Rick Lai is well known in the Pulp and Wold-Newton community as a virtual walking encyclopedia of information on adventure fiction, films, & comics covering the last 200 years. The only one who comes close to him in breadth and depth of knowledge on these topics is Jess Nevins. Rick has published many essays on the Internet covering these topics some of which are contained in the current volume. He has added to these several essays that have never been published previously. Mr. Lai has an eye for spotting interesting crossovers and coincidences in fiction which makes him one of the the premier Wold-Newton aficionados.
The current volume is like a fine brandy that must be savored slowly and is not meant for the causal reader. As with any good Wold-Newton speculation, it can act as a catalyst to get you reading literature that you otherwise might have missed. Rick's meticulous attention to detail and his agile imagination makes literary connections that other scholars can't match.
This volume is dedicated to the study of the 'bad guys' of the Wold-Newton Universe and how they relate to each other and to their heroic opponents. I think this book is a must for anyone who enjoys literary crossovers especially in the Wold-Newton tradition. Anyone who enjoys Doc Savage, the Shadow, the Phantom of the Opera, Fu Manchu, Agatha Christie, H.P. Lovecraft, and Dr. Nikola will enjoy this book!
Rick Lai presents a series of articles on some of the great villains in fictional history and every page is an exciting learning experience. I learned a lot from all of the articles and hope there will one day be a second volume from this amazing author!
I can't add much more to Frank Schildiner and Arthur Sippo's informative reviews except that it is fantastic to finally have all of Rick Lai's various essays, many of which first appeared in various pulp fanzines, collected in one place. Clearly written and well thought out, as usual, this collection is another essential addition to any Wold Newton fan's bookshelf.
Rick Lai once again provides an incredible series of essays on the subject of criminal masterminds throughout literary history. His work in this field of research is incredible and he provides an astonishing amount of detail on this huge subject. Articles of particular interest to me were "The Secret History of Captain Nemo", "The Life of Dr. Antonio Nikola", "The Brothers Zaroff", "Fu Manchu vs. Cthulhu" and "John Sunlight and the Si-Fan Succession". I learned a major amount from this book and look forward to more from this incredible researcher/writer!
I was assuming this would be in-depth biographies of pulp criminals, with commentary and summaries of their adventures. It does that at times but for the most part this is one of those exhaustive attempts to prove that so-and-so was actually Prof. Moriarty's third cousin twice removed because of two lines of potential similarity from two different stories. If you enjoy that sort of wold newton family tree stuff, you're probably going to enjoy this. It's just not what I was expecting and that was my probably my error more than anything. There are a few sections where I encountered new characters that may spur me to further research them but far too often Rick Lai seems to assume a good deal of existing knowledge on the part of the readers and he doesn't bother to properly introduce the charactes and concepts before launching into his genealogy. I think this stems from most of the chapters being articles reprinted from pulp fanzines, where the readers probably already knew a lot about that particular subject.