Sax Rohmer was a prolific English mystery writer who was best known for creating the master criminal Dr. Fu-Manchu. The golden age of Fu-Manchu stories and the peak of Rohmer's career was in the 1930s. Sinister, Oriental Fu-Manchu stereotypes, which were feared since the turn of the century, appeared frequently in popular fiction at that time. Among the best-known doppelgangers is the title character from Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Dr. No.
Sax Rohmer was born Arthur Henry Ward in 1883 in Birmingham, England, to Irish parents. He received no formal schooling until he was about ten years old. Rohmer, impressed by his mother's claims that he was a descendent of the famous seventeenth-century Irish general Patrick Sarsfield, adopted the name Sarsfield. His pen name came from sax which was Saxon for "blade" and rohmer which meant "roamer." Rohmer worked in odd jobs before starting his writing career at age twenty. In 1909 he married Rose Knox, who was purportedly psychic.
In addition to stories and serials, Rohmer wrote comedy sketches for entertainers. His first Fu-Manchu novel, The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu, was written in 1913 and gained immediate success. In 1915 Rohmer invented his detective character Gaston Max, who first appeared in The Yellow Claw. From the 1920s through the 1930s, Rohmer was one of the most widely read and highly paid magazine writers in the English language. Success brought Rohmer temporary financial security, and he traveled to the Near East, Jamaica, and Egypt. But he lost most of his fortune while gambling in Monte Carlo. After World War II, the Rohmers moved back to the United States and ultimately settled in White Plains, New York. Sax died from a combination of pneumonia and a stroke on June 1, 1959.