|jacket to one of the two
collections of Mr. Chang tales
published by Chelsea House
Street & Smith's publishing imprint
Why does Mr. Apple always place a Chinese in a villain role, with a desire to trap an American girl? Such stories have a tendency to create a bad impression of the Chinese people. His Rafferty stories are clean and great.
Your other authors are grand. Tell them to keep up the good work. Hope you will forward a copy of this letter to Mr. Apple, and also print it in the chat. I am
"A Chinese Who Knows"
The editor did indeed forward Apple a copy of the letter, and Apple's reply was printed in the same issue.
Apple assured Suen that he knew many Chinese people and believed "them to be the most honest of races." He noted that he had introduced the character of Doctor Ling, a Chinese detective employed by "honest Chinese merchants" to pursue and "eliminate Mr. Chang as a blot on their race."
The villainous Mr. Chang, Apple asserted, merely "happened to be Chinese; no matter what other race he might have been, there would have been objections from that race."
|Apple claimed "Mr. Chang just
happened to be Chinese...."
Apple ended the Mr. Chang series in 1931. In his letter to Suen, Apple mentions having suffered from a "long illness." In fact, he stopped writing entirely about this time, though he lived into the 1950s.
There is more on Apple and his fiction here, on the Battered Silicon Box website, which has reprinted his pulp fiction.
|Suen thought Apple's "imagination
was too broad with the facts,"
resulting in stories that unjustly
portrayed Chinese people
Pronzini writes that the Mr. Chang stories overflow with "hilarious logic....insane coincidences, incredible situations, a crazy quilt of plot devices, Abbott and Costello characters, and a cathode-ray device 'resembling a three-circuit nonregenerative radio' that is capable of killing people at thirty feet, can be strapped on the back and used portably as long as the wearer carries a very long electrical cord with him, and is known among other appellations as the Crime Ray, the Death Ray and the Murder Machine."*
*(Gun in Cheek is not in print currently, but you can and should find a second hand copy)
The Mr. Chang stories are also discussed by Robert Sampson in Volume Three of his fascinating Yesterday's Faces (1987) series of volumes on crime fiction of the past.
Apple's Rafferty series, which Yee Gow Suen in contrast with the Chang tales enthusiastically praised as "clean and great," is about a character whom the Battered Silicon Dispatch Box designates as the "Raffles of Canada."
Today Demott, Arkansas, is a town of about 2800 people, about a four hours drive from Memphis, Tennessee. It has been noted for having, back between the wars, a small but significant population of Jewish businesspeople.
It would be interesting to find out more about Yee Gow Suen, a Chinese-American who loved American pulp crime fiction but clearly not its racist aspect. According to arkansasgravestones, he was born in 1903 and died in Dermott, where he and his wife owned a store, in 1991. The Arkansas Delta: Land of Paradox (1996) mentions Dermott as one of the delta towns still having a Chinese grocery in the 1990s. For more on this subject, see this interesting article, "Mississippi Bok Choy: Telling the Stories of Chinese American Groceries in the South."