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Van Ash, Cay 1918-1994

VAN ASH, Cay 1918-1994

PERSONAL:

Born 1918; died 1994.

CAREER:

Writer.

WRITINGS:

(With Elizabeth Sax Rohmer) Master of Villainy: A Biography of Sax Rohmer, Bowling Green University Popular Press (Bowling Green, OH), 1972.

Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1984.

The Fires of Fu Manchu, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1987.

Contributor of short stories to Constable New Crimes 1, 2, and 3, Constable (London, England). Also wrote articles for The Rohmer Review.

SIDELIGHTS:

Cay Van Ash was a good friend and associate of Sax Rohmer, the English mystery writer most famous for the creation of master criminal, Fu Manchu. It was Van Ash, whom Michael Kalen from Library Journal referred to as "Rohmer's literary protégé." The result, Master of Villainy: A Biography of Sax Rohmer, was called a "sheer delight" by a critic in AB Bookman's Weekly. Kalen declared the book "a delightful and thoroughly fascinating tale of the man who created the archetypal Oriental villain." Van Ash is the narrator of the book and he takes great pleasure in recounting the life of the novelist. A reviewer for Choice magazine wrote, "Van Ash's work … is a very enjoyable, anecdotal account of Sax Rohmer's trips to Egypt, his marriage, his two love affairs … and his novels—mainly the Fu Manchu novels."

More than a decade after the publication of his mentor's biography, Van Ash published Ten Years Beyond Baker Street. His first novel brings together Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu; two classic characters from two of mystery's most famous authors. The action takes place in 1914 and follows Holmes as he searches for Rohmer's hero, Nayland Smith, who has been abducted by Fu Manchu. Holmes and Smith's sidekick, Dr. Petrie, track Fu Manchu throughout Wales as murders accumulate and they are attacked by Fu Manchu's henchmen armed with unique means of torture and killing. In a review for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Nick B. Williams wrote, "At the climax of these horrors they track Fu Manchu to his lair, the Worm, and just in time to thwart—but if your heart still beats, you'll get to that." A critic for Kirkus Reviews felt that the book was "a bit slow-moving … but lively, good-natured fun for antique-suspense devotees."

Van Ash followed up Ten Years Beyond Baker Street with The Fires of Fu Manchu. Holmes is out of the action but Smith and Dr. Petrie are reunited; this time in Egypt in search of a missing scientist. Within hours of their reunion, they are kidnapped and entombed in a pyramid. Their escape and the exciting adventures that follow were called "the quintessential adventure mystery" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A critic from Kirkus Reviews also praised Van Ash's work, "Writing in flawless and wonderfully soothing late Edwardian prose.… [this] grand, old-fashioned adventure … never gets campy."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.

PERIODICALS

AB Bookman's Weekly, October 2, 1972, review of Master of Villainy: A Biography of Sax Rohmer, p. 1043.

Choice, November, 1972, review of Master of Villainy, p. 1134.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1984, review of Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, p. 20; August 1, 1987, review of The Fires of Fu Manchu, p. 1113.

Library Journal, September 1, 1972, Michael Kalen, review of Master of Villainy, p. 2723.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 8, 1984, Nick B. Williams, review of Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, p. 2.

Publishers Weekly, December 23, 1984, review of Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, p. 54; September 4, 1987, review of The Fires of Fu Manchu, p. 56.*

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