Phil Baker and Antony Clayton write good books about bad books. It is a pity George Orwell, connoisseur of the ‘good bad book’, is no longer with us to relish their intrepid ventures into the swampy depths of the uncanonical. ‘The existence of good bad literature – the fact that one can be amused or excited or even moved by a book that one’s intellect simply refuses to take seriously – is a reminder that art is not the same thing as cerebration,’ wrote Orwell. In other words, turn off your minds, all ye who enter here. There may be pearls in the schlock.
Baker undertook his magisterial biography of Dennis Wheatley single-handed, as did Clayton his study of Aleister Crowley. This latest venture is an ensemble of essays by fellow Sax Rohmer enthusiasts.
The literary badness of the creator of Dr Fu Manchu is beyond extreme. His ‘entire output’, concedes Baker, ‘pullulates with unacceptable