In this week’s episode I’m going to be discussing a French Gothic novel that has had considerable influence on the American Pulps and popular fiction in general. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. The story was first serialized in the French newspaper, Le Gaulois from September 23, 1909 – January 8, 1910. It was collected and published in a single volume by Pierre Lafitte in 1910.
I’ve always been casually aware of The Phantom of the Opera. Growing up, there seemed to be a commercial for the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical in steady rotation. Not only that, but the book was parodied a good bit in popular culture, including children’s television shows, which is probably where I first encountered the concept.
It didn’t consider reading this book until I listened to Rick Lai discuss it on The Book Cave and on The French Connection Pulp Fest Panel in 2012. It was obvious that the original novel was different from the musical and other adaptations. I always got the impression that The Phantom of the Opera or Erik as he’s known, was a normal guy that was scarred by acid and wore a mask to cover his face. That’s defiantly not the case in the original novel. In the novel he’s born disfigured, with a face resembling a skull covered with dried up yellow flesh, with burning yellow eyes. In the novel he’s also a former assassin and a master of stealth.