In Gene Wolfe's SF short story, The Man in the Pepper Mill, a description is provided of a book with a pirate captain with a long mustache, wearing yellow robes embroidered with a black dragon. It's probably a classic of "boy's literature" but also could be a comic book or Golden Age SF.

The book was easily twice as good as it had appeared, with many brightly colored pictures of strange ships with billowing sails and snapping banners. There were pirates, and men blacker than the man down the street Tippy's mother said was black even though he was not, and a captain with a long yellow robe with a black dragon on it and a long, long mustache. It was all interesting, and some of it was very interesting -- so interesting that Tippy kept going back to those pictures again and again so he could study them and then look out to sea and imagine himself on whatever kind of ship it was.

I don't necessarily need to find the exact book, but I am trying to identify the pirate captain character. For example, perhaps it's a character from the old Prince Valiant strip. Or it could be Ming the Merciless, but he wears red.

  • Do you have a reason to believe this book actually exists? – Catija Sep 29 '15 at 3:26
  • Catija: Still a good question. I do believe it exists. The way specific descriptions like this often work in Wolfe is kinda like this: (a) the pirate is identified by his robes as (let's say) Fu Manchu (b) a character in the story is named Francis McKee and wears a yellow raincoat and (c) circumstantial clues suggest Francis McKee secretly uses his time machine to smuggle heroin. Something (very roughly) like that. So the book has to be identifiable. – Alveric Sep 30 '15 at 1:13

It sounds likely to be Fu Manchu, a heavily stereotyped Asian supervillain who featured in a number of pulp thriller novels with racist overtones, and was the model for later characters such as Ming and Dr. No.

Note: I'm less sure about this answer in light of the quote from the book that now appears in the question.

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  • Agreed. Thanks for taking a shot though! (and thanks to Donald for the text quote!) – Alveric Sep 30 '15 at 1:13

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