The New Doc Savage Movie Idea Page
Archived Doc Savage Pulp Reviews
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026 - The Spook Legion 027 - The Secret In The Sky 028 - The Roar Devil 029 - Quest Of Qui 030 - Spook Hole 031 - The Majii 032 - Dust Of Death 033 - Murder Melody 034 - The Fantastic Island 035 - Murder Mirage 036 - Mystery Under The Sea 037 - The Metal Master 038 - The Men Who Smiled No More 039 - The Seven Agate Devils 040 - Haunted Ocean 041 - The Black Spot 042 - The Midas Man 043 - Cold Death 044 - The South Pole Terror 045 - Resurrection Day 046 - The Vanisher 047 - Land Of Long JuJu 048 - The Derrick Devil 049 - The Mental Wizard 050 - Terror In The Navy
!Standard Spoiler Alert!
There's no such a thing as Doc Savage spoilers because you either figure out who the bad guy is soon enough and/or it doesn't really make a difference which day-player gets the nod. It might be better to know beforehand so you can see how well Lester Dent and Co. handled said ne'er-do-wells from the start.
026 - The Spook Legion:
"The entire city of New York is swept up in a wave of terror, as an evil international conspiracy devises a crime so sinister that only Doc Savage and his five mighty cohorts can halt its fiendish plan. Led by a phantom master criminal with stupefying supernatural powers, the conspiracy sets trap after trap for Doc. Finally, in a fantastic underground empire, the fearless bronze giant and his courageous crew must fight for their lives against a diabolical enemy that cannot even be seen."
The Invisible Man, starring Claude Rains, hit cinemas in 1933 and The Spook Legion saw print in April of 1935. It's a fun and taut Doc Savage adventure with natural humor and action made that much more visual by the involvement of invisible men, made that way with goop, electricity, and great physical pain. While easily one of the series' best it by necessity overlooks the obvious Doc Savage solution of oily powder bombs to turn invisible thieves into visible spooks.
Playing editor eighty years after the fact, this scene appears but was never referenced again:
Doc Savage worked swiftly. He located an electric power line and hooked on to it with his cables, which were in turn connected to high-frequency spark coils. The latter, the bronze man had carried from an electrical supply house on lower Broadway.
From the coils, the copper cables were conducted to doors and windows of the house. There, the bronze man operated more painstakingly, employing a material which was as invisible as he himself, for he had removed clothing and grease paint.
When he had finished, he had strung over the doors and windows strands of the invisible metal fabric from which the loot bags had been woven. He went over all connections, making sure the insulated cables were connected to the invisible metal strands in the proper manner.
The ending was very good so if I didn't read the book I probably wouldn't have noticed the setup above was left to hang:
The locomotive jumped the rails, angled sidewise, hit the row of supports between the rails and knocked these over like straws until, because the posts were anchored more solidly at the bottom than at the top, the locomotive climbed up on its rear trucks and poked its snout out through the street, overturning two motor cars and vastly exciting policemen in the cordon about the vicinity...
It was even doubted in some quarters that the invisible men perished; but that doubt subsided in the course of two or three weeks, when the tunnel was finally pumped dry. The bodies, after being in the water that long, were not exactly invisible, but rather looked somewhat like large oceany jellyfish.
Ham and Monk, redefining friendship in what social scientists refer to as "The Psychotic Thirties":
Monk, rumbling angrily, sent out one huge hand and closed it about the dapper Ham's throat.
“You kicked Habeas Corpus!” he gritted. “I gotta notion to see how easy your head comes off!”
Ham made croakings past the fingers constricting his throat...
The two looked at each other with what seemed genuine, utter hate.
Doc has a box at the Metropolitan Opera House, passed down from his father:
THE structure that is the center of operatic America, the citadel which draws the crowned heads of the profession for their finest performances, is a building which outwardly resembles an enormous and very grimy warehouse. Viewed from the street, it offers nothing impressive other than its size, except on opera nights, when it takes on a dignity and an aura of glittering impressiveness.
Lester Dent adds a nice random touch having the henchmen come from a higher strata of the criminal classes:
well-dressed, intelligent-looking fellows who, nevertheless, conveyed the impression of being hard and unscrupulous... Any one could have donned suitable attire and mingled with the best society.
Doc Savage is less omniscient and omnipotent without diminishing his peak human abilities. He gets knocked out, has no idea how to handle the invisible men, and is for a while in the dark about the invisible man technology. A bit of that is tied to the conceit he can't come up with the easy solution of resolving invisibility with a clinging gas or powder.
The book reads well and quickly, with less to comment on than to enjoy on the page. The Spook Legion would make for an excellent TV adaptation if there was a Doc Savage series, especially the last scene where Doc becomes visible again and Ada Easeman's eyes pop out of her head to the sound of a truck horn and slide whistle. Since he's naked. It wasn't in the book but that's why fan fiction exists.
Ham put more weight on the accelerator. Monk grabbed door handles and cranked. It became apparent that the unusual car was fitted with two sets of glass. The second had concealed panels, which now came into view, were thicker and equipped with thin loophole slits reënforced with steel bullet deflectors.
Monk stopped the car in a deserted-looking spot, and the bronze man drew from the tool compartment an extra set of license plates for each of the States bounding New York. He selected a pair for New Jersey and substituted them for the tabs which the car already bore. Out of the tool compartment came a contrivance which resembled an ordinary hand sprayer.
“Those Jersey tags under your name?” Monk questioned.
“No,” Doc told him. “They were issued to a second-hand car which was run into the ocean after the new plates were removed.”
The bronze man now turned the sprayer on the car and began working the pump handle. This threw a cloud of almost colorless material over the machine. The stuff had a biting tang that set Monk and Ham coughing. The color of the car had been a somber black. Now it changed, becoming a rather light and cheap gray tint.
“Chemical bleach,” the bronze man explained. “Much quicker than repainting.”
The entire car had changed color when they again entered it and drove on.
The door of his office was barred with wire, and the corridor was filled with armed men. Doc withdrew to the floor below, where there was a secret door back of a fire cabinet which gave to a ladder leading up to the laboratory room.
Was there an address of sender given on the message?”
“What was it?”
“1440 Powder Road,” said Leo Bell, after consulting the message.
“There is no such address in Boston,” Doc Savage said, and hung up.
Leo blinked dazedly after the connection was broken, wondering how Doc Savage had known the address was a fake—and it was indeed false. Leo ascertained a moment later, upon consulting the street directory. There was no such number on Powder Road.
Doc Savage remained, limp and unstirring, where he had been felled. His features had slammed the floor heavily when he went down, and small crimson bubbles broke at his lips from time to time, showing that he still breathed.
[Peak Human Doc, not the Uber-Omniscient Doc] As if the shout had switched off the spell, Doc Savage lunged for the gun. Both arms were out, clutching. Then came a flash. Varicolored lights exploded in his eyeballs. He had been struck a terrific blow in the face...
Doc Savage leaped to stop them. Something he could not see got between his legs, and he tripped and went down. There was the agony of a second terrific smash on his head. Dazed for all of his fortitude, he rolled to one side...
In the direction which the fugitives had taken, an automobile engine began moaning. Doc Savage heaved up and made for the sound. So dazed was he by the blows that Monk and Ham kept up with him and even drew ahead, something they could not ordinarily have done.
[A process alien to Doc Savage] “How were you made invisible?” he demanded.
“I secured only a hazy idea of the process,” Doc Savage explained. “It has something to do with altering the electronic composition of the body, securing an atomic motific status which results in complete diaphaneity.”
“That,” said Ham, “does not mean a lot to me.”
“Nor a great deal more to me,” the bronze man—he was possessed of neither form nor hue now, as far as appearances went—admitted. “The process was extremely involved. Monk and I lost consciousness before we were very far along. I do not know what happened after we were senseless.”
THE bronze man had purloined a delivery truck—hardly theft, because the vehicle belonged to a bakery concern in which he had a large interest.
DOC SAVAGE studied the man, then knelt and kneaded some of the fellow's joints in a manner which produced great pain. Doc noted the results carefully. He shook his head.
“Physical pain does not terrify this man,” he said. “The fellow knows he can take only so much, then he will faint. Many criminals are that way.”
Monk scowled. “Let's try it, anyhow.”
Doc Savage rapped, “Get under cover!”
Monk eyed the bronze man. It was the first time he could recall having seen his chief sidestep a fight. Monk often suspected that Doc liked a scrap better than any of them, and that sort of excitement was the spice of life to himself and Ham.
Belying the danger of their position, the apish chemist wore a wide, somehow rather cherubic grin. The same grin he had been known to wear on certain other occasions when the chances of his living more than a few minutes had seemed negligible. Monk was a rare type of individual. He seemed unable to conceive of such a thing as danger.
A car came spinning along. Monk stood in the center of the road and cartwheeled his arms only to realize at the last instant that he could not be seen. A wild leap got him clear.
“Blazes!” he complained aloud. “This being invisible is going to have its drawbacks!”
[Monk punches an unconscious man to keep him out longer] “Swell,” Monk replied. “And I'm gonna fix this baby so that he'll sleep for a while.”
There was a robust whack, as if a fist had collided soundly with a jaw, as Monk made sure their prisoner would remain unconscious.
He eyed the address on the message and shook his head, because he knew, from past experience, that a telegram addressed to one man in a city as large as New York had very little chance of being delivered.
Leo carried the message back to the night manager.
“I have here a straight telegram addressed to Doc Savage in New York City,” he told the night manager. “I think we should get a better address.”
“Where have you been all your life?” demanded the manager.
“Huh?” Leo blinked.
“I thought everybody had heard of Doc Savage,” said the other.
The two employees in the telegraph office discussed the happening through the remainder of their tour of duty. It seemed as if something smacking of high adventure had touched them briefly, and they rather liked the manner in which it spiced their humdrum lives.
[Commercial air travel circa 1935] It was near New York that one of the passengers forward reached up and jerked open the window beside his seat. No doubt he wanted to thrust his head out and stare at the skyscrapers of Manhattan, which were coming into view ahead and below...
He sat there for some time. Then he reached under his coat, thrust a hand beneath the left armpit and brought out a stubby but deadly-looking revolver.
[Someone fires off three shots in a plane and nobody panics?] THE average American lives in a high-pressure world where things happen with rapidity. He is not inclined to become wildly excited about an occurrence which does not menace him directly.
These plane passengers were no exceptions. They merely looked around. Those farthest away stood up. Nobody screamed. Nobody yelled.
[The exclamation point begs to differ] “We're going down!” he said, and there was no trace of excitement in his remarkable voice.
FEDERATED PAYROLL was a product of the complexity of the modern business world. They took contracts from factories and large business establishments, whereby they agreed to handle payrolls—getting the money, taking it to their offices having their own accountants apportion it in small envelopes bearing the names of workmen. Then armored cars carried the envelopes to the respective places of employment, where armed attendants distributed the wages...
At each end of this room, high up, was an armor plate pillbox with machine gunners posted inside. Federated Payroll took few chances.
“Hold them here a while, until Doc Savage and the other one are taken,” said another unseen speaker. “Then we will see what reaction a particle of lead of a predetermined size, say .38 calibre, has on their mental processes. It ought to be an interesting study.”
Marikan wailed, “No, no! Not to me, don't do it! Let me join you! I can help! I am good chiropractor, and if you a pain in the back get, maybe I can—”
“It's a pain in the neck, you are!” Telegraph snorted. “Tie him, men.”
It was near the noon hour and they passed a group of chattering office girls, out for lunch.
Monk exploded, when the femininity was behind. “Is my face red!”
“Yes?” Doc prompted.
“Do you realize,” Monk asked, “that we're walking down the street without a thing on?”
“I have not seen Doc Savage for some time,” Ham replied—truthfully.
“Be fish or fowl, guy!” a voice suggested. “Either get them pants and shoes off, or put on some more clothes. You give me the creeps!”
[Drug stores had a section for theatrical supplies] He had equipped himself with trousers, a ragged topcoat and a hat, and had walked boldly into a drug store and gotten grease paint from the section devoted to the sale of theatrical supplies. The grease paint had outlined his features with passable distinctness.
“You said it,” declared another. “If we have to stay invisible, a fine chance we've got to enjoy the proceeds of this little scheme. I'm beginning to get a first-class idea of why nobody ever heard of a cheerful ghost.”
Definitely in the top ten of the series, The Spook Legion works both as great adventure fiction and internet Rule 34 fantasy fuel.
027 - The Secret In The Sky:
"A ball of fire streaks across the heavens leaving death and ruin in its wake — A machine of terror which cannot be halted — An amazing intelligence capable of rendering an entire continent barren… All America trembles as Doc Savage grapples with the most awesome challenge of his astonishing career!"
May, 1935's entry has the makings of a classic Doc Savage adventure but Lester Dent didn't get around to putting it together coherently and left a number of threads hanging while screwing the pooch on the master villain reveal as a last-second switcheroo on what he might have realized was an obvious setup.
The Secret In The Sky involves "alien" technology that Dent applies as terrestrial, and he makes a decent stab at making it advanced yet practical (if not just feasible-ish):
The ball must be in motion. The machinery was making a great uproar. Shouted orders could not be heard. The men were communicating by gestures. One man in particular watched a bank of electric thermometers which registered the outer temperature of the shell and warned of increasing friction heat generated by their passage through the air. This man made a sudden gesture when the needles crept too high, and the speed of the ball was evidently slowed.
Other men glued eyes to periscope devices which evidently permitted them to look outside. Two more worked frantically with radio direction finders, evidently keeping track of their position by spotting well-known broadcasting stations on the earth below.
It was superscientific travel in its superlative degree, and Doc Savage could only stare and marvel. He was getting a vague idea of how the ball was made to move. No doubt gravitational force was nullified on top, on one side, creating in effect a vacuum in the lines of force which sucked the ball along.
It was a vague theory, capable of many refutations according to known scientific data, but it was the best solution the bronze man could assemble until such time as he had an opportunity to inspect the power plant itself...
Here before his eyes he was seeing demonstrated the product of a fantastic scientific discovery, a discovery so advanced that even the bronze man, for all of his learning, was somewhat dazed.
If he correctly interpreted what he was seeing, the creator of this aërial device had discovered how to nullify that type of force generally designated as momentum, as well as various forms of attraction, gravitational and otherwise.
The opening scenes focusing on coast-to-coast travel in a little over two hours are effective, and the last third works well with two rival gangs moving against each other and the flying orbs taking center stage as fantastical machines. Monk is given proper diction and personality attributes that match his intelligence and street-smarts. Ham is a prick who rightly gets less page time. The big gold bullion heist scene was excellent, various characters are fleshed-out nicely, and affiliations are in the air for a good while. Except for Nock Spanner, brother of Willard Spanner:
Willard Kipring Parker Spanner called himself simply, “a guy who likes to fiddle around with microscopes.” It was said that he knew as much about disease germs, and methods of combating them, as any living man. He had won one Nobel prize. He was less than thirty years old. Scientists and physicians who knew him considered him a genius.
When Willard Spanner was found dead, many a scientist and physician actually shed tears, realizing what the world had lost.
Dent chooses one of the featured henchmen, Stunted, as the brains behind the technology and organization in the next to last sentence of the story. Only Willard Spanner had the implied ability to create the flying orb technology. His brother Nock had to be the evil mastermind, and he probably had his non-evil brother killed, but the rug was pulled out on that at closing time. Doc examined Willard's body and identified it as his. To then have Willard be alive and supply the ransom clue of Nock's middle name invalidates Doc's medical skills, which wasn't going to happen.
Stunted's lack of bloodlust is set up a number of times for a later scene where his adversary, the googly-eyed man, tells his pals Stunted will get bumped off first chance:
“The man with the crossing eyes was arranging with some of the others about murdering the one they call Stunted,” she said. “He's to be killed whenever they have a chance to make it look like you did it.”
“So they're going to kill Stunted,” Doc murmured.
A moment later, the bronze man was gone into the darkness.
From this it seems Doc will use the information to turn Stunted to the side of right and away from a level of criminality he didn't want to be a part of. Maybe by the end he'll even be engaged to pretty Lanca Jaxon because that's how the Doc Savage universe works. This path lead nowhere.
Small to mid-level quibbles: why steal Willard Spanner's clothes from the morgue? Whatever clues they held on the flying orb technology was never pursued. Why substitute other clothes with a label that leads Doc to Tulsa and the identity of the gang? A lot of work went into capturing Doc+5 to find out if they left any information for the police, but then when they're together the first order of business is killing them immediately.
The Comet Gang:
“Our affair of the flaming comets seems to be taking on the complexion of one of the most gigantic criminal rings of all time,” he said, the radio loud-speaker reproducing each word distinctly. “At least half a dozen crimes of importance can be attributed to the Comet Gang so far today, the largest being the fantastic robbery of bullion from a ship at a New York City pier, only a short time ago. In addition to this, a jewelry concern was rifled in Chicago, and banks robbed in various other cities. In each case, it is certain that the robbers were members of what is now being called the Comet Gang, and escaped in the fantastic ball vehicles, which scientists admit to be some new type of terrestrial ship capable of traveling at terrific speed, and of handling with remarkable facility.”
The buzzer whirred three times, with lengthy pauses between whirs, which allowed time for any one present to have answered. Then an automatic answering device, an ingenious arrangement of dictaphone voice recorder and phonographic speaker—a creation of Doc Savage's scientific skill—was cut in automatically. The phonograph record turned under the needle and sent words over the telephone wire.
“This is a mechanical robot speaking from Doc Savage's headquarters and advising you that Doc Savage is not present, but that any message you care to speak will be recorded on a dictaphone and will came to Doc Savage's attention later,” spoke the mechanical contrivance. “You may proceed with whatever you wish to say, if anything.”...
The mechanical device in Doc Savage's New York office ran on for some moments, and a stamp clock automatically recorded the exact time of the message on a paper roll; then the apparatus stopped and set itself for another call, should one come.
Floodlights fanned brilliance as Doc Savage dropped his big speed plane in for a landing. The night force of mechanics stood about and stared. Some one ran to a near-by flying school, and shortly afterward there was a stampede to the tarmac of aëronautical students in all states of partial dress. It was not often that a plane such as the bronze man was flying was seen.
The speed ship was tri-motored, and all three motors were streamlined into the wings until their presence was hardly apparent to the eye. The hull breasted down so that the plane could be landed on water, and the landing gear was retractable. The cabin was as bulletproof as was feasible, and inside were innumerable mechanical devices.
Doc Savage had no finger-printing outfit with him, but managed to improvise one by employing a mixture of ordinary pulverized pencil lead and burned cork on white surfaces in the kitchen regions.
The path turned. For a brief time, Doc Savage was concealed from the others, and during that interval he went through some rapid motions. A bottle came out of his clothing. It held a liquid which resembled rather thick, colorless syrup, and he sprinkled this over the path.
The bottle was out of sight when the others came in view. They walked through the sticky substance on the path without noting its presence. Doc said nothing. They went on...
Doc Savage dug a small flat flask out of his clothing. It was filled with greenish pellets hardly larger than common rice. He began shaking these out on the ground, and the moment they were exposed to the air they began turning into a rather bilious-looking vapor. This was swept away quickly by the wind.
But the strange vaporized pellets did one remarkable thing to the surrounding growth and the ground: They brought out tracks—tracks that showed with a distinct, sinister yellowish tint...
“A sticky chemical I let you walk through,” Doc explained. “This vapor causes a chemical reaction which makes your tracks visible.”
Doc Savage had managed to unscrew one half of the button from the other half; a threaded joint permitted this, although so skillfully done that no casual examination would have disclosed it. He carefully tilted the button and let the stuff in the hollow interior trickle on the handcuff links. He did this most painstakingly...
Doc Savage had taken four more buttons off his coat, carefully unscrewed them, and emptied the contents on the cuff links...
“Some powerful chemical of an acid nature,” the man growled. “That infernal bronze fellow must have had it hidden somewhere on him, and put it on the handcuff chains. It weakened them until he could break them.
Doc Savage moved with such suddenness that he seemed to explode. But it was a silent explosion, and he was little more than a noiseless bronze blur as he crossed to the nearest door.
[Doc's wallet is a foot thick] Doc Savage lunged to the side of the pilot.
“Follow that man down!” he rapped.
Such was the quality of compelling obedience in the bronze man's remarkable voice that the pilot obeyed without stopping to reason out why he should...
Doc advanced again and spoke grimly to the pilot, and that worthy, suddenly apprised of the bronze man's identity and shown a small card, hastened to send the plane toward the parachute.
The card Doc displayed was one directing all employees of the air line to put themselves at his service upon request, and had been issued partially because Doc Savage, a man of more wealth than any one dreamed, owned a goodly portion of the air-line stock.
[Doc isn't squeamish about going over someone's head, and he'll snitch if he has to] The publisher sounded less certain when he asked, “What are you going to do about it?”
“Tell the other newspapers what you are doing,” Doc advised. “The fact that you are going so far as to block efforts to find Spanner, if alive, for the sake of a story, should make interesting reading. I also have a Federal agent's commission. The Federal authorities will be interested in your refusal of information and coöperation to an agent. I may think of other measures. For instance, the majority stock in your sheet is owned by a chain of which I am a director.”
“You win,” said the newspaperman. “I'll send the notes over.”
Monk picked the short man up bodily, turned him over and dropped him on his head. He accomplished the motion with such speed that the short man was helpless. Stunted did not move after he fell on his head.
Monk blinked small eyes at his victim.
“Gosh,” he said. “I wonder if that hurt him?”
Monk came over and sat on the lean prisoner. Doc Savage removed his foot from the man's neck. Monk grabbed the fellow's ears and pulled them. He seemed fascinated by the rubbery manner in which they stretched out from the man's head.
“They'd make swell souvenirs,” Monk grunted.
Monk got up, grunting, “Maybe the duds had papers or something sewed in them, like they have in story books. Let's have a gander at 'em, as we lowbrows say.”
[Dr. Zachary Smith. At your service] “I didn't see that girl leave,” Monk whispered. “Maybe we can find her and ask questions.”
“And probably get shot,” Ham said pessimistically.
For Willard Spanner's body was found on a New York street—less than three hours after he had been seized in San Francisco! Seized in Frisco at noon; Eastern Standard Time. Dead in New York at ten minutes to three, Eastern Standard Time.
The gun wielder looked on benignly. He had one stark peculiarity. His eyes were blue. And something was wrong with them. They crossed at intervals, pupils turning in toward the nose. Then they straightened out. The owner seemed to do the straightening with visible effort.
“Sort of a coincidence,” said the attendant, and managed a sickly grin which typified a peculiarity of human behavior—the fact that persons who work regularly in close proximity to death are inclined to arm themselves with a wise-cracking veneer.
ALBEMARLE AVENUE was a twin groove through marsh mud on the outskirts of New York City. Frame Street seemed to be a sign, scabby and ancient, which stuck out of the salt grass. If there ever had been a Frame Street, it had long ago given up to the swamp.
Monk asked, “How did this dump come to be here?”
“Osage Indian,” Stunted leered through his smashed face. “Heap oil, catchum many dollars. Build um brick tepee. Then Osage, him turn around and croak. Tepee, him go pot.”
[The greatly preferred place to get shot is outdoors] “Walk!” the fellow snarled. “You guys make one move and I'll let you have it here, instead of outdoors.”
[Almost home... Huh, you want to rent my truck and my clothes? Sure!] “Exactly,” Doc answered. “I hired the truck from a fellow who chanced to pass, and his clothing as well. He was carrying some roofing material, and the nails came in handy. The make-up material I always carry on my person. It was largely dye and wax for the cheeks.”
ONE man was long and lean, and his body looked as if it were made of leather and sticks. He grinned at them, and his grin was hideous because he must have had false teeth and was not wearing them now. His clothing was fastidious. When he tried to beckon at them, it was evident that the thumb was missing from his right hand, making that grotesque, too.
The lean man dived for the door. He had difficulty getting it open against the force of the propeller slipstream, but finally succeeded and lunged through. The face was triumphant. But the expression changed quickly. A hand—it felt like the clamp of some metal-compressing machine—had grasped his ankle.
The man cursed shrilly. He hung down from the plane, smashed about by the terrific rush of air, only the grip on his ankle preventing him from falling clear. His body battered the hard plane fuselage. Then he was slowly hauled upward toward the plane door.
 “Instantaneous tracing of telephone calls is successful in fiction,” Doc told him. “In actual practice, there are slips.”
DEAD bodies have a certain distinctive grotesqueness which indicated their condition, and these three were certainly dead. Bullets had finished one of them, knives the other two.
Five revolver bullets made the final stages of their climb exciting.
The Secret In The Sky has the makings of a much better story. Shorten the long scenes in the old house. Have more appearances of the flying orbs in early scenes and make their lift-offs more explosive and immediate. Work through why Spanner's clothing are important, don't substitute an easy clue like a label in clothes left in their place, make Nock the bad guy, acknowledge Willard invented the technology, and turn Stunted into a good guy as he was set up to be. Potential: A, Execution C+.
028 - The Roar Devil:
"The Roar Devil — he shook the earth. He stopped all sound. He had a vast organization of desperate criminals at his command. Now the good citizens of Powertown were terrorized. At any moment the Roar Devil might strike again. They sent for the only person whose cunning and skill could defeat him — the Man of Bronze."
June, 1935's The Roar Devil has the feel of a later book, around 1940, when Doc tends to be less Uber and more Peak Human with regular fellow attributes more hinted at than delivered. A few major things didn't pan out but its easily corrected shortcomings are mostly found in filler scenes with Monk, Ham & Renny being captured and held by the gang of the Roar Devil. These three don't move the story forward and interrupt better aspects of the book like the bad guy day-players and (especially) Retta Kenn, one of the best female characters in the Doc Savage canon. Johnny's the featured assistant and his contribution is more inclusive. Long Tom was given the adventure off for good behavior.
The Roar Devil is someone who creates living dead men and shakes the earth during total silence. The three fantastical parts of that turn out to be just one, which works better all around even if only for its simplicity. The living dead men are found in the book's opening section but its quickly dropped as a plot device and never explained, which it could and should have since it works seamlessly with the Roar Devil device. Lester Dent forgot to wrap that up.
Retta Keen is a reckless rich-kid private detective who knows how to fight and get under Doc's skin. You could call her a friendly adversarial protagonist. Check out how she gets Doc's panties in a bunch underneath his chain-mail shorts because she's a girl:
DOC SAVAGE went back into the cave, partially to make sure none of the unconscious men there came to their senses and tried to make a break, and partially to get away from Retta Kenn.
She was a very capable young woman. She had as much nerve as any member of the feminine sex he had ever encountered. Sometimes he believed she had too much nerve. At times she was braver than any one with good sense should be.
And she irritated him.
More on Retta, who if this was a television series would be a recurring character as she steals every scene she's in. When first seen she pretends to be deaf to 1) Be annoying, and 2) Trick a bad guy with a chemically coated pencil:
I am Retta Kenn, a young woman who has more money than sense. I get a kick out of excitement. So I work for V. Venable Mear, who has lots of exciting tunes chasing criminals and things like that.”
Her voice sounded as if she were thrilled—not in a cheerful way, as if she were enjoying herself, but as if she were getting an enormous kick out of things, and would do the same thing over again if she had the chance.
He did not finish, for the girl struck him suddenly and unexpectedly with his own automatic pistol, which she had taken from his pocket. She was tall, athletic, and there was nothing mincing about the way she swung the gun against his temple. The flat-faced man did not move after he fell.
There was a cheerful recklessness in the girl's manner as she held the fellow's wrist to ascertain that he was only senseless. She seemed to be enjoying herself hugely, as if it were only a game. She dragged the man over and dumped him into a thick brush clump.
“Imperspicuousity,” said Johnny.
“I went to school,” the girl snapped. “But they didn't have that word.”
DOC SAVAGE, at that particular moment, was being roundly criticized. This was, unusual. He had not been criticized for a long time, because, to most individuals, his methods were quite amazing and left nothing to be desired.
Retta Kenn seemed to see considerable wrong with the way he was doing things.
“You are going around in circles and not accomplishing anything!” the girl snapped.
“Well, if he was here, the Roar Devil would have him by now,” the young woman said cattily. “And you are the fellows who have half the crooks in the world scared of them. A fine bunch of flat tires you turned out to be!”
Doc Savage said nothing. He rolled up his trousers leg and began to bandage the slight wound which he had suffered in the chase. It had bled a little.
The girl came over, looking concerned, saw how slight the injury was, sniffed as if she wished it had been something of consequence, and backed away.
“Well!” she snapped. “Aren't you going to argue about D'Aughtell?”
“Your convictions are of no great concern to me,” the bronze man told her.
“I could cut your throat,” she said, and walked farther away.
The girl frowned at him.
“Much as I hate to admit it, you seem to know all, see all. May I compliment you?”
Second to the assistants' scenes away from Doc being superfluous filler, Doc relies too much on anesthetic gas as a panecea. It works well here when a group of bad guys say they'll surrender and Doc immediately closes the curtain with gas:
“Then I and my men will surrender to you,” he said. “We give up.”
Doc Savage reached in a pocket. He brought out a glass bulb larger than a pigeon egg. He smashed it on the floor. When the bulb broke, a liquid splattered, but evaporated almost instantaneously.
Doc Savage held his breath.
Those in the room—all of them—seemed to go asleep on their feet. They made considerable noise falling to the floor. The girl, near the door, tried to run, but did not get outside before she, too, collapsed.
It's used so often Dent writes "Doc Savage fished out one of the little glass bulbs which he used so conveniently". In the end Doc has his go-to taken from him in a move that doesn't happen in reality:
The man slammed headlong into Doc Savage. Doc struck him. The fellow was driven backward. But he was a big man and strong, and he had gotten a grip on the bronze man's coat. He kept the grip.
The coat came apart in the middle of the back and was torn completely off the bronze giant, except for the sleeves. The man who had been struck carried it with him as he tumbled away.
The Roar Devil uses a "singing voice" on the phone to disguise his own. Off the page there's no way to replicate this without inviting derisive laughter. See also: Doc's trilling. Near the end the Roar Devil is sing-songing to his men while wearing no disguise. He's not doing this because he knows Doc's hidden nearby - it's a plot device so Doc Doesn't recognize it and the reveal can come later.
“The pencil,” the girl said dryly. “It's covered with a chemical mixture you probably never heard of. It won't kill you, if that's any consolation.”
Zachies sighed loudly and fell flat on his face.
Smoke and Mirrors]
The buzzer whined again. The bronze man lowered the heat of an electric still,
then walked to a large instrument panel and threw a switch. On the panel was a
square of frosted glass.
The frosted glass lighted up not unlike a small motion picture screen, showing a view of the corridor in front of the elevators.
Doc Savage studied the screen, which merely showed the reflection of the corridor as carried by an arrangement of mirrors and tubes.
The bronze man had brought from the laboratory an apparatus similar in appearance to those employed in hospitals for the administration of anaesthetics. Now, before the gunman entirely regained consciousness, he fitted the face piece upon the fellow's features and tuned various valves on the supply tanks.
Renny had seen the procedure before, and knew what it meant.
“Truth serum,” he said.
“Administered in vaporized form,” Doc Savage agreed. “The stuff seems to be more dependable, if used in that manner.”
THE telephones in Doc Savage's office were connected to buzzers which had various tones. The one which sounded now was unusually shrill, something resembling the prolonged squeak of a mouse.
In the alley, the bronze man drew a silk cord, a grappling hook attached to the end, and tossed it upward after a moment of careful calculation. The grappling hook was collapsible, and covered with soft rubber, so that the noise it made scarcely reached their ears. It must have hung over the edge of the roof. Doc pulled, testing. It hung.
Doc Savage stood up and walked to the door. He was not exactly taking a chance. He wore a bulletproof coat under his clothing, and a pair of chain-mail shorts.
Some one might shoot him in the head, but they would have to do it accurately, because the bronze hair in view was not his own, but artificial hair on a thin but immensely strong metal skullcap. And he was keeping his eyes open.
“They gave me the usual searching,” Johnny said. “They even pried the heels loose from my shoes to see that there was nothing inside. They did not, however, remove the buttons from my coat. The top buttons and the bottom buttons, if crushed together, will burst into flame, giving off a gas that will make a man senseless if he breathes it. The gas is merged with the air and rendered harmless after a few seconds, so that you can escape it by holding your breath.”
“This device,” Doc indicated the boxes, “makes sonic waves on some infinitely short wave length. Those waves seem to have the quite peculiar property of—
“Stopping all sound!” Monk finished.
“No,” Doc told him, “that is hardly possible. The sonic waves simply paralyze the drum of the human ear until it is not susceptible to sound. The sonic waves, the air vibration, does something to the ear mechanism that renders it incapable of registering sound.”
Mear turned on Doc Savage suddenly.
“Can you talk?” he asked.
“On occasion,” Doc Savage admitted, without emotion.
[A perennial classic] Doc Savage looked at her closely. He had studied psychology most of his life. He knew all of the character traits of men and could spot the small things which tell whether a man is honest or not, whether he is friend or foe. He could tell an average criminal at a glance, and usually spotted the cleverest of men in a short time.
He could not with certainty tell the first thing about a woman, and he knew it.
Doc Savage leaned over and did several things to him. The things he did showed the man was genuinely unconscious. One faking senselessness would have reacted differently.
He did not add that much of his phenomenal success was due to that simple habit of preparing well in advance, against every conceivable emergency. He probably prepared for a hundred things that never happened for every one that did.
“Listen,” he gulped. “You stick by me, see? Tell the cops how it was. I got my pistol permit and my license as a special cop, like watchmen get. But this thing of poppin' off a mayor—I'll need all the front I can get. Suppose you put in for me, will you?”
“I will do everything to see that you get justice,” Doc Savage told him.
Johnny did not ordinarily speak this many sentences without at least one which could not be translated without a dictionary. Possibly that was because his big words were a form of showmanship, and he knew better than to try to impress Doc Savage.
“How about our irascible feminine colleague?” Johnny asked when he and the bronze man were apart.
“The girl?” Doc queried. “Let her sit it out.”
“You're a woman-hater, are you not?” Johnny chuckled.
The bronze man did not commit himself on that.
JOHNNY looked like a scholar. He was. He also looked like a man who, if given a hard shove, would fall apart. That was a wrong impression. He was as tough as walrus hide, and he knew all of the fighting tricks, either under the Queensbury or the dock-walloper rules.
Bawling irately, Monk charged after him. The apish chemist scooped up a chair, and as he came through the lighted door, threw it at the chandelier. The lights went out in a jangling of glass, a popping of bulbs and a sizzling of blue electric flame.
Straight into the room Monk charged. He seized the table, ran it across the floor and pinned at least three men against a wall. He gave the table a final shove, which must have all but cut the victims in two.
There was a man underfoot. Monk jumped up and down on him. Some one fired a gun. Monk had gotten a bottle off the table. He threw it at the gun flash, and was rewarded by an end-of-the world groan...
“That guy hit me in the place where I put all my food,” Monk growled. “I value that spot.”
The man would have weighed in excess of two hundred and fifty pounds, and yet somehow managed to seem gaunt. He had a long face which bore an expression of puritanical gloom. He looked at Doc Savage and seemed sad to the point of tears.
[Illogical statement that what felt like earthquakes could not be earthquakes because two engineers became living dead men] “We know there is something terrible going on. That it is no natural phenomenon, such as earthquakes, we know, because of what happened to our two engineers."
[Fire code violation] When he whipped back into the corridor—circling the protective barrier of glass in the proper direction—the gunman was not in sight. He had not gone down the stairway, for that was blocked by a metal gate which was kept locked. He must have taken an elevator.
“You met the Roar Devil?” Doc asked sharply.
“I did not,” Zachies denied. “He was only a voice over the telephone. A singing voice.”
“Exactly, Mr. Savage. And I can assure you that the singing of words will completely disguise a voice. It did this one, at any rate.”
[Recurring joke] “Hah!” Monk breathed. “An idea!”
“Treat it gently,” Ham advised. “It's in a strange place.”
THE man looked ageless. Rather, he looked as if he had gotten old to a point where he no longer showed the years.
It is hard to read the faces of most fat men, except for the eyes.
IT looked like a little summer camp, very peaceful. There was a golf course of nine holes, with several men playing on it. The men were correctly dressed for the game; but they were playing terribly, slicing balls into the rough and missing swings entirely. Some of them were acting as caddies, but their attitudes were strange, because they swore terribly at players who accidentally drove balls into the rough.
Unexpectedly, Johnny spoke. His words were not English, but a queer, low, not unmusical guttural language.
V. Venable Mear eyed them. “I believe that was the Mayan dialect, was it not?”
He was right. Johnny, Monk, Ham and Renny nearly fell over. It was the first time in the so-called civilized world that they had ever encountered a man who even knew what the language was, although they were aware that there must be some.
The driver of the car, not knowing what it was all about and amazed by the apparition of a giant bronze man running beside his machine, completely forgot his handling of the wheel and ran into a telephone pole. The bumper of his car and part of the radiator caved in, and the windshield fell out, after which the motorist got out and began to swear.
The Roar Devil can be easily improved upon by expanding Doc's arsenal beyond anesthetic gas, having the Roar Devil disguise his voice in another way and later talking in a low voice to his men instead of sing-songing like it's a musical, explaining the living dead men, and either whittling down Monk/Ham/Renny's scenes or removing them completely. Doc, Retta Kenn, Johnny, the Roar Devil mysteries, and the various day-players are all you need for what could be a very serviceable Doc Savage adventure.
The two larger problems are why the living dead men were made in the first place and why would the Roar Devil blindly use super-explosives to find materials easily destroyed by explosives?
029 - The Quest Of Qui:
"It started when a Viking Dragon ship attacked a yacht in the waters outside New York. Next, “Ham” was stabbed with a 1,200 year-old Viking knife. Then Johnny was captured and frozen solid in a block of Arctic ice. Finally, even the mighty man of bronze himself — Doc Savage — is kidnapped and enslaved by the chilling menace. What is his plan this time? Can he save himself and his friends from almost certain destruction?"
If you're a fan of Johnny and his jaw-breaking vocabulary, July, 1935's Quest Of Qui is the book for you. Johnny's big words save his life when a flunky realizes he's a Doc Savage aid, and they almost get him killed by being pretentiously annoying. A large portion of the book revolves around him running around in the snow in his undergarments. Otherwise, The book is a quick and not so bad read once you utilize my guide on what you can skip when reading Doc Savage books. Generally they're Ham & Monk insults and arguments, any Stupid Ape and Dumb Pig reference, all trilling scenes, half of the run-and-fight scenes, and anything under Production Notes you might find fascinating because you're a nerd. Production Note verbiage exchanges plot and action for looking around and describing what you see like it's a police report.
Not that Quest Of Qui is that good of a book either. The big closed-door mysteries involving clocks and ancient Viking weapons come down to pygmies with no other explanations to sell it. The arctic pygmy race also get a pass for keeping slaves and putting them in chains - which makes little sense as they don't seem to work too hard, the chains are removed when they're not being "slaves", and the slaves have decent housing and social lives:
"You seem to have gotten quite a bit of information," Doc said.
"Oh, they're willing enough to talk. They're not bad fellows, in spite of that slave business.
"They keep me by thees places maybe ten year, oui," he shouted. "She not so bad as maybe yo' t'ink. They tak' off the chains when we 'ave not the work to do. She not worth get killed for to try to get away, lak' some do."
The other slaves were sociable souls, anxious to talk. They were surprisingly resigned to their lot, and did not seem unhappy. The descendants of the Vikings, in particular, were full of boyish good humor.
Doc was informed he had permission to bring his friends to the village, and that, if they behaved themselves, they would be allowed to fight.
After hostilities were over, and these enemies of Qui settled with, Doc was further advised that he would be given the great privilege of becoming a slave of the Qui.
[Contradicts above ] Most of the "slaves" had elected to remain, also, among them - this to Monk's chagrin - Ingra. Doc Savage had been the guiding medium in a mutual understanding between the men of Qui and their "slaves" before he left. He had, in fact, succeeded in carrying out a Lincolnesque role in that the servitors had been emancipated for the future. This arrangement had seemed eminently satisfactory to every one.
The treasure of the Qui winds up being average and a much of it isn't even valuable. Here's some Exposition Fail where Monk tells Renny something he already knows quite well, and Monk knows Renny knows this quite well:
"He's got it," Monk said with certainty.
"Yeah," Renny agreed. "But what he's got is only a theory as yet. He is not ready to prove it."
"Right," Monk finished. "He always acts like that when he's got a good idea, but not enough proof. He pretends he can't hear anybody who asks what his suspicions are."
[Huge but proportional and not muscle-bound] Doc Savage was a giant. One did not realize that until comparison with ordinary objects, for his muscles were evenly developed; he did not have the knotted shoulders of a wrestler or the overdeveloped legs of a runner. Rather, his whole great frame was swathed in sinews that were remindful of bundled wires.
Doc continued to examine the face with his sensitive finger tips. He was good at that, a relic of the weeks he had once spent m a school for the blind, eyes bandaged except for daily exercise periods.
[nice phrasing] Without saying where he was bound, or what he intended to do, Doc Savage struck out over the snow. He handled the snowshoes with the precise ease that comes of careful practice devoted solely to learning how to do a thing, coupled with the advice of experts.
Doc's skill in almost all lines, which seemed amazing, was in the last analysis simply explained - when he wanted to master a thing, he went to those who were already masters of the subject, and learned from them.
She was no clinging vine. She sent a fist at him. He parried it, caught her wrists. She jumped up and slammed both moccasined feet to his chest. But even a professional wrestler could hardly have downed him that way.
Doc laughed. He released her. The laugh was not because there was anything funny. It was to reassure the young woman.
Over his light, strong chain mail undershirt, Doc wore a vest which consisted almost entirely of pockets that held containers designed for flatness, so that they fitted into the pockets without special bulk.
[Really? I would think the opposite] MONK, like most extremely homely men, was ordinarily a peaceful, quiet, small-voiced soul.
"First time I heard you admit Ham had anything on the ball," Renny boomed.
"That overdressed little shyster ... !" Monk began belligerently, then colored and sighed. "I hope he's all right. If he's gotta die, I want the pleasure of killin' him."
"You'd be lost without him," Renny said.
The club where Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks - "Ham" - had his bachelor quarters was a building with one of the plainest fronts on Park Avenue. It was so exclusive that a great many Park Avenue residents did not themselves know that it existed.
[The littlest trivia question] Renny noted that there were twenty-four niches for canes, and twenty-four canes in the niches.
Ham & Monk Fail. Ham almost died and he's beaten and bloody lying on the ground. Monk immediately wants to kick him in the ribs:
Ham's garb just now would have been a disappointment, however. It consisted entirely of a gunnysack, none too clean. Two holes had been torn in the bottom for Ham's legs, and he filled the rest of the sack - it was not a very large on snugly indeed.
There was a cut on his shoulder. It was not serious, and had long since stopped bleeding.
They stood over him. He snored. It was a very loud, peaceful snore; it had to be to arise above the gale.
Monk frowned blackly and drew back a foot, preparatory to kicking the snoring, gunnysackclad Ham in the ribs.
Renny pushed the homely chemist off balance. "What's the idea?"
"I'll teach 'im to lay down and go to sleep when we're sweatin' blood tryin' to find 'im!" Monk gurgled. "I'll kick his innards all over that car!"
RENNY EXTRACTED a newspaper from a coat pocket which looked as if it had been especially tailored with sufficient capacity to hold his enormous fists.
JOHNNY'S YOUTH had been scholastic, but he had found time for athletics, and his specialty had been distance running...
Unlike most college athletes, Johnny was now in better condition than during his scholastic days; some freak in his make-up - Doc Savage had diagnosed it as an unusual glandular condition - had endowed him with muscles that were more like violin strings than those an ordinary man would have. The bony archaelogist's endurance was fabulous.
[Johnny, women got the right to vote in 1920. Time to calm down about that] "We will separate," the young woman said more slowly in the Viking tongue. "In that manner, maybe they will not catch us both."
Johnny resented the idea of a woman telling him what they should do.
Johnny, who had the peculiar ability to carry on a conversation in an almost perfectly normal voice while running at top speed, continued imparting what he had learned.
One piece of equipment which another would certainly not have neglected, Doc Savage did not carry. He took no gun. This was in keeping with a policy which he had long ago formulated, that of having nothing to do with firearms. For this he had a reason, the thorough conviction that one who comes to depend upon a gun is the more helpless then without the weapon.
Good things found:
THERE WAS no wind, and the authorities later decided this accounted for what occurred, for had there been a wind, many things would doubtlessly have been different.
Had there been a wind, a baffling mystery might never have come to the notice of the world, and to the attention of Doc Savage. A number of men might have gone on living. And a scheme of consummate horror would probably have been executed with success.
It was the kind of a grin put on by a man who has just been run over by a car and is too dazed to be sure how badly he is hurt.
Suddenly, horribly, Johnny was running in mid-air.
THERE IS in the human category of experiences nothing quite so shocking as to have solidness drop abruptly from underfoot.
[Nonsense or Nuts]"Nerts to you," said Peabody.
Should you read Quest Of Qui? NnnnnnnnnYyyyyyyyyye... I have no idea. You better have nothing else to do.
030 - Spook Hole:
"The Man of Bronze and his trustworthy friends track a
one-armed man of mystery to the far reaches of South America — only to find
their lives endangered when they discover the amazing secret that Hezemiah Law
is guarding so carefully on Spook Hole."
Nancy Law looked at the giant bronze man. "You're a queer guy."
"You haven't started to find out the queer things about him," Pat told her dryly.
August, 1935 brought forth unto humanity Spook Hole, the story of how fecal smelling goop from the intestines of Sperm Whales is highly sought after as an ingredient in fancy perfumes. Working backwards from that it's also about two gangs fighting over said treasure, an attractive (surprise!) woman caught up in trouble because of a distant relative, a one-armed man who isn't, and Doc Savage's crew including Pat, who get involved because trouble-busting runs through their veins.
Spook Hole is a better story than it aspired to be. Strong characters, a few good one-liners from Pat, and interconnected storylines and agendas make the novel better than its initial pacing and lack of swinging for the fantastical-fiction fences normally dictate. Just when I thought the NYC doings were in need of scene change deodorant everyone rushes to Patagonia, first the store and then the region in South America. If you remove a secondary scene from the first act it would be neither noticed nor missed. Ixnay the pig and the story gets even better.
Hezemiah Law pretending to have one arm was an odd thing that deserved a better explanation than as part of a disguise. If you're getting involved in major action scenes you don't want to lose the use of an arm. Captain Wapp is one of the better Lester Dent short & fat bad guys:
CAPTAIN WAPP had to pass sidewise through more than one door on his ship. He was big. But he never had to stoop, even for the low bulkhead doors down near the bilge. The shortest man in his crew was taller by a head. His belt was a cotton rope that had once been white. Maybe he could not get a leather one large enough. The rope belt fastened with a gold snap and ring, set with diamonds which could not be classed as small.
He was cleaning his finger nails with a big clasp knife. When the door exploded open, he twisted the knife in his hand, holding it so that the hilt pointed at the door. The knife hilt was one of those deadly little novelty weapons, chambered for a .22-caliber cartridge.
Oliver Orman Braski and "Ropes" are two bad guys who work together out of a mutual respect of the other's intelligence. Ropes is set up as someone who might have humanity along with brains, but not really as he has no issues with killing if circumstances call for it. The last act of Spook Hole is more effective than usual in how the different groups interact with each other and internally. There's no run and shoot for its own sake and Long Tom is there as "Sass", the most obvious plant of all time!:
He was most uninviting to look at, this Sass. He did not have the height of an ordinary man, nor did he seem to have the muscular development of even an invalid.
His skin was yellowish, and his thin hair was entirely missing from a patch or two on his head, as if he were a victim of the mange. Two incredibly large and yellow gold teeth did not help his evil grin.
"Where's Long Tom?" Monk demanded. "Have you seen him?"
"I have not seen him," Doc replied.
"Long Tom would be the guy to do this," Monk remarked as he worked. "Wonder what happened to him in New York? He never did show up from that engagement he had in Washington."
Doc said, "Let us get going."
Doc turned the lantern affair on the damp ground. Where nothing visible had been before, small, glowing patches appeared. The spots were something over two inches across and glowed like pale phosphorous, or smears of the stuff off of radium watch dials.
It was noticeable that where Doc Savage and the other two stepped, they left the round, glowing marks. Close examination would have shown that the heels of their shoes were not leather, but of a porous fibre impregnated with some chemical compound.
[Reduced to being barely reliable] And if Ropes could not be frightened into speech, there were other expedients, for instance, a species of truth serum, similar to that tried often by police, but more refined, which Doc himself had developed, and which worked sometimes, although on some occasions it brought forth only a delirious jumble of statements, from which it was necessary to pick the truth largely by guesswork.
[Usually an explosive bullet tears down an entire side of a house] Doc and his three aides found shelter in a back door entry. The exit from this was locked, stout. It resisted their efforts to get through for more than a minute - the time it took Johnny to find explosive bullets which he substituted for the mercy slugs in his rapid-firer. These ripped open the door.
Doc Savage went to an apparently solid section of the paneled wall, did something to what seemed only a whorl in the wood, and a large cabinet opened.
This held the high-frequency buzzer which was making the noise, and numerous indicators, not unlike those used in large residences to show whether the front or back doorbell is ringing. One indicator was tripped. It bore a label.
Fire Escape Shaft
THE bronze man now left the eighty-sixth floor headquarters, but by a somewhat unusual route. He went into the laboratory room and approached a glass affair somewhat resembling an enormous goldfish bowl.
This held a number of extremely voracious-looking fish, finny specimens, several of which seemed composed mostly of teeth. There was a sign on the aquarium.
THESE FISH ARE POISONOUS
SPECIES. KEEP AWAY!
A peculiar thing about the bowl was that it appeared to be built up from the composition floor, the floor forming part of the bottom. Any one hunting a secret exit from the laboratory would not have given the thing a second glance.
Doc Savage touched a valve. Water level in the fish tank sank some six inches. Doc vaulted atop the rim and lifted a glass cover over a circular glass tube more than three feet in diameter which extended up in the middle, and due to the carefully designed optical illusion which had entered its construction, was almost impossible to detect when the tank was full.
Doc passed down the tube and into a metal shaft which had a ladder. The hole in the floor of the fish globe was concealed by a method known to most magicians, and involving the clever placing of mirrors.
The shaft gave admission to a tiny elevator, hardly accommodating more than one man. This sank soundlessly for many stories, stopping finally deep underground. Doc stepped into a narrow tunnel. He followed this some fifty yards.
DOC SAVAGE ran toward the light. The Illumination did not surprise him. It was the work of one of the small balls he had distributed so carefully. They were filled with a chemical which ignited and burned brightly when the thin-shelled container was broken - as it would break if stepped upon by a prowler.
[Doc-Man! na na na na na na na na Doc-Man!] He had left his flashlight behind. It was still on, pointed so that the beam was on him. He wore oilskins and a seaman's sou'wester. He ran madly, with great leaps, and did not look back as long as he was in the flashlight's glow, which was for some distance. He had seen an apparition.
THE apparition was huge and black, shiny from the rain, and it crouched over the prone figure of the one-armed man. The latter was not entirely prone; his head and shoulders were off the cobbles, for the fabulous black figure had him by the neck...
The watchman tried to get a look at the features of his assailant. He failed there, too. The huge one was shrouded completely in some black cloth, probably of silk, which seemed waterproof...
"Outside your cabin," groaned the sailor. "It was black. Never had much shape. I thought it was a pile of clothes or something from the laundry. When I came up, it grabbed me."
[Judge Doc sez "I am The Law"] He burned the scrap of paper. An ordinary detective would not have done that, for it was evidence admissible in a court. But Doc Savage never took his difficulties to a court of law, but rather, was judge and jury - and executor of sentence - all in himself.
[At least he didn't lie about the money] ON the outskirts of town, Doc Savage brought the machine to a stop. He scribbled on a bit of paper, and gave it to his passenger, along with a small sheaf of greenbacks.
"Deliver that in New York," he requested. "The money will pay your fare back. And keep out of sight."
"Sure," said the other.
After he had been left in the night, the man immediately sought the illumination of a street light and read the note. It was addressed to a person who seemed to be a physician in New York, and read simply:
GIVE THIS MAN TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.
"Will I deliver this!" the man chuckled. "Boy, will I!"
Within the hour, the fellow had been party to a murder plot, so he considered that he had gotten off easily indeed.
"The bronze guy is a sucker," he concluded.
He was a little premature in his conclusion. Doc Savage knew from experience that hardened crooks do reform voluntarily, but their numbers are in minority, so he had perfected a method of forced reform of his own.
There was a catch to that ten thousand dollars. The physician at the address in New York would take this man, by force if necessary, and it probably would be, and send him to a strange institution which the bronze man maintained in upstate New York.
At this place, trained surgeons would operate on the man's brain, causing a complete loss of memory of past events. Then the man would receive a course of training in the ways of honest citizenry, including a trade by which he could earn a good livelihood.
Upon discharge from the unique criminal-curing "college," the patient would have no memory of his past, and would have instilled into him a thorough abhorrence of crooks. In addition, he would receive a bank account of ten thousand dollars to facilitate his new start in life. This last was a late addition to the "course."
Any one watching the bronze man's features would have, for once, seen expression. Comprehension! Satisfaction!
"You wouldn't hold information out on us," Doc queried.
"Wouldn't I!" Pat laughed sarcastically. "For ten cents, a thin dime, I'd take my life preserver and jump into this and try to clean it up myself. It sounds very interesting, with whaling ships, mysterious one-armed men who aren't one-armed, Spook Holes and something worth a lot of money, and what not."
"If I was a gentleman, I might leave you until the last, baby," he said. "But I ain't no gentleman."
With dryness in her throat, Pat said, "Anybody could see that."
Johnny heaved up, gulping, "I'll be superamalgamated," and ran and searched where the knife and rock had come from.
"Uncomeatable eventuation," he murmured.
"We weren't all born with a dictionary in our mouths," Pat told him.
Hezemiah Law mumbled, "I am trying to keep Doc Savage from learning my secret."
"If I know anything about Doc, he's already solved your secret," Pat said grimly.
"We'll let her think we're Braski's men," the barrister whispered. "I think it'll make it easier for us to find out what this is all about."
"I don't think the idea is so hot," muttered Monk, whose policy was to disagree with Ham whenever possible.
Things happened with violent abruptness. Monk struck straight out with his left fist, hitting Ropes between the eyes and blinding him with pain.
The next instant, the burly Ropes draped his midriff over Monk's furry right fist.
[LT is a one-trick pony with his bug zapper] "Long Tom" was Major Thomas J. Roberts, electrical wizard extraordinary, and another of Doc Savage's aides. Long Tom had not yet appeared for the simple reason that he had been delivering, that night, an informative lecture to a Congressional committee in Washington.
The committee was one interested in the eradication of insects injurious to farm crops, and Long Tom believed he had perfected a device, utilizing ultra-short electro-sonic waves, which would kill insects without harming other living organisms.
THE man had one arm. Hence, to load the revolver, he had to crouch and grip the barrel between his knees while he thumbed fresh cartridges into the cylinder...
His mumbling was a mistake. A bare twenty feet away, the second skulker heard him. This man had two arms well filled with muscle, and his face was chiefly notable for the lack of space between the eyes, and an oversized jaw.
A man fell on them. Monk grabbed his throat, felt warm wetness flood his hands and let go. The man had been shot in the neck and was already dead.
[The clock alarm is called the "awakening effect"] Built into the instrument panel of the big speed ship was the equivalent of a common alarm clock, and the bronze man proceeded to employ the awakening effects of this at two-hour intervals, that he might check the course.
"What was his profession?"
"Ichthyology," the girl answered.
Monk glanced at Johnny. "Make little words out of that one," he requested.
"The man studied fishes," said Johnny.
[Doc inherited the offices from his father] When this extremely modern skyscraper had been erected, not many years before, Doc Savage had taken a considerable part in its design. As a matter of fact, the architectural drawings had been prepared by his colleague, Renny.
Numerous provisions for Doc Savage's special needs had been made, including a special elevator which operated at a speed that the building inspectors would have considered suicidal.
To each prospective addition to the gang, Captain Wapp made one statement. 'We are going up against Doc Savage."
Two out of every three of the prospects walked out of the cabin at that news, and left the Harpoon in great haste.
Wapp had one quality of a leader. He knew when to retreat.
"We bane licked!" he howled. "Run, you fellers."
"When Aye get back, Aye might not find nobody but Hezemiah Law alive, eh?" Captain Wapp said meaningly.
"I get you," said the man. "The others might have bullet trouble."
They used so much caution that it was boring, and they searched the dreary little cove from end to end.
[A concise, complete, and whimsical ending, and much better than a gag involving Monk and Ham's cretin hijinx] Proceeds from the sale of ambergris were to be divided four ways. A fourth to Hezemiah Law, and another fourth to Nancy Law. The remaining quarters went, one to the Patagonians, and the last to certain charities which were agreed upon.
That cleaned up the matter of Spook Hole.
Hezemiah Law produced the missing parts of the bronze man's plane, but Doc Savage and his aides did not leave immediately. Hezemiah Law, Doc discovered, possessed probably more knowledge than did any other living man concerning fish and their food, life and habits.
Doc spent some time on Spook Hole for the deliberate purpose of adding to his own store of knowledge what he could learn from Hezemiah Law.
Altogether, they had a pleasant vacation after the hectic matter of Captain Wapp.
Doc's introduction is so Batman I wonder if it's proto-Batman. Doc's license plate reads "Doc 3". Spook Hole is good because of the sum of its parts. Read enough Doc Savage books and you'll glean what I mean.
031 - The Majii:
"In New York, Rama Tura, chosen disciple of the Majii, leads Doc Savage into a sinister world of drugs and advanced hypnotism. Far away in Jondore, a revolt is brewing that will pit the Man of Bronze against his most devious opponent: the who cannot die."
"Vezzy lizzle. Vezzy mistiliffilulous"
[Recently learned this was written by J. Allan Dunn with an assist from Lester Dent]
The Sanctum reprint is worth looking over as it details various aspects of how Lester Dent's Doc Savage stories gestated. Dent was on his boat at the time working on stories while futzing around for treasure, and when he hit a creative snag he'd start the next one to come back later or begin work on a whole new one. The midway point of a story is stated as the usual stumbling block, which I recognize as when the adventures shift from more established cities and places to exotic, semi-fictional, or fully fantastical locations. The Majii, book #31, was published September, 1935.
The Majii is intimate, immediate, gritty, brutal, big, and grand, so it earns its length and generally slower pace of its relocation to Jondore, somewhere near Nepal and a British protectorate with no British presence on display. Dent assigns an Aladdin and the Lamp tie-in to the tomb of the Majii but it's only a name-drop. It's brought up and dropped immediately as the book ends. It's not a negative but it's odd to see it tossed in like that.
Violence is an "adult" feature and Dent sprinkles it in well without overstatement. Long Tom is shot, Doc gets tortured, Monk gets his as always, and Ham's injuries are always second fiddle to the degraded state of his fastidious attire:
The wounded and dying screamed and groveled on the car floor, and that seemed to remind the thick man of something, for he turned deliberately, saw that one of the uniformed foreigners alone had a chance of living, and shot the man in the head. Then he ran, with his companion, out of the subway.
"Another one of the raiders. Man, did he get it! One of the passenger's bodyguards swiped him with a knife, right across the lamps. Fixed 'em both."
"Put his eyes out?"
"You said it."...
The blade had all but separated his eyeballs as a sharp knife would a pair of apples. He was moaning and blubbering and it was quite certain he would never look upon the world again...
They might not have looked so sorry had they known this man who was blinded was the same one who had pursued the Ranee the night before and had so callously killed a taxi driver, simply because the poor fellow had known the Ranee was endeavoring to get to Doc Savage. He was a cold slayer and he had probably gotten less than he deserved.
The taxicab seized by Kadir Lingh and his bodyguard had been found in Brooklyn, deserted except for one brown man, probably a Jondorean, who had been sitting in the back seat, suffering the unavoidable after effects of a bullet through the brain.
He tried to run just as Doc reached him, and Doc put a fist back of his ear with a force that caused him to turn a handspring without using his hands. He lay very still after he fell.
A BROWN man rushed Monk with a knife, and the homely chemist, with no regard whatever for the fine points of fighting, all but kicked the fellow's jaw off...
Long Tom and Ham took a reckless chance, charged the third gunman. They would probably have been shot. But Monk threw the knife in a way which showed he had practiced the art, and put the blade in the gunman's chest, not far from the heart.
Hypnotism is responsible for a number of events in the story, and as with The Shadow radio program you have to grin and bear it when nobody has resistance or free will in the presence of a master hypnotist. The Majii earns itself grace points with "It is a drug in vapor form," Doc told him. "It affects the brain like—well, you have seen truth serum render a man incapable of thinking up lies. This stuff renders the brain incapable of resisting hypnotic suggestion" even just as a courtesy, but this great scene can't work unless verbal suggestion makes these things appear:
Suddenly, there appeared in the far side of the room an incredible thing, a monster of shapelessness, a fantastic ogre of a thing.
The Ranee, her two guards, stared at it. The light from the bedlamp hardly reached that far, and they could not make out the exact identity of the thing, except that it was a creature possessing eyes, and so large that it might have difficulty getting entirely into the room.
The basic plot is solid and the reveal of its Five Ws reasonable and fairly airtight. If The British were about in Jondore being oppressive you'd at least understand why such an elaborate scene was cooked up, but they're American allies so you can't paint them as fascists in 1935:
"The Majii is trying to stir Jondore into an uprising against the British," he said. "He has a fanatical hatred of the British. To buy arms and ammunition, he took the wealth of the Nizam. But he dared not sell the jewels in open market, because it would have come to the attention of the British, so he recut them, or ground off the previous cuttings, and sent his lieutenant, Rama Tura, abroad to dispose of them. They chose the fake jewel-making séances as the method."
[Nice visual] It was nearly nightfall when Doc Savage crossed the ornate modernistic lobby of the skyscraper which housed his New York headquarters and entered, through what appeared to be a section of wall panel, his private elevator.
The conveyance lifted him with terrific speed for a time, then stopped so abruptly that the bronze man continued upward a few inches, then dropped back to the floor.
From a cabinet he took a vest which consisted of a light, bulletproof chain mail, to which was attached rows of small pockets, these padded so that, once the vest was donned, its presence was hardly noticeable. The pockets held innumerable gadgets which, on occasion, served for some rather strange uses.
He had originated scientific procedures of his own, some of which had been adopted by police departments, but many of which were a bit too complicated for universal use.
Among other things, he had perfected a electro-spectroscopic analysis contrivance which, in the course of a very few seconds, would give him the chemical elements composing almost any given substance. This device further more had the advantage of being able to handle particles of microscopic smallness.
[The 86th floor. Adjust your CAD drawing accordingly] The bronze man now did something an observer would not have expected. He whipped down the corridor, around a corner, and put both palms against the solid wall.
He held them there for a count of ten, removed them for another ten count, and put them against the wall again.
A few feet away, the wall opened soundlessly. Its mechanism was a combination actuated from a thermostatic device buried in the wall plaster. Heat from the hands was enough to work the combination.
There was a hollow wall space beyond. It held much apparatus. At one point, a tiny red light glowed. Doc went to it, unhooked a telephone handset and plugged the cord into a jack below the light. He had tapped one of his telephone lines which was being used...
Satisfied, Doc put the brown man in a ventilated wall compartment where he would be unearthed by nothing less than a virtual wrecking of the place...
The bronze man left his headquarters this time by descending in the speed elevator to the basement level, and stepping into a passage which led some scores of yards to a metal door that admitted into the Broadway subway tunnel.
He was a man who by his appearance alone would stand out instantly in a multitude. Yet his clothing was quiet, showing not the slightest suspicion of showmanship.
[See? It's not hard to be considerate with an answer instead of pretending the other person doesn't exist] "What was it?" Monk asked. Monk had a small, childlike voice which sounded ridiculous for a being of such homely bulk.
"Rather not say yet," Doc told him. "In fact, it is doubtful if my explanation could be put clearly enough for you to exactly agree that the thing I think happened is possible."
His identity became known and several persons began to whisper excitedly and point him out. He carefully paid no attention to this. He had never become so blasé that public attention did not embarrass him. It was for this reason that he avoided the public eye whenever possible.
Doc Savage did a rare thing; he almost smiled.
Monk had a way with women, even if he did have the pulchritude of a gorilla. Perhaps it was his very homeliness.
The Nizam made a snarling sound, sprang forward, swung a fist, and knocked Monk down as beautifully as he had ever been knocked down in his life.
"She is the Ranee!" the Nizam gritted. "In Jondore, you would die a thousand deaths for laying a hand upon her!"
Ham looked at Monk on the floor and said, "He never did have any manners."
Monk got up. His neck was red. Hard tendons made four white lines down the back of each hairy fist.
And then—no one exactly saw it—the Nizam was flat on the floor and the noise of a blow was resounding from the walls, and Monk was over the fallen one, grasping him by the collar. Lifting the Nizam, Monk shook him as if trying to ascertain if his teeth would come out.
"This is the United States," Monk said grimly. "And when you sock a guy, you oughta be sure he stays socked."
Doc said grimly, "Monk, you threw that knife at the man's heart."
Monk took pains not to look at Doc. The homely chemist was well acquainted with the rule of Doc's that at no time was life to be taken if it could possibly be avoided.
Monk began, "Aw, I didn't—" Then he changed his mind, being fairly sure he was not an accomplished enough liar to fool Doc.
"Heck!" he grunted sheepishly. "I was excited."
"What did you do when you found the containers of the stuff and the apparatus for putting small amounts of it into the domed room?" Doc asked.
"Why," Monk said, "I just busted the jars and let the dope spill out on the floor."
"You undoubtedly killed them all," Doc said grimly.
"Uh-huh." Monk did not manage to sound very sorry. "You gotta admit it was kind of an accident, though."
Long Tom had a rather quarrelsome voice.
"We did," Ham said slowly. "Jove! I hope nothing happened to that homely ape."
Long Tom grunted, "You two guys give me a pain. You put in your time trying to kill each other. And the minute one of you thinks the other is in a jam, you bust out in tears."
Long Tom squinted and pulled at an ear which was rather large and only slightly less transparent than a sheet of oiled silk. He said nothing.
"I am about to be killed," the woman said.
The taxi driver whom she addressed had been half asleep behind the wheel of his parked cab, but the text of the woman's speech was not conducive to further slumber. He sat up straight.
[Recurring shtick] Men were ahead of Doc, and there was a long thin Oriental rug on which they stood, and the bronze man yanked this. He did not spill them, but they were very busy for a few moments keeping their balance, and the bronze man got past them.
Doc Savage used chemicals to analyze the oil film. It was a potent toxic and an acid in solution—the acid to burn the skin and admit the poison into the system.
[Olde-timey research] AFTER the hour had passed, the bronze man knew much about the clothing. He knew where the cotton had been grown, what mills had woven the garments, what clothing concern had made them. But to find where they had been sold would take time and might conceivably be valueless.
In each garment, there was dust. Doc concentrated on that. There was more than one kind of dust. The ordinary street variety, Doc dismissed.
There was a peculiar whitish dust. He put it under a strong microscope, studied it, then consulted geologic charts. In the laboratory storeroom were thousands of tiny phials holding ores, rock samples, soils, clays. All were labeled. Doc consulted these also.
Ham searched around, found the bullet which had so nearly split Monk's skull, and patted the distorted bit of lead lovingly.
"My friend," he told the bullet. "You nearly did the world a great service."
Monk brought her ice water from the cooler. It was distilled water made in the laboratory—an enemy had once tried to poison Doc Savage and his aides by tapping the city water main which supplied the bronze man's headquarters.
Monk looked at the others. "I vote for fireworks."
Long Tom, who despite his somewhat fragile appearance, was as much of a fire-eater as the homely Monk, nodded vehemently. Ham shook his head, more as a policy of disagreeing with Monk than anything else.
The Majii is rightly considered a top-notch Doc Savage adventure. It helps if you're enamored with flash pot hocus pocus that terrifies and dazzles primitives and First World idiots. I see 1935 and think anything exotic must have played well with children and working class men.
032 - Dust Of Death:
"The tiny South American republics of Santa Amoza and Delezon were at war when a mysterious, hooded figure — known only as The Inca in Gray — appeared and began slaughtering citizens of both sides with a strange dust that brought instant, writhing death. Doc Savage and his mighty crew rush to the dense Amazonian forest in hopes of saving lives, but all they find when they arrive is a firing squad — ready to execute the Man of Bronze!"
[Standard Spoiler Alert Warning Here] Thanks to the Sanctum reprint I know Dust Of Death was ripped apart and stitched back together. I can see how you'd find this issue a total disaster, but I enjoyed enough of it to give it a pass as hitting deadline by making a mess slightly less so. Harold A. Davis wrote the first draft and Street & Smith editor John L. Nanovic sent it back for major revisions. From the reprint: "Nanovic felt the story was padded and full of idiosyncrasies, which Dent derisively dubbed 'godawfulisms'". This meant Davis made strange mistakes in personalized patterns. Page by page Dent made changes to the original and also moved around chapters. October, 1935's finished product is fairly readable even if the last third reverts to a routine Doc Savage procedural.
Dent's choice to make General Vigo the "Inca In Gray" was completely senseless. He could have picked Don Kurrell, Ace Jackson, or Count Hoffee - what difference does it make which secondary day-player got tapped at the mastermind? Making Vigo the one invalidated entire other sections - especially when he pretends to execute Long Tom and Doc Savage at separate times because he needs them to help him find the Inca In Gray! Which is himself, so either he has a split personality or this was a last minute decision that didn't even make the story better as a surprise ending. Then there's no way for him to be giving orders to his men while under the watch of Doc Savage for a large chunk of time, and why was fake death dust thrown at Doc, Long Tom, and Vigo in the jungle? If I knew beforehand I'm assuming this list could grow exponentially.
The major crime against zumanity of Dust Of Death was the introduction of Chemistry, Ham's mini-Monk ape. Davis wanted to call him "Test Tube". I guess dumb pig was such a hit they decided to give Ham his own stupid monkey. Here's his introduction, in Chapter 13 for bad luck:
He heard a crashing ahead.
"Monk," Ham opened his mouth to call, but closed it grimly. Jungle terror or no jungle terror, he intended to have some fun with Monk. He would devil the apish fellow, make him think he was being attacked.
Ham crowded on as noiselessly and as rapidly as possible. He peered ahead intently, and soon he was rewarded.
Through the trees he could see stooped massive figures moving along the ground, pushing creepers and jungle vegetation aside with long, hairy arms. The light was very indistinct; but that stooped, apelike stride was unmistakable.
Ham's smile spread. He picked up a rock, scuttled forward into a thicket in which the apish form had vanished, drew back his arm and hurled the rock. It smashed into the brush.
The rock smacked through the leaves. It hit something—undoubtedly flesh—with a thump that to Ham was a wholly satisfying sound.
Ham expected to hear a prompt howl from Monk. He was disappointed. There came a high shriek, a great crashing of brush. The noise came in Ham's direction, and Ham's eyes all but fell out. He looked at what came out of growth.
It was a monkey. But such a monkey.
It was larger than a chimpanzee, but smaller than a gorilla. It had no tail and its hair was rust colored.
Strangest of all was the astounding resemblance which the newcomer bore to Monk.
The strange anthropoid advanced toward Ham, making small mumbling sounds which were very like those Monk made on the occasion when he talked to himself.
Ham gave it up and fell to studying the creature. He was struck once more by the uncanny resemblance which this jungle dweller bore to the homely chemist, Monk.
At that point came an interruption. Accompanied by a faint noise of shuffling leaves and shifting weeds, the pig Habeas Corpus appeared. The shote caught sight of the anthropoid. Habeas promptly stopped. His big ears went like sails. He grunted rapidly. Plainly, Habeas did not think a great deal of Ham's new companion.
The feeling seemed to be mutual. The tailless simian seized a stick, rushed at Habeas, and gave the porker a resounding whack. Habeas fled, emitting a series of wild grunts.
That decided Ham. He sat down and laughed, laughed until tears came into his eyes. His predicament was completely forgotten in the glowing light of a great decision.
"I am going to keep that funny looking baboon as a pet," he declared. "Boy, will that burn Monk up. And will it give that pig, Habeas Corpus, something to do besides chew holes in my clothes whenever he can find them."
The tailless simian, having chased Habeas from the vicinity, came ambling back, carrying a stick over one shoulder, gun fashion. Ham struck an attitude, relaxed, scratched his head, then straightened.
"I christen thee Chemistry," he told the simian.
The remarkable looking anthropoid clucked happily as if the new name were perfectly agreeable.
Laughing to himself, Ham struck out again on Monk's trail.
On the positive side, Dust Of Death gives Long Tom a chance to shine as a real human person for the first three chapters, then a few more, and then as Doc's main sidekick. He's more personable and less a bitter little-man. The dog-fight scene with Doc in a beat up WWI "Jenny" is a classic of the series, and for once Doc's trilling is useful as an eccentric end note to a cool scene that's also a glitch once you've read the whole thing. Let's make believe Doc would allow himself to be marched up to a wall to be executed:
Outside the stockade, the pock-faced little man with the evil face mingled with the throng. He kept a hand tucked behind an ear, listening intently. He managed to pick up the ominous commands from within. General Vigo was giving the execution orders himself.
"Ready!" roared the general dictator of Delezon.
A volley of shot blazed out, frightening pigeons off the roofs of near-by buildings.
In the comparative silence that followed, a strange sound was heard. It was a trilling, small, eerie, fantastic, carrying from within the stockade in amazing fashion. It might have been the song of some exotic feathered thing of the jungle. The trilling was quite distinct at first, but it faded slowly, seeming to go away into nothingness until only the memory of its weird tremolo remained.
The rocket-powered dirigible seen in Land Of Always-Night is back, made faster with rocket tubes. All the scenes with the dirigible are very good:
Their lead made a great drumming and roaring on the dirigible. It was not, however, doing a great deal of damage. The control cabin was proof against anything less than a field gun shell. The gas bags, the dirigible's skin, of course, could not be made bullet-proof, due to the necessity for lightness. But puncturing the bags would do no great damage. For the gas cells were coated inside with a spongy substance which expanded and closed all but the largest of apertures.
He was going to crash them, ram them deliberately with his own plane. It was a desperate expedient, and probably the only one which would insure success under the circumstances.
At the last possible moment, the enemy pilot pitched clear of his plane. He was a cunning fellow. He held his body so that the very force of the air and his momentum caused him to hurtle downward under the dirigible.
The plane hit the gas bag squarely. It buried itself almost completely in the cellular structure of gas compartments and girders. The concussion was terrific. Flame burst from the plane, which had been turned into a missile. This fire, however, was almost instantly snuffed out, for the gas which furnished buoyancy to the airship was not only non-inflammable itself, but was effective as fire extinguishing vapor in smothering flames.
Doc knows Long Tom's cablegram is fake because...:
"Have you overlooked the five-letter code?" he asked.
Monk started, and a ludicrous expression crossed his homely face.
"Sure," he grunted, "every sentence should start with a five-letter word. That's the touch to make sure members of our gang really send the messages."
The scenes in New York with The Inca In Gray's men are tense and well written. Added points for their formidability and 1935-era cruelty:
A fist struck the elevator man callously under the jaw. He sagged, and one of the two passengers caught him under the arms. Holding him helpless, they hit him again and again, until his senses were thoroughly beaten out.
If you're an engineer or sumthin' you might hate the elevator in Doc's building that doesn't crash when its cables are cut because of a vacuum seal built into the bottom of the shaft. Me, I'm a dimwit, so while I knew it wasn't a thing just as a matter of stopping distance it didn't make me spittle with rage as it did others:
The wild cage flashed past the ground floor. And a startled yell came from the starter outside as he realized what was occurring.
Things happened. A giant hand seemed to reach out and grab the elevator, gently at first, then with more violence. Air, passing the sides of the cage, made an ear-splitting scream. The occupants of the elevator went down as if mashed by a giant invisible hand.
And the cage was unexpectedly still, although it seemed, due to the freakishness of the human organism, that it was now flying upward.
Monk lay very still. Ham had fallen half across him.
They both eyed Doc Savage. Their expressions showed what they wanted—explanations.
"The bottoms of these shafts are of special construction," Doc Savage said. "They are completely enclosed and fit tightly to the sides of the cage. The compression of the air formed a natural shock absorber."
Here's a great bit where Ham thinks he's going to die in the elevator but instead of freaking out he literally and figuratively brushes it off:
Ham, the dapper lawyer, said nothing, but brushed an imaginary speck of dust from his immaculate clothing as if he wanted to look his best when his crushed body was found after the elevator crashed to the bottom of the shaft, eighty-six floors below.
File under gadget:
Falling across the floor, this luminance disclosed the ingenious drill which the bronze man had fashioned from two belt buckles—his own and Long Tom's. A piece of wood, ripped from a bench, provided a handle. Long Tom's interminable conversation had been to cover the sound the drill was making as it cut around the lock.
Back to the lesser, Doc disguising himself on the fly as someone everyone else knows is a major suspension of disbelief and a cheap cheat of a bargain genre. This first part might have been explained away as a ploy later on where they knew Doc wasn't a real soldier but it wasn't clearly written. There's a bigger scene later where Doc disguises himself as President Carcetas and fools everyone the President's known for many years as he makes a grand speech, up until a bad guy points out his hair is powdered. That was a groaner:
The rest of the soldiers now came out of the jungle. Among them was the tall, heavy-set individual whose shoulders drooped slightly. This man drew only one or two glances, those casual.
He looked exactly like the soldier who had lagged behind to loot the fallen ship.
Monk and Ham are tied to stakes and covered in honey on the orders of the Inca In Gray so they will die slowly and horribly by army ants. After a nibble or two they're taken out of the pit because the Inca, far away, decides he wants to see them die in person somewhere else. Groan. The death dust thing wound up being a bust as it was built up, then mostly abandoned until the end, then explained as a powder that kills you. The powder was no more effective than a knife or gun, and as a killing method it was dangerous for the assailant to administer anyway.
Dust Of Death is an interesting book with many good parts, some procedural drag, and a completely wrong mastermind reveal. Reading it knowing who General Vigo really is would make the experience better than not knowing so you can see where Dent dropped the ball in his re-do.
033 - Murder Melody:
"Violent earthquakes call Doc Savage to Vancouver where he confronts the super-science menace of the flying Zoromen in Murder Melody."
Explosives are all you need to defeat a center-earth race of beings so advanced you think they can do anything in defiance of known laws of science and nature, except they kinda can but maybe not really but it's hard to say because everything is situational and most likely conceived by the mind of a raving psychopath - which oddly enough it was. Lawrence Donovan wrote this, and according to the Sanctum Press reprint Donovan was a hot mess. Street & Smith Doc Savage co-creator John Nanovic says of him "I think he was on dope. He'd go to the drugstore and have a raw hamburger, you know, for a sandwich!" Heavy drinking, coffee binges, unfiltered cigarettes, and most likely a melody of mental and personality defects made Lawrence not a dull boy.
November, 1935's Murder Melody is a split between fantasy and science fiction, much of it with redeeming qualities but problems abound. The page count can easily be cut down by not extending scenes for little gain. There's few set pieces but they linger... The death flute reveal of "auditory chemicals" must have come from a fever dream where Donovan drops acid with Hunter S. Thompson, in the future. Considering much of what goes on is made up on the run he could have just as easily had the flutes be a technology that attacks with sound sans floating chemicals. Why do they lose effectiveness once the flute stops playing? Who knows, Larry's in the corner gnawing on raw meat patties.
You have to credit Donovan for doing his research on the sciences of electricity and geology. He details the known and speculates on the possible with aplomb. On the plus side the story is visually exciting and events unfold on a grand scale. The Earth shakes, cliffs fall into the sea, boats bounce like bathtub toys - the budget's way too high to ever film it. Murder Melody would benefit from the weird goings-on being more concrete and less what's-going-on-here(?) and really-are-you-serious(?). It's fun in general but the long residencies in set pieces and repetition of gimmicks mute the effect. Doc's anesthetic pellets are the 6th Man. Doc's dumb trilling and the death flutes make similar sounds and it comes into play a few times. Why does Zoro need Doc Savage for anyway, and Doc disguises himself on the fly to be Cassalano, described thusly as "He was of average height, but so fat and pudgy he had the appearance of being short. His small eyes twinkled in a rotund face that had a double chin. His mouth was small, but smiling." Average height back then was 5'9". By 1935 Doc's radioactive-accessorized wardrobe might have grown him to 6'5". And my god Monk's a whiny little SOB who defaults to the dumb thing to say. You'd think by this point he'd be comfortable with the weird being possible. Any explosives would have done the trick but Donovan makes a big to-do about stealing "Trinitromite" because it goes super-boom-boom.
Doc himself is presented in the same way North Korea reported details of the glorious exploits of Dear Leader Kim Il-Sung, who bowled perfect 300 games and shot a 38 under par in his first round of golf. Doc can tell you where he is anywhere in the world by sniffing the air. He can slid down a rope and his bare hand burns with friction but leaves no damage. Like in a cartoon he can run down a tall wall and continue to run forward once he reaches the bottom. All praise Dear Doc Savage!
Donovan also fails when it comes to the underground dwellers and their society. Where they come from is never revealed. They just exist. Their politics is a contradictory and impotent utopian communism thing that works neither as politics nor literature:
The Kingdom of Subterranae operated on a Tallying System. Each inhabitant of the inner land contributed his or her share to the general welfare and support of the nation. As in the upper world, a few sought to prey upon the production of others. Such ones were banished to the Land of Beyond more than a thousand miles away.
"There they are compelled to support themselves," said King Lumos. "They have their own minor solar system. Reservoirs irrigate their gardens. But they are denied all that is in the city of Manyon. They have been permitted to have three Uni-Ships."
"Have no fear," said the princess quickly. "That will not happen. My father did not tell you his greatest source of anxiety. We know there are many Zoro spies within the city. They are fomenting trouble. Some of our people are much frightened. We have always been at peace. So we have not been prepared to combat intrigue. Never have we needed what you call soldiers or police."
Some of the king's men were near exhaustion. They showed plainly their lack of training in violent pursuits. They were of a peaceful and sedentary people. Monk and Renny led the attack upon the broken fragments of the roof in the tunnel.
Donovan must have been trolling for useful idiots with this line, because everything you need to know about life you learn in kindergarten:
"Unlike your world, we have no state secrets," smiled King Lumos. "Our subjects are immediately informed of our problems."
"Such a system would be of incalculable advantage in the outer world," agreed Doc Savage. "Much senseless intrigue would be abolished if the peoples of all nations were similarly informed."
Doc saves the day and offers the Manyonianites (I made that up as it's never delineated) the greatest gift of all - serial lobotomies on a scale that would give Josef Mengele's corpse a woody. Note how the peaceful folk of Manyon turn to murderous maniacs:
In the inner room of the palace King Lumos reported a clamoring of his people for the execution of all those of the Land of Beyond.
"Among your subjects you have perhaps one of surgical skill," suggested Doc Savage. "From among those we have brought from the Land of Beyond we will select two for a demonstration. To your surgeon will be imparted the power to bring about a new form of banishment for the discontented and those of warped mind."
"Yes, Clark Savage, we have learned of your treatment of crooks in the upper world," said Princess Lanta. "We can inform our people we are carrying out an execution. The brains that are ill will die, and the rebellious ones will be banished to the Land of Forgetfulness. We need no longer maintain the Land of Beyond."
This line is plain wrong and somebody should have caught it. The "enemies" in question are the good lumpen of Manyon. The person saying this is a citizen Manyon. More correctly it would be "The enemies of Zoro, we/us/ourselves/I'm pointing at me, will perish":
"Then the Princess Lanta must become the queen of Zoro!" rapped a voice. "Otherwise, the city shall be invaded! All our enemies will perish! Give Princess Lanta to Zoro!"
Doc Savage, sexist pig:
"That is correct," agreed Princess Lanta. "Probably my father, King Lumos, will need to inform you of little. Your companions are astounded. They do not understand what we are able to command. This should not disturb them. After all, you control vast electrical force on the earth's surface. You have learned to apply it in many wonderful ways. Yet your most learned scientists have never been able to define exactly what electricity consists of."
Doc Savage nodded. He said nothing. Never before had he encountered a woman who could think so clearly.
Long Tom is usually an overcompensating Napoleon hot-head, but not this day:
Long Tom had been watching the island peak closely. He was an undersized man compared to Doc and the others, and his face had an unhealthy bilious cast. Usually slow of speech he was almost the equal of Doc himself in being sure before he spoke.
Doc Vs. Women explained again:
There was much more being uttered by her expressive eyes. The bronze man ignored this. Lanta was as lovely a woman as he had ever seen. It was no conceit on his part to believe he had made a great impression upon her.
But Doc Savage was not interested in making any conquest. Women had no part in his life. He didn't even pretend that he understood them.
The bronze man had devoted his life to aiding those who were oppressed, wherever they might be. His allegiance was to all the world. He helped the distressed. Their oppressors he punished, but with the idea of correcting their mistakes.
I've always enjoyed that Doc's so cool he gets his mail no matter what, just like Santa:
The letter had been addressed simply to "Clark Savage Jr., New York City." Such general address was sufficient. The postal authorities of the big city knew of only one such man. His regular address was the eighty-sixth floor of Manhattan's most impressive skyscraper.
What's that thing again called? Smog?...
At times, the mingling of mist and smoke is so opaque and dirty, it has been termed by the inhabitants a "smog." This smog obliterates every object at the distance of a few feet.
Does this image make sense to you?:
His compactly knitted figure seemed to have been poured into his garments.
The rest is Dear Leader Doc Savage being himself - and by that I mean awesome:
Doc seemed to bound from the plane as if he had been thrown from a catapult. As he alighted on his feet, his cabled muscles cushioned the impact. He slid along, but remained erect.
Doc snapped off the generator flashlight. For seconds he stood as motionless as a carved rock. The heaving of the ground did not disturb the bronze man's balance. His massively corded legs were immovable as pillars of granite.
The bronze man had been pondering deeply. Glancing down into the abysmal darkness of the canyon cleft, the magnificent bronze head nodded slowly. It was thus he confirmed some of his own conclusions when alone.
"I take it you mean the illustrious Doc Savage?" stated a cool, brittle voice. "Then you are three of his men."
"Doc Savage has the strange faculty of knowing all before he is told," said Cassalano. "I warn you. And by some remarkable intuition, you seem to believe Doc Savage will come to this place?"
Within a few seconds, he had discovered he was not on a ship near Vancouver. Not by many hundreds of miles. For the bronze man had that keen sense of knowing by feeling and smell, many parts of the world. At this moment, he judged he was not far from the Arctic Circle.
"How could you know that?" questioned Caulkins. "Everything seems the same to me. It's like we were in a big coffin."
"The wind is from the south," advised Doc. "It brings the odors of the salmon canneries at Old Astoria. The ship had scraped muddy bottom on tide flats. These are on the north shore. We are nearing the sloughs and marshes in the vicinity of the lumber cities of Longview and Kelso."
One bronze hand flashed out. Doc's fingers touched one of the ropes. To have gripped it tightly would have exerted strain enough to have torn an arm from its socket. The man of bronze performed an amazing feat. The palm of his hand acted as a brake along the slanting rope.
The hempen cord actually smoked for a few feet. Then Doc was swinging over the deck supported by the one hand. From below immediately floated the weird strains of the death flutes.
The man of bronze reached the street with what seemed tremendous bounds down the sheer wall of the palace tower. Lanta was being seized by the grasping hands of Zoro's emissaries.
If you can embrace the ridiculous and overlook its shortcomings, Murder Melody is a glorious mess. Chopped down, toned down, and corrected it would be one of the nuttier great fun rides of the series.
34 - The Fantastic Island:
"It looked just like any other deserted island. But hidden under its tropical sands was a monstrous slave empire, a vast underground network of death pits, giant carnivorous crabs and prehistoric beasts, ruled by the blood-crazed Count Ramadanoff. Blasting their way into this nightmare of horror, Doc Savage and "the fabulous five" embark on their most daring adventure."
So, thrown signet ring on a string and a magnifying glass door panel that makes iguanas look like dinosaurs, we meet again!
Written by W. Ryerson Johnson and Lester Dent, Dec. 1935's The Fantastic Island is "fantastic" mostly as in "imaginative or fanciful: remote from reality" and "Unrealistic; irrational", with some "extraordinarily good or attractive" tossed in for an effort so over the top it reaches down and pulls the rug out from under so you land on your tush and wonder what the hell was that. The writers threw literally everything at the story and it's as campy as it is brutal and evil. Aspects of it beg for parody, like the Count's "grand piano draped with costly sea otter furs and brightly illuminated by crystal spangled candelabras." As is it's easy to imagine him playing like Liberace - or even better if it was an organ he could break out baseball stadium classics. Check out the campiness:
"Yes. When I play, it is always a prelude of unpleasantness for somebody. Savages in the jungle are aroused to an animal frenzy through the beat of their own tom-toms. In similar fashion, I am impelled to unspeakable decisions when my fingers wander over the keys."
If the 1975 Doc Savage film was based on this it would star Vincent Price as Count Ramadanoff in an American International Pictures production, and he'd be winking at the camera.
In my memory the flying ring and magnifying glass window were the pinnacles of how Doc Savage books would write checks for a mystery in the opening chapters but then have no means to cash them at the end. I take that back for The Fantastic Island. It wouldn't surprise me if Dent insisted on these things just to be ridiculous in a story that's nothing but. My lord there's everything: volcanoes w/earthquakes, angry poisonous centipedes, man-eating iguanas, carnivorous crabs that Doc throws at bad guys to freak them out, sharks, little hogs that rip people to shreds like in that Hannibal Lector movie, slave pits that resemble hell, and a castle with traps everywhere!
The book's mistakes are ultimately meaningless because the ride is so insane, the action scenes are universally well done, and the characters nicely rendered. The plot was directly inspired by the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game, remade a number of times on film. Being a Doc Savage adventure it's about the Count needing Doc's expertise to find something of great value on a hellish volcanic prison island. The crew plus Pat and Stupid Pig make six and a pig.
Doc has a mechanical dummy he plants at the door of his hangar to get shot at by criminals. He's called "Robbie The Robot". Doc casually kills a shark with a knife. Doc's told to find the evil Count's nice-guy brother Boris at 33 Redbeach Road, Long Island, making me think he could have just as easily been Hitler's pacifist cousin Norman at Schulstrasse 4, die Hinterlands. Naming a town on Long Island wouldn't be too much to ask.
Here's the setup and punch line of the hole in the temple gag. It's so bad it has to be some kind of a a test for the reader:
"Savage, you're nuts!" Bergman jabbered. "It's as dangerous for you in here as it is for me! Sometimes a man drops dead with nobody near him, and what has killed him is a little hole in his temple about the size you could poke your thumb into."...
In the twilight murkiness of the room leaped a peculiar sound, a kind of fleshy crunch. Bergman's words died in his throat. His head flopped sidewise. His shoulders followed it with flowing motion. His head thumped hollowly against the floor. His body lay there in a twisted huddle.
Doc leaped from the desk, made a quick examination. His fingers encountered a bone-crushed depression in the left temple, a smooth, white wound, in its size and contour the same as a man's thumb would have made if jabbed into white lard.
"But it seemed so mysterious," Pat said. "So sinister."
"It was both," Doc Savage interpolated. "If you recall, the thumb-hole death struck only when the light was not strong enough to reveal the almost colorless cord. They threw the ring with great force. Both brothers were well muscled, you will recall. They must have practiced a great deal. Then they jerked the ring back with the cord."
The Count literally ruled with an iron fist. Points off for not knowing you never punch someone if you're wearing big honking rings on your finger:
The count's fists thudded on Doc with vicious short-arm jabs, delivered with the force of a pile-driver. His white hands that looked so soft, were not soft at all. On his short cut through the palace to intercept Doc, he had slipped his hands into gloves of basket-weave wire, as flexible as thin kid and knobbed on the knuckles with jagged slugs of lead.
"With my own hands, I will beat you to death!" the count raged. "Three of your men at one time my fists have beaten -- and now you!"
The fist drove down, struck solidly -- but not on Doc's head. Doc jerked clear, timing his movement so that the count could not pull his punch. The list swished air in Doc's face and rammed flagstone. Holes had been fashioned in the backs of the leaded gloves so the finger rings could push through and serve as additional punishment factors.
Who did this first - Robin Hood or Zorro?:
The count was on his feet and running forward by the time Doc and Pat had reached the stair landing, hung with the velvet drapes. The count looked very happy as he observed that the ruby-colored drapes had tangled themselves about the fugitives and must certainly trip them up.
But Doc and Pat were not tripped by the hangings. It was no accident that the drapes had become swathed about Doc's mounting figure. Doc was holding them in one metallic hand, carrying them upward with him.
Suddenly he stopped, faced around. "Hang onto my back," he said in Mayan to Pat. "And hold your breath."
Pat thrust arms about Doc's neck from behind. From high overhead, the brass hoops creaked on their rod and the ruby drapes became taut as a wind-bellied sail, as Doc. lifting his feet and gripping the drape like a rope, swung downward in a wide arc.
Down he swung on that plunging curve, passing high over the astonished face of the count and up, up, with Pat clinging tightly around his neck. At the very height of his swing, he was dangling at a fearful distance above the high-swung candelabra.
He let go his hold on the drape and hurtled forward and down, the wind a hard rush in his ears. His muscle-corded hand, outstretched, caught the candelabra, his momentum swinging it forward. Candles showered down, their flames whipping like tiny comets' tails.
Letting go of the candelabra, the man of bronze swooped through the air above that death stretch -- the thirty feet of flooring in front of the door charged with high-amperage electricity. Through the lofty door his body shot, down. He landed easily, taking the shock in a way that showed he had practiced jumping from great heights.
He said: "It was a stupid blunder of my slaves to chain you to the pits. It is only the Asiatic immigrant ships sailing to South America that I intercept for my pit laborers. Those, and occasional Ecuadorian fishermen, guano and moss hunters. When, upon rare occasions, a yacht comes this way its occupants are received as welcome guests."
Monk's small eyes blinked rapidly. "It ain't possible."
"Some mistake," Ham muttered. "No lights are indicated on the chart."
Pat pointed at them and said, "There they are," with inescapable feminine logic.
Ham leaned forward, his fingers clutched so tightly on an imaginary sword cane that the knuckles were white splotches on his skin. Monk crouched, his simian bulk frozen.
Even that did not move them. With new recruits continuously pressing in from behind, the crowd swelled closer. Curiosity was an emotion more rampant than fear.
Then something happened which did move them. They became all at once conscious of a man approaching. He neither spoke nor shoved, but there was such quiet mastery in his face and manner that, instinctively, they looked at him, and then with a kind of awe, pressed back to allow him free progress through the crowd.
[The proper emergency use for stimulants] Doc took one of the glasses and touched his lips to it. There were two reasons why he did not drink more. One reason was that he did not commonly indulge in stimulants of any kind, reserving them only for their proper emergency use. The other reason was that his acutely developed taste warned him of a foreign substance in the tea.
THE bronze man spent no time in reconnoitering. With Long Tom's life threatened, even seconds were important. He leaped from the car, traversed the short distance to the house in great bounds. He tried the door. It was locked. He used Renny's pet method, and one of his fists, propelled by prodigious arm and shoulder muscles, crashed through the solid oak panel.
Like closing vises, his hands caught the splintered wood and wrenched. He tore the door half down, then walked through the rest of it with forward-pressing force which shattered the entire door frame.
[So Doc never flexes his wrist otherwise?] Jans Bergman began bellowing for his men to quit their suicidal shooting. More than any of them, Bergman came near understanding what had happened. He had caught the flash of Doc's wrist watch an instant before the flash came. He had realized the bronze man had expanded wrist muscles so as to split the case and release the contents.
"You couldn't have gotten half of it! Savage has a thousand pockets. You could yank out his teeth, shave his head, and pull out his nails and he'd still have enough chemicals hidden on him to blow up a battleship."
Doc did not scorn the use of a gun, of course, when emergency put one in his hands. He used one now. Pushing out through the dripping birch leaves, he came upon Long Tom who, behind a meager rock shelter, was caught in a threatened cross-fire of submachine gun lead.
Examples of brutality found in the book:
The leaded whip handle descended again. This time the man slumped, a slack weight in the pit. He was dead before his body hit the bottom.
The overseer -- he was some unidentifiable Asiatic type -- bawled orders in harsh gibberish. Two guards shoved forward. One was a giant brown-skinned man; the other a paunchy Caucasian of indeterminate race. The brown man bent and commenced ripping the thongs from Ham's hands and feet. The other guard jumped heavily down, unlocked the iron cuff from the dead man's leg, and heaved the limp body out of the pit.
The guard on top grunted, and pushed Ham roughly over the edge. Ham fell sprawling. The guard in the pit was ready for him. He jangled the chain against the stake, grabbed Ham by the foot and slapped on the iron cuff, warm from the dead man's leg.
He picked up the dead man's shovel, thrust it into Ham's hands. The overseer above cracked down with the whip. A thick welt bloomed on Ham's cheek. He started digging.
"You are the foolhardy one, if you think you can outsmart Jans Bergman. Maybe you're wearing bulletproof clothes. Don't depend upon them. My machine-gun lead will push your face out the back of your skull."
Ramadanoff's finger was broken before he could clear it from the trigger. But the finger was the least of his troubles. He felt himself lifted and slammed.
One of the guards showed fight. He dodged the blow of the knout, flung in close against the plunging horse and reached up to pull the horseman from the saddle. The man in the saddle only laughed a raw ghoulish clacking, pulled a revolver from holster and shot the guard dead.
The horseman kept laughing and driving bullets into the guard's body, even after the fellow was slumped in a still, dead heap on the ground. After that, no one offered resistance.
Errors to be pointed out regardless: Something's wrong when Monk plays interpreter for Johnny's vocabulary mental disorder. Even worse when he does it for Doc like he doesn't understand big words. Here there's a steel door that comes down to replace the wood door Doc smashes to pieces. Why not just have a steel door instead of two doors with one as a backup that fits exactly into the space of the first? That's a lot of contractor work:
"Just a trick, Savage," he snarled. "I managed to press a button on my way out, sliding the steel door into place from within the wall. Did you think I had no more protection for my safety than the wooden door you broke down? You can stay in there and simmer in your own juice, as the Yankees say, or perish in your own gas.
This one's funny. I'm picturing Johnson wrote it not realizing Doc's anesthetic gas isn't poison and loses effectiveness after a minute. Dent edited in the line in bold but kept the rest as is! There's no reason for Doc to be acting like this:
Still holding his breath against the anesthetic vapor, Doc hurled himself across the room. He had one last hope -- the movable panel in the roll-top desk. There was not time to look for the control key which would open the panel. There was time only to crash it in. Swiftly, Doc felt out the boundaries of the stout oak with his sensitive fingers.
Then his fists drummed a mighty tattoo. Fists were not enough. His shoulders lunged. He braced himself against the wall and kicked. His hand drifted out and contacted a heavy chair, swung it in a wide arc. The chair splintered in a dozen places, and the panel remained unmoved.
Doc was trapped! Not from the gas, however. That would become harmless in a few seconds, as it mingled more completely with the air.
In New York Doc's captured and kept alive so he can be brought to the volcanic island and help the Count find his precious. In order to have the scene that follows where Doc once again cheats death, there's this exchange between bad guys:
"We've got to kill him," he said.
"Maybe you're right," the other muttered.
Read The Fantastic Island not as a glorious mess but the kitchen sink of Doc Savage novels. As a bleeding-image Technicolor horror-serial film with camp to spare it's genius. It's better than any Ed Wood production, that's for sure.
035 - Murder Mirage:
"A blizzard in July and a woman’s image is frozen in glass — how could these bizarre events possibly be connected? To find the answer and save the life of Ranyon Cartheris, the Man of Bronze and his dauntless allies journey to hot desert sands halfway round the world, where they are trapped — perhaps never to emerge — in the ancient underground tombs of Tasunan."
The story of radium as a toxic element was possibly still in flux when this Lawrence Donovan-ghosted Doc Savage adventure sat on newsstands in January of 1936. Murder Mirage's "Tasunite" is stronger and so deadly it vaporizes flesh into x-ray images, creating the nice cover image of the original pulp. In the present year such a substance would do a lot more damage than creating spontaneous etched-glass, but as a pulp conceit it works well. This is Donovan's best and most coherent Doc Savage, hinting that maybe his dealer was in jail and he switched from embalming fluid to a decent bourbon. There's still oddness and lesser aspects to it, but on the Donovan Scale this one is pretty good.
Murder Mirage works best as pieces of a ten-part serial. As a Doc Savage movie it would be more complicated than it needs to be, and as a pulp novel it's too long and dense with passages that read in a monotone of information:
WE are in the passage of the shadow death and at its end are the execution chamber, the storage chamber and the place from which the defense shadow death of the walls is operated. The tunnel we have passed leads downward. At a hundred feet below this one, it traverses under the gardens. Its exit is in the central square of the modern city of Tasunan. There are many other passages. Some reach remaining buildings of the ancient city."
As is the Donovan way the story is ambitious, expansive, technically challenging, and prohibitively expensive to produce. That it doesn't fold over into itself into a crepe of insanity is a major feat, but it has its problems from laziness to omission. An ancient and mostly dead culture made magical protective suits worn by bad guys (and some good guys) that protect not only the face and body from bullets (as if they were balls of sponge) but also the Tasunite only found in their city. The rampaging summer snowstorms and such are never explained.
Donovan withholds small pieces of information that are confusing when/until you read a few sentences down:
The apelike chemist heaved his squat body sidewise and upward. A heavy missile was flying through the air. It was a hammer with a blunt round head and weighing several pounds. The hammer was shooting straight toward the picture of the murdered woman in the plate glass.
Monk tried to catch the hammer. His effort failed. The weighty missile flew onward. Heavy glass splintered and shivered in razorlike strips to the pavement...
The murder shadow of the woman had escaped destruction. While Monk had failed in his attempt to catch the thrown hammer, his hand had deflected its course. The weighty iron had smashed through the plate glass of the window next to that in which the woman was pictured.
Chapter 12 ends with Doc & Co. hoping Monk & Ham weren't on a boat that sinks, then the next chapter opens with a reference to planes that is never explained. How did planes come into the picture?:
THE southern ship route should be clear of storms at this season," announced Renny. "At Bermuda, we may learn something. I have a hunch they would refuel at Bermuda."
"I had thought the same," stated Doc Savage. "We may hear some news there of the planes.
Donovan injects doses of his standard nutzoid action when Doc is always on the running board of his car no matter the danger or need. In the first bit it's not mentioned up front Doc is on the running board:
Monk was a skillful driver. The car, with its powerful supermotor, grazed the steel of the elevated railway columns. Monk seemed able to estimate to the fraction of an inch how much room he could allow. The steel brushed the bronze man’s clothes at times.
On Northern Boulevard, the highway forming the main artery of travel along the upper North Shore of Long Island, one driver seemed to be disregarding all the rules of safety. Persons who observed the flashing speed of the shadowy automobile in the dense fog gasped with profound amazement...
"Bet we’ve got those cops thinkin’ we’re some kind of a ghost!" chuckled Renny, at the wheel of the apparent phantom car. "They’ll probably swear they didn’t see us!"
"The report will be worse than that," suggested Long Tom. "They couldn’t miss seeing Doc outside."
The man of bronze was erect on the running board of the speeding sedan. The wet mist of the black fog slapped in his face. Drops of water slid off the smooth bronze hair, as if it were waterproof...
Doc and his companions were wearing curiously shaped goggles. The lenses of these were large. The affairs looked clumsy. These were equipped with small switches. From inside the goggles came a whirring, as if small generators were operating.
While the headlights of the car were off, there was light. But this was invisible to any person not wearing the bronze man’s especially contrived goggles.
[The passenger shoots through the intact windshield in front of his face. That's new] The other car was now only a few yards in the rear of Doc’s armored sedan. The glass of its windshield crashed. Almost instantly, a machine gun began a snarling song of death. The bronze man felt the jolt of two bullets tearing at his bulletproof vest. He swung inside with Johnny, who was in the rear-seat.
[Caller ID] THE telephone buzzed. Doc Savage swung over to the instrument. Johnny instantly made contact with an extension. It was a device of Dr. Savage’s which would allow an instantaneous check-back on the number calling.
From a small vial taken from an inner pocket, the bronze man sprinkled a grayish chemical powder. This covered the seat from side to side. Almost instantly, the plush of the cushions took on a curious yellow glow. This was the nap of the thick plush slowly coming back to place after having been compressed.
This informed Doc that two persons had occupied the small car.
This blinding gas was a new chemical. It was composed of various sulphides combined with liquefied selenium. It was the first time selenium had ever been successfully liquefied.
The furry, stubby thumbs of Monk were locked to the thumbs of Ham. They were attached by the torturing contrivances known to the police as thumbcuffs. These are employed sometimes in place of handcuffs in the cases of extremely dangerous criminals.
The cuffs are fashioned in the manner of handcuffs. But they are small and will lock two thumbs together. Inside each cuff are sharp saw-edged teeth. Any pull against the links tightens these teeth. They sink into the flesh. A prisoner would have to strip off all of the flesh from the bones to tear himself free. Then probably he would have to shave off a part of the bones.
The bronze man’s head suddenly took the square impact of a blow. The crashing collision with the base of his skull temporarily paralyzed his active senses. He exerted his will to remain on his feet.
For perhaps a half minute, the man of bronze was what is commonly known as "out on his feet." By exercising his amazing force of will over nerves and muscles, he might have continued active. But the bloody fight apparently was over.
Patricia Savage frowned at her giant cousin. She was one of the few persons who ever questioned Doc’s decisions. Mostly only women ever did that. Doc himself admitted he could not understand women. Moreover, he did not trouble himself about it.
[Doc trills a lot in this story] Doc Savage halted. From his body emanated the rare, exotic trilling...
[And what the hell does this mean?] Again the exotic trilling was emitted by the bronze man. Now it was a rare, tuneless running of the scale. It had the elusive cadence of falling water murmuring in some deep cave.
"It isn’t that kind of an assignment, Pat. It’s something that only one woman could do. You happen to be that woman."
"They all begin that way," said the young woman. "I shall prepare, of course, to be shot, burned at the stake, kidnapped or thrown into some deep, dark river. What is it? I’m practically dressed already."
The speaker was an authority on maps. For his name stood among the ten or dozen most eminent engineers in the world. The man’s fists were approximately of the size of his head. And his head was of leonine proportions.
[Over the top BS] Like others of Doc Savage’s group, the lawyer could speak in almost any of the known languages...
The edge of the flat roofs of the baked-clay buildings was nearly fifteen feet above them. Dernall felt himself projected into space. He was thrown upward as easily as a light stick of wood might have been tossed. He alighted with a slight crash on his hands and knees on the roof of the building...
He picked up the bony form, holding Dernall lightly across his shoulders. With gliding movement, he went swiftly across the roofs in the direction of the dirigible. Doc did not descend into the narrow lanes at any point. The body of Carson Dernall did not impede his progress in the slightest. Spaces of nearly twenty feet were covered in a bound.
The ebony face of Hadith floated through the cabin doorway. The outside wind stirred his kafieh. The blowing aside of the headcloth revealed a ghastly truth. Both of the Nubian’s ears had been sheared off close to his head. In their places were unhealed, hideous wounds.
[How to tell Carson was a bad guy] "This is Carson Dernall, aboard Doc Savage’s dirigible adrift in a storm at sea!" he announced, loudly. "Lady Sathyra Fotheran is with me! I have a message to be relayed to New York, if possible!"
For three or four minutes, he spoke with staccato sharpness. His words directed disposal of certain properties in event he failed to survive. Pat Savage shivered a little. Her attractive face showed the strain.
"He sounds like a man already dead and dictating his will," Pat murmured.
None could be sure Carson Dernall’s strange message had been received. Scrambled words howled in the loudspeaker. Perhaps some ship had really picked up the explorer’s belated arrangement of his personal affairs. If so, it would make a great story for the tabloids in Manhattan...
Renny’s hands experimented. The black tempest had passed almost as quickly as it had arisen.
[Look up what they do with their left hand] The Bedouins scooped up their food with their right hands.
[Renny's one-punch death punch] The impact of Renny’s fist was almost as loud as the exploding weapon.
The mobster’s kafieh flew off. When he hit the ground, his head rolled oddly as if his neck were only a rag. Seldom had Renny ever hit a man with all of his great strength. No mobster’s spine was ever made to resist such a blow. The mobster quivered and lay still.
Murder Mirage was a burden to get through because it lingered on details and layers that functioned more as asides than forward-moving plot. It didn't make reading it a richer experience as much as there being more words to read. It can be easily cut down by a fifth. George Pal wanted to adapt it into a winning Doc Savage film in 1975.
036 - Mystery Under The Sea:
"There was only one clue to the bloody enigma of TAZ-the illegible, dying scrawl of a horribly mutilated sailor. What was the message he had so desperately tried to deliver? Why had sizzling acid been forced into his mouth? What secret had the dead man unraveled about the flamboyant and brutal Captain Flamingo? Held captive aboard a tramp steamer, THE MAN OF BRONZE and his bold allies wrestle with the dread riddle of Taz."
Doc Savage novels revolving around bodies of water tend to be my least favorite as nautical terminology makes me sleepy while more time is spent describing than doing things. Cramped spaces make these books the literary cousins of TV show's "bottle episodes". Rarely does someone get from Pont A to B without an explanation usually reserved for Rube Goldberg devices. I'm more forgiving of stories that take place in Lands Out Of Time but they too spend much of their word count creating mental images of prehistoric creatures and fantastical foliage. At least nautical novels move in real time and conversation is normal. I care more about what Doc Savage does than where Doc Savage does these things. "Doc Savage Meets The Wizard Of Oz" is meaningless if little of note happens besides Doc meets The Wizard (in Technicolor!) and stuff happens.
Mystery Under The Sea, birthed in February of 1936, finds half its length taking
place underwater at the speed of walking underwater. Everything shifts to slow
motion and the underwater action is as exciting as it is slow. The idea of
breathing underwater on your own in the remains of
isn't enough to freak me out. A sequel of sorts came out in 1938
and is titled The Red Terrors. Aqua Commies ahoy!
According to the Sanctum reprint Atlantis was old hat by 1936. If I'm not mistaken (I'll never admit it) the rejected Shane Black script winds up in Atlantis with real life Atlanteans (as opposed to people from Atlanta). That's up there with having new characters added because Doc's not strong enough a personality on his own. A Doc Savage movie should be about Doc Savage and not a story about Atlantis and scenes that include Doc Savage characters. As a first film it should have nothing that overwhelms Doc Savage in context. This of course includes dinosaurs.
The brutality of the acid and knife attack on Twenty-Thousand-Leagues Verne (that's his name!) is one of the most gruesome things you'll read in a Doc Savage novel. Added points for that. Points off for having Heckle and Jeckle repeatedly argue over why sailors wear bell bottoms. One point off for including dumb pig. Add a point for using the word "Slumgullion" ("a cheap or insubstantial stew"). One point off for each "conversation" involving writing words in sand with a finger:
He leaned forward and scraped letters on the sandy portion of the floor with a huge forefinger.
"What brought me here?" he wrote.
Topping shook a negative. Then he parted the scanty hair on his head to exhibit a rather frightful bruise.
"I just regained my senses," he managed to scrape in the sand.
"Where are we?" Renny wrote.
Topping marked three letters.
Renny shook his head, smoothed out the patch of sand they were using as a slate, and wrote, "What is Taz?"
Did the word "Frenemy" existed in 1936?:
"We’re still what you might call ‘friendly enemies,’" the young woman explained. "We’re fighting a common enemy. After we polish him off, we’ll turn around and fight each other."
An example of the kind of writing I find boring while most Doc fans are staining themselves in joy:
It was a large room, and it was reached by passing through a solid stone wall, every bit of twenty feet in thickness.
At first glance, the most amazing thing about the room was the ceiling. This—there was not the slightest doubt of it—was composed of a single, titanic block of stone. It was, Doc Savage realized, probably the largest single block of stone ever employed in construction work. Certainly there were no historical records of a larger one. Strangest of all, this colossal slab seemed not to lie over the top of the room, lid-fashion, but was cut to fit inside the walls. What held it up could not be discerned.
In geometrical rows on the room’s floor stood what, at first glance, might have been mistaken for stone coffins; but they were shallower, narrower, somewhat longer. They were of some black stone so hard that it had managed to retain some of its original polish down through the ages. The lids fitted tightly, but had no visible fastenings. In number, these cases exceeded a hundred.
Doc's waiting room has a sporty ceiling:
The bronze man now moved the massive inlaid table into the center of the room and stood upon it, from which point he could reach the ceiling. This was decorated in modernistic fashion, with trim triangles and discs of shiny metals and colored glass. Under his manipulation, what had appeared to be an ordinary glass plate came away and proved itself a part of a motion picture camera, which was recessed into the ceiling.
This habit of Doc's is rude and I put it alongside trilling as things in need of deletion or adjustment. Just like trilling can be replaced with a "Hmmm" sound or just tossed, instead of making believe you don't exist when you ask him an important question he can reply with something like "I'll let you know as soon as I can". I did like that Ham and Monk looked at each other and shrugged:
"What’re you gonna do?" Monk asked.
He failed to get an answer, which did not completely surprise him. Doc Savage had a small habit, most aggravating at times, of completely neglecting to explain what he intended to do next. Now, was one of those occasions. He moved away soundlessly and was lost in the darkness.
Monk and Ham looked at each other, shrugged, crept out of the shipyard through the gate without being observed, and concealed themselves among discarded automobiles which littered a junk yard across the street.
Unforced errors ahoy! Ham knows Doc Savage well enough not to call him by his full name. "Doc!" works a lot better:
A newcomer had silently entered the office. A huge man of bronze.
"What are you two arguing about now?" he asked.
The two dissenters—Monk and Ham—jumped as if they had suddenly found their feet in cold water.
"Doc Savage!" Ham exclaimed.
"Gosh, Doc, you gimme a scare," Monk said, surprised
This is not how Monk speaks. Have Ham say it instead:
"We are in a very dangerous spot here, Miss Post," he said, levelly. "You are in as much danger as ourselves. Don’t you think it is the better part of common sense and safety to tell us what you know?"
"Phooey," said the young woman. "So now you try logic on me."
"I am only talking common sense," Monk assured her. "Those men are trying to kill all of us. We have no idea of what they are after, what is behind all of this, let alone why that gas didn’t get them."
"Listen," said Diamond Eve Post. "The less you know, the better I like it. We’re all—Captain Flamingo, Stanley Watchford Topping, myself, everybody—after Taz. You don’t know what Taz is. Swell!"
"The course you’re taking is not logical," Monk told her.
Renny's fists are famously quart-sized but are also commonly referred to as a gallon of hand:
The man was a giant. His size, however, faded to insignificance, once a glance was directed at his hands. These members were unnaturally large. Each fist was composed of only slightly less than a gallon of bone, gristle and leathery hide.
Monk and Ham are described thusly. Dent asserts Monk's pleasantness comes from his large mouth while Ham gets the backhand of "a not unhandsome face", second cousin to "She has a nice personality".
The pair who had been arguing, interrupted their dissension. They were as unlike as their voices. The one with the childlike voice, in the dim light of the reception room, might easily have been mistaken for a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound gorilla. He had practically no forehead, an incredibly homely face that was made pleasant by an overly large mouth, and arms which extended his furry hands to well below his knees. He was Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair.
The other was a lean-hipped man whose garments were the absolute ultimate in fashionable perfection. He had a not unhandsome face with a high forehead, keen eyes and the mobile mouth of an orator. He carried a slender black cane, which he had been waving in an effort to drive home his arguments. He was Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks.
Action Renny at his best:
Then Renny hit them. He weighed around two hundred and sixty pounds, all of it bone and gristle. He knew just about every rough-and-tumble fighting trick in the book, and his huge fists were about as effective as two concrete blocks.
Two men dropped before they even had a chance. A third got his guard up, both fists doubled in front of his face. Renny swung, not around the guarding fists, but at them, driving them back against the man’s jaw. The fellow dropped.
A great scene that defines what makes Doc Savage so distinctive:
Ham seemed to have reached the end of his rope. He spun, lifted his fist, took a step toward Monk. Only one step; then something strange happened. Ham’s mouth opened very wide. A queer expression overspread his face. His knees hinged, and he sat down on the floor.
"Poisoned by his own spleen," Monk said unkindly, thinking it was some kind of an act.
Ham sank flat on his face. An instant later, Renny fell. He went down like a felled tree.
"Blazes!" Monk gasped. Then he, too, began to look strange.
Doc Savage moved. With all of the tremendous speed of which his great trained sinews were capable, he flashed across the anteroom, into the library, on to the laboratory. There was almost an incredible frenzy in his movements. He reached a chemical case in the laboratory.
The case held bottles. Labels on these bore the strange symbols with which chemicals and chemical formulae are designated. Doc got out three bottles, drank from each in succession, holding the contents of all in his mouth, mixing them there, then swallowing.
The bronze man ran back into the reception room. There was still that strange frenzied speed in his movements.
Ham, Monk, Renny—all three were sprawled out on the floor. The pig, Habeas, was also down and not moving. Doc Savage stood, looked at them.
The bronze man’s trilling sound, eerie and fantastic to a greater degree than usual, filled all the anteroom, the library and the laboratory beyond. Its loudness was greater than usual, and it was a bit steadier, at first, but it began to subside very slowly, as if its source were being throttled, stifled.
And, as his trilling subsided, so did the figure of the giant bronze man. The bend of his knees, hardly perceptible at first, increased, and he folded, finally to topple forward, braced with his hands on the floor, and remain there for a time. By slow jerks, he let himself down.
He seemed to relax completely.
Nicely written science factoid:
IT is commonly recognized that the human eye requires a little time, brief though the interval may be, to recognize movement. Registration of an optical image is no instantaneous process. If it were not for this, many things would not be possible, among them the ordinary motion picture.
Doc Savage, through long, intense training, could possibly perceive a thing more quickly than the average person; but that was not what saved him now. He had spent a great deal of time acquiring the ability to move more quickly than the other man.
Captain Flamingo and his men were concealed about the deck. They had guns. It was necessary to aim the weapons after they saw Doc Savage. In the fraction of a second required for that, Doc flashed back out the door.
Spanky McSpankington Jr., report to HR immediately:
"She’s sure a sassy gal," Renny rumbled resentfully. "A good old-fashioned spanking would help her a lot."
Her long speech made Monk mad.
"For two cents, I’d put you across my knee," he growled.
"I love you when you get ranty," she told Monk.
A device I've always liked:
From within his clothing, Doc Savage produced his little telescopic device with interchangeable mirrors and lenses, which could become, alternately, periscope, telescope, and microscope. The girl had not removed this from his clothing during the period she had thought him unconscious—the period when she had brought Doc and his three aids aboard the steamer. Fitting the periscope mirrors on the device, Doc peered over the rail.
The end where Doc stays out on a boat for a month looking to find Taz's library is inconsiderate. Johnny and Long Tom must have gone nuts with worry that Doc's dead, and Doc's landlord at the Empire State Building might have rented the 86th floor to new tenants since he didn't show up by the 5th with a money order. And you know for damn sure they'll keep the security deposit! Mystery Under The Sea is ranked highly by many Doc Savage fans but it did little for me either in the action or story department. To Atlan-TAZ I said "bow-ring!" and slo-mo action "slothtastic!"
037 - The Metal Master:
"The Metal Master exists and will destroy the world! To stop him, the Man of Bronze and his daring friends launch a search for the source of his amazing power — and find themselves trapped on a sandy deserted island with the Metal Master himself!"
The Metal Master is an immensely enjoyable Doc Savage novel with a second half that manages to be engaging while also following Run & Fight protocols. Lester Dent keeps things interesting with the characters he's created for this March, 1936 adventure and there's a recurring joke added to the mystery of the Metal Master by periodically having someone claim with finality that it's some other person.
Doc's interactions with two competing gangs in New York is also handled well, and he's given a number of scenes alone doing typical Doc things not related to rescuing his assistants. Doc by himself is usually a highlight of any book (where he's not being introspective. See later years). The gadgets are excellent (see below) and the metal melting technology is awesome in action:
THE metal blob had a length of perhaps a dozen feel, and a width of half that. It appeared that a molten mixture of steel and brass had been dumped in the alley to harden.
But there were many queer aspects to the metal mass. For one thing, had molten metal been dumped there, the pavement around about would have shown some evidence of the terrific heat. There was none.
Yet it certainly looked as if the metal had been put there in a molten state. Little streams of it had run out at the sides, just as liquid metal would do. It had filled cracks in the alley pavement.
Most fantastic of all, pieces of wood stuck out of the mass, along with bits of cloth and leather. Doc Savage examined the leather.
Automobile cushions! Not the slightest doubt of it. This molten mass had been an automobile. He saw the tires, four of which had been on the wheels, and a spare. Fire. And the wooden wheel spokes were intact.
Monk continued to watch the plane. A weird thing was happening to it. It was behaving much like a child’s toy made of ice, which had been shoved suddenly into a hot oven.
The plane was melting!
Not the slightest doubt of it. The metal was simply turning to liquid and falling first in sheets, and the sheets scattering into drops. Within moments, the entire ship was little more than a literal rain of metal.
[The chain mail melting would more problematic if it really happened] Monk grasped his belt and held it where she could inspect it. The belt buckle was completely gone.
"Just melted" Monk said. "And there wasn’t no heat, either. Same way with the chain-mail undergarment I was wearing. It just melted. Some of it ran down my trouser legs. The rest is stuck about my waist. It’s hard now. Probably can’t get it off without a lot of work with a diamond-pointed cutter. I don’t think a cutting torch would remove it, without burning the heck out of me."
Things were happening to the schooner. Strange, fantastic things. The jib and staysail suddenly came loose. The metal stays to which they were fastened had simply become a little rivulet of liquid that ran down and splashed into the salty water.
Sails fell, as the metal pins in blocks melted. Gaffs came crashing down on deck. And the decks promptly fell to pieces under the impact. Men who had found themselves standing on solid deck planking were suddenly descending along with falling wood.
The boat was coming to pieces. Nothing else described it. She had been fastened, as a matter of fact, with a bronze alloy fastening, and these had all become liquid. Brass bars over skylights melted and became puddles that rolled like quicksilver down the glass.
[Dent keeps on explaining how it works but this is fine on its own] A box was revealed. Machinery filled the thing, apparatus that looked complicated. It was obviously electrical in nature, and there were vacuum tubes, coils, strange-looking systems of wires that might have been reflectors.
"There’s another one down the beach," said the man doing the explaining. "You see, to accomplish the liquefying of metal at a distance takes two sets of apparatus and a lot of power. You’d be surprised how much power. We’ve got a big motor-generator set in an old barge hidden among the sand dunes, and the cables run under the sand to this spot."
"Hi’ll be blasted!" murmured Tops’l.
"Each set of apparatus sends out a controlled field of combination electromagnetic and sonic nature," the man continued. "One of these fields will liquefy metal at close range, but at a distance it takes two. We focus the fields, and where they meet, any kind of metal will melt."
This bit is a giveaway lie because there's metals on the island that aren't melted, including handcuffs:
"From the way the men talked, I think so," groaned bald-headed Gettian. "There’s something about the island which causes all metal to become liquid. That is the way I escaped. They had handcuffs on me. The cuffs simply turned to liquid and ran off my wrists."...
"It’s gone!" he exploded. "A gun I managed to steal from the gang! A gun that escaped turning into liquid. I must have lost it!"
Punning Parker is so obviously a Doc Savage assistant I'm surprised I didn't know it before even cracking open Chapter 1. There might as well have been this Editor's Note, "Wink! Look what I'm doing with my one eye: Wuh-ink!:
As he drove rapidly in the direction of the water front, Renny wished fervently that he knew where to get in touch with "Long Tom."
Long Tom was Major Thomas J. Roberts, electrical wizard extraordinary, and another of Doc Savage’s aids. Long Tom was also engaged in investigation of the narcotic trade. Where he was, Renny did not know. Long Tom had been in Havana two weeks ago, then he had dropped out of sight.
Just that he automatically becomes the bad guy leader's new sidekick is a giveaway. Parker's puns are horrid and I hope Dent wasn't giving himself cleverness points as he thought them up:
"I’m sort of a billing worker," he said. "Not that I’m any dough-boy."
"What you’re doing won’t ever Hertz you,"
"It Hertz me to give advice,"
"What this fellow don’t know won’t Hertz us,"
"You might say we have planes for you,"
"Puns should be a pun-ishable offense,"
Tops’l Hertz is a character name along with Gorham Gage Gettian and Napoleon Murphy Decitez. Sadly, Nuncio Alfalfa Gesundheit and Bertha O'Twins were cut from the original draft.
Besides Punning Parker's identity the story is fairly tight. This part was odd because Doc's talking in Mayan as to not be understood and then Renny yells out Doc's name and talks in English:
Doc Savage spoke softly. He did not use English, but Mayan—the ancient version of the tongue. Practically no one in the civilized world outside of Doc Savage and his men spoke the language.
They used it to communicate when they did not wish to be understood by others. Moreover, it was a guttural tongue which lent itself excellently to furtive discussions. Anyone overhearing it might well think some one was having difficulty clearing his throat.
"Holy cow!" Renny exploded again from inside. Then he became furtive, and was at the door, demanding, "How in blazes did you get here, Doc? Where are we?"
He carried her to the rear of the laboratory room, to what resembled a solid wall. He put a palm to the wall, held it there, took it away, put it there again. He did this three times. A perfectly concealed panel opened. It had a lock that was actuated by a sensitive thermostatic combination concealed in the wall. Heat of the hand, applied in the proper combination, was enough to open the lock. It could be opened in no other manner.
In his mouth, the bronze man had been carrying a pair of flat, flexible capsules containing his odorless, colorless anaesthetic gas. He had simply broken the capsules.
Doc Savage went straight to the light bulb which had not lighted. He unscrewed it carefully, and wrapped it in a piece of paper.
"We do not want this to get broken," he said. "It is the only one we have at present."
Ham smiled widely. Ham had a sharp, aesthetic face, but it became quite handsome when he smiled.
"They are rather difficult to construct, eh?" he asked.
"Somewhat," Doc Savage admitted. "The wall of the bulb, which looks like frosted glass, is in reality a flexible material which serves as a diaphragm for the microphone which is concealed inside and connected to the terminals so that when the bulb is screwed into the socket, the microphone will be connected. It is rather difficult to construct the thing so that it will not distort the reception."
DOC SAVAGE’S big speed plane was also headed for Alligator Island. The big ship had three motors in streamlined mountings, and they were well silenced. The plane itself was several years advanced in design. The top speed of most so-called speed ships was the cruising speed of this craft. It could, in an emergency, carry enough fuel for a non-stop flight halfway around the world. It could alight on water or land.
"The pontoons are of cellular construction, the cells filled with a sponge substance similar to sponges themselves, but lighter," Doc replied. "The pontoons could be all but shot to pieces and still not lose their buoyancy."
"It wasn’t poison," the bronze man said. "It was merely a gas which produced great agony and, eventually, unconsciousness. Its odor, its effects, are almost exactly like mustard gas, with which most persons are familiar. But it does little more than cause a great deal of pain and eventual senselessness."
She had heard of Doc Savage. It was in her tone. Man of bronze, being of mystery, one who performed miracles: That was Doc Savage. Yet no one knew much about him. An aura of mystery hung about him. He shunned publicity. Yet he got plenty, because reporters have imaginations and he was a mystical, interesting figure. Because few facts about the bronze man were actually available, the legends springing up around and about him were often fantastic.
[Doc's unseen many friends] DOC SAVAGE’S profession was trouble. Other people’s troubles. He had friends, more friends than enemies by a large score. But there were plenty of enemies, and occasionally they tried to kill Doc Savage, figuring that was their only hope.
[Hard to believe and disgusting] It was a remarkable hand. The size did not seem especially striking until compared with surrounding objects, when it became evident that the hand was of no small size. The fingers were long. The skin had a surprisingly fine texture. But the unusual feature was the evidence that the hand possessed incredible strength. The sinews on the back were nearly as large as an ordinary man’s fingers.
[Before cell phones there were Doc Savage's eyes] They were strange, compelling eyes. Strangers on the street often looked at those eyes and were so gripped that they found themselves bumping into other pedestrians.
Doc Savage left her concealed in the secret compartment. She had wanted to know what he planned, but he had appeared not to hear the inquiry—a small and aggravating habit which he had when he did not wish to explain his future moves.
Men advanced carefully, guns ready, and Doc Savage was released. They did not take too much care with the fishhooks. They simply plucked them out.
Doc Savage said nothing, did not grimace, while they were getting the hooks out.
"Ain’t you human?" a man growled.
Doc Savage did not reply. It was, as a matter of fact, agony. All the howling and groaning in the world would not make the pain less. There was a psychological reason for his stoicism, too. The mental concentration involved in trying not to show pain aided in keeping his thoughts off the pain itself.
"What was in the box?" Ham asked. "You made a flying trip to the laboratory to get it and take it to the hotel. But what was in it?"
For a long moment, Doc Savage did not speak.
"The thing may not do its work, when the time comes," he said dryly. "So if you do not know what it is, you will not depend on it in a pinch. Depending on things is very bad, especially when they do not work."
They went up on their private elevator to the eighty-sixth floor of the skyscraper. Doc Savage did not enter his office immediately. Instead, he looked at a famous picture of a Madonna in a plain frame. It was the only bit of art in the plainly modernistic corridor.
The Madonna’s eyes were dark. Had they been bright—made so by a tiny light bulb connected to Doc’s complicated burglar alarm system—the bronze man would have used a great deal of caution about entering the place; if he entered at all, he probably would have used one of the secret entrances, which would have given him a chance of surprising any skulker.
[Is it live or is it
Memorex Doc Savage?]
The trilling had ceased its roaming of the scales. It had settled on one note,
something it had never done before. And it was getting louder. Mounting and
mounting. It became a cadence which attained deafening proportions. Monk found
himself cramming fingers into his ears to keep out the paean. He felt that it
must be carrying for miles, so loud had it become.
Then, outside, men began to shriek out in awful fear...
IT was the trilling sound," Doc Savage said, explaining the thing to Monk, Ham and the others. "I overheard an explanation one of those fellows made to Tops’l about how a wine glass can be broken by a certain musical note. He was correct. Well, inside that box, attached to the outer covering, which served as a sounding board, was a glass phial containing an acid. The trilling sound broke it. The acid caused the case to blow open and release the gas."
"Monk," Doc Savage said, "can you get hold of Ham?"
"If I do," said small-voiced "Monk," "I’ll pull his left arm off and club him to death with it!"
The important thing about this remark was that Monk, who was actually Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, world-renowned chemist and one of Doc Savage’s aids, was actually capable of pulling a man’s arm off and beating him to death with it.
[Google came up empty] "For an Eskimo nickel, I’d dump you in Chesapeake Bay, or whatever is below us!" Monk howled.
"Guard this man Gettian," the bronze man directed. "He may recover from the paralysis in the course of time, and if he does, watch him closely that he does not escape."
"When he recovers, I’ll induce another kind of paralysis!" Monk grinned, and blew on a hairy fist.
It was useless for him to try to whisper. Renny’s whisper was like escaping steam.
The girl gave the feminine equivalent of a snort.
Occasionally, the Innocent participated in a high-class murder for hire. Her forward hatch was hacked and scarred, and the crew would tell you that fish were dressed there. Naturally, they couldn’t be expected to mention a human body or so that had been cut up on the hatch for the sharks.
The floor immediately below his headquarters had been without a tenant for a long time, because it was a risky location, so close to the bronze man of mystery. Too many things happened around Doc Savage that might prove dangerous to a neighbor.
Doc Savage paid rent on the floor, so that the building operators would not lose money.
"Tops’l said in his cablegram that Doc Savage’s man, Renny, would be ‘ge-e-e-eked!’ as he expressed it, as soon as we got hold of Doc Savage. I’m going to wire him we’ve got Savage. Then he’ll probably radio us to ge-e-e-ek! Savage, too."
"They’re going to fight!" she gasped. "Can’t you do anything to stop it?"
Doc Savage kept his attention on the flying. He had traced a line on the chart, and was following that down the Atlantic coast.
"Years ago, it became evident that the only thing that will stop Monk and Ham from quarreling is for one or the other to get killed," the bronze man said.
"Not every one realizes that the Atlantic coast of the United States, south of New York, is low, swampy land," the bronze man explained. "The coast is edged by a string of low islands, some only sand bars, but some covered with vegetation. This Alligator Island is one of these islands."
"You fool!" this man snarled. "You just shot the big chief!"
Tops’l Hertz had a split-second vision of what could happen now. The mastermind was gone. He, Tops’l Hertz, could step in and take charge, and the whole world would be his oyster—
At that point, the bullet went through his brain. The bullet fired by the man who wanted to avenge the murder of his chief. Or he thought it had been murder, when Tops’l had only wanted to be a good fellow and stop the flight of a bunch of cowards.
Some reached the mainland, but how many, it was never known, for they took great pains never to be heard from again.
The Metal Master shines through memorable bad guy characters and ongoing humor from the visualized sound effect of "ge-e-e-ek!" while drawing a finger across your throat, and "Waw-w-w-w-r-k" Gettian choked.". The array of gadgets are fantastic and there's subtle slapstick like:
The voice of the chief of the Metal Master crew also did some profane urging to stick inside. But before long, these two found themselves shouting alone. They followed their men.
If The Metal Master is not considered a top Doc Savage novel it's definitely one of the most under-rated.
038 - The Men Who Smiled No More:
"It started with a senseless murder. Then it spread -- all over New York men were becoming robot-like automatons without emotions. The Man of Bronze went into action. But even Doc Savage was stricken helpless before he solved the terrifying menace of The Death's Head Grin!"
Lawrence Donovan's April, 1936 contribution offers ambition and an excellent tone, but it also derails slowly in confusion on its own premise, and at times you might wonder if it's you or the book that's missing something. I enjoyed it but was glad when it ended. It closed with long plot exposition that was either brilliant or completely random and meaningless. Both work well enough. It's Doc Savage, not rocket surgery.
I consider Doc Savage comic books to be colorful toilet paper, novels of the modern era fan fiction, and pulps written by anyone other than Lester Dent requiring an asterisk for content that wasn't approved of or carried forward by Dent. Not that continuity or progression was on the menu, but at least you can look at his output as the official voice of Doc Savage. Also not that Dent's books were written in cultural stone. Faults and bad choices wink at you from the page. Lester Dent was a genius at cranking out decent if not great pulp fiction at speeds close to spontaneous improvising. It's mostly relative and in context, but as a TV series (don't even start on a film) the books they choose would have to ripped apart and put back together to be useable.
Starting with the positives, I enjoyed the whimsical name of the opening chapter; "Tony Quits Laughing", and I'm grateful there's no attractive female day-player for Monk and Ham to eye rape until she gets engaged to someone she meets during the adventure. While it lasted I liked thinking Donovan would be exploring amoral sociopathology as a major plot consideration. For most of the tale the bad guys are not seen and it adds nice touches of dread and horror. At one point three storylines are in play and all are exciting and interesting. As someone with a severe and shameful tropical fish tank fetish my heart quivered with joy that Doc is also a "tanker" not ashamed to be repeatedly "in the tank":
"First of all, you might sit down over here," directed Doc. "Are you interested in tropical fish? I have nearly a hundred varieties in this tank."
"For Heaven's sakes!" gasped Perrin. "I'm telling you I've been robbed of ten hundred carats in diamonds that aren't insured! I'm a ruined man! I'll never get any more work!"
"Yes, I understood all of that," said Doc, quietly. "You are working yourself into an extremely nervous state. If you will sit here and look at the fish, I would like to make a telephone call. I may be able to help you."
"I'll pay you anything—anything you ask!" moaned Perrin.
This technology was so ahead of its time it's still coming into its own in 2015:
"Because no two pairs of human eyes are the same," remarked Doc Savage, quietly. "Eye prints are better than finger prints, for identification. The police will use them some day. Each eye has its own formation of nerves and veins. These show very well in a camera I have used in various forms."
"Eye prints?" gasped John Scroggins. "Hain't never heard o' such!"
A highlight of Doc Savage is when he does and says odd or cryptic things for reasons left for later. They're small touches of creative eccentricity that hopefully pay off in full at some point. They do here even in the midst of the story's creative flights off the rails:
One of the dead man's arms was almost severed by the bullets. Renny gasped. Doc had removed the arm of the corpse. The man of bronze placed the arm in a special container in the monoplane.
He used up several minutes making a microscopic examination of the uncut diamonds. His flaky gold eyes were stirring whirlpools as he finished.
"Most remarkable," he murmured. "John Scroggins is a very deceptive individual. I shall have to seek an interview as soon as possible. Perhaps Harris Hooper Perrin also could tell much."
"You probably will have visitors, Renny," the bronze man announced. "If so, be on your guard. I would suggest you remain in the outer office. Tell them to make themselves at home in the library. They probably will say they want to wait for my return. Explain that I was called out and will return in a short time. If they desire to leave, let them go."
This long scene is very well written and a best-of for the pulp run:
Doc Savage merely smiled and said nothing.
THE pig, Habeas Corpus, was under a bench. He had made the trip back to Manhattan with Doc and Renny. His eyes were dull and cold. Usually they gleamed with vicious humor. He made no resistance when Doc seized him by an ear.
Then the attack began. There was no warning.
It crept upon him from inside his own nerve sources. And it was more difficult to detect than would have been the filling of the room with some odorless poison gas. The overpowering effect of carbon monoxide would not have been more deadly.
At the moment, Doc Savage was most concerned with devising methods of combating the plague of the dulled emotions. Only by this means, could he hope to discover and rescue Johnny, Long Tom and Renny. He was sure these three were under the spell of the undetermined enemy. He was equally positive they were alive.
Doc Savage abruptly discovered himself moving mechanically. He had begun the filling of test tubes. His hands kept at this task in automatic fashion. But suddenly, he had a curious feeling that he was only wasting time.
Why was he doing all of this?
The magnificent bronze head shook on his shoulders. The tendons of his corded neck tightened. Then he sat down and his hands left the tubes. For perhaps two minutes he sat still, staring at the chemicals in the test tubes.
What had he been doing? And why? Oh, yes, he must work fast to save three of his men. That was it.
But why should he save them?
Let them take care of themselves. What was it he had started to do? Habeas Corpus, the pig, grunted as if he were sick.
Why had he wanted the pig?
DOC SAVAGE sat there, staring at the test tubes. His companions, with their own marvelous knowledge in various lines, had been easily overcome. Now the intricate machinery that was the amazing brain of the bronze adventurer was beginning to show an attack on the emotions.
No other person was present. Some insidious poison was creeping along the world's most highly tuned nerves. The flaky gold eyes were becoming cold. Their usual whirlwind depths were becoming quiet.
The great laboratory was very still.
Doc Savage had been fortunate in never knowing the feeling of depression. Now his senses seemed to have congealed. His big hands reached toward the row of test tubes, then they halted in mid-air. The powerful wrists and forearms, like bundles of piano wires wrapped in velvety bronze skin, were strangely inert.
Then, perhaps unconsciously, Doc Savage began his daily exercises. One set of muscles was suddenly strained against another set. The amazing brain took up an involved calculus, mental mathematics requiring the extreme of deductive analysis.
His own hands went to the back of his neck at the base of his bronze-haired skull. The great thumbs dug into the smooth flesh. He pulled his head forward and down. To an observer, it would have appeared that he was attempting to extract his own spinal cord from its protective vertebrae.
From his toes to his scalp, Doc's muscles strained. Where other men had yielded to the power of the mechanical emotions, the bronze giant was grappling with it in his own manner. Again and again, he could begin to feel an arousing of memory and interest in his companions, only to lose it again.
For more than an hour he continued to be an appalling figure. In silence, he was fighting a mysterious invisible force. At times, he was on his feet, swaying like a drunken man. But his powerful fingers never left the back of his neck. The skin was rasped and torn. Blood oozed from his finger nails.
Before the bad, some general items: Monk owns an isolated cottage on Long Island in Shinnecock Hills next to a duck farmer who just by the sheerest of coinkydinces is a major player in the plot of The Men Who Smiled No More. Once again there's a disconnect between text, cover art, and internal art: "The bronze man's hair was only slightly darker than his skin. It lay upon his head like a smooth, metallic mask." Long Tom is described thusly: "The other man looked decidedly unhealthy. He was a pint-size man. It looked as if a violent blow would have killed him. Many had made the mistake of thinking so. For Long Tom, the electrical wizard, was tough enough for two or three average men in a fight." Instead of a utility vest, Doc's clothes are customized with many pockets: "A small vial of chemical came from one of Doc's innumerable pockets. His clothes were filled with small compartments."
What didn't work... The major shortfall is the story's driving plot device of a mental affliction that causes two happy people to become emotionally indifferent and spontaneously violent in service of the Freudian Ego. This is fairly awesome in itself and if carried forward throughout the book the sky's the limit on how great it could have been beyond monthly pulp fiction considerations. Sadly Donovan immediately downgrades the effected to simple automatons who follow orders as if hypnotized. I recognize the need to do this in the name of expedience but as walking random variables the men (and Pat!) who smiled no more (except Pat!) would have added greatly to the storytelling.
In context this bit is weird. Long Tom makes fun of Doc and there's no corpse as the man's unconscious:
"Why would Doc be looking for us?" he said, suddenly. "Is Doc somewhere out here? This is a funny place for him to be. He does get strange notions sometimes."
Long Tom was looking at the red-headed man on the ground. Before Renny could speak, Long Tom said, "I don't see any good reason to be lugging a dead man around. Nobody wants a corpse. He won't be of any use to any one."
Pat shouldn't be cheerful as a zomboid:
"I see a lot of funny, dead ships," announced Pat Savage in a cheerful tone. "It looks almost like some graveyard of the sea."
I'd cut this back to peak human since even the walking sausages who win the world's strongest man competitions don't walk around hoisting 600 pounds like they're packets of Sweet'N Low. Renny's pushing it too.
Doc Savage must have heard these words. But on this trip he was carrying six full sacks of the gritty substance. His mighty muscles conveyed the six hundred pounds as if they were of no importance. Even Renny sweated and strained to equal this feat.
Johnny's a one-note gag that's a permanent problem. With him you have no choice but to open with his pretentious scholarly gibberish and then verbally hit him on the head with a newspaper to get him to stop:
HERE seems to be the locale where the convolutions of the topography formulate a seriatim," drawled the voice of Johnny from the rear seat of the automobile.
The headlight beams knifed around a sharp curve. They picked out the bushes above a ditch. Johnny seemed instantly to forget his long words.
Read enough Doc Savage books and you know everyone takes turns being the only one of the aides who can interpret Johnny's dictionary flexing. When Monk does it you know something's wrong. It's nice that Johnny doesn't embarrass himself like that directly to Doc, but still. For the books it would be better to have Johnny talk in a way most smart people can follow. Nobody in the group repeats what he says in smaller words and the story keeps flowing. This part is nonsensical as a set-up and punch line. Renny's line indicates he knows what Johnny meant, and then Long Tom translates it for Renny as if he didn't understand it at all:
HERE seems to be the locale where the convolutions of the topography formulate a seriatim," drawled the voice of Johnny from the rear seat of the automobile.
"Holy cow!" boomed Renny. "I didn't hit it, did I?"
"Johnny means," said Long Tom, "we have arrived in the Shinnecock Hills. And Doc said for us to get off the highway and wait for him."
Below Doc is expertly inspected for weapons, only to later on, after praying directly to Deus Ex Machina, possess not only chemical weapons under his toe nails but flat metallic objects with levers on the side. I'll let you guess where he extracted these from:
Expert hands stripped away his clothing. Every conceivable pocket was explored. His shoes and hosiery were taken off. There was a mocking laugh as the bronze scalp seemed to be lifted.
This strange denuding of Doc's head was merely removal of the metal bullet-proof cap of bronze he sometimes wore. The knock-out blow he had received when captured, was below this cap. From inside this cap were taken nearly flat metallic objects. These were powerful chemical explosives.
Doc's mouth was pried open. False caps were taken from two teeth. Great care was taken in handling the small objects inside these teeth caps. Apparently, the captors of the bronze man were highly intelligent. They were well informed as to Doc's defensive fighting devices.
After a thorough search, only one garment was provided. This was like a pair of shorts. Otherwise, the bronze man was left a naked, awe-inspiring figure.
One hand flicked down to his bare feet. He appeared to pull loose both of his great toe nails. These were false nails smoothly inserted over the others. It had been from under four such other false nails that the capsules of flash chemical had come.
THE first capsules had been deftly thrust under the coils of the electric cable. The first person to move that cable had set them off. But the objects now in Doc's hand were not capsules.
They were flat metallic objects. Each had a little lever on the side.
Around the bronze giant, the bodies of the human robots were being perforated by the machine-gun fire. The Big Brain, master of these helpless men, was sparing none in his fiendish desire to annihilate Doc Savage and his outfit.
Doc set the two small levers. He waited perhaps two seconds. Then the two metallic objects shot up through the hatchway of the ship. One must have let go as it struck the spot where the machine gun was being operated.
The ancient deck of the old whaler appeared to divide. The old hulk shook as if it would fall apart. Doc himself was hurled from his feet. The force of the explosion had been upward. But all of the air seemed to be sucked from inside the old ship.
The John Scroggins character is a mess. It's bad enough Monk, Mr. Dese-Dems-Dose, is a genius industrial chemist. Now this toothless hillbilly who talks like this is also a chemical savant. Maybe chemistry and classless illiteracy are somehow linked:
"He got so dang scared an' left here so fast, I'll bet he hain't stoppin' this side o' the Canadian border!"
"Reckon you had me fooled plenty, Doc Savage," he said. "Them thar di'mons you gimme wa'n't none of them we'd made. But how'd you know what was behind all of this foolery?"
Scroggins is a bad guy and maybe not also a bad guy? It's weak sauce but in this sequence Scroggins kills a man and Doc's cool with it:
"Reckon I told you there hain't no livin' man could ever beat Doc Savage!" whanged a nasal voice. "An' you got it comin' for all the dang meanness you done me an' other folks!"
Two brief explosions splattered their echoes upon the murky fog. A gurgling scream was drowned by the splashing of a body over the side of the wrecked old ship.
Pat Savage shivered and put one hand over her mouth.
"Retributive justice," stated Doc Savage. "John Scroggins is not the murderer you may think he is."
The gaunt man loomed before them. In his hands was the still-smoking double-barreled shotgun.
"I would now throw the gun into the bay, John Scroggins," advised Doc Savage. "The man who stole your secret of manufacturing synthetic diamonds and used the chemical formula for revenge and murder, has paid fully for his treachery."
John Scroggins obediently heaved the shotgun into the water. His one cocked eye jumped about rapidly.
Correcting the book would require a better handling of John Scroggins to make him more sympathetic to where the killing of his tormentor is the result of a sequence of events and makes sense, or at least don't have Doc give him a thumbs up to it. Make Scroggins less the angry toothless redneck and more tortured genius doing things against his will. The plot summary was as complicated as it was convenient. Monk owning a place next to Scroggins is a stretch. If you rip apart the story you can have Doc get a line on the mystery and then have Monk rent a place close by. It would take a bit of tweaking to make the behavior of the afflicted minds consistent. What would really be sweet is to have everyone afflicted like Smiling Tony and Simon Stevens in the opening chapters. Sociopaths you can't fully control would have been epic.
039 - The Seven Agate Devils:
"Murder on an international scale was being committed by a sinister mastermind. His method — an unusual, inescapable form of death. His trademark — a small statuette next to the corpse. The Man of Bronze and his fearless friends do battle with the thieving, murderous spawn from Hell — and become marked men themselves!"
"A liquefied concoction of particles of radioactive nature!"
"The Seven Agate Devils" was ghosted by Martin E. Baker in his only Doc Savage appearance, with an assist from Lester Dent in what must have been for him an eye-rolling experience, From May, 1936, it's not a horrible book but a general mess, with a payoff that must have made no sense as it was first written, and which could have been improved before publication but wasn't.
The sanctum reprint paints this novel and Lester Dent's efforts to utilize ghost writers as frustrating failures. Norma Dent remembers her husband's experience as "I heard him say, many a time, that it would have been easier for him to have written them in the first place." Murray writes of Dent's attempt to breed a pond of ghost writing fish, "As near as we can piece the story together, Lester was attempting to pile up Doc Savage novels while looking at other opportunities." I imagine Dent's relationship with pulp fiction was akin to Stan Lee's view on comic books - in that they were embarrassed to work in literature's gutters. The pace of a book a month is asking a lot so when I call a Doc Savage novel bad it's not like I could ever write one in a year.
"The Seven Agate Devils" features Monk but the novel isn't about him. He's beaten up and runs around a lot being at best marginally effective. Here's proof to those so inclined that the aides serve little purpose beyond getting in trouble and requiring rescue. Only Ham and Monk appear and that feels lazy. Ham and Monk are the default aides but they're also the least consistently defined, and Ham's a putz who fondles and unsheathes his sword cane to the same effect as Barney Fife reaching into his breast pocket for one bullet he's allowed to carry. Every month Monk sustains a few concussions, so by the end of this book you'd think he'd be gone by the next one due to Dementia Puglilistica. Radiation also plays a major part of the story, as do many others. I don't see how Doc made it past 1938.
Doc Savage himself is an Ubermensch (a good thing) but there's times he's also just going along to see where the ride takes him, and he expresses Average Joe reactions. Doc's both five chess moves ahead and not much so in the same space. The narration and action contradict themselves.
Pro Tip #9: When a guest star named something like Wentworth Fuzzlebottom III gets killed abruptly off-screen (book version) it means he's the leader of the bad guys.
There's rarely anything truly glamorous in Doc Savage books. The Empire State Building and large aircraft are stated to be impressive but the Doc Savage world is highly utilitarian, and the places Doc and Co. wind up in are mostly dirty splinter and tetanus traps. Dent gives no attention to clothing beyond how they highlight a woman's features or quickly help define someone's personality. Ham is a fop, Monk is a circus clown, and Johnny is an undertaker. Renny and Long Tom wear whatever's clean. Most mysterious of all is how Doc dresses, so the internal art of the pulps is where you learn it's mainly double-breasted suits and sometimes a standard-issue Fedora.
Pro Tip #312: When a large sedan is barreling towards a man tied to a pole you can save said individual by kicking the car's front tire with both feet.
Pig and monkey are annoying and as a general rule I skip through any scene involving Arnold Ziffel or Dunstan.
The setup of bodies being ripped apart and a small red agate statue of a devil found at the scene is one of the better if not self-defining gimmicks, but the payoff doesn't make sense within its own context. They screwed up the method of propulsion to where even I laughed, and I'm a science idiot!
I give the story credit for drawing me in so I always felt like I there taking it all in. I spent a lot of that time pondering the tale's choices, but at least I wasn't bored to distraction.
There's not a lot of quotable material in this ghosted novel, but I will say if I was strung up by my thumbs like Monk was I'd be spending the rest of the story screaming about my messed up thumbs
A bronze hand went into an inside pocket, and came out with an object that resembled a fountain pen. A tug at one end of this caused it to elongate, telescope fashion. There were detachable caps at each end. The ingenious contrivance became a telescope, microscope, or periscope, merely by altering the lenses.
Doc Savage did a strange thing before he followed the other three—strange, that is, to any one knowing the bronze man well. Doc drew a pipe from his pocket and clamped the stem between his teeth. The action was strange, simply because the bronze man had never been known to use tobacco.
There was a reason for the pipe. Around its bowl was a ring of brightly polished metal. This, at first glance, seemed a perfectly simple ornament. As a matter of fact, the brightly polished surface of the ring served as a mirror.
By carrying the pipe in his teeth at a jaunty angle, Doc could see most of what went on behind him.
[Un-Effing-Believable, Part I] Several of the strange things had appeared and were floating swiftly for the door. Only when they were very close, could the men in the room hear the remarkably silent mechanism which propelled them, the breathlike sound which the large propeller made in turning. The only evidence of the motor which drove the propeller was a faint metallic rasping sound, a suggestion of clack and whir.
One of the things reached the door. It touched the spot where the man who had fled had thrown the radioactive liquid. The long arms on the front of the egglike thing seemed to grasp as if a trigger had been released, as it no doubt had. There was a loud chug! A vicious-looking knife, a three-edged blade of a thing, stabbed out from the front of the mechanical monstrosity. This had little effect on the steel door, however, despite the fact that the thrust was sufficient to have penetrated the chest of a man.
The thing was going through some mechanical process. Convulsions of the arms threw it backward. And an instant later, it burst into yellow flame.
A few moments later, nothing was left of the thing but a small puddle of glowing, lavalike remains in which a small crimson satan image sprawled. The devil must have been concealed in the thing somewhere.
"Made of stuff like celluloid, metals that will burn at a moderately low temperature," Monk grunted. "Boy, whoever made that thing had a brain!"
Doc Savage was inside the garage, behind one of the pillars. And it was necessary for the car to come abreast before he could act without being discovered. He moved now, his form a bronze blur as he leaped.
Both feet thumped the forward edge of the front wheel on the left side. The impact knocked both front wheels almost as far to the right as they would go, steering wheel spinning in the hands of the man who held it.
Doc, in perfect physical condition and in possession of muscles developed by a lifetime of intensive training, was a remarkable runner. He could travel at a pace which some adjudged as superhuman. Yet his ability to run was fabulous only when compared to the speed other men could make. Pitted against an automobile, he was distinctly outclassed. The cab began to draw ahead.
[Also, Best intentions] Doc Savage was incredibly fast on his feet, but there is a limit to the ability of even the best of tendons.
HE was a large man, who had the look of one who made his living with his muscles. There was little intelligence perceptible in his heavy-featured, brutal face. He was the type who did what he was told, and probably was not too particular about what it was. His clothes were flashy and in bad taste.
[The Avenger first appeared in 1939] The lower part of this man’s face had a somewhat hair-raising way of retaining whatever expression was on it. It seemed incapable of changing expression voluntarily. The man had a discomfiting habit of fingering his countenance.
He would push up the corners of his mouth with his fingers, giving his face a grim smile, and the smile would stay there.
[Un-Effing-Believable, Part II] Their own death machines were pursuing them. Clumsy as the objects looked, they seemed to be able to travel faster than a man could run, after they gathered momentum. They were slowly overhauling the fleeing group.
The first of the things struck. Naturally, it was the rearmost man who fell a victim, and this was the fellow who had lurked behind in the hide-out to release the things.
The swiftness with which the killing was executed was not pleasant to watch. The thing pounced. The spidery arms clasped the victim for the briefest moment. The knife stabbed, making a great aperture which brought instant death. Then the thing bounced back and burned itself.
040 - Haunted Ocean:
"An awesome power haunts the sea, paralyzes New York City and brings the most powerful nations of the world to their knees. Deep in the frozen Arctic an astonishing army of naked men and the forces of international greed challenge the invincible Man of Bronze for the strange secret of the so-called Man of Peace!"
A fellow named Mark Carpenter at docsavage.org sums up this one perfectly:
"'Haunted Ocean' starts strong, but then collapses into a typically incoherent Donovan mess. The man simply could not write understandable action scenes. There are huge sections of this book where it's virtually impossible to tell what's going on. The situation isn't helped by Donovan's infuriating habit of crash-landing new characters into the story without the slightest bit of context or background (I challenge anyone to tell me who the hell Zarkov and Larrone were). But the story's biggest problem is that the nature of the "power of light" is never explained — the reader is never told just exactly what haunts the ocean!"
From June of 1936, Lawrence Donovan once again goes long on ambition and short on knowing what the hell he's doing. Haunted Ocean stalls early once this scene is nicely played out:
New York at eight o’clock in the morning was going about its customary business. In the eighty-sixth floor headquarters of Doc Savage could be heard the humming thunder of the active city.
So great and constant is this roar of traffic, its beat ceases to be recorded by the ears of the average New Yorkers. These waves of sound were rolling up when Hjalmar Landson staggered to his death in Doc Savage’s corridor.
Now another wave arose. More appalling perhaps than anything else that could happen. It was an abrupt wave of silence.
Comparative silence, but an absence of sound, nevertheless. For shouting voices, even screaming crowds in suddenly halted subway trains, on stopped elevated coaches, flowing from thousands of automobiles blocking the streets, hardly registered after the customary thunder of traffic had died.
New York had stopped. Stopped, paralyzed.
Congestion and panic in the subways were the worst. The trains had stopped. All lights went out. Thousands of workers were trapped in Stygian darkness. Perhaps thousands would have been killed here and on the elevated, where they were pouring from halted trains, had the third rails still been working.
Motormen and guards tried ineffectually to prevent the maddened crowds from seeking to escape along the tracks. The guards were overwhelmed. Crowds streamed toward the stairs leading to the streets.
Doc Savage and his companions looked from a window down into the canyon of the street far below.
"Looks like one of those slow motion pictures," observed Ham. "Look, Doc! Every automobile has stopped!"
Bewildered masses crowded into doorways. Their white faces were lifted toward the blue sky. Many seemed to believe this might be Judgment Day.
"The thing is complete," stated Doc. "Our lights are gone. All electrical current has been stopped."
After that there's a series of chapters where Doc gets himself into situations where power goes out and he's stuck in a powered vehicle. Then he's in a remote part of Norway where the people are a few steps above cavemen in how they react to any technology above fire and rifles, and on top of that they're post-primitive superstitious. But not really because a bunch of them man submarines and Knut Aage is the Norwegian simple fisherman equal of Doc Savage in his brains, aura, and honor. Action takes place in Norway that's impossible to follow as the scene descriptions switch from what might be either caves, rivers, fields, or ravines to a combination of all of them as a bigger maybe. Visualizing the action is difficult, but not as much as a place where ice moves on an open ledge and will crush people except right below said ledge there's a large body of water where submarines run free. Plus there's a bunch of Norwegians with their blood removed and replaced with a gas, except there's no reason to do that. The technology of the power mystery is revealed but not how it was deployed in the opening scenes.
Starting with the indifferent, Donovan says the riverfront warehouse is a series of hangars and not just the one big building. Moving up to the positive the technology is solar power utilizing the science magic of selenium, a vitamin supplement. Veering off into the scandalous, Doc revives a drowned lady by taking off most of his own clothes, ordering Monk to remove all her clothes, sending Monk off somewhere, and then doing something to the naked lady while he's mostly naked that revives her in five minutes:
Doc Savage was stripping off nearly all of his clothing.
"Get off her furs and the rest of her clothing," he ordered Monk. "We can save her without a fire."
Doc Savage might have added that only his great surgical skill could accomplish what might otherwise have been impossible. Monk’s awkward hands trembled, but he clicked his teeth grimly and went to work.
While Monk was preparing the girl, Doc did some exercises that restored his own circulation.
The red-headed girl lay on her face. Monk applied what he knew of first aid. This was having little effect.
"Monk, you will go to the first of the skin huts in the village," directed Doc. "You will find some are unoccupied. Take the driest skins and bring them back."
For Monk, this was a welcome mission.
Doc Savage had become the great surgeon. Monk had dropped his own outer furs. Within five minutes, Lora Krants gave a great sobbing breath.
A good line:
The girl was red-headed. The hair was naturally and vividly red. Her deep-brown eyes were sparkling with menace. Undoubtedly she was scared, but being red-headed, she intended doing something about it.
A nice Ham insult in a book where Ham & Monk are d-bags to each other:
She ceased speaking. The door was silently opening. At some other time, Monk would have enjoyed this immensely. The electroscope mechanism in the door had been operated by radio control.
The red-headed girl breathed quickly, but recovered herself.
"Go on in!" she directed. "All right, Barton! You can put away your gun! I can handle him!"
Doc Savage was standing in the door of the library. Neither his features nor his eyes expressed any surprise. But behind him loomed the sharp features of Ham, the lawyer. Ham let out a delighted yell.
"Now isn’t that somethin’!" he said, sarcastically. "Lady, where did you catch it?"
Interesting political consideration:
This was to be a pact that would include not disarmament of any nation, but the immediate super-armament of the six member nations against all others. Six governments had decided the time had come for them to take a stand for peace against the world.
In brief, they were planning such powerful navies, air fleets and armies as to make a war threat from others impossible. The six great nations had decided to become world police.
The engineer picked out the man who had spoken. One fist traveled in a wide arc. It was a haymaker that landed the man five yards away. Renny backed up to the truck.
The giant had no special rules about fighting. In less than half a minute he had piled six or seven men in a heap.
Self-nullifying punch line Johnny gets a funny reaction:
Now Johnny said, "In no other locale has there ever been such opalescent radiation, even in the summer. At that time, the continuous solar suspension above the horizon produces streams of light from all parts of the periphery which diffuses vertically over the hemisphere."
"Jolly well put, Mr. Littlejohn!" replied a ruddy-faced man with a drooping gray mustache. "If I were not feeling so fearfully peckish, I might appreciate the thought. By jove, it will go tough with these blighters when His Majesty’s navy arrives!"
The man was Sir Arthur Westcott, British member of the abducted war commission. He had not the slightest idea what Johnny had been talking about. But he had everlasting faith in the British navy.
Haunted Ocean fails big and often. It confounds the mind in so many ways. The Norwegian fishermen scenes and the evil lair action are difficult to visualize as Donovan is unable to express what he sees correctly on paper. There's no reason why Johnny should be part of a six nation delegation to determine if these countries should go full steam ahead on military expenditures. If anyone of the crew should do this as a story expedience it would be Ham, but Ham needs to argue with Monk so an archeologist is America's rep for a major military and political decision?
It's an amazing convenience that everything Monk and Doc need to fight the bad guys is available in the needed amounts on a submarine that has no reason to have these things:
Monk was engaged in mixing half a dozen chemicals in metal containers. The apelike chemist had seemed to forget their mission and all of its danger. For they had discovered a completely outfitted laboratory aboard the mystery craft of the peace power.
Also amazing was the ability to fabricate glass for this, and also lucky they didn't break on their own because they're two piece of thin glass strapped to the inside of Doc's knees:
And as Doc walked up the stairs, his knees rubbed slowly together.
The eyes sighting along the rifle barrels were all within a few yards. Kama’s men were enclosed in the cold, icy cavern.
The crushing of fragile glass could hardly have been heard. Some steam arose from the icy water in the cavern. The vapor slowly spreading along the stairs around Doc Savage might have been mistaken for that.
Bullet-proof garments literally repel bullets like they're rubber bands:
The bronze giant understood the words. They were an order to kill. Doc kept his hands uplifted.
From the rocks guns started snarling. Some were rifles that cracked viciously. Leaden shot and bullets hailed into the space.
Doc Savage held his head in a bowed position to protect his face. Lead pounded onto his bared bronze head. Bullets whammed into his magnificent torso.
But the bronze man’s pace was unaltered. He must have seemed to the simple, superstitious fishermen like a real devil, or a god of the sea. He was impervious to their bullets.
Doc’s body was sheathed in bullet-proof garments of finest chain mesh. This extended to his knees under his other clothing.
The bronze hair in view was on the outside of a skullcap of thin, but impenetrable metal alloy. The leaden bullets and fine shot flattened on this surface.
It was terrifying. This immense bronze giant walking toward them. One charge of shot blasted from an old-fashioned gun. All of it splattered squarely into Doc’s breast. Yet he neither faltered nor staggered.
Why did Doc have this ingredient in his pocket, of all places?:
Doc could only depend upon Monk’s knowledge of chemistry to bring the glass fish to the surface. Apparently Monk had been unable to apply the lifting gas. Doc Savage remembered an oversight.
The final chemical combination, the key to the production of the gas, was now in his own pocket. He had expected to be gone only a minute or two.
Monk was powerless to bring the glass fish from the bottom of the fjord.
Slow death by ice flow is nasty, but I'm thinking the ice would shear off the chains where they were attached to the wall the ice was crawling against, and how can this be happening when it's taking place on a ledge above a big open area? It defies all considerations:
The others were getting the picture. They would be crushed slowly. One by one they would go. First the ice would touch. Then its weight would begin pushing.
The prisoner would strain away in his manacles. The chains would hold him against the ice. His body would be pressed the fraction of an inch at a time between the wall and the glacier.
Don't ask me why the bad guys go on a suicide mission when they ram Doc's sub with their own, and why Monk brought Stupid Pig on a mission involving possible death. Keep the pets in NYC and use them sparingly as light entertainment. Putting them in danger all the time is animal abuse.
041 - The Black Spot:
"All the guests were dressed as gangsters, and their millionaire host was dead in the library with a black spot over his heart. Then the Black Spot struck again. And again. The Man of Bronze and his courageous crew leap into action against Jingles Sporado and his mob - but they soon suspect a peril far beyond that of normal gangsterism."
Lawrence Donovan once again goes long on ambition and comes up short on feasibility in July, 1936's The Black Spot. He's a decent writer who goes both for easy outs and unforced errors - and it comes across as laziness meeting an incomplete talent. The Black Spot is as equally a good reading experience as it is a bad one.
Donovan punts on first down in the resolution of his story's mystery premise of death by all the blood in a human body thickening and turning black. Doc's keen eyes detect microscopic lines in a perfectly formed black circle directly over the heart. It strikes in locked rooms guarded by rough men with guns. It can't be avoided or stopped! So how is it resolved? How's the science and mystery explained?:
So, when he came into possession of a new electro-chemical device, that we shall call the black spot, he set out to avenge his father’s death and his losses.
Show's over. Good night everyone. Drive safe! The laziness is breathtaking. It's annoying that Doc orders his men to sit on their hands and do nothing, to keep them safe without telling them why. At least have them do things removed from prime danger spots. As if they couldn't die at any moment on any past adventure.
Doc as Dear Leader (North Korea style) is cultishly entertaining. The first one didn't adequately take into account how much radiation and literary imperative had mutated Doc since the first issue:
ABOUT this time Doc Savage paused in the middle of his luxurious front office. Standing alone, he was an amazing figure of bronze. He was well above six feet in height. His weight scaled over two hundred pounds, but he was so symmetrically proportioned he resembled a carved statue.
Doc Savage’s own motors were as silent as engineering could make them. But his own acute ears detected the sudden hissing of two engines. None other could have heard them. Doc’s features broke into a slight smile of understanding.
So acute were the ears of the bronze man, the rasping of air through lungs came to him plainly, he could even identify persons he had known, from the different rhythm of their lungs.
Doc reared to his feet. Stripped of his upper garments, he was a magnificent figure. The torn cheek and welted head only made him a more terrifying object. He got to the telephone. He had hoped to reach his men, or at least warn the watchmen at the hangars.
On a better note I appreciate when Doc Savage books does Fan Service right. While Doc and his crew (except for Ham's drag king fetish) lack ego and guile it's nice to know who's who and what's what:
Red nodded. He had no reason especially to obey Doc’s suggestion. But nearly all persons discovered they wanted to do what the bronze man requested. Red was considerably under the spell of the golden giant.
Ham strode into the newspaper filing room. Monk lingered. He looked as if he didn’t know what to do with his hands. The big chemist looked around at the laden shelves of technical books. The reference woman looked at him pityingly. Very apparently, she considered this ugly, apelike man much out of place in such surroundings.
She would have regretted her pity, had she known that some of the chemical textbooks on her shelves had been written by Monk.
Of course everyone who's not a criminal will respond (positively) to Doc Savage. He's streets ahead of simple celebrity. In combination he's the smartest, richest, strongest, best looking, most accomplished person in the world. Even if you don't know who he is he draws attention like moths to a flame. You can safely say that whatever was going on in a room stopped when Doc Savage walked in.
Unforced error is unforced! Doc smiles and knocks the bomb into the pool, only to potentially blame the chauffeur if Jotther died:
Among other small devices, he held a polished, globule like a marble in one dark hand. The chauffeur noticed a little metal lever. Doc was watching him with a slight smile. The chauffeur gently lifted this little lever.
Doc’s hand moved with incredible speed. His flat palm struck the chauffeur’s knuckles. The blow knocked the marblelike globe into the air. It flew across the lawn and descended toward the artificial pond.
Immediately, it seemed as if a cyclone had descended in the middle of the Spade estate. Several tons of water lifted into the air. The small island with its Japanese shrubbery was buried by the terrific blast. The water scattered and fell like rain over the lawns.
Also, Captain Graves was still hunting Arthur Jotther. Doc Savage wondered grimly if Jotther would ever be found. If he had not escaped from the island in the pond, the chauffeur’s curiosity had been Jotther’s finish.
The whimsy on this one was nice, reminding me of a line from Law & Order: Criminal Intent, "He only shopped when he was drunk, and he only bought what made him laugh.":
"I’ll help you all I can, Mathers," replied Doc. "In return, if you escape death, you will donate a sum I designate to a children’s hospital in Manhattan."
"How much—I don’t care—how much?"
"It will be an odd amount figured to pennies," stated Doc.
Mr. Mathers stared at Doc. He closed his lips grimly.
This observation too had the whimsy:
The car Doc entered was jammed with shoppers. Half the persons in the car were clinging to straps. They held on with one hand and clutched inevitable newspapers and books in the other. New Yorkers are perhaps the world’s greatest readers in public.
Donovan goes to the well once too often with anesthetic gasses and voice imitations. When I get around to writing my own Doc Savage fan fiction he and half of Manhattan will explode after Doc accidentally bumps into the side of a desk:
But Doc was not wearing any false molars. He was removing only two, and these were simply cleverly screwed on caps. They came loose quickly. From inside each cap, Doc took two small glass pills—or they seemed to be that. He held one in each hand. Then he strolled soundlessly toward the connecting door.
The aperture under the door was an even inch of space.
Doc pushed his hands into the crack under the door. He drew in a long full breath. Then his thumbs and fingers pressed together. Between them, the small glass capsules were crushed.
The anaesthetic gas in these capsules acted so swiftly that Jingles was not given time to replace the phone. The mob leader was slipping to the floor. Silky Joe looked at him. He, too, seemed to go to sleep on his feet.
But Doc’s heels had come close together. The inner bones of his ankles touched each other. The train stopped. The doors were beginning to slide open. Doc’s ankles came firmly together. One rubbed against the other.
The man of bronze had inhaled deeply. He was not breathing now.
Getting back to good things, Donovan doesn't shy away from the morbidly fascinating:
Doc pulled the soggy body of the dead guard onto dry ground. From the bronze man’s clothes came the leather case. He set his flashlight so its pencil ray was concealed by thick water-edge bushes.
This was a strange operating room. But within five minutes Doc had laid bare the brain and heart of the dead man. He had made a highly skilled incision through the skull. The pencil light revealed in detail the tissue structure of the brain.
Jingles and Silky Joe walked out. They were convinced the great Doc Savage was dead.
As the door closed, Doc Savage moved slowly. From under each armpit came a small block of wood. The pulse in his wrists had indeed stopped. The wooden blocks had been clamped against the large artery of each arm. They had acted as tourniquets. The blood had stopped pumping from the heart into the arms during the moment Jingles and Silky Joe had been feeling for the pulse.
This scene was excellent:
A bullet plowed across Doc’s hand. Doc glanced down. The black, greasy surface of the river was a hundred feet below. The bronze giant tensed his muscles. He gave a tremendous backward leap, turning over in mid-air.
The giant figure shot toward the water. Doc saw the sunken pile too late to evade it. This was a submerged spike of timber. His body was falling directly toward it. When only a few feet above the sinister finger, Doc threw himself forward.
He did not miss the sunken pile altogether. The slimy timber struck his skull a glancing blow. Doc felt his weight carrying him to the bottom. His muscles seemed paralyzed. When he hit bottom, he attempted to shove weakly with his feet. Then his senses faded out.
Doc was unconscious when his body reached the surface. He was among the piling under the loft building. A trapdoor had been opened in the lower floor. Rough hands seized the man of bronze and pulled him from the water.
Logic died with this one since the Black Death killer was having no problems killing whomever he wanted whenever he wanted, and he was backed by Jingle's gang of seasoned thugs:
Doc realized fully from Jingle’s words, the cleverness of the brain behind the murders. The shrewd boss killer intended to wipe out all of Doc’s men at one time, to prevent any survivor discovering his identity or wreaking revenge.
Ham's sword cane with the anesthetic tip is not a real world item since a sword is a long knife and you can't control one like Zatoichi. Because Zatoichi isn't real and according to the Wold Newton death cult Doc Savage is. Ham tries to slightly jab and his sword gets stuck in a wall, so in flesh that would have stabbed him but good:
Ham jabbed his sword blade at a man in the darkness. The tip struck wood and stuck there. Ham was trying to wrench it free.
Pat's Susquehanna Hat Company:
Pat always became madder when she was called redheaded. Though she couldn’t breathe, she dug an elbow into the man’s ribs. They crashed against a door. This led to the basement stairs. It was unlocked and it swung open.
"Hi. I'm not home right now. But if you want to leave a message, just start talking at the sound of the tone." - Laurie Anderson:
UP on the eighty-sixth floor of New York’s most impressive skyscraper, a slight buzzing started.
A voice spoke mechanically.
"This is a robot speaking. You are advised Doc Savage is absent. But any message you care to deliver will be recorded on a dictaphone and will come to Doc Savage’s attention later. You may proceed with whatever you wish to say."
Nice use of powder:
Doc knew some heavy object had been dragged across the carpet. Probably it was a man’s body. The glowing trail led to the wall. But there was no door there, and no closet. Only a flat bookcase.
The powder Doc had distributed was a chemical formula of his own composition. This fluoresced with the slowly rising nap of the carpet where it had been recently disturbed.
Doc Savage denying Stepin Fetchit a paycheck:
"Yassah," said the cabby. "Ah knows de place. Follows Fust Avenue to de Queens Bridge? Yassah."
The battered taxi clattered and banged into Manhattan. Crossing a Harlem River bridge from the Bronx, it swung over toward the East River water front. Silky Joe did not give his final directions until they had entered a section where towering loft buildings and warehouses blocked the front.
First Avenue carried heavy traffic at this hour. Many private cars dodged in and out among the trucks and taxis. Nearly all were headed for the Queensboro Bridge. The sedan in which the changed Attorney Stevens was riding was not far behind the taxi driven by the huge Negro.
"This says you didn’t have any fare outside the Bronx today," said Silky Joe, extending a ten-spot. "And some of the boys may be wanting to hire you once in a while if you keep your nose clean. If you don’t, maybe nobody will be hiring you. Understand?"
"Yassah! Oh, yassah!" The driver rolled his eyes.
The Black Spot is another glorious mess from Lawrence Donovan. I tend to enjoy them even if every so often my eyes roll in my head like a slot machine.
042 - The Midas Man:
"Riches beyond the wealth of kings were within the evil grasp of The Midas Man. His very thoughts were worth criminal millions — no man could escape his evil device. But he hadn’t counted on the power for good of Doc Savage!"
"Lookit!" he bawled. "Old King Trouble himself!"
The word "midas" doesn't appear anywhere in this August, 1936 adventure, and nothing gets turned to gold. There is a mind-reading machine which transfers thoughts into the listener's head like they're his own, and that's neat even if it's underutilized if not dramatically hyped up enough in what winds up being a small story made more boring than it deserves to be. Upon reflection the story's not as much boring as it's padded with descriptive language that borders on surreal:
The fellow had not stirred and would not for at least an hour to come. Doc Savage picked him up and carried him to a niche in the wall which was concealed by vines. The niche proved to be perhaps about three feet in depth, the same in width and high enough for even Doc Savage to stand erect.
While the wall around the house was manifestly very old, this niche seemed to have been constructed more recently, within the past few weeks, judging from the appearance of the mortar. The rear was a wooden door—unlocked, fortunately...
The old house looked even larger than it had from a distance. The ramshackle aspect seemed to have increased somewhat. It could be noted, however, that the shingles were intact on the roof, and that, while the shutters were, in some cases, loose and even hanging by as little as a single hinge, the windows were all unbroken. Moreover, none of the siding was loose. As a matter of fact, the house was in good condition, except for paint and minor repairs.
Zzzzzzzzzzzz... The closing kerfuffle is pretty good, especially when Monk does what might be the most Monk thing ever:
A gun slammed so close to Doc Savage’s ear that he was almost deafened.
The jug [of Hydrocyanic acid] came to pieces in Hando Lancaster’s hands. Since he was holding the thing above his head at the moment, the contents deluged him, splashed over the floor.
Hando Lancaster screamed as only a man can scream when he knows he is going to die. He spun and fled. He did not, however, get far, before he went down, still shrieking—to have convulsions on the floor and eventually to die.
DOC SAVAGE scooped up the flashlight and spun to confront Monk, who was holding a smoking revolver.
"Why didn’t you wait until the thing was thrown, when no one would have been killed?" Doc Savage demanded.
"Who do you think I am, Annie Oakley?" Monk snorted. "I was lucky to hit that jug when he was holding it still in his hand."
There's no reason for an
electrified steel plate over the underground storage room, and Doc assuming
three disguises in a row is too much of a
good thing I rarely
accept as valid. Explosive bullets and grenades are a major feature and that's
always a plus. Stupid Ape & Dumb Pig are dragged along for animal abuse value.
The Midas Man can be a dull read but at least it has the basic elements and plot points of a decent adventure, so it wouldn't take much work to punch it up and make it less narcoleptic.
There was, of course, a simple explanation for the mechanism of the door’s lock. Unnoticed in the palm of one hand, the bronze man carried an electromagnet. The door handle itself was of nonmagnetic brass, concealed in which was a steel plunger, well oiled. A tiny spring kept this shoved in where it engaged the lock mechanism, blocking its operation. Under the influence of the electromagnet, the bolt was drawn out against the pressure of the weak spring, leaving the lock free to operate when the door handle was turned.
"Jove!" exploded Ham. "Johnny used some of that invisible chalk which is only brought out by ultra-violet light."
"The metal caps of his shoe laces hold some of the stuff," Doc Savage agreed. "He must have gotten the opportunity to pull the cap off a shoe lace and write this message."
[Good description of the Flea Run] Back into the laboratory, Doc raced, Ham at his heels. The bronze man opened a hidden panel, one which Ham had not touched in his passage to the hall. This one gave admission to a bullet-shaped cage, the interior of which was padded and equipped with straps for hanging on. The thing was not large...
Doc closed the hatches of the bullet-like car, and touched a lever. The results were astounding. There was a loud moan of compressed air and machinery. The car sank like a plummet. A few moments later, there was a violent wrench as the car changed its course. It was like a pea being shot through the barrel of a blowgun. The noise was ear-splitting. Conversation was impossible. Then the effects of braking mechanism could be felt. The car slowed. With a clank, it stopped, and Doc Savage opened the hatch. They stepped out.
A few seconds before, they had been on the top floor of the skyscraper, but their surroundings now were vastly different. It was a huge building of brick, of steel—Doc Savage’s water-front airplane hangar and boathouse.
Doc Savage took the binoculars for a moment. They were fully twice as long as the largest ordinary field glasses, and their magnifying power was a good deal more than twice as great. They had, in fact, the strength of a small celestial telescope.
"I have guessed who that man is!" said Sylvan Niles. She pulled in a long, shaky breath.
"We’ve been fooling with dynamite!" said Hando Lancaster.
"Worse than that!"
[Olde-Timey Research] To each brokerage office, he put the same request.
"Give me the names of your customers who have made killings on the stock exchange recently?"
His average of answers was not much more than fifty per cent. Some brokers declared they would not answer such a question without a court order, even after Doc Savage explained his identity. Others declared it would take time to assemble such a list. But about half had the information available, and were familiar enough with Doc Savage’s reputation to comply with his request.
[Doc was big on non-specific warnings that led to the deaths of many bad guys] Doc had an ironclad rule that no human life was to be taken by himself or his men on any occasion, whatever the provocation. Monk, the truth was, had his own idea of what should happen to gentlemen of Hando Lancaster’s ilk.
"Don’t you know any little ones?" He held up a hand with thumb and forefinger separated about half an inch. "Little ones about that long? Words, I mean."..
"There!" growled the man with the pliers. "That’s what I mean! No more of them words! Them jawbreakers! For every big word you use, we’re gonna pull one of your teeth. A tooth for each word we can’t understand! Savvy?"
The monocle was an elaborate one. The concave side of the frame was engraved with what, from a distance of a few feet, looked like ornamental scroll-work, but on closer examination this proved to be lettering:
$50 REWARD FOR RETURN
OF THIS TO DOC SAVAGE
"Johnny has all his monocles engraved that way, in case they get lost," Ham reminded. "Something has happened to him!"
[Weird] He scuttled out. His arms had a peculiar habitual movement when he walked, as if he were rolling himself along in a wheel chair.
"There’s a rumor that he don’t ever kill anybody," explained the other. "But he does somethin’ queer to ‘em. I know a guy that had a brother that this bronze guy got. My pal later met his own brother on the street. The poor guy didn’t even know him. He’d had somethin’ queer done to him."
[Wait'll they hear about Doc's Crime college!] Doc Savage neglected to explain to the police just what had put every one to sleep. The police knew nothing of the existence of his unusual gas. To tell them what had happened would have caused needless complications. Even Doc Savage’s influence would not have preserved him from questioning and, perhaps, criticism. He avoided possible difficulties by keeping still.
[That's new] This hangar was as much a secret as it was possible to keep it. Outer appearance of the building differed little from other water-front structures, being a huge edifice of grimy brick. It was erected on a pier. Across the front a sign said simply:
HIDALGO TRADING COMPANY
[More like A City Of Consequences] THE State of New Jersey has an unusual distribution of inhabitants. Directly across the Hudson River from New York City and a bit to the southwest, is Newark, a metropolis, a city of consequence.
He moved her head, holding her eyes open. The inactivity of her eyeballs during this operation proved that she was genuinely senseless.
[Doc never sends a stranger with a message] "You left me with Monk, young Alex Mandebran, and that pig, Habeas, in front of the Miners’ Building," she said. "We had only been there a few moments, when a man came along knocked on the car window and said he had a message from you. Monk opened the door. The man managed to keep the door open while other men ran up. They grabbed us."
"I am disappointed!" said the young woman. "It looks as if you went to the zoo for your assistants!"
"It operates on a perfectly sound principle," Doc Savage said, adjusting the knobs. "It is well known to scientists, and has been for some time, that tiny electrical currents are generated in the human brain. These currents are infinitesimal, only millionth parts of volts."...
More moments of waiting ensued. Johnny began to wear an air of intense concentration. Finally, his jaw began to sag.
"I’ll be superamalgamated!" he exploded.
"You are beginning to see how it works?" Doc Savage asked him.
"I certainly am!" Johnny replied. "I don’t hear anything or see anything. A series of thoughts just pass through my mind! I know darn well they’re not my thoughts, because I don’t know anything about the subjects with which they are concerned!"
The bronze man nodded. "The device on Hando Lancaster’s head is a supersensitive antenna," he said. "It picks up the electric field created by his thought waves. They are amplified and—through the transmitter antenna which you are wearing—implanted upon the nerves in the cells of your own brain."
"Simple!" said Johnny, dizzily.
"That is only the roughest kind of an explanation," Doc Savage assured him. "Actually, the process is highly involved, amazingly complicated. But that is substantially how it is done."
043 - Cold Death:
"Doc Savage meets his most merciless adversary — VAR, the faceless fiend whose strange voice announces a terrible mandate of destruction! VAR, who wields the deadly Cold Light, and dares hurl the ultimate challenge at Doc and his mighty crew — A fight to the death with the world at stake!"
"Hold ‘er, Ham!" he bellowed. "Dag-gone it, shyster! I’m comin’!"
If you want the short sentence plus question mark and exclamation point review of Laurence Donovan's September, 1936 contribution to the Doc Savage catalog - - "What the holy hell what that?!" If this is really his best Doc Savage novel I fear the day I read his worst.
After two intriguing opening chapters, Cold Death becomes a hot mess of unfathomable, incoherent, illogical, nonsensical, fantastical, indecipherable, incomplete, random, and perplexing. If any of these words overlap it doesn't matter because the list begs to be longer. It's difficult to retain the core of the story as many things happen in isolation that add up to little besides something that's hard to reconcile. I have no idea if Cold Death is good or bad as it exemplifies Wolfgang Pauli's phrase "That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!", made flesh in Billy Madison:
"Mr. Madison, what you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response, were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
To get out of the way what Cold Death places in its plus column, it creates visual danger on a grand scale:
THE six-story block designated by Var instantly ceased to exist. In its place arose an intense blue cloud. This was seen by those at a distance as a gigantic pyramid with a pointed apex reaching toward the sky. The blueness of the sky seemed dim in comparison to the color of the geometrically formed blast of vapor.
From this leaping, single tongue, wreckage spewed over many surrounding blocks.
The island of Manhattan swayed. New York was given a brief demonstration of what it feels like to be caught in an earthquake.
Renny brings a tear to the eye of every Bro-Code Of Bronze member in this scene that might also qualify as Slash Fiction:
The bronze man moved closer. He was only about eight feet from the doorway. Renny moaned under the tape. He reared to his heels. He lunged forward, heaving his big body directly toward the concealed death plates.
In his loyalty to the bronze man, the giant engineer counted his own life a slight sacrifice. If he could only strike the hidden peril in such manner as to prevent Doc Savage being electrocuted, Renny felt it would be much more than worth the price.
Instinct developed in many situations of extreme danger, brought instant understanding to Doc. As Renny hurled himself toward the doorway, Doc’s own springy body left the floor.
The almost simultaneous action of the two men carried their leaping bodies clear of the floor. They were, for the moment, as agile and fast as two great apes of the jungle. Two bodies cannot remain suspended for more than the fraction of a second. Renny, knowing the truth, groaned deeply in mid-air. He had accomplished nothing. Doc would die along with him. The striking of their weight would make the fatal contact.
Chapter 1 is about a card slipped in Doc's pocket instructing him to call a number in NJ, and there's a nice flow to it as it ends with Doc hearing an explosion. Chapter 2 begins earlier at that Jersey residence with Scraggs lurking outside worrying about his situation, ending with the house blowing up. That too is nice. From there it's all plot points in a blender. Doc lands a passenger plane on Broadway in a nice visual. Some of Cold Death's cartoon absurdity is a bonus while also winding up in the other column, as when Monk is placed in a mechanical Iron Maiden that will stab him through the heart if he makes a sound. The bad guy sets it up like Monk is incapable of silence and will die soon enough:
Slowly, the metal arms of the robot moved inward. The pointed knives approached two slits in the armored breast. The movement was so slow as to be almost imperceptible.
Slowly, chillingly, even though the shining figure was but cold metal, the arms continued to bend. The points of the knives disappeared into the shell-like cavity of the robot’s chest. A minute, two minutes passed. Monk growled in his throat.
Both knives at last were buried to their hilts. The mechanism ceased to whirr.
"Just one little word will do it," murmured Wheeze. "One little whisper, or a sneeze—and the mike picks up the sound and starts the robot. We’re going to leave you with the convincer. After I’ve attended to some special business, we’ll come back. If you’ve kept that big yap of yours quiet that long, maybe you’ll be about ripe to loosen up with some conversation!"
Upon hearing the crooks talk about setting a trap for Ham, Monk loses his mind:
But the knife points were never destined to reach Monk’s heart. The first touch freed all the electrifying rage so long pent up in the big chemist’s huge body. His sudden bellow might have come from the snarling throat of some trapped jungle beast.
Monk drew gallons of air into his capacious lungs. His body swelled. The mammoth shoulders were bowed and braced. The long arms contracted and then expanded.
The slender rods of universal jointage necessary to operation of the robot’s arms were of strongest steel. But, after all, they were, by the requirements of space, very slim. Monk’s giant arms, driven by his released fury, were gigantic in their expansion.
"Hold ‘er, Ham!" he bellowed. "Dag-gone it, shyster! I’m comin’!"
He voiced the truth. The rods of slender steel were snapping. They made cracking sounds, as if a man’s finger joints had been bent backward. The ribbed fastenings of the metal man snapped asunder.
Flying a plane to save Ham in Washington DC Monk stays on point:
"Howlin’ calamities!" he barked. "I got here just in time! Hold ‘em, you dag-goned shyster! I’m comin’!"
Seeing Ham fighting on a roof on K Street, Monk crashes his speed plane into the house and catapults out ready to go:
AFTER sighting the vividly yellow house, Monk pulled Doc’s small amphibian into a tight spiral.
Two maple trees grew beside the four-story house. They were spaced so near each other, their leafy branches seemed to be interlaced. Monk drew in one long breath, shifted the plane elevators and dived.
He clicked off the ignition as the trees, the house and the lawn leaped up to meet the hurtling plane. With wind screaming in the wires, the diving ship thrust between the trees. The silvery wings stripped off. The speed of the cabinet fuselage was slightly checked.
The next instant, Monk was being carried through the wall of the yellow house with the speed of a stone thrown from a catapult. The forward part of the cabin was crushed. Through this aperture, the body of Monk continued onward.
Monk’s rebound to his feet was fast. It was as if his ungainly body were made of rubber.
Ham later returns the favor of rabid revenge lust:
"The other room, Doc!" gasped Ham. "They’ve done something to Monk! If they’ve put him out, I’ll run them to the end of the world!"
Seven times the voice of Var comically declares "I am—Var!". That's what the story has to offer as memorable. The rest is a long list of head-scratchers large and small, and in no real order...
As is often the case Doc and his men are to kept alive at all costs but there's no plot reason for it except to not have them die. Doc is captured, knocked out in a car, and wakes up in a radio-controlled plane about to be plunged into the ocean. Why, I can't tell you, but he is saved by Scraggs so maybe he's not all evil.
Donovan as ghost writer futzes with the formula so Doc's Crime College only works on dumb people. Started but never developed is why men of brains with other professions are agreeing to act as thugs for Var:
THE whole battle had taken up less than two minutes. Doc’s pencil of light from his generator flash picked out eight men huddled on the floor. The bronze man gave several faces a brief study.
"The only way, brothers, we can help these men is to remove the temptation that drew them into this," Doc stated. "They’re men of brains. Surgical treatment would do them no good. Remove the power of Var and they’ll return to their professions."...
"We’ve got those men from the penthouse," the commissioner announced. "We’ve been checking. Not one has ever been mugged. We find they are doctors, professors and the like of that. Only two have any kind of records. We believe they have been international spies in Europe."
Doc nodded. This confirmed his quick analysis in the penthouse. None of these men had the kind of brains requiring the usual treatment for the reformation of crooks.
Var winds up being J. Afton Carberry, a millionaire who did all this because...? This is tossed in for some reason:
"Strange what angles a normally intelligent brain will take," Doc said, slowly. "Carberry had a rich man’s traditional respect for property rights. He owned that Manhattan block he blew up. He was one of the biggest stockholders in the railroad and he tried to blast the express. In trying to cover up his trail, he laid the broadest possible one for his own detection."
Long Tom builds an "Ex-Neutralizer" based on Doc's designs and it suppresses the Cold Light weapon. You'd think it would be a "Neutralizer" because it's neutralizing the Cold Light, so wouldn't the "Ex" part indicate it's neutralizing the neutralizer? He has it running and it's saving everyone's life when Doc walks in. For whatever reason, possibly murder-suicide, Long Tom does this:
Long Tom moved to flick off the ex-neutralizer switch. Doc seized Long Tom’s wrist.
"Leave it on," he directed. "Wait until the Cold Light stops. It would get all of us!"
Why was Monk freed by the police when they thought he was using the Cold Light machine as a weapon? Shouldn't the 86th floor be mostly destroyed by the Cold Light attacks? Why was Monk in the plane carrying the Cold Light weapon and why wasn't he tied up?
This meant and went nowhere. I'm assuming in the original outline there was a conspiracy involving women who were planted with these men in deep cover:
Then there was the girl in blue who had been seeking Scraggs at the wrecked Red Arrow plane. There had been a woman close to Var, as he had uttered his message after the first of his explosions.
Each of the suspects had a woman closely related to him or his activities.
The henchman has a machine gun in his hands but his legs are messed up so he's harmless:
Doc was starting toward the door of the lighted radio control room.
"Keep an eye on all of these men," he instructed. "You needn’t trouble about the one with the machine gun. He has serious trouble with his legs."
Laurence Donovan is against thoughts in quotes. All must be spoken:
Picking out a slightly higher, dry spot some two hundred yards to one side of the house, the thin figure became a motionless part of the deeper marsh shadows. His thin lips continued to emit whispered words.
"The great Doc Savage will be calling at eight o’clock, or old Jackson has guessed him wrong."...
"It won’t work out," he muttered suddenly through gritted teeth. "And Doc Savage saw me. I could feel him looking at the back of my head. I never really touched him, but somehow I believe he knew I was there."...
"The strange trick of circumstance sometimes will involve the most innocent," he murmured. "Doc Savage’s microscopic eyes never would overlook a detail like that."...
Ten seconds later, Vonier added, again to himself, "It’s almost unbelievable, but I’d bet my last dollar Doc Savage knows I’ve been waiting here in the hope of catching him. And he hasn’t even seemed to glance this way."
Monk took one of Doc’s own inventions, an electronic glass, or, rather, powerful binoculars created by Doc on the electronic principle. The lenses of this telescopic device not only brought distant scenes close to the eyes, but they also amplified them in the vision much the same as radio tones are amplified for the listener by the loud-speaker.
[This doesn't happens when Lester is behind the typewriter] Doc flipped a gas capsule and it fell at the feet of the foremost man. But the rush carried the men over the gas before it could become effective.
This building housed Doc Savage’s latest in planes, his dirigible and two types of submarines.
[Ghost writer's choice] In the basement’s gloom, Doc flashed the searching ray of his generator flashlight. His other hand held a stupefying capsule no larger than a small glass pill. He located the cold-air shaft leading from the dead furnace.
Doc’s amazing, many-sided brain
[BS] Then Doc pivoted. The ground was thirty feet below. He poised only an instant, then sprang outward. He alighted with the cushioned ease of a body set on coiled springs.
[Doc is in disguise] Any person would have supposed he was a flier. The veteran Red Arrow pilot was not even supposing. He knew well enough the man with the broken nose was a better flier than he would be if he lived a couple of centuries.
[How would Doc know this?] Doc’s swift analysis of their character led him to believe that several were far more intelligent than the average type of criminal.
The bronze man was confronted with the problem of being almost sure two or three had never before engaged in a crooked enterprise. It made their association with Var all the more puzzling.
"I can well believe all the adventures credited to him," murmured the explorer. "He looks like a bad one to get in anybody’s soup."
[That would be trilling] From the doorway came the weird, mellow warning of Doc Savage.
Long Tom was a slight specimen of manhood. He looked frail compared to any other of Doc’s men. But he could make the average man very sick indeed in a fistic encounter.
He was not referring to the sepulchral tones coming from nowhere on the highway. Monk had heard another faint voice. It had sounded like a man’s hoarse cry for help. Where any one needed help, there might be a fight. Monk pushed forward hopefully.
[Monk's saying don't kill them with electricity so I can poison them instead] "Dag-gone it!" squeaked Monk. "Even if they was rats, y’ needn’t’ve murdered ‘em! I was wantin’ ‘em to try out a new kind of poison gas!"
"Holy cow! What a job!" growled Renny. "Look, Doc! It’s a canal, straight as if it was laid out with instruments and this was intended for a feed reservoir!"
Renny saw everything from an engineer’s point of view.
[There's no I Don't Trust You in "Team"] Renny grunted. He knew all about his own profession—engineering. But Long Tom’s gadgets always filled him with suspicion, until he saw them in operation.
[reference to another book by title alert! Woop!! Woop!!] Doc’s arms and legs were instantly numbed. His motor nerves refused to respond to the bidding of his brain. His keen sight was dimmed by a frost that seemed to rim his eyes. He felt himself falling forward.
"Cold Light," was Doc’s instant thought. Like the illumination created by the inhabitants of The Land of Always-Night. Only their light was cold and harmless. This was deadly, more like a bath in liquid air.
[Planes had fuses in 1936, usually in the basement] The mishap was sufficient to blow out a fuse. Gasps came from women passengers.
"Never mind," came the calm voice of the trim stewardess. "It’s only a fuse. The co-pilot will fix it."
Doc’s radio plane had totally dissolved, as if it had never been. From the lack of any tiny bit of falling wreckage, it was conceivable that the terrible, close-up force of the Cold Light explosion had disintegrated the ship into all of its component atoms.
The Sanctum reprint says the book was written, put aside, and dredged up later to be reworked via instructions from Street & Smith. The result is a sloppy piece of work that's as hard to read as it is to keep up with. I did my best to focus on the core story as there's dead alleys at every turn.
044 - The South Pole Terror:
"What was the fabulous treasure Velma Crale had discovered in the South Pole? And why was Cheaters Slagg willing to kill to keep her from talking? The Man of Bronze and his five aides give chase all the way to the bottom of the world -- and are nearly sunburned to death!"
October, 1936's Doc Savage adventure runs at a thrilling pace for most of its length before settling in for a short breather and ending with running around, shooting, tossing hand tools, and creating (with science!) a hole in the ozone layer to end hostilities once and for all. The cover features Twink Savage - The Smooth Boy Of Bronze, with a disturbingly flat chest and the musculature of Little Lord Fauntleroy.
The South Pole Terror offers many winning features, including gadgets galore, great cliffhanger chapter endings, Johnny's big word yappings getting no response from others, Doc using guns because he has no choice, a faked torture scene where a bad guy thinks his eye was cut out and his and ear sliced off, and a nice science weapon that's science fiction-feasible. If the snow scenes and ending were on par with the rest of the novel this would have been a classic. There's nothing terribly wrong with the story but the slow slog in the snow let the wind out of its sails when it should have kept on chugging to the finish line. This can be easily fixed using my Super Fan-Editing Formula © ™ ®.
I'd definitely change the early bit where Doc allows his 86th floor laboratory to be blown to kingdom come to fake his own death so whoever sent the package bomb will think he was dead. There was no present adventure that led him to this as a necessary tactic. It was simply here's a bomb so I'll destroy everything I have in my lab, endanger people on the street with debris from 86 floors high, and use a wax dummy of myself to pretend I've been decapitated so the world can think and report I'm dead. Then we'll see what happens. If Doc had a small bomb-proof room he used for experiments where something could blow up, I'd see letting this happen and maybe this would make the bomber think the device went off. How many times can Doc fake his own death before he's told in no uncertain terms he shouldn't do that any more?
Nice opening sentence:
DOC SAVAGE happened to be only one of a few million persons who heard about the mystery of the silver sloop almost at once. When it first came to Doc Savage’s notice, the mystery probably baffled the bronze man as much as it did any one.
There seemed to be nothing but fingerprints. Doc did not trouble to photograph these, but merely powdered them, and studied them at length—fixing the classification of the whorls in his trained memory so that, if he saw them later, he would remember them.
Remembering the fingerprints was not the difficult task it seemed, at first. It was merely a case of fixing mentally the code letters indicating the classification of the prints.
That Doc Savage had extensive interests other than the business of mixing in other persons’ troubles and righting wrongs and punishing evildoers, not many persons knew. The true extent of the bronze man’s holdings, no one but Doc himself knew.
They comprised transportation lines, air, water and land, industrial plants, and innumerable other enterprises. In none of these did Doc Savage actually appear as the owner, holding the controlling interest through dummies, the latter usually being actual persons in active charge of the interests themselves.
The bronze man seemed not to hear, a small, and sometimes aggravating, habit which he had when questions were put to him which he did not wish to answer.
He was Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, but he had heard the name so seldom he had forgotten what it sounded like.
He was a Houdini of the test tubes.
MONK’S laboratory was something of a marvel of its kind. It was more complete even than the one which had been destroyed by the explosion at Doc’s headquarters, as far as chemical equipment exclusively went. It was situated in a penthouse atop a financial skyscraper.
The bronze man carried with him a pistol which had been in the possession of one of the guards. He lifted the weapon. The fact that he never carried a firearm of his own was no indication that he was a tyro in the use of weapons. He had spent more hours practicing marksmanship than the average stenographer spends trying to perfect the use of a typewriter.
The pistol went off and the guard’s left leg buckled and he fell down howling. Renny came out and silenced the howling with one swing of an enormous fist...
Doc Savage, shooting slowly and accurately, emptied one after another of his guns. His shooting was remarkable. He inflicted no wounds which, with ordinary care, were dangerous. The guns were unfamiliar, and each was different. He missed only twice. That was because the sight alignment of two of the guns was off.
The top of his head was extraordinarily large.
"Renny!" he howled. "Read this, you big-fisted hunk of bone and gloom!"
RENNY and Johnny were standing on the promenade, beneath an awning. Both were in their shirt sleeves, and mopping perspiration. At least, Renny was. Bony Johnny never came much nearer perspiring than would a skeleton.
[This is in a hotel. Renny has major impulse-control issues] "Holy cow!" he said, much louder this time. Then he arose from the bed, and wearing an expression of a man going to a funeral, walked over to the door, and calmly knocked the stout wooden panel out with a single blow of one fist.
The telephone robot was one of the contraptions. It was put on the telephone wire when Doc Savage was not there. You called up, and a mechanical voice told you that the bronze man was not there, and that any message you cared to give would be recorded for Doc Savage’s attention when he returned.
This device was merely an adaptation of the dictaphone, phonograph and vacuum tube amplifier, all built as one instrument.
MONK and Ham were examining the men who had gone down, making sure each was senseless, and also extracting the tiny darts which Doc Savage had expelled with the pneumatic gun which resembled a cigarette case.
The darts were fashioned like hypodermic needles and cost almost five dollars apiece to have made. They were, therefore, worth saving.
The bronze man casually continued his retreat. He seemed to pay no particular attention to where he went, but he stepped heavily on certain parts of the reception room rug.
There was an abrupt swish of mechanism. Something seemed to flash in mid-air between the bronze man and the advancing mob.
Derek Flammen’s men stopped as if they had run into something invisible. They began to curse.
"There’s some kind of plate-glass wall dropped down!" a man squawled...
The ceiling of the reception room, which to the eye appeared to be an ordinary ceiling neatly ornamented with modernistic strips of metal, was actually quite a remarkable ceiling.
Past attempts on his life had moved Doc Savage to install the descending sheets of bulletproof glass, which could be dropped with great speed by the application of pressure on certain spots in the floor. Other sheets protected the center of the reception room from the library door. Doc now dropped these panels.
DUE to the perilous nature of the peculiar work which he was following, Doc Savage habitually made use of every conceivable precautionary measure. Otherwise, he would have long ago lost his life. This skyscraper headquarters was a mechanical labyrinth.
In it was every defensive measure which the man of bronze had been able to devise. In the high aërie, he was as safe from would-be killers as he was anywhere else on earth.
The place was a maze of hidden recesses, runways and concealed doors. The bronze man made gestures, indicating that Monk and Ham should position themselves close to him. They did so. The bronze man stooped, and his fists rapped sharply at different portions of the floor.
The elevators immediately became inactive, with one exception.
The exception was Doc Savage’s speed elevator. Power for this came from the bronze man’s private electrical system, with an automatic generating room deep in the basement.
The warehouse was equipped with a remarkable set of alarms. A marauder did not have to break into the place to set off the system. Any one merely lurking near by would actuate capacity-balanced relays and give notice. The system was connected to a wire which caused an electric sign on a building some blocks distant to illuminate.
[The clamps are new] The bronze man stripped open the zipper mouth of one of the belt pockets and drew out a device which he always carried—a thin, stout silken cord with a collapsible grapple affixed to one end. The grapple was padded with sponge rubber. He tossed it upward with an accuracy born of much practice, and it hooked the rail.
He climbed, managing the by-no-means-easy ascent of the thin cord through the medium of tiny sliding clamps of a frictional nature.
Renny lifted his hand. There was a hiss, and a stream of liquid came out of the tiny water gun, cylinder-shaped, which his hand concealed. The guard gasped and fell on his face.
"Holy cow!" grinned Renny. "Doc’s anaesthetic gas sure knocks ‘em cold!"
Doc Savage, however, delayed nearly twenty-four hours and went fishing. He had, it developed, a few fishhooks in his clothing, and the silk cord attached to his very useful grapple hook served as a line.
Velma Crale and Derek Flammen were lifted bodily and borne out of the room. It developed that the mob had a freight elevator waiting, with a frightened—and evidently crooked—hotel flunkey in charge. He took them down, then grasped a twenty-dollar bill greedily when it was passed to him.
"I won’t say nothing about this!" he gulped.
Cheaters Slagg, seizing an opportunity a moment later, calmly inserted a long knife into the hotel flunkey’s heart from behind.
"Not in this world, you won’t say nothing!" growled Slagg, holding the dying man’s mouth so that he could not make a sound.
[Oh Lester, your racism is showing] Next morning, it was in all of the newspapers. They put out extra editions in London. Paris and Berlin sheets had it on the front pages. In remote Japan, they brushed it in queer-looking characters on the public news boards.
[Oh Lester, must everything be about sex?] The silver sloop was approximately fifty feet long, and she was a fine hooker with teakwood decks, jib-headed sails with roller reefing gear and the rest of the newfangled gadgets. She was all mahogany and shiny metals inside. She was a honey. She made sailors grin from ear to ear and murmur in admiration when they boarded her.
[He-Woman? Oh Lester, your patriarchal heteronormative fascism stinks!] Velma Crale’s name went into the newspaper headlines with a bang. Velma Crale was famous already; she was the outstanding he-woman of the day. She had flown the Atlantic, the Pacific. She had brought legendary white Indians out of the Amazon wilds. She had received the keys to New York City and had dined with the president.
[Note in bold. The whole room is a gadget.] The eighty-sixth floor of one of New York’s most impressive midtown skyscrapers was the site of Doc Savage’s headquarters—his library, laboratory and trick reception room.
"And lose more money than Rockefeller ever saw?" she jeered. "Mrs. Crale didn’t raise no daughters that silly!"
[It's one thing to disguise your voice, but to do so with a telegraph?] The other operator had a slow, draggy fist, with a good many combinations. It sounded as if the fellow was purposefully trying to disguise his sending.
[This was o.k. as "the Environment" didn't officially exist until 1961] THEY did not drown. Doc Savage went below and started a pump forcing fuel out of a vent in the stern. This spread over the sea. It did not flatten the waves out, but it did stop them from breaking. It was the break of a wave that would do damage to the plane.
Doc, Monk and Ham got a plane on Long Island. It was a small amphibian, and Doc kept it in a farmer’s barn for just such an emergency as this. The plane had folding wings, so it could be gotten in and out of the barn quite easily.
[An odd thing] Doc said. "You haven’t many scruples, have you?"
"Depends on how you look at it. They won’t kill you. They’ll try, but you’ll get away. You can’t be killed."
[Taking Dumb Pig and Stupid Ape on adventures is animal abuse] Flames wrapped the plane like red tissue paper around a Christmas toy. Habeas Corpus and Chemistry popped out of the burning ship and swam.
The messenger boy entered a ramshackle building on Thirty-fourth Street and mounted stairs to a musty door bearing the legend: "Hidalgo Trading Co."...
The man who had brought the radiogram departed. He was an old fellow who did nothing but stay in the Hidalgo Trading Co. offices and perform a few simple jobs, of which this was a sample.
[More proof of the extreme idiocy of the Ham & Monk "relationship"] "It looks," Monk said, referring to the ship, "like a coffin, pointed at the ends."
"You’re such a cheerful soul," Ham told him, "that somebody should knock your brains out."...
His pocket had a hole, and the coin went through. Ham picked it up, looked closely at the bit of deceptive money. Ham then picked up a monkey wrench, wrapped his scarf around the heavy end, calmly walked around in front of Monk, and knocked the homely chemist senseless.
"Heads," the dapper lawyer said to the dreaming Monk, "is what you’ll have when you wake up."
[Cute food dressed well tastes the best!] They saw absolutely no living creature during the first four days. On the fifth day they got three penguins. They ate them at once.
The young woman, now that she had lost her desire for a share of the Antarctic wealth, had become a very nice person.
The South Pole Terror has the makings of a great Doc Savage adventure if you re-do the bombing death ploy and don't lose storytelling steam approaching the ending, which lost a few goodwill credits by Doc telling his men to escape their imprisonment and run his way, and then they do so without any action on the page revealing how they managed it.
045 - Resurrection Day:
"The sweeping genius of the Man of Bronze reaches into the very secret of life itself. A stunned nation hears the announcement that one — and only one — long-dead human being will be brought back to life. Who will be chosen? Lincoln? Edison? Shakespeare? As the world rejoices and conjectures, the powers of Evil plan a final, insidious joke on all humanity!"
"It was not all beer and skittles for Doc Savage"
I think Wold Newton is a quaint mental cul-de-sac, but this story from November, 1936 should have opened with a preface from the "author" indicating Resurrection Day is a speculative piece of imaginative fiction about who in all of history is worthy to bring back from the dead to help us in the present day. The book spends a great deal of time on these considerations and it's a worthy topic of discussion. Saying that Doc Savage can positively bring back to life a mummy to good-as-new health crosses the line set up that Doc Savage could be a real person if everything was in place. It doesn't help that soon after being revived, after being mummified in ancient Egypt, the Pirate Pharaoh "Pey-deh-eh-ghan" (Pay Day) runs down the street like a champ. The story works better as conjecture than another day in the life of Doc and the Assistants Five.
It's a close call on if this is a good or bad story. It earns points for its magnitude and loses them by not seeming possible even in the Doc Savage world. The novel opens on a faulty note with Doc having his building in Manhattan barricaded with barbed wire on all sides because he's decided to have "The People" decide who should be brought back to life, and he makes a radio announcement that everyone tunes into:
"We want help. We want suggestions. In short, we want to know who the people of the United States want brought back to life."...
"Who will do the world the most good, if brought back to life? These are the names of the committee of men and women who have been appointed to make the final decision. They will want your instructions. Mail, telephone, or telegraph them to the committee members."
The fictional "real life" Doc Savage would never do this - draw attention to himself by going on the radio and asking every Tom, Dick, and Harriet to throw names at him by the millions, basically doing nothing but creating static. The way the story should read is Doc sets out asking learned people who should be revived because he might be able to bring someone back alive under the right circumstances, and this gets leaked to the press and the response brings about what you see in the novel.
The evil genius is General Ino and his psychotic lawyer Proudman Shaster, and as a pair they're memorable. Ino is cold:
General Ino had killed the Japanese merchant prince's man-child, but the merchant prince didn't know that before the ransom was paid. Didn't know it yet, in fact. Years later, the general had thought he might work off some phony brat as the man-child. He had kept the baby clothes of the man-child and the bit of jewelry it had worn...
He had furnished the acid that had disposed of the last bit of epidermis of the Japanese merchant prince's man-child.
Shaster loses his sanity when presented the chance to chop off someone's heads:
Proudman Shaster wrung his hands. "I wish I could control myself! When I get in a tight place, it seems all I can think of is cutting their heads off!"...
It would not have taken a psychologist to realize that some queer, hideous quirk in Proudman Shaster's nature made him a madman when he was in a tense situation with a big sword or an ax in his hand. He had a mania for chopping off heads...
General Ino heaved a sigh. Sometimes, when Shaster had his head madness, he forgot to distinguish friend from foe.
General Ino has a verbal quirk as annoying as Johnny's big word affectation. Ino switches accents and it grows old fast:
"But, m 'sieu', some reason you 'ave give thees people why you not let zem pas', no?"
"This is the only reason we have to give 'em." The cop tapped his badge.
"Velly stlange," said the general, singsonging. "Velly stlange."
The cop watched him walk off, then scratched his head.
"Dang me," he grunted. "First he's a frog, then he's a laundryman!"
Pay Day is a bad guy Pharaoh with no special qualities to speak of, but he does want the treasures in his trap-infested tomb. His demise is poetic:
The strange man's picture had been in the papers because of the way he had died. He had been walking along the street, when he had heard a radio loud-speaker which stood in front of a music store. Instantly, he had dashed into the street, as if fleeing from the loud-speaker, and a car had run over him and killed him.
The speaker on the radio at the time had been the well-known American, Doc Savage, announcing the discovery of a treasure tomb in the Nubian Desert.
The only mention of a woman is a white man in drag as a black cook - also as believable as Pay Day. The violence quotient is high, which is good. Less good was walking through the tomb like it's a stage set and it cost a lot of money so we'd better take our time noticing the fine work done by the crew. As a recurring issue I find scenes taking place in wide open spaces tend to move long and slow. The ending in the tomb is filled with good action but even that goes on longer than needed as run-and-fight shouldn't overstay its contribution to the entirety. The big concept of Resurrection Day is better than its execution. The villains are above average and Monk & Ham more annoying than usual. Cleaned up and made even nuttier as an acknowledged work of speculative fiction this could be epic.
[BS Alert!] At times, this amazing man who looked so like solid metal had carried all three of them and the mummy man simultaneously, and that without apparent great effort, and at a pace that not many unburdened men could match.
[I'll let you know if I ever read that Ham gets mad when called "Ham"] "Doc Savage alone is bad enough," groaned Proudman Shaster. "But he also has five assistants. One of them I have personally seen in action. He is a lawyer named Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks, and those who are not afraid call him Ham. Not many people call him Ham."
Solomon, it seemed, was lying in state in the private museum of William Harper Littlejohn.
A number of movies, usually the horror type of pictures, had been made in which people or monsters have been brought to life, and Doc's aids had seen them - even erudite Johnny, who publicly declared movies below his dignity, but occasionally slipped out to see one.
"From my prolegomenon it is indubitable that there is no manifestation of any photographical - "
"Listen!" groaned Monk. "There's one guy here I can't understand - Pay Day. Why not let 'im have the field to himself?"
Orchid then used all six bullets from his revolver to splash the brains of Senator Funston thoroughly over the rug...
"I had to kill the damn senator," said Orchid.
"Knowing you, I'll bet you did - not," said General Ino.
Carson Alexander Olman did not answer it because his body lay on the floor beside the desk; his head was over cooking against a hot radiator. The head had left quite a crimson trail rolling across the carpet, and the sword which had parted it from the body lay beside the body. It was a big, two-handed sword of the sixteenth century, English.
Renny's toughness was more than supposition, as the men soon found out. He moved like greased lightning. His incredible fists whistled through the air, pummeled mobsters' heads with blows that echoed throughout the room.
One big fist took a man under the chin. The fellow rose straight up into the air, squirming like a fish that had come out of the water, caught on a hook, and who was trying to shake himself loose. Falling, he seemed to melt against the floor.
The airship's legitimate passengers - there were not many, for General Ino had booked most of the seats, or cabins, for his aids - were lined up and shot, and the bodies dropped into the sea from three miles up. Some of the crew were shot for a demonstration...
All of the crew were shot once the ship had landed in the Nubian Desert, days later.
DOC had an easy shot with one of the rifles he had just captured. Shaster, all his teeth showing, his eyes popping, set himself for a blow, and was motionless an instant.
The flame from the rifle muzzle seemed to leap almost to Shaster's knife hand. The shot crashed, thundered, died out and left only Shaster's scream of agony.
Monk, the chemist, said. "Well, here's my chance to try out my new finger print stuff."
He was carrying it with him - a small case containing what looked like a flat perfume atomizer. He pressed the bulb of this, and threw an almost invisible spray over the telephone, the backs of wooden chairs, the table and anywhere else that hands might have touched. Wherever the vapor settled, finger prints came out instantly.
The prints were as plain as if they had been painstakingly printed there.
Doc said, "Have you got your pocket laboratory with you?"
"I've got some key chemicals," Monk said. "I always carry 'em. Stuff you can make a lot of basic tests and combinations, and - "
[As in Doc's Reception Room on the 86th floor] Johnny answered that. "I had my place wired some time ago. For instance, there are certain spots under the rug over which tables ordinarily sit, or chairs. When the chairs or tables are moved, and the certain spots pressed it rings a bell in Doc's headquarters. I saw to the pressing."
Through it all, they kept their mouths closed and did not breathe. They knew, now, why Doc had told them to do that. The pellets held a chemical. Not oxygen. Some chemical mixture which supplied, for a few minutes, the effect which oxygen supplied upon the human system.
An announcer came on the air and said, "That was Doc Savage speaking."
He nearly scared his listeners out of their skins. The announcer had always been credited with a pleasant, excellent voice; but now, after that remarkable voice which had just finished speaking, he sounded like a crow dying.
It was supposed to be secret, but the corridors outside crawled with newspapermen. The janitors next morning were to cart out barrels of used photographic flashlight bulbs.
[A recurring bit in Doc Savage books involving poison] "You take it and put some under your finger nails," said General Ino, not answering the question directly. "When they catch you, if they do, you do something that looks perfectly natural. You gnaw your finger nails."
Orchid wet his lips and looked as if he didn't like the idea much. "I gnaw my finger nails, eh?"
"The stuff under them will make you unconscious for about a week," explained General Ino. "They can't question you, and by that time, we'll have things straightened out."
The car moved away, making sounds somewhat like a dog swimming hard.
"Get the fellows who are hurt out of sight," he directed. "Stick 'em in a closet or something. If any of you have got narcotics on you, give 'em a little to sort of ease their pain."
Detective agencies being tools to fight the criminals, Doc Savage had long ago subsidized a number, and on occasion, took a hand in training their operatives. Since the bronze man paid a part of the expenses, these private detective agencies were able to work cheaply enough to help many an ordinary fellow take care of some personal difficulty.
The private agencies, as a matter of fact, was Doc Savage's method of taking care of the innumerable calls which he received from persons who were in trivial jams. Little troubles which did not require the bronze man's developed skill were taken care of by the agencies which Doc had established.
Hawkers in the throngs on the street were already selling Solomon balloons, Solomon noisemakers, and handkerchiefs with Solomon's picture on them.
"Solomon ice cream!" they yelled. "As cold as Solomon's thousandth wife! Five cents!"
An enterprising burlesque press agent came out with the announcements that his entire troupe of beautiful girls was going to offer to marry Solomon.
"There's not a thousand of 'em," he stated, modestly, "but they're so pretty they make up for it!"
"So, you bonepile!" Long Tom sniffed; "For two bits, I'd hang you out in the wind and listen to you rattle!"
Big-fisted Renny put in, "Now, don't you two start Monk-and-Hamming it!"
[More than a little weird] Doc, for his final stage used no electricity at all. He used no tubes, bulbs nor elaborate apparatus.
The only device employed was a long hypodermic needle which he inserted into the heart, emptied it.
Next, be turned the resurrection patient over his knee and spanked him violently.
"Much obliged," he mumbled.
"For what?" Monk wanted to know.
"Well, I didn't get killed," gulped the driver.
"Stick around. It ain't over."
"That's just what I'm afraid of," said the taximan. "So long!"
He lit out running and never looked back.
[Exposition Failure. Tell Pay Day directly so it's not Exposition Failure] Johnny understood that, and asked the others, "Shall we tell him that Doc was suspicious when we came in here, and after he gave me the flashlight, he dropped way back, so that he was not even in the room when we were trapped?"
Long Tom snapped, "Sure, tell him! It'll puncture some of his conceit! Tell him how Doc used ventriloquism to make him think he was in the room, when as a matter of fact. Doc was right beside Pay Day. Tell him Doc got us out, and that we all were right on his trail and watching him when he went to get General Ino's mob and trapped them, too."
046 - The Vanisher:
"Twenty convicts vanished without a trace from maximum security cells, and top businessmen suddenly disappeared. The tabloids trumpeted the reign of a small, deformed man — or woman — spotted at the scenes. Strangely, Doc Savage was framed for the disappearances — and then the murders … But the Horrible Hunchback hadn’t counted on the wrath of the mighty Man of Bronze!"
"Me, I am gasserflab— flattergas—stumped!"
The Vanisher is dense with plot and action, and it happily doesn't stop to take a breather. It's also gussied up with a gender-ambiguous hunchback horror movie angle that's either a good or a bad thing. Also keeping the plot interesting is a disease given twenty men that relies on a counter-agent being administered every five hours. The hunchback angle makes perfect sense in context but not the Glen-or-Glenda question that gets bandied about early and often. The "treasure" is a complicated insurance stock collusion scheme and the "terror" a teleportation device, pools of acid, and tinkling music boxes - all good choices as variants on the usual formula. Doc being framed for a series of murders and crimes is not my favorite scenario as it puts him on the defensive, weighs down forward momentum, and at least to me seems ungrateful and ignorant. considering how many times he's saved the day when nobody else could. At least the frames were plausible. From December, 1936.
I liked how the end battle resolves itself with nothing more than the simple action-reaction of Doc throwing a steel bolt and knocking the hunchback over a rail to his death ten feet below. At that point there was no need for something more involved and it preempted another drawn out action scene in a story that didn't fall short there.
It was a miniature camera.
She focused the tiny camera on Doc Savage, getting the crossed sighting wires squarely on the bronze man’s chest so that she would get a perfect full-length picture. She pressed the shutter trip.
The bang! of a gunshot came from the tiny camera.
"That does not explain how you eavesdropped on my telephone conversation?"
"Hold your hat," Monk told her patiently. "In this car, Doc carries some of his gadgets. One of these is a contraption which can pick up conversation going over a telephone wire. We do not have to tap the wire. We just drive the car near the phone circuit, if there is only one as there was in this case, and turn a switch on our radio. Our telephone eavesdropping contraption is a part of the car radio receiver. Listen."
Monk turned a switch and a bedlam of voices, male and female, came from the radio loud-speaker under the dashboard. The voices were too numerous and jumbled to understand. The homely chemist pointed at a telephone cable suspended alongside the street where they were driving.
"Voices coming from there," he said. "There’s a lot of wires. If we wanted to talk off any one, we’d have to attach a wire to our contraption, then carry it close to the phone circuit we wanted to eavesdrop on. Understand how it is done?"
With infinite slowness, so that the other could see that he was making no sudden moves, Doc inserted two fingers inside his vest and brought out a small metal object. He let the other see it, and carefully shoved it out in front of him, as if to drop it...
Doc squeezed the metallic globule. A cloud of black smoke came from it. The smoke came with such abruptness that it was almost a black flash. It hid Doc completely.
[Teleportation] "That’s the general idea," the creature growled. "To transmit the nucleus of the atom, which results in transmission of the entire atom, since the protons, electrons and neutrons of the atom are almost inseparable from the nucleus, I use a high-impact beam of electronic transmission.
"The beam simply scoops up the electrons nucleus and carries it along until it is intercepted by the receiver, which then causes the electronic beams to drop the nucleus, which then reassemble."
Sandy Yell interposed. She looked at Doc Savage. "We’ve brought you in here to ask you questions."
Doc watched her as if she did not interest him particularly.
[This month he's Uber-Doc] IT was a heavy door. The bronze man grasped the knob and exerted strength until the screw holding the knob to the lock spindle broke and the lock came away in his hands.
The man, if he heard, gave no sign. Doc got in front of him and stopped him, blocked him. Hoppel struggled a little. Doc took hold of his arm and held him off, and Hoppel fell to staring at the bronze hand as if unable to credit such strength as was in the grip.
[The blackface stylings of Clark Savage, Jr.] "Could Ah use yoah tel’fone, suh?"
Doc hit him. Doc rarely hit a man without warning. This was not entirely without warning, since Hoppel was standing directly in front of him and looking at the bronze man. But Hoppel probably never saw the fist.
Hoppel raised off the floor as if something invisible had reached down and taken him, and sailed backward, into the air at first, then with his heels dragging. When he hit the concrete, it was as if a whole beef had dropped.
[This creepy act is called "Negging"] Ham had decided to be particularly cutting toward the next personable young thing they contested for, on the theory that she would think him a woman hater and try to win him over. Ham thought he knew enough about women that this would work out.
"MONK" was human, although some people sometimes expressed doubts on that point...
The hair on his head was about an inch long and as coarse as rusty shingle nails, and the hair on the rest of him was almost the same.
The instant Doc was out of sight, Monk told the captive, "If you think I’m gonna stand around here and hold you and miss out on this fight, you’d better change your ideas!"
Monk belted the man senseless with a hairy fist to the jaw, let the fellow fall, and leaped after Doc.
MONK reached down, took the man prisoner by the throat and squeezed. The fellow gargled, floundered, beat Monk and beat the floor with his fists.
"His Adam’s apple feels funny when it goes up and down against the palm of my hand," Monk chuckled.
So it was not so remarkable that John Winer, penitentiary guard, should be reading the magazine article at the moment when the horrible and incredible thing known as "The Vanisher" made its first public appearance—or, perhaps more correctly, disappearance.
"Doc Savage," mumbled John Winer "Fights men— outside the law—"
The guard straightened and growled "Doc Savage shot you? Who the hell is Doc Savage?"
"If I was that dumb, I’d at least keep quiet," said another guard. "Don’t you ever read the newspapers?"
 Bloodhounds were kept in the prison for the purpose of chasing escaped convicts. This old-fashioned method of pursuit had managed to hold its own in the age of radios and high-speed automobiles.
"You," Doc told him, "have been inoculated with an enormous dosage of a germ which requires another germ to keep it in check, to prevent death. Inoculation with the germ could be for only one logical reason—to give some one a hold over you. In other words, you will die in the course of the next five hours, approximately, unless you receive inoculation with the counteractant germ."
He was shot in the mouth as he turned. He was shot, as soon afterward as the humpback could pull trigger, in the right eye, the forehead, the right ear, successively. Then he fell on the sidewalk, and two more bullets scattered the contents of his skull over the sidewalk.
[Others joined in with "Walla!", "Rhubarb!", "Rabarber!", and "Gaya!"] ""Doc Savage!" a man yelled.
"He’s wanted for murder!" another voice cried out.
[The punch line is that the taxi driver graduated from Doc's "college"] They got into a taxi. The driver looked them over, seemed to think deeply, then put his lips together in a tight line.
"I know you, Savage," he said. "I know the cops are looking for you. I also know that you’ve done more good in this world than any living man, and anything I can do for you, I’ll do, and to hell with the cops!"
[Killed off-page + Was a swell guy = Evil Mastermind] "Where is Landerstett?" Doc asked.
"They killed him!" said the girl hoarsely. "They told me about it. He—he was a swell guy!"
There's a quotient of ridiculousness in The Vanisher that may be off-putting if you're not in the mood. The story assumes the hunchback character can do anything no matter how technically or physically complicated. While well thought out and more intricate than usual you do have to shut up and go along with it if you want to get the most out of it.
047 - Land Of Long JuJu:
"The ruthless power of The Shimba threatened to overthrow the good and gentle ruler of an African kingdom-and destroy forever the line of succession. Until the mighty Man Of Bronze smashed the jungle menace and solved its terrible secret!"
The Sanctum reprint's attempt to figure out ghost writer Lawrence Donovan's efforts with this novel centers on "Donovan was a notorious drunk". Donovan researched his material at great length but elements of Land Of Long JuJu were adapted from an original version taking place in South America for use in Africa. I don't hold against it the use of "Voodoo" instead of the more accurate "Vodun", or that JuJu and Vodun are distinct practices. It's Doc Savage - not National Geographic. Africa has piranha so that's not wrong. The problems of the January, 1937 adventure deal more with length and heavy-handed conveniences.
In the plus column the opening with the six runners was good and the two suicide-messengers even better. Just as entertaining was Doc flying a rickety plane to destroy almost the entirety of the bad guy's air force and neutralize their pilots. It's a split decision on the effectiveness of Donovan's choice to have this read like a Mad Libs of researched names of peoples and things in Africa. As often as he set scenes he make you feel lost in them.
It's one of the book's mistakes/conveniences that an African medicine man understands Mayan. This is evidence the original manuscript was set in The Americas. A suicide bomber attacks Doc's jet-blimp when there's no motivation for the pilot to sacrifice his life: "Doc now understood the object of the invading army of mixed nationalities. They were adventurers seeking treasure rather than conquest.". Doc bringing hundreds of infra-red goggles for the warriors is hard to believe, but the absolute worst is Doc passing himself off as the ancient, 300 pound African ruler:
The vast, corpulent figure of the Kokoland ruler was dissolving. From his feet to his flowing white hair, King Udu seemed on fire. He was glowing with a weird, blue flame. The blaze seemed to crackle and consume his flesh...
Not only was King Udu a blue pillar of fire, his flesh was apparently being rapidly consumed. Great rolls of fat were peeling off. Because of this, the many chains were clanking to the ground...
More than a hundred pounds of flesh rolled from the figure of old King Udu. Then the king was standing erect. From his still melting body issued the most fantastic sound the Masai had ever heard...
Doc’s figure still glowed with blue fire. This light was no more than a mixture of luminol and sodium hydroxide in water, with potassium ferrocyanide and hydrogen peroxide added. It was nothing but the cold glowing of a firefly.
Other chemicals had been released from the gross rolls of fat. They had severed the chains. And packed in the extra weight it had required to make up for King Udu, were many other chemicals.
The reveal of the evil white Shimba involves a new character who races in from stage left for this denouement:
Count Cardoti fell forward, hands still clawing at the point of a spear. The weapon had come whistling from the jungle behind him. It had struck him squarely between the shoulders and pierced his heart.
Pat Savage covered her face. The man of bronze whipped toward the dead man, eyes searching the bush. Another man stepped forth. He was remarkably like the count in appearance. He spoke clearly.
"I did that because he tried to double-cross me! He would have left me behind, and he would have told you I was the only one who played Shimba! He was my brother! When he was absent I took his place here! My brother had Prince Zaban assassinated!"...
"As brothers of the blood, we plotted to steal King Udu’s kingdom and brought the invaders!" cried the other Shimba. "Count Cardoti intended to replace King Udu! Now as brothers of the blood we die!"
The man cast himself forward. A short, stabbing spear in his hand was forced through his body. The Cardoti brothers, in whose vein had run the hot blood of the Spanish, or perhaps Portuguese, were dead.
And... scene. Here's how all the major players conveniently end up in Africa:
"I instructed you to go home," stated Doc Savage. "You not only have stowed away, but you have taken the liberty to bring others."
"Yes—yes—I brought them—but when you know, you can’t do anything but take us with you!" stammered Pat.
"I can still reverse our direction," stated Doc. "We would lose only a little time."
"No—no—please, Doc!" exclaimed Pat. "This is Señorita Moncarid, and this is—"
"The man representing himself to be William Smith of 4404 Crooked Neck Road, Long Island," interrupted the man of bronze. "But known to King Udu of Kokoland as Logo."
What passes for wise, advanced, and "good and gentle" includes heads on sticks as decorations:
On one side of King Udu’s couch of skins were weird, smiling heads. Hundreds of these were stuck upon teakwood pegs driven into walls of palmetto thatch. They were the skulls of enemies slain by King Udu’s head-hunting tribes.
These tribal trophies must remain close to the throne, if Udu was to continue his domination of all his blood-thirsty chiefs.
Beyond the couch loomed a contrasting apparatus. This was no less than one of the most modern of radios. Beside this was a glass square.
The wise and advanced King Udu had even attempted to have television installed. This had never worked as it should.
It's claimed this book is the most racist but Asians get worse treatment in the series. I felt Donovan was making an effort to capture what he thought was realistic based on materials available in the mid-1930s. Either way I loved this line:
The hideous loops of the chiefs ears seemed to dance. In one loop was a can of condensed milk. The other loop contained no less than a can of condensed beef.
The second half of this overly long story takes place in Africa and it's effectively one long action scene with sidebars into other action. Sustained tension is good when done with craft, but Lawrence Donovan isn't a great writer so you get a concentrated dose of whatever the hell he's doing, and that can be, like what you'll read below about the spreading spider tracks on Doc's old bulletproof glass, annoying.
Monk’s foot did something to the thick rug of the big reception room. The messenger heard nothing. The door by which he had entered was no longer in evidence. He was looking at a smooth, unbroken wall...
A smoothly moving panel had made a false wall over the door.
Doc Savage had found it convenient at times to prevent some of his many visitors from finding their way out too quickly.
Ham attempted to cut his rattan bindings with a keen blade which sprang from the inside of a signet ring on his right hand.
"We have had visitors," he announced quietly.
The bronze man had glanced at one of the wall panels. This panel contained several dials. A red needle was slowly vibrating.
This informed Doc that one of several secret entrances had been disturbed.
DOC SAVAGE did not reply. He had produced a small cylinder. A pressure of a button set a generator buzzing. The man of bronze moved with apparent aimlessness across the laboratory.
But when Doc halted, one foot was pressing a spring concealed under the edge of a table. He pointed the gleaming cylinder at the big safe. The tumblers of the lock slid back noiselessly.
The ponderous door swung open.
The block of polished teakwood reposed inside. Count Cardoti had been staring at the opening of the safe. He associated the unlocking with the buzzing cylinder in Doc’s hand.
The cylinder had no connection with the apparent magic. It was a ruse sometimes employed by the bronze man when he desired to open the safe in the presence of visitors.
[The Wing!] Doc Savage’s men had christened this new aircraft the Wing. It was neither airplane nor dirigible. But it was sustained by a new type of noncombustible gas of the greatest lifting capacity.
No propellers were visible on the smooth wing. Within the wing itself were tubes, or what might have appeared to be wind tunnels.
These tubes overcame the constant danger of propellers being snapped off at high speed.
"What is the motive force?" questioned Count Cardoti, as Doc’s helpers were lashing many boxes aboard.
The erudite Johnny explained. Doc’s newest ship was propelled by a new compound explosive of his own devising. This was composed of oil and air carried under high pressure into a forward combustion chamber.
Here the oil and air combined and burned with intense heat. The result, as in the cylinder of a Diesel engine, was to produce a mixture of nitrogen of the air with water vapor and carbon dioxide at high temperature. Expanding gas and heat created great pressure. This caused gases to pass through the tubes with enormous velocity.
The Wing had proved capable of a speed of more than five hundred miles an hour.
DOC SAVAGE’S helpers had made everything ready. The Wing was divided into many compartments. Its controls were much the same as those of a dirigible, except the Wing could climb, bank and dive with the mobility of the fastest plane...
Because of its sustaining gas, the Wing could be held almost stationary....
The Wing was merged with the milky brightness of the tropical, star-studded sky. Its greatest advantage was its lack of vibration or motor impact. At cruising speed, the compound mixture was only a hissing through the tubes, which could not have been picked up by airplane detectors.
Now Doc Savage was employing powerful binoculars of four dimensional lenses. These not only brought distant objects closer, they made them stand out in stereoscopic detail.
At this moment machine gun bullets had begun hammering the Wing, like rain on a tin roof. They had about as much effect upon its bulletproof composition. The crystal alloy glass of its observation windows did not show so much as the trace of a spider crack.
This new composition had been perfected by Monk, directed by Doc. The old bulletproof glass with its spreading spider tracks had been annoying.
[The trilling adventures of Doc Savage] Doc Savage whipped from the telephone. The trill of danger was emanating from the bronze man.
[The sad after-the-fact excuse for Bama's Prince Namor Doc Savage] The man with the knife threw the weapon. The keen, heavy blade became a flash of light in the sun. Its point was directed at Doc’s skull. The knife hurler was accurate. The blade struck and parted Doc’s smooth bronze hair neatly.
There was a terrible, metallic clank, as if the heavy knife had split the bone of the bronze man’s skull. The Africans, for the moment, must have been incapable of movement. Certainly they had expected to see the man of bronze topple to the pavement of the alley...
Doc seemed to lift off the whole top of his head. This was a close-fitting, bullet-proof metallic cap. Over it was hair exactly the same color as the bronze underneath.
"Will Mr. Savage permit you to join this expedition?"
"Not if he can find some excuse to keep me at home," smiled Pat. "Doc seems to think I ought to be put in a glass case and kept for exhibition purposes."
[Why does Renny carry liquid uppers in a syringe?] The runner’s head dropped. Renny quickly produced a small hypodermic syringe. In a few seconds, the man opened his eyes. Whispered speech came to his lips through bloody foam.
Renny’s right hand flipped upward. His thumb nail had flicked the lever on the small globe. The object became a mere flash of light flying through the air...
The air itself seemed to explode. The hurtling object had not reached the island of the Long Juju shrine. It had burst in mid-air. It was a diminutive grenade containing what was perhaps the world’s highest-powered explosive.
The shrine of the Long Juju, with the Papa Loi , the old women beside the boiling pot, and the island itself seemed to dissolve.
[Funny sarcasm at having no idea what they're talking about] "Indubitably," observed Johnny, who was addicted to long words. "I judged the dead men to be omophagous Ulotrichans. They are likely to demonstrate they can be as poisonous as the Proterogluphya."
"Howlin’ calamities!" squeaked Monk. "They couldn’t possibly be that bad!"
[Ham the lawyer accepts this as real without speaking personally to Pat, and the address is a deserted warehouse, so that's on the level] "It seems Pat must be all right," he said in a relieved voice. "She is with this Señorita Moncarid. The señorita had called her hotel. She left an address if any one called inquiring for Pat. It’s on the upper East Side."
HAM and Monk drove rapidly to the East Side address. They surveyed the gloomy warehouse and loft building.
"Betcha the whole thing’s a trap!" complained Monk. "Maybe we oughtta call up Doc!"
Ham vetoed wasting any time. Descending from the car, he walked toward the partly open door of the deserted warehouse.
Ham is a horrible man:
"You never looked more natural!" rasped the disgusted and half naked Ham. "I hope you see your own face in that hole and it scares you to death!"...
"Maybe you’d do better teachin’ ‘em to swing through the trees," suggested Ham. "That’s more in your line."...
"If I can only live to remember what you looked like when they made you a general," grinned Ham. "We don’t need any guns, ape. All you’ve gotta do is show yourself to the attacking army."
THE tall figure was the last of the six runners. On the shoulders of this single man rested the burden of the message that had been carried by six...
The thin nostrils now were twitching. The runner’s keen olfactory sense told him he was not far from his goal. The odor was that of meat being cooked as only an inglesi would want it. All white men were inglesi, or Englishmen.
The carriers were eating. Their meal was a delicacy with them. It consisted of elephant feet baked for two days in a hot pit.
That smile was his last. It was a sardonic grin. Possibly it should have warned the men who had seized him.
The man holding the strange block fumbled his fingers along one edge. This man was almost completely obliterated. The block exploded with a terrific impact. The blast ripped open a small crater in the sidewalk.
THE traffic policeman’s revolver exploded in the grip of a hand that probably was already dead.
[The huge safe is in the reception room, not the lab. Or is there another safe?] Count Cardoti had spoken correctly. Huge glass retorts and scores of small glass containers had been shattered.
Two dead men lay in front of the huge safe. The door of the safe had been deeply gouged with steel instruments. But the invaders had not succeeded in gaining an entrance.
[Were these brought over from Africa, and if so, why?] The canoes were fantastic. Queer figures of native gods and fetishes were carved on the tall prows. The keels were the hollowed trunks of single trees. Above these were bound thinner sides, secured by tough bark fibre.
[Is this assuming Noah's Ark and the Flood were factual?] "It’s the world as it was before the flood of Noah," announced the learned Johnny. "It seems the deluge never reached the heights of the Kilimanjaro."
Perhaps no white man would have appreciated this Kokonese dish. For it was no less than a great pie containing baked white ants. The flavor might have been a little off for a Caucasian palate.
There are worse Doc Savage books than Land Of Long JuJu (The Devil's Playground comes to mind), and this story can be cleaned up and corrected into something worth lending to a friend, but there's no way Doc turns himself into the morbidly obese King Udu in the jungles of deepest Africa and moves around in action scenes. Not to sound like Ed Gein, but it would have been better (and just as plausible) to have Doc carve out the King's innards and wear him like a onesie!
048 - The Derrick Devil:
"A mysterious jellylike creature is terrorizing the Indian Dome Oil Field! The Man of Bronze and his five fantastic aides descend upon Oklahoma to do battle with dastardly Tomahawk Tant — and uncover the infernal secret of the weird monster from the depths of the earth."
"We found his clothes. There’s no reason why he should walk off naked"
It's too bad this direct inspiration for The Blob (I have no idea if this is true) loses its way and falls short on its promises and potential because The Derrick Devil has much to recommend it. It's a great story until the halfwayish mark when the plot becomes confusing and not that interesting as members of two gangs kidnap, kill, and chase everyone around. Mistakes and missed opportunities pop up while the monster build-up vs. reveal reminds one of when Dean Kamen's "next" invention, The Segway, was teased as tech's leapfrog into the 23rd century. The Brit who bought the company died when he drove his off a cliff, but that's unrelated to this February, 1937 adventure.
There's a lot of good material about Doc, including this bit that's a favorite as it explains and implies a lot:
DOC SAVAGE’S father, in training him from childhood for his unique career, had taken into account the fact that he would many times have to fight empty-handed against odds. For years, even as a small child, he had been put through a daily rough-and-tumble brawl with larger opponents, several of them, with the penalty for inefficiency a severe lacing.
The men Doc had been pitted against in these practice bouts had been paid a bonus for any blows they could land. Naturally, they had waded in.
Doc in disguise on the plane is great, the submarine under the houseboat is great, the kid flying a kite with an aerial camera is great, and the Reservoir Hill and Vida Carlaw relationship could have been great.
The Sanctum reprint says the original story was sent back for reworking and various chapters were moved around, characters removed, and plot points expunged. In the process, holes leaked and chances to make the lesser parts as strong as the greater parts were not seized. The Derrick Devil deserves an overhaul. The sentient red blobs are scarier than the floating green snake blobs of The Mystic Mullah (Jan, 1935) because they're eating live human flesh (!):
THE thing going into the oil well casing had substantial reality to it, that was certain. It was not transparent, like a jelly. It flowed as some jellies will melt and flow when dropped on a hot stove. It was going into the sixteen-inch casing.
Color of the flowing mass was red.
The instant the light was upon the horror flowing under the door, the thing stopped. There was a brief pause. Gradually, the semiliquid red mass began to retract itself under the door...
His blinding speed was not enough. For the red mass was suddenly gone back under the door. Faster, almost, than the eye could perceive, it went.
"It’s simple—and horrible," said the girl. "Our wildcat oil well in the Indian Dome Field drilled into a nest of strange monsters over a mile underground. These monsters are something like—well—like—"
"Amoebas," Johnny suggested.
"Amoebas, one of the most primary forms of life, literally a mass of protoplasm without eyes, ears or skeletal framework," Johnny replied. "They secure and digest their food simply by flowing around it and covering it and absorbing the nutriment from the substance thus attacked."
Squirming, writhing, hideously translucent and ocherous in the light, was one of the fantastic monsters which had first been observed around the Sands-Carlaw-Hill wildcat oil well.
The thing was going into the tank. Swelling and spreading and creeping, it seemed to have no arms, legs, eyes, mouth, nose, nor anything else that an ordinary living creature is supposed to have. It was just—red, semi-transparent stuff, utterly hideous, and living! Back into the tank, it oozed, as if afraid of the light.
That's terrifying but the reveal is the direct inspiration (I have no idea if this is true) for the carpet monster in The Creeping Terror:
Over in one corner lay several strange-looking objects.
Soft, porous slabs of sponge rubber! Stout little balloons of rubber filled with some liquid, probably water. Sheets of crêpe rubber. To some of these sheets were attached slender lengths of bamboo; to all of them were attached strings.
Red, every one of the things! The hideous salmon tint of the "monsters" from the depths of the earth!
Johnny goes undercover as throwaway character Snook Loggard when he's close to the body type of Tomahawk Tant. It seems like a last-minute switch by Dent. Shouldn't Long Tom be Snook?:
It was too dark to tell much about them, only that the man was tall and skinny, except for his middle, which was big around, making him like a snake that had swallowed an egg. A nice snake, of course.
Reservoir Hill and Vida Carlaw are partners in an oil well operation in Tulsa and they seem to like each other. Hill is also the legendary outlaw Tomahawk Tant. In the easiest deduction of all time, since the story goes out of its way to say nobody knows what he looks like, it can only be Hill. Dent tries to save it for the end but a few chapters earlier a second-gang member bargains with a Tant man by offering:
"I can take you to Vida Carlaw!"
"Well, damn me!" howled the Tant outlaw. "Won’t Tant be tickled to see her! He thinks she’s dead! He’s been madder’n a skinned cat over it!"
The Hill/Tant timeline is wrong as how can Carlaw and Hill be partners for five years if Chapter 2 contains:
An old pipecap served as an ash tray, and a newspaper was folded so that black headlines showed. The headlines said:
OUTLAW "TOMAHAWK" TANT TRAPPED
POSSES SURROUND ELUSIVE BADMAN
Nobody suspects Hill is Tant. Chapter 5 has this scene:
The street was full of noisy cars carrying people to work and newsboys calling morning editions. One newsboy came along the street, howling a headline.
"Oklahoma outlaw escapes!" the boy squawled. "Tomahawk Tant evades airplanes and posses!"
None of this is taking place so the parts of the puzzle didn't get worked out in the final draft. In this scene Doc stops fighting too abruptly and it doesn't work:
"Get the bronze guy alive, if you can!" a voice howled.
"The chief will want to talk to ‘im!"
Instantly upon hearing that, Doc Savage stopped fighting.
The men rushed in, and seized Doc Savage, all of them that could lay hands upon him. Some one brought a gunny sack, and they dragged this over the bronze man’s head, then tied it.
THE plane was of the most modern type, which meant, of course, that it did not have the old-fashioned line of wicker seats down each side. Instead, there was a succession of boxlike compartments which could be made up into upper and lower berths. These compartments gave comparative privacy.
WINDOWS of Doc Savage’s skyscraper headquarters were of unusual type. The glass, perfected by the bronze man himself, was of a new variety which permitted occupants of the office to look out with ease, but which prevented any one outside looking in. The special glass admitted a rather diffused light.
Before he started for the door, Monk felt in a trousers pocket to make sure a certain coin was still there. Ostensibly, this coin was a half dollar; actually it was made of a radioactive metal which worked upon a hidden relay and electroscope combination which opened and closed the door. The device opened the door as Monk neared it.
By that time, Doc’s plane had traversed a slice of Pennsylvania which would have surprised even an airspeed expert. The ship was a small one, consisting of a cockpit for two, radio equipment and a tiny fuselage and wing assembly—the rest of it was motor. Almost two thousand horse power!
"The valve controls for a tank of gas in the real," Doc explained. "The gas, when released in the air, is invisible, but causes a chemical reaction with the air which makes it noninflammable. In other words, a plane flying into this vapor will stop, because the air gas mixture sucked into its motor became nonexplosive."
The glass containers had a certain vibrating point; and a sound of that frequency would start them vibrating in sympathy, with the result that they shattered themselves when a certain strength of sympathetic vibration was reached.
It was the same method by which the famous singer, Caruso, was able to break wine glasses, except that in this case it had been Doc’s trilling sound, lifted to great volume, which had done the job.
A NEWCOMER had seized the wiry fellow. The appearance of this new arrival was striking. He might have been sculptured out of hard bronze. The contour of his features, his mobile and muscular mouth, his ample forehead, his lean cheeks denoted a power of character beyond the ordinary...
He did not have the pachyderm shape which usually marks very strong men.
Vida Carlaw demanded, "Just who are you anyway?"
The bronze giant looked at the strikingly pretty woman, without being visibly impressed.
"Clark Savage, Jr.," he said. "Sometimes called Doc Savage."...
Besides all this, Vida Carlaw was an exquisite young lady who was accustomed to having members of the opposite sex show marked admiration when they were in her neighborhood. She was accustomed to taking their breath away. But this fellow appeared no more moved than if he were looking at a tree...
Vida Carlaw mused that she had really never seen a more handsome man than this one...
Vida Carlaw decided she liked the bronze’s man’s voice, just as well as his looks. That voice properly belonged to an opera singer.
"I’ve met strong hombres in my time!" he muttered. "But this is the first time I ever ran into a human bear trap!"
"Listen," he said, "this is Clark Savage, Jr."
"Is that supposed to mean something to me?" the broker asked.
The broker must have choked slightly. "That’s different!"
[Usually a Monk thing, Doc punches unconscious men into deeper unconsciousness] Doc Savage went around and whacked each of the six men on the jaw to make sure he would remain unconscious for some time.
In truth, this was one of the reasons Doc seldom wore a hat. People became accustomed to seeing him without a hat, and when he donned one, it worked so great a change in his appearance that it was almost a disguise in itself.
An hedonistic tympanum of concinnity," said "Johnny."
The girl looked stunned. "Johnny really knows little words," Monk explained, "but he saves ‘em for birthdays!"
Johnny did not arrive in Tulsa with them. He had dropped out of sight. The others did not know where. But they suspected Johnny had remained behind to keep an eye on the prisoners in the hospital. They were not sure about this. It was just a guess.
[He translates himself in the same breath] Johnny, when he was ungagged and untied, gulped, "I’ll be superamalgamated. Is my physiognomy rubescent! In other words, is my face red!"
Monk made a face. This usually helped his thinking.
GETTING information out of reluctant subjects was a frequent need with Doc Savage. He had developed various methods. They began mildly and became more scientific.
The first treatment worked with their captives. It consisted of putting Monk in a room with them and shutting the door. Monk was not through explaining in detail what he was going to do to them when they started talking.
Monk said, admiringly, "For once, you can say, ‘Supermalagorgeous,’ or, ‘I’ll be superamalgamated,’ and I won’t feel like chokin’ you!"
It was too dark to tell much about them, only that the man was tall and skinny, except for his middle, which was big around, making him like a snake that had swallowed an egg. A nice snake, of course.
THE male clothing—hat, shirt, coat, trousers, socks, heavy oil field shoes—lay exactly in a position they would occupy if the former wearer had lain down on his back and his body had become nonexistent.
The shirt was inside the coat, with the shirt sleeves down inside the coat sleeves in a natural manner. The socks were even inside the shoes.
Alonzo Cugg had big eyes with a permanent scare deep in them, and a way of holding his hands as if ready to sprint. No one knew of any reason why he had ever been scared of any one or why he should be. He seemed about one hundred and thirty pounds of skin over wires, and was about two shades lighter than a khaki shirt.
"Listen, sweetie pie," said the black-gloved man. "I’m the little airplane girl’s friend. I like your type. You’ve got me all up in the air—"
"Then stay there!" suggested the hostess, and walked to her seat in the rear of the plane.
[The most simple telling of it] Doc Savage’s headquarters consisted of three rooms. One, the reception room, was small, and furnished with little more than a huge safe, some comfortable chairs, and a fabulous-looking inlaid table. The other two rooms were immense.
One room was a library of scientific tomes, almost unequaled in the world for completeness, and the other was a laboratory which was the envy of the few great scientists who had seen it.
[Not fancy = Open earlier for those who might need that] THE See-Well Optical Co. was not an elaborate establishment, which probably accounted for the proprietor having opened his doors an hour earlier than was customary for such firms.
The trailing method was not Doc’s invention. Monk, Ham and Johnny each got a taxi, and they took turns, one on the trail, while the other got ahead. By switching about casually, they made it almost impossible for the man in the taxi to learn he was being trailed.
The bronze man indicated the strange-looking mark which Monk had made following his message.
"Ancient Mayan," the bronze man explained.
"Eh? A shunt may what?" The officer hadn’t got it.
"A hieroglyphic in prehistoric Mayan," Doc Savage elaborated.
"I’ll take your word for it. What’s it mean?"
[The Yoots would have no idea what this means] A newsboy was crying a paper at the Tulsa airport.
[Because Hill is Tant] "You’re crazy!" he howled. "They couldn’t have been Tant’s men!"
Every one looked at Reservoir Hill. The old man glared, then apparently realized his howled statement had sounded queer, and looked confused.
"What I mean is that this dang gollywobbler, Andershott, couldn’t tell the truth if he wanted to!" he yelled. "He’s a natural-born liar. He’s lying now for some reason!"
The Derrick Devil's positives greatly outweigh the negatives no matter how bad they are. The middle section should be shortened to minimize scenes that focus on the confusion of who is in what outlaw group - The Tant men and the second gang who's led by the other obvious choice on who that could be. A clear differentiation of the two bad guy gangs is in order. Since Hill/Tant left everything to Vida in his will he should have expressed some kind of friendly affection to her at the end, and if he were to die protecting her the story would be that much better and he would earn this line from Vida: "As Reservoir Hill—he was always—a swell guy!"
The digestive-juice blob menace should trade in its sentient boost of horror for a resolution that's better than sponges and balloons. You can get as much mileage from the after effects of acid on the human body as creating visuals that wind up being cheats.
049 - The Mental Wizard:
"The massive creature -- a mile from head to toe! -- sleeps in the steaming jungle. Is the behemoth real, or has the golden enchantress "Z" conquered the magnificent Man of Bronze with the hypnotic power of her superhuman mind? Doc Savage meets his mental match when he uncovers the strange lost kingdom of the deadly Amazon."
"Why can’t you speak like ordinary white people, Johnny?"
March, 1937's doings were threatened by George Pal as the follow-up to his 1975 Doc Savage film, which ended with "Doc Savage in Klantic Kountry, Koming Soon!" It was more like "Next: Doc Savage in Klantic Country" but who's counting. For the first half of the book I can see why The Mental Wizard would be chosen as it's fairly epic with its gritty deaths, colorful characters, and playful mind control hijinks. Even at its best I don't see how it makes creative sense to send Doc back to the same South American jungle sets used in The Man Of Bronze. In 1976 Bruce Jenner defined modern muscle and special effects were still in-camera, so maybe repeating the last film with a new twist wouldn't be noticed either. I wouldn't be surprised if the floating green snakes of that first film were painted in by hand.
What's great about the first half is nearly forgotten as the action shifts to the Amazon jungle. Plot checks are written but mostly bounced and the magical elements of the opening are shunted aside. "Z" doesn't use her powers and "Amber" O'Neel exists off-page. It's like Lester Dent wrote the New York scenes, put it away for a goodly while, then came back to it for a rush deadline completion - a shame because while it lasts it's a great book.
The mile-long "Klantic" pyramid is fun but Dent has Monk think it's a real being instead of an ancient stone statue rotting in the jungles for centuries. I didn't know Monk was that stupid. If he was willed to see it I don't remember reading that. Planes magically disappearing is another tease that falls apart as they're disassembled and hidden with an impossible speed and marked lack of heavy equipment needed to do the job. Exposition on gadgets during the closing battle sequence was comprehensive to say the least. I pictured a blackboard and pointer being rolled out for the job. Pig and Ape are on hand to be tripped over and magically not killed while Ham is an absolute douchebag with the social skills of a spoiled child. If this counts for humor, 1937 was a nasty time to be alive:
"Blazes!" he gulped. "So she was making me scared! Boy, I was right at the point where I was afraid to look for my shadow!"
"Your shadow," Ham said shakily, "would scare anybody almost any time!"...
"Me, too," Monk agreed. "I’m sweated out until I got no more moisture left than a dried apple."
"A dried prune would be more like it," Ham had vitality enough to add...
"All right," Johnny said. "But tell me more about it. Will it make any man have mental powers beyond your own?"
"Any man," said the girl. "Providing, of course, that the brain is not diseased, or the person an idiot."
"That lets Monk out," Ham decided aloud. "He’ll never be helped."
Find the major, simple error in this line:
Renny, using binoculars, said, "Monk and his pet ape would sure be at home down there."
Long ago, Doc had refined a device which was coming more and more into use in prisons and police stations. The apparatus consisted simply of a contrivance which registered, through the alteration in a magnetic field, the nearness of any iron or steel.
[Radiation, the lead paint of asbestos] "Remember, before we left New York on that cruise ship, each of you turned in his supermachine pistol at headquarters to have a new grip applied?" Doc asked...
"That grip was made of a composition containing a radioactive substance," Doc told him. "The original purpose was to make it easier to locate these deadly weapons if they were stolen. You know that we have detectors which can locate radioactive materials at great distances."
[Doc is possibly halfway human] She shook her head. "I mean, will they like me without my consciously and cold-bloodedly making them?"
Doc studied her beauty. "I do not see how they could help it."
Renny, who had been glancing over one shoulder from time to time, said, "Maybe that girl is halfway human, after all."
Long Tom had also been watching. He chuckled.
"Maybe Doc is, too," he said.
[Doc's referring to failed Crime College operations (*wink)] Doc Savage said, "How would you two like to die?"
They almost didn’t answer that, either; then one said, "It is well known that you never kill a man."
"Not a physical death," Doc replied calmly. "A mental one. How would you like it? A simple thing which can be done to your necks so that you will become idiots and forever remain so?"
Doc was bluffing. The operation he mentioned was possible, but it was work for an equipped operating room and plenty of time.
DOC SAVAGE had a rule. He had several rules, but this one was invariable. It was necessary for the efficient functioning of his little organization. It was essential in order that his work of fighting evil and aiding the oppressed might continue.
He never permitted himself to think of falling in love. It would only give his enemies—and they numbered legions—a means of striking at him indirectly. The life which he led was too perilous for any woman to share.
The fact that he adhered to the rule had given Doc the reputation of being lacking in certain human qualities. His aids, while not ladies’ men—excepting Monk and Ham—were decidedly human, and they had waited a long time for Doc to show signs of falling in love with some one.
They invariably watched the advent of an especially pretty and intelligent girl with hopeful—or anxious, depending on the girl—expectation.
[A bit much] The last man of the four was built with big bones and a lot of gristle, but his fists were what stood out. Incredible hands! Doubled, they made fists the equal of many a man’s head in size. This man also wore a gloomy look on his long face. He was sourness itself.
[The meaning of Renny in a good mood] The big-fisted engineer did some thinking, and a slightly cheerful look came over his long, puritannical face. That was a bad sign, because Renny somewhat contrarily registered gloom when he was happiest, and when he looked even moderately cheerful, it was time for ordinary peace-lovers to take to storm cellars.
Monk squeaked, "You’re the doggonedest combination of
absolute genius and
abysmal ignorance that I ever saw!"
"Huh? Well—huh! I’ll be superflabbergasted, as Johnny might say! "
"Did they all join us willingly?" Doc asked.
"Sure," Monk said promptly, then took the first opportunity to get a pair of skinned knuckles out of sight.
"A few words from a purveyor of the Holy word helped," said the missionary.
"They just missed being grease spots," explained Monk, who was a bit callous at times.
"The Señor Doc Savage is on that steamer," the man said. "What you see is a reception to welcome and honor him. The president is here, the minister of war, and many others."
"So the day has come when they honor a doctor," Hutton remarked.
[Exposition error of explaining something they know all too well] "He would have laid an egg," agreed big-fisted Renny. "Ham was so cocky he got careless. He should have known that gas which Doc released by breaking the container in his pocket is odorless and colorless, but will render a man unconscious until at least a minute has elapsed, or until it has time to be rendered harmless by mixture with the air."
The brown man looked surprised, and said, "Is it possible you have not heard of this Doc Savage? Every one señor, knows him. Even the devils in hell."
A THOUSAND other people were screaming within a hundred yards, so one more scream—David Hutton’s—did not make much difference. A squad of army airplanes roared overhead. They were flying in a formation that made the letter DOC.
"White man," Doc elaborated. "He came close to the natives when they were closing in on this fellow, addressed them in their native tongue, and promised them outboard motors."
He went slack, all of a sudden, as if some one had cut the wire that supplied him with juice. Only a dead man could fall thus.
[Degenerate gambler pro-tip] Colombians of his type were inveterate gamblers, and they like to bet on jumping bean races. This look-out happened to know that if a jumping bean was soaked in a certain solution prior to the race, the worm inside could be made more frenzied in its efforts, and since the movement of the worm made the bean jump, the bean became a better racer.
Not for nothing had Doc spent years perfecting his use of foreign languages. His Spanish was perfect. It even had the language shadings of a low-class Colombian, a vernacular as distinctly its own kind as the "dem," "dose" and "dat" of the Bowery bum.
Doc Savage opened the door and looked at the girl. She was still tied, and there were still no snakes.
He shut the door hastily.
[Slash fiction starter kit] "Watch her," he directed his aids. "And do not get nearer than thirty or so feet from her. That may not be a sufficient distance. There has not been time to make sure. But if you find yourself getting ideas, get farther away from her."
"What kind of ideas?" Long Tom asked.
"Queer ones," Doc told him.
Ham said dryly, "Monk will be in a predicament. That’s the only kind of ideas he has."
[Part I: This tells me the two are not nice people] "How many men have they, altogether?"
"About two hundred," one of the prisoners estimated. "And it seems that the rest of the population will probably swing to their side. The present rulers are two persons, a father and his daughter, known as the custodians of the secret of Klantic."
[Part II: How it's explained] "Oh, some of the Americans here told me," she explained. "The same thing has happened to my father and myself. They’re simply tired of us. Everybody gets tired of anything. They’ll get rid of us, and later on, they’ll wish they hadn’t done anything about it."
"I am a peace-loving man, with a nature usually as gentle as that of a lamb." He grabbed his dungeon bar and shook it. "But sometimes I have a lion in me! Let me out of here!"
[I like toast, I like toast, I like toast] The fellow kept the utterly scared look on his face after he became senseless. The paralysis which Doc inflicted by expert pressure sometimes did that. The victims kept the same expressions on their faces. Sometimes they kept the same thought in their mind throughout, too.
It's a shame The Mental Wizard peters out the way it does because Z's interactions with Doc are nice and the first half is, for Doc Savage, impressively rendered. Take what works in the first and add it to the second half for a much better product. Have Monk freak out at the mile long man as a pyramid in the middle of the jungle and not a real creature. Remove the bit with the fake giant panther tracks implied to be the pet of the giant man. Incorporate Amber back into the plot and also the mental tricks of the gold-haired people. This one's definitely worth fixing.
050 - The Terror In The Navy:
"A bizarre dictator unleashes a deadly force against the United States Navy: the mightiest vessels in the U.S. armada are sunk; warplanes are pulled from the clouds; even Doc Savage's impenetrable sky fortress is ripped from the stratosphere! And the brash, strutting BRAUN demands one hundred million dollars in ransom from a nation in chaos. Only the Man of Bronze dares challenge the crushing power of this phantom force!"
April, 1937's The Terror In The Navy is a very good story with a few glaring shortcomings that almost sink it. Wordplay zing! Can it be repaired? Captain Blackstone Toy didn't have to be a bad guy, or at least not at the end. His brother was murdered by these animals and he almost died himself when his plane went down. The Lieber Von Zidney head-fake would have worked without lines like this:
It sounded like Lieber Von Zidney’s voice.
"What about the prisoners?" the guard shouted.
"We’ll take them, too," said the muffled voice which sounded like Von Zidney’s.
"And what about the rest of the men—the ones in the next block—"
"Never mind!" shouted the Von Zidney voice. "They’ll attack Doc Savage’s crowd from the rear!"
Just write it as "Lieber Von Zidney’s voice", "said Von Zidney's muffled voice", and "shouted Von Zidney". August Atlanta Braun's entire involvement is an anchor on the tale (zing!). Being a Joe Average who's angry at the Navy he's not going to be able to organize this many people to dedicate their lives to making ships and planes appear to be pulled to their doom by an unknown force. If Braun was made the lead agent of an effort by that unnamed foreign government (wink!), spies serving that nation would be feasible or at least more easily dismissed under the legal statute of Suspension Of Disbelief.
Here's what harder to fix or at least worse to begin with. August Atlanta Braun invented a machine the year before that nullifies force fields and the Navy didn't buy it. Being dishonorably discharged from that same Navy probably didn't help, but he was selling a defense for something that didn't exist at the time, and he knew when and where the enemy would strike next. Braun was kicked out of the Navy and only Navy stuff was attacked. Even the guy cleaning toilets on a destroyer could tell you it's either Col. Mustard in the Conservatory with a Lead Pipe or A. A. Braun. Have Braun attempt to sell the machine some time after the ships start going down. Have an unfolding event happen near where he's showing the machine to Navy officials for the first time and have him race out and avert a disaster in front of them. Have him be released from the Army (not the Navy) for something less than a dishonorable discharge.
Ham and Monk's hate-fest is annoying. Dumb ape and stupid pig must go. Ham pretends to be a man named Shade as if Shade's buddies have no idea what he looks like (standard failure) and he ties up Chemistry nearby as if dumb ape should be on a dangerous assignment: "'I found Chemistry tied to a bush out where nobody could be expected to find him,' Pat explained."
All this aside, and I think it can be readily repaired, The Terror In The Navy is a fun story with a lot of good things in it. In this case I'll even forgive Lester Dent's occasional attempt to have Doc subtly freak out at the sight of a pretty lady as if he keeps a nuclear device in his bronze codpiece and visible excitement might wipe out sixty city blocks:
Doc Savage walked to the window, not because he wanted to see the window, but because he wanted to get away from the disturbing presence of the young woman...
DOC SAVAGE looked at the hand on his arm, and reflected that he had never seen a more perfectly shaped feminine extremity...
"Continue, please." Doc was aware of some of the young woman’s exquisite curves, and of the warm grip she was keeping on his arm...
Doc Savage reached out and almost patted the young woman’s small, marvelously built hand, almost took it in his own bronze fingers. Then some solidity of thought returned, and he drew in a breath and stepped away, so that the shapely hand slipped from his sleeve.
Doc Savage, since he could hardly loosen India Allison’s frightened embrace with anything less than violence, resigned himself to having an extremely attractive young woman hanging onto one arm. He had, for once, some expression on his bronze features. It was not a comfortable expression.
Assuming this is playfulness on Dent's part at the expense of Doc, he also makes Pat spontaneously fun. In my re-reading of Doc Savage books I'm finding Pat to be more over-her-head than useful. On the whole is she really an asset? The first bit starts with a nice description of Doc:
The giant bronze man standing before her smiled faintly, which was a rare thing for him to do. Some persons had known him for years and had never seen him smile. Not that he went around looking gloomy. His amazingly regular features, almost classic in their firm handsomeness, simply had no expression at all, most of the time.
He stood near the door, and it looked doubtful if he could pass through it without ducking. Yet, when he stepped away from the door, he seemed to shrink in stature, due to the remarkable symmetry of his development. There had to be something around to which his size might be compared before his full Herculean stature was apparent.
His hair was straight, a slightly darker bronze than that of Pat Savage, and his eyes were gold, also, but of a different nature. The bronze man’s orbs were like pools of flake metal, always stirred by some invisible force. They seemed also to possess a weird, compelling power.
The sinews in his neck were like hausers, the thews in the backs of his hands like round files.
"Doc Savage!" Pat exclaimed cheerfully. "You’re smiling! You’re actually becoming human!"
Pat, golden eyes alight, every slender inch of her alive and vibrant and on the trail of excitement, came in. She saw Doc Savage and stopped.
"Oh!" she said. "The big bronze day of reckoning again!"
Pat put out a nice-looking jaw. "I’m going along!"
"Do you ever get tired of persistently trying to get yourself killed?" Doc asked wearily.
"No!" Pat said. "Neither do you!"
Pat looked indignant.
Renny whispered to Pat, "I guess she got you told!"
Pat gritted, "If people keep on abusing me, I’m going to collect myself some heads!"
The comically visual WTF exasperation on this made me laugh:
"This is Johnny, one of Doc Savage’s men," said one of Johnny’s captors. "We thought we’d bring him to you, Fuzzy."
The snaky, hairy man shut off the radio, then yelled at the top of his voice, "What in the hell is this you’re telling me?"
Other fun lines:
A lean man with more than his share of nose met them at the door.
"The whole dang navy is what a prissy guy would call ‘in a dither,’"
Renny escorted Pat to the rear, looking very gloomy, as he did when he was tickled at something.
What happened next was something that Renny put into his autobiography.
A good Frick & Frack line:
Ham and Monk sat outside in the boat, insulting each other enthusiastically in whispers.
This detective kit thing is good:
From inside his clothing came a tiny atomizer device with which he blew fine spray over the doorknob. This promptly became crusted with a brownish deposit.
Doc went to the picture of Lieutenant Bowen Toy. He sent a spray from the tiny atomizer over parts of the picture. The brown deposit appeared again, not in a smooth film, but in scattered patches.
The brown deposit was simply oily film left by human hands, as acted upon by chemical reagents from the atomizer. An infinitesimal oily deposit is left by the touch of almost any human hand.
The nature and consistency of the film naturally changes with time. The oil vaporizes, dries up. The less the oily film had vaporized, the more intense the brown deposit. Thus, Doc could judge accurately how long since hands had touched an object.
Doc's office now sports one-way glass, Renny's fists today are a half-gallon each, a "pigboat" is slang for a submarine, and Sportoculars are a thing. Long Tom is a wealthy miser. The laughing gas ploy was sweet and Doc & Monk invent a gas that freezes people into unconsciousness for about two minutes. Gadgets and gimmicks-wise this novel gets it right.
This is exactly how Doc should be seen in such events:
The men who sat around the table were, to all intents and purposes, the United States navy and a good part of the United States government. There were senators and congressmen present, members of a naval appropriations committee.
Doc Savage, escorted in by a page, recognized them all and bowed slightly. He did not smile or glad-hand any one, but yet he managed to convey a feeling of good fellowship. He seemed to emanate a completely likeable personality, without making any undue effort to do so.
Doc's peak human and Dent does a great job showing how Doc experiences pain and trauma. The second section is Doc Savage action at its best:
Then some one hit Doc over the head with a rifle. The blow was unexpected, something that could not be avoided. Doc sank, recoiled, made no sound to show that he was hurt, or where he’d crouched. His head sang and for a little while it seemed blacker than before, and sounds were faint.
Doc hauled the lever. Efficient machinery clicked, and the plane was suddenly plunging down toward the sea. The bronze man let it dive for some distance, so as to get clear of the dirigible underbody. Then he came back on the stick.
Both wings tore off!
There was nothing particularly violent about its happening. Simply a squeal of pins sheared through, and the wings, which were of the modern detachable type, came away from the fittings and fluttered away like big leaves in a wind overhead.
Doc did not look at the sea, or at the loose wings. He heaved up in the cockpit. The cushion was a seat type parachute. But a moment was required to swing it out. He did not buckle on the harness, but depended on the cabled strength in his hands to hang on. He plucked the ripcord.
The parachute opened with a pop! and a ripple—the ripple being torn strips of ‘chute fabric. For the silken lobe had been ripped by a knife!
DOC let go the harness. There was nothing else left to do. Not enough of the parachute remained to break his fall.
He turned slowly as he fell and fought at his coat. The sea had been nearly a mile and a half below at the start of his fall. It was much nearer now.
It is possible for a man falling free in the air to control himself by kicking, by thrusting out his arms, by flipping them about violently. Doc kept himself falling feet downward. At the same time, he removed his coat.
He was wearing, under his coat, a flat parachute of unusual light and strong chemical-product fabrikoid, a filmy stuff infinitely stronger and lighter than the best of silk. This fabrikoid had been perfected by the chemical genius, the apish Monk.
The parachute of fabrikoid came near opening too late. Doc hit the water with more force than he relished; it was barely possible that an individual whose physical strength was less might have died from the shock.
The bronze man went very deep, and when he had gained the top, he spouted some water and lay still on the surface, not entirely knocked out, but also not enthusiastic about immediate activity.
The Hindenburg crashed on May 6, 1937. The Terror In The Navy came out some time the month before. The first part makes me wonder if this is really possible in such a craft (keep in mind I'm an idiot), and the description of its crash is somber, terrifying, and prescient:
BATTLESHIPS are popularly supposed to be the most expensive war machine put together by modern man, but the Zephyr had cost more than any battleship afloat. Not all of the millions charged against her cost sheet had gone into actual materials and labor in her construction. She was the product of years of experimenting, and experimenting with dirigibles is expensive.
The Zephyr was longer than a battleship, and she was the attempt of the United States of America to show the rest of the world that lighter-than-air craft are practical.
If the Zephyr crashed any time within the next year or two, aviation as centered upon lighter-than-air craft would receive a setback from which it was just possible it might not recover.
The Zephyr was all metal. There was not a stitch of fabric in her. She was so strong that the makers claimed she could fall a mile and not be damaged so badly that she could not fly. There was a catch to that, of course. A ship as light for her size as the Zephyr could not fall very fast.
The Zephyr had accommodations equal to those aboard a liner. She could carry enough poison-gas bombs to kill every man, woman and child in any city in the world, and she could fly so high and so silently that there was only a chance in a thousand of enemy war planes finding her.
She carried enough machine guns to whip a flotilla of fighting planes, and thousands of machine-gun bullets through her vitals would not bring her to the ground, because she was made like a honeycomb, with countless cells. The only way she could be vanquished was by being blown apart by a bomb, and blowing her apart would not be easy, because she could fly as fast as some war planes.
Then something happened up above. The giant dirigible Zephyr began a steady, awful dive toward the sea—all the camouflaged hundreds of feet of her, the most modern air machine devised by man.
The plane slanted toward Doc. He changed position rapidly on the surface, at the same time digging inside his clothing, seeking a certain pocket in the remarkable vest which he wore—a vest with many pockets holding the innumerable gadgets which he frequently found occasion to use.
There was a pocket in the vest for smoke bombs, but they were gone, the pocket split open by the force of his fall. The man of bronze dived, stroked to the left madly.
The bomb explosion came again. Worse, if possible. He did not come to the surface again immediately. Instead, he slipped out of his outer clothing, and left it in the water. Soaked as it was, it would not rise to the surface immediately, and it might be mistaken for his body.
The ruse worked. Savage swam far away, and showed himself on top only momentarily for air, keeping the rest of the time well beneath the surface.
Of course, from the plane, they could see a surprising depth beneath the surface. But they had expected the bomb to kill Doc, and seeing his clothing, thought it had, so they dropped no more bombs. Then the dirigible came arching down and distracted their attention before they discovered the bronze man.
The Zephyr was going to crash!
DOC saw it hit. The manner of its crash was uncanny. It was going almost full speed, all motors roaring, when it hit. The Zephyr was strong, but not strong enough for that. The nose caved—caved back full a two hundred feet, as if the water were a solid wall. The backbone of the air giant broke in a dozen places.
Big, invisible hands might as well have taken it and mashed it between them. Hands a mile across the palms, perhaps.
Fix the glaring errors and The Terror In The Navy is a great Doc Savage story.