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Klaw, Moris. Moris Klaw was created by “Sax Rohmer,” the pseudonym of Arthur Sarsfield Ward (Bimbâshi Barûk, Bazarada, Major Bernard de Treville, Fu Manchu (I), Paul Harley, Red Kerry, Gaston Max, Captain O’Hagan, Abu Tabah), and appeared in nine stories in All-Story Cavalier Weekly in 1915 and 1916, beginning with “The Case of the Tragedies in the Greek Room” (All-Story Cavalier Weekly, Feb. 13, 1915); the stories were collected in The Dream Detective (1920).

Moris Klaw is a Superhuman Occult Detective, although most of his cases deal more in psychic phenomena than in magical phenomena. Klaw is a tall man, stooped and gaunt with age, usually wearing threadbare clothing and looking unkempt. He lives in a poor part of London, not far from Wapping Old Stairs, in a "decayed curio shop." The store is inhabited by a parrot which shrieks "Moris Klaw, Moris Klaw, the Devil's come for you" when someone enters the store. Klaw is an antiquarian, full of oddball information, but his true advantage, and the thing that is of most use to the police (who are welcoming of his help), is his clairvoyance, which is heightened when he sleeps. It is not uncommon for Klaw to sleep at a crime scene. When asleep, he is more receptive to psychic impressions; when he sleeps, Klaw takes in all sorts of information, and uses it to explain things to both the other characters and the readers. Klaw is full of self-regard, and his speech is full of self-satisfaction and affectations.

Klaw is helped by three other characters: Searles, the narrator; Detective-Inspector Grimsby of New Scotland Yard, who is Klaw’s contact with the police; and Isis, Klaw’s daughter. Isis is lithe, dark, and mysterious, and is the only person with access to Klaw’s notebooks.

* I'm including the Moris Klaw stories in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because they're a lot of fun. Sax Rohmer was of course a professional writer and is best known for the creation of the ultimate in 20th century Yellow Perils, Fu Manchu (I). But Rohmer created a number of other characters, and usually did so with an easy professional competence. I think the Moris Klaw stories are a bit more than that, though; I think they reach rare heights and fall short of archetypal status by only a little bit. The Moris Klaw stories are told well--that professional competence of Rohmer's--but have wonderfully messed-up details (the parrot! Klaw sleeping at the scene of recent crimes, often in the same space where the murdered bodies lay! The monstrous thought-projections and psychic grenades!) that really elevate the stories to something uniquely fun. I had to cut stuff from the preceding for reasons of space, but I can say it here: as the Klaw stories progress they become more intricate, gain an ongoing continuity, and gain a very pleasing Rogues Gallery who psychically battle Klaw with an entertaining array of tactics, summoned creatures, and psychic weaponry. I say this as the best possible compliment--KIDS SHIELD YOUR EYES--the Moris Klaw stories are gloriously fucked up in the best pulpy way. 

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