Born in Birmingham he had a entirely undistinguished education and early career before beginning to write. His first published work was in 1903, the short story The Mysterious Mummy for Pearson's Weekly. He made his early living writing comedy sketches for performers and short stories and serials for magazines. In 1909 he married Rose Knox. He published his first novel in 1910, Pause! and the first Fu Manchu story, The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu was serialized over 1912-13. It was a immediate success with its pacy and racist story of Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie facing the worldwide conspiracy of the 'Yellow Peril'. The Fu Manchu stories, together with those featuring Gaston Max or Morris Klaw, made Rohmer one of the most successful and well-paid writers in of the 1920s and 1930s. But Rohmer was very poor at handling his wealth. After World War II the Rohmers moved to New York.
A number of films were made featuring Dr. Fu Manchu. The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), featuring Boris Karloff, was the best of those produced in the 1930s film. The name was revived in a very variable series starring Christopher Lee in the 1960s with The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967), and The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968).
His writing is generally considered poor, his imaginative ideas buried in a simple style, repetitive plotlines and stylized characters.