Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Murder By The Dozen" by Hugh Wiley

"Murder By The Dozen" by Hugh Wiley
Popular Library 325, Copyright 1951

Between 1934 through 1938, Hugh Wiley penned 12 short stories for Collier's Magazine featuring the Chinese-American confidential operative James Lee Wong. In 1951, Popular Library published all 12 in a paperback and I am glad they did. They are wonderful quick pulp who-done-its, with the educated James Lee (Wong is rarely used in the stories) solving cases for the Department of Justice or as a private man for his Chinese community. If you enjoyed John Marquand's Mr. Moto novels or Earl Derr Biggers' Charlie Chan novels, you'll want to include Hugh Wiley's oriental sleuth in the grouping.

James Lee smiled. "I enjoy the game very much."

To me, the series is more seedy and violent than the Charlie Chan or Mr. Moto stories, which I find can be monotonous mostly due to their length. Wiley wrote no novels featuring Mr. Lee, these 12 action-packed stories contain brutal killings, Chinese gangs, corrupt businessmen, gangsters and the dark secret opium dens of San Francisco's Chinatown.

I find the stories very entertaining and I love the short lengths, so I can read a complete one in a few minutes. James Lee is well respected in the law enforcement community and with his people in Chinatown. He carries a black automatic and will bring it out when needed. Plus being highly intelligent and skilled in the forensic sciences of the day, he's a formidable opposition to any criminal element encountered. Surprisingly good!

"One thousand slices of his flesh-slow with a small knife so that he may suffer ten thousand years of torture," a kindly-faced ancient of Chinatown suggested.
"A quick death with the drug of sleep," James Lee countered. "I demand that you do not use ancient methods of torture."

After a moment's deliberation old Sang Kong nodded slowly.

Also, the Boris Karloff films (as Mr. Wong) weren't that bad.

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