Fri, 8 October 2021
Antony Ferrara heats his quarters like an inferno, collects brain-eating beetles, and wears an Egyptian ring. So, why does Cairn suspect him of killing a swan? Sax Rohmer, today on The Classic Tales Podcast.
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Today’s story is from the creator of the Fu-Manchu series, Sax Rohmer. It was originally titled, The Brood of the Witch-Queen. I think that the unfortunate title is the reason that this book is not more well know today. That, and the ending isn’t super great. Just putting that out there right now. But H.P. Lovecraft compared this book with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and many critics of the time considered it one of Rohmer’s best. I’ve taken the liberty of releasing it as Knight of the Necropolis. Hopefully ol’ Sax isn’t turning too much in his grave at that.
One of the things that really draws me to classic Halloween monsters is that they are steeped in literature. Obviously, Dracula and Frankenstein immediately come to mind with their respective baddies. There are many werewolf short stories, from Kipling’s The Mark of the Beast, to Murryat’s The White Wolf of the Harz Mountains. Alexandre Dumas even wrote a full length, lack luster novel about a werewolf, clumsily translated as The Wolf Leader. I’m told Steinbeck also wrote a werewolf yarn.
Mummy tales also abound in short fiction. Among the best are Conan Doyle’s Lot No. 249, Louisa May Alcott’s The Ring of Thoth, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Imprisoned with the Pharaohs. Among the less successful is Bram Stoker’s novel Jewel of the Seven Stars.
Now, today’s story isn’t perfect by any means. It’s not high literature. But when I read it, I felt that it really delivered the same feeling that I get when I watch the original movie of The Mummy, with Boris Karloff. It’s set up as a series of adventures where we can eventually piece together the identity of that devotee of ancient sorcery: Antony Ferrara. The similarities to Dracula are evident. Nobody believes in Egyptian sorcery, there’s only one scholar who’s studied enough to stop him, etc.. But what can I say, when it comes to magic rings, brain-eating beetles, vampires, ancient curses, Egyptian mummies, and the like, I’m always up for it. I hope you are, too.
And now, The Knight of the Necropolis, Part 1 of 8, by Sax Rohmer.