tracy, with his freak-show rogues’ gallery, look like a piker.)

• What do you think you’ll read next?

That's what I'm talkin' about!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

It’ll have to be THE RETURN OF SUMURU, although my original paperback is disintegrating. My first exposure to Sumuru was via my dad’s collection. I got the sturdier but less attractively-covered hardcovers later. This one again features an “ingenue hero” who falls for the beautiful, intelligent heiress who has disappeared, feared kidnapped into Sumuru’s fiendish cult. But the big draw for me has to be this book’s seasoned hero, my favorite of Sumuru’s arch-enemies, Drake Roscoe. Drake Roscoe loathes Sumuru and all that she stands for, even though he agrees that everybody she murders richly deserves it for being a pervert, a union organizer, a gangster, a slave-trafficker, etc., etc. Roscoe has given his life to battling this horrible yet seductive embodiment of female evil. He has broken his health and his nerve, sacrificed his reputation and half-destroyed his sanity, all in his quest to put an end to this she-devil…and yet, when he has the opportunity to crush her, she has only to turn up the heat, and Roscoe, loathing himself for his weakness, is powerless to resist her. In this one Sumuru enslaves Roscoe sexually and then discards him, allowing him instead to fall in love with her private secretary, knowing that Roscoe can never betray her now for fear of getting the secretary jailed.

In every one of these stories, Sumuru’s fell objects are mostly achieved…and she always escapes to plot another day. Admirably manly men. Sumptuously sexy villainesses. Cartoon monsters. Fabulous treasures. Masses of unresolved sexual tension. Ya gotta love it.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own WWW Wednesdays post, or share your answers in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

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WWW Wednesday 1-21-2015 — 8 Comments

  1. Read:
    Blood Runs in the Family by Rich Burlew
    The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
    The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
    Celtic Fairy Tales and More Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs
    The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
    The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression by Stéphane Courtois, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, and Jean-Louis Margolin
    Reading:
    Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia
    Pixie Noir by Cedar Sanderson
    To Read:
    To Be Decided