The New Doc Savage Movie Idea Page
Archived Doc Savage Pulp Reviews
Page One Of Seven
001 - The Man Of Bronze 002 - The Land Of Terror 003 Quest Of The Spider 004 The Polar Treasure 005 Pirate Of The Pacific 006 - The Red Skull 007 - The Lost Oasis 008 - The Sargasso Ogre 009 - The Czar Of Fear 010 - The Phantom City 011- Brand Of The Werewolf 012 - The Man Who Shook The Earth 013 - Meteor Menace 014 - The Monsters 015 - Mystery On The Snow 016 - The King Maker 017 - The Thousand-Headed Man 018 - The Squeaking Goblin 019 - Fear Cay 020 - Death In Silver 021 - The Sea Magician 022 - The Annihilist 023 - The Mystic Mullah 024 - The Red Snow 025 - Land Of Always-Night
!Standard Spoiler Alert!
There's no such a thing as a Doc Savage spoiler as you either figure out who's the bad guy soon enough or it doesn't really make a difference which day-player gets the nod. It might even be better to know so you can judge how well "Kenneth Robeson" handled said ne'er-do-wells from the start. And the plots? Is it even possible to remember these plots to any extent?
001 - The Man Of Bronze:
One Line Review: Above average. Origin story. Mayan section needs tightening
"High above the skyscrapers of New York, Doc Savage engages in deadly combat with the red-fingered survivors of an ancient, lost civilization. Then, with his amazing crew, he journeys to the mysterious 'lost valley' to search for a fabulous treasure and to destroy the mysterious Red Death."
The first Doc Savage novel hit newsstands on February 17, 1933, weeks before the start of The Great Depression. The characters were conceived by Street & Smith's John Nanovic and H. W. Ralston as a follow-up to the success of The Shadow. They brought in Lester Dent to be "Kenneth Robeson" and the rest is a Wikipedia page. In 1953 Dent wrote that he held the record for titles written for a single character - 181 or 182 (The Red Spider) - I guess even he didn't know. The monthly title was popular for a long time and lasted until the summer of 1949 as a quarterly publication.
Dent asserts Doc was put together as a combination of Sherlock Holmes (sleuth), Tarzan (muscles and agility), Craig Kennedy (science detective), and Jesus Christ (morals). The Man Of Bronze and the next book, The Land Of Terror, were kill-tastic to where Street & Smith had to wrestle Dent to an agreement that Doc & Friends would shoot "mercy" bullets and vow not to kill - a point Dent passive-aggressived into having bad guys die by their own actions with Doc being vague in his warnings.
The Man Of Bronze is a straight-up origin story opening with the death of Doc's father, Clark Savage, Sr. Doc and The Fractious Five met during WWI and banded together (my assumption) as highly intelligent misfits. The book addresses it more as a shared love of adventure but realistically it couldn't be anything but a fully-realized Ubermensch taking under his wing a group of geniuses nobody else would have, as they're all annoying, weird, and don't play well with others.
The Man Of Bronze is well planned and fun to read, but a few things left me thinking if it was tightened up in a few places the book would be the series' uncontested classic. Most of it has to do with the Mayan "Valley Of The Vanished".
The 1975 Doc Savage film is a children's movie written by adults for an audience they seemingly knew little about but correctly assumed weren't rocket scientists. It would have been nice if they wrote "up" to their audience but the legacy of TV's Batman most likely accounted for the high-concept of the film - a literary split of The Man Of Bronze, The Green Death, and The Mystic Mullah. From the first novel you'll find the opening section and a wink towards Mayan gold. There's the silly visual of Doc ripping a bullet out of a wall and his muscles enlarge so much his sleeve rips open [Doc, you have to do a full flex when you're getting measured for a suit], and the remote-controlled plane exploding. The book says "Monja, you've been a brick." while the movie offers the classic line "Mona, you're a brick".
From the first novel you have black light lanterns, spring-wound flashlights, Doc's machine guns, Monk's unconsciousness gas (not yet in small glass marbles), and mention of The Fortress Of Solitude. Doc and Renny both ride the running board of a taxi but it might be because the cab was full. The Autogyro exists for a short time on the north shore of Long Island, where all of Doc's planes are kept in commercial hangers.
The headquarters on the 86th floor of a (for now) 100 story building was his father's operation. Where books are kept is called "his father's great technical library". Clark Jr. and his pals operated as a minor league crew and it was his father's death that sent Doc down the fully adult path his father planned for him, which by this time had nearly ruined him financially.
There's much talk of legacy and mission, and near the beginning Doc doesn't even ask:
"I'm going after this heritage my father left," he said at length. "I don't need to ask - you fellows are with me!"
"And how!" grinned Renny. And the others echoed his sentiment.
The novel ends as does any good origin story, with a rousing rendition of "We've Only Just Begun":
Their regret at leaving the idyllic paradise was assuaged by the thought of what was ahead of them. The yearning for adventure and excitement warmed them. Wealth untold was in their hands. It was ample for even their great purpose in life.
Many parts of the world would see the coming of this bronze man and his five friends of iron. Many a human fiend would rue the day he pitted himself against them. Countless rightful causes would receive help from their powerful hands and superbly trained minds.
Indeed, these men were destined hardly to reach New York before new trouble struck them like lightning bolts.
The giant bronze man and his five friends would confront undreamed perils as the very depths of hell itself crashed upon their heads.
And through all that, the work of Savage would go on!
The remote-controlled plane sent up as a decoy makes little sense. The wreckage would have killed or injured anyone in its path. Doc lost all the supplies he packed and knowingly endangered lives. Check the plane. Check the contents. Leave at night.
The tri-motor ship seemed to turn instantaneously into a gigantic sheet of white-hot flame. This resolved into a monster ball of villainous smoke. Then flipped fragments of the plane and its contents rained downward upon the roofs of Jackson Heights, a conservative residential suburb of New York City.
So terrific was the explosion that windows were broken in the houses underneath, and shingles even torn off roofs.
No piece more than a few yards in area remained of the great plane. Indeed, the authorities could never have identified it, had not the airport men known it had just taken off from there.
It would have helped to know the population of the hidden valley and the breakdown of how their society was arranged. You have the red-fingered warriors, The King and his daughter, and a vague general population, but how many they were and their fighting skills compared to the warriors would have made it easier to understand the situation. It's also bad to turn your worst citizens into a weaponized and organized gang:
To become a warrior, a Mayan had to attain a certain degree of ugliness, both physically and of mind. The Mayans had no prison system. When one of their number committed a minor crime, he was sentenced, not to exile or prison, but to become a fighting man - a protector of the tribe.
These red-fingered warriors fought off invaders, and kept the Valley of the Vanished for the Mayans alone. Thus, many of them were slain in battle, and hence actually punished.
They were the most ignorant and superstitious in the Valley of the Vanished, these crimson-fingered fighting men.
"Those of our men who are inclined to violence naturally turn to the warrior sect. Many lazy men join the fighting group because the warriors do no labor. Too, petty criminals are sentenced to join the red-fingered ones. The fighting guild are a class apart. No upstanding Mayan would think of taking one of them into his home."
Elderly King Chaac put in with a firm declaration. "The sect of red-fingered men will never be permitted to revive. Henceforth, we shall punish minor criminals by making them mine the gold. The most manly of our men will do whatever fighting has to be done."
The Mayan valley is pure blood and descended from royalty, but almost everyone is primitive and reactionary. The King and his daughter are smart through some kind of leisure-time thinking osmosis. Just have Clark, Sr. be the source of their study materials:
Some of the morning Doc spent in conversation with King Chaac, considering the elderly sovereign had never heard of a modern university, be had some remarkably accurate knowledge about the universe.
Pretty Princess Monja, Doc discovered also, would pass in any society as a well-educated young woman. All she lacked was a course in the history of the rest of the world. It was amazing.
"We lead a life of leisure here in the Valley of the Vanished," King Chaac explained. "We have much time to think, to reason things out."
This a bit condescending. Clark, Sr. worked to remove all spirituality from the leader of a highly spiritual people? Would anyone think it acceptable to do this to Buddhists?:
"Your father spent some months in this Valley of the Vanished," he told Doc. "He taught me many things - the fallacy of belief in evil spirits and heathen deities. And along with the rest he taught me that what you have just promised to do is impossible. If your men were hurled into the sacrificial well, they are dead until judgment day."
A faint smile warped Doc's strong bronze lips; appreciation glowed in his flaky golden eyes. The Mayan sovereign was as free of superstitious, heathen beliefs as any American. Probably more so than many.
How can Clark, Sr. think he can just give his son the Hidden Valley?
Renny is 6'4", 250 lbs:
Renny held up a monster fist. "This is all the truth serum we need! I'll show you how it works!"
Big, with sloping mountains of gristle for shoulders, and long kegs of bone and tendon for arms, Renny slid over to the library door. His fist came up.
Wham! Completely through the stout panel Renny's fist pistoned. it seemed more than bone and tendon could stand. But when Renny drew his knuckles Out of the wreckage and blew off the splinters, they were unmarked.
Renny, having demonstrated what he could do, came back and towered threateningly over their captive.
Monk is 5' "and a few inches", 260 lbs., arms six inches longer than his legs, and owns a penthouse apartment/lab on Wall Street:
Monk had a technique for running in the dark. His unnaturally long arms played an important part. He simply doubled over and traveled by great bounds, balancing himself with his long arms when he stumbled. He could make unbelievable speed.
Ham has prematurely gray hair and gets in a lot of law action. Each of the five nicely get to shine in their own field. Johnny doesn't yet sport a large vocabulary or professorial manner. Dent writes Johnny has the best endurance of the aides. Also this:
That was Johnny's way. He had absolute faith in what he called his hunches. And nearly always he was right. On occasions when he was wrong, though, he was very wrong indeed.
Long Tom wasn't as unhealthy as he looked. None of the others could remember his suffering a day of illness. Unless the periodic rages, the wild tantrums of temper into which he flew, could be called illness. Long Tom sometimes went months without a flare-up, but when he did explode, he certainly made up for lost time.
In a certain French village there had been ensconced in the town park an old-fashioned cannon of the type used centuries ago by rovers of the Spanish Main. In the heat of an enemy attack, Major Thomas J. Roberts had loaded this ancient relic with a sackful of kitchen cutlery and broken wine bottles, and wrought genuine havoc. And from that day, he was Long Tom Roberts.
Ham and Monk
"I don't blame her, either," Monk whispered to Ham, making very sure his voice was so low nobody else heard, "Imagine having to stare at that phiz of his across the breakfast table every morning!"
Ham looked at Monk - and released a loud laugh. Monk's face was fully as homely as Morning Breeze's, although in a more likable way.
"Knock on wood, you lunk!" Ham muttered somberly. Monk grinned and tried to knock on Ham's head.
Doc. Doc's doesn't even look six feet tall?
The bronze man showed wide, very strong-looking teeth, in yawning. Seated there by the immense desk, he did not seem to be a large man. An onlooker would have doubted his six feet height - and would have been astounded to learn he weighed every ounce of two hundred pounds.
[unforced error] Doc, a bronze giant nearly twice as tall as some of the swarthy fellows
[Doc should be muscular like a gymnast/swimmer] Doc's bared arms looked like those of an Atlas. The muscles, in repose, were not knotty. They were more like bundled piano wires on which a thin bronze skin had been painted. And across his chest and back great, supple cables of tendon lay layer upon layer.
"Keep back!" Doc directed. He liked to fight his own battles. And there seemed to be only one man opposing him.
[Doc knocks out a shark] But the bronzed, powerful body was not there when the needled teeth slashed. Doc was alongside the shark. His left arm flipped with electric speed around the head of the thing, securing what a wrestler would call a strangle hold.
Doc's legs kicked powerfully. For a fractional moment he was able to lift the shark's head out of the water. In that interval his free right fist traveled a terrific arc - and found the one spot where his vast knowledge told him it was possible to stun the man-eater.
The shark became slack as a kayoed boxer.
"Monk, you'd better accompany Ham as bodyguard," Doc suggested. "You two love each other so!"
[Don't try this at home] Poising a moment easily, he took the three-story drop as lightly as if he were leaping off a table.
[Doc's said to be smarter than his aides in their own fields, but he's casual about it] Doc nodded. He had already noticed that, but he did not say so. He made it a policy never to disillusion one of his men who thought he had been first to notice something or get an idea, although Doc himself might have discovered it far earlier. It was this modesty of Doc's which helped endear him to everybody he was associated with.
Doc's Legacy and The Mayan Arrangement:
"A third of the gold I shall use to establish a gigantic trust fund in America. It shall be for the Mayan people, to be used should they ever have need of it. One fifth goes to the government of Hidalgo. The rest is for my cause."
Long Tom, the electrical wizard, at Doc's command, rigged a radio receiving set in the palace of the Mayan sovereign. The current for this was supplied by a small generator and water wheel which Long Tom installed beside the stream flowing from the pyramid top. He made the work very solid. The set should function perfectly for years. He left spare tubes.
With longlasting ink, Doc made a mark on the radio dial. This designated a certain wave length.
"Tune in at that spot every seventh day," Doc commanded King Chaac. "Do so at the hour when the sun stands directly above the Valley of the Vanished. You will hear my voice sometimes. But not always, by any means. I shall broadcast to you at that hour - but only when we are in need of more gold. Then you are to send a burro train of the precious metal to me."
"It shall be done," agreed the Mayan ruler.
The Mayan Pyramid
From the little flat towered a pyramid! It adhered in a general way to the architecture of the Egyptian type of pyramids, but there were differences.
For one thing, the sides, instead of drawing inward in a series of steplike shelves, were smoothed as glass from top to bottom. Only in the front was there a flight of steps. Not more than twenty feet wide was this flight, and the steps were less high and deep than those in an American home. The stairway was like a ribbon up the glittering, sleek side of the pyramid.
The top of the structure was flat, and on this stood a sort of temple, a flat stone roof supported by square, wondrously carved pillars. Except for the pillars, this was open at the sides, permitting glimpses of fantastically wrought idols of stone.
Strangest of all, perhaps, was the color of the pyramid. Of a grayish-brownstone, yet it glowed all over with a strange yellow, metallic aurora of tiny lights caught and cast back.
"Priceless!" murmured Johnny, the archaeologist.
"You said it!" grunted Renny, the engineer.
"From a historical standpoint, I mean!" corrected Johnny.
"I meant from a pocketbook standpoint!" Renny snorted. "If I ever saw quartz absolutely full of wire gold, I see it now. I'll bet the stone that pyramid is made of would mill fifty thousand dollars to the ton in free gold!"
The Hidden Lost Valley Mayan Place:
[The warlike tribes don't like gold?] King Chaac smiled benignly. "Because we are satisfied with our way of living. We lead an ideal existence here. True, we must fight to keep invaders away. But the warlike tribes surrounding this mountain do most of that for us. They are our friends. It is only every year or two that our red-fingered warriors must drive off some especially persistent invader. Thanks to the impregnable nature of this valley, that is not difficult."
"How long have you been here - when did you settle here, I mean?" Doc asked.
"Hundreds of years ago - at the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico," explained the old Mayan. "My ancestors who settled the valley were a clan of the highest class Mayans, the royalty. They fled from the Spanish soldiers to this valley. We have been here since, satisfied, as I said, to exist without the rest of the world."
Doc, reflecting on the turmoil and bloodshed and greed that had racked the rest of the world in the interim, could not but agree that the course these people had taken had its merits. They might be without a few conveniences of modern homes, but they probably didn't miss them.
It was all plain now. His father had discovered this lost valley with its strange inhabitants and its fabulous hoard of gold. He had decided to leave it as a legacy to his son. He had secured possession of the land inclosing the Valley of the Vanished. And he had made some arrangement with King Chaac. The thing to do was to find out what kind of arrangements!
Doc put the inquiry: "What sort of an agreement did my father have with you?"
"He did not tell you?" the old Mayan asked in surprise.
Doc lowered his head. Slowly, he explained his father had died suddenly. The elderly Mayan maintained a reverent silence for a time alter he heard the sad news. Then he outlined the business aspects of the gold deal.
"You will necessarily give a certain portion to the government of Hidalgo," he said.
Doc nodded. "The agreement is one fifth to the government of Hidalgo. That is eminently fair. The President of Hidalgo, Carlos Avispa, is a fine old gentleman."
"A third of all gold removed is to be placed in a trust fund in the name of my people," explained King Chaac. "You are to establish that fund and see that suitable honest administrators are appointed. The other two thirds you are to have, not to build up a personal fortune, but to spend as you see fit in furthering the work in which your father was engaged - in righting wrongs, relieving the oppressed, in benefiting mankind in every way possible."
"A third to your people don't seem like a very big percentage," Doc suggested.
King Chaac smiled. "You will be surprised at the sum it will come to. And we may never need it. This Valley of the Vanished, you understand, remains just as it is - unknown to the world. And the source of this gold will also be unknown to the world."
They found it as much a prison as a fortress. The narrowest of paths chiseled into the sheer gorge side was the only route out, afoot. And by air, nothing except a seaplane could land. No dirigible could withstand those terrific air currents.
[People being people this part is weak] Doc expressed the proper appreciation. The conversation came around to how the gold was to be transported to civilization.
"We can hardly take it in the plane, due to the terrific air currents," Doc pointed out.
The elderly Mayan sovereign smiled. "We have donkeys here in the Valley of the Vanished. I will simply have a number of them loaded with gold and dispatched to your banker at Blanco Grande."
Doc was surprised at the simplicity of the scheme. "But the warlike natives in the surrounding mountains - they will never let a pack train through."
"In that you are mistaken," chuckled King Chaac. "The natives are of Mayan ancestry. They know we are here; they know why. And for centuries it has been their fighting which has kept this valley lost to white men. Oh, yes, they will let the pack train through. And no white man will ever know from whence it came. And they will let others through as the years pass."
Before then, the corridor had widened. It became a vast room. Solid rock made walls, floor, roof.
The rock showed veinings of gold! It was the same kind of rock of which the pyramid was made!
But it was not this that stunned them.
It was the row after row of deep niches cut into the walls. Literally hundreds of thousands of the cupboardlike recesses.
In each was stacked golden vessels, plaques, goblets, amulets. Everything the ancient Mayans had made of the precious yellow metal could be seen.
"This is the storeroom," said Princess Monja in a low voice. "Legend has it forty thousand artisans were continuously employed making the articles, which were then stored here."
Doc, Monk, and Johnny hardly heard her. Sight of this fabulous wealth had knocked them blind, deaf, and dumb to everything else.
For the niches held only a fraction of the hoard here! It lay on the floor in heaps. Great stacks of the raw, rich gold! And the treasure cavern stretched far beyond the limits to which their wick-in-a-bowl lamp projected light.
Doc shut his eyes tightly. His bronze lips worked. He was experiencing one of the great moments of his life.
Here was wealth beyond dream. The ransom of kings! But no king could ever pay a ransom such as this! It was enough to buy and sell realms.
Doc's brain raced. This was the legacy his father had left him. He was to use it in the cause to which his life was dedicated - to go here and there, from one end of the world to the other, looking for excitement and adventure; striving to help those who need help; punishing those who deserve it.
"The metal was taken from deeper within the mountain. Much yet remains. Much more, indeed, than you see stacked here."
Doc, Jr. and Doc, Sr. long term plan:
The elder Savage had been known throughout the world for his dominant bearing and his good work. Early in life, he had amassed a tremendous fortune for one purpose.
That purpose was to go here and there, from one end of the world to the other, looking for excitement and adventure, striving to help those who needed help, punishing those who deserved it.
To that creed he had devoted his life.
His fortune had dwindled to practically nothing. But as it shrank, his influence had increased. It was unbelievably wide, a heritage befitting the man.
Greater even, though, was the heritage he had given his son. Not in wealth, but in training to take up his career of adventure and righting of wrongs where it left off.
Clark Savage, Jr., had been reared from the cradle to become the supreme adventurer.
Hardly had Doc learned to walk, when his father started him taking the routine of exercises to which he still adhered. Two hours each day, Doc exercised intensively all his muscles, senses,and his brain.
As a result of these exercises, Doc possessed a strength superhuman. There was no magic about it, though. Doc had simply built up muscle intensively all his life.
Doc's mental training had started with medicine and surgery. It had branched out to include all arts and sciences. Just as Doc could easily overpower the gorilla-like Monk in spite of his great strength, so did Doc know more about chemistry. And that applied to Renny, the engineer; Long Tom, the electrical wizard; Johnny, the geologist and archaeologist; and Ham, the lawyer.
Clark, Sr. must have been a swell guy:
"Your esteemed father taught me the English tongue," smiled King Chaac. "I recognize you as his son. You resemble him."
Doc nodded slowly. He should have guessed that. And it was very good to know his great father had been here. For wherever Savage, Sr., had gone, he had made friends among all people who were worthy of friendship.
"Your father saved my life with his wonderful medical skill."
A motorcycle cop fell in behind them, opened his siren, and came up rapidly. But when he caught sight of Doc, like a striking figure of bronze on the side of the taxi, the officer waved his hand respectfully. Doc didn't even know the man. The officer must have been one who knew and revered the elder Savage.
Hidalgo and The Legacy:
"These papers are a concession from the government of Hidalgo," Ham declared. "They give to you several hundred square miles of land in Hidalgo, providing you pay the government of Hidalgo one hundred thousand dollars yearly and one fifth of everything you remove from this land. And the concession holds for a period of ninety-nine years."
Doc nodded. "Notice something else, Ham! Those papers are made out to me. Me, mind you! Yet they were executed twenty years ago. I was only a kid then."
"You know what I think?" Ham demanded.
"Same thing I do, I'll bet!" Doc replied. "These papers are the title to the legacy my father left me. The legacy is something he discovered twenty years ago."
Some hours later they were over the border of Hidalgo. It was a typical country of the southern republics. Wedged in between two mighty mountains, traversed in its own right by a half dozen smaller but even more rugged ranges, it was a perfect spot for those whose minds run to revolutions and banditry.
In such localities governments are unstable not so much because of their own lack of equilibrium, but more because of the opportunities offered others, to gather in revolt.
Half of the little valleys of Hidalgo were lost even to the bandits and revolutionists who were most familiar with the terrain. The interior was inhabited by fierce tribes, remnants of once powerful nations, each still a power in its own right, and often engaging in conflict with its neighbors. Woe betide the defenseless white man who found himself wandering about in the wilder part of Hidalgo.
The warlike tribes, the utter inaccessibility of some of the rocky fastnesses, probably explained the large unexplored area Renny had noted on the best maps of Hidalgo.
Guns and violence
Expensive binoculars reposed in a desk drawer, a highpower hunting rifle in a corner cabinet. In splits of seconds, Doc had these, and was at the window.
Doc's hand seemed hardly to touch the Mayan's knife arm before the bone snapped loudly and the knife gyrated away.
The Mayan twisted. With surprising alacrity, his other hand darted inside his green shirt and came out with a shiny pistol. He aimed at Ham, not Doc. Ham was handiest.
There was only one thing Doc could do to save Ham. He did it - chopped a blow with the edge of his hand that snapped the Mayan's neck instantly. The fellow died before he could pull trigger.
One of Long Tom's clawlike hands found a rock. He popped it against a skull - knew by the feel of the blow that one of the red-fingered fiends was through with this world.
No gallant of old ever bared his steel quicker than Ham unsheathed his sword cane. He got it out in time to skewer two of the devils who piled atop him!
So sudden was the attack, so fearsome a figure did Monk present that the red-fingered group turned to a man and fled wildly into the brush. Monk overhauled one before they got away. He heaved the loathsome creature up like a feather and dashed him against a tree. The lifeless body bounced back almost to his feet, so terrific was the impact.
Doc's friends' whipped out automatic pistols, which they had kept under their clothing. These automatics were fed by sixty-cartridge magazines, curled in the shape of compact rams' horns below the grips. The guns were what is known as continuously automatic in operation - they fired steadily as long as the trigger was held back. Both guns and magazines were of Doc's invention, infinitely more compact than ordinary submachine guns.
The devilish warriors, rent and torn by the obsidian shrapnel, were tossed high into the air. Many perished instantly, paying in a full measure for their murderous attack on the Mayan citizenry during the ceremonials.
A warrior! The man probably never saw for sure it was Doc Savage who had seized the weapon. A block of bronze knuckles belted the man's temple. He went to his spirit hunting grounds as suddenly as Mayan man ever did.
Morning Breeze was knocked off the trail.
OVER and over spun the squat, vicious Mayan's body. It struck a rock spur. Morning Breeze probably died then. If he did, he was saved the terror of watching the rock-fanged bottom of the abyss reach for him. The foaming river was like slaver on those ravenous stone teeth.
Finally, by a tremendous effort, he did the one thing that could get him away from those terrifying eyes of Doc's.
The snake man jumped off the trail!
Slowly, his body spun on its way to death. The face was a pale, grotesque.
He expertly skewered a fellow who tried to stab him.
The fight within the room was over in a matter of thundering seconds.
Doc Savage turned on the lights. Ten bandits in various stages of stupor and unconsciousness and even death, were strewed on the floor. Three of them would never murder again.
"Our big job is about to start, huh?" said Monk, vast satisfaction in his mild voice.
Doc nodded. "The work to which we shall devote the rest of our lives."
At that statement, great satisfaction appeared upon the face of every man present They showed eagerness for what was to come.
Doc dangled a leg from the corner of the table. Unwittingly - for he knew nothing of the red-fingered killer lurking in the distant skyscraper that was under construction - Doc had placed his back out of line with the window. In fact, since the men had entered, he had not once been aligned with the window.
"We first got together back in the War," he told the five slowly. "We all liked the big scrap. It got into our blood. When we came back, the humdrum life of an ordinary man was not suited to our natures. So we sought something else."
Doc held their absolute attention, as if he had been hypnotized. Undeniably this golden-eyed man was the leader of the group, as well as leader of anything he undertook. His very being denoted a calm knowledge of all things, and an ability to handle himself under any conditions.
"Moved by mutual admiration for my father," Doc continued, "we decided to take up his work of good wherever he was forced to leave off. We at once began training ourselves for that purpose. It is the cause for which I had been reared from the cradle, but you fellows, because of a love of excitement and adventure, wish to join me."
Doc Savage paused. He looked over his companions. One by one, in the soft light of the well-furnished office, one of the few remaining evidences of the wealth that once belonged to his father.
"Tonight," he went on soberly, "we begin carrying out the ideals of my father - to go here and there, from one end of the world to the other, looking for excitement and adventure, striving to help those who need help, and punishing those who deserve it."
Trilling was more specific:
For this weird sound was part of Doc - a small, unconscious thing which he did in moments of utter concentration. To his friends it was both the cry of battle and the song of triumph. It would come upon his lips when a plan of action was being arranged, precoursing a master stroke which made all things certain.
It would come again in the midst of some struggle, when the odds were all against his men, when everything seemed lost. And with the sound, new strength would come to all, and the tide would always turn.
And again, it might come when some beleaguered member of the group, alone and attacked, had almost given up all hope of survival. Then that sound would filter through, some way, and the victim knew that help was at hand.
The whistling sound was a sign of Doc, and of safety, of victory.
Monk shut his eyes. He opened them instantly - it was all he could do to stem a yell of utter joy.
For into that unsavory room had penetrated a low, mellow sound that trilled up and down the scale like the song of some rare bird. It seemed to filter everywhere. The sound was strengthening, inspiring.
The sound of Doc!
The first laser pointer:
Long Tom had made a swift swing into the library and laboratory, collecting odds and ends of electrical material. With a couple of powerful light bulbs he unscrewed from sockets, some tin, a pocket mirror he borrowed from - of all people - Monk, Long Tom rigged an apparatus to project a thin, extremely powerful beam of light. He added a flashlight lens, and borrowed the magnifying half of Johhny's glasses before he got just the effect he desired.
Long Tom sighted his light beam down Renny's string, thus locating precisely in the gloomy mass of skyscrapers, the spot from whence the shots had come.
Doc led out through the lobby at a trot. A taxi was cocked in at the curb, driver dreaming over the wheel. Four of the six men piled into the machine. Doc and Renny rode the running board.
"Do a Barney Oldfield!" Doc directed the cab driver.
Their taxi was still waiting outside. The driver began a wailing: "Say - when am I gonna get paid? You gotta pay for the time I been waitin' - "
Doc handed the man a bill that not only silenced him, but nearly made his eyes jump out.
Strolling back to the little city beside the golden pyramid, Doc and Renny encountered the attractive Princess Monja Obviously, she had maneuvered this meeting. She was, it could plainly be seen, greatly taken with the handsome Doc. This embarrassed Doc no little. He had long ago made up his mind that women were to play no part in his career. Anyway, his was not a nature to easily lend itself to domestication. So he answered Princess Monja's eager patter in monosyllables, and carefully avoided being led into discussions about how pretty American girls were in comparison to, well - Monja, for instance.
Long Tom, like the rest of Doc's men, would not be wooing a Mayan damsel at this hour. They were not interested in women, these supreme adventurers.
Morning Breeze saw Doc bearing down on him. Terror seized the squat, ugly-faced culprit. He shouted for his fellow warriors to protect him. Four of these advanced. Two had short spears. Two had the terrible clubs with razor-sharp flakes of obsidian embedded in the heads. Emboldened by Morning Breeze's shrieked orders, they rushed Doc. And fully fifteen more warriors, all armed, joined the attack.
What followed went into Mayan history.
DOC Savage, up ahead of the sun, spent the usual time at the exercises which kept his amazing bronze body the wonderful mental and physical thing it was. From force of habit he liked to go through his ritual while alone. Bystanders were always asking questions as to what this and that was intended to do, pestering him.
From time to time, he spat strange, clucking words. A gibberish of hate!
A "gink" is a "foolish or contemptible person", a "tyro" is a "beginner or novice", and a "phiz" is "a person's face or expression".
002 - The Land Of Terror:
One Line Review: Good story with Doc killing left and right
"A vile greenish vapor was all that remained of the first victim of the monstrous Smoke of Eternity. There would be thousands more if Kar, master fiend, had his evil way. Only Doc Savage and his mighty five could stop him. But the corpse-laden trail led to a prehistoric crater and mortal combat with the fiercest killing machines ever invented by nature."
"Call Renny, Long Tom, Johnny and Ham," Doc directed. "All of you show up at my place right away. I think I’m mixed up in something that will make us all hump."
The second Doc Savage novel, from April, 1933, features Doc "Murder Machine" Savage in all his gory glory, killing evildoers like a mortuary salesman on commission. When not invoking the "penalty" bad men must pay he's serving up death as a dish best served right now! Doc even guts a prehistoric skunk and wears it as a coat.
The Land Of Terror is a good book that loses points by including the evil mastermind Kar incognito as Oliver Wording Bittman, a man Doc feels indebted to because he once saved the life of Doc's father. The "Gabe Yuder" red herring was rank from the start. Possibly I've read too many Doc Savages and seen too many Scooby Doos, but it's odd when Lester Dent repeatedly indicates Bittman's guilt while at the same time pushing the not guilty line.
Johnny isn't a vocabulary snob and the others are series-run consistent. Doc's death count increased exponentially from the first adventure and at this rate he'd soon be more Dexter than Doc. It was a good thing Street & Smith convinced Dent to cut back on the killing sprees and a grim focus on penalties and punishment.
The stuff that destroys everything is good:
THE weird phenomenon, as the rustic bridge was wiped out by the fantastic Smoke of Eternity, was even more striking than had been the dissolution of Jerome Coffern’s body.
The metallic capsule bearing the Smoke of Eternity had splashed the strange stuff some distance in bursting. A great section of the bridge seemed to burn instantly. But there was no flame, no heat.
The play of electrical sparks was very marked, however. In such volume did they flicker that their noise was like the sound of a rapidly running brook.
The Smoke of Eternity, after passing through and destroying the bridge, next dissolved the water below. So rapidly did the eerie substance work that a great pit appeared in the surface of the lagoon.
Water rushing to fill this pit, formed a current like a strong river.
The result was awesome to the extreme. The earlier phenomena when the Smoke of Eternity was released were pygmy in relation. It was like comparing a match flame to an eruption of Vesuvius. In the space of seconds, the Jolly Roger, the ramshackle wharf, and a sizable bite of the shore were wiped out.
It was impossible to tell how deep into the bowels of the earth the annihilation extended. But it must have been a respectable distance, judging from the terrific rush of water to fill the hole. Anchored ships far down the Hudson snapped their hawsers, so great was the pull of water. A Weehawken ferry gave its passengers a hair-raising ride as it went with the current.
The gray, vile smoke arose in such prodigious quantity as to make a pall over all the midtown section of New York. The play of strange electrical sparks created a sound like a hurricane going through a monster forest.
But, beyond a general scare, no harm to anybody resulted.
Scenes in the Lost In Time volcano terrain were tense and action-packed. but there's no way the plane, plane hangar, or anyone human could survive the unrelenting attacks of prehistoric creatures:
"A pterodactyl", "Tyrannosaurus!", "A creodont!", triceratops, brontosaurus, stegosaur, "A primitive type of deer", something from the hyena family, "A colony of monster, prehistoric beavers had attacked them!", "a large ground sloth", "ancestor to the common and obnoxious American polecat! [skunk]", "armor-backed beasts resembling armadillos", "prehistoric horse types no larger than sheep", "Many species of chipmunklike creatures", "the ancestor of a common porcupine"
"The insects are interesting," remarked Long Tom. "There seem to be few butterflies, moths, bees, wasps or ants. But there’s plenty of dragonflies, bugs, and beetles."
"The insects you see are the less complex types, for the most part," Doc explained. "They aren’t quite developed enough to make cocoons or gather honey. They came first in the course of evolution."
Monk wasted little time after receiving Doc’s call. He shucked off his rubber work apron. He had a chest fully as thick as it was wide. He put on a coat especially tailored with extra long sleeves. Monk’s arms, thick as kegs, were six inches longer than his legs. Only five feet and a half in height, Monk weighed two hundred and sixty pounds.
His little eyes twinkled like stars in their pits of gristle as he gave his secretary a few orders about his correspondence. Monk knew he might be away six months—or only an hour.
Monk snored. His snores had the peculiar quality of no two sounding remotely alike.
"We’d better take a page out of the life of Monk’s ancestors and climb a tree for the night!" suggested Ham.
"Yeah!" growled Monk, goaded by the insult. "Yeah!" He apparently couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Renny was entertaining and overawing the islanders by the amazing feat of crushing hard coconuts in one vast hand.
[Noted for naming real people] The undersized man was Major Thomas J. Roberts on the official records, but Long Tom to everybody else. He had done electrical experiments with Steinmetz and Edison. He was a wizard with the juice.
Doc's abilities are way over the top:
But at the moment Doc was doing a problem of mathematics in his head, an intricate calculation concerning an advanced electrical research he was making.
The problem would have taxed the ability of a trained accountant supplied with the latest adding machines, but Doc was able, because of the remarkable efficiency of his trained mind, to handle the numerous figures entirely within his head. He habitually performed amazing feats of calculus in this fashion.
The grounds of the manufacturing plant were surrounded by a stout woven wire fence. This was more than eight feet high and topped off with several rows of needle-sharp barbs. Its purpose was to keep out intruders. A gate near by was shut, secured by a chain and padlock. No doubt Jerome Coffern had carried a key to this.
Doc Savage approached the fence, running lightly.
Then a startling thing happened.
It was a thing that gave instant insight into Doc Savage’s physical powers. It showed the incredible strength and agility of the bronze giant.
For Doc Savage had simply jumped the fence. The height exceeded by more than two feet the world record for the high jump. Yet Doc went over it with far more ease than an average man would take a knee-high obstacle. The very facility with which he did it showed he was capable of a far higher jump than that.
His landing beyond the fence was light as that of a cat. His straight, fine bronze hair was not even disturbed.
With silent speed, Doc was over the roof edge. Even a bat, master of clinging to smooth surfaces, would have had trouble with the wall. Grooves between the bricks furnished the only handholds. Doc’s steel-strong bronze fingers found the largest of these.
At the window, there was no perch. But Doc hung by little more than his finger tips. His tireless sinews could support him thus for hours.
An old woman held out, hopefully, a bundle of the late newspapers. She was almost blind. Her clothing was shabby. She looked hungry. Doc stopped and took one of the papers.
He looked at the old woman’s eyes. His expert diagnosis told him their ailment could be cured by a few great specialists. He wrote a name and address on a corner of the paper, added his own name, and tore this off and gave it to the crone. The name was that of a specialist who could cure her ailment, but whose fee was a small fortune. But at sight of Doc’s name scrawled on the note, the specialist would gladly cure the woman for nothing.
Doc added a bill he took from a pocket. For a long time after he had gone, the old, nearly blind woman stared at the bill, holding it almost against her eyes. Then she burst into tears. It was more money than she had ever expected to see.
Doc’s lungs were tremendous. He could readily stay under water twice as long as a South Sea pearl diver, and such men have been known to remain under several minutes.
[Dapper Dan pomade and coconut oil body cream?] An onlooker would have remarked a striking thing about Doc as he came out of the water. Doc’s straight bronze hair showed no traces of moisture. It was disarrayed. It seemed to shed water like the proverbial duck’s back. Nor did moisture cling to Doc’s fine-textured bronze skin.
This was but another of the strange things about this unusual metallic giant of a man.
Monk’s ill-timed bark of pleasure expelled the last vestige of air from his lungs. As a result, his drowning was nearly finished before Doc could get him to the surface.
"Imagine finding you here!" Doc chuckled. "You pick the strangest places to visit!"
Doc’s ears and nostrils told him no one occupied the apartment. He tried the door. Locked! He exerted what for his great muscles was moderate pressure. The door swished inward, lock torn out.
[Doc insults Monk. Out of character] "Wait!" Doc’s strong bronze hand stopped Monk.
"But Doc—" Monk started to object.
"Dry up—you homely ape!" Doc was actually chuckling in the face of the frightful danger! His tone was calm. His movements, although lightninglike, seemed unhurried.
Trilling in the first book is a rallying cry. here it's expanded to include every possible thing possible:
Of a sudden, a weird sound permeated the surrounding air. It was a trilling, mellow, subdued sound, reminiscent of the song of some strange jungle bird, or the dulcet note of a wind filtering through a leafless forest. Having no tune, it was nevertheless melodious. Not awesome, it still had a quality to excite, to inspire.
This sound was part of Doc—a small, unconscious thing which accompanied his moments of utter concentration. It would come from his lips when a plan of action was being evolved, or in the midst of some struggle, or when some beleaguered friend of Doc’s, alone and attacked, had almost given up hope of life. And with the filtering through of that sound would come renewed hope.
The strange trilling had the weird essence of seeming to emanate from everywhere instead of from a particular spot. Even one looking directly at Doc’s lips would not realize from whence it arose.
"We’ll use Doc’s scooter!" Renny barked.
They ran down the battery of elevators. The metal-paneled last door was shut. Apparently no cage stood there.
Renny’s monster hand found a secret button and pushed it. The doors cracked open. A waiting cage was revealed.
This was Doc Savage’s private lift, to be used in reaching the street in moments of emergency. Doc’s friends called it his "scooter." It operated at a far greater speed than any other cage in the huge skyscraper. It always waited here on the eighty-sixth floor for Doc’s use...
He sprang into the elevator with the others, Monk hit the control lever. The cage floor seemed to hop out from under their feet. So swift was the descent that the sensation of falling persisted for some seventy stories. And the stopping piled them down on all fours.
[Notably convenient] Doc had another plan. Inside his buttoned coat, he wore a metal plate which covered most of his chest. It was no ordinary metal, that plate. It was composed of the same material as the capsule missiles which held the Smoke of Eternity.
Not without results had Doc consigned himself to his locked laboratory to analyze the capsule. The metal was a rare alloy, but its nature had soon been revealed by a searching analysis.
As a matter of precaution, in case he was shot at with the Smoke of Eternity, Doc had fashioned himself a body armor from the rare alloy, a supply of which could be assembled from the absolutely complete stock of little-known medicals and chemicals which his laboratory held.
Hence, the instant Doc saw the air gun about to discharge, he put forth a herculean effort and managed to get his armor before the muzzle. The capsule containing the terrible dissolving compound shattered on the armor.
Doc had saved himself!
[The average cruising speed of today's commercial jets is above 550 mph] The afternoon was young when they took off in Doc’s speed plane. This craft was a latest design, tri-motored, low-wing job. The landing gear folded up into the wings, offering little air resistance. It had a cruising speed of about two hundred miles an hour.
It was the final word in aircraft.
Monk’s brain was working rapidly, despite his rowdyism. This voice had an ugly, unreal rasp. He knew Kar must be pulling his mouth out of shape with a finger as he spoke, thus disguising his voice.
The fellow was tall and thin. His pasty complexion, his shaking hands, his inarticulate mumbling, marked him as a drug addict.
The police never received a single one of Kar’s villains for trial and sentence to the penitentiary. Instead, Doc sent his prisoners to a certain institution for the mentally imperfect, in a mountain section of up-State New York.
All criminals have a defective mental balance, otherwise they would not be lawbreakers. A famous psychologist would treat Kar’s men. It might take years. But when released, they would be completely cured of their criminal tendencies.
Here's the top death and violence scenes involving Doc + 5. The book ends with Doc letting Kar go and then tossing a suitcase of the matter-vaporizing "Smoke Of Eternity" at him from a plane:
"Do you want to die?" Doc’s voice was like the knell of doom.
One man tried to dive past. Doc’s left arm made a blurred movement. His open hand—a hand on which great bronze tendons stood out as if stripped of skin and softer flesh—slapped against the man’s face.
It was as though a steel sledge had hit the fellow. His nose was broken. His upper and lower front teeth were caved inward. The man flew backward, head over heels, limp as so much clothes stuffed with straw.
But he didn’t lose consciousness. Perhaps the utter pain of that terrible blow kept him awake.
No flicker of mercy warmed the flaky glitter of Doc’s golden eyes. Two of these villainous little men had murdered his friend, Jerome Coffern. More than that, they had robbed the world of one of its greatest chemists. For this heinous offense, they must pay.
The three who had not committed the crime directly would suffer Doc’s wrath, too. They were hardly less guilty. They would he fortunate men if they escaped with their lives.
It was a hard code, that one of Doc’s. It would have curled the hair of weak sisters who want criminals mollycoddled. For Doc handed out justice where it was deserved.
Doc’s justice was a brand all his own. It had amazing results. Criminals who went against Doc seldom wound up in prison. They either learned a lesson that made them law-abiding men the rest of their lives—or they became dead criminals. Doc never did the job halfway.
The life of a less agile man than Doc would have come to an end there. But Doc’s bronze hand flashed up. It grasped the man’s face. It twisted. There was a dull crack and the murderer fell to the walk. A broken neck had ended his career.
Seized with an idea, Doc grasped a pike and a cutlass. There was nothing fake about the weapons. They were genuine heavy steel. The cutlass was razor keen.
Doc retraced his route. He was in time to see one of his ratty quarry peering into the hatch. The villainous fellow got a glimpse of Doc’s bronze form. He fired his revolver.
But Doc had moved. The bullet upset an image of a whiskered pirate. An instant later, the pike whizzed from Doc’s long arm.
The steel-shod shaft found accurate lodgment in the gun fiend’s brain. The man toppled headlong into the hold. His body, crashing to the floor, sent a gruesome papier-mâché head bouncing across the planks.
Suddenly a thin claw shoved a revolver over the hatch lip. The gun exploded repeatedly, driving random bullets to various parts of the hold.
Doc’s powerful form floated up from the floor. The razor-edged cutlass swished. The hand that held the revolver seemed to jump off the arm to which it belonged. It was completely amputated.
The running rat twisted his head and saw Doc. He brought his gun around. But the weapon was far from being in a position to fire when the sharp, heavy cutlass struck him. Doc had thrown it.
The blade ran the gangster through like a steel thorn. He convulsed his parasite life out on the deck.
"Doc Savage!" the rodent of a man wailed. Convulsively, Squint clutched for the revolver he had secured aboard the pirate ship.
Doc’s powerful bronze hands seized a table. The table drove across the room as though impelled from a cannon mouth.
Striking Squint squarely, it smashed his worthless life out against the wall. The man’s body fell to the floor amid the table wreckage.
Doc pursued. He put a great deal of effort in his flashing lunge. He wanted to question this rat. And he knew he would have to get the fellow before—
Came a piercing shriek! It ended in a ghastly thunking sound and a horrible gurgling.
The man had fallen through the death trap in the passage—the trap from which the spar had saved Doc.
The upended swords in the pit under the trapdoor had thorned out the life of the fellow before Doc reached him!
To Renny and Johnny, Doc breathed a command. "You two stay here. Watch that window. Shoot at the slightest hostile move.
An ugly face poked out of the window. A pipestem arm brought an automatic pistol into view. But before the weapon had a chance to discharge, an incredible vise of bronze fingers clamped the killer’s scrawny neck. They jerked.
The man came out of the window with a snap. Screeching, he fell to his death far out in the street.
The machine gunners were preparing to fire. The leader of the gang would be the first to kill. He hissed,
But the fellow’s trigger finger did not discharge a single shot! The rapid firer was whisked out of his clutch by a grip of such strength there was no resisting it.
The weapon erupted a loud squawl of reports. A ghastly lead storm struck Kar’s assembled slayers. Dying men toppled over the hatch rim, to fall into the hold like ripe fruit...
Kar gunmen who had been covering them from the bulkhead door now tried to shoot. They were too late. A hot wind of bullets wilted them.
Near the plane, a sooty cauliflower of smoke had sprouted. Bits of débris still swirled in the air. It fell about a gruesome, torn thing upon the lagoon edge. The dismembered body of a man!
"It was one of Kar’s gunmen!" Renny called. Renny held a smoking machine gun. "The fellow had a bomb, with the fuse already lighted! He was running to throw it in the plane when I saw him and shot."
Doc’s own gun rapped. Once! Twice!
A man came tumbling, slowly, stiffly, out of the foliage. He was a short, broad man. He had the look of a human frog. Doc had never seen him before.
The man piled into a dead heap. One bullet had drilled his forehead. The other had stopped his heart.
The big bronze man’s pistol spoke once. The report was like that given off by the popper of a hard-snapped bull whip.
The gunman melted down as though all the stiffening had been drawn from his body. On his forehead, exactly between his eyes, was a blue spot that suddenly trickled red. The man fell on top of his weapon and it continued to rip off shots until the drum magazine had emptied.
Then his neck unjointed! He died quickly. His actual going was painless, whatever the terror of the moments before might have been. For Doc’s sinewy hands had brought a merciful end.
003 - Quest Of The Spider:
One Line Review: Nonsensical, weird, and silly to where you can't even call it bad
"Inside the grim, swamp-surrounded "Castle of the Moccasin," the Man of Bronze and his faithful, fearless band are trapped -- perhaps forever -- in an insidious web of evil by a masterdevil known only as the Gray Spider!"
The third Doc Savage novel saw daylight in May of 1933. As a Bantam paperback it was #68 for a good reason. It's nonsensical, weird, and silly to where you can't even call it bad. As they say, it's "Not even wrong". The first novel was a grand mission statement, the second a tense actioner and celebration of death, and this one potentially a test on Lester Dent's part to see if anyone's paying attention as he has no idea what he's doing. It's bad with a strong lean towards good-bad. Reading it was fun just to see what the else would creatively go wrong.
Quest of The Spider contains the first mention of Doc as a "Superman":
Edna Danielsen seemed doubtful. "But can even a great lawyer and quick thinker help us? The Gray Spider must have hundreds, thousands, of men in his evil organization. A lawyer can't whip an army! Not even a superman could!"
Big Eric's firm lips arched in a tight smile. "That is exactly why I’m going to see Ham Brooks. Ham knows a person who is just what we need—a superman!"
"I don't understand!" Edna was puzzled.
"Doc Savage!" Something like awe was in Big Eric's voice as he spoke that name.
Cataloging the weird, wrong, and laugh-out-loudness: There's big talk of the "Cult of the Moccasin!" and better yet the "Castle of The Moccasin!", and since there's not one snake involved I'll assume they're referring to shoes. Edna Danielson says the Gray Spider might have thousands of men in his organization. That would be an army, not a local swindling lumber mills. A grown man wearing a heavy coat hides under the floorboards of an office only "a few inches deep". Johnny, Monk and Renny wear disguises to infiltrate the evil gang and then get caught right away by not staying in character. Johnny kidnaps a small child and laughs about it. Renny drives around turns at sixty mph and somehow the car doesn't flip. Lumber mills get turned over to crooks by having the rightful owners decide to "take a long vacation" and sign over their business to strangers, as if this wouldn't trigger suspicion on the part of banks and law enforcement. Almost a dozen bad guys each fit into cars chasing the good guys. Then after a three car wreck the clown cars empty and they crawl all over the good guy's car.
In the middle of a siege in a swamp Doc has the time and equipment to do his daily two hours of exercise. The poison gas in Big Eric's office is forgotten about quickly. You have the line "Yet the roaring wind seemed to have absolutely no effect on his bronze immaculateness". "Doc 'Alligator' Savage" dons an alligator costume and creeps among the swamp men fooling them he's 1) an alligator, and 2) an alligator they know personally:
The alligator now did what no commonplace saurian ever did. It got up on its rear legs. The repulsive stomach of the thing was closed with, of all things—
A zipper fastener!
With a s-s-wick! of a noise, the zipper came open.
The mighty bronze form of Doc Savage flashed forth.
"Exactly," said Doc. "That stuffed 'gator was in the rumble seat of the roadster. It was one of the things I brought along into the swamp, on the chance we might need it. I simply dived and got it, after the car went into the water. The thing could be folded up in a fairly small space, for all its large size. And it looked natural enough to fool the swamp men, especially when seen only by moonlight. In the daytime, they might not have been deceived so easily."
A boat that fits in your pocket!:
"In the rumble seat—a collapsible silk boat you can almost put in your coat pocket. Also, there's an outboard motor that hardly weighs more than a portable typewriter. Other things, too!"
Normally I'd file this under violence but this is nuts:
"I do not know that!" hissed the masked man. "I have exhausted my resources in an effort to learn! But it is no use. Whether he has one man or a hundred, I do not know! His aids might even be women! That is an idea! Kill all women who have registered lately at the hotel. Wipe them out along, with the men!"
On par with the alligator cosplay suit Doc packs just in case, The evil Gray Spider breeds a special kind of poisonous zombie fly that bites:
"There's where you're wrong, swamp boy!" he declared. "These are very special flies. If one of them should bite you, it'd kill you instantly."
Buck Boontown looked as if he found this hard to believe.
"These look like ordinary swamp flies because they were just that—before I got hold of them," the Gray Spider explained. "I have sprayed a very powerful poison upon them. The bodies of the flies have absorbed this poison, which has no effect on them. But their bites are now highly venomous. They will bring instant death to a man."
The Gray Spider leered. "Making these flies poisonous is a very special secret of mine. It took me a long time to figure out a way of doing it. But I'm telling you, it works!
"Furthermore, I have starved these flies until they're famished. They live by sucking blood. They'll go after any living thing that's handy when they're let out of that box. And whatever they bite will die!
"You are to release them near the bronze devil and his five men."
File under General BS:
DOC entered the elevator. Monk turned and followed him inside like a big dog, still carrying his five victims under his arms.
They went down a corridor. Stairs sloped into the innards of the earth.
Doc took the stairs with incredible leaps that covered fifteen steps at a time. He placed his feet in the mathematical center of the treads upon which he landed, as though he had been stepping down one at a time.
It was a full thirty feet to the ground. Yet great muscles cushioned his drop until it seemed he had hardly more than stepped off a chair.
If you're offended by off-color characterizations of inbred voodoo criminal monkey-men and their kin you may want to skip this book.
Other things of note: Doc's quite the superman, but he's not yet learned to not insult Monk:
"You don't lick any one this time," Doc told him. "You use that brain nobody would suspect you've got.
Doc and guns in book #3:
A bronze blur, Doc scuttled fifty feet down the walk and calmly seated himself behind a fire hydrant. He had no gun. Indeed, he so rarely found necessity for a weapon, that he seldom carried one. He waited.
Monk grinned widely. Strangely enough, any and all nasty cracks about his looks tickled Monk. He was one of those rare individuals—a homely man who was genuinely proud of the fact that his features were something to stop a clock.
Violence. Much less than last time, so that's good:
The four clutched their sharp knives. They were at least not cravens. They would fight to the death!
TO the death it was! And it came more swiftly than they had dreamed possible.
One monkey man launched a stab he felt certain would end the fray. It was aimed directly for the bronze giant's heart. But the monkey man felt a terrible paralysis seize his wrist and arm. He did not have time to realize a steel-thewed hand had grasped his darting knife fist and turned it toward his own vitals—the blade was in his heart before he could realize that fact...
Another monkey man struck at Doc with a razor-sharp stiletto. He, too, believed his stroke would go home. But by some miracle the bronze man moved a trifle. The blade only sheared open his coat and shirt.
The beginning of the oath was the fellow's last word. He tried to strike again. There was a hollow snap. He collapsed. Great hands had broken his neck.
[Visual fun] Doc did not bother to tie them. When one tried to flee, he was knocked flat on his back before he had taken a single step. They had no more chance of escaping Doc than a captured mouse has of evading the cat that caught it.
One of the efficient light machine guns Doc had perfected turned loose in Big Eric's fist. It seemed to melt the man in front of the muzzle. A second swamp man died before the ripping weapon.
"I investigated," Doc explained. "Two of those boxes hold ordinary hand grenades. The others contain a supply of poison-gas grenades. It's the same kind of deadly gas the Gray Spider has twice sought to use on us. The wind will carry it over our foes."...
"We will use the gas only as a last resort," he pointed out "After all, the fiendishness of these swamp men is largely due to one man—the Gray Spider. If we can get the master devil and the group of his important lieutenants, which he calls the inner circle of his Cult of the Moccasin, it will be unnecessary to do any wholesale killing. The other swamp men, freed from the Gray Spider's sinister influence, can be reformed."
Dent first leads you to Horace Haas as the mastermind with a standard "beyond reproach" fake and then steps back from it, in a way that might have been a late change of course. In The Land Of Terror, Kar is blatantly Oliver Wording Bittman, but Doc didn't look in that direction because Bittman once saved Clark Sr.'s life. Here's the standard fake:
"The office of Horace Haas, my junior partner," explained Big Eric. Then, realizing the place hardly looked like a business office, he added defensively, "Horace Haas may not be a crack business man, but he furnished the capital for my start in life!"
"Now, listen here!" he grumbled: "Horace Haas may be a fop and a spendthrift, but I'll stake my life he wouldn't lay a finger on Edna or me! He's not the Gray Spider!"
Filed under Drugs, the current name for this is Scopolamine:
Doc Savage came back. He carried a small leather case. This held, on a plush bed, two hypodermic needles.
Doc applied one of the needles to the eavesdropper's arm.
Nothing seemed to happen. The fellow merely sat there, absently rubbing the spot where the needle had pricked.
"Get up and sit in a chair!" Doc commanded compellingly.
The man obeyed meekly.
Noting the astounded faces of the others, Doc tapped the hypodermic needles and explained.
"The first holds a drug which affects a certain portion of the brain, rendering the victim incapable of thinking. This fellow, for instance, will now do anything I tell him because he cannot think of reasons why he shouldn't. I could tell him to go over and jump out of the window, and he'd do it without being able to think that the fall meant certain death. This drug is one of my late developments."
Doc indicated the second hypo needle. "This contains a drug which neutralizes the first. In other words, this man will remain in his present condition for days, unless he receives the second drug."
Doc charges rich people a "fee":
Big Eric smiled widely. "I'm dang glad you're going to help me fight this Gray Spider! I like your style!"
Doc Savage did not reply immediately.
"I haven't said I would," he pointed out.
Big Eric blanched. He stuttered: "Why—won't you?"
"I will," Doc told him quietly. "Providing we can agree on the matter of the fee you will pay."...
"The fee is one million dollars," Doc said as calmly as though he were a laborer asking three dollars a day for his services.
"Huh!" Big Eric purpled. He all but choked. He howled: "One million! And you're the guy who goes around benefiting humanity! It looks to me like you're trying to hold me up—"...
Big Eric suddenly got the idea it would be useless to squawk about being overcharged. At the same time, he was too canny to put out such an outrageous fee without knowing he would get his money's worth in results.
"You will turn this million over to a committee you and I will select," Doc continued. "It will be used to supply food and clothing and education to the poor and destitute in Louisiana."
"Oh," said Big Eric, suddenly ashamed of his outburst. He offered a hand. "I'll do it, of course."
Doc explains his lobotomy farm operation to Johnny:
"It's too complex to go into now," Doc told him. "It is done by many methods. Most undergo intricate brain operations that wipe out all memory of their past. Then they are taught a trade by which to make a living, as well as upright citizenship.
"In other words, we merely reduce their minds to a blank and give them the sort of training they should have had. When they're released, crime does not occur to them—simply because they don't know they've ever been criminals."
I wish this "mysterious stranger" was a recurring character in the series who looked like Arthur Slugworth from Willy Wonka:
In a day or so, a mysterious stranger would arrive. He would take the two men to an amazing institution in the northern part of New York State.
Fun things: Planes had wicker seats and parachutes (!?)
[The golden years of aviation] "I'm gonna keep an eye on that slick-haired gigolo!" growled Big Eric, still watching the evil-faced man, who sat forward. The massive lumber king removed a large army automatic from a hip pocket. He put it in a coat pocket, where it could be gotten at more swiftly.
Beautiful Edna Danielsen twined her fingers together thoughtfully. She was beginning to realize Doc Savage was a personage mighty beyond all her imaginings.
She wondered what he looked like. He'd probably be a shriveled little wart with a head like a barrel. He would wear glasses with lenses as thick as milk-bottle bottoms.
Doc's body would be just ample enough to carry his magnificent set of brains around, Edna decided. That was always the way with geniuses. They had spent all their life studying intensively—which in truth is what makes a genius. But as a consequence, they became pale, shriveled, bald specimens.
It wasn't a complimentary mental picture Edna painted of what she expected Doc Savage to look like. She reflected he'd have whiskers. They'd look like he was going around with his chin buried in a bird nest.
Edna was due for a shock.
Not a cloud scummed the sky.
A FRECKLED stenographer strangled on the gum she was chewing as the big bronze man appeared like magic in the window beside her desk. She was still coughing when Doc crossed the room and entered the corridor. She had received the shock of her gum-chewing career.
All four tires, frozen immobile by the brakes, squealed like hungry pigs.
[Drip painting] He entered a large room. The color scheme looked like it had been conceived by a futuristic artist who had gone crazy among his paint pots. Streaks and spots and daubs of green, red, blue, yellow, white, aluminum, gold—it all made neither sense nor beauty.
004 - The Polar Treasure:
One Line Review: Great fun and succeeds at most levels as escapist entertainment
"Menaced by 'the strange clicking danger,' Doc Savage and his fabulous five-man army take a desperate journey on a polar submarine in search of a missing ocean liner and a dazzling treasure. Their only clue is a map tattooed on the back of a blind violinist. Awaiting them at their destination is the most terrible killer the Arctic has ever known."
The fourth Doc Savage novel, from June, 1933, is great fun and succeeds at most levels as escapist entertainment. Whatever it doesn't get right is filed under Quibbles. It's a fast-paced adventure with cool stuff & neat things, plus violence, drug abuse, and revenge killing.
There's a stylistic hat tip to legends recounted in King Arthur: Tales Of The Round Table. Doc often crosses the line from Peak Human to Tall Tale, surely here in The Polar Treasure, but Lester Dent knows how to apply Sir Galahad to Doc Savage in a timeless fashion, whereas ghost-writers like Lawrence Donovan can default to North Korean Dear Leader worship [My fake quote] "Doc Leader jumped over Mount Whitney in a single leap after bowling a perfect 300 game on his first try. Before lunch he ran the Four-Minute Mile in three minutes and brought the entire United States Army to their knees in defeat!")
The Polar Treasure is where Doc both writes violin music that makes a grown criminal cry and punches a polar bear to death. Doc hadn't yet reached the point where he turned away from rampant killing, so his machine guns are street-sweepers of death. He not only continually refocuses his mission to avenge his aides with killing, he does it in a way that guarantees none will survive. Doc's psyche is fully formed and functional in that he's human with all the basic emotions you need while also being the focused and unstoppable Ubermensch on the side of good. Some of his physical feats are extravagant but Doc Savage as a person is awesome. A strong point of the novel is focusing on Doc in isolation for most of the last third. Instead of stalling for time before a big finish (or a quick resolution) The Polar Treasure is strongest when Doc goes it alone in the middle. There's no Run & Fight filler as everything is new, creative, and forward moving.
Is there nothing Doc Savage cannot master? Is it possible for the fiddle tune he wrote to be listed as composed by "Clark Savage, Jr." yet also as "unknown"?:
Near by loomed the enormous bulk of the New York Concert Hall. From the stage door on the side street crept strains of a music so beautiful that each note seemed to grasp the heart with exquisite fingers...
The flat-chested man, cowering and fearful, knew little of Victor Vail. He only knew the music affected him strangely. Once it made him think of how his poor mother had sobbed that first time he went to jail, long years ago. He nearly burst into tears...
Victor Vail had finished his violin playing. The audience was applauding. The hand-clapping was tremendous. It sounded like the roar of Niagara, transferred to the vast hall...
"Clark Savage, Jr!" he gasped in a tone of awe. "Why, among the violin selections I rendered in my concert tonight was a composition by Clark Savage, Jr. In my humble opinion, and to the notion of other artists, that composition is one of the most masterly of all time. Surely, you are not the composer?"...
The sightless master of the violin, indeed, considered it such. He had many times wondered about the mysterious Clark Savage, Jr., who had composed that great violin selection. Strangely enough, the composer was listed as an unknown. He had claimed no credit for the marvelous piece of work.
This was astounding in itself, considering what moneymad beings the human race had become. The composer could have ridden to a fortune on the strength of that one selection.
Doc's two hours of daily exercise explained with isometrics highlighted. Braille training is under "other". Ham's description as "husky" was later jettisoned for waspish:
Doc took his exercises - a terrific two-hour routine each day of his life, and nothing interfered.
Doc's ritual was similar to ordinary setting-up movements, but infinitely harder, more violent. He took them without the usual exercising apparatus. For instance, he would make certain muscles attempt to lift his arm, while other muscles strove to hold it down. That way he furthered not only muscular tissue, but control over individual muscles as well. Every ligament in his great, bronzed body he exercised in this fashion.
From a case which held his special equipment, Doc took a pad and pencil. He wrote a number of several figures. Eyes shut, he extracted the square and cube root in his head, carrying the figures to many decimal places.
Out of the case came a device which made sound waves of all tones, some of a wave length so short or so long as to be inaudible to the normal ear. Years of straining to detect these waves had enabled Doc to make his ears sensitive enough to hear many sounds inaudible to ordinary people.
With his eyes closed, Doc rapidly catalogued by the sense of smell several score of different odors, all very vague, each contained in a small vial racked in the case.
There were other exercises, far more intricate. Ham shook his head wonderingly. He knew that five minutes at the clip Doc was doing the routine would be more than he, himself, could stand. And Ham was husky enough to give most professional boxers a drubbing.
From the cradle, Doc had done these exercises each day. They accounted for his astounding physique, his ability to concentrate, and his superkeen senses.
Say no to drugs, except if staying on them keeps you "normal" enough for a life of crime. The "strange clicking danger" in the plot summary is also a drug reference:
The only discovery of note he had made was that Dynamite Smith, the big oiler, used narcotics almost steadily. Doc consulted Captain McCluskey about this.
"Sure, I knowed the swab was a dope head," the walrus assured him. "Rust my anchor, but it don't seem to hurt him. He's been usin' the stuff for years. Let'm alone, matey. The stuff just keeps 'im harmless."
"They gave the Eskimos liquor," Roxey Vail went on. "And they gave them worse stuff, something that made them madmen - a white powder!"
"Dope - the rats!" Doc growled.
The first description of Doc's submarine The Helldiver. Another book lists its length as 700 feet. Doc didn't put much money into it and took full ownership after killing the man who built most of it. He was a bad man, but dead men also conveniently can't pursue title ownership:
The thing looked like a razor-backed cigar of steel. The hull was fitted with lengthwise runners resembling railway rails. As a matter of fact, these actually were such rails, converted to the purpose of ice runners. They were supposed to enable the underseas craft to slide along beneath the arctic ice pack.
A wireless aerial, collapsible, was set up for action. There was a steel rod of a bowsprit ramming out in front, the size of a telegraph pole. The rudder and propellers were protected by a steel cage intended to keep out ice cakes.
[Add-ons to the original design.] "A special radio. Electrical apparatus for sounding and locating icebergs. A collapsible seaplane. Better diving suits than you have. And other things of that nature."
Galahad/Tall Tale/Doc Leader:
Doc was one of the finest marksmen they had ever seen, even if it was seldom that he fired a shot. They had seen him toss up twelve pennies in a single handful, and using two pistols, touch every one with lead before it fell to earth.
But from the spot where that great voice had first roared a warning, there glided a form that might have been liquid bronze. Nearing the struggling man and girl, this became a giant, Herculean man of hard metal. Hands floated out.
THE STEPS whined under the giant bronze man's considerable weight [A little over 200 pounds!!]. To avoid the noise, he leaped lightly to the banister. Like a tight-rope walker, he ran up the slanted railing.
He took the second flight in the same manner, not troubling to see if those steps squeaked also. By using the banister, he avoided any electrical alarms which might have been under the steps.
[Chins collapsed like eggshells.] Not one of blind Victor Vail's attackers saw the giant metallic figure arrive. They knew nothing of its presence until they felt its terrible strength.
Then it was as though a tornado of hard steel had struck them. Chins collapsed like eggshells. Arms were plucked from sockets and left dangling like strings.
The men screamed and cursed. Two flew out of the melee, unconscious, not knowing what had vanquished them. A third dropped with his whole lower face awfully out of shape, and he, too, didn't know what had hit him.
Others struck feverishly at the Herculean bronze form, only to have their fists chop empty air. One man found his ankles trapped as in a monster vise of metal. He was lifted. His body swung in a terrific circle, mowing down his fellows like a scythe.
From a position thirty feet away, Doc planted his flash beam on them. They were in a nice, tight bunch. A great chair stood at Doc's elbow. No doubt it would have been a load for any single steward who had long ago sailed on the ill-fated Oceanic.
It lifted in Doc's mighty hand as lightly as though it were a folding camp stool. It slammed into the midst of the Eskimos. They were bowled over, practically to a man.
[Over the top but a scene nicely set up by having McClusky beat up Monk and Renny in order to establish his skills. Doc's a little over 200 lbs. and maybe 6'1" at this point. He grew in size as the radioactive material he surrounded himself with and implanted in his clothes "evolved" him until be became Doc Sampson.] His hand was trapped in mid-air by case-hardened bronze fingers. For an instant, McCluskey thought the hand had been cut off, so much did that grip hurt, and so numb did it make his arm.
He started a blow with his free fist.
It traveled hardly more than an inch. Then that hand was closed in a fearful clasp. The hard paw crushed like so much dough. Big blisters of blood popped out on the finger tips, and burst with fine sprays of crimson.
The walrus screamed like a hurt child.
[Doc Leader's fingers are strong like wrench!] Even Ben O'Gard himself came fawning up with a wrench to assist in the work. But Doc waved him aside. His bronze fingers were more speedy than any wrench - and they could tighten a tap just about as snugly.
In my treatment of a new Doc Savage movie I had Doc's revelation at the end being he can't win unless he stops being so protective of his friends. I didn't just make that up:
"Wait here," Doc directed. Doc was always leaving his men behind while he went alone into danger. Long ago, they had become resigned to this, much as it irked them to stand back when excitement offered. They literally lived for adventure.
But no one could cope with danger quite as Doc could. He had an uncanny way of avoiding, or escaping from, what for another man would be a death trap.
Doc Talks To Himself:
Doc picked himself up.
"I'd better hold onto something," he remarked to no one in particular.
The floor in Doc's lab is made of polished bricks with a twist:
Two half circles of these bricks suddenly whipped upward. They were not unlike a monster bear trap. The gunman was caught.
His rapid-firer cackled a brief instant. Then pain made him drop the weapon. Madly, he tore at the awful thing which held him. It defied him. The bricks which had arisen were actually of hard steel, merely painted to resemble masonry.
Before possibly deliberately sidelining Johnny as an equal partner by saddling him with a vocabulary affectation, Dent gave him a formal speech pattern:
Johnny's voice was that of a lecturer. He chose his words precisely, after the fashion of a college professor. As a matter of fact, Johnny had been both in his time.
[This is before Doc got around to performing eye surgery on Johnny as he does to Victor Vail in this story.] He wore glasses. The right lens of these spectacles was much thicker than the left. A close observer might have noted that this left lens was in reality a powerful magnifying glass. For the wearer of the unusual spectacles had virtually lost the use of his left eye in the World War. He needed a powerful magnifier in his business, so he carried it in his glasses for handiness.
Long Tom and his big head:
The small man came stamping back. Besides being short, he was slender. He had pale hair and pale eyes, and a complexion that looked none too healthy.
Only his extremely large head hinted that he was no ordinary man. "Long Tom," formally known as Major Thomas J. Roberts, was an electrical wizard who had worked with foremost men in the electrical world. Nor was he the physical weakling he appeared.
Cruel comedy with sadist Monk. One guy in each arm makes more sense:
The gorilla of a man saw Doc. His knot of a head seemed to open in halves as he laughed.
"Listen, Doc!" he said in a voice surprisingly mild for such a monster. "Listen to this!"
His enormous arms tightened on his three prisoners. As one man the three howled in agony.
"Don't they sing pretty huh?" the anthropoid man chuckled. He squeezed the trio again, and listened to their pained howls like a singing teacher.
Doc invites Renny to do what he loves most - the classic Renny door panel punch:
"We might as well go in there all of a sudden!" Doc breathed.
"0. K., Doc," murmured Renny.
He lifted his gallon of iron-hard knuckles. He struck. With a rending crash, the door panel was driven inward by Renny's great fist.
They ran down a passage.
An amazing thing happened to a stateroom door ahead of them.
The panel jumped out of the door, literally exploding into splinters. An object came through which resembled a rusty keg affixed crosswise to the end of a telephone pole.
Such a hand and fist could belong to only one man on earth.
Science sleuthing gimmick de jour:
"The stuff in this sprayer and the sticky material on the floor form a terrible odor when they come together, even in the tiniest quantities," Doc explained as the cage raced them down. "So powerful are these chemicals that any one walking through the stuff in front of the door will leave a trail which can be detected for some hours. That's why we took off our shoes. We had walked through it."
There were few pedestrians on the street at this late hour. Even these, however, promptly stopped to gawk at Doc and Renny. It might have been the fact that Doc and Renny were without shoes, and going through the apparently idiotic process of spraying an awful perfume on the sidewalk.
Doc putting the Human in Peak Human:
"Listen - here's what you're to do!" Doc interrupted. He didn't like the tearful business of receiving thanks from young women whether they were pretty or not.
"Isn't she - a wonderful girl" he gulped proudly.
He had seen her, all right.
"She's swell," Doc chuckled. "She's gone to get her mother. They'll meet us."
"Now listen, Doc," he began. "You better - "
Doc smiled faintly. He picked up the argumentative two hundred and sixty pounds of man-gorilla by the slack of the pants and the coat collar, and sent him whizzing down the icy cable.
"Beat it!" he called down at them, then sank behind a capstan.
Doc groped for something that would express his happiness, for he had given these five friends of his up as dead men. The proper words refused to come. His throat was cramped with emotion.
"What a bunch of bums!" he managed to chuckle at last.
Violence and Doc's determination for revenge:
The group ran for the stern. Renny secured an automatic pistol from the Eskimo whom Ham had skewered with his sword cane.
[The abrupt execution of a major player] A captive was hauled up from below. He squealed and whimpered and blubbered for mercy.
Two pirates held him. An automatic in Ben O'Gard's hand cracked thunder. The prisoner fell dead.
[Doc's "fine" means killing is OK] "Good work, Johnny," Doc replied. "You armed?"
Johnny opened his bundle of papers like a book. This disclosed a small, pistollike weapon which had a large cartridge magazine affixed to the grip. A more compact and deadly killing machine than this instrument would be difficult to find. It was a special machine gun of Doc Savage's own invention.
"Fine," Doc breathed. "Wait on the street. I'm going up to that room."
He wanted to get the girl to safety. Then he was going to hold grim carnival on the glacier with Keelhaul de Rosa and his killer group.
[Doc eats raw bear meat from the bear he killed and chews it while contemplating revenge] The heat of the hunt finally drove Doc to the remote reaches of the glacier and rock crest of the land.
There he replenished his vast reservoir of strength by dining on frozen, raw steaks he wrenched with his bare, steel-thewed fingers, from the polar bear he had slain.
The mighty bronze man might have been a terrible hunter of the wild as he crouched there at his primeval repast. But no such hunter ever possessed cunning and knowledge such as Doc Savage was bringing to bear upon the problem confronting him.
Being adventure #4, Doc's not yet known by beat cops but at higher levels he's an untouchable Big Shot. It leads to funny scenes like this but won't this lead to resentment that he can get them in trouble through his connections:
"Stick 'em up!" boomed the sergeant. Then a surprising thing happened.
The policeman lowered his gun so hastily he nearly dropped it. His face became actually pale. He couldn't have looked more mortified had he accosted the mayor of the city by mistake.
"Begorra, I couldn't see it was you, sor," he apologized. The bronze giant's strong lips quirked the faintest of smiles. But the sergeant saw the smile - and beamed as if he had just been promoted to a captaincy.
The rooky's eyes popped. "Gosh! Who was that guy?"
The sergeant chuckled mysteriously. "Me lad, yez know what they say about our new mayor - that nobody has any pull wit' him?"
"Sure," agreed the rooky. "Every one knows our new mayor is the finest New York has ever had, and that he can't be influenced. But what's that got to do with the big bronze fellow?"
"Nothin'," grinned the sergeant. "Except that, begorra, our new mayor would gladly turn a handspring at a word from that bronze man!"
At the police station, the captain in charge insisted on stripping to his underwear so that Doc would be properly clad.
Filed under Miscellaneous, Monk rolls his own cigarettes; Monk & Ham don't have their stupid pets yet to act as "fun" surrogates, so they hate each other a lot; headquarters has 100 floors; Monk's arms are as thick as his legs; the office steel safe is the height of Doc's shoulders; Doc's machine guns make a noise that "sounded like tough cloth ripping"; Dent distinguishes one bad guy repeatedly for his flat chest; calls an Eskimo a "greasy bag of fright"; evokes this classic image "The walks were crowded. Each subway kiosk vomited humanity like an opened anthill."; and offers up a mental image that's as original as it is silly, "Like two dark cotton balls before a breeze, Doc and Renny drifted into the shadows."
How much did Victor Vail earn for each violin performance? "Many music lovers maintained him to be the greatest living master of the violin. He ordinarily got hundreds of dollars for rendering an hour of violin music before an audience. "
Quibbles: While a nice visual and swell plot element, there's no reason to tattoo a map on Victor Vail's back. The bad guys were there and could have scribbled a map on paper. On an ocean liner they had the supplies to make a tattoo you could only see via X-ray? Why head the ocean liner to the Artic when the bad guy's ship was slower than theirs?:
"But an enemy sea raider chased the liner northward. The enemy boat could not overhaul us, but it pursued our craft for days. Indeed, the Oceanic sailed far within the arctic ice pack before escaping."
The pirates ship was slower than an ocean liner? Why not just head to a safe port? Then there's Mr. Clicking Teeth wearing a black wig on the Hellfire. There's too few people in too small a space. Wearing a wig would just make you stand out as a "new" person that shouldn't be there.
There's a scene where Doc and Ham escape from an airtight bank vault by using Doc's exploding extra wisdom teeth. They were rendered unconscious in a cab and wound up in this bank vault to eventually die by asphyxiation. While a nice pulpy escape there's no reason not to kill them in a random back alley [Adam West as Batman on line 3].
Not that I'm accusing Doc and The Gang of murdering three innocent people so they couldn't squeal about the gold & diamonds or ask for a cut, when the next novel opens (Pirate Of The Pacific) only Doc's group makes it back from the Arctic. What became of Victor Vail and his wife and daughter? Possibly a table for three (lobotomies)?
Doc added extra wisdom teeth to his mouth. He wouldn't have been able to close his mouth if he did. Later on in the series it was corrected to fake wisdom teeth. I picture Doc biting down hard on an errant piece of walnut shell and the 86th floor blows up:
"Our captors probably looked in our mouths," Doc explained. "But they forgot to count my teeth. They didn't notice that in my upper jaw there is an extra wisdom tooth on each side. They're false, and they hold two chemical compounds of my own concoction. When combined, these form one of the most powerful explosives."
Doc Savage purrs:
"Why - why - I recall that he did bring up the subject! And I told him I never wanted to hear of the ghastly affair again!"
Doc's great voice suddenly acquired a purr of interest.
"I should like very much to know what actually happened during that period you were unconscious!" he said.
Doc Savage should always refer to himself as "Clark":
"Doc Savage," said the bronze man.
"Doc Savage," Victor Vail murmured. He seemed disappointed. "I am sorry, but I do not believe I have heard the name before."
The bronze giant's lips made a faint smile.
"That is possible," he said. "Perhaps I should have been more formal in giving you my name. It is Clark Savage, Jr."
[Did they go to a bank in Greenland for money to buy the plane?] "Where is the pilot Victor Vail hired to fly him?" Doc asked.
"The monkey got cold feet!" Renny grinned. "Looking at all these icebergs got his goat. He refused to go on. So we took him back south to a little settlement on the coast of Greenland, bought his plane for twice what it is worth, and left him."
[Would the bad guys think to look for this valve before setting themselves up to die?] "You mean the gang can't take the submarine beneath the surface without this valve?" Long Tom demanded.
"Exactly," Doc replied. "They will realize they'd never come up if they did. The craft would be flooded. Too, they haven't the chemical to melt themselves out of a jam. The Helldiver cannot escape from this arctic ice pack without submerging to pass under solidly frozen floes."
[There's no reason to believe she'd try to avenge him. And spanking isn't allowed any more] EVEN AS he raced toward where he had left her, Doc fathomed what had occurred. She had disobeyed his injunction to stay hidden. The reason - she had heard the shouted information that Doc was dead. She had started out with some desperate idea of avenging him.
Doc appreciated her good intentions. But at the moment, he could have gotten a lot of satisfaction out of turning her over his knee and paddling her.
[Doc's casual judgmental cruelty] A man shoved his head out of the main hatch amidships. All this man needed to make him a walrus was a pair of two-foot tusks. Doc had always believed Monk the homeliest human creation. It was a toss-up between Monk and this man.
The Polar Treasure is a classic Doc Savage novel. Force a stranger to read it today!
005 - Pirate Of The Pacific:
One Line Review: Not a bad story but little stands out of note
"Not ships but nations are the prey of the sinister Oriental mastermind, Tom Too. Only Doc Savage and his daring crew stand a chance of saving the world from this figure of evil and his lethal legions. On land and sea, in the weirdest corners of the wide world, Doc and his friends plunge into their wildest adventure -- against their most dangerous foe!"
The fifth Doc Savage novel (July 1933) pits Doc + Five against every Asian stereotype in the Western arsenal. This was when the battlefield atrocities of WWI were not forgotten and that part of the world continued to boil until WWII exploded and the Japanese did some stuff just like the Germans did some stuff. Today Japan is a nation of anime cosplayers and Germany a commune of hippies so laid-back you might not suspect they twice tried to murder the world in the 20th century.
Pirate Of The Pacific is heavy on Run & Fight (cousin of Run & Shoot), an exciting yet gratuitous and time-filling endeavor that might look good but is less script than rote choreography. The fight scenes of Ong-Bak and John Wick excel because the choreography is concise and innovative, but run-punch-run-shoot-punch-run-shoot-run-punch nonsense is just that. The shorter and more impressive, the better.
Having read a number of later Doc Savage books in a row I've been spoiled by their brevity. John Waters once famously said no film should be over ninety minutes. For a original screenplay I can't agree more. Adapting sprawling works of literature is another story. Doc Savage is not Lord Of The Rings and no Doc Savage book deserves more than ninety minutes. As monthly pulp fiction it should be consciously time-restricted as a distinctive genre style. As a general rule one minute of screen time equals one script page. These are novels so I have no idea what the conversion rate would be.
Besides racial stereotyping the book's other major feature is that Doc hasn't yet decided to dial back the death dealing. He doesn't carry a gun but there's no mercy bullets in the machine guns his crew uses, and Doc doesn't shed a tear when inscrutable, slant-eyed, lemon-skinned Mongols get plugged with lead. At the end Doc seemingly asks for leniency but it's not for the sake of not killing:
"Now!" Doc clipped. "Get 'em in the legs and arms!"
His gun spat. The weapons of his men rapped a multiplied echo. They were crack marksmen, these men. They took their time and planted bullets accurately.
Two yellow men fell out of the launch almost together, bit in the legs. Pain made them squall noisily. Others cackled in agony as slugs, placed with uncanny precision, took them in the hands and arms.
There was psychology behind Doc's command not to kill. One wounded Oriental, yelling bloody murder, could do more to spread fear among his fellows than three or four killed instantly.
Pirate Of The Pacific isn't a bad story. Doc's escapes from calamity are creative and feasible, the action moves well, and the locales are visually exciting. There's just not much to take note of as you read, or at least not much beyond what you already know and expect.
Fun facts: In 1933 yelling "Get Hot!" at the radio meant the music was swinging. Renny is 6'4". Doc is almost two hundred pounds(!) Doc's building is 100 stories tall. He later had the upper floors removed and the tenants received free lobotomies! There's an empty office on the 86th floor. Monk rolls his own cigarettes. Doc wears a watch that's a receiver for a TV transmitter he hides in bad guy hideouts.
Of all the Doc Savage tropes this is a favorite. Doc tries to be reasonable but goes over people's heads when he has to:
"I wish your cooperation," he told Captain Hickman. "Whether you give it or not is up to you. But if you refuse, you may rest assured you will lose your command of this ship within thirty minutes."
Captain Hickman mopped at his face. He was bewildered, angry, a little scared.
Doc noted his indecision. "Call your owners. Ask them about it."
The Malay Queen commander hurriedly complied. He secured a radio-land-line connection with the headquarters of his company in San Francisco He gave a brief description of the situation.
"What about this man Savage?" he finished.
He was wearing earphones. The others did not hear what he was told.
But Captain Hickman turned about as pale as his ruddy face permitted. His hands shook as he placed the headset on the table. He stared at Doc as if wondering what manner of man the big bronze fellow was.
"I have been ordered to do anything you wish, even to turning my command over to you," he said briskly.
The trope of Doc riding car's running boards is cartoonishly film serial and it made the 1975 Film Of Shame that much sillier. Why stay hidden in a bullet-proof vehicle when you can make yourself a billboard-sized target?:
A taxicab took Doc and his five men uptown. Doc rode outside, barehead. standing on the running board. He habitually did that when danger threatened. From this position, Doc's weird golden eyes missed very little - a sniper had hardly a chance of getting a shot at them before he was discovered.
Doc took a cab downtown. The hack driver wondered all the way why his passenger rode the running board of the taxi, rather than inside. The hackman had never before had a thing like that happen.
Unforced error: Ham, not Monk, would be the third person to lack the leg strength needed to stay standing. It only exists for Monk's punch line at the end.
He spun from the window, crossed the office. The speed with which his big bronze form moved was startling. He entered the corridor, glided down it to the end elevator. At his touch upon a secret button, the elevator door leafed back.
So quickly had Doc moved that his five men were still in the office. They piled out, big-fisted Renny in the lead, and joined Doc in the lift.
The cage sank them. It was a special installation, used only by Doc Savage, and geared at terrific speed. Such was the pace of descent that their feet were off the floor for the first sixty stories. Monk, Johnny, and Long Tom were wrenched to their knees by the shock of stopping.
"What I mean, that thing brings you down!" Monk grinned, getting up from all fours.
Seriously? 25 feet with ease?:
Directly below Doc was a sheer drop of perhaps twenty five feet. He sprang down - and so tremendously powerful were his leg muscles that the great leap hardly jarred him.
An early explanation of Doc and guns:
"Aren't you going to carry at least one of these guns?" he queried.
Doc's bronze head shook a negative. "Rarely use them."
Doc was slow answering. He didn't like to talk about himself or his way of operating.
"The reasons I don't use a gun are largely psychological," he said. "Put a gun in a man's hand, and he will use it. Let him carry one and he comes to depend upon it. Take it away from him, and he is lost - seized with a feeling of helpless-ness. Therefore, since I carry no firearms, none can be taken from me to leave the resultant feeling of helplessness."
"But think of the handicap of not being armed!" Mindoro objected.
Doc shrugged and dropped the subject.
Ham and Renny grinned at this word play. Doc handicapped? Not much! They had never seen mighty bronze man in a spot yet where he didn't have a ready way out.
Doc's not sending heathens to their makers like in The Man Of Bronze, but this is brutal:
Some terrible, unseen force had struck his jaw, breaking it and all but wiping it off his face.
Guns are killing machines, and Doc knows how to design weapons that bring the pain:
Wham! A gun had appeared magically in Long Tom's pale hand, and loosed a clap of a report.
The bullet caught the Mongol between the eye - and knocked him over backward. His knife flew upward, pointfirst, and embedded in the ceiling.
A cop, drawn by the shot, ran in, tweeting excitedly on his whistle.
There was no trouble over the killing, though. Long Tom, as well as Monk, Renny, Ham and Johnny, held high honorary commissions in the New York police force.
With an angry roar, Renny heaved up. He spun a complete circle, the machine-gun muzzle blowing a red flame from his big fist.
Yells, screams, gasps made a grisly bedlam. Bodies fell. Wounded men pitched about like beheaded chickens.
"Three of the devils were in the car!" Renny grimaced. "They're all ready for the morgue."
Ham's gun hooted its awful song of death. The faces sank from view, several spraying crimson.
Then Ham, Renny and Mindoro joined the fray. Their super-firing machine guns made frightful bull-fiddle sawings. Before those terrific blasts of lead, men fell.
Pirate Of The Pacific was given second-billing as a Sanctum reprint so I assume it's a lesser work. The racism didn't help. Itwas enjoyable but should have been shorter. One last quibble was how the identity of Tom Too was always teased but never revealed, as if he'd be someone you'd least expect. He wound up being a secondary character seen only in one setting. Not much of a surprise as Dent provides a big clue as to why he shouldn't be trusted in the first place:
The first mate was somewhat of a fashion plate, his uniform being impeccable. He was a slender, pliant man with good shoulders and a thin-featured, not unhandsome face. His skin had a deeply tanned hue. His eyes were elevated a trifle at the outer corners, lending a suspicion some of his ancestors had been Orientals. This was not unusual, considering the Malay Queen plied the Orient trade.
The impeccable first mate bowed, his polite smile increasing the Oriental aspect of his features to a marked degree.
006 - The Red Skull:
"Into a subterranean world of red-hot lava, Doc Savage and his fantastic five descend -- to face the most fiendish foe of his career. Awaiting Doc is an irresistible power that can level mountains... that can enslave the world... and that threatens to make Doc's most dangerous adventure his very last."
The sixth Doc Savage adventure, dated August, 1933, is not a bad story if you don't ask much and forgive its smallness settling in halfway. It lacked one or two more explosive plot twists usually sprinkled on a Doc Savage adventure. It could also stand to lose a few pages of word-count. As a plus the Monk & Ham bickering isn't aired out ad nauseam, and it's before the era of Stupid Pig and Dumb Ape, so that's also working in its favor. There's nothing wrong with any of the characters and the identity of the mastermind is an true mystery, even if by that it wasn't made obvious long before the final curtain. The only issue with gadgets was the over-reliance on anesthetic gas as a first choice.
What redeems the book in a big way is how Lester Dent's agreement with Street & Smith to tone down the killing is passive-aggressived into a planned execution of the mastermind by his own hand. Here's the bits and pieces, ending with Doc trying not to chortle at Monk sending Buttons to his death:
"We have a task to perform, brothers," he said in a tone which, although low and soft, was absolutely emotionless. "It’s not a pleasant task, but the cause of justice demands that we do it."
His men gathered close, lending intent ears. They knew what was coming. Doc was going to hand the master killer his just deserts!..
Terror-stricken, the masked man spun and fled. The most convenient route lay across the top of the partially completed dam. He went that way.
An unexpected event now occurred. Out of the great maw of the spillway tunnel popped another running man—Buttons Zortell. He, too, chose the handiest avenue of flight—the dam top...
Then the masked man saw a six-gun. It lay on the dam top, in plain view.
The fellow did not stop to reason how the weapon had come there. He saw it only as a means of murder, a tool delivered to him out of a cloudy night sky, that he might slay the giant bronze man whom he feared beyond all beings.
Scooping the gun up, the king killer whirled. He took a deliberate aim at Doc Savage and pulled trigger.
Came a slamming roar! But no bullet left the gun muzzle. Instead, there leaped forth a dazzling white flame sheet. The six-gun barrel had been tamped with photographic flashlight powder!..
He knew his cold-blooded attempt to kill Doc Savage had brought his own death! The flash had actuated the photo-electric bomb! He launched a scream of terror. He was afraid of death...
Nate Raff and Buttons Zortell vanished—sank into a howling, foaming, grinding torrent of muddy water, concrete and steel. The canyon walls quivered from the awful shock of the great dam turning over and tearing to pieces. Boulders as large as cars were jarred off the cliffs...
Safe on the chasm sides, Doc Savage and his men watched. No word was spoken of the flash-powder-loaded gun which Doc had placed upon the dam—the gun which had delivered backfire justice!..
"Monk," Doc said dryly. "Weren’t you guarding Buttons Zortell?"
Monk assumed an injured expression and indicated his left eye, which was slightly peeled.
"Aw-w, can I help it if he popped me in the glim and got away?" he complained.
Doc kept his face straight. He remembered that Monk had expressed an opinion that Buttons Zortell—murderer that he was—should be meted the fullest punishment. That Buttons should escape from Monk at all was remarkable. That he should escape at just the right moment to meet death on the dam was even more remarkable.
I don't know if this was intentional as parody but the evil mastermind is out of the Silent Movie era:
The explosive, he lowered down the inside wall of the dam, letting it sink many yards beneath the dirty, muddy water.
The preparations completed, he kneaded his hands gleefully. A bright light, shown in the canyon depths behind the dam, would result in instant destruction of the great edifice.
"The minute you see Doc Savage on the canyon bed, light this!" the man ordered, and gave the flare to Buttons Zortell.
"What’s it for—a signal?" asked Buttons, somewhat confused.
The masked man hesitated the briefest moment, then chuckled. "That’s it! Sure! It’s a signal!"
"What’ll happen after we signal?" Buttons wanted to know.
"I’ll take care of that!" the other snarled. "Quit chewin’ the fat an’ get movin’! C’mon, drag it! The whole kit an’ kiboodle of you! Hurry things up!"
[When Monk washes his hands he tear gasses himself?] MONK snorted gleefully as he ran. Under his finger nails he had carried caked deposits of several chemicals—he wore his nails long for that sole purpose. Dampened and mixed, the compounds gave off a potent form of tear gas.
Renny, engineer of impressive repute, took over the mechanical end—the actual work. He was greeted with sour looks by a number of the underforemen, who resented seeing an outsider in authority.
Within an hour, the grumbling stopped. The complaining ones stared in astonishment. Here was a man, they realized, who knew his stuff!
The plant attendant, a gangling giant almost as big as Renny, let the ammonia compressors overheat. As a result, a bearing froze. Renny raised a roar that could have been heard a mile—not an uncommon performance for a construction man.
The attendant took a swing at Renny—and awakened in the camp hospital four hours later. For the next week, the fellow maintained he had been hit by no human fist—it could have been nothing less than a sixteen-pound rock hammer. Eye-witness testimony was to the contrary.
"You see, Mister Savage, we took it for granted you would aid us," he now offered. "We had heard great things of you, and the strange life you lead. Or at least it seems a somewhat strange existence to me—your business of traveling to the far corners of the earth to help those who need help."
[Doc "The Grim Reaper" is still craving justice] "And punishing those who have it coming to them!" Doc was moved to add, thinking of Monk’s attractive secretary in the hands of Buttons Zortell.
Jud had once thrashed a very small and weak boy for accidentally bumping into him. He had always remembered what a puny little bundle of flesh the kid had been in his hands.
Jud felt like that boy now. Every move he made was thwarted by arms of steel. He swung awful blows—only to have his fists actually seized in midair and shoved back to his side. And wherever the bronze grip of his Nemesis settled, numb and ghastly pain was left.
It was not often that Doc used his fists. When he did, no blows were wasted. Should he have had to strike a second time, he would probably have added a half hour to his daily exercise routine.
Monk's capable assistant Lea Aster makes her first appearance, and she's awesome. According to the Sanctum reprint after Pat Savage was introduced there was no need for two of a kind, so Lea was, as George Orwell would say, made an "unperson":
Dashing forward, Buttons Zortell seized Lea Aster. The blonde screamed, struck at him...
LEA ASTER was an athletic young woman. The roof outside the penthouse held a screened-in tennis court, and few days passed that she and Monk did not play a few hard-fought sets of the game.
She was inflicting punishment on Buttons Zortell. She hit him on the Adam’s apple, a blow Monk had shown her with the assurance that it was one of the most painful that can be landed...
Lea Aster, the instant she was released, sprang upon Buttons Zortell. The force of her charge knocked the man to the floor. They scuffled violently until they were separated...
Lea Aster kicked the man holding her. He gasped, then flung her into a corner...
For answer, Buttons suddenly rushed Lea Aster. He fought with the blonde young woman an instant, then succeeded in knocking her unconscious with a fist blow.
[Enjoy the understated joke from Doc at the end] From an inner pocket, he drew a small object—a common firecracker of the dime-a-package variety. This was capable of making a report like a gun-shot. It was fitted with an extra long fuse. Doc sometimes found it convenient to have a shot sound occur at one point while he was at another. He carried the firecrackers for this purpose.
He placed it carefully beside the watch, lighted it, and quit the tenement...
Behind him, the earth seemed to fly to pieces. The pavement convulsed under the concussion of a terrific explosion. Smoke and débris spouted from the sashless tenement windows. Bricks fell out of the walls. Should any one have been in the vacant building, there was no question but that they would have died...
"But what caused that explosion?"
"I left a firecracker behind."
Monk snorted. "No firecracker could make a blast like that!"
[A "televisiphone"] Ham glanced at his watch. "Monk will want to be in on this. What say we call him?"
Doc nodded. Striding to a desk, he flipped one of five small switches.
On the desk stood what seemed to be a box with a frosted glass panel in one end. As Doc moved the switch, a movielike image appeared on the panel.
This mechanism was a telephone-television apparatus of Doc’s construction. The five switches connected to circuits that led to the places of business of Doc’s five men—a switch for each man.
On the scanning screen of the televisor appeared the interior of Monk’s laboratory in a penthouse atop an office building near Wall Street...
Doc spoke into a microphone which was part of the mechanism. "Is Monk there?"
"Not yet," Lea Aster’s voice, rich and modulated as finely as the tones of a high-salaried radio singer, came from a loudspeaker built into the televisor. "He hasn’t come in yet."
"Have him give us a look when he arrives," Doc replied.
Clever on the part of the bad guys:
Doc did not reply with words. He leveled an arm at the city telephone, which stood on a table near them. The receiver was off the hook and resting on the table top.
Moving to the instrument swiftly, Doc pressed the receiver to his ear. He heard sounds of a man breathing. These persisted several seconds...
Buttons Zortell was the man at the other end of the phone wire. Something of the sudden tension which had seized the laboratory was transmitted to him. He became alarmed. Hanging up quickly, he quitted the booth from which he had been listening and hurried outside.
Possibly the first instance of this nonsense where flexing a muscle releases a gas. Muscles flex all the time!:
Inside his right coat sleeve, over the biceps, was a small, secret pocket. This had held several thin-walled glass balls. They contained a quick-spreading anaesthetic gas which produced instant unconsciousness—yet which became harmless after diffused in the air more than a minute.
Doc had merely broken the balls to release the gas, by tensing his tremendous biceps muscle, and held his breath until the vapor became impotent. The men would be senseless for some time.
Doc and Guns:
For once, Doc could have made good use of a gun. No firearm was at hand, however. He never carried one, although he could handle them with unbelievable accuracy.
There was a good psychological reason behind Doc’s decision not to carry a gun—he did not want to form the habit of relying on one, for well did he know that no person is quite as much at loss as a gunman without his gun.
No golf balls lay on the fairways, not even luminous balls of the type sometimes used by those eccentric persons who play night golf.
[Buttons Zortell] This man had two scars, one on either cheek. They looked like gray buttons sewed to his leathery brown features, and indicated that he had been shot through the face sometime in the past.
[When you called a newspaper they told you anything you wanted to know?] "I don’t know as I blame the boss, at that. I got a newspaper on the phone as soon as we hit New York. They gave me the dope on Savage. What I mean, it was plenty! I figured at first they was kiddin’ me. So I called another newspaper—and they told me the same stuff."
"I got Doc Savage’s life history," Buttons snorted. "It seems his dad trained ‘im from the cradle to make a superman out of ‘im.
[Later changed to his real name and not his nickname] The express elevator lifted Bandy to the eighty-sixth floor. He experienced no difficulty in locating the door he sought. The plain panel bore, in extremely small bronze-colored letters, the two words:
The speed elevator braked to a stop, doors opening quietly. Doc drove a swift glance at several large mirrors across the lobby. These were part of the modernistic decoration scheme—although they had been installed only after Doc became a tenant in the skyscraper. They were arranged so as to reflect the interior of the lobby to any one within the elevator cage.
Not a great book but not that bad either once it's all said and done. The deliberate set-up to crush the main bad guys under tons of crushing death was sweet, and the rest get lobotomies - on the house!
007 - The Lost Oasis:
"While seeking to solve the mystery of "the trained vampire murders," Doc Savage and his amazing crew suddenly find themselves prisoners of Sol Yuttal and Hadi-Mot aboard a hijacked Zeppelin. Their deadly destination is a fabulous lost diamond mine guarded by carnivorous plants and monstrous, bloodsucking bats."
The seventh Doc Savage pulp wins on points in spite of yet also because of its weird elements. There's two large sections where Doc & Co. and Bad Guys, Inc. are separated and battle mainly from afar, but they don't feel as time-stalling as what you'll trip over in other stories. Poisonous giant bats, large man-eating plants, circling vultures, and killer snakes populate a desert oasis ripe with flawless raw diamonds, and a lost zeppelin is the only way in or out. Neato! Dated September, 1933.
There's an overuse of anesthetic gas, Monk & Ham's squabbles are annoying, and Ham's the group's designated wiseguy d-bag:
"This," Monk said emphatically, "is beyond a question the hottest spot on earth! I'm as roasted as a turkey!"
To which Ham sneered: "No, you're not! You can still gobble."
It's good this didn't last long in the series. Vultures are called "Pharaoh's hens!" and the zeppelin's skin is made from linen and "Goldbeater's Skin" - the outer membrane of a calf's intestine.
The bats are a neat trick but also problematic. It's vague if they're trained or just crazed killers who come running for food when one guy whistles. More on "The Fluttering Death":
A ghastly event occurred there in the sepia gloom. A listener might have heard Jules take a few steps. Then came a strange sound. A hideous sound! It was low, fluttering. It might have come from some foul cloth, gently shaken, for there was a loathsome odor.
Jules heard. He screeched - a ripping cry of terror which seared the membranes of his throat! His feet banged the deck as he ran wildly! His gun crashed again and again! Frenzied shots!
The gruesome fluttering became louder, more violent It overtook Jules. A thud! The sound was not loud.
Jules shrieked - shrieked again and again! It was as though he were crying out his very life stream. His screeching became a spasmodic gurgling. The gurgling weakened, weakened until at last nothing at all could be heard.
A dreadful silence followed. It persisted for some seconds. From far off In the darkness sounded a series of tiny, squeaky whistles.
As if this were some sort of a signal, the hideous fluttering sound arose where Jules had fallen. There was a wave of the faint, nauseating odor. The fluttering receded in the darkness until finally swallowed by distance...
The man lay on his back, limbs contorted in frightful fashion. His hand still gripped the revolver. His eyes protruded, his teeth were bared. His expression was that of a death mask of ghastly terror. A single horrible tear gaped in Jules's throat. Through this, it was evident much of his blood had been sucked.
"Vampire bats!" He began dispatching the things with his gun...
"Ugh!" she shuddered. "They're just ordinary vampire bats, except that they are poisonous, and very large. Hadi-Mot takes care of them. He has trained the things to come when he makes a tiny squeaking noise. He always makes that sound for a time before he feeds them."
Doc had been inspecting the hideous snouts of the things. Now he straightened.
"I thought perhaps the fangs were artificially poisoned," he said. "But that is not the case. They seem to be venomous by nature. Did you ever hear where they came from?"
"From some savage native tribe far in the interior of Africa, I think," the young woman replied. "The tribal witch doctors had developed the things, spending generations at the task. They used them to murder savages upon whom they had cast a spell. At least, that is what Hadi-Mot boasted. He and Yuttal lived with that tribe when they were trading."
"That probably explains it," Doc decided. "The things are bloodthirsty by nature, and when famished, will go for any living form. The venomous quality might be developed through a process of feeding or breeding."
It would work better if the criminals trained a few and kept them separate from the colony living in a cave. The portable rattan cages used when the colony is set free are vital to the ending but weak on their own. Walking around in a rattan box you're grabbing onto isn't going to stop giant vampire bats from knocking it over. The Lost Oasis falls short in the logistics of how the bats are kept, how they're released, and what happens once released. Better to have a few pets do something specific and the rest living a gated cave, and when released at night they go nuts and fly back before sunrise. When released, the bad guys and slaves are locked in secure housing. But then you can't have the criminals die as they did by the irony of their own hand!
The slaves as human shields was a good scene:
From half a dozen different points, compact groups of men appeared. They advanced, moving with a slow, shuffling tread - a tread of men going to their death Some of them shrieked wildly and sought to break away from the groups! But chains held them back.
These men were the slaves. They were being used by Yuttal and his gang as living shields.
"Holy COW!" Renny groaned. "Now they've got us! Our gas is no good! Yuttal's thugs are masked!"
DOC AND the others held their fire. They could not, of course, shoot down these defenseless, shackled men - although most of the slaves seemed to think that might happen. It was a study in human emotions to watch them advancing. Some had steeled themselves to a sort of exaggerated unconcern. Others trembled until they could hardly walk. Many strode mechanically, like men already dead. A few had collapsed and were being dragged.
Doc's machine guns shoot real bullets but the death count is series standard for Doc Savage:
The gun roared, firing so swiftly that it set the air throbbing as if a Gargantuan bull fiddle had come to life!
Shrieking, the skulker dragged himself back! His leg was mangled.
Doc's small bag opened silently under his bronze fingers. He removed a small container. This held a rather bilious looking powder.
Doc sprinkled a thin film of the powder upon the deck, covering an area several feet in all directions from the body. The instant the powder came from the container, it glowed brilliantly. It became like liquid fire!
But after the stuff came to rest on the deck, it ceased to glow except in spots.
The spots which still shone marked the ill-fated Jules's footprints, as well as Doc's own!
Doc Savage had many weird chemical mixtures at his command. Probably none were more unique than this powder. It had the quality of glowing only when jarred. The jarring caused the particles to break, exposing new surfaces to the air, and these shone momentarily because of a reaction between the compound and the air.
Why the footprints glowed was simply explained. Jules and Doc, stepping upon the deck planks, had depressed the wood to a microscopic degree with their weight. The wood fibers, still in the process of springing back into position, were jarring the unusual powder enough to cause it to expose new surfaces to the air, thus creating a phosphorescent reaction.
[Note they're larger than the condensed milk cans that followed] EVERY ONE at once donned the somewhat bulky fluoroscopic eyeglasses. These were near the size of shoe boxes, for their functions were intricate. They were not very heavy, however. In addition to being padded to fit the face, they were held in position by straps.
From the rear of Doc's jaws, an extra pair of molars were removed. These teeth were hollow shells containing two chemicals which, when mixed, produced a powerful explosive.
Johnny pulled at his jaw with a bony hand. Of the five, Johnny was the freshest. His qualities of endurance were astounding. He never tired. Ham claimed this was because there was nothing on Johnny's bones to get tired, Johnny being only a few degrees more plump than a skeleton.
It was a peculiarity of Johnny's gaunt physique that he needed more drinking water than the average man.
Once, in signaling a turn, the driver held out his hand. The hand was enormous. Indeed, it was such a huge hand that a motorist, an observant fellow, who chanced to be driving behind, blinked in amazement.
The muscular development of the bronze man was such as to command attention anywhere. Sinews wrapped his form like great cables. Their size, the way they seemed to flow like liquid bronze, denoted a strength little short of superhuman. Yet, because all the muscles in his giant figure were developed to an equal degree, Doc's form possessed an unusual symmetry. There was none of the knotty, bull-necked look of the professional strong man about him.
Rumors about Doc's feats were plentiful, however, and from these some of the most inventive scribes had turned out yarns which, although a bit careless of the facts in spots, made interesting reading. They ascribed to Doc the ability to do almost anything. Since the bronze man was something of a phantom, about whom few facts were obtainable, the writers let their imaginations run riot.
"You're sure they won't kill?' Doc asked sharply.
"Positive!" declared Monk.
"That is well," Doc replied. "We don't want any killing except when necessary in defense of human life."
Only Doc was unmoved. He rarely laughed, unless for the purpose of putting some one at ease, or in playing a part - which did not necessarily mean he was perpetually gloomy. He merely did not show delight, just as he rarely betrayed horror, disgust or other emotion.
[?] His flashlight beam seemed to collapse in mid-air as he switched it off.
[Cute line] His flashlight beam did a spooky dance, so shaky was the hand which held it.
"And watch out!" Doc continued. "I am not yet sure whether these two are friends or enemies. Keep your eyes peeled. You may be attacked or they may be attacked. In the latter case, I want you to guard them."
One of them was by far the fattest man Doc had ever seen. The fellow was hardly more than five feet in height, and he seemed almost that thick. He was a great, lardy ball, with flapping sacks of fat for arms and legs.
The fat man's head narrowly missed being a part of his round body. It was hardly more than a hump. His mouth was a gigantic curve; his nose was enormous; his eyes were very large.
Ample features usually lend a pleasant aspect to the human face. They did not do so to this fellow. His features were so evil as to be appalling.
"You're Doc Savage!" he gulped. "Say, mister, there wouldn't be a chance of me collectin' that million-bucks reward, would there? The dough was supposed to be paid to the guy that found you!"
"It happens that I found you," Doc pointed out sardonically. "Anyway, you're a few hours too late."
Doc himself wondered what latest act of Monk's had got under Ham's skin. He soon saw what it was. Monk was wearing an outfit of clothing, from hat to spats, which exactly matched Ham's garb. On Ham, the somewhat flashy attire was sartorial perfection. But the garb made the homely Monk look like he was rigged up for a carnival spieling job.
[Series alternate title] They might have been designated as the firm of Trouble Busters, Inc.
Doc entered the library. He possessed a great file of newspaper clippings, kept up to date for him by a firm engaged in such work.
Doc did not trouble to get a taxi. He took the center of the street, where the going was less hampered, and ran.
Manhattan is a narrow strip of land surrounded by water. A fast car can reach the water front in a few moments from any part of the isle. In a boathouse on the Hudson River side of the island, Doc Savage kept two amphibian planes. One was a monster high-speed trimotored craft, The other was an autogyro, also of rather large size. Both craft had silenced motors.
[Not a chance of anyone getting hurt] "Get well ahead of the machine," Doc told Renny. "We'll drop a few fistfuls of Monk's gas bombs in the path of the cab. When the car runs into the vapor, those aboard win be made unconscious. Pick a spot where the road is crooked-where the taxi will be traveling slowly. We don't want any one hurt."
The good outweighs the not-so-good, and if you power through the sections where distance separates the warring parties you should enjoy this a decent amount for the decent amount of decentness it offers.
008 - The Sargasso Ogre:
"A ruthless attempt on the life of one of Doc’s crew thrusts the Man of Bronze and his incomparable companions into a chilling new adventure. From the ancient, skull-lined catacombs of Alexandria to a fantastic sea of floating primitive life where they unravel the centuries-old mystery of the Sargasso, Doc Savage and his men once more pursue the perverse agents of evil!"
"He went directly to the high poop."
"A narrow, low door admitted to the poop"
The Sargasso Ogre is one of the better Doc Savage books for a few reasons - 1) The bad guy is a decent opponent for Doc in the muscles and fighting categories, 2) The Sargasso Sea exists and part of Bermuda Triangle lore, and it's easier to visualize ships, seaweed, flotsam, and jetsam correctly than a fantastical place under the earth or sea, and, 3) It's a great story that drags only a little to hit word quota. Doc's alone for almost half the book, and that's usually a good thing. The book failed three times but otherwise it's a fun adventure and worthy of your "valuable" leisure time.
The Sargasso Sea teems with fish, sea flora, and non-biodegradable plastic waste. Not so much boats. The premise of this adventure came from a 1909 book and 1929 silent film titled The Isle Of Lost Ships. The Sargasso Ogre is a silent book from October of 1933. It's also #8 in the Doc Savage series and supposedly Lester Dent's favorite.
Leaving the lesser things for last because The Sargasso Ogre has better features to highlight, Ham & Monk die for reals and Doc goes John Travolta on them like what happened to Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction: "Doc Savage, introducing adrenalin and other stimulants with a long hypodermic needle, which actually reached the hearts of the two men, caused the pulse to start once more."
Jacob Black Bruze as The Sargasso Ogre is a great Doc villain who loses points by turning coward after his big fist fight with Doc, lasting longer than usual for the series. If Dent didn't make him a putz after that, Bruze would easily be the best Doc Savage bad guy of all time:
A grim, hawk-faced giant occupied a chair in the center of the cabin. The night was warm, made sticky by the rain, and he wore no shirt. His torso was enormously muscled. He had a set of biceps which were only a little smaller than footballs...
"Don't you guys get worried." Bruze held up his right arm and flexed the muscles. The limb seemed to acquire additional ligaments -- it became unbelievably huge and hard.
The stranger was balancing expertly on his hands and raising and lowering himself. This was no mean feat, but he was doing it easily. And he did it innumerable times.
He had a regulation exerciser of spring cables. Five such cables were all an ordinary man could handle. Yet there were more than fifteen strands on this apparatus. After working out with that a while, the man turned a score or more of handsprings, flinging himself high into the air.
Doc Savage skirted the embattled crowd and whipped toward Bruze.
The Sargasso Ogre saw him.
Instead of retreating, Bruze rushed forward. This was remarkable in itself. Few in number were the men who, after obtaining a hint of Doc's enormous strength, had ever sought to close with him. But Bruze was probably the strongest man Doc had ever pitted himself against.
Bruze had a pleased leer on his hawklike features. He was supremely confident in his muscles. They were huge. Already, tensing knots of them had torn out his shirt sleeves and ripped his shirt across the shoulders. It looked as if the man were bloated.
The two men met thuddingly! Two leviathans of bone and flesh. Blows smacked-blows which sank like fingers jabbed into putty, although the sinews upon which they landed were tough as bundled wire.
The pleasure suddenly went out of Bruze's leer. A shocked look came on his predatory features. His expression was that of a man who had met up with an unpleasant miracle. He had never dreamed there was a foe such as this bronze man.
Doc, too, was somewhat startled. This man Bruze had a strength little, if any, short of his own.
Both men knew most of the fighting tricks in the book. Bruze tried battering with his fists, only to miss two thirds of his swings. He resorted to biting, gouging, kicking, and even clutched at his knife.
A bronze fist drove him backward before he could get the blade!
They smashed together again! They toppled to the deck! They grasped each other, and so terrific was their clutch that when their fingers slipped, skin came away as if scalded.
As a fight, it was virtually even. But Bruze was not satisfied with that.
"Help me!" he bellowed at his men. "Scrag this guy! Shoot him! Use a knife!"...
Bruze began to squeal and hiss as he fought. This did him no good. It merely wasted his breath. And it showed he was getting scared about the outcome of this hand-to-hand battle he had entered so confidently.
He was accustomed to opponents who were like rabbits in his grasp, not a tawny tiger who was his own equal.
Bruze got a grip on Doc's throat.
Bruze tried to hang on, but was flung off. He spun down the deck like a vaudeville tumbler, his great strength warding off injury.
He came to his feet. It was then that he realized his gang I was whipped. Instead of returning to the attack, he vaulted over the rail and vanished toward the weedy water.
The pair stood there a while, hands cupped back of their ears.
"Ain't nothin' to do but wait!" Bruze growled. "Dammit! If it hadn't been for this wound of mine, I'd have gone along!"
This made it plain that Bruze was using the imaginary injury to keep out of any engagement in which he might encounter Doc.
Doc's on top of his game, great but not descended from Mount Olympus:
[Always Good] Doc had a fair knowledge of this section of Alexandria, just as he had, stored in his retentive memory, what amounted to a map of every large city on the globe. This was part of an amazing course of training which Doc had administered to himself -- a training to fit himself for this strange life work of helping those in need of help, and punishing those who deserved it.
[He did and he didn't, but mostly didn't] Doc got the door open. He whipped through, hands empty except for his flashlight. Doc Savage never used a gun in his fighting.
Doc kept the orchestra going most of the time. At his suggestion, only the liveliest tunes were rendered. He himself devised new arrangements when the old pieces grew stale, showing in the process that he possessed a knowledge of music as remarkable as his learning along other lines.
[As seen in Alien] Doc was seeking a large ship, one aboard which he could play something in the nature of a frightful game of hide and seek with his pursuers. He was a master at that sort of thing. He could seek them out, one or a few at a time, and overpower them until they gave up in terror and fled.
Doc studied the charming picture she presented. Along with his other training for his perilous career of hunting trouble, he had taken a course in feminine psychology. Sometimes he wondered if he had learned anything, after all. The intricacies of the feminine mind were beyond any psychologist.
Doc told them all the latest news, including the newest in feminine styles. When he saw how pathetically eager they were, he used crayons, which some one produced, and sketched the summer dress models from Paris and New York.
Another man would have been astounded at Doc's knowledge of these things. To the ladies, it was scarcely less remarkable.
Doc was woman-proof. In his life, with its constant peril and violence, there was no place for the fair sex.
Consequently, he disregarded them. He simply exercised his remarkable will power and carefully avoided any entanglements.
This was not difficult for Doc. But it was occasionally tough on the young women who came in contact with the bronze man's amazing personality. They could not help but be attracted.
Doc was not unaware of the effect he had upon the fair sex. So he took care not to be snared, even by so gorgeous a young lady as this titian-haired queen.
His rather pleasant, unlovely features, bore numerous ancient scars -- thin, gray lines, as if a chicken with chalk feet had paraded on his face.
[Would have been nice if Ham used the "sheath portion" as a defensive weapon and club while also using his sword cane.] THEY returned to Doc's suite, where Ham secured the sheath portion of his sword cane. When the blade was cased, it became an innocent black walking stick. Ham was never seen without this article.
Johnny squinted through his peculiar spectacles. "Do you want to bet that it was not the unwhiskered Santa Claus who searched Doc's suite?"...
It was a habit of Johnny's, this offering to wager -- but he never suggested a bet where there was a chance of losing.
The Sargasso Sea Junkyard is a nice setting:
The Cameronic had drifted almost to the center of the Sargasso Sea during the night! They had reached the spot told of in story and legend!
Ships were before them. An amazing fleet! They seemed to date from all ages. Some were comparatively spic and span, craft which had been here only a matter of weeks or months. Others were older. Centuries older, if their strange construction was a guide.
Many of the craft floated high in the water. More were half-hull deep. Not a few were water-logged and practically submerged -- little more than mounds in the repellent, yellow weed. Some were canted on their sides. Here and there, one had capsized completely.
Monk started counting, but speedily gave it up. The number of the derelicts was bewildering. Their masts were like a naked jungle on the horizon.
The hulks had been brought together by the push of ocean currents from all sides. Nor was the strange forest composed of ships alone. There was everything that would float -- sticks, planks, hatches, logs, bottles, metal barrels, and wooden barrels! Every conceivable kind of trash!...
The wrecks were not jammed as closely together as it had seemed from a distance. A few rubbed rail to rail. But many floated some yards from the nearest neighbor.
"Men -- women, too -- have been here for generations," she said. "No one knows for just how long. Some of the Sargasso Ogre's gang are descendants of people who have been here a century or more. They are the worst. Long existence in this place seems to drain every human quality."...
"THERE have always been bad men in the Sargasso," Kina la Forge went on. "But they have been controlled. We had a government, a tiny republic, such as the books say you have in the United States. My father was president."
Doc drew a small case from a pocket. This held a peculiar powder. At frequent intervals, he dropped a pinch on the tunnel floor...
Ahead of them, marking the way to the exit, was a procession of glowing spots. These might have been red-hot coals! As a matter of fact, they were the chemical powder which Doc had sprinkled along his incoming path. This powder, although it possessed no glow at first, became phosphorescent after a short exposure to damp air.
Doc had thrust two fingers far back in his mouth. They came out, bearing two molars. These were extras which Doc always wore. They held two different chemical mixtures.
Upon his finger tips were the tiny hypodermic needles which administered the sleep drug. These needles were in- cased in cleverly made thimbles of bronze. Their presence upon his fingers could hardly be detected.
The fact that the thimbles were not noticeable, immediately gave Bruze's men the idea that Doc possessed supernatural powers. For, at his mere touch, whiskered. tough-muscled villains were stopped in their tracks. In each instance, they seemed to sleep a few seconds on their feet, then slump heavily to the deck, where their slumbers were continued.
Violence is reduced from previous outings:
The trouble was not long coming. Weather tarpaulins were up on the bridge of the Cameronic. A knife blade furtively opened a rip in one of these. A rifle barrel appeared.
Doc's alert eyes discerned the weapon. What followed took only snap parts of a second. Doc swept the compact little machine gun from Monk's furry paw. It stuttered -- twelve reports, perhaps! They were so swift that no ear could have counted them, or hardly have distinguished them one from the other.
Behind the weather cloth, a man jumped up like a toy on a string. He screamed, whirled around and around, dervish fashion, and pawed at a mutilated arm. Then he ran for cover...
On the bridge, two men ran into view with automatic pistols. But before they could fire, Doc's compact weapon racketed again. The pair seemed to melt down as lead tore at their legs.
Doc was refraining deliberately from killing; his men would do likewise.
Doc lunged in. He was a bit too late. Captain Stanhope, little old grandma that he was, had not the strength to match his opponent.
The latter twisted his gun into the skipper's chest, and pulled the trigger.
The roaring explosion caused the gun to jump backward from the skipper's chest as if it were a scared thing! The bullet tunneled through Captain Stanhope's heart, went on, and parted his spine. He was instantly dead -- dead beyond even Doc Savage's miraculous ability to restore life.
The killer sought to turn his gun on Doc, but didn't succeed. It was doubtful if he even saw the fist which hit him. But his ugly jaw suddenly skewered over and under one ear.
[Opening lines of book] An American man of letters once said that, if a man built a better mousetrap, the world would beat a path to his door.
Pasha Bey was like that. His output was not mousetraps, but it was the best of its kind. Being modern, Pasha Bey had become president of a vast organization which specialized in his product. The fame of Pasha Bey was great. From all of Egypt, men beat a path to his door, which was likely to be anywhere in Alexandria. They came to buy his product, of course.
Pasha Bey's product was murder!
It was necessary to keep a close watch to avoid collision with floatsam. At one point, he maneuvered around a large life raft.
There were at least half a dozen skeletons upon the raft, lying in the lashings of rotting ropes. They were victims of some sea tragedy, no doubt, individuals who had perished of thirst or hunger long before their raft had been carried into the Sargasso.
The gunner saw Doc. His eyes bulged. His mouth dropped open and his tongue hung out. It was the first time Doc had ever seen a surprised man's tongue hang out.
DOC SAVAGE and Long Tom glided into the gloom-filled tunnel. They had held back from the fight, practicing a policy of letting dog eat dog.
Captain Ned Stanhope, his name was. He was a little old grandma of a man.
The water strung down out of the heavens like oyster soup.
Renny took charge. Their fighting campaign, to be effective, required some one in command.
Although Doc's five aids held an equal ranking, it was the big-fisted engineer who was most fitted for the present emergency. Renny was a master of tactics. Had the job ahead involved chemistry, Monk would have assumed control; had it been an electrical task, Long Tom would have led.
[Casually eating a candy bar is a rare Doc thing, and did he pay for it?] Employing a regular lifeboat davit, Doc lowered his shell to the surface. Munching chocolate he had taken from the Cameronic candy shop, he slid down the ropes and planted himself carefully in the light hull.
The three lesser aspects of the book are Doc in disguise (small thing), Jacob Black Bruze's twinge of ethical remorse (larger thing), and the violent resolution of hostilities at the close (big thing). I never believe it when Doc disguises himself, especially on the fly, as another person well known to others in his group. It's a suspension of disbelief for children and adults who let this go because they figure they're reading something aimed at children. Doc as "Big Sheik":
Seven evil-looking men now appeared in a group. They were chuckling at the expense of one of their number. This fellow was very fat, judging from the flabby bulges which stuffed his garments. If his appearance was any criterion, he would weigh at least three hundred pounds.
His skin was a brownish color. He wore a flowing burnoose of fine silk, and had curly black hair. He was a half-caste white.
His face was swathed partially in bandages. He carried one arm in a sling.
"Wallah!" he gritted with a strong Arabic accent. "By the beard of my father, I will stick a knife in the next man who makes what he calls the wisecrack!"
Considering the premise it's obvious Bruze and his gang have killed at least hundreds of people, and since there are no children I assume they were wiped out when their ships were lost to the Sargasso Sea. Bruze soon enough would be killing the 300 people from the newly wrecked Cameronic. Why then does Dent give us this?:
He advanced, keeping well under cover. He felt a little queer inside, and a strange sort of reluctance possessed him. Bruze was a calloused thug. He did not recognize these subconscious urgings for what they were.
Somewhere inside Bruze there was a speck of humanity. A tiny trace of a decent man! Bruze had had nothing to do with this inner fellow for so long that he had forgotten his presence.
The simple fact was that Bruze felt reluctant to perform the horrible deed he was contemplating. In spite of himself, he hoped those aboard the battleship would surrender.
The self-created death trap, a staple of the Doc Savage oeuvre, serves its dramatic purpose but is otherwise a cheap out. Doc's been effectively hit-and-running Bruze and his men for a while so Bruze, a smart person, shouldn't be falling for the ship he's surrounded with floating gasoline being now free and clear of any danger to himself. The ship's former inhabitants have surrendered to the location where he keeps his most secret possession, and a pile of loot is on the abandoned ship for easy plucking? Bruze and most of his men go on the gasoline death trap with Doc still alive?
A small annoyance - "A flip freed the grapple... The silken line was enameled". A rope requires weight to undo a grapple hook. Here the line is enameled, so maybe, but usually it's just a thin silk strand that can't be a rope because it would be too bulky to wear in your vest.
To make The Sargasso Ogre a great book, and most likely the best ever, drop Doc's Big Sheik disguise, jettison Bruze's foreign thoughts of remorse, have Bruze never be a coward or shrink away from fighting Doc directly, and redo the ending to get Bruze and his men on the doomed vessel in a way that doesn't break the back of credulity.
009 - The Czar Of Fear:
"DOC SAVAGE IS ACCUSED OF MURDER! The bronze giant battles police, thugs, and a macabre foe in a spectacular struggle to save a city from total desolation. The Arch Enemy of Evil pits his tremendous resources against the grisly and mysterious Green Bell--the sinister hooded figure whose deadly genius threatens to destroy Doc and drive thousands of innocent people mad!"
Number nine in the series, dated November, 1933, The Czar Of Fear was most likely a neat book if you were hitting puberty. For adults it's filled with the kind of nonsense only a child finds feasible. As adult reading it's bad and at times laughably so. Is it then a bad book? Not that as much as slapped together for young readers who take everything at face value. If you're a lawyer you might rip apart every legal drama as wrong on many levels of process and procedure. I'm doing that with The Czar Of Fear as I'm not twelve.
Where to start... where not to start? The Green Bell outfits are tall cylinders "...it might have been a black six-foot tube of flexible India rubber, except that it had arms and legs." Not practical for running around committing murders, and especially bad for sitting. There's times to wear a costume, but not when being seen wearing said costume in public will immediately give you away as a member of the Green Bell's gang.
If you're The Green Bell you wear a gong under your Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man costume to alert your men within talking distance instead of simply saying out loud that they should assist you. Did you know random thug criminal types with police records can accuse you of murdering a stranger and the police will come after you like you just killed the entire cast on-stage at the Ambassador Theatre's 1933 revival of "Springtime For Henry"? It's true!
An immobile scarecrow wearing a Green Bell costume will fool a room of people it's a real person, and its voice will sound relatively normal even though it's coming from a pipe that runs under the ground a good distance and then drops 250 feet. If you tie a wire to a bottle buried in the earth it will pull the trigger on a machine gun hidden in a tree. Ventriloquism works even if you can't see the speaker, or think a ventriloquist is in a certain place, or there's no attempt at physical misdirection. Doc's offer to buy all of Prosper City's industries and then sell them back makes no sense when he could just throw more money at people like he does anyway. Doc's swell for enlisting men on a mission that might get them killed, but at least their families will get by financially for as long as Doc is around to make the payments:
"You fellows are going to earn that money," Doc told them. "You are going to form an armed guard to protect the plants as we open them. Some of you may be killed. But the family of any man who dies in the line of duty will receive a trust-fund income of two hundred dollars a month for the balance of life."
The Green Bell's identity is obvious because of bits like this below. When early on in a Doc novel it's asked who the secret mastermind could possibly be, you've already met him:
"The Green Bell telephoned us," was the droned answer. "He just said for us to follow you and kill you and your men when we got a chance. We were not to harm the two women and Ole Slater."
When Doc sinks his hand into someone's arm to where his fingers sink all the way in, that's a sign the person's not a nice fellow. The insanity device turns anyone near it insane in short order, so who volunteered to place it next to Slick Cooley's jail cell and then come back later while it's still on to remove it? The last major fail is when Doc tricks Tugg into thinking The Green Bell set him up to be killed. Tugg goes to Doc Savage instead of looking to kill The Green Bell, and he admits to the police he committed murders, but when The Green Bell whispers in Aunt Nora's house it was all Doc's doing, Tugg's back on board with the Green Bell.
On lesser notes in the lesser column, the exclamation abuse is brutal! The endless wondering the identity of the Green Bell is filler. Trilling is used repeatedly as a signal and it also speeds up hypnotism. Knowing the population of Prosper City would have been helpful because it's vague as to how many people were out of work. There's thirty policemen and a city newspaper so that must mean something vis-a-vis population. A number of Doc Savage novels would be easier to visualize if you knew something as mundane as population counts.
On the plus side, Aunt Nora is twice called "A Brick" and it's fun how bad guys think they can hire Doc as contract muscle. Long Tom calls mosquitoes "Jersey Canaries". The Czar Of Death also contains the first reference to The Hidalgo Trading Co. warehouse.
"Doc Savage can! Take the word of an old woman who knows enough to discount half of what she hears. Doc Savage is a man who was trained from the cradle for the one purpose in life of righting wrongs. They say he's a physical marvel, probably the strongest man who ever lived. And moreover he's studied until he knows just about everything worth knowing from electricity and astronomy to how to bake a decent batch of biscuits."
Doc grasped the fellow's arms. Bronze fingers all but sank from view as they tightened.
An agonized wail was forced through the man's teeth. He dropped his gun. The excruciating pressure on his arm muscles caused his fingers to distend like talons.
He tried to kick backward. But pain had rendered him as limp as a big rag. His head drooped; his eyes glazed. He was on the verge of fainting from the torture.
Doc tucked the slack figure under an arm, entered the speed elevator, and rode back to the eighty-sixth floor.
[Doc uses a gun] Doc reached for the pistol which he had taken from the fake watchman. He rarely carried a gun himself. He held the opinion that a man who carried a firearm would come to put too much dependence on it, and accordingly, would be the more helpless if disarmed.
An ear could barely divide the twin roar which his shots made. The charging pair seemed to go lopsided, reel, then topple down, two loose bundles of arms and legs.
Ordinarily, Long Tom kept a level head; but on rare occasions, he flew into a great rage. He was having one of his tantrums now. The accusations against Doc had heated him to the exploding point
AS THE women were leaving, the gorilla ambled upon the scene.
This personage had, to give him his due, some man-like qualities. His finger nails were manicured, even if the job had been done with a pocketknife. His little eyes glistened with keen intelligence in their pits of gristle. His face attained that rare quality of being so homely that it was pleasant to look upon.
His clothing was expensive, although it did look like it had been slept in. He would weigh every ounce of two hundred and sixty pounds, and his hairy arms were some inches longer than his bandy legs.
Then he hit Slick. Hit him on the nose!
Slick's curly hair was varnished straight back on his head. The blow was so hard that it made the hair stand out suddenly in front, as if blown by a wind from behind.
Describing a parabola, Slick lit on his shoulders and skidded a score of feet. His nose had been spread over most of his weasel face.
The voice was pouring from an underground pipe! "Never mind," the master mind said hastily, apprehensive lest his hirelings learn the figure in the barn was only a stuffed dummy of wood and fabric. possibly two hundred and fifty feet below.
BACK TO the open front window, Doc moved. The wall of one circus tent was not many yards distant. He faced this. The remarkable muscles in his throat knotted into strange positions.
He spoke loudly, using ventriloquism. His words seemed to come from the tent wall. They were strange words -- a not unmusical stream of gutturals.
The officers advanced. Counting Doc's four aids and the score of recruits for the food distribution, there came near being one prisoner for every policeman.
The search got under way. Monk coughed loudly. Instantly, every captive brought his right hand in contact with the face or hands of the lawman who was frisking him.
The Policemen toppled over like mown bluegrass. They lay where they fell, snoring loudly.
[Talking to himself about his plans?] Slick had been facing the camera when he whispered: "I'll plant my toy there, then go to Chief Clements's office and wait for him to turn up!"
Doc Savage was a proficient lip reader.
"That explains what just happened here, Ham! Jim Cash hid his evidence against the Green Bell, and marked the hiding place on his arm! He must have written me a letter from Prosper City, suggesting that, in case he was killed, I should look on his arm for the information."
A machine gun was lashed to the tree. Its ugly snout angled downward. Doc sidled along the limb, examined it. He sighted down the barrel. It was aimed at the tiny recess in the thorns, which probably held the poison.
A flexible wire, attached to the trigger, ran down through tiny, greased pulleys. A death trap! Any one who grasped the poison bottle would be instantly riddled.
[And Tugg believes him?] The verbal interchange had been short. In a single angry sentence, Tugg had told of the machine gun. With equal terseness had come the reply that the whole thing must be a clever plot by Doc Savage.
The darksome form suddenly lifted a clenched, blackgloved fist. The fist rapped against the bell design done in green on the mantle. And the bell rang! Dull, muted-but it rang!
Same sort of a small gong was mounted under the black cloth.
Near-by darkness came to rushing life. Dusky figures popped up like evil genies. Their arms waved, tentacle fashion, and yellow-red sparks leaped out of the ends. Gun sound convulsed the air.
"Damn you! Damn them eyes!" He squirmed madly, gnashing the links of his handcuffs together. "What d'you wanta know? I'll spill! Only turn them glims the other way!"
ASTOUNDED EXPRESSIONS settled on the faces of those in the room. They had seen this man on the floor defy blows and threats of death. But he had succumbed to the mere stare of the bronze giant.
Monk maneuvered over behind Doc, eyed the table, then asked: "How on earth did the guy get it? There was a ring of cops around the table!"
Doc pointed at a tiny cut in the table top.
"He simply fled a penknife to a thread, leaned over a cop's shoulder, and speared the piece of wood. Harpooned it, if you like
"The murder charge against you in New York is all washed up!" Ham declared.
"How'd you work it?" Doc inquired.
"Simply by putting the fear of Old Nick into the four lying witnesses! I dug up some stuff in their past -- burglary and blackmail. That did the trick! They broke down and confessed that they were hired to say they saw you kill Jim Cash!"
[What about her personal belongings?] "How did Aunt Nora take the loss of her house?"
"Swell! She said it was an old wreck that she'd been tryin' to sell for years, anyway!"
Doc always carried a few ordinary firecrackers with long fuses. These had proved convenient on many occasions.
DOC BACKED from the window. Without apparent haste, but none the less with deceptive speed, he crossed to the massive table and touched several inlaid segments. These depressed under his fingers, but immediately sprang back into place, so as to conceal the fact that the table top was one great cluster of push buttons.
Misc. and Good Stuff:
Jim managed a gray smile.
"New York is not my stompin' ground, and this Savage bird hangs out here. I don't know much about him. Kind of a trouble buster, ain't he?"
"Exactly! I understand he is a very fierce and competent fighting man, who has a group of five aids."
"A muscle man with a gang, eh?"
An express elevator which ran noiselessly and with great speed, lifted Judborn Tugg to the eighty-sixth floor. He strutted pompously down a richly decorated corridor.
Sighting a mirror, Tugg halted and carefully surveyed his appearance. He wanted to overawe this Doc Savage. That was the way to handle these common thugs who hired themselves out for money.
Tugg lighted a dollar cigar. He had another just like it which he intended to offer Savage. The fine weeds would be the final touch. Doc Savage would be bowled over by the grandeur of Judborn Tugg.
Tugg did not know it, but he was headed for one of the big shocks of his career.
He knocked on a door, puffed out his chest, and cocked his cigar in the air.
The door opened.
Judborn Tugg's chest collapsed, his cigar fell to the floor, and his eyes bulged out.
"The guy as good as got away!" he advised the huge, furry man and the two women, when he rejoined them. "Now -- you two ladies! We've still got to settle about them guns you were carryin'!"
"The ladies tell me they were on their way to see Doc Savage," the hairy fellow advised in his babylike voice.
The cop blinked. Then he grinned from ear to ear.
"That makes it different," he chuckled. Then he walked away, acting as if he had never seen the two women.
Grinning, Monk ambled to a public telephone in the corridor. He got the number of the Hotel Triplex from the phone book, then called the hostelry. He asked the hotel operator for the night manager.
"You have a guest named Judborn Tugg," Monk informed the hotel man. "Doc Savage just threw this fellow out of his office."
"In that case, we'll throw him out of the Hotel Triplex, too," Monk was advised.
[Funny line] "You may get your wish!" tolled the Green Bell. "My little scheme will undoubtedly result in Doc Savage dying in the electric chair!"
"This disguised hangar -- these planes -- that office of yours!" She waved her arms. "These things have cost a lot of money! You must be rich as sin!"
The bronze man only gave her one of his rare smiles.
Aunt Nora's house stood on the outskirts of Prosper City, at the foot of a range of high, wooded hills, which the local citizens called mountains.
An agitator drew a pistol and tried to kill Monk. The first shot missed.
Renny lunged in and flung a fist that was as big and hard as half a concrete block.
The gun wielder dropped, his jaw broken like so much gravel.
"You're going to die," Doc told him -- but neglected to mention the mortal date.
Slick naturally presumed Doc meant immediately. Doc had no intention of slaying Slick. He had merely stated a natural truth, and let Slick draw his own conclusions.
The Czar Of Fear is popular with Doc Save fans. For them I hope it's made into a Hanna-Barbera cartoon as that's the level to which it rises. Or sinks.
010 - The Phantom City:
"Arabian thieves led by the diabolically clever Molallet set one fiendish trap after another for Doc Savage and his mighty five. Only "Doc," with his superhuman mental and physical powers, could have withstood this incredible ordeal of endurance which led from the cavern of the crying rock through the pitiless desert of Rub' Al Khali and its Phantom City to a fight to the death against the last of a savage prehistoric race of white-haired beasts."
Check out concave-chest Doc Savage on the cover! The tenth novel, dated December, 1933, is (in)famous for the first appearance of Dumb Pig (Habeas Corpus), bookend to Stupid Ape (Chemistry), first seen in 1935's Dust Of Death. The Phantom City scores high on the Fantastical Meter with a white-haired good-guy race, a white-haired primitive bad-guy primitive, a lost city, a villain with rapper's teeth, an old-timey Coilgun, rafts made out of inflated camel skins, and who knows what else. The second half leans heavily on improvised fantasy fiction, so the Nonsense Meter fluttered frantically.
The Sanctum reprint did not explain why Stupid Pig was created in the first place. There was no potential for a plush toy sell-through with Automat Happy Meals, and the Doc Savage world was crowded enough with Doc, Five Guys, and Pat. Assuming earlier Ham & Monk interactions were too nasty, a few Arnold Ziffel hijinks might have lightened the mood from hate to madcap. Possibly. Here's how Dumb Stupid first entered the national consciousness:
An ear-splitting howl came from below decks! There were loud smacks, the frantic clatter of feet. An instant later, Monk shot up out of the deck hatch like something furry erupted by a noisy volcano.
Under one arm, Monk carried a pig. The shoat was fully as homely a specimen of the porker species as Monk was of the human race. It was a razor-back with legs as long as those of a dog, and ears so big they resembled wings.
Ham came close on Monk's heels, belaboring with his sheathed sword cane. He was in a dancing rage.
"You hairy missing link!" he howled. "I'll skin you alive! I'll hollow you out until that pig can use you for a garage! I'll - "
"what's the trouble?" Doc questioned.
An innocent look on his homely face, Monk scratched the enormous ears of his pig. "The shyster don't seem to like Habeas Corpus, here!"
Ham shrieked: "You dressed the pig up with my best necktie!"
"Habeas Corpus likes corn." Monk smirked. "The necktie was corny yellow, and Habeas was a bit seasick, so the tie made him work up an appetite
"I'll work you up!" Ham gritted.
Renny emitted a thundering laugh. "Where'd you get that missin' link of the pig race, Monk?"
"In Bustan," grinned Monk. "He's got the makin's of a great hog, Habeas Corpus has. I found 'im chasin' a dog big enough to fight a lion."
"And you probably stole him!" Ham sneered. "Nix! I paid his Arab owner one qirsh for 'im! That's about four cents, American money. This Arab said Habeas Corpus had taken to goin' out in the desert and catchin' hyenas." Monk gave Ham a meaning look. "He kept so many dead hyenas dragged up to the Arab's house, that it was a nuisance, and so the Arab had to get rid - "
"Are there hyenas in the Arabian desert?" Renny queried.
"I forgot to ask the Arab," Monk grinned.
[The idiocy starts early. Monk immediately drags pig along on a dangerous mission]
The little boat raised its bows and dragged a fan of wake shoreward.
Monk had his pig, Habeas Corpus, between his knees. With his furry hands, he fished out one of the compact rapid-firer pistols. Ham also produced one of the remarkable guns.
Maybe a lightening of tone was desperately needed because of things like this below. Ham's happy because he knew Monk would spend the entire long trip vomiting from sea sickness:
Ham, immaculate in white ducks and sun helmet, smiled blissfully. Monk had spent a miserable time crossing. There had been much rough sea.
The story flows well enough in NYC and even in both the desert and the Phantom City, then sinks in sloooow exposition in this exotic land of adventure and danger. The Helldiver is confusing as it's the length of a football field (in this story at least) yet "Kenneth Robeson" writes about it traveling around in small cramped spaces.
The black light assault on the Times Square hotel was good. Dent describes rain as both a "leaking night" and a "drooling night". And how rap is this?:
The man's right eye moved as he appraised Doc and his two companions - but his left eye remained strangely fixed. He showed most of his teeth in a great smile. The teeth were artificial, of platinum or white gold. In the center of each was set a clear diamond of fair size.
The reprint implies The Phantom City was the first novel to highlight the new, non-lethal Doc Savage philosophy. Note the added passive-aggressiveness of the second part:
Too, Doc never took human life if it could be avoided. His enemies, however, had a distressing habit of coming to an untimely but deserved end in traps they had themselves set for the bronze man.
Even in the most heated combat, Doc never took life directly if it could be helped. His kindness, however, did not keep him from permitting his foes to occasionally fall a victim of some death trap of their own.
There's still violence, and Doc never explains to them why the bad guys shouldn't come after him at the end, ensuring their horrible deaths:
There was a frightful power in the bronze man's fists. They hit with precision, searching out vulnerable spots. And they left squarish patches of crushed, broken skin which oozed scarlet.
The fellow trying to club the girl sought to reverse his pistol. Monk flung the rock. It caught the dark man in the face. There was a mushy plop as it hit, and the whole character of the man's features changed.
The Hellfire described:
The craft was slender, cigar-shaped, possibly a hundred yards in length. The hull was without a superstructure, although there was a collapsible shield which could be raised to form a navigating bridge. The bows terminated in a spring-steel ram of a bowsprit larger than a telephone pole. The rudders and propellers were inclosed in steel baskets to protect them from ice cakes, as were the diving fins.
From bow to stern ran massive steel runners, intended to enable the strange craft to skate along under the polar ice floes.
The Helldiver was fitted with two caged propellers, one port, one starboard.
Incidentally, there was a third propeller in the center, completely inclosed in a box of steel plates, which were hinged, and, in an emergency, could be dropped to permit use of the screw. This prop had never yet been used, except in tests. Nor did they need it now.
The low license plate number:
The traffic cop on the corner glanced at the license tags. He snapped erect. In New York, low license numerals designate the cars of the influential - this one was a single figure. The officer squinted to see who was in the machine. He smiled widely and executed a brisk salute.
At other times Doc couldn't imitate women well, but today he can:
The voice was a perfect imitation of that of Karl Zad. An eavesdropper m the next room could hardly have told the difference.. Among Doc's other accomplishments, which he had perfected by intensive study and practice, was a remarkable command of voice mimicry. He could imitate almost any tone. Moreover, he could simulate what defied most male mimics - the voice of a woman.
This is creepy. I have no issues with Doc's lobotomy camp for cretins. Maybe in 1933 that was speculative medical science at its most beneficial. Here he uses his connections to remove bay guys from police custody so he can cut into their brains:
"You can forget the four prisoners," Doc told the police captain. "They have not harmed anybody."
"Er-um-m-m!" mumbled the officer doubtfully. "I had better see if that is all right."
He called his superior, came back with his ears red, and said effusively: "The prisoners are yours. Officially, they do not exist."
With this next bit, Doc's men do fear him. Someone who can kill you with his left pinky instills fear to not get on his bad side. Second, they do have to take his commands. Doc allows them to associate with him and they feel honored to be allowed to do so. Third, it's correct his plans are always the best:
Doc blocked them. "Upstairs, men!"
They went up, obeying not because they feared Doc, or had to take his commands, but because they knew his directions were usually the best.
Renny's hands are "slightly less than a gallon of rust-colored, case-hardened knuckles". Johnny lost about a foot of height: "JOHNNY was a six-foot bag of bones". He hasn't yet become a walking dictionary: "Johnny had a precise, classroom manner about his speech." Doc's underground garage utilizes a lift:
Glistening in the rain. Doc's limousine stood where it had been deserted at the curb. Entering, Doc wheeled it toward the big metal doors. A special lift lowered the machine to the basement garage which held other cars belonging to the bronze man. These were roadsters, coupes, phaetons, and an assortment of trucks; all were powerful vehicles.
[An Olde Time Rail Gun]"It's a magnetic gun!" Long Tom explained. "I've experimented with models of small power, but never with one as strong as this. There's a powerful set of batteries, not unlike flashlight cells, wired to an electromagnet. The steel slugs are fed from a magazine, and by a system of contacts, magnetism is employed to set them in violent motion in the barrel. The current shuts off at the proper instant, and lets them fly out."
Ten books in Long Tom already has a personal museum of lost & found items. In the 1948 story I Died Yesterday, narrated in the first person by Pat Savage, she has a similar collection of Doc's gadgets that by then had fallen by the wayside:
Long Tom shouldered the strange weapon. "I'm going to add this to my museum."
Of late, the electrical wizard had taken to collecting unusual objects which they encountered in their adventures. He had equipped a private museum at his bachelor quarters in a high-class club. His assortment already contained some interesting articles.
There weren't enough white-haired humans left to rebuild, and they still had to fight off the insane white-haired beasts. A full rescue from that hell seems more in order.
It's not hard to be indifferent to The Phantom City, but to leave on a classy note, someone ejaculated that they pulled a boner:
"Holy cow!" gulped Doc's assailant. "Did we pull a boner!"
011 - Brand Of The Werewolf:
"Seeking to avenge
his brother’s his
cousin Pat Savage's father's murder, Doc Savage and his
daring crew become involved in a desperate hunt for the lost treasure of the
pirate, Henry Morgan. Stalking them every inch of the way is the archfiend, El Rabanos, and his strange ally, the werewolf’s paw!"
The eleventh Doc Savage novel is noteworthy for its introduction of Doc Savage's cousin Pat and for having "Werewolf" in its title. The idiot paperback cover shows Doc being choked by the Lon Chaney, Jr. Universal archetype, while Baumhofer's original cover features a then-current werewolf and Doc showing his teeth like he's Charles Nelson Reilly. Nobody wins.
Published January, 1934, Brand Of The Werewolf is not a good story. On its own level it's adequately told but there's precious little going on and the Good Guy Vs. Bad Guy interactions too often take place way off in the distance. There's too much happening off-page and the endless rehashing of exposition is partnered with slow procedural descriptions of Doc's tracking abilities and event recreations based on ground disturbances and bent branches. If you want a novel dedicated to Doc's visual CSI skills, choose this one. The bad guy's "mysterious" death-dealing technique is a non-starter as it's basically the same thing Doc uses on a daily basis, only deadlier, and both sides take turns lobbying gas at each other:
"The stuff which caused the mysterious sleep," Monk grinned. "It's an odorless and colorless gas which is poisonous if inhaled long enough."
Internet readers express disappointment the story doesn't pit Doc against a "real" werewolf, but in 1934 werewolves were not really a thing, here chosen most likely to fit the landscape of the deep woods of Canada. There was an American silent movie in 1913 but Werewolves of London was released in 1935 and it wasn't until 1941 that Universal's version was released and made the werewolf a staple of the horror genre. Even Abbott and Costello met the werewolf.
The book's one virtue is that Lester Dent does a nice job establishing settings and it's easy to visual where you are and what you're looking at. On the downside, Brand Of The Werewolf is filled with filler, so a good thing becomes less so when it's substituted for action and plot advancement. Here's Dent at his best:
The little metropolis was quiet. Every other street light had been extinguished to conserve electricity. Very few houses were illuminated.
Overhead, the clouds abruptly parted and let moonlight spill down. After the earlier darkness, the moon rays seemed as brilliant as sunlight. Trees along the thoroughfare were scrawny, probably because of the cold winters here in Canada. The shrubs and the houses cast moon shadows.
Dwellings became scattered, then abruptly ceased. Doc crossed a washboard of small black hills. Gullies gaped here and there, as if the skin of the earth had cracked. The road was narrow, graded only in spots. Bridges were crude spans of logs, earth-covered. Apparently the road saw little travel...
Small hills reared beyond the meadows. Suddenly the tops of these became weirdly white. It was as if an invisible hand had spilled thin snow upon them.
Then Doc discarded all caution, put on more speed. For he knew what the whiteness meant. A car was coming up the road behind him, and its headlights had bleached the hill.
The werewolf "brand" is a large rubber stamp design. The second bit is a reveal fail as there's no reason to use the rubber stamp in the cave. It's seen in earlier scenes in public places as a warning/signature, and even then there's no need for it:
From the same sack, which had held the metal flask, the fellow withdrew two fragments of rather floppy rubber. These were carved, rubber-stamp fashion. The carving was that of a wolf with strangely human features. These were obviously the stamps used to leave the weird werewolf marks.
"Now, I will give the hombres the same thing I gave Alex Savage!" growled the man.
From the same sack, which had held the metal flask, the fellow withdrew two fragments of rather floppy rubber. These were carved, rubber-stamp fashion. The carving was that of a wolf with strangely human features. These were obviously the stamps used to leave the weird werewolf marks.
Doc at this point of his career is a little green behind the ears where he's still casually tossing an insult or two Monk's way and crooking his finger at someone else like the supervisor at work you hate the most. Besides that he's ok and not over-the-top with his abilities, but this part where he walks and runs a loose tightrope twice carrying dead weight is a tough acceptance row to hoe:
She was tossed lightly across Doc's shoulders. Then the mighty bronze man seemed to leap outward, straight into the cauldron below the falls. However, his feet landed on the rope, and he came to a perfect balance. He glided along the hemp strands.
During any one of the dozen seconds which followed, Patricia would have died cheerfully. It was the most ghastly interval of her existence. She had admired the work of circus performers in the big top - trapeze and tight-wire artists who did amazing things. But she had never seen a feat which equaled this bronze man's seemingly unconcerned defiance of death...
Doc Savage crossed back over the chasm, running lightly on the rope.
Tiny was waiting there. She gazed into the chasm and shuddered.
"Wait!" she grunted uneasily. "Me take um chance - stay on this side."
The voluminous Tiny never was exactly sure what happened after that. The bronze hands pressed her head. She became helpless. Then she, also, was borne out over the thundering abyss.
Doc seemed to handle the squaw's weight as easily as he had managed Patricia's.
Pat's competent, sassy, smart, and a Savage to the core, but Dent throws this in because I guess someone has to ask the dumb question:
"What did Doc say when he shouted?"
"He said he had some of his anaesthetic gas in the ivory cube," Ham replied. "He said for us to hold our breaths, because the stuff would be released when the cube was opened."
"But why hold our breath?" Patricia queried, puzzled.
"The anaesthetic gas spreads with lightning swiftness," Ham explained. "In less than a minute it dissolves and becomes ineffective. We simply held our breaths until it was dissipated."
Renny groaned thunderously. "A fine gesture of welcome! Say, Doc, don't this Alex Savage know you?"
"Not personally," Doc replied. "He is an uncle. I have never met either him or his daughter."
"An only child, I understand. Her name is Patricia. Age about eighteen."
[Pat's first words] "Boat Face! Haven't you got that rifle fixed yet?"
The girl stepped back from a window. She had a wealth of bronze hair - hair very closely akin in hue to that of Doc Savage. She had been watching the brush that circled like a wall.
She was tall; her form was molded along lines that left nothing to be desired. Her. features were as perfect as though a magazine-cover artist had designed them.
She wore high-laced boots, breeches, and a serviceable gray shirt.
A cartridge belt was draped about her waist. From it dangled a heavy Frontier Single Action six-shooter - freely admitted by those who know to be one of the most reliable guns ever made. In the crook of her right arm lay a very modern automatic big-game rifle.
Patricia, however, had taken him by surprise. Moreover, she was a young lady who combined good looks with a well-developed muscle. She not only kept the man from yelling an alarm, but she had his wind completely shut off.
The man kicked, struck backward. Not for nothing had Patricia taken fencing lessons in a finishing school. She evaded his blows easily. The man grabbed her attractive bronze hair and gave it a tremendous yank.
Patricia Savage had often wondered what her famous cousin looked like. She had read of some of his feats. She had heard tales of him. But she had never met Doc, and she had doubted his being the man he was said to be.
Watching Doc in action, Patricia concluded he was all he was rumored to be, and then some.
Patricia gasped with faint indignation. The fact that her father was a fairly wealthy man had not exactly spoiled her, but she was not accustomed to being told what to do in such short fashion.
"They were there," Doc assured her. "I'm sorry, Pat, but Boat Face seems to have been a crook."
Patricia nodded slowly. She felt an agreeable tingling. Doc Savage had called her "Pat." This seemed to indicate that he had accepted her as one of the gang. Patricia was pleased.
Symmetry Ahoy! Doc's father is killed just before the first novel and now it's Pat's father recently murdered ten books later. And Alex Savage's cabin is his Fortress of Solitude:
"The estate had no other communication with the outside world. During his sojourns there, Alex Savage had always made it a point not to be disturbed. The place was his refuge from business worries."
Brand Of The Werewolf contains the first instance of Monk using ventriloquism to make it seem like Stupid Pig can talk. Long Tom is a "Wizard of the juice!", a phrase you don't hear much outside of Mr. Olympia contests.
[In earlier books his hands were slightly less than a gallon] One man rode there. The outstanding thing about this fellow was his gigantic hands. Each of these was composed of more than a quart of bone and gristle, sheathed in hide that resembled rusted sheet iron. The man was very big - over six feet, and weighing fully two hundred and fifty pounds - but the size of his hands made the rest of him seem dwarfed.
Renny's funeral-going expression was the one he habitually wore when at peace with the world.
Renny, in fact, was considerably more than a millionaire in his own right. His skill as an engineer had made into a fortune. He had, in a sense, retired - retired to follow the trail of what he liked above all else, adventure. Peril and excitement were the spice of his life.
Ham = Fops Magoo:
Ham was a man who entertained little liking for getting close to nature. He heartily disapproved of all rough going. This was not because he could not stand hardship Ham could take it. What Ham did dislike, though, was seeing his costly, well-tailored clothes torn off his back. Clothes were Ham's passion. He would forego anything - except possibly a fight - to remain sartorially perfect
His present garments were rapidly beckoning rags. His spirits were sinking accordingly. Ham had donned a nifty woodsman's outfit before starting on this hike. His Park Avenue tailor had told him it was the proper thing when he purchased it. Ham had known better at the time, but had failed to resist the well-tailored lines of the outfit.
Privately, Ham had no use for canoes. Years ago, one had ducked him when he was togged out in his immaculate clothes. They were tricky things, even when there was plenty of time to get into them.
Long Tom's front teeth were of a large protruding variety. Two of these were missing. The missing teeth had the effect of giving his voice a rather comical, lisping quality. He sounded very much like an irate turkey gobbler.
[Two things Doc would never master. Understanding women and stand-up comedy] "You're tellin' me?' Renny grimaced. "But what's at the bottom of it?"
"I neglected to bring my crystal ball," Doc said dryly.
[Textbook example of Revisionism] DOC Savage had, for much of his life, walked in the shadow of peril and sudden death. Many men had sought to end his existence by violent means. To kill in defense of his own life, frequently seemed imperative. Yet Doc never did that.
The bronze man's enemies by no means went unscathed. They frequently perished - but always in traps of their own setting. Doc did not take life with his own hands.
[Doctor Who had Psychic Paper. Doc carried a massive Rolodex] "I want information about certain telegrams which may have come here tonight," Doc told him.
"That is against the rules!" the young man replied promptly.
Doc brought a wallet out. This held numerous cards. He selected one particular pasteboard from the collection in that wallet.
"Does this make it any different?" he asked, and exhibited the card.
The young man looked, then whistled softly. "I'll say it does!"
The card was signed by the highest official of the company, and informed all employees that Doc Savage was to receive every assistance possible, no matter of what nature, or what the possible consequences.
"I'll use your wires," Doc told the frizzle-haired operator. He had not changed expression, but he was a bit embarrassed. Hero worship got Doc's goat - when he was the subject of admiration.
The freckled, frizzle-haired young man stared at Doc in open-mouthed amazement. He had been listening to the wire talk. He had just heard some of the fastest and most perfect hand-sent Morse to which he had ever listened. It had been as rapid as if sent with a fast automatic key, a "bug." The freckled young man had not believed such a thing possible.
A prowling dog, sighting the bronze man, began to growl fiercely.
"Cut it out, old fellow," Doc called.
The calm friendliness of the mighty man's tone had a marked effect upon the dog. It exchanged tail-wagging for growling. Doc was forced to toss a rock near the dog to keep the suddenly friendly animal from following him. This was another example of the remarkable things his great voice could do.
Unexpectedly, Doc came upon Monk. The homely chemist was sprawled flat on the ground. The pig, Habeas Corpus, lay comfortably beside him.
"Hands up!" Monk growled. "Grab a cloud!" He had failed to recognize Doc.
"Bite him, pig!" Doc ordered dryly.
Habeas Corpus promptly stood up and bit furiously at Monk. Monk dodged. Much to the homely chemist's disgust, somebody had recently taught his pet pig the trick of biting the nearest human when told to do so. Monk was usually the victim of these nips. He suspected the dapper Ham had taught the pig the trick.
[Doc's no longer a murder machine but he can still be insulting] "What's up?" Monk demanded.
"Let's see how fast you are on those bow legs of yours!" Doc suggested.
[The original Manimal] The bronze man seemed to undergo a strange change. He became animal-like in his searching for the trail. He utilized not only his eyes, but his sense of smell as well. Much of the time, he traveled on all fours. Occasionally, when desiring to move swiftly, or to clear a tangle of brush which no man could have penetrated without infinite labor, he sprang upward and swung along, with the prodigious agility of a monkey, from one tree limb to another.
Doc was an expert at reading human character. He was watching her closely. As far as he could tell, her astonishment was genuine. Doc had a suspicion, however, that the man did not live who could read a young woman's mind unfailingly by looking at her pretty face.
[Crooking your finger is condescending] Crooking a finger at Monk, Doc said: "I've got a job for you"'
DOC Savage usually wore a vest of pliable leather under his outer clothing. This vest had numerous pockets, and these held ingenious devices - apparatus with which Doc Savage could cope with almost any emergency...
Doc's escape had been managed quite simply. He now wore the remarkable vest of many pockets which held his assortment of apparatus. This was lined with a metallic mail which would stop even a big-game rifle slug.
Doc had anticipated that the sedan would spring into motion. He had reasoned that by the time it reached the gate, it would be going too swiftly for the man there to spring aboard.
His logic was right - and wrong. The man at the gate was caught off guard. Moreover, he must have been a nervous individual. As the uproar burst forth, he gave one long leap - in the wrong direction! He was directly in the path of the car!
The sedan hit him, and bore him down as if he were a weed. For a moment after he disappeared, ugly crunchings and crackings came from under the machine. The sounds were those of monster jaws munching. When the unlucky man appeared again - behind the rear bumper - he was shapeless...
With the tips of sinewy, practiced fingers, Doc touched the various nerve centers in the broken body. His vast knowledge enabled him to alleviate pain in this fashion. Although even his surgical skill could not save this man's life, be might prolong the flow of information, such as it was.
"Take it." The operator passed the magazine over. "It's sure worth reading. It tells some of the things he and his five men have done. I tell you, Wilkie, a lot of the things are hard to believe. This fellow must be a superman!"
[Read as two sentences] "What a man!" Wilkie ejaculated.
A ravishingly pretty dark-haired girl sat beside the elderly man. Her eyes were large and limpid, and her lips a most inviting rosebud. She looked very fresh and crisp, so impeccable, in fact, that it was obvious she had not been on the train long. Even the neatest of individuals soon show the effects of traveling.
[A foolish or contemptible person] "We'll get that gink!"
[Domestic abuse works both ways] Boat Face subsided uneasily. Boat Face was something rare in the brotherhood of red men - a henpecked husband. Most bucks make their squaws walk a chalk line, but not Boat Face. On occasion, the lethargic Tiny would shed her stoical air long enough to give Boat Face what metropolitan cops call a "good shellacking." The implement which Tiny used was the same as that employed by her paleface sisters, a rolling pin.
[If you speak English this poorly you're thinking and talking to yourself in your native tongue] "Nobody go from here to send telegram for Doc Savage," he chuckled. "Not right away soon, anyhow. Now, me go fix trap!"
[Learned by repeatedly beating her husband] Tiny went into action. Stooping, she seemed to pick something off the floor and plant it forcibly on the man's chin. It was a beautiful haymaker.
The man stopped struggling as suddenly as if he had been shot through the brain.
"Me learn that practicing on Boat Face," Tiny muttered.
Brand Of The Werewolf could use a rewrite. The ivory cube and treasure boat are nice elements, and Pat's first appearance delivered as an introduction to an important recurring character. The settings work and Dent's ability to paint word canvasses is on full display. What it needs is more plot, less repetitive filler, no gas-vs-gas, more face-to-face action, a personality-strong lead henchman, and a guy in a werewolf costume who violently kills people instead of a deadly gas mystery. And don't make the identity of the evil mastermind a secret when there's only one choice and it's blatantly obvious like a flashing neon sign attached to an air-raid siren.
012 - The Man Who Shook The Earth:
"One by one the rich nitrate miners of Antofagasta, Chile, were being hideously crushed to death by falling boulders. Then the Man of Bronze saw the evil hand of The Mad Earth Shaker — and uncovered his terrifying plot to control the world!"
"I guess I pulled a boner, Doc"
The twelfth Doc Savage (February, 1934) is mostly a very good story, partly for packing in many memorable lines and elements, and also because it doesn't lose its initial steam until a short stint of delay in the last third. Doc Savage books aren't shy about filling space with scenes of walking around and describing in detail everything there is to be seen. Setting, mood, atmosphere, etc. are vital to creating vibrant mental images, but after a point it becomes literary padding. The prior issue, Brand Of The Werewolf, fills half its space with Doc crawling on the ground, following trails, and deciphering tracking clues. The Man Who Shook The World heads in the other direction, and that's good.
The big series mythology event is Doc surgically correcting Johnny's bad eye. It's also the first time Ham coats his sword with a sedative, and Doc's magical door opening gadget is introduced. To address the valid question why Doc made a blind man see in book four (The Polar Treasure) without mentioning Johnny's problem, Lester Dent bends over backwards to explain:
The nerves of his eye, it seems, have been allowed to strengthen for years since his injury in the War, in order that the operation might be feasible.
"That the operation was not performed earlier was due to Doc Savage’s realization that to do so would result in permanent loss of vision in the eye. He has waited until the time was ripe."...
It was to return the use of that eye that Doc had tonight performed a great surgical operation. Some individuals wondered why Doc, with his tremendous ability of a surgeon, had not earlier operated on that eye.
The fact was that Doc had been waiting for years in order that certain delicate muscles and nerves might strengthen sufficiently to withstand the operation.
Doc's five assistants may or may not exist to mess up and/or be taken hostage, but here they're not the best and brightest. Monk allowing Velvet to remain alone in Doc's offices for any reason is bad, and this blunder is beyond obvious:
The clatter of rapid fire outside promptly ceased. Then a lone shot sounded. A moment later there was a second shot. The last one was more distant.
"They can’t take it!" Renny thundered. "They’re beating it!"
All four men charged out in pursuit of their enemies. Three or four times, bullets snapped at them. In the murk and the blizzard, accurate shooting was impossible. The bullets did nothing but chip bricks and knock out windows in the storage and factory district.
Renny and the others put on speed, trying to catch the gun flashes. It was like chasing a will-o’-the-wisp. Their foes were diving into alleys, legging it up side streets. They faded away.
"Let’s get back to the warehouse," Renny said. "I don’t like this. That attack was a little too reckless. Maybe they’re up to some trick."
They returned to the warehouse-hangar. Entering, they came to a halt.
John Acre was gone!...
Doc spoke no word of condemnation. His aids, in their haste to mix in a fight, had committed an indiscretion in leaving John Acre alone; but there was no use in lecturing them now. They would not make the same mistake again.
[See above] "They got a phone call only a minute ago," said the hawk-faced man. "It was from some one who said you told him to call. According to the fellow who phoned, you and the girl had been attacked, and you wanted help."
This month's players are all strongly conceived and executed, and the book opens strong in this regard:
THE man looked as tough as sin. But he was crying. He whimpered. He bubbled at the mouth like a child half crazed with horror and fear. He perspired, although the night was cold.
"Hear it?" he moaned.
A rumbling was coming out of the innards of the earth. The sidewalk vibrated feebly. There was steady, hollow uproar.
"It’s comin’!" the man whined. "Listen, Velvet! It’s gettin’ closer an’ closer—".
His ears were tufts of gristle. They looked as if they had been chewed upon in the past. A groove a quarter of an inch deep slanted across his face. It explained itself. Some one had once tried to cut his throat, but he had ducked. The knife that had made the groove had sheared off the end of his nose. His nostrils were two fuzz-rimmed holes opening straight out in his face.
The nasty criminal partnership of Biff and Velvet is well laid out:
Velvet laughed harshly. "Even if you ain’t been in New York before, Biff, you should have read of subways. Oh, that’s right, too. You can’t read."
"Biff" rolled his eyes, and they grew sullen, ugly. Crouching there, he seemed to become as dangerous and savage as a beast. He hated to be reminded that he could not read.
"Some day I’m goin’ to get fed up with you," he told Velvet fiercely.
Velvet laughed again. An animal-like ferocity had come into his tone, also. "Any time you feel lucky, cull!"
They glared at each other. It was Biff who first twitched his gaze aside.
"Never mind," he mumbled. "Let’s talk about Doc Savage."
WITH a bestial savagery, the two had snarled at each other. Now, with the swiftness characteristic of animals, they dropped their belligerency. Shoulder to shoulder, they moved over into the gloomy lee of a parked truck.
The reveal of the evil mastermind is a bit of a cheat as he's a bit player in the proceedings, but at least until then you have no idea who it might be. I was suspecting it was Whistler Wheeler, ostensibly crushed under a boulder off-page. Doc didn't see it happen and a crushed body could be anybody wearing the same clothes. For the price of a nobody being the mastermind you get the nice change of not knowing right away who he is.
Velvet assuming Monk's the janitor is a fun scene. There's only two items in the BS File:
[Many physical activities make the bicep expand] Doc now removed his coat. He pulled out the left sleeve, so that the lining showed. It held a small pocket. From this Doc dumped a broken fragment of a thin-walled glass bulb. He had broken this by expanding his enormous biceps muscle.
[It's not easy to hold your breathe for a minute. Couldn't the gas just as easily last fifteen seconds?] After having been in the air for something less than a minute, the gas became harmless. Doc and his two friends had simply held their breaths during the time the stuff was dangerous.
One scene sticks out as bizarre. Maybe this was how the world worked in 1934, but Doc's line about "'It happened that the Hindu needed killing,' Doc said slowly" is out of nowhere:
A brown arm was leveled at Whistler Wheeler. "That is the man!"
"What?" gulped Wheeler.
"You hired me!" accused the Hindu.
Whistler Wheeler’s rabbitlike face had first shown indignation. Now, as the portent of the Hindu’s accusation dawned on him, scarlet rage ignited like gasoline.
Whistler Wheeler was a man of short temper, given to near-maniacal rages. One of his tantrums came on him now. A moment before he had seemed a mild man, with a tiny habit of whistling. Now he was glowering, ferocious—in the grip of a killing rage.
His hand flashed for his hip pocket.
Doc Savage sprang forward—but even his great speed was not sufficient.
Whistler Wheeler was very fast on the draw. He got his gun out. It roared!
The Hindu stood perfectly rigid for several seconds. There was a round hole in the middle of his forehead. When he collapsed, it was as if a string holding him up had been cut.
"He was lyin’, the louse!" Whistler Wheeler snarled. "He must’ve thought Biff or Velvet would pay him for layin’ the blame where it didn’t belong."
Without the slightest hesitation, Whistler Wheeler surrendered his still-smoking gun to Doc Savage.
"I’m sorry," he muttered. "I go kinda crazy mad that way, sometimes."
In line with Doc saying the Hindu deserved a bullet, his newly acquired non-killing code is still passive-aggressive where he's definitely killing but doing so on the razor's edge of directly/indirectly:
Doc Savage replied nothing. He seldom explained his peculiar code, his set policy of never taking human life with his own hands. Nor did he make a habit of mentioning an interesting fact—that his enemies had a way of coming to untimely ends in traps of their own setting, and that oftentimes Doc had warned them against the very fate which seized them.
"Why," said Long Tom, "to defeat this guy, Doc had merely to have the current shut off the high-line."
"I didn’t do that," Doc said.
"The high-line is carrying its usual load of current."
[Doc should refer to himself as Clark] "Doc Savage speaking," said the voice.
[God-esque] Sometimes those associated with him were inclined to wonder if this amazing man had not in some miraculous fashion attained that supreme goal of students—an infinite knowledge of all things.
[Always a great bit] Doc thanked the officer, then rolled the roadster to the Midas Club. He parked directly in front of the door. A large sign said the space along the curb was reserved. That meant it was intended exclusively for use of the gentlemen who had five million dollars in the bank.
A doorman came out, scowling blackly. His expression intimated that he intended to rout Doc in very brusque fashion. However, when he got a look at the bronze man and the roadster, he underwent a striking change. His scowl altered to the politest of smiles. He bowed so low that his gaudy uniform cap fell off. He caught it and flushed in embarrassment.
Instead of ordering Doc away, he almost broke a leg in his haste to open the roadster door and usher the two men from the car.
DOC fell silent. There was one subject about which he did not possess universal knowledge. Personally, he believed it was impossible to ever learn much about the topic. The subject of his deficiency was—women.
Doc did know enough about the fair sex to realize there was no use in arguing. She thought he was a liar, and that was that.
[Doc's still in young man insult mode] "Renny, you and Long Tom drop over by my garage and pile into one of the cars," Doc directed. "Then drive on up here to this shack Ham calls home."
THE Hindu got up at that instant and tried to run. He was in mid-air on his first jump, when steel bars seemed to enwrap his neck. He was jerked backward. He thought he saw a chance to hit the bronze giant who held him a terrific blow in the midriff. He did so.
"Ha’e!" moaned the Hindu, and wrung his aching fist. It had been like hitting a stone.
Retracing his steps, Doc found Tip Galligan exactly where he had left her. His slight nod denoted great approval; the young woman could take orders. Like other men, Doc disliked having his commands disobeyed.
[First use of knock-out goo] Ham was flourishing his sword cane. The blade no longer looked innocent—it was a bared, glittering thorn of steel. On the needlelike tip was a mysterious, sticky substance...
Ham made a pass at the nearest enemy. He made no effort to run the fellow through with his sword cane. Instead, he barely pricked the man.
The man Ham had pricked seemed to go to sleep on his feet. He fell over backward.
Ham’s sword cane was tipped with a drug which produced instant unconsciousness—a sleep which would last an hour or more.
New York City is rumored to have two or three clubs which require that the candidates for membership possess a bank roll of at least a million dollars. The Midas Club had raised the ante. To get on its roster, you had to have five million. In addition, you must have made the money yourself. If you had inherited the five million, you were out of luck.
Ham was reported to have the most sumptuous and luxurious suite in the Midas Club.
[In these early books especially Ham is childishly obnoxious and not funny] THE homely Monk was saying in a loud, astonished voice: "Well, I’m a son of a gun!"
"You’re worse than that," the dapper Ham informed him waspishly. "But I’m not going to lapse into profanity to explain just what you are."...
"My golly," Monk said in a tiny, shivery voice, "winter has sure come with a bang."
Ham gave Monk a black scowl.
"Any one could tell, you would be more at home in a tropical jungle!" he snapped.
[The cousin of Long Tom being a "wizard of the juice"] Monk was a magician of the test tubes.
[He's lost some height] Johnny was nearly six feet tall, and as thin as he could safely be.
"The old one-eyed Cyclops!" Monk grinned.
"He’s got both his eyes now, though," said Ham. "Bet he’s seeing double."
A moment later the receiver in Doc’s fist seemed about to fly to pieces under the impact of a great, roaring voice. It was as if a small lion had awakened in the receiver.
"If you were my daughter," Renny boomed, "I’d make you put on some decent clothes!"
"If I were your daughter, I’d take poison!" the girl retorted.
[Renny's Indian name?] "No more out of you, big-fist!" he barked.
Long Tom sat in the opposite corner. The unhealthy-looking electrical wizard seemed to be a man who would suffer greatly from the cold. The chill was not bothering him, however. Long Tom was keeping warm with his own rage. His usually pale face was ruddy.
[A first] Saying nothing, Doc approached the office door. An uncanny thing happened—the door opened at his approach.
There was no living thing near it.
MONK hastily peered into the office. He was completely at a loss to understand the business of the door opening...
Doc walked toward the door into the inner chambers.
Monk’s hair threatened to stand on end at what happened. The solidly locked door—Monk was mortally certain it was locked—quickly opened itself as Doc came near. After the bronze man had passed through, the door closed...
With a sheepish grin on his homely face, Monk absently fitted the end of his little finger into the hole in his earlobe. Monk was highly intelligent in spite of his apish look. He was trying to figure out what made the doors open when Doc came near them. Doc had perfected many remarkable devices, but this was a new one. For all of Monk’s canniness, he was stumped...
They walked toward the door—and again Monk’s little eyes threatened to shoot out of their pits of gristle.
Doc had made no gesture. He had not touched his clothing. The door, however, had jumped wide open as they drew near.
"How do you do that, Doc?" Monk demanded.
"It’s trained," Doc said.
Monk snorted. He looked back as they went down the corridor. The door closed itself when they were a few feet distant. Monk snorted again. The thing had him baffled...
"As part of the experiment, I rigged up the device to open doors," he went on. "It consists simply of a bit of radiating substance in my pocket. The emanations travel through cloth, and even through metal. The receiver is a screen sensitive to the emanations in the same way that a photo-electric cell is sensitive to light.
"Whenever the emanation strikes the screen, it causes a relay to close. This actuates the electrical and mechanical device that opens the door."
"So that was how it was done," Monk grunted.
By now, snowflakes were spread like whitewash. Strangely, although snow literally poured against the windshield of the sedan, none of it stuck there. The glass was covered by a preparation perfected by the chemist, Monk. This concoction alone had made Monk a fortune.
The three men were paying no attention to the storm, however. Their attention was focused on a large black box which had a square window in the top. At first glance, this window might have been mistaken for a framed picture. Actually it was the scanning screen of a television receiver.
The picture on the screen was the interior of Doc’s sedan from which Long Tom and Renny had just been seized. Concealed in the sedan was an amazingly powerful and compact television projector.
This apparatus owed its remarkable efficiency to the fact that it did not utilize the old-fashioned mechanical scanning disk. Its heart was a cathode-ray tube which functioned in a fashion very similar to the retina of a human eye. A ponderous scientific treatise could be written on how the tube functioned. Doc had perfected the thing.
From his office, Doc could not only witness the kidnaping, but had heard Long Tom and Renny question the girl in gold, since the microphone also concealed in the sedan worked in conjunction with the televisor.
The bronze man, however, was not inhuman. He was susceptible to the stiffening effects of the cold, especially in his hands. So, before descending, he thrust his hands into his pockets. Each pocket held a small bag. These were filled with a chemical which gave off warmth.
[A non-Doc gadget which might as well be one] Within two hundred yards, John Acre realized he was being followed. Nothing so simple as a careless footstep or a crackling twig told him this. Whenever he went about at night, John Acre carried a bag of popcorn. He did not eat popcorn. He detested the stuff.
The popcorn, however, was very crisp. When spread upon the ground, it would crunch if stepped on. The crunch was not loud enough to excite the stepper, but it was sufficient to warn John Acre.
It was with this popcorn that John Acre learned he was being followed by some one.
A BRONZE flash, Doc whipped to a large chest, and threw it open. It held numerous cylinders. These were as thick as tomato cans, and perhaps two feet long. The coverings resembled cardboard. From each protruded a length of fuse.
Working rapidly, Doc passed an armload of these to each of his men...
"Get to the windows on all four sides of the building," he directed. "Light the fuse on these things, and toss them out."...
His five men lost no time finding windows on four sides of the skyscraper. They touched matches to the fuses. Then they flung them out into the cold winter air...
Renny’s apprehensions were needless. Some distance above the street, the first cylinder turned into a ball of grayish vapor. In swift succession the same thing happened to the others. Each composition container was consumed completely in a small flash of greenish flame...
"The planes and the rest of the hangar look all right," he said. "It’s just us and the sedan that’s green. Why is that?"
"It’s because you walked through the grayish fog, that came from those cylinders you threw out of the window," Doc explained. "The car was driven through the fog, too."
"Velvet and Biff also drove through it," Monk ejaculated.
"Invisible chalk," she exclaimed. "A compound which fluoresces when exposed to ultra-violet light!"
"Right," Doc told her. "Each of my men carries a tiny bit of it glued on his scalp, close to the hair roots."
"What I did was to create a high-frequency wave-beam projector, and put it in the plane," Doc said. "Tip trained it on the hill. It intersected the First Little White Brother’s projector-beam, and set up contractions and expansions in the rock underlying the pinnacle. It was not a task which required the voltage of a high-line."
John Acre made a snarling mouth under his hooked nose. His hand whipped inside his coat, and came out with a revolver. This weapon had been altered to what firearm experts call a belly-buster. The barrel had been cut off until there was hardly a barrel at all. Because of this, the slugs were as likely as not to strike sidewise.
Belly-buster guns are noted for the frightful wounds they inflict...
John Acre’s belly-buster spouted a plume of flame fully two feet long. Its roar was ear-splitting!
Considering his haste, the shot was remarkably accurate. A rectangular cavity appeared above the two fuzzy holes which were Biff’s nostrils. The slug from the belly-buster, untwirled by rifling, had struck sidewise. A major alteration took place in the shape of the top of Biff’s head.
There was not the slightest doubt but that Biff died instantly. But he came plunging on. One of his fists aimed a great wild blow. John Acre, leaping to one side, evaded it.
Biff hurled on, slammed into the wall, and slipped down to the floor. He did not move again.
A rather gaudy bunch of handkerchief protruded from the breast pocket of Biff’s coat. He picked this out. It proved to be tied around the hilt of a knife which had a blade more than a foot long. It was carried in a concealed holster in his coat lining. He could get it quickly by grabbing the handkerchief.
The door was very plain, and of heavy bronze. The bronze was what interested Velvet. It was the first time he had ever seen that metal look nearly as rich as gold.
This was apparently the outer room of a suite. There was an expensive rug on the floor. Chairs were big, and made for comfort. Near the two great windows stood a table, the top of which was completely inlaid and looked costly. At one side, near a door, stood a large locker. On the other side of the room was an enormous safe.
[Her dress was tight. How tight was it?] Tip perched on the edge of the rear seat cushion. Long Tom, watching in the rear-vision mirror, marveled that her tight gown permitted her to be seated at all...
The gunmen converged on the sedan. Long Tom and Renny were searched. Their captors seemed surprised when no weapons came to life. They did not search the girl in gold. They merely looked her over.
"She isn’t hiding anything under that gown," Velvet decided.
The room which held the television receiver was a vast one. In it stood scores of stands laden with scientific apparatus. There were machines as ponderous as trucks, but with mechanisms as fine as those of a watch. This was Doc Savage’s experimental laboratory.
DOC did not raise the roadster top. He seemed impervious to the bitter nip of the blizzard as he raced the car northward.
Monk and Ham sat beside the bronze man and shivered. They had donned overcoats. They turned the collars up around their ears. Their teeth clicked like a Spanish dancer’s castanets.
They did not suggest that Doc put up the roadster top. They knew why it was down. Doc preferred it thus, that he might more readily detect any danger which threatened.
The prisoners were now carried out and placed in the sedan. To get all seven in the rear seat, it was necessary to pack them sardine fashion.
[Doc maintains a ghetto holding cell for his lobotomy farm patients] The prisoners were left in a small room in a shabby section of the city. The windows of the room were barred, and there was a rear door which opened upon an obscure alley.
The captives would sleep for many hours yet. Long before they awakened, an ambulance would appear. Silent, grim attendants would load them aboard. They would be whisked away into the blizzard.
RENNY and the others exchanged little conversation during the walk back to Doc’s airplane hangar. Each time they opened their mouths, the bitter wind seemed like a frozen hand that grabbed the words and pushed them far back into their chests.
NEWSPAPERS, in widely separated parts of the globe differ somewhat from each other. They are printed in various languages. Some are made up largely of pictures. Others are read backward. Reporters for the New York papers telephone their news to the city desk; in Japan they quite often use carrier pigeons.
[Whistler Wheeler] The second man was short and fat. He had a face which resembled that of a rabbit, minus the long ears. He was whistling softly as they entered the room. The whistling appeared to be an unconscious habit.
He whistled almost continuously, except when talking or eating. His tunes were always pitched so low as to be inaudible at a distance of more than a few feet.
[In 2015 money that's $267.86 dollars a minute] "I’m her brother! What do you know about Tip! Talk fast! This is costing me fifteen dollars a minute."
["I'll tell a man" is an arcane expression that barely Googles] "What did you do with the wax cylinders?" Doc asked Monk.
"They’re in the hotel safe."
"Is it a strong safe?"
"I’ll tell a man!"
[A prime example of talking around said thing without talking about said thing] "These all come from one particular country, Doc," Renny boomed grimly. "The country in question is a certain European one which is considered a possible instigator of a future war."...
Equally surprising was the fact that none were Chileans. Nor were they Yankees.
Dido stared more closely. He was sure that they all came from the same European country.
The Man Who Shook The Earth is dense with good Doc Savage material and rates relatively high on the best-of list based on selected parts alone. Clean up the killing of the Hindu scene, involve Tip Galligan more, make the evil mastermind more relevant by more involvement and confusion with the real John Acre, and have the aides be less bumbling. Even with that it's a nice book, but corrected it would be as good as it should be.
013 - Meteor Menace:
"Doc Savage and his fabulous crew journey to Tibet in pursuit of their most dangerous adversary, the evil genius Mo-Gwei. Battling against overwhelming odds, they try to stop him from conquering the world with a diabolical machine known as the Blue Meteor, a screaming blue visitor from space that turns men into raving animals!"
The thirteenth Doc Savage novel, dated March, 1934, reads like the script for a serial film with cheap sets, fast action, a crazed cackling villain, and filming on the ranches and backlots of Hollywood. It has the makings of a silent film, plus the evil Mo-Gwei and his flimsy Halloween mask are out of the mythical Snidely Whiplash School of villainy. The Meteor Menace reads differently than your standard Doc Savage book so it may come across as odd, but on its own terms the story is a lot of fun.
The book's two big appeals are Doc as confused and reluctant fiancé, and a mysterious and dangerous menace that's surprisingly horrifying in action. On the lesser side the book's filled with Production Notes that do little for plot, burdened with stilted exposition assuming nobody's ever read a Doc Savage novel. It would be easier for Saturday Loo and John Mark Shrops to hire more men and buy better weapons to fight Mo-Gwei, but with that logic we wouldn't have the Hope and Crosby Road To films either.
Massive Doc taking tiny Rae Stanley's place in a coffin is a large suspension of disbelief and the weakest element of the entire enterprise, but at least the aimless running around isn't so aimless (in a serial film kind of way). Maybe the best way to present this story is with hand puppets and comically bad voices.
The Blue Meteor is handled well as an agent of fear and destruction. It winds up being radioactive, because everything in the Doc world is thus, and the cure makes sense except that it doesn't and can't:
The sky, in answer to that rocket signal it seemed, had taken on a weird, faint blue color. This was not the blue of infinite stellar space, but more like the arc of an electric welding torch.
The fantastic radiance grew steadily brighter. Doc Savage brought an arm in front of his face, for the glitter was becoming blinding.
A whistling noise reached his ears. Very faint at first, it grew slowly louder. Beyond a doubt, the piping wail was accompanying the steadily intensifying blue glare.
There was a devilish quality in the whistling note. It seemed to cut at the eardrums with razor sharpness. It actually caused Doc's head to ache.
It came to Doc with certainty that he could not reach his friends in time. Long before he could even gain Monk's side, he would be down, overcome by the power of the meteor. And even should he accomplish the impossible and join them, there was, by Shrops's attestation, only enough of the antidote in the metal cylinder to save one man.
However, not until he went down a third time and could not arise, and unintelligible rumbling sounds came from his great lungs when he tried to make words, did he open the metal tube. He had waited nearly overlong. His fingers, possessed of a strange aimlessness, could hardly remove the cap.
The instant the cap was free of the cylinder, a fantastic blue aurora appeared at the mouth, a glow brighter even than the hell-blue in the northern heavens. The flare leaped upward like flame, played there a moment, then vanished.
Doc Savage seemed to lose all vestige of his remaining might and vitality. He sank as if stricken between the eyes with a sledge swung by a brawny arm.
He was on a steep slope at the moment - the region where the pursuit of Shrops and the yak had been so difficult. He collapsed, and there was no level spot to prevent his huge frame from rolling.
Over and over, he tumbled downward. Boulders were loosened, and bounced against other boulders, and all the rocks joined in a dancing procession down the declivity. Dust climbed up from the turmoil, and snow mingled with it in a gray swirl as drifts were disturbed. The giant bronze body of Doc Savage was lost to sight.
MEN poured over the mountaintop from the left. They were Mo-Gwei's followers, and they had been far to one side, so that they might escape the hideous effects of the blue meteor.
Despite the fact that none of them had been under the uncanny sky visitor, however, several individuals of weaker Constitution stumbled erratically and seemed a little insane. They had not avoided the spell entirely.
The thing was a tiny monoplane, too small to carry a man. To this was fitted a large, tubular device. The contraption, secured beneath the fuselage, was fitted with hinges. No doubt it opened wide, actuated by mechanism within, when in the air.
Opening, the cover exposed the substance which composed the blue meteor itself. A faint glow even penetrated the Container itself.
Doc as unwitting fiancé is cute but that's about it:
The entrancingly pretty girl pointed to a door down the corridor.
"My fiance has that room," she said.
Monk's bulging chest seemed all that kept his jaw from falling entirely off his face, so far down did surprise make it sag.
"Your - what?" he gulped.
"Doc Savage - my future husband!" Rae Stanley retorted sharply. "What ails you, anyway? You look as if you had just heard of our engagement, instead of knowing about it for more than a month."...
Rae Stanley went straight to Doc, lifted on tiptoe, and gave him a resounding and amorous kiss.
"Your friends wanted me to show them your room, darling," she said. "They are acting very strangely."
Wheezing., the young woman skipped outside. She drew the door shut behind her.
Doc's flake-gold pools of eyes rested upon his five men.
"Do me a favor," he requested.
"What kind of a favor?" Monk queried in a tiny voice.
"Haul off and sock me one," Doc directed. "This must be a dream, and I'm entirely ready to be awakened."
"Nope," said Ham. "The hussy!"
"She's Doc's fiance," Monk reminded.
The faintest suggestion of a red tinge showed under the bronze hue of Doc's neck. The bronze man's five aides stared at this faint flush in astonishment. They would hardly have been more amazed had the sun changed color.
To their recollection, Doc had never before shown embarrassment.
The Wit and Wisdom of Saturday Loo, Henchman Philosopher:
"The lowly dog who has never seen a lion is prone to make the mistake of biting one."
"It is a foolish bird which pecks the friendly cat."
"Even the lowest and most stupid of men have a brain which sometimes functions."
"A canary is safest from the cat while in its cage."
"It is indeed a wise squirrel who does not store all his nuts in one tree."
"It has been said that the Creator of the world and the things upon it, had an appetite and a barking noise left over, so he made the dog."
A few imaginative souls maintained that a great condor dropped from the sky and hit the earth with a terrific explosion, and that it magically became the figure of a giant man of bronze. But the Aymarans are a race addicted to concocting myths.
[Not humanly possible, but...] Doc Savage's hands had tendons nearly as thick as an ordinary man's fingers. One of these hands clamped upon Saturday Loo's gun wrist.
Doc nodded politely, but did not offer to take the hand which Shrops extended. In order that the gesture might not he construed as impolite, however, he made a pretense of wiping chemicals off his fingers.
[Then Doc's eyes asked for a salami sandwich on rye] Doc glanced at the homely Monk. On occasions in the past, the bronze man's aides had noted a weird quality about Doc's flake-gold eyes - a strange ability to convey orders with their glance. Just now, Doc's gaze suggested that Monk return the young lady to town, whether or not such was her wish.
"We may have seven or eight wives a piece," offered the bony Johnny. "A man can have more than one wife over here."
Every one but Monk looked very gloomy at this possibility. Monk grinned widely at the idea of several wives, however. The thought seemed to appeal to him.
"In case we have turned Brigham Youngs in our sleep," he snorted, "I only hope we picked as nifty lookers as Doc did."
"It's just Doc's way," Monk explained. "In some ways, the big fellow is beyond understanding. But what he does always turns out right. You can depend on that."
"That's not a clear explanation."
Monk mentally threw up his hands. "All right, all right," he chuckled. "I can't explain why Doc does things. He's too deep for me."
"He's wonderful, isn't he," the young woman said perversely.
"Let me handle this," he muttered. "I'm the fanciest liar in the gang."
They entered the room.
Rae Stanley looked up tearfully. "My father - "
"Perished several months ago," Monk told her.
Doc Savage's weird golden eyes apparently kept track of everything. Even in the heated combat, he saw the Tibetan's intention to kill the girl. The bronze man veered over, and his fist, drifting out with an eye-defying speed, seemed to caress the chin of the Tibetan. There was a distinctly audible crunch - and the man's jaw slewed around almost under an ear. He dropped.
With gusto, Doc gave further attention to the men squirming on the ground. He swooped upon each in succession, fists driving short, terrific punches.
In each case, he struck just hard enough to produce ten or fifteen minutes of unconsciousness, something his vast knowledge of surgery enabled him to do.
Renny heaved up from the floor with blinding speed. One huge fist hurled out and met Saturday Loo's head. Fist and head seemed almost of an equal size.
Saturday Loo was knocked backward the entire width of the cabin. The shock of hitting the wall expelled breath from his lungs, causing him to spout teeth, bits of pulped tongue and lips, and a spray of scarlet. He fell forward upon the floor.
In the future, Saturday Loo's ancestors would have to look closely and long to recognize him.
Whatever the mysterious blue meteor was, these men obviously feared it more than they dreaded the possibility of being, after death, sent back to earth in the form of rabbits, which, in some Tibetans, is their idea of going to hell.
ALL of Doc's men were experts at wrestling and jujutsu
THE road mounted numerous hills. From the tops of some of these it was possible to see the far-off hospital. Distance made the crowd there look like varicolored grains of sand.
[Skiagraphy: "the use of shading and the projection of shadows to show perspective in architectural or technical drawing."] The equipment ranged from endoscopes for scrutinizing the lungs, to complete skiagraphy apparatus for surveying the various parts of the body by X ray.
Doc Savage kept at his tying. Time after time, he encircled Renny with rope, for he had knowledge of the terrific strength which came with the suspension of mental power. Monk and Ham had been unnaturally powerful.
The Meteor Menace is more fun than meaningful, and its action surprisingly more engaging than it could have been, considering all the backlot hijinks that account for the book's appeal in the first place.
014 - The Monsters:
"The breeding ground was a walled castle completely covered over with a huge electrified net. Inside were the scum of the earth, gathered from the prisons of the world, transformed into invincible giants. Now they were ready to ravage the world — unless Doc Savage and his mighty crew could stop them."
"This is a job for that Doc Savage!"
The 14th Doc Savage book might be the most accomplished up to that point based on the strengths of the menace and a galloping plot devoid of padding. The Monsters isn't movie material but a great episode or two of a television series. The Sanctum reprint was useful in delineating the story's major deficit involving the changing and unclear size of the monsters. Dated April, 1934 with a classic Baumhofer cover.
Reading often like a horror story, The Monsters has real monsters and not just the illusion of them. Initial scenes find them the size shown on the cover. Street & Smith asked for revisions to make the creatures more "realistically" large to where you get the mishmash of "Holy cow!" Renny boomed. "Any one of 'em would make two ordinary men!", then later "Some of them had picked up boulders almost as large as washtubs to use as missiles, and these seemed as light as pebbles in their hands". Lester Dent made a few changes but didn't see it through. His editors didn't insist on consistency as it wasn't worth the effort for a pulp adventure due to the printers ASAP.
The book opens strong setting up Bruno Hen's "Steps Toward Disaster" and the payoff of his death. MacBride's abrupt demise is not expected and it's more shocking for it. The old house with forty foot walls and electrified netting was a fantastic setting, scenes like the quicksand "rescue" and van explosion are impressive, and the death of the giants finale is fairly epic. You can take the book and almost scene-for-scene convert it to a television script. Mistakes and shortcomings need attention but as a foundation it's solid.
First you have to choose a consistent size and strength for the monsters. You can't switch back and forth from elephant to horse size and have it make sense unless you have the monsters in different sizes for different uses, the largest being the dumbest, slowest, and most clumsy. The reveal of the monsters as chemically altered humans comes all the way in Chapter 19 of a 26 chapter book. Dent makes it obvious the first monsters are circus pinheads, as what else could it be after Bruno Hen gets his but good after asking for it? You can keep it a mystery to Doc until he finds out in due course, but to deny the obvious to the reader is talking down to them when you don't have to.
If you don't show Doc having a long whispered conversation with Jean Morris in the pit, the part where she turns traitor might have worked as a plot twist against our boys. Hack ordering the monsters to not kill Doc & Friends on the lake isn't handled well when you have a conversation like this right after. Have the master villain order it for a valid reason:
"We've got the whole Savage gang," be said. "They're in the pit. We disarmed them. They're helpless."
"Then why in hell didn't you rub them out at once?" The master villain spoke these last words, there was no doubt of it. Utter arrogance crackled in the voice. The tones were hollowly froglike.
Here there's no reason for the mastermind to be doing this and the comic image of him holding up a mailing tube to his mouth to speak is childish:
Doc Savage spoke. "The master mind seems to be speaking into a tube to disguise his voice.Using a gas pipe, or perhaps a cardboard mailing tube."
In a case of leaning towards failure yet veering into success, the initial plan of the monsters storming a city wearing body armor and wreaking havoc wasn't working, so Dent smartly indicates a clever head fake to something more practical:
"Size is not of supreme importance these days, my friend. It is brains which count. Bombs and modern machine guns would make short work of our giants."
"Do not sound so disappointed," chuckled the hollow tones. "My plan is based on psychology. II you had read the newspapers to-day, you would understand. The size of our giants has been exaggerated. Our earlier newspaper advertisements helped."
"I don't get you."
"The imaginative American public actually thinks we have monster men a hundred feet high. We will make our little foray upon Milwaukee, first bombing the light plant so that the city will be in darkness. The giants will smash windows, and catch a few people and break their necks. In the darkness few will see the big fellows. After that, rumor will have the giants infinitely larger than they are."
Hack seemed to be digesting his chief's words. "You think we can scare them towns into coughing up five million apiece?"
"We can certainly try," chuckled the hollow voice...
[Nice touch with the monsters being happy with a change of plans] NOTHING WAS said for some moments. The giants made hootings and cluckings of a happy nature. The big fellows apparently had not relished attacking a city ready to receive them. The assault on Milwaukee was more appealing.
The book doesn't use the words but the chemical treatment targets the pituitary glands. William G. Bogart and Lester Dent went back to the pituitary giant well in 1939's World Fair Goblin. This month's female day-player, Jean Morris, is a lion tamer. In 1940's The Evil Gnome a lion tamer by the name of Lion Ellison is the female lead. Knowledge is power.
[Very large monsters indeed] Over the whacking of the rifle and the breed's moaning there sounded a tremendous rending and tearing. The breed stared upward in ghastly terror.
Parts of the roof of his shack were being torn off. Stout boards split apart or snapped off. Rafters buckled under some cataclysmic force.
Still firing madly, Bruno retreated to the other side of the cabin.
With a final squawling of withdrawn nails, and a cracking of wood, a section of the roof came off. Something extended through the aperture.
"I saw one of the men get killed!" wailed a Trapper Lake citizen. "A giant just picked him up, took his head in both hands, and mashed it like you and me would bust an egg."
Several times, traffic policemen sprang into startled life as the car moaned past; but they subsided upon observing the occupant. The greenest rookie knew there was an imperative order out to extend to this man of bronze. every possible co-operation.
Doc Savage went to the gate. From the recesses of his clothing came an unbreakable tube. The powder this contained, he sprinkled upon the gate bars. Finger prints became visible.
Doc Savage made no effort to photograph them. He merely studied them, fixing the whorls indelibly in his mind. Months could elapse before the bronze man glimpsed like prints, yet he would still recall their configuration, to such retentiveness had he attuned his memory.
[What about the cannoli?] "Get your chemical bombs," Doc directed. "Better leave the pig."
A MOMENT later, Monk found himself running alone. The homely chemist had thought he was running fast, but Doc had left him behind so suddenly that it seemed to Monk that he had turned around and traveled backward.
Monk nodded as he waddled along. His legs were so bowed that his gait was grotesque; he seemed momentarily on the verge of taking to all fours.
[Assigned to make gas bombs it's more realistic to say Monk would need certain things in quantities his porta-lab doesn't hold. Better to say he needs to buy supplies in town] The homely Monk possessed a remarkably compact portable chemical laboratory which he always took upon expeditions of this sort.
Ham, like many orators, had a habit of making gestures when he spoke. He gestured now, although his words were whispered.
[Doc just saved your life. Don't "demand" anything.] "How'd you get here, Doc?" Long Tom demanded.
THE GUIDE'S Hotel, they discovered, set an excellent table. Strangely enough, it was the thinnest man in the party -- skeletonlike Johnny -- who was the heaviest consumer of food.
"I wonder where the stuff he eats goes to," pondered homely Monk when Johnny, having eaten prodigiously, arose from the table looking, if anything, thinner than before.
It was a peaceful scene. They settled for the night in pneumatic sleeping bags. All were tired; they soon dropped off to sleep.
[Photography in 1934 involved hand grenades] "I planted a camera in the treetops, upon first hearing them," Doc explained. "The things are almost in position now to have their pictures taken."
From the ground beside the electrical listening device Doc picked a metallic-looking object, slightly smaller than a baseball. He threw this in the direction of the beach.
The thing detonated with a flash that stabbed at their eyeballs like hot flame. It was powerful flashlight powder which would expose the plate of the camera. He had been able to plant the camera with shutter open, thanks to the murk of the night.
This was his first time in the air. From impressions gained in a life spent on the ground, he had supposed clouds were fairly solid things; but he was discovering they were really of a very wispy nature, with hardly more body than widely diffused cigarette smoke.
The bag yielded a banjo. The round body and the neckpiece of the musical instrument were in separate sections which clamped together. The banjo actually held an ingenious, silenced gun, which could be fired simply by plucking one of the banjo strings.
It had not occurred to the big woodsman that he might have difficulty in locating Doc Savage. Up in his woods country, one had merely to walk into town and inquire for an individual and some one would be able to point him out. Every one knew everybody else.
It occurred to Carl MacBride that he had better ask where Doc Savage resided.
"How do you find anybody in this town, partner?" he asked the taxi driver.
"Look in the phone hook is one way," was the reply.
"Maybe you know the feller I want to find -- his name is Doc Savage."
The taxi driver turned to eye his fare, and almost ran off the pavement. He straightened his machine out, then pointed ahead to the skyscraper which Carl MacBride had admired.
"Everybody knows that guy. He hangs out on the eighty-sixth floor of that building."
The telephone was a dial type. He was unfamiliar with the dial device, and had some trouble with it. Eventually, however, he got his number.
The voice which came to his ears was one so profoundly impressive that he knew instinctively that the speaker must be Doc Savage. The tones were deep, vibrant with controlled power. MacBride had never before heard a telephone receiver reproduce with such distinctness.
He slammed face down upon the floor. MacBride felt no pain from the impact, for he was dead.
Doc grasped the fat man's arm; it was very soft, as if he had clutched a partially deflated inner tube.
[Doc Savage-speak for Pere Teston isn't a bad guy] "Wonder if Pere Teston killed him," pale Long Tom muttered thoughtfully.
Doc did not reply.
[When a man not yet seen is accused repeatedly of a crime, he's innocent] "Very well," he groaned. "It seems I had best help you fellows, greatly as I am frightened. I will never feel at ease until this devil, Pere Teston, is brought to justice."...
"He is the chief," the girl explained. "I did not see him. But his name was mentioned numerous times."
[Maybe not in adventure #14 but over the years Doc & Co. lost machine guns to bad guys. I'm surprised they didn't show up later to bite our heroes in the backside] The weapons were not public property. Doc manufactured them himself; the only ones in existence were those in possession of his men.
Some enterprising city editors, unable to get pictures, had their artists draw giants. Exaggerated stories were flying around, so the artists drew their giants tossing houses around.
[How would one know you were remembering your location?] The bronze man had made careful note of the location of the spot at the time of their capture by the giants. He had done this unobtrusively, and it had passed without being observed.
The Monsters is one of the best Doc Savage adventures. With a few corrections it's ready for episode five of that Doc Savage TV show on the CW featuring attractive high school students with all the normal demographics covered and test marketed.
015 - The Mystery On The Snow:
"In one of his most important adventures, the Man of Bronze journeys north to Canada, and in her magnificent wilderness solves a billion-dollar riddle: Who or What has committed murder — and worse! — to possess the secret of the miracle called Benlanium?"
Decades before Adamantium there was Benlanium, from the May, 1934 Doc Savage Canadian thriller The Mystery On The Snow. Named after Ben Lane by Ben Lane, Benlanium displaces manganese, and "By alloying it properly, you can produce a metal of unequalled lightness and strength, perfect for airplane construction." Adamantium was named after Adam Ant, who dressed like a pirate. The prize of the story is a mountain of Benlanium, and the mystery how no footprints appear in the snow at a big crime scene. It winds up being a standard blimp and "For ballast, they use a liquid chemical mixture which, when poured out, becomes a gas. The samples from your camp site showed presence of deposits, invisible to the eyes, made by such a gas. The blimp explains the mystery attacks." There's also a terror on the snow: "Those wounds—" he choked. "That story Kulden told—about something invisible devouring them. Those holes look like the teeth marks of some gigantic beast."
The Mystery On The Snow isn't a bad story but it's only half baked. There's no reason to have a blimp with a chemical ballast. There's nothing about a lack of visible tracks that helps the bad guys. It's also first mentioned in all the way in Chapter 14. The mystery of the title is unnecessary, unimportant, and built up to mean something when it doesn't. The "teeth marks of some gigantic beast" is a false start and how the teeth marks are made is never explained:
Kulden uncovered his eyes. "Something came—something invisible."
"It attacked us!" Kulden’s voice suddenly rose to a scream. "Don’t believe me; I must be crazy! You couldn’t see it, and it tore open their throats, just like a beast!"
The man began to tremble. "I can hear their screams yet, and the blood from their throats—it spouted, it streamed on the snow. They fell down and died, every one of them."
"Except you," Doc reminded.
"I ran and hid in the snow," Kulden groaned. "I shot at the things. But you couldn’t see them. There was nothing to fire at. And it got me, I hid, and for some reason they didn’t come for me."
"Look how they were killed," he gulped.
Not a pleasant sight—this one to which Monk had called attention. The dead men were laid open in great rips. They were deep, those gashes. They cleft through bone, muscles, and internal organs.
Ben Lane suddenly began to tremble. The tremors shook him from head to foot.
"Those wounds—" he choked. "That story Kulden told—about something invisible devouring them. Those holes look like the teeth marks of some gigantic beast."
There's no reason for a beast or to fake one. In itself it accomplishes nothing. It's written sled dogs and Habeas are afraid of something unnatural but there's no scary element that takes shape so there's no reason for terror. Untrodden snow and a gigantic beast probably existed in outline form but were never correctly incorporated into the story. The story is not final draft quality.
The mastermind is handled equally well. We first meet him behind a curtain with a hysterically comical disguised voice:
The unseen speaker’s mouselike, squeaking tones were such an excellent disguise that Mahal was not even sure whether the other was a man or not....
This information did not seem to set well with Stroam. Squeaking sounds of rage came from behind the curtain.
Lester Dent does this to open the door for a moment that the episode's female day-player might be the mastermind hiding in plain sight as a detective hired by Ben Lane. Is it worth that to have your lead bad guy squeak like a mouse? The mastermind operating out of disguise comes later than usual in a Doc Savage adventure, and it's fairly obvious who it is when you read this in his introduction:
With the pencil, the red-faced officer drew several circles, so that they made a caricature of a particularly awful-looking ogre. As an afterthought, he attached a spiked tail and a pair of horns. This last showed that Captain Stonefelt had formed an advance dislike for the individual he had in mind.
That personage was Doc Savage.
The big event in this fifteenth Doc Savage tale is Johnny's assigned a large word affectation that makes him an object of ridicule, and either intentionally or not it hinders his ability to participate as an equal member of the Doc Savage crew. How many times might he have been excluded from a story because the writer didn't feel like staring at a thesaurus? How many scenes can you have trip over themselves with the comedy routine of Johnny intentionally spewing intellectual gibberish, then someone has to interpret what he's saying, and then it moves on because what he says doesn't add anything? Johnny does use small words, and after the first routine he switches to them in order for the story to not stumble over itself again. It was an unfortunate choice to take his big word fetish this far. Lines like these work because the vocabulary isn't gibberish and the scenes continue without having to reference what was just said:
"You should lament," he said dryly. "The foot vestments cost you exactly nothing."...
"Sagacity usually motivates Doc’s operations," Johnny agreed...
"We are nearing the designated locale," said Johnny, who never used a small word where a larger one would do...
"The marauder was frustrated by the steel depository," said the big-worded Johnny.
With The Mystery On The Snow, the reader now has to deal with this:
"A mendacious assertion, manifestly," said verbose Johnny.
Bony Johnny fingered his magnifier-monocle. "The rogue exhibits a preposterous defiance, unless he possesses some unforeseen resource."
"He does act like he had an ace up his sleeve," thumped Renny.
"An ultranodulated terrain," he remarked.
"What?" queried Monk.
"He means that it’s a rough country, you hairy mistake," Ham advised.
Much too often in the series Doc destroys his own planes, boats, and even his headquarters to fake his own death. He does so here with his speediest plane, but instead he could have easily captured the saboteur and pulled the wanted information by normal methods. The situation wasn't so dire where this was his only option:
"That fellow Kulden doctored my plane so it would crash," the bronze man explained. "He didn’t know I was watching him do it. Taking off, I flew over the nearest hill, bailed out with a spare parachute, and let the plane crash in a river."
"But why?" Monk sputtered.
"To give me a chance to follow Kulden, in hope that he would lead me to Stroam.
The Monk & Ham frenemy hate-fest is over the top and if eliminated the story would lose some excess running time and also its lurches into nastiness. Three quarters in the story drags a bit in the snow and that too could stand a trim. There's too much walking around making scientific inquires and other preparations. "Describe exactly the contour of the region around your mountain of benlanium," he directed. Doc Savage stories don't need breathers. They should only have pauses with major scene and time shifts.
The story reads better than its problems might indicate. Midnat D'Avis is a sassy Toronto private detective who likes to punch men in the nose. Ben Lane's acid-eaten face is something out of EC Comics:
Monk and Ham emitted twin gasps of horror. Shock induced by what they had seen caused both to sink back to the floor.
The man on the bunk also collapsed, as if the effort of lifting himself slightly had taken all of his strength.
They could no longer see each other. But, before the eyes of Doc Savage’s aides still swam the image of the man’s head.
The man had no face!
Monk shuddered, then closed his eyes as if to shut out the vision.
Much of the flesh was gone from the features of the man on the bunk—literally eaten away. On his forehead, bare bone actually showed. That any one could live in such a condition was surprising. That the unfortunate could speak with comparative levity was astounding...
"I must look like hell," the man on the bunk said weakly.
"What did it?" Ham asked.
"Acid," replied the weak voice. "They let it fall on my face, a drop at a time. It hurt—it hurt awfully. I almost passed out every time a drop fell."
It's as bad as that but not as bad as that, as Doc explains:
"You’re not in a serious condition," Doc told Ben Lane. "The acid had a burning effect, which was actually self-cauterizing."
From inside his pocket, Doc drew a tiny but complete first-aid kit. With this, he treated Ben Lane’s features.
"Don’t worry too much about how you look," he suggested. "You’ll be surprised how plastic surgery can fix that up." [He said in 1934]
[That's something new] Doc did not know it was Renny’s blood. A chemical analysis would have apprised him of that fact. When subjected to high-powered microscopes and analytical compounds, various life fluids have certain characteristics. In his retentive memory, Doc carried an exact knowledge of Renny’s corpuscular fluid, just as he knew the finger prints and foot prints of all his men.
[Doc's code for new lobotomy college recruits] "A shipment of guinea pigs is ready for you," he stated into the mouthpiece. "You will need three carrying cases. The guinea pigs can be picked up at the river place."
[Code for, you know...] "Is he a woman-hater?" the girl asked the handiest individual, who happened to be—not by chance, either—the homely Monk.
["Kicks" is current slang but here it is in 1934] Monk ignored the insult. "I notice you are wearing a new pair of kicks, too," he said.
[Monk, Doc, and now Renny can do this] Renny seated himself on the chest of the most cowardly-looking breed, and from his own pocket extracted a coin—a silver half dollar.
Before the eyes of his captive, Renny calmly pinched the coin between a thumb and forefinger, and folded it neatly. It was an exhibition of incredible strength; it impressed the breed. He began to tremble.
"Renny seems to have become embroiled in a predicament," Johnny remarked.
"Predicament!" Long Tom abandoned his sour attitude. "That means trouble. Why didn’t you say so?"
Trouble was the one thing which would draw Long Tom away from his electrical experiments.
[Doc failed to mention the radiation would kill them all] "Right. The soles and the heels of those shoes contain a material kindred to radium, especially developed, which gives off strong, invisible emanations."
"For the love of mud!" Monk grunted. "Your mystery device here will locate anybody wearing a pair of those shoes?"
"That’s it. The emanations pass through most solids, in the fashion of X rays. The wearer of the shoes may be underground, or in a skyscraper. Simply by flying over the spot and pointing with the device, his whereabouts may be ascertained."
[Meaning Doc rents space above on the 87th floor] "Oh!" the girl ejaculated. "I understand, now. Oui! He is enclosed by glass panels."
"Bulletproof glass," Monk elaborated. "Unless you walk along that aisle just so, the panels drop down from the ceiling. I told you Doc had traps in here. That’s just one of them."
The bronze man sank to the floor, and pulled off one high moccasin, then the other. These lined, not with the usual sheepskin or rabbit fur, but with what might have seemed to an experienced northerner, somewhat inefficient felt.
But that felt possessed special qualities.
Doc picked the lining bodily from each moccasin. He dived to the door, twisting the linings together as he did so. By the time he reached the heavy door, he had a rope of felt perhaps two feet in length.
With stiffened fingers, he calked the felt rope under the bottom of the door. Then, moistening a finger tip on his lips, he dampened one end of the felt twist...
First, their nostrils detected smoke scent, as of something burning. Then the end of the felt, where it had been moistened, began glowing redly. Finally, flame spurted out in a tiny tongue.
Instantly, there was a flash of such brilliance that their eyes ached for moments afterward. Concussions—a titanic slap of sound that seemed to smash air through their eardrums, accompanied the gush of white.
The door was rent apart, ax-hewn timbers splitting as if lightning-struck. A full half of the panel slapped across the cabin; the rest went outdoors...
Neither Kulden nor the others had the imagination to picture moccasins lined with a chemically-treated felt, which, when twisted together, made a high explosive akin to gun-cotton. They had relieved Doc of all fire-making implements—matches and the cigarette lighter which the bronze man always carried, although he never smoked.
NEW YORK is a city where many people have unusual occupations. There are, for example, individuals who make their living snipping at newspapers with a pair of scissors.
These persons operate news-clipping agencies. Pay them a fee, and they will deliver to you clippings concerning yourself from all over the world—providing you are important enough to have had your name appear in all those newspapers. Clippings can be had concerning others, as well.
Celebrities who like to keep scrapbooks patronize these clipping agencies.
Mahal was an oily specimen. He had a head like an almond, and many fine white teeth. He claimed to be an Oriental and, probably, he was. He also claimed to be a mystic. On that point, he was, beyond doubt, a liar. But he had made a little money out of the gullible with his fakery.
[Long Island looks like a smudge of blood, not a map] In outline the stain was long and narrow. The outer end was cleft, lobster-claw fashion; at the other extremity it tapered. To untrained eyes it was merely a bloodstain of somewhat grotesque shape. It was assuredly no letter of the alphabet. But to the man of bronze, it conveyed meaning.
It bore the shape of Long Island.
Just a moment earlier, the young woman had been reflecting that she would give the bronze man a chilly reception when he did address her. She was unaccountably irked because he had practically ignored her. This feeling surprised her somewhat. In the past, whether or not young men gave her attention had been immaterial. Usually, she preferred that they take their deferences elsewhere.
But she found herself extraordinarily fascinated by this bronze man, and she resented his lack of interest. Being a young woman of pride, however, she did not admit to herself that this was the reason. She tried to tell herself that she didn’t like the handsome bronze giant.
"Anything we can do, Mr. Savage?" asked the officer who answered the call. The cop had recognized Doc’s unusual voice. He sounded extremely anxious to please. Evidently he knew something of Doc’s reputation. Probably he was also aware of an order posted in all precinct stations, signed by the police commissioner himself, directing that Doc Savage was to receive every cooperation, and no questions asked.
[Book title alert] "I found a mystery on the snow," Doc told him. "A profound mystery."
[The early 1930s - the golden era of plastic surgery] Another thing demanding attention was the condition of Ben Lane’s features. The outcome there would be satisfactory, for plastic surgery, of which Doc was a master, would return to the metallurgist almost the perfect features that he had been given by nature.
The Mystery On The Snow is a good book suffering from first draft blues, and is worth reading just for that mix.
016 - The King Maker:
"In the Kingdom of Calbia, the most far-flung plot of the century is already under way. The Man of Bronze and his daring companions join the revolutionary forces of Conte Cozonac but soon find themselves the intended victims of the most fearsome weapons the world has ever seen!"
“You,” Doc informed the young woman, “are what Americans call a brick.”
“I guess I'm not a brick, after all,” she breathed thickly. “I'm—scared. Awfully scared!”
The Baumhofer cover for June, 1934's The King Maker wins a prize for best visual composition. Lester Dent and Harold Davis teamed up for Doc's sixteenth adventure, and it's a good story that may not be in the Top Ten but doesn't lack for much. The tropes and clues were more obvious than usual, balanced out by the mysterious internecine mechanizations of a story that could go either way for longer than usual in a Doc Savage novel.
The glaring plot hole is that the compact heat-seeking airplane missile should turn around and blow up the plane that released it since it's the closest heat source. Since the bomb is a plane it should be taking off from a field, but then you can't have the book's ending of the bad guys bringing on their own destruction, which Doc arranges in his special passive-aggressive signature that allows him to sleep like a baby:
“Doc, you got me out of the room where the fire is! You did that deliberately, so that they could escape.”
“Something like that.”
“It looked like the simplest solution of this whole mess.”
Exposition Failure Of The Highest Order! They already know what this thing is:
Muta swore fluently, and said, “This matter is of vital importance. If Doc Savage has a defense against our weapon, we must know what it is.”
“An effective defense against the device might conceivably defeat our cause,” agreed the staff officer.
Long Tom put his lips close to Johnny's ear and breathed, “They're discussin' the contraption that causes the mysterious explosions—the mystery weapon that Baron Damitru Mendl invented.”
The introduction of secondary character Mr. Lacy and his premature death was a nice touch, and Doc sending his assistants off on overlapping secret missions worked well. The science explanation of the missile technology required fewer words, and if you didn't immediately know Botezul was Doc Savage, welcome to your first Doc Savage adventure!
Doc Savage books give you "tells" on who's naughty and nice. Renny likes the King (not guilty), The Count is an obese "lardy lug" (guilty), The Calbian army men seemed out of the loop about the missiles (not guilty), The Princess doesn't want Doc to be injured (not guilty), she cries when told Doc's dead (extra super not guilty), and Captain Henri Flancul is a sniveling turd in a position to gain more power (super guilty).
Doc Savage Tropes:
Doc Savage Trope #3. When you read one or both of these types of passages it means Monk/Ham/Renny/Long Tom/Johnny are soon to be over their heads and in need of rescue by Doc Savage. This happens nine out of nine-ish times:
What do you say we trail her—and grab the big guy?”
“Not a bad idea,” muttered Renny.
Johnny agreed. “Supereminent.”...
The fact that Doc had directed Muta to be seized was not mentioned. They were using their own judgment, something which they did frequently. They knew this was the course that Doc would want them to follow.
Doc Savage Trope #36. When an assistant decides not to jump into the wood chipper of danger headfirst it means he's going undercover and we'll see him again soon enough as a surprise:
Long Tom, the electric wizard, was not present. This was unusual, for Long Tom had never before deliberately passed up a chance to accompany Doc Savage.
“Think I'll stay behind in New York and work on my insect eliminating device,” Long Tom had declared, some hours before sailing time.
Long Tom's interest in this device, an apparatus which would be of inestimable value to farmers, although profound, had not before exceeded his love of adventure.
Among Monk and the others, there had been considerable discussion of Long Tom's changed attitude. Doc Savage had not joined in these discussions.
[Anesthetic gas has a green dot] Doc selected one which bore a green dot, and flipped it into the room. It burst with a sound not unlike that of a dropped bird egg.
Doc Savage said nothing, but he went to the library with his plump burden. Conte Cozonac was planted in a chair, his wrists positioned carefully on the arm rests. At Doc's touch, steel bands flashed up, encircling the wrists and locking there. Other bands, hidden in the legs of the chair, appeared and secured the portly man's ankles.
Nothing less than a steel-cutting torch would now free Conte Cozonac.
From the back pack which held the radio set, Long Tom produced a pair of headphones and another apparatus which, when assembled, bore likeness to nothing so much as a college cheerleader's megaphone. This latter was actually a highly sensitive microphone which, connected to the audio-amplifier in the radio receiver and certain supplementary coils and tubes, was set into the headphones.
With this contrivance Long Tom could pick up faint sounds over a long distance.
The two trailers dropped back nearly a hundred yards, and followed Muta by the aid of Long Tom's electrical “listener” alone. Even if they would inadvertently turn a pebble, Muta was unlikely to hear it.
[Always great] “I want to take him to a hospital. That is his only chance.”
The commander shrugged. “That'll have to be OK'd by my commanding officer.”
The cutter captain went to the radio cabin and communicated with his headquarters. Orders to coöperate fully with Doc Savage came crackling back with a rapidity that gave the officer rather a shock. He had heard of Doc Savage, of course, but he did not know the bronze man had such influence with the coast guard.
The main operating room, scene of the most delicate work, was circular, with a glass ceiling, through which spectators would observe operations. Every surgeon who could find a free moment posted himself above this glass with a pair of strong binoculars, hoping to see Doc Savage's skilled fingers perform new miracles of surgery.
Many individuals bereft of their arms earn a livelihood on the vaudeville stage and with circuses, demonstrating how they have learned to shave, drive nails, and turn the pages of a book, using only their toes. Doc Savage could do all of these things, and was master of feats which few of these armless wonders could equal. For instance, he could take a string in the toes of one foot and, using that foot exclusively, tie a knot in the cord.
[Oddly worded] Ordinarily, feminine beauty left the bronze man untouched, for he had schooled his tastes carefully so that they did not run in that direction. But now he stared, and his strong lips, parting a little from amazement, showed even white teeth.
Princess Gusta fell to studying Doc Savage. Some men lose their personality when they are asleep, becoming somewhat flabby and dowdy looking. But not this bronze man. Motionless there on the floor, he was as striking a personage as he would have been if he were erect and moving about the room.
[The BS Whistle explodes] Doc, springing back, scooped up fat Conte Cozonac, bounded to the stairs, and went upward. He carried Conte Cozonac's three hundred pounds under one arm, bending sidewise to balance the weight, and seeming not greatly hampered by the burden...
He retrieved his silk line with the grapple on the end and ran to the northern extremity of the block of buildings. The street there was dark. The cord was extremely strong, and Doc, still carrying Conte Cozonac, slipped down it to the sidewalk.
[Doc shooting a gun gun saves the day] Carrying the hideous little dwarf, Doc charged forward. He held Muta's gun ready. The bronze man rarely employed firearms in personal combat, his reason being that he considered reliance on a gun bad policy...
The gun Doc had taken from Muta whacked an earsplitting thunder. The soldier's arm folded as if it had acquired an extra joint between wrist and elbow. The pistol slipped from between his fingers...
The subterranean chamber convulsed again as Doc's captured gun drove lead. The weapon was small in his mighty hand, almost hidden, and its muzzle flame was a maroon spark that jumped out of his fist.
The foremost of the two soldiers screamed, went weak in the knees, and quite pale. Doc's bullet had mangled the fellow's hand against the grip of the automatic. The rebel's pistol hit the floor at his feet, bounced, and spun like a top. The man, interested only in his agony, and goggling at his shattered hand, made no effort to secure the firearm.
[Doc carries one of his own machine guns] From an underarm holster, padded so that its presence was hardly noticeable, the bronze man drew one of his tiny superfiring pistols, the magazine charged with mercy bullets. He chose his time, and fired quickly through a window.
“We are indulging in unproductive inaction,” insisted Johnny.
“Keep your hair on,” Long Tom rumbled.
["Electricity Shark" is new] Long Tom's work in the field of electricity had earned him something of a reputation, his name being mentioned in connection with such terms as “wizard of the juice” and “electricity shark.”
[He's hitting someone with a gun who is already unconscious] “You should have some flesh under the vest for a pad,” Long Tom snorted.
Leaning down, he cracked the staff officer over the head with the fellow's own gun to prolong unconsciousness.
[Renny fights Doc] Botezul, gigantic, darksome, had been concealed outside. He lunged, and his huge arms enveloped Renny.
The struggle was short—shorter than any fight in which Renny had ever before engaged. The big-fisted engineer discovered himself entirely helpless. He was flung to the floor. The cords were wrenched from his pocket and used to bind him. He was gagged with a sleeve plucked from his own Chinese blouse.
[Doc later realized "Doc" was not his legal name and changed it to "Clark Savage, Jr.] The door bore a name outlined in very small letters of bronze. They read:
[Doc thought a Balkan Babooshka might understand Mayan?] “When she was present, I spoke a few words of the Mayan language into the radio. Close watching of her face convinced me she did not understand the language. Hence, she does not know that the words directed Long Tom, Johnny and Renny to trail her.”
[Big pockets indeed considering what must be Doc's shoe size. And ladies? He's single] With quick tugs, the bronze man removed the custom-made oxfords which shod his feet and drew off silk socks. His coat pockets were spacious enough to accommodate the footgear. Then he went forward.
He was a man of bubbles. His stomach was a bubble, his chest another smaller bubble swelling out of it. And his head was still another bubble. His skin was olive, but at the same time ruddy, as if it had been rouged. He had a pleasant mouth and pleasantly wrinkled eyes, and there was a certain amiable jauntiness in his slightly flashy attire. He looked like a soft, cheerful man of some three hundred pounds.
[Thankfully she didn't inject air into a vein] “If it will interest you, there was no drug in that needle when you used it upon me.”...
“Correct,” Doc assured her. “The hypo needle in its case came to my attention while untying you. Emptying it was merely a precaution on my part.”
[Equipment Case #4] From the hay, he withdrew one of his metal equipment cases. Renny looked for the identifying number on the case. He knew the numerals on most of them, and the contents each number signified. Number four, for instance, was gas bombs, and thirteen, fittingly enough, was the one which always held Doc's little supermachine pistols and ammunition drums—these were bad luck for any one.
Filed under trivia: Doc's Taxi has the license plate "S3" and his panel truck "S4".
017 - The Thousand-Headed Man:
"With a mysterious black Chinaman, Doc Savage and his amazing crew journey to the jungles of Indo-China in a desperate gamble to destroy the infamous Thousand-headed Man."
I was greatly disappointed that the "Thousand-Headed Man" wasn't a guy with 1,000 tiny human heads on his body that talk, have names, and yell at each other. Considered one of the top ten Doc Savage novels, that might be true if the endless middle section was tightened up to a third of its length, as it's a solid wall of B-Roll. That and less exposition exposed through interrogations. This is Doc Savage, not Dragnet. Also fewer discussions on what the black keys might be and what the whole thing might be about. The beginning and ending are very good, with great characters and a neat lost city of assorted weirdness like gas-misting cobras, buildings covered to the inch with human body part designs, and cowardly natives in body suits covered with (basically) doll heads.
Published in July of 1934, The Thousand-Headed Man isn't for you if you're against Asian stereotypes of the "No Tickee, No Washee" variety. If "inscrutable" triggers you it's too late because you just read it!
The first seven chapters are strong. The lead bad guy is Sen Gat, who cares more about his nails than life itself:
SEN GAT was a rangy black crow of a man, with the features of an Asiatic and a skin that was Nubian in its swarthiness. His hands were fantastic, jeweled rings ornamenting nearly every finger. The great thing, though, was his finger nails; possibly six inches long, they were carefully curled inside gold protectors which slipped, thimble-fashion, upon the ends of the fingers....
Doc now grasped Sen Gat and dragged him aside. The unusual finger nails held his attention for a moment. He knew their meaning. Orientals considered such finger nails the mark of a gentleman, they being visual proof that the owner had done no work for a long time...
As Sen Gat began opening the safe, it was manifest that he did not use his fingers a great deal. In fact, the long nails made the fingers clumsy to the point of uselessness. Maneuvering the dial, be employed the sides of his hand...
He leaped upon Sen Gat, grabbed the swarthy oriental by the throat, and they fought. Sen Gat was the stronger by I far, but he did not use his hands and that handicapped him.
Maples, suddenly realizing his foe was possessed with an awful fear of breaking his long finger nails, grabbed the gold nail protectors and twisted.
Sen Gat shrieked, and to prevent breakage of the nails allowed himself to be led toward the door...
He said no more, for Maples lunged suddenly and struck him in the face. Sen Gat toppled backward. Fear of snapping off his amazing finger nails seemed to keep him from using his hands to break his descent. He fell heavily...
Sen Gat minced backward, peering fearfully at his protected finger nails. His face mirrored an immense relief when he found none of them broken. They were a love he valued next to his life, those nails.
Once the story leaves London for the jungles of Indo-China it takes a deep breath and moseys along until the Thousand-Headed Man tribe shows up in force, and that's way down the line. Sen Gat and his crew, lead by a bald thug version of Monk named Evall, become afterthoughts as they're helpless prisoners of the jungle cult. They get theirs, of course, but what starts as a Sen Gat affair ends up a Doc Vs. Primitive Weirdos battle - even better mainly for the absurdities on display. There's buildings covered with feet, teeth, arms, heads, and who knows what else you can't say in front of children. Monk soaks his undershirt with the antidote to the snake poison and everyone drinks it! From the shirt he's been wearing in a jungle for who knows how long. The best gadget of all time might be this:
He delved into the concealed pockets, and from one came what at first glance might have been mistaken for a toy rubber balloon, bronze-colored.
When inflated, however, the rubber object proved an article of careful workmanship, and some good painting. It was a respectable likeness of Doc's head and features.
An observation - in the Doc Savage world 50% of the adult population know how to fly a plane. I'm trying to recall if Lester Dent ever shared character's thoughts as sentences, or if everything had to be said out loud:
Ordinarily, Monk was not addicted to the habit of talking to himself, but now he did some vocal ruminating.
"We ain't out of this thing yet, by a lot," he told himself thoughtfully. "If we get held up, or that danged mystery thing overcomes us, somebody is liable to find these sticks."
The Thousand-Headed Man has one of the rare dead endings I actually like:
"Father wants me to tell you that we wish no share of that stuff from the pagoda of The Thousand-headed Man," she said.
"Nonsense!" Doc told her. "It'll be divided into two parts. One of those halves will be shared between yourself, your mother, your father, Maples and the other ex-prisoners. The second half will be turned over to a fund to build hospitals and schools in Indo-China."
The girl seemed stunned. "But what do you get out of it?"
"Believe it or not," Doc advised her, "we get some fun out of this sort of thing."
Because of its long middle of filler the book is a bit of a chore to wade through, but the strengths of the beginning and end are enough so that it's better once you've finished reading it. With some tinkering it would be a true Doc Savage classic.
The black stick was round, but roughly so, as if it had been molded by rolling between palms. The indentations of finger tips were even discernible in the sepia substance. The compound itself was vaguely like hard rubber, yet obviously not rubber. There was a greasy shine to it.
"This is one of them," Maples said softly, and replaced the oiled covering.
"One of the keys," Sen Gat said, stepping back slightly. "Three black keys to the secret of the Man With a Thousand Heads."
The Thousand-Headed Man:
In the light stood The Thousand-headed Man!
DOC SAVAGE wrenched to a stop. His career had been long, perilous, its course dotted with many things foreign to the experience of an ordinary individual - things hideous, unusual, eerie, even smacking of the supernatural. Yet nothing equaled this.
The Thousand-headed Man was a vision utterly grotesque. Doc Savage himself was a giant in size, yet this monstrosity before him was even larger - very much as Lucile Copeland had described him.
He had one large head, the same as a human being; but there were other heads; scores, hundreds. Some were the size of oranges; others ranged down to the proportions of walnuts. Three protruded from his forehead above his brows; others from his cheeks, his arms, the sides of his body. They were like awful warts.
The sole garment of The Thousand-headed Man was a loin cloth, and this flashed with scintillating splendor in the slab of sunlight, for it was composed of jewels - sapphires, rubies and pearls for the most part - interwoven with a mesh of yellow metal which was unmistakably gold.
Doc wrenched. There was a tearing sound, a convulsion among the heads which covered the man's body, and the hideous appendages came away.
The heads were not real! They were hideous little things carved out of wood and attached to a tight-fitting garment that resembled human skin...
[Doc thought this was possible?] Just to satisfy himself that none of the heads which covered the strange big men were genuine, Doc Savage wrenched another skin-tight garment off the victim.
COLLIDING WITH the bronze man's shoulder, the packet bounced. But the bronze man drove a hand up and caught it before it was out of reach - a catch that was executed with such blinding speed that those who saw it blinked unbelievingly, and quite a few failed to even glimpse it.
[Variation from his photographic memory skills] The bronze man stood there a moment. He had secured the license number of the car and repeated it under his breath a number of times to fix it in his memory. The number might or might not be useful.
The oriental shrieked, kicked, and struck with his fists. Doc held him a little tighter and the fellow ceased struggling, partially paralyzed by the unearthly strength in the bronze arms. Squeakings and moanings were the only sounds he could manage.
[Mr. Tarzan's attorney on Line One] The bronze man had adopted a mode of traveling which was possible only to one of his fabulous strength and agility. Twenty, thirty, and even forty feet above the ground his way lay. He ran to the end of a limb and launched outward into apace, caught the bough of an adjacent tree, and went on.
Several times, stout creepers spanning from one tree to another supplied him with a bridge. More often the shift was managed by a dizzy swing through space.
High up among the branches, Lucile Copeland was almost helpless; she clung to boughs with a sort of rigid terror.
Doc, planting her finally on his back, advised her to hang on. Seemingly hampered not at all by her weight, he plunged forward.
Several times Lucile Copeland gasped in horror as the giant bronze man launched across dizzy space Once she screamed.
After that, she shut her eyes tightly and did not look, except when Doc asked directions.
[Monk's gun show] "Take your dukes off my bloke, o' I'll bust your face in!"
Monk flexed his arms. Some of the muscles which bulged up might conceivably have served as footballs, if detached. "Whenever you're ready, cull!" he growled.
One of Doc Savage's five aides occupied a chair in the corridor. He was the man with the incredibly huge fists. His knotted hands were resting on his knees, and they seemed almost as large as his head, which was not small. His face itself was unusual, being long and covered with an expression of unutterable gloom. The man looked as if he had just lost a very dear relative.
[What does this actually mean?] "I'll be superamalgamated!" he mumbled.
[In novel #17 Johnny's vocabulary is still readily understood] "Circumstantial evidence substantiates that assertion," agreed the bony Johnny, who had a horror of small words when he could think of big ones...
"Warlike personalities, if the profusion of firearms and ammunition is a substantial basis for conjecture," said bigworded Johnny...
The celestial purveyor of dubious delectables had migrated," Johnny imparted, returning to his large words...
[Note Monk's stupidity as this is a simple sentence] "We can conceivably apprehend the nefarious Sen Gat before he attains his destination," concluded big-worded Johnny, polishing his monocle magnifier thoughtfully.
Monk began, "Yeah," and fell silent.
A grin seamed Monk's simian features from ear to ear. He opened a hand and eyed the cylindrical metal object he had taken from the boxes in the corner. This was a tiny compressed-air repeating blowgun, one of countless strange devices which Doc Savage had perfected.
The slugs it fired were half an inch long and little thicker than needles. There was a supply of them in the case, coated with drugs which produced a variety of effects, from instant unconsciousness to hilarious intoxication. Monk had used the type which inflicted great physical discomfort. The tobacco smoke had concealed Monk's operations.
[Doc fails with a gadget? Between this and Doc forgetting for a moment that in England cars drive on the other side of the rode, Doc's not so super, man] Doc twisted the knob, flung the grenade, throwing it violently so that it would land in front of the car. The trees made the throw difficult, and he barely got it under the branches.
But the grenade failed in its purpose. It opened a little tardily. And as the car windows were up - it was a sedan - the gas, a vapor producing unconsciousness, failed to penetrate the interior.
These inflammable slugs, like other things about the superfirer pistols, had been developed by Doc. In their noses they carried a thermite compound which, once it was ignited, would melt through almost all known metals - and it ignited on impact with a target.
The oriental took a wild chance. On his feet and running, he saw the space between the two buildings and it must have looked narrow, or perhaps the flashlight glare created an optical illusion which made it seem less wide than it was. The fellow tried to jump it.
His feet barely made the opposite coping. Momentum failed to carry him over. His arms gyrated; he doubled, trying to grasp the edge, but failed. Head first, he sank down into the black space between the buildings.
He screamed throughout the fall, and the shriek ended in a crunch not unlike that which might be made by the dropping of a package which contained a full bottle of some liquid.
The obtaining of information from unwilling subjects Doc Savage had long ago found to be vitally important, and he had, accordingly, mastered numerous ways of doing it - employing truth serums, hypnotism, and other systems. He knew much of the psychology of fear and how it could be applied to a man's brain to bring out facts, like a fire set to a jungle covert to frighten forth the game within.
Doc Savage performed upon Indigo's joints and nerve centers, bringing excruciating but harmless pain. The others stood around and talked, their manner, their words, indicating that Indigo's prospects of remaining among the living were slender.
This trilling sound was a characteristic exclusive to Doc Savage - a weird note which he unconsciously made in moments of mental excitement. It came when he had made some discovery of importance; sometimes it precoursed a plan of action. It could mean many things.
Just now, the trilling signified disgust.
The blue-bearded Indigo lunged forward. From his right hind dangled a unique weapon - a heavy steel machine tap tied to the end of a leather thong almost a yard in length. He swung the tap on the thong, underhanded, and let it go.
Even the hotel officials did not know Doc Savage was wanted. This was in accordance with the police policy of looking out for the feeling of others. If Doc Savage was apprehended and proved himself innocent, none other than the police would know of the affair.
Doc gazed at Lucile Copeland. The newspaper pictures had not done her justice. She had the competent sort of beauty that cameras do not catch - an attractiveness which came from fine skin texture and strength of feature.
018 - The Squeaking Goblin:
"The tale of a skeletal sharpshooter who used a strange squeaking weapon was told around backwoods campfires. To most it was just a legend, but for some it became a terrifying reality — especially those whose skulls were shattered by the deadly “disappearing bullets.” Doc Savage dodges flying death as he tracks the spectral killer who defies every law of nature!"
August, 1934's The Squeaking Goblin has the makings of a decent tv production if whittled down by about half. The book contains a good core story stretched out equally with filler, repetition, and the idiocy of shaving Monk all over and squatting him in a legless man's begging cart while Johnny pretends to be kinfolk by the name of Fatty Irvin. The Hatfield-McCoy shtick is both good and self-limiting, first as a gimmick and second with hill-billy dialogue like "Chelton jist skedaddled ‘thout makin’ a stab at untyin’ us," he said. "And that war’nt no way fur a Raymond to act."
With passages like this Lester Dent does an admirable job delineating the feuding Snow and Raymond families and hill-billy life in the mountains of Kentucky. The only problem is repetition:
The feud was in the mountains. Terror, death and violence was like a black blanket over the Kentucky Cumberlands.
The deserted cabins meant families had doubled up for safety. Women and children did not venture out. The men stirred abroad only for food, or to wage guerrilla warfare.
Snow stalked Raymond, and Raymond fought Snow with killing purpose, with nobody neutral. Most of the families in the mountains were related by blood or by marriage, or their sympathies were with one clan or the other, and those who wanted to walk the middle ground found themselves out of luck.
Dent has only X-amount of story for Y-number of pages so there's chatty conversation about the nature of the feud, wondering who the Goblin might be, and why the government doesn't step in. There's two scenes of someone about to spill the beans on the Squeaking Goblin getting killed just before the words come out. Oddly enough there's nothing they can say of value as the Squeaking Goblin is a mysterious single-person operation, so killing them instead of Doc Savage makes no sense. Production Notes and recurring expository ruminations stuff the couch of The Squeaking Goblin.
Dent making Chelton Raymond a one-man show backfires when the book opens with him on a yacht being shot at by the Squeaking Goblin. It's plain Chelton is at least the mastermind of the Squeaking Goblin plot when he fakes his death upon hearing the name of Frosta Raymond. That entire scene is a mess because he's the Goblin and there's nobody to pretend to shoot him, and the instantaneous decision to fake his own death precludes the coordinated actions below:
The Squeaking Goblin had not become visible on shore.
There came a squeak—short, hideous, very real.
Chelton Raymond stood up in the canoe, screaming. He had transferred his arms to his chest, where they were crossed, tightly clutching. Face contorted, eyes staring, he reeled, could not keep his balance, and toppled slowly.
A smear of crimson fluid had already covered the hands which were clenched against his chest.
I have no idea why Raymond would call in Doc Savage if he himself is the entire evil enterprise:
"I have radioed Savage for help," said Raymond. "I hope there will be no professional jealousy on the part of you or your men when he arrives."
The feud is rekindled after many years by notes and money tossed into people's shacks. Are the hill-billys are so simple they take what's written to them by an unknown source as proof?
Security protocols were ignored:
Doc’s flake-gold eyes rested on the young woman. "How did you know I was at the Aquatania Hotel, instead of my New York office?"
Homely Monk, in a seat near by, started violently and exclaimed, "Gosh, Doc! I forgot to tell you!"
"Tell me what?" Doc asked.
"Some woman called the New York office and wanted to know where you were, and we told her."
"It was I who called," Frosta Raymond supplied.
[That's grotesque] Two things were striking about it: the bronze hue of the fine-textured skin, and the gigantic sinews which cabled the back and wrist, some of the ligaments being almost as large as the fingers themselves. The hand conveyed an expression of incredible strength.
[Doc hides the skills] Doc let "Jug" come within a double arm’s length, then advanced, doing so slowly, fists up in a clumsy, sluggish fighting position...
There was a loud report, like a tremendous handclap. Jug slowly lowered his paws, and a pained grimace overspread his features. He wavered, his knees buckled, and he came down heavily on all fours. Then he shook his head and reared up dizzily.
[Doc seeks out these commissions] The policeman seemed aware that Doc Savage held a commission, honorary but none the less very real, as a high officer on the State force. This commission was in line with the bronze man’s habit of acquiring such posts whenever it was possible, for it had the effect of making him one of the lawmen, and they, not looking upon him as an outsider, would coöperate to a much greater degree. The cops were only human.
Doc Savage watched for an instant, unperturbed, except that his eyes were like pools of fine flake-gold stirred by an angry, but tiny, gale.
[The parts in bold are not true but Doc is an overwhelmingly powerful presence without guile, ego, or impolite social skills] Fabulous as was his knowledge—there were few subjects upon which he could not hold his own with the most learned and specialized of living men—Doc Savage did not conduct himself on an intellectual level. He had a remarkable faculty of making himself seem one of whatever group in which he might find himself.
A famous teacher once said that the mark of an educated man is the ease with which he makes himself at home everywhere—with learned statesmen, with factory laborers. Doc had that mark.
He ran with long strides and did not skulk behind trees, a procedure that to one not knowing the bronze man’s capabilities would have seemed extremely reckless.
But Doc knew from long experience that he had a fifty-fifty chance of sighting any attacker and getting safely to cover, or countering with an attack of his own.
A third man clambered out of the amphibian. He was a human granddaddy longlegs. It seemed that no man could be as thin as he, and live. His trousers whipped about his bony shanks as about wooden laths, and his coat hung as on a wire hangar. From his lapel dangled a monocle on a ribbon.
[Not how humans converse] "An ultrapugnacious temperament nearly precipitated you into your Valhalla," he said.
"You mean I nearly got myself shot when I sailed into Jug Snow?" Monk grinned.
LONG TOM was not "long".
Long Tom sucked at a front tooth again; it was a gold tooth.
The man getting out of the plane would weigh near two hundred and fifty pounds, and seemed bigger because he was not fat.
...a man whose name and accomplishments were mentioned with awe wherever knights of the test tubes gathered in conclave.
[Ham constantly unsheathing his sword cane for effect is "toughest guy on the internet" nonsense] Glowering at Monk, the carefully dressed man slipped his dark cane apart a few inches, showing the thin blade within it.
"Them thar level-land newspapers hain’t been a-hearin’ the half a’ it."
[Doc soon decided not to paint his planes to match his tan] A huge, dark plane had appeared. It flashed out to sea, the whine of air past its wings receding, then banked and came back. Besides being large, the aërial newcomer was streamlined until its every curve cried out of speed. It was an amphibian, tri-motored. It was painted a solid bronze color.
["Feuded" means killed] "Then, the other day, a family of our neighbors was feuded—man, his wife and their kid."
IT was hot in the Kentucky Mountains. The man perspired as he worked. The perspiration really simplified the strange task he was performing, for it mingled with the blackberry juice, thinning it, making it run...
The fellow worked furtively, pausing now and then to listen, an attentive expression on his stupid face.
[Or, Doc could have had everyone approach the body slowly with weapons drawn] Renny, a great tower of a man, drew out in the lead in the race for Tabor Raymond. Long Tom and Tige trod his heels. The girl was close behind. Hence none noticed that Doc Savage was no longer with them...
But out of the brush beside the road slammed a great nemesis of bronze, a huge man of metal who moved with a speed that was hair-lifting to watch. One of his hands lashed out. The gun was knocked down—and it exploded. Bark leaped off a near-by tree, the only damage inflicted by the bullet.
[As always this is rubbish] Doc carried some of the balls in secret pockets in his clothing, where they could be broken by expanding muscles.
But it was more likely that most of those who saw the brilliant message knew the letters were outlined with electric bulbs, these mounted on a long, flexible frame towed by an autogyro. No doubt, a number of mountaineers had seen such messages before on their rare visits to Cincinnati, or even to New York and Chicago, where that method of advertising was much used.
[Best of Violence] The Goblin saw, and there was nothing to do but shoot Jug. The Goblin did that, the powder from the rifle muzzle blackening Jug’s forehead, and the soft-nose bullet opening a considerable cavity through his brain.
Jug died instantly...
Ill fortune attended the Goblin’s murder effort, for a swarm of Snow clansmen appeared over the nearest ridge, yelling, waving their guns. They saw what had happened. Halting, they opened a deliberate fire on the Goblin.
The sinister one in deerskins sought to flee, but traversed only a few yards before there was a hollow slapping of fast lead bullets into flesh.
The Goblin was knocked completely down, after which there was no movement. Yet the Snows continued to fire, their bullets kicking the body of their victim about slightly with each impact, and gradually battering it out of the shape of a human.
The handling of Chelton Raymond as The Squeaking Goblin is mishandled from the start but can be corrected by him not being the person who gets Doc initially involved, making him the mastermind behind a crew who works with him, and faking his death as part of a plan once he knows Frosta Raymond is around to identify him. Otherwise remove the 43% of the book that's not needed, make it a short, real time experience, and what you'll get is a very good Doc Savage hill-billy feud adventure. Cue dueling banjos!
019 - Fear Cay:
"It was all a great mystery. Who was this man called Dan Thunden who claimed he was one hundred and thirty years old? Did he really have the secret of the fountain of youth? What was this island called Fear Cay that spelled horror and death? What was the strange thing that turned men to bone? These were the mysteries that Doc Savage and his fearless crew had to solve at peril of their very lives."
“He should have been shot when he was born.”
The Silphium plant is featured in this month's Doc Savage, and being an ancient cure-all it allows Dan Thunden to stay young-ish and remarkably strong and fast at 131 years of age. It's also the ploy used in recent comic books to keep Doc young so it can be 2017 and Doc is modern and current like the kids like it. Dated September, 1934, Fear Cay is a nice story that moves along at a fair clip with interesting characters and accentuated scenes of violence. It has a few points against it but besides me who's counting?
It's not known how Dan Thunden got off the island he was stranded on for an eternity, how he didn't lose his sanity, or how he evaded the free-roaming people-eating terrors in the sand. In the name of cheap pulp fiction you can accept that a mythical plant could essentially stop the aging process, but not the bit below in bold:
The bronze man suspected that old Dan Thunden's longevity was due to perfect health—that, of course, the result of drinking silphium tea—and the fact that Thunden, an exile on the island, had been kept away from the distractions and dissipations of civilization which might undermine health.
Starting around Chapter 14 the exposition is lathered on thick for those who might have been away during the first half of the book. That can be whittled down or changed to information gleaned through interrogation. The Sanctum reprint notes the same henchman dies twice. Besides that there's nothing wrong with what's a nice story told well.
Fear Cay is Pat's second appearance, and Doc doesn't mind having her along. She's useful and fearless. Lester Dent adds what reads like a sexual component to Doc and Pat's meeting, and if the second part isn't straight-up incestuous filth I'll eat my hat!
A young woman got out of the sedan...
Doc Savage ordinarily did not let his features register much expression, but now he was looking a little astounded..
Patricia Savage, tall, exquisitely moulded, had the same remarkable bronze hair as Doc Savage himself. They were cousins, and Doc had last seen her in western Canada, months before, when he and his five aides had gone through some perilous adventures in tracking down a gang who had slain Patricia's father.
Doc went forward eagerly which was something unusual for the bronze man. Ordinarily, he felt uncomfortable in the presence of young women, especially girls as entrancing as Patricia.
But Pat was an exception. Pat was something of a two-fisted scrapper herself, and almost as unique in her way as the big Doc was in his.
“I got tired of the woods,” Pat smiled. “Johnny and the others told me I could catch you here if I hurried.”
There was no gushing display of affection. She and Doc merely shook hands warmly...
PAT, plugging fresh shells into her big revolver as Doc came up, grinned widely.
“The yearning to hunt trouble must run in the Savage blood,” said Pat. “Gentlemen, I yearn for some action.”
“Here it is!” Doc rapped abruptly, and stepped heavily on the power brakes.
There's a henchman named "Leaking" who sweats all the time. The medical term is "Hyperhidrosis" and this is great: "Leaking saw Doc. The fellow's pores seemed literally to squirt water as terror struck him.". Dan Thunden is a memorable Doc Savage day-player somewhere between bad and good guy:
From the roof peak stretched a rope which was a yard in length and terminated around the neck of a man. The man's feet dangled off one of the two-by-fours a distance of a foot or so.
The hanging man had a white beard which came nearly to his belt, and it covered the front of his chest like the stiff front of a dress shirt. His hair was white and very long, snowy beard and hair lending him a most striking appearance. His face was darkly purple from the throttling effect of the rope....
“How old are you?” Johnny asked, using small words for once.
“One hundred and thirty-one yeahs old,” Dan Thunden said promptly...
Dan Thunden could not possibly possess the Herculean strength of the bronze giant, but the white-haired old fellow did move with an unearthly speed. Time after time, Doc seemed on the point of grasping Thunden, only to have the strange fellow get clear. They flashed to the ends of the room, two men of superhuman abilities...
“If you don't believe I'm a hundred and thirty-one yeahs old, look up the records on the skippah of the Sea Nymph a schoonah that sailed from New York in 1843!” he shouted.
THE next few seconds offered a study in abject helplessness and an exhibition of incalculable strength. The two seized men at first windmilled their arms, but the awful agony of the grip on their necks seemed to surge like deadening poison through their bodies, and they became limp.
Around Doc Savage's metallic fingers, and between them, the flesh of his victims all but oozed, so terrific was the pressure. The faces of the pair turned purple, eyes ogled and tongue stuck out stiffly.
Doc arose, and the two were limp as rags hanging from his great hands. They quivered a little and that was all.
The bronze man released them, and although neither was fully unconscious, they were too weak to do more than make croaking noises.
The driver swore, tried to fire again. There was a dull impact. None present were quite sure they saw Doc strike the blow. But the hackman's nose was suddenly a flat, scarlet stringing pulp and he was gagging to keep from swallowing dislodged teeth. He fell down on all fours, concerned exclusively with his own pain.
It was no spot for a race. The slayer missed his grip in his mad haste. He clawed the air furiously, but failed to recover, and his body tilted outward, arms windmilling.
At the beginning of his fall, he turned over so that he faced the street some forty floors below. The sight caused him to shriek long and horribly, and the sound grew rapidly fainter as his fall carried him away from Doc and the others.
On the street, pedestrians looked up, they ran away and made a place for the body to hit the sidewalk. The concrete cracked a little from the impact.
Doc was not where he had been when the blow descended, but a yard to one side. His fist lashed out; there was a wet smack. The man with the revolver threw up his arms and floundered hack, his lips a pulp and his teeth showing through splits where Doc's metallic knuckles had landed.
The knifeman let fall his blade, took two or three bobble-kneed steps, then put both hands over the spot where the top of his skull seemed to be torn off, and dived head-first to the sandy floor. He lay there, a red flood spilling out of the top of his head.
“That is all of the finger nails, Signor Thunden,” Santini said callously. “It seems that we will have to pull out an eye next. I will do it slowly, so that you can see with the other eye the knife as it cuts the muscles to free the orb from your head.”
Attached to the device was a great, razor-sharp cleaver, roughly fashioned from some iron part of a sailing ship. This was rigged so as to slash outward when pressure was placed upon the black stone.
It was this cleaver which had chopped Leaking in two halves.
Doc Savage selected a car which Santini or his followers would not be likely to recognize as they would if Doc used the streamlined machine. The machine he entered was a vehicle which resembled an ordinary delivery truck such as is used by small laundries or groceries.
Bulletproof glass and armor plate construction made this virtually a fast tank. The tires were filled with sponge rubber instead of air. The cab portion was fitted with comfortable seats which swiveled before concealed portholes, and there were racks holding supefiirer pistols, body armor, gas masks, grenades, canisters of gas and even a small field gun that could be carried by two strong men and which fired a two-inch shell.
[You don't want bad guys to get infections in their boo-boos] The flesh was torn slightly across his shoulders, but he was not greatly damaged—unless infection set in from the wounds, which was unlikely, since the mercy bullets carried their own antiseptic agent, and even the tracer chemicals were of a type which did not produce infection.
Out of Doc's clothing came a tiny metal device, the principal gadget on which was a small reservoir filled with a liquid the color of coagulated blood. Doc held the paper pad over this and flicked a lever, causing the apparatus to give off a vapor.
After a moment, Doc examined the pad. The vapor had caused it to change color slightly. Vague, but clearly readable, writing had appeared...
“The application of iodine vapor to bring out impressions left by a pencil point is not exactly new,” he said.
[The average male was 5' 9" in the 1930s. Doc started off 18 adventures ago at 6'. I blame radiation] The heads of the tallest individuals on the New York street did not top the bronze man's shoulders. He was a giant. Yet it was only the manner in which he towered above the throng that made him seem as huge as he really was, so symmetrically perfect was his great frame developed.
[Emphatic - strongly expressive] His features were strikingly regular, unusually handsome in an emphatic, muscular way.
“It's twenty minutes after five,” Doc replied. “That gives us two hours and forty minutes before this Florida plane bearing Kel Avery arrives.”
At Doc's words, Ham surreptitiously eyed an expensive wrist watch which he wore. The time was exactly twenty after five, a fact which caused Ham to sheath and unsheath his sword cane thoughtfully, for he knew Doc carried no watch, and there was no clock in sight in the office. To Ham's recollection, they had not passed a clock within half an hour.
Doc's uncanny ability to judge the passage of time was something at which the dapper lawyer had never ceased to marvel.
Doc said nothing, but gave his attention instead to the traffic. He disliked talking about himself.
[Fops Magoo] Pat tapped Ham on the arm. “Lend me that snappy topcoat you're wearing.”
“Huh?” Ham was startled.
“It's cut like a ladies' garment. Come on, shed it!”
The homely Monk exploded stifled laughter and Ham, ears getting red, slid out of his snappily tailored topcoat and passed it to the bronze-haired young woman.
[Long been my point exactly] “Ain't we gonna do nothin' about this message?” Monk questioned, using a type of grammar that gave little hint that he was one of the most highly educated industrial chemists living.
[The coldest line in a Doc Savage book] “I never did like this Hutchinson octopus,” Monk muttered as they unloaded before the building which supported the penthouse. “He should have been shot when he was born.”
[This invention is referred a few times in the series] “Naw,” Long Tom shrugged. “I been busy working on my electrical invention to utilize sonic waves to kill insects and crop pests.”
Monk ran up and stared curiously at Johnny.
“Do you know any cuss words?” Johnny asked thickly.
“Hell, yes,” Monk said.
“Then cuss some for me,” Johnny mumbled, and fell forward on his face.
Hallet was a fat man with the manners of a bird. He was round and sleek and plump, but there was a mincing daintiness to his movements. His suit was sparrow-colored and added to his birdlike aspect, as did his sharp beak of a nose.
[This recurring motif gets old fast] “Man or woman?”
Hallet squirmed. “I am not positive.”
“Don't forget that window!” Doc said meaningly. “You should know whether you talked to a man or a woman over the telephone.”
“It was a shrill, unnatural voice,” Hallet gulped. “I couldn't tell. Honestly, I couldn't.”
Behind the driver strolled half a dozen other men. They were tough looking after the modern style, too fancy of dress, with a sleek, unnatural manner about them, the manner of men long accustomed to acting either very bad or very innocent. All held weapons...
The six men came inside gingerly, guns darting here and there so that they rather ridiculously resembled movie bad men, except for the killer expressions on their faces.
[If a mercy bullet can chip off rubber from a tire it should cause a lot of damage to human flesh] Monk lifted his machine pistol and it moaned. The bullets only flattened against the coupé glass. The homely chemist tried for the tires. He knocked off bits of rubber, but the tires did not go down.
[Helpers or kidnap kibble] Doc Savage's five men were not puppets who did the bronze man's bidding. They were men of training, of sharp mentality, and had a habit of going ahead on their own initiative. Sometimes they made mistakes. More often, they did not.
The moneybags had the jowls of a bulldog, the eyes of a lizard and the body of a pelican, along with the pelican's neck. His head was utterly bald and an unpleasant white, as if the top of his skull were showing.
The killer glanced up. Discovering Doc almost upon him, he yelled a meaningless threat. Then he tried to increase his own pace.
[Monk translates because Kel Avery may not have graduated grade school] “Emphatically a negative answered to that,” said Johnny, who hated to use a little word where a big one would do.
“He means no,” Monk advised Kel Avery.
After that, there was a brief pause during which no one seemed to know what to do next, and it was obvious every one was thinking desperately.
[First clue about the man-eating ants] He listened, and the skin at his nape felt an absurd tendency to crawl in spite of his power of control, for the sound from in front of him was weird, a noise which resembled nothing so much as a great pan of frying fat. It was louder at moments, a crackling and popping such as is heard when an egg is broken into a skillet of hot grease.
Fear Cay is one of the better Doc Savage novels so give it a read.
020 - Death In Silver:
"An awesome legion of master criminals launch a devastating series of raids that set the entire east coast of America aflame. Skyscrapers explode, ocean liners disappear, key witnesses are kidnapped and brutally murdered as the holocaust rages. In a desperate race against time Doc Savage attempts to discover the true identity of the twisted brain who rules the silver-costumed marauders -- while the mysterious Ull and his army of hooded assassins move closer to their grim objective of world domination!"
Death In Silver is the twentieth Doc Savage novel, the third appearance of Pat Savage, and according to the Sanctum reprint the first time all five assistants don't appear in a Doc Savage adventure (simplifying the writing process). Coined in October, 1934, the bad guys wear silver masks and silver-colored coveralls with wires from melted coin silver woven into the fabric. There's no practical reason to melt down money and weave it into fabric, but a few years into the Great Depression this might have been either one of the most impressive or enraging things one could think of. The costumed Silver Death's-Heads might also might have appealed to serial film audiences. Was there ever going to be a "scientific" reason for woven silver costumes? Probably, but this is Doc Savage, where promises are just sweet nothings whispered in the dark in the back of a DeSoto.
Death In Silver brims with action and moves along at a frantic pace, and it managers to be exciting underwater where movement is restricted to slow motion. Hand grenades from bad guys and exploding eggs from Doc get tossed around like bird seed, and in one great scene Doc moves around a house by blowing it up as he goes along. The "treasure" (Lester Dent's term) is a billion dollars ($17,788,787,878.78 in today's money), an insane sum in a series where a few million is usually good enough for a glorious murder spree spanning three continents. Stock manipulation, referred to by Doc as "Stock Ballooning", creates the treasure and also helped trigger the Great Depression readers were living through, so Death In Silver was deliberately mining the anger of the times.
Death In Silver is a very good Doc Savage adventure. The #1 henchman, Ull, is an accomplished scientist and inventor who presents challenges to Doc Savage that make him one of the top adversaries of the series. Lester Dent effectively zigs and then zags with who the mastermind might be. Harry "Rapid" Pace is set up to be him if you read the clues, but as they add up and Doc openly floats the proposition you wonder if maybe he isn't the brains of the operation:
"Rapid Pace was out for a while right after we left," he declared. "He says he went to get some cigarettes."
"Have you seen him smoking?" Doc queried.
"No," Monk replied. "I asked him about that, and he said he had been too excited to smoke. Listen, Doc, I'm wondering."
A few piddling details detract and distract:
[The continuing insistence that men might be women serves no purpose] Pat started violently and whirled. The windows of her private office were adorned with drapes which hung to the floor. From behind one of these, a man had stepped. At least, Pat decided be was a man, since the voice was too coarse to come from a feminine source. The fellow was garbed in one of the weird silver regalias.
[Exposition Failure as Doc would know exactly what the job title entails. Doc should ask what specific tasks he's presently performing for Gardner] "Shut up or I'll crown you!" McCoy snapped. "Mr. Savage, I am a financial relations counsel."
"Just what does that mean?" Doc interposed.
"I give corporations and business concerns financial advice," explained McCoy. "Sometimes, I take charge of disputes between companies, serving as intermediary to get things settled amicably. For instance, take the currently discussed merger between Gardner's shipping company, and the steamship concern and shipyard owned by Paine L. Winthrop. Gardner called me in as consultant. I looked over the situation and advised the merger. Winthrop, however, opposed it. I was at Gardner's house to-night discussing the matter."
[Unless it's a clown car there were only five or six] Accounts of the number of robbers vary. Some spectators say there were twenty; others claim only five or six. The robbers escaped in a fast car and evaded police pursuit in the water-front section of the East River.
[Doesn't work because the watch is for identification in the city, not the secret HQ] The lookout challenged, snarling, "Get that rig off! I wanta see your face!"
Instead of complying with the command, the silver man held up an arm and exposed a wrist watch. The guard compared its reading with the expensive timepiece on his own wrist.
"Sure," he said. "Go ahead."
[Someone would have to stay behind to put the barrel back. Better if it was affixed to the manhole] "Stand back," Doc warned, and moved the barrel.
At first, it seemed there was solid concrete below, but a closer scrutiny revealed a circular manhole, its lines intended to be concealed by the mark the barrel bottom had made on the floor.
[Hair saved his life] The fireman had thick blond hair, and that had possibly preserved his life, for the blow he had received over the head, judging by the bruise, had been terrific.
Pat Savage moves to New York from Canada and opens a swanky beauty salon and gymnasium on Park Avenue, which on an ongoing basis is referred to as a soft con that bilks insecure rich people:
"This is the first time you have been here, Doc," she said. "I want to show you the gymnasium upstairs. It's a knockout. And I have over thirty beauty operators at work, all highly skilled. I already have all the fashion leaders on my list, waiting to have their youthful figures restored. How I am going to reduce some of those heavy-weights is a mystery to me, but they pay me in advance."
Pat is sassy but doesn't accomplish much beyond being taken prisoner and then being a sassy captive. Her "equal member assistant" status may apply in that Doc's aides are kidnapped a lot when out on their own, but in toto she leans towards bungling and immediately realizing she's in over her head.
Doc advanced, passed through an open door, found worn wooden steps which led upward. But he did not mount immediately. Instead, he dipped a hand into a pocket and brought out what might have been mistaken for a handful of black clover seed. He strewed some of this on the floor of the outer office. Then he went up the stairs...
The entrancing young woman got to her feet. In doing so she stepped on one of the clover seeds. There was a loud report as it exploded. She jumped and glared at Doc.
"What are those things?" she snapped, and put a hand up to adjust her luxuriant brown hair.
"Just a precaution to warn if any one was following me," Doc told her.
That was as far as he got, because a popping noise interrupted him. He dropped the instrument and staggered back, gasping and blinking. He seemed to forget that he held a gun, and pawed at the eyeholes in his mask.
Pat lunged, seized his gun with both hands, wrenched and got it. She sprang back triumphantly. Because she helped Doc Savage occasionally, she was sometimes in danger, and she had taken precautions. This trick telephone was one of them.
It was not connected to anything; but the mouthpiece, when spoken into, ejected a tiny spray of tear gas. She had borrowed the device from Doc Savage, who had fashioned countless such trick contrivances.
[Explosions are more fun than anesthetic gas] Doc retreated, swabbing some of the make-up off his face with a sleeve. The stuff might get in his eyes in a hand-to-hand fight. He brought out a tiny, high-explosive grenade and lobbed it at the door.
Lightning seemed to strike inside the grimy building. Plaster fell off the walls; floor boards jumped up with a screeching of pulled nails. The door turned into a cloud of fragments...
Doc Savage did not advance in pursuit. He held respect for these foes. They were cunning. Just how cunning was evident when there came a second terrific concussion, which caused the old building to rock, sent window glass sheeting out and loosened more plaster.
They had left one of their own grenades behind, the time fuse set for a long interval. Had Doc followed them, he might very well have been killed.
"The chemical solution I just released from those tanks is my own invention," Doc told him. "It turns salt water black. The secret is now in the hands of the United States Government. It may come in handy should there be another war."
The stuff did not grind audibly under Doc's shoe soles, because they were of rubber - not ordinary rubber, but the soft sponge variety.
There was one boat on the river which was not making undue noise, however. It was a thin lance of a speed craft with motors which did not make sound proportionate to their great power, for they were scientifically muffled. With just a few alterations, that boat could well be a contender for the Harmsworth trophy. She was fast...
Clambering forward, Monk wrenched at a hatch and a mechanical tripod lifted a gun into view. The weapon fired shells no more than an inch in diameter, hut they were armor-piercing and high-explosive, slugs which could sink a destroyer if carefully placed.
The car was a slightly shabby laundry truck, with a noisy motor and a manner of jolting over cobbles in a manner which seemed most uncomfortable. The cab windows, being extraordinarily grimy, made it difficult for the driver to be observed.
The vehicle was deceptive. The noise was not actually in the motor, which was huge and powerful, but was created by a mechanical device. The cab and body were of armor steel, the windows thick and proof against anything less than a tank-rifle slug, and the machine could travel nearly a hundred miles an hour.
The headquarters was a strange aerie on the eighty-sixth floor of the most impressive skyscraper in uptown New York, and the bronze man spent much of his leisure there. Actually, Doc Savage allowed himself no leisure in the accepted sense, all of his time being spent in research, in experiments, in study. There was a fabulously equipped library and laboratory in the headquarters.
"We do not involve ourselves in anything the police can handle," Doc reminded.
His face was regular, the lineaments having an unusual quality of handsomeness, hut in no sense possessing the somewhat effeminate prettiness often found in very handsome men.
The police lieutenant considered, then said, "I'll bet you fifty that the stool pigeons turn up something."
"The winner to contribute the fifty to the police Death Benefit Fund," Doc said.
"So you are Doc Savage," she added. "I have heard so much about you that I began to think you were a legend."
"I will take the silver suit," Doc said.
The police passed it over without objection. They knew this bronze man, with his scientific skill, his daring which sometimes seemed madness, could probably accomplish more against the menace of the Silver Death's-Heads than The entire metropolitan police.
Doc Savage started away, only to pause and do what for him was a rare thing. He reconsidered. Then he came back and took the expensive wrist watch from the arm of the dead man.
"I say," said Ham, who affected a pronounced Harvard accent whenever he thought of it. "Those Silver Death's-Head beggars have been acting again."
With a finger tip Ham removed a bit of the drug from the sword and applied it to the tongue of the unconscious fireman. The stuff, in small quantities, was a stimulant, but if administered in quantity, produced senselessness.
The bronze man stripped off the light alloy metal mail which he wore to protect his torso from bullets. He spread this over a cheap, overstuffed chair, making a mobile shield. Using this, Monk scuttled across the floor.
The mail jumped and whipped under the impact of lead, and flattened bullets fell from it to the floor. But Monk got the rapid-firer. He loosened a brief burst of fire - and outside, a man squawked in agony.
"The work of trinitrotoluene," he stated.
"Huh?" asked the officer.
"T.N.T.," Doc elaborated. "The famous World War explosive."
"Lorna?" Doc asked.
"Miss Zane to you!" she snapped.
Then a gun banged hollowly inside the house. Bullet impact kicked the taxi driver around so that he fell across the balcony rail, teetered a moment, then was carried over by momentum. There was a concrete sidewalk below and the driver struck that squarely on top of his head - which would have killed him, had the bullet not done so already.
"She is unless she succumbs from some of my beauty treatments," Pat advised. "I told her anything she wanted was free while she was with me. And did she take advantage of it! She started with my Special Egyptian Clay Pack Facial, and is going right down the list. Doc, do you know what I think?"
"Better put a guard over her," Doc suggested.
"Sure," Pat agreed. "Doc, I think she is setting her cap for you. She keeps wanting to know about you."
Doc said dryly, "Try to discourage her," and hung up.
IT was getting along toward dawn, and Father Knickerbocker, as New Yorkers like to dub their city as a whole, was for the most part asleep.
Moving very slowly so as not to invite a bullet, Ull tugged one sleeve back and looked at an expensive, heavily protected wrist watch.
"Seventeen minutes and eleven seconds after," said Ull.
One of the machine gunners eyed his own watch, laughed and said, "0. K. How did I do?"
"Very well," said Ull. "Remember, we all wear watches timed to the exact second, all set together, but not at the correct time. At the present moment we are all two minutes and fifteen seconds fast."
"Sure," said the other. "It beats a password."
As to not knock too hard this winningly silly Doc Savage novel the biggest criticisms are for last. Acknowledging it's genre literature for fifteen year olds literally and at heart, the idea of running around in silver masks and coveralls and not once getting caught by the entirety of the NYC police force is a howl. The Silver Death's-Heads gang don't have special weapons that nullifies the arsenal of the NYPD and the place they "disappear" to is one spot by the waterfront. Masks and costumes are what you put on before a crime and take off immediately after.
021 - The Sea Magician:
"King John’s ghost was stalking The Wash, a vast marshy area in England, terrorizing and maiming the inhabitants. Then the mighty Man of Bronze investigated — and discovered the impossible. The Wash was producing real gold … from nowhere!"
November, 1934's The Sea Magician is a decent story that could be great if shortened by twenty pages. The content is intimate and fast-paced as in the better later novels, so getting rid of filler would tighten it up immensely and prevent drifting of both mind and story. The book pulls off good character studies of Johnny, Ham, and a villain or two, and even in its extended format it gets to the point quickly.
The science of extracting gold from sea water goes back a long time and maybe someone will figure it out before Apple-Google creates Skynet and Terminators kill us all. Here's sections on how the technology looked in 1934:
"The gold in its native state in the water is in colloidal suspension form," said the publicity man. "There is approximately ten million dollars worth of gold in a cubic mile of water. There are nearly three hundred million cubic miles of sea water on the earth. That gives us, as the total value of the gold in the sea—"
"You see, the island is perfect," said Giltstein. "Prevailing ocean currents bring water in between two arms of land, and after the gold is extracted, the water is permitted to flow out at the other end of the island, where the currents carry it away. That way, we do not treat the same water twice."
"In this tank," Giltstein announced, "the gold content of the sea water is ionized, or made electrically conductive. This is a very difficult process, since the gold in its native state in the water is in the form of a collodial suspension. Chlorine is pumped into this tank, which, as any chemist will tell you, joins with the sodium in the sea water and literally "kicks" the bromine out."
The Sea Magician does a few things out of the ordinary. The King John facade is jettisoned before Chapter III, so that Scooby Doo nonsense is happily jettisoned. According to the Sanctum reprint this change was ordered by editors and Dent wasn't happy. Ham is given his own action sequence where he's blasting guns, picking locks, and being an efficient mercenary in what is for him a First Person Shooter adventure. Check out this act of cruelty on someone who's dead weight, and the action hero move in the second bit:
Ham tangled fingers in the hair of the last man to fall a victim to the mercy bullets and hauled him back into the room, where he would not be seen.
Ham was boxer enough to have evaded the blow. He did shift, but just enough to take the smash high up on his head, where it would not stun him.
But Ham’s actions after he had been hit were those of a man who had been knocked out. His arms flailed loosely; his eyes rolled. He slammed down heavily.
It was with great care that Ham managed to land on his left side, body bending so as to put his full weight on one coat pocket. In that pocket reposed the case which held the glass bulbs of anaesthetic gas. Ham knew if he hit hard enough, the case would be crushed.
He felt the container mash flat. He held his breath.
A moment later, men began to topple over. The gas had no color, no odor, hence they were without warning of its presence.
Monk has a good fight sequence, but doesn't he always? There's a good running gag where he counts out loud the number of bad guys he knocks out. When he finally succumbs to unconsciousness from kicks to the head he adds himself to the total: "'Thirteen!' he moaned, and went to sleep."
A major day-player's story is unknown by the usually omniscient Doc Savage, but it's not on Doc because her involvement is completely removed from Doc's radar. The second part is mysterious and fun to read:
I’m Wehman Mills," he mumbled, and got to his feet as rapidly as age-stiffened joints would permit. "My niece! She’s next door."
"Who?" Doc questioned.
It was the first the bronze man had heard of Elaine, but full explanations would have to wait.
Elaine stood in the street and punished an attractive lower lip with her teeth.
"Darn it!" she said angrily, and stamped a foot.
THE YOUNG woman’s wrathful ejaculation was destined to have far-reaching consequences. Simply because she stamped her foot and exclaimed aloud, many men were to come under a pall of horrible danger, and some were to die.
Immediate action and results are a nice feature of the story. The ending is basically a death trap for the bad guys and an immediate surrender, but there's no feeling of being cheated because of the book's tone throughout:
"Come," Doc directed. "We had best get out of here."
The bronze man approached one tin wall, turned sidewise when he was close, and went through as easily as if the sheet metal had been paper. Johnny followed.
Without obvious haste, Johnny sloped to a window, smashed through with a shower of glass and galloped for the house corner.
Monk grasped the waggling chin, pushed it up so that the fellow’s mouth was closed; then, before the other knew what was going to happen, Monk struck once, as if he were seeking to drive a large nail with a single blow.
The best small creative choice was Dent following the narrative perspective of a random King John imitator for a few paragraphs just to see through new eyes:
The King John now picked up his broadsword, wiped mud off the point, examined the edge to make sure it was razor-sharp, then started forward. He moved in a crouching position, a posture which his mail armor made difficult, and he stopped frequently to rub his aching back and rest his muscles. But this method of travel was necessary, if his head was not to be seen above the rushes.
The first King John abruptly comprehended what had happened. His companions had set a trap to catch the mysterious individual who was following him. They must have sighted the fellow.
Dropping his electrical apparatus, the first King John joined in the chase. Fatigue was forgotten. He overhauled a mailed figure with a submachine gun.
Johnny is the story's featured assistant, listed as slightly under seven feet tall:
WILLIAM HARPER LITTLEJOHN was a very tall man, and he was also thinner than it seemed any human being could be and still live. His intimates frequently described him as looking like the advance agent for a famine.
When William Harper Littlejohn stood before gatherings of geologists and archaeologists, no one smiled at the fact that he resembled an empty suit of clothes standing erect, nor commented on the monocle with which he always fumbled but never stuffed in an eye. William Harper Littlejohn was conceded to know more about archaeology and geology than almost any living man.
Johnny never used a small word when he had time to think of a big one. He was a walking dictionary of words of more than three syllables, and when he was really going good, an ordinary man could not even understand him.
Johnny underwent a curious change. In engaging the plane and during the flight, he had scarcely spoken a sentence containing words small enough for the pilot to understand. But now he cocked his hat over an eye, tucked his monocle-magnifier where it would not be noticed, and began speaking a brand of English which would have shocked his learned colleagues of the Fellowhood of Scientists. Furthermore, his manner was certainly not that of an intellectual giant.
"I am an individual with a superpreponderance of terminology," Johnny said. "I am a verbarian, a glossographer, abundantly interested in the intricacies of allocution."
Doc's trilling has a purpose but it's silly when not really silly. This explanation works:
Doc Savage remained very quiet, but there came into being a weird, tiny sound. This note was so vague that it might easily have been mistaken for some vagary of the fitful breezes which stirred the fog. It was a trilling, one which might have been made by a wind through a cold, denuded forest; or it might have been the note of some exotic tropical songster.
This was the sound of Doc Savage, a tiny and unconscious thing which he often made in moments of stress. But such a quality of ventriloquism did the trilling possess that a close bystander, looking at the bronze man, could not have told from whence it came. The metallic lips did not move; there was no undulation of throat sinews. It was doubtful that Doc himself was aware just how the sound came into being.
Good background on Doc's relationship with newspapers:
The newspapermen were down there because Doc Savage never did things in the ordinary fashion. Almost any move he made was good for a headline. Furthermore, it was a fact that Doc Savage did not look with a permissive eye on newspaper publicity. He was that rare individual, a celebrity who did not care about seeing his name and picture in the newspaper. More particularly, he did not care about seeing his picture, because it gave his enemies a means of familiarizing themselves with his physical appearance.
The reluctance which Doc Savage displayed toward newspaper publicity had the effect of making the journalists more determined. Had Doc Savage hired a publicity agent and showed a desire for news space, the scribes would have ignored him to a degree; as it was, they fell over themselves to get a story about him.
The last line is excellent:
The proprietor crooked his rifle with an arm, looked up the stairs and called through his mustache, "Mademoiselle Elaine Mills!"
replied a faint feminine voice. "Que vou—vou—" She gave it up and demanded in English, "What do you want?"
Her last words had the rolling freedom of American speech.
Doc's vest in Nov. 1934:
Doc Savage wore a peculiar type of vest beneath his outer clothing. Its foundation was composed of light, bulletproof plates, lying scale fashion, and over the plates were pockets and numerous receptacles. Padding between these made the vest almost unnoticeable.
The contents of the vest pockets made up a remarkable assortment. There were delicate mechanical devices, strange scientific weapons, glass vials holding chemical concoctions calculated to accomplish the unusual.
Where the silencers are kept:
Ham drifted a hand to an armpit, where there was a holster so cleverly padded that its presence was hardly discernible. He withdrew one of Doc Savage’s compact machine pistols. Fitted in a pocket at the side of the holster was a canisterlike device—a silencer for use on the weapons.
The reveal of the Evil Boss is rarely in doubt but The Sea Magician fakes it well when he's first presented. Besides being locked up by himself and being the only day-player in a story where the chief's never seen or named but always talked about, here's some clues:
It sounded as if Henry Trump swore softly and in a highly surprised tone.
They turned up at just the wrong moment. How they managed to do that was very mysterious.
"Yes," gasped Elaine Mills. "We must find Henry Trump!"
"I could tell you were hunting me," he gasped.
[In another break from protocol the reveal of the obvious solution is tossed out before Doc can say it] "Shut up!" advised Benjamin Giltstein. "We still have a hole card which the bronze man does not know about."
Paquis agreed. "But he must not suspect. Therefore it is up to us to make a great pretense of hunting him."
Besides being too long there's not much wrong with The Sea Magician. it could stand to remove nonsense like this as Ham's just laid eyes on Elaine Mills and he's already jealous of another person he doesn't know. It's a life-or-death situation. Keep it in your pants, Ham:
Ham tried to keep it from showing on his face, but he did not care for the fervor with which the attractive young woman spoke of Henry Trump. Trump seemed to have made a hit.
This is funny as it's tossed in as the only reason why Monk's not killed when they've been trying desperately to kill him up until that point:
"Take the ape alive!" some one yelled. "We’ve got to make him tell how much Doc Savage knows about us!"
022 - The Annihilist:
"The dread Annihilist was slaughtering the criminals of New York in wholesale lots. Hundreds of men were found mysteriously murdered, victims of the hideous pop-eyed death. The finger of suspicion pointed directly at one man, Doc Savage himself. Even as The Man of Bronze scrambled to solve the terrifying enigma, the invisible assassin began to play havoc with one of humanity’s most important secret defenses — Doc Savage’s legendary crime college."
December, 1934's The Annihilist features horrific deaths ending with criminal's eyes popping out of their heads, hanging by their roots:
The man who came through did not even hold his submachine gun. The weapon lay on the floor of the niche. The man was bent over, and he bent even more, seeming to contort himself in a titanic effort, his face becoming purple with the strain.
As they watched, his eyes came slowly out, like seeds from a purple grape, and it seemed certain they would fall to the floor, but they did not. Then he began to yell in pain.
The other two gunners were crying out too, threshing about, and making awful garglings. One got out of his niche and died on the floor; the other only got the door of his concealment - the wall panel - ajar, and was unable to get out. He convulsed his mortal existence away while curled up in the cramped confines.
Cold, unblinking cruelty is a major component of the story, both large:
But the fact remains that some mentalities gloat over torture; and to some of these, the sight of physical pain, the joy of inflicting it themselves, acts as a wine, making them drunk with a sort of Infernal ecstasy.
Leo's eyes became brighter, he breathed more rapidly, a grease of perspiration stood out on his forehead and he ceased to brush back the loose lock of black hair.
At first, he demanded of Sidney Lorrey the name of the physicians at Doc Savage's "college," putting the demands after each act of torture, but before long, he ceased doing that and went ahead in silence that was broken only by the awful sounds of the tortured man and the harsh grating of Leo's own breathing.
When the floor became slippery with crimson, Leo ordered bed coverings brought from another room, and Sidney Lorrey was rolled upon these. Lorrey was barely conscious now. Frightful things had been done to him, things that would mutilate him for life, and the other onlookers, hardened criminals, were becoming nauseated and turning away.
"He ain't gonna talk," one muttered. "why not put him out of his misery?"
Leo, purple-faced, hot-eyed and intent, seemed not to hear, for he was engaged in the process of whittling Lorrey's fingers down to the bone, one at a time, and showing Lorrey, with fiendish chuckles, the naked gray of the exposed bones.
Some one, leaning from a window directly above the alley door, held a heavy typewriter with both hands. There was enough light that the figures below showed as vague blurs against the snow, and the man let his typewriter drop carefully.
The typewriter carriage slid hack with a ziz-z-z of a noise as it started to fall, and this caused Sidney Lorrey to look up. He jumped, but not soon enough; the heavy office appliance struck his head. The typewriter bell rang loudly, then rang again as the machine hit the alley pavement. Sidney Lorrey fell atop the typewriter.
LEO swung over easily and kicked Sidney Lorrey's face lightly and rapidly until scarlet began to ooze. Lorrey moaned, tried to scream, but they stuffed old cloth into his mouth.
The Annihilist is a big, heavy adventure that considers Doc's Crime College in all its shades of existential glory and cranks up the ante with a device that kills criminals through radio waves with what might be a Top-40 station:
"That this Crime Annihilist's weapon is merely a machine emitting emanations similar to ultra-short radio waves," Doc said. "These emanations have an irritating effect on the so-called 'crime' gland, causing a sort of local poisoning which induces mental spasms and a peculiar muscular reaction which results in the protruding of the eyes."
Crime and Doc's treatment of it is postulated to be a glandular problem that can be corrected through both drugs and surgery:
Janko Sultman seemed not to hear. "Doc, Savage has discovered dot crime is, in a sense, a disease," he went on...
"Sure," Sultman smiled. "There are many glands in the human body. They secrete everything from perspiration to digestive juices. Many of them are in the human brain, and it is these last that are the least known."...
"There is a small gland which governs operation of a certain section of der brain which controls a human being's behavior," said Sultman. "If dot gland is out of order, der patient loses his sense of right and wrong. In other words, he gets so he does not give a damn what happens or what he does. Doc Savage has discovered this."...
"Anyway, Doc Savage straightens up dot gland at his place in upstate New York, and dot is what makes honest men of the crooks. Of course, he severs certain nerves in their brains, too, which makes them forget their past."
The "treasure" of The Annihilist is clever:
"These surgeons know how to treat this 'crime' gland so as to make a criminal, as well as cure him," he stated. "It is that secret I want - the knowledge of how to make criminals."...
"You lack imagination," Boke chuckled. "It is my plan to seize bankers, industrial magnates, politicians, and administer them the drug which will make them criminals. They will not know what is being done. Later, myself or my agents will approach these men and enlist them in my unlawful enterprises. They will accept. Having access to thousands, even millions of dollars, they will, as criminals, appropriate those funds. I will make it my business to see that a share of the money gets into my hands."
The Annihilist is easily one of the best Doc Savage books but it's not without major plot faults revolving around the radio device itself and how it chooses its pop-eyed victims. The terror is introduced with deaths like these:
John Henry Cowlton, the Park Avenue playboy who had been the first victim, had been discovered to be a clever society jewel thief with many robberies and at least one murder on his record...
Everett Buckett, the Wall Street wolf who was the second victim, was a leader in an enormous stock-swindling gang, and at least two persons they bad swindled had been murdered to shut their mouths.
You have to be aggressively committing an act that stimulates the crime gland for the radio waves to effect you, so was the Wall Street wolf in the middle of a rapturous swindle when he died? Then it shows up more specifically in run-ins Doc has with two groups of bad guys, so it seems the device is something a person is carrying and aiming at its targets. The device is revealed to be an "intricate array of electrical apparatus" that takes Doc five minutes to destroy with a club. If it was stuck on a barge while Doc's enemies have their eyes popping out, the same thing should be happening all over Manhattan with everyone with crime in their heart and agitation in their minds. The hows and whos of the device and its victimology is a mess that can be readily improved to something more consistent. Mention the device has a metered range and was parked in a truck outside of where it was being used. It's also shown Monk has a bit of an active criminal gland issue.
The reveal of the mastermind smacks of the arbitrary but the book did a good job keeping you guessing about the plot and everyone's place in it.
The evolution of the device and the reasons for its widened use are well done:
"Sidney Lorrey was - is - a scientist and surgeon interested in mental therapy as influenced by various infra-rays and light beams," the bronze man said. "I recall Robert Lorrey saying that Sidney was trying to perfect a treatment for the so-called 'crime' gland which would not require the use of drugs."
The bronze man indicated the intricate array of electrical apparatus. "Possibly Sidney Lorrey did not realize at first that his apparatus was killing criminals. It must have been set up in his barge laboratory and operating continuously on some piece of experimental tissue. Then, when Sidney saw the men die from its effects, he realized what it was."
"And realized what a weapon against crime he had," Ham added.
[Refer to what happened to him in the "Cruelty" section] "About two hours ago a man came to me for treatment. He was horribly beaten, cut and mutilated. I think he was slightly insane. He raved about being the Crime Annihilist who was going to kill a million criminals. He was quite mad. He said the Crime Annihilist was going to kill all of the crooks in the world."
The Crime College:
THE terrain below had become wilder, more rugged. A single road, a trail, barely discernible in the murky afternoon light, progressed through the timber, following creeks and tiny valleys for the most part. The road ended at a massive metal gate.
From the gate, a high, stout wire fence ran in a circle which enclosed many acres. This fence, woven, surmounted with barbed strands, was fully fifteen feet high.
From the air, it looked as if the fence enclosed only a small lake and a log building which might have been a hunting lodge. On one side of the lake, shoving its bald mass up to a considerable prominence, was a hill which seemed to be of solid, gray stone.
There was nothing else inside the fence - just the lodge, the lake and the bleak stone hill.
But back from the gate, perhaps a mile, surmounting a hill of its own, was a small, unpretentious cabin.
[That wasn't taught to them?] When criminals emerged from Doc Savage's unique university, they did not remember their pasts; for some strange reason they hated crime in any form, and they had been taught a trade wherewith to make an honest living...
Had the existence of this place become known, it would have been a newspaper story unparalleled. Doc Savage also knew it would excite many misguided reformers who would stir up government investigations, for the criminals had no choice about taking the treatment.
Doc Savage, in the final analysis, was a private individual, and such are not supposed to mete out their own brand of justice. The courts are for that. And Doc Savage had never sent a crook before an American court.
WHEN Doc Savage, Monk, Ham and Basenstein had flown over the area so strangely fenced off in the wilderness, there had been no sign of human life excepting the one man who had appeared at the log lodge near the gate.
There were fully two hundred men in sight now. They were all attired exactly alike in neat white uniforms, except for an individual here and there who was dressed in blue.
The men in white were arrayed in neat squads and were going through marches and physical-culture exercises, commanded by the men in blue. A few of the white garbed figures strolled about, obviously relaxing.
These men in white were former criminals, although their present appearance gave no indication of that fact. They were healthy, clear-eyed, and each was developing an excellent set of muscles. Not one of these men could remember any of his past life. Each could recall opening his eyes in a white room in this strange enclosure in the wilderness - that was all.
At numerous points, what looked like ordinary stretches of damp woodland loam slid back, uncovering neatly whitewashed concrete gun pits. The weapons these housed were not large, nor were they toys, either. The gun muzzles lifted and began to follow the planes. This was uncanny, because there was no hand guiding the weapons in the pits.
Aiming was done by a blue-clad man at a concealed station. He simply sighted at one of the planes through a telescope which was attached to slides and cogs, and when he had crossed hairs on the craft, he pressed a lever.
The guns began firing. The man in the remote fire-control station turned a lever and the white puffs of bursting shells - they opened too high at first - crawled down toward the plane, not aiming at it, but ahead.
Hardboiled Humbolt with the bad feet is a fun character. It's nice how he comes around to Doc's way of thinking and they share a laugh over circumventing the criminal justice system to create an ever-enlarging army of Doc Savage voodoo zombies. I thought Doc would eventually correct Humbolt's foot problems, but like I said, the book is elbow-deep into cruelty:
"Listen," he said. "I been intending to get around to you, only I've been too busy. I've beard a lot about you, and we know each other by sight. You may know I'm a tough cop. That's what the papers call me, damn 'em! I know you're the Man of Mystery, and I know people try to kill you and you do things to 'em and the law never hears about it I don't like it. From now on, when anybody takes a shot at you, you call a cop and he'll handle it. Do it like anybody else does."
"In other words, have the police fight my battles?" Doc asked.
"Call it what you want," Hardboiled scowled. "There'. laws to take care of crooks. And another thing: behave yourself and you won't have any battles to fight."...
"I think you do things outside the law!" Hardboiled roared. "That makes you subject to arrest. There are laws to punish criminals. And don't feed me that hokum about them not being punished in this day, because they are. Let the law take its course."...
Hardboiled put out his jaw. "I've heard that you set yourself up as judge, jury and penitentiary, all in one," he rapped. "Now that stuff don't go. You make one slip, and I'll clap your pants in the holdover so quick your head'll swim! If there's any one needs arresting in this town, that's my job. I do it. And I don't stand for anybody meddling with my job."
Hardboiled himself was in the lower hallway, talking to newspaper men. He had taken off his canvas shoes and was rubbing his feet gently, grimacing as if the rubbing pained him rather pleasantly.
Hardboiled shook his head. "I didn't hear a thing."
Doc Savage extended a hand. "Thanks. If news of that place got out, it would mean all kinds of trouble."
"I got a few special friends." Hardboiled jerked his hand at the criminal-curing institution again. "Would you put 'em in there - when I catch 'em? Just as a favor?"
The bronze man rarely smiled, but he did so now. "With pleasure," he agreed.
The bronze man reached swiftly to a button, pressed it. The bell which that button rang was an imperative order to the telephone operator to trace the call.
Doc Savage leaned against a tree as if weary, and worked an arm against the coarse bark. Unnoticed, a button came off his sleeve and fell to the ground. A moment later he sat down, as if his strength had given out. His fingers picked up the button.
It was white, as if constructed of ordinary pearl, but close examination would have shown that it was of metal and the edge, instead of being merely rounded, was disked to a razor sharpness. A thin metal band protected this edge, and was easily broken off with the finger nails, leaving the razor edge exposed.
Two or three judicious slices cut almost through Doc's wrist bonds.
There was dynamite, nearly a cage of it, with a battery and wires attached; there was also a small phonograph, one of the type newly placed on the market which can be plugged into a light circuit and, by using a microphone attachment, employed to make records, which can then be played back numerous times.
Doc Savage let himself into the garage with its array of motor vehicles, which ranged from a large, innocent-looking moving van which was armored like a tank, to a shabby, ramshackle coupe' which might possibly make a hundred and fifty miles an hour on a straightaway but which looked like a twenty-dollar job off a second-hand lot.
[Mercy bullets are also magical because they barely penetrate skin but winter coats don't stop them from barely penetrating the skin underneath] Monk's superfirer emitted its bullfiddle moan. Three of the approaching men folded down magically. Startled, the rest flopped flat and were lost in the nodular masses of timbers, old machinery, piles of hawser and other appurtenances common to wharves.
Reaching the top, he traveled over rooftops until he found a skylight, below which an artist painted. The artist, surprised, made a long smear on his painting as a giant man of metal smashed the skylight and dropped lightly at his side. While the artist stared, open-mouthed, the bronze man walked out.
Coming to life, the artist yelled, "Hey, I'll give you a hundred dollars to pose for me!"
[Understanding your Doc Savage] "Have you any idea what caused the deaths?" Monk asked bluntly.
Doc Savage seemed to become inexplicably deaf and not to hear, a fact which caused Monk to grin widely, because he knew from past events that it was a good sign when Doc began keeping his own counsel.
Doc rarely expressed a theory which he could not prove absolutely, but if he had no theory and was completely mystified, he would say so. Hence Doc's assumed deafness conveyed to Monk that the bronze man did have an idea about the strange Boke.
There was a bullet hole through his Herculean torso. The slug, fortunately, had come from a rifle, and it had left a clean trail, entering his back at one side of the neck and angling down, doing something agonizing to a few bones, and coming out in the thick, magnificently developed pectoralis major muscle on the right side.
[Trilling. Everything and Nothing] THE trilling sound, low and fantastic, was quite musical, yet it was so without adhering to any definite tune. Nor could the exact nature of the sound, the sonic embodiment of the thing itself, be described. It was something that defied nomenclature, something infinitely etheric, yet also very real, for it was at times quite loud, and again it sank into virtual inaudibility.
Renny occupied a penthouse overlooking Central Park. The building, one of the most flamboyant in the city, was one Renny had designed and the erection of which he had supervised, and his apartment was an incredible array of modernistic metals and glass. Mechanical gadgets were everywhere, and the wide, glass-covered terrace was a greenhouse of tropical shrubs.
Lizzie snarled, "Keep your hands off Sully!"
Renny turned around and took Lizzie's slim throat in both huge hands, then lifted Lizzie from the floor without apparent difficulty and squeezed a little, tentatively. Lizzie flailed his arms and made froglike noises.
"I haven't forgotten that you walked off callously and left your pal to cut Pat's throat," Renny boomed.
He squeezed again slowly, not relaxing the pressure even when Lizzie squirmed his wildest. Lizzie's face became splotchy, then purple, and his tongue stuck small and pink and straight through his teeth.
Robert Lorrey said nervously, "It is Doc Savage's policy never to take a human life."
"Sure," Renny said. "But mistakes will happen."
The bronze man answered that by moving to the bathroom. The tub was full of steaming water, and in this stood the pig, Habeas Corpus. Doc lifted the shoat out of the water, then pulled the plug and let the tub drain, after which he reached up and turned the shower head so that it pointed straight up.
The tub promptly lifted on some mechanical support and swiveled, exposing an expanse of masonry which was perforated with a slit large enough to permit the passage of a man. Metal ladder rungs led downward.
"Renny prepared this for a getaway," Doc explained. "It leads to a secret elevator in what is apparently a solid column of masonry. No one else in the building knows of it."
"Where does it come out?" Monk demanded.
"Nearly a block distant, in a private garage rented by Renny under an assumed name," the bronze man explained.
[This makes for a cute-fun visual but it also means Monk intended to hurt Ham with criminal malice] The instant Monk's ropes were loosened, he tore them off and heaved erect. His rusty hair bristled. He showed all of his teeth. And he charged Ham purposefully...
But Monk never touched Ham. The gorilla-like chemist came to a stop. He rocked back on his heels foolishly. Then he grabbed at his head.
"Ouch!" he squawled. "My head!"
A hideous thing was happening to Monk's eyes. They were slowly protruding. He groaned in agony, sank down on the floor and held his head with both hands.
Doc Savage seized Monk, spread him out on the floor. He got smelling salts from a medicine cabinet and hot black coffee which bubbled on the kitchen stove, and administered both to Monk.
The homely chemist sat up after a time, his eyes normal again. He looked about foolishly.
"That pop-eyed business!" he exploded. "It got hold of me! Hell! I ain't no crook!"...
Monk got up suddenly, glaring, fists clenched. Then he looked extremely pained, his eyes seemed about to pop, and he sat down and held his head.
"Damn the luck!" he groaned. "Whenever I think of giving that shyster what he's got conning, I get that goofy feeling."...
Monk scowled and picked up a convenient limb. The bough was as thick as his arm, but the homely chemist handled it as a schoolmaster would a switch. He started for Ham purposefully.
Then he pulled up, dropped the limb, looked dazed, and grasped his head. His eyes popped the merest trifle.
"Blazes!" he gulped and sat down heavily. "Ow-w-w! My head!"
"Hello, Pat," Doc Savage said.
Pat asked, "Well, who's trying to kill you now?"
"Want to help me?" Doc asked her.
"That," laughed Pat, "is equivalent to an invitation to be shot at, stabbed, drowned, beaten up and no telling what else. Sure, I'll help you. Who are we fighting?"
PAT Savage was carrying a larger hand bag, and she wrenched it open and drew out an enormous single-action six-shooter. It had been her father's gun, and she had practiced with the weapon until she had the proficiency of an old-time Western gun fighter.
She shot from the hip, not pulling the trigger, for there was no trigger on the gun, it being stripped down for fanning. She simply rocked the hammer back with a thumb and let it fall. The concussion as the antique went off was terrific...
"Mercy bullet," said Pat. "Doc made some up special for this cannon."
"Do you think there is any danger?" he asked Pat.
"Sure," Pat said unkindly. "We all have an excellent chance of being killed."
Basenstein put a wry twist on his lips that was meant for a smile. "You are quite a remarkable young woman."
"Fooey!" said Pat. "I wonder if Renny keeps anything to eat in this place."
Monk, who was usually prompt in carrying out the bronze man's suggestions, for once seemed not to hear. Monk, at times in the past, had been suspected of possessing bloodthirsty inclinations. He looked through the window, grimaced, but did not turn away.
The man with the automatic looked at the other occupant of the car - Ham. Major General Theodore Marley Brooks - it was with this name that Ham was formally designated - looked like a gentleman who might qualify as a perfume salesman or a male clerk in an exclusive feminine shop.
One of the dead man's arms was outflung, and the wrist was encircled by a shiny metal band which the policeman at first mistook for a wrist watch, only to learn, on closer inspection, that it held in place a round metal disk which bore an inscription that read:
Should anything happen to this man, notify Doc Savage.
"Hell's bells!" gulped the officer, and ran for a telephone...
"There's a man dead here," said the policeman. "On his wrist is an identification tag asking that you be called if anything should happen to him."
"What is the number on the back of the tag?" Doc Savage asked.
The officer went over and examined the tag, finding a number he had overlooked the first time. Then he came back.
"Twenty-three," he said.
[Vanity Plate vanity, and bad incognito] Furthermore, the license plate consisted simply of three letters and a number - DOC 1.
"About two hours ago a man came to me for treatment. He was horribly beaten, cut and mutilated. I think he was slightly insane. He raved about being the Crime Annihilist who was going to kill a million criminals. He was quite mad. He said the Crime Annihilist was going to kill all of the crooks in the world."
[Fluctuates along with the height of Doc's building] Two of the three rooms inside were enormous; with the smaller reception room and office, they took in the entire floor of the titanic structure.
[Notes tossed from an airplane would not be found by anyone on the ground] Monk came forward, leaned close and growled, "That mug Basenstein is at it again."
"What now?" Doc asked.
"He's writing notes," Monk advised. "Whenever we pass over a town, he drops one out."
"I had noticed that," Doc admitted.
[Lost Doctor tags. Call for reward] One of the dead man's arms was outfiung, and the wrist was encircled by a shiny metal band which the policeman at first mistook for a wrist watch, only to learn, on closer inspection, that it held in place a round metal disk which bore an inscription that read:
Should anything happen to this man, notify Doc Savage...
"Robert Lorrey wore this around his ankle," Hardboiled growled. "It is an identification disk with a number and an inscription requesting that Doc Savage be called."
The Annihilist. The title of this Doc Savage adventure is The Annihilist.
023 - The Mystic Mullah:
"It was an ageless thing that had existed since the beginning of time -- a monstrous green face that spoke sudden death. With its legions of ghostly, nebulous soul slaves, it had begun to terrorize the world. Even Doc Savage and his fantastic five were helpless against its awesome power, until...."
Having read this before and seeing the floating green snakes in the 1975 Doc Savage film, January, 1935's The Mystic Mullah was a tough read for its entire first half that focused on the hocus pocus of floating tubular blobs of green poison and a nebulous Mystic Mullah that Monk and Ham think is a person when they should know it's a cheap visual effect. Usually the New York scenes are better written because they're first, the city requires less exposition, and it imposes few limitations to action, but here that advantage is crushed by moving from location A to B to C to D without much happening beyond running around and fighting before moving on to the next scene. There's less plot-building then doing stuff with cheesy floating mysteries and grand declarations on the powers of the Mystic Mullah.
The second half moves to a fictional Mongolia-type country and picks up steam by the simple virtue of no longer wallowing in the blob and Mullah gimmicks. The best scene in the book is a short section on how Joan Lyndell escapes a mob:
The spearhead of soldiers was shrinking, literally wearing itself away against the crowd. Watching, Monk and Ham saw one guard after another seize his chance and duck away into the throng.
Joan Lyndell called out angrily, but it had no effect. The guards continued to desert. There was a worried expression on the young woman's face now, and she carried her automatic pistol in plain view.
“These guards were trained by my father,” she said grimly. “I had hoped they would be faithful.”...
She rapped a sharp order. The guards who remained hesitated, then swung sharply to the left and dived into a narrow street. The throng of Tananese had not expected this, and angry shouts went up.
“Bet they had an ambush arranged ahead,” Monk offered...
THE escort swung into a trot. This side street was narrow, not pleasing to eye or nostril, and was populated largely by yaks, donkeys and dogs. There was a chill wind blowing down from the mountains which enwalled Tanan, and steely clouds in the distance suggested snow.
The floating green snakes are assigned lifelike qualities which they don't have, also a feature of 1937's The Derrick Devil and its jelly oil terror. This is the print version of the Doc Savage movie special effect:
Down the corridor, floating in the air, strange, fantastic things were approaching. They were like fat snakes, their color an unholy green, their diameter perhaps that of a human wrist, their length the span of an arm from hand to elbow. They whirled, contorted with a sort of dervish dance. They seemed to grow fatter, then thinner.
Most hideous of all was the fact that these flying serpentine things seemed unreal. They were ghostly, nebulous, without any real body or shape...
The green horrors reached him and Hadim struck with his knife, only to shriek out in fresh horror as the blade passed completely through the green atrocity and nothing happened. He struck again; then the serpentine things were upon him.
They brushed against his arms, his chest. One rolled like a hideous green tongue, caressing his face, lingering about his mouth, his nostrils, then rolling up over his eyes. Hadim fought them with his hands, shrieking again and again; he writhed down to get away from them, and squirmed on the floor.
Then the green things arose and drifted out through the holes which Hadim had beaten in the skyscraper window with his fists. They went slowly, as if satisfied with the work they had done. They had changed shape materially by now; one had been knocked to pieces and had resolved itself into half a dozen thin, green strings, so pale that the eye could easily see through them, distinguishing the frames of the window behind them.
The deckhand was flailing his arms and crying “Oh!” again and again, each time in a more horrible tone. The breath puff of each “Oh!” seemed to distort the hideous green worm of a thing that was rolling against his face, coiling around it, as if caressing it.
The deckhand struck at his own features and his hands, it was quite plain, passed completely through the nebulous green horror, with the result that the verdant thing was separated into two sections, each of which seemed to take on added life and slide over the man's nose.
The deckhand sucked in breath, and one of the green snakelike things crawled partially inside his mouth, then hastily out again. The deckhand shrieked more hoarsely and fell flat on his face, where his squirmings became rapidly less, and his head began to bend backward strangely, as if something invisible, some unseen master of strength, had gripped his neck.
“If that green stuff touches you, it'll kill you!” Doc said grimy. “He was using two kinds. One only burned the skin and produced senselessness. The other was mixed with the venom of the neotropical rattlesnake.”
“Something like that,” Doc rapped. “Venom of the neotropical rattler centralizes its effects in the nervous system around the nape of the neck and causes a form of nerve destruction which makes it appear that the victim has a broken neck. This poison probably had additional ingredients which heightened its effects, causing a muscular constriction which actually snapped the vertebrae in most cases.”...
“But, holy cow, the way these things move!” he growled.
“Always launched so that a current of air will carry the green mist toward the victims,” Doc said, and himself moved to glance into the wall opening. “Probably the stuff is squirted from some kind of a pump gun. That would give the snakelike effect.”
The floating Mystic Mullah would be more practical as a projected image but Lester Dent decided to put a condom over a light bulb and add puppetry to the show:
The face hung suspended, like something disembodied, for the darkness was too thick to permit Monk and Ham to see the nature of the body to which it was attached. The effect was ghostly.
The unearthly green glow that was the face seemed to fade, becoming paler and paler until its outlines were lost to the eyes and only a vague luminance remained. That, too, went away, leaving only the blackness of the room.
Near the door, Renny tangled in an affair of wires, and fell back. He got up, growling, and turned his light on the contrivance.
“Blazes!” he gulped. “Here's how he stuck that green face around and made it disappear!”
The thing Renny had fallen over must have been blown across the room by the grenade blast. It was such a device as fake spiritualists and magicians sometimes use to make luminous heads appear in thin air—a telescoping tube of some length, to the end of which was fixed a thin-walled rubber balloon face which could be inflated by blowing through the tube; then, by suction, drawn back into the tube, and the telescoping affair collapsed. Manipulation of thin threads caused the appearance of lip motion.
This month's specific racism trait:
The Tananese were leaning over the cabin cruiser cockpit, shooting with the wildness characteristic of excited Orientals.
Monk & Ham in all their idiot glory:
“You and me, too,” said Ham. “But if we get in a jam, remember—it was your fool idea. I'm just going along to keep you from gumming up things.”
“I'd take it as a favor if you'd go off and die,” Monk grumbled.
The fake Johnny was a nice touch. The Russian by way of Texas secret police big-wig Oscar Gibson and his commie dentures are also a plus:
Engraved on the bar was a peculiar design. It incorporated the hammer and sickle of the Soviet. There were a few engraved words of Russian. Doc read them and studied the design.
“Secret Police,” he said.
“Exactly,” said Oscar Gibson. “I am a member. More correctly I am one of the four highest ranking officers.”
“But you're English!” Monk exploded.
Unexplained is why the bad guys wrapped dummies and carried them off instead of the real Monk & Ham, who were found soon enough by Doc. Always enjoyable are the wise sayings of inscrutable Asians:
“He is a fool who only drops thorns in the path of the tiger,” one brown man told the man who had fired at the motorcycle cop. “The tiger will come again by another route.”
“He is a greater fool who kills the cub of the tiger,” retorted the other. “The police of these white devil ghosts are a bad tiger.”...
“A faithful dog knows his master,” he said.
“And it is a wise dog which finds a new master when the old one can no longer care for him,” Doc replied...
“It is a wise turtle which grows a thick shell, and a smart tiger which sharpens its claws,” he imparted...
“The fox that is wise retires to his den when the dogs begin barking,” he said...
Monk tried his hand at the Oriental method of making replies. “He who tries to know all things only makes himself dizzy,” he stated...
“It is well,” murmured the Mystic Mullah. “But it is also an unwise farmer who destroys his entire crop because there are a few weeds. He would better pull the weeds.”
The strange movements of his hands were simply to draw their attention from his feet as he stepped on one heel with the toe of the other foot and strained. The heel of his shoe was dislodged so easily that it was evident it was equipped with some type of hinge. A yellowish powder spilled out, making a small mound on the floor.
Doc stepped back, turned half around, put his hands over his face and bent double.
There was a terrific, eye-hurting white light. A plop of sound accompanied it, not unlike the setting off of a photographer's flash light gun. The light burned for perhaps a full two seconds, dense white smoke pouring from the mound of powder. The light went out...
The chemical mixture was infinitely stronger than magnesium; it made a light so strong that it produced almost complete blindness for a few moments. The stuff was ignited by a small pellet of another chemical compound which burst into flame shortly after it was exposed to the air.
Doc and Renny charged forward. Their procedure might have seemed reckless, but not only did they wear the armor vests which protected their bodies, legs, and even a portion of their necks, but the oilskin hats which they wore were not conventional seamen's hats at all, but thin steel helmets as efficient as regulation army equipment.
Doc's tool bags had been bombs, exploded by remote radio control. They had been filled, not with deadly shrapnel, but with solidified particles of the same chemical which the dapper Ham employed to coat the tip of his sword cane. The stuff looked like a yellowish rock salt.
[BS] Doc Savage abandoned his investigation of the fat green body and swung to the nearest prisoner. He scooped the fellow up, got him across a shoulder; then got two more of the captives one under either arm.
[Trilling is all things and every thing to every one] HE was silent because of a sound. A sound that had come into existence so gradually that it had at first not been noticed. The sound was still vague, but it was real, so real that it possessed a quality of menace, of promised events.
It was a trilling. It traced a fantastic musical scale, rising and falling, but not repeating its notes or indicating in any way that it adhered to a definite tune. It was low, nearly impossible of description. It might have been the product of a chill wind through the fog, or the song of some exotic tropical bird. And it was entirely unnatural, awe-inspiring.
[Punmeister Doc Savage] “Now, how are we gonna get into that yacht club?” Renny asked. “We can't just barge in.”
“That,” Doc told him, “is exactly what we are going to—barge up.”
[It's Long Tom's turn to play interpreter for Johnny's pretentious word game] Johnny met them shortly, a thin lath of darker shadow in the damp fog and darkness. When he spoke, he used his big words.
“Conceivably, could these Orientals conjecture the hypothesis of our pervasion of this circumambiency?”
Renny looked more gloomy.
“Holy cow!” he grumbled, “Don't you ever speak English? Somebody translate that.”
Long Tom said sourly, “He means that he wonders if them brown guys could be wise that Doc Savage had us posted in the background at that old factory, so that we could trail them.”
“Rats!” said Renny. “Why didn't he say so? I don't think they are wise.”
Ham's shoes were small, almost feminine, and he put his feet down straight, without toeing in or out.
Monk squirmed to get away from the knife pricking his back. He could feel scarlet trickling down inside his undershirt. It felt like a string of flies crawling on his bare skin.
“His head is clear enough,” Doc said. “What is your name?”
“It might be Mohammed, or Little Boy Blue, or Columbus,” said the stranger. “But, of course, it's not.”
Renny blocked out a big fist, held it close to the man's head, and head and fist did not differ greatly in size.
Somewhere near, waves lapped with sounds like women sobbing...
“It would not be advisable,” said the Khan, speaking his English that was so perfect it was almost unpleasant.
One man, on whose shoulders Doc managed to land, went down; there was a muffled crunch, as a bone broke in some part of him.
Doc Savage riffled through the papers. One after the other, he spread them open on a table displaying in each instance a full-page advertisement...
THE advertisements were in bold black type. Each was worded the same, reading:
$1,000 REWARD FOR GHOST MAN
The sum of one thousand dollars will be paid for information leading to the whereabouts of a man whose skin is unnaturally white. This man will have the face of an Oriental. His skin will be almost as white as ordinary writing paper. Call this newspaper when you see such a man.
Doc Savage now led the way to his car, Renny following with the stranger. This was a different machine, but armor plated like the others. It, however, bore a license which had been issued to Doc under an assumed name. The machine got into motion quietly.
The soldiers still carried their short, fearful swords, wore quilted armor; and such guns as they had—and they had a few, for the Orient sired the invention of gunpowder—were unique relics, more cannon than rifle, requiring two men to carry them. They fired anything from a ball of copper pounded from the rich natural deposits in Tanan, to a fistful of pebbles, or, if a man were desperate, various oddly shaped Tananese coins.
Once it became bruited about that the Mystic Mullah had been the Khan, rage seized the Tananese, and they turned upon the Mullah's faithful. Those who had lost relatives to the so-called green soul slaves of the Mullah, were especially bitter, and lives were taken all through that day, the ensuing night, and, for that matter, throughout the months that followed.
Not much of The Mystic Mullah is memorable but the floating snakes are iconic if not more correctly of sentimental value. The chore of the first half was mitigated by the better second half, so as I write this I'm not as annoyed by the book as I was halfway in.
024 - Red Snow:
"When the red snow descends, all in its path are destroyed, their bodies devoured by the scarlet rot. ARK, the monstrous-headed scholar of evil, sprays red death across a terrified nation and demands total surrender. Doc Savage is helpless as America reels under the crimson lash of deadly snow — helpless because he stands accused of murder!"
Dame Fortune is a vagrant, unreliable hussy
Pulp #24, dated February, 1935, took a lot of time to write and went through a number or reworkings. According to the Sanctum reprint, this was when author Lester Dent experienced a unspecified type of nervous breakdown requiring him to take a break and collect himself. In the middle there's a long section of low budget meandering from here to there and back again, mostly involving shrubbery, but the action is so insistent it's not boring, so it's less drowned by its Run & Fight format. It helps that the book reads quickly and clearly so you can plow through it.
The reprint claims the bad guys are Japanese but they come across more as German. The text does say this:
"They all had high cheek bones and a certain set to their eyes," Doc reminded. "That would indicate they were all of one nationality."
Yet the evil mastermind is named Baron Lang Ark and he and his men rub black polish on themselves to pass as black in Florida. Blackface in Doc Savage never struck me as feasible though I realize it's expedient, but Germans in blackface aren't as laughable as the Japanese.
Red Snow starts well with a series of mysterious incidents, and the action in Chapters 3 and 4 is very exciting. The Red Snow murders are relatively subdued affairs with many taking place off-page. Doc is in Peak Human form, not Uber, so some actions require adjustments to compensate for things out of his control, such as the top of a wall giving way when he jumps to reach it and a window box that breaks when he's forced to land on it. Doc uses guns but does not carry one on his person. Ham and Monk are the two assistants on hand and are their normal charming selves.
Doc gets framed for a murder and the Miami police decide to go after him hard. At least Dent comes up with a better reason for it:
"Doc Savage picked a wrong town to pull something like this in. His rep will make it just that much tougher on him."
"The chief of police is out for another term, and the district attorney wants to build himself a name, so he can take a whirl at the governorship," the policeman explained. "They've both been looking for something big. They'll land on this Doc Savage hard. Orders are already out to arrest him on sight. Why, we've got enough evidence to hang the guy right now."
Red Snow offers this piece of howling insanity as a means of getting him freed from his bindings:
After a moment, when the guard was looking; Doc twisted his features into a peculiar and terrible grimace; he made a visage so remarkable that the attention of the guard was seized, held. The fellow opened his mouth as if to ask what was wrong, but said nothing. He sat there, not closing his mouth, his jaw hanging down, his expression one of vacant amazement.
Doc did not hold the same hideous mask on his face. He changed it, so slowly that it was a great labor which brought perspiration out on his features. This moistness added to the effect of grotesque torment. The emotion he put upon his face was something unearthly. It appalled...
"Put the gun on the floor," Doc told him.
The man did nothing, did not pull up his dangling jaw.
"Put the gun down," Doc repeated.
The man did it this time, not looking at the weapon and not taking his eyes from Doc's features.
"Untie me," Doc said.
A smaller issue is an involved scene where Doc is placed in a pit of crude oil with a floating wick that can set it off at any moment. That nail-biter is resolved by someone else being put in the pit instead so that information can be scared out of him. Hypnotism and changing your mind. That's how Doc gets out of impossible jams.
[He used it with a silencer] Doc Savage removed one of these. Just ahead of the trigger guard, he clipped a magazine which resembled one of the reels on which film for home movie cameras is put up. Lying beside the unique weapons were five cylinders somewhat over an inch and a half thick and nearly a foot long. Doc affixed one of these to the muzzle of the over-sized automatic device, by a patent coupling.
[Is this possible?] Monk grunted understandingly and pawed a machine pistol out of a special underarm holster which was padded so that its presence under his coat was hardly noticeable.
[Vagrant Scale - whatever that is] Doc Savage did not move; his unusually regular bronze features did not alter expression, but into the hotel room there penetrated a weird sound, a not unmusical trilling which ran up and down a vagrant scale, a sound distinctly inspiring-unnatural, fantastic.
ONCE each day since childhood, Doc Savage had forced himself to go through a routine of exercises lasting for two hours-exercises which had not only given him an amazing physique and unusually sharp senses, but had developed his thinking processes as well.
He had, for instance, made reels of motion pictures showing the encroachment of danger in all the manners he could conceive, as well as men attacking him in various fashions. He made a practice of viewing these frequently, giving himself split parts of seconds to think of a way out of whatever difficulty presented, and striving to think of a new way out each time he viewed the scenes.
He always witnessed these films in private, because the procedure usually struck others as somewhat silly. But by this device, he had schooled himself to think swiftly in pinches.
[Nice as a series of actions] Doc lifted his captive and bore him toward a stairway which led upward. The size of the bronze man was made startlingly apparent by comparison with his prisoner. As he mounted the steps, he continued to grope at the back of the captive's neck with corded bronze fingers.
He was doing something which had taken him, even with the profound knowledge of surgery and anatomy, a long time to perfect. He was completing the induction of a state of paralysis, merely by exerting pressure on certain upper spinal nerve centers.
"But how could they?" the girl murmured. "You are Doc Savage?"
"Do not be silly" Doc began to tug on the chain, and his arms seemed to become tremendous beams, rigid and metallic. "You seem to have me overrated."
Doc Savage parked near the middle of the block, leaving the front wheels of the touring car just the legal distance from a fire hydrant, a simple precaution for making sure the space ahead of the car would remain clear for a quick get-away.
[Rare reference to this] ON his person, Doc Savage had only such unusual gadgets as he always carried when in action-numerous small contrivances which had gotten him out of many jams, and enabled him to accomplish remarkable results. He also carried a respectable sum of money.
Doc Savage ran. He did not often run, even when the course seemed the better part of valor, but he was retreating now from something that even he, with his fabulous knowledge, his wizardry of mind, did not understand.
"Nine men," Doc Savage said.
Monk wet the edges of his big mouth. It could have been one man, or nineteen, who had trampled the grass and he could not have told, although his small eyes were as keen, his perception as acute, as that of any ordinary man. But there was no doubt in his mind that Doc was right. Doc could tell. The bronze man had powers which quite often struck Monk as being just a little beyond human.
[Re: Women] Monk drew Doc aside. "Do you think she's lying?"
The bronze man said, "Monk, there is one subject which I gave up studying a long time ago, simply because it seemed impossible to get the thing down to a point where it could be understood with any reliability."
[Doc will use an available gun if necessary] Doc hefted the gun briefly. It was a good weapon. He fired. The right leg of one of the charging men broke over between ankle and knee and he went down. Doc shot again; once more. The other two fell, also shot in the legs...
The structure had been a living quarters. There were hammocks slung from the roof poles, and various suitcases. Too, there were cases holding automatic rifles and ammunition. Doc dipped into one of these, got a gun and charged it with ammunition.
He advanced to the door, aimed deliberately, and fired. Ark screamed and leaped a foot into the air, fell flat, then got up and hopped to cover. He had been shot through one leg.
[Dumb question, actually. What else could they be?] Doc waved an arm at the closed room. "What are those machines?"
"Devices for making the Red Snow preparation," said Space.
"Have you been following the newspapers lately?"
"No," said Ham. "I used to read the comic strips, but that was before Monk came along."
"Go ahead, young lady. We are anxious to hear anything that will make heads or tails of this. We're even willing to hear lies, if they'll make the thing sound like there was some logic to it."
Times without number, Ham had wondered just how Monk got by with it. Ham himself was more than ordinarily handsome, he was the suavest of talkers and he had a remarkable line of conversation. Yet he found Monk an aggravating competitor. Ham sometimes wondered if young women, especially attractive young women, did not feel sorry for Monk because he was so utterly homely.
Monk started to nod in gloomy agreement, then started violently and looked back at Doc Savage.
"Blazes!" he grunted. "Did I just have an original thought, or did you think of it first?"
"You mean about examining that red material on the false teeth of the man who was killed in the trunk?" Doc asked.
Monk sighed. "I knew I hadn't thought of it first."
"All right." Monk rolled his eyes again. "What do you want?"
"Succor," said fluency Beech.
Monk misunderstood. "Who's a sucker, you bag of wind?"
[The many moods of Monk's roars] Doc had cut half of Beech's lead when he heard Monk roar out behind him. There was something about that roar. Monk's fighting roars were different. They were joyful, excited, reckless. There was surprise in this one, amazement, and maybe a measure of fear.
[Trivia Question gold] "Call the information operator at the telephone company and tell her to direct any calls that may come for Andy Blodge to a telephone where you can hear them," Doc said.
"Okay." Monk grinned. Andy Blodge was a contraction of his own name, Andrew Blodgett Mayfair
[Serial sadist] Monk's first manipulations were executed with gusto. Then they became more systematic. And Monk used a beautiful judgment. Bones, he did not quite break. Muscles, just on the point of tearing from their moorings, were eased of strain.
Now that the peddlers were down, the journalists thrust heads from behind palm boles and parked cars; one fat fellow ceased trying to make a fire hydrant serve as shelter.
[No mention of an adult diaper] Doc Savage uncorked the bottle, tested it with his nostrils, and said, "Water." He unwrapped the wax paper and found a peanut-butter sandwich. When they looked in the trunk under the body, they found other wax papers which had been around sandwiches.
"The fellow has been in the trunk some time," Doc decided quietly. "He entered prepared for a considerable stay"
There was odor in the air. It was a very distinctive scent. It was remindful of a bonfire fed with old overshoes, rags, and now and then a fistful of sulphur. An added touch was a tang similar to cooking cabbage.
Ham breathed, "Will chlorine hurt a man?"
Monk said, "For a little while. Then you croak. Remember, they used it in the War."
[Without misdirection ventriloquism doesn't work] Doc Savage leaned close to the window. His lips moved, yet the words he spoke did not seem to come from his vocal cords, but rather from a spot below in the palms which thicketed the yard. It was good ventriloquism. The words were not English, but syllables of a guttural tongue which would have baffled an expert on languages.
There was a worn rug underfoot. Doc clawed up bunches of it in his hands, pulled. It was an old gag, and Ark thwarted it by sprawling down deliberately on the rug so that he would not be upset. But his next shot was delayed a moment.
Doc lunged up with the rug and flung it forward like a sheet. At the same time, he sloped aside.
Ark fired. His slug blasted a hole in the wall that a man could have crawled through.
Nona Space rode in the back. She held a wrench which had been taped, not too generously, with bicycle adhesive, and from time to time she discouraged their three prisoners by tapping them ungently over the head.
A woman, evidently the owner of the flower beds, came screeching from her home; she ran up to the car, still shrieking because her flowers were being ruined.
One of the black-faced men laughed and, opening the phaeton door, gave the cop who had been shot-he was dead now-a shove. The body, with its hideous drenching of red, landed at the angry woman's feet. She took one good look at it and fell over in a faint.
[Dirty, dirty Lester Dent] Hyman Space and Ray Wood
"It is unfortunate that we do not have more of the Red Snow," he said. "It is a weapon such as mankind never before saw. It is my own product, an electro-chemical solution which completely disrupts the molecular characteristics of matter. You know that radium has the property of disintegrating, although the process is infinitely slow? Well, I discovered that, by employing this phenomena of radium and adding certain chemical and radioactive substances, treated in a certain manner, I could cause almost instantaneous disintegration of practically all known substances.
"I do not destroy them. Nothing so drastic as that. I merely change their nature, as water is turned into steam, as wood is burned and turned into smoke and ashes. In this case, there is no resulting heat. The whole affair is carried out through the medium of atomic bombardment, secured through the medium of these radioactive compounds in combination with-"
Red Snow just barely compensates for its weaker parts by being good at what it does get right.
025 - Land Of Always-Night:
"With the fate of America hanging in the balance, Doc Savage and his fearless crew battle a hideously white-faced man named Ool who kills merely with a touch of his finger. The only clue to his diabolical power is a mysterious pair of dark goggles which brings death to whomever possesses them. The trail leads to a fabulous lost super-civilization hidden deep in the bowels of the earth, where Doc Savage and his fabulous five face their supreme challenge."
March, 1935's Land Of Always-Night jumps down the same fantasy well as Murder Melody, November's title from the same year. The latter was written by crazed doper Lawrence Donovan. Land Of Always-Night was co-written by Lester Dent and W. Ryerson Johnson. Both novels flail and fail once they exit the surface world for Subterranae in Murder Melody and the "The Place Never Given A Name" in Land Of Always-Night, where science is well ahead of our own yet a belt buckle baffles their ruler:
Other devices baffled him in the brief moments he devoted to examination, and carried conviction that in many respects these strange cavern people were far ahead, scientifically, of the so-called civilizations on the outside of the globe.
Anos, the dictator, lunged and tried to pick up the machine gun, but the belt fastenings, being unfamiliar, baffled him, and instead, he lifted the dead thug up bodily, using the lifeless form as a shield.
Anos is a dictator because, according to the Sanctum reprint, Ryerson was a hardcore socialist and wanted more of a Bertolt Brechtian treatise on Good Worker Vs. Evil Boss. Dent nixed that idea but kept Anos as a dictator mainly in name because a coup attempt in this society only warrants a demotion. Screw up again and you get banished to Arkansas:
"That is fitting," the dictator replied slowly. "You have been noted in the past for your greed and treachery, and for your insane thirst to take over the government here. It was for attempting to take over the government that you were banished to the Stor, the working squadrons. When you tried to lead the Star in revolt, you were sent to the Land of the Lost."
Anos, the dictator, was taken prisoner, and along with him, various members of the ruling Nonverid, who had been with him. This had the effect of breaking the backbone of the entire defense. These cavern people were not a fighting race, and with their leadership shattered, were virtually helpless.
The story is good until Chapter 11. That's when everyone leaves NYC and heads towards and into the dark depths of the earth where architecture is minimal and mushrooms the only food game in town. They also make a netting that suffocates you just short of death. Fans love these adventures but they die once you're at the mercy of writers making things up as they go along, and pacing slows both physically and in storytelling since you have to look around and marvel at all the weird things you need explained to you in the grinding details of magtastical fabrication.
There's no real threat to the outside world at large. The death dealing gimmick is just that and it wouldn't get an army of Ools anything but dead against anyone with a gun. Plus there's not enough Ools to begin with, and "Cold Light" isn't worth a penny if you have to wear big, stupid goggles to make it work. 3-D televisions? Hello?
The evil Ool is a great villain. The affectation of the snakey butterfly hand sadly isn't something more than fun to read, but for a while a scene like this made you wonder how ambitious and effective he might turn out to be:
Ool, you're smart enough to be president of these United States!"
Ool nodded. "I have thought of that. Perhaps I shall be."
Watches stared. "Well, for
"What," Ool questioned, "is to prevent me?"
"Sure," Watches muttered, a strange gleam coming into his bleak eyes. "You took me off my feet for a minute by being so casual."
IT is somewhat ridiculous to say that a human hand can resemble a butterfly. Yet this particular hand did attain that similarity. Probably it was the way it moved, hovered, moved again, with something about it that was remindful of a slow-motion picture being shown on a screen.
"Where is it?" he asked. His voice was utterly flat; it held the mechanical quality found in the speech of persons so deaf that they can hardly hear themselves talk.
Ool began to speak. His voice was like the intonation of a phonograph which possessed no qualities of tone whatever; his words were so flat that at times they were hardly understandable.
Ool smiled. It was the smile of a man not accustomed to showing emotion in that manner. The smile was slightly horrible.
The gang led by Watches Bowen is memorable in that there's more than the usual number of featured characters, and they're all well fleshed out. Ham-Hoch Piney, Honey Hannibal, Squirrel Dougan get separate chances to shine. Watches Bowen and his watch fetish turns him silly to the point of being either a Dick Tracy or Batman bad guy:
[Funny visual] Watches looked at it, appeared to see it for the first time, seemed startled, and hastily returned it to its concealed sleeve pouch.
The gangster's hand dipped to his wide coat pocket. It whipped out clutching another leaded watch. There was a chain attached. It was the gangster's habit to use the weighted timepiece as a substitute for a blackjack. He swung the unique weapon at Monk's head.
The special gold watch Ham-hock referred to was a new addition to the mob chief's collection, one especially reserved for the annihilation of Doc Savage. Bowen had even indulged in a whim, and had engraved Doc Savage's name on the case.
He had not revealed wherein lay the deadly nature of the watch, boasting only that this watch would finish Savage off if the proper chance came...
THE timepiece which Watches Bowen brought out was the one which he had repeatedly assured members of his gang was a special gift destined for Doc Savage. The watch was unusually large. Bowen drew back an arm to throw it...
With a quick twist of thumb and forefinger, the mob chief turned the stem of the watch as if he were winding it. There started a faintly audible whir. His arm arched back, and he prepared to throw...
Whoo-o-m! The watch was a small, violent grenade, and it let go. Steel fragments rained from above. There was a shrill roar, not of powder unleashed, but of something else -- something gray and smoking that boiled down in great sheets from rent pipes.
This passage is nice as it shows Monk's selfless loyalty to Doc and his friends on the 86th floor:
There was an interval of silence inside the booth, then the fake policeman spoke: "Hello . . . Doc Savage?"
Monk, the homely, loyal Monk, did a magnificent thing. It was not his fault that it was a useless thing.
It has been long accepted that. "greater love hath no man -- " Monk did the best he could to lay down his life for his brother.
There was only one way he could have managed it. With that automatic nosed into his hack, he could only yell, warn Doc Savage of the poison danger by the roar of his great voice -- and by the roar of the gangster's gun as it blared its lead through flesh and bone.
Monk opened his cavernous mouth to yell. It was not his fault that no sound came.
Before he could utter so much as a murmur, the barrel of a submachine gun crashed against his temple and felled him to the floor.
Johnny and his vocabulary. I'd change most of these sad comedy routines into the others taking what he says and moving on as if they know what he meant, working in the "translations" as part of normal conversations not intended to be simple translations. Usually Monk's the last to know what Johnny's saying, and it's a snobbish and weird affectation as much as Ham's fake Harvard accent is pretentious, but as it's his turn, here's Monk knowing all the big boy words:
"Your perambulations are imperspicuous," said big-worded Johnny.
"He means," said Monk, who could seldom resist interpreting Johnny's verbiage, "that we want to know what you were snooping around in here for?"
[Renny interprets Johnny's words for Doc Savage? Really?!] Johnny, the big-worded archaeologist and geologist, fumbled his monocle and murmured, "I wonder if your chicane histrionics were consummative?"
"He means that he wonders if that was a successful act that you put on over the telephone, when you had one of us yell that you were dead," Renny rumbled.
Doc evidently intended to answer, but there was an interruption. The telephone rang. The bronze man got up and swung toward the instrument.
This is science magic that would have been better if it was a hologram:
Squirrel shoved forward and snatched out his own hand for the goggles. He had no more success than had Ham-hock. His hand seemed to pass through the goggles as though they were of no substance. His finger nails scraped futilely on the glass shelf. His face blanched. His rodent teeth started chattering.
A series of mirrors had been employed to cast a lifelike reflection of the goggles -- a trick magicians sometimes use to make an article seem where it is not.
Doc's blimp goes 200 mph?!:
LIKE a moonbeam caught up, congealed, and set adrift again, a cruising dirigible, a silver sliver against the bleak, sub-Arctic sky, droned over the Canadian northwest at a rate of speed highly unusual for such ships. The speed of the dirigible -- almost two hundred miles an hour -- was achieved through improved propulsion power and lessened wind resistance.
"Health Glass" gets a Google hit from an old newspaper. As it does not block harmful UV rays but amplifies them I can see why it never went places.
FIVE men stood in the early morning sun which streamed through the "health glass" windows of Doc Savage's eighty-sixth floor headquarters.
"Health Glass" Windows H"! ES of the future will have windows whose panes are a new scientific product which may most appropriately be called "health glass." In appearance It Is not different from 'ordinary window glass, but In reality vastly different, because it will transmit more of the sunlight. Heretofore curative sun treatments have been given mostly out - of - doors.
Nice visual of waiting for Doc's anesthetic gas to lose potency:
DOC turned, walked over and hoisted a window. For a space of about forty seconds neither he nor his aides said anything, but simply stood and regarded each other.
Doc doesn't use a gun otherwise but there's this shortly into the story:
Doc Savage's finger tightened on the trigger of his weapon. The gun emitted a single ear-splitting hoot. It was a machine pistol with a tremendously fast rate of fire.
Doc put these actor's lives in jeopardy as I was expecting the bad guys to come in and Tommy Gun them to pieces:
"That probably explains it," Squirrel said, with the air of a mastermind. "Doc Savage told you when he was gonna be out of his place in the restaurant, figuring you would take a whirl at getting the goggles. Then he arranged some actors or somebody down there eating to look like himself and his men."
A big issue in the Doc Savage world, should Doc be better than his aides in their own fields?
The bronze man conferred for a moment under his breath with Johnny on a question of geology. Although Doc, as a result of his exhaustive studies, his self-imposed mental, physical, and emotional discipline, had accumulated a store of knowledge greater in every case than that of his five aides, he nevertheless consulted frequently with them on questions involving their specialty.
He did this because he was a thorough man who preferred to check his reasonings. On the present geological question, Doc and Johnny came to quick agreement.
This was darn good for ten chapters. Then it stage-dived into Fantasy Land and the bad guys lost because of an exploding watch with Doc Savage's name etched in it. To find out more about what happens when time flies, read Land Of Always-Night, available wherever Vitameatavegamin is sold.