The Cruz Connection. How a longtime Santa Cruz resident, Helen Kinau Wilder, figures prominently
Charlie Chan, the great fictional detective, was a man of mystery and intrigue—as well as a racist cultural stereotype wrapped in an enigma. For an entire generation of mainstream America he represented a skewed and constructed image of Chinese Americans, a deferential and asexual caricature, spewing out fortune-cookie clichés for mass consumption.
Beginning in the early 1920s through the end of the 1940s, Chan was a remarkably ubiquitous icon in American film and literature, comic books and television shows. Chan was the title character in no fewer than six novels by the popular mystery writer Earl Derr Biggers, a rather proper Mid-Westerner and Harvard graduate who first “created” the Chan character in 1917 and brought him into the world full-bloom in 1925, in his novel “The House Without a Key,” first published serially in the Saturday Evening Post.