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Ali, Pâwang. Pâwang Ali was created by E. Hoffmann Price (Pierre d’Artois, Honest John Carmody, Cliff Cragin, Don Cragston, Saul Epstein, Glenn Farrell, Simon Bolivar Grimes, Glenn Haley, Ishmeddin, Jim KaneMatalaa,  Average Parker, Dr. Zeng Tse-lin) and appeared in five stories in Clues Detective in 1935 and 1936, beginning with “The Dragon’s Shadow” (Clues Detective, Apr. 1935).

Pâwang Ali is a Great Detective Killer Vigilante. He is the turban-wearing, half-Malay, Muslim "Sherlock Holmes of Singapore," although he is active as far west as the French Riviera. He is “of medium stature, lean and wiry. His dark eyes were faintly slanting, steel hard, and relentless as his thin-lipped mouth and predatory nose. He was Pâwang Ali, free-lance investigator, and mortally feared by criminals because he closed cases by submitting a report which inevitably read, ‘Killed while resisting arrest.’”

Ali takes on fanatics like the anti-white rebel calling himself “the Father of Dragons.” Ali uses intuition and “the Chinese and Malay assistants who combed the dives and alleys and outlying kampongs of Singapore in search of rumors and gossip which their master patiently pieced together and interpreted. Some of his assistants were in no position to bear official scrutiny.” Ali has the Holmesian knack of deducing from details, but he makes use of other methods. He stares into a pulsing, lit globe as a means to aid him in concentration, “in bringing to his consciousness vague, hazy perceptions that lurked far back in the hidden recesses of his mind.” Ali’s Lestrade is Police Inspector Arnold Kemp of Singapore. Besides his Holmesian abilities, Ali is deadly with a kris.

* I've included Pâwang Ali in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because the stories are fun to read. I blow hot and cold on E. Hoffmann Price's work, mostly cold, but the combination of the character and the setting and Price's skill at evoking place in a few lines works quite well in the Pâwang Ali stories. Too, the racism which is all-too-present in the pulps in POC characters written by white men and women is largely absent, or perhaps too subtle to register with a middle-aged white guy like me. Pâwang Ali is portrayed with the "psychic Asian" character trope, but his character is sufficiently sketched that he rises above stereotype and becomes himself. And, again, the stories are generally fun to read, which counts for a lot, I think. 

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