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Archived Doc Savage Pulp Reviews
Page Three Of Seven
051 - Mad Eyes 052 - The Land Of Fear 053 - He Could Stop The World 054 - Ost 055 - The Feathered Octopus 056 - Repel 057 - The Sea Angel 058 - The Golden Peril 059 - The Living Fire Menace 060 - The Mountain Monster 061 - Devil On The Moon 062 - The Pirate's Ghost 063 - The Motion Menace 064 - The Submarine Mystery 065 - The Giggling Ghosts 066 - The Munitions Master 067 - The Red Terrors 068 - The Fortress Of Solitude 069 - The Green Death 070 - The Devil Genghis 071 - Mad Mesa 072 - The Yellow Cloud 073 - The Freckled Shark 074 - World's Fair Goblin 075 - The Gold Ogre
!Standard Spoiler Alert!
There's no such a thing as a Doc Savage spoiler as you either figure out who's the bad guy soon enough or it doesn't really make a difference which day-player gets the nod. It might even be better to know so you can judge how well "Kenneth Robeson" handled said ne'er-do-wells from the start. And the plots? Is it even possible to remember these plots to any extent?
051 - Mad Eyes:
One Line Review: Bad yet glorious train wreck of "things" happening
"Suddenly the air was filled with a thousand glistening reptiles. Suddenly Doc Savage became the cruelest of mass murderers. Suddenly the world was threatened with extinction by the contamination of its water supply. In the space of twenty-four hours the Earth became a seething storm of agony as the menace of the slithering madness struck in all its fury!"
"Holy cow!" muttered Renny behind the crackling copper globes. "This is about the nuttiest set-up I ever encountered! Now what?"
Being a Lawrence Donovan ghostwrite, May, 1937's Mad Eyes could only be a glorious train wreck of gory gore, hapless happenings, gloomy gloom, convenient conveniences, unexplained unexplainables, and things that make no sense in situations only found in fiction. If television has taught us anything it's "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of Lawrence Donovan's tenuous grip on reality".
Standard Donovanisms are noted but layers of larger conceptual Donovanisms presented themselves and folded over into larger existential Donovanisms to create a transcendent nirvana state of Donovanism:
Chapter 1: Doc has eyes that shine "like flakes of polished copper". Not gold, copper. Later they're described as dull copper and bright copper. This might be explained in Chapter 9 when the two Doc Savages meet, but the same mistake is immediately made.
Chapter 2: Monk and Ham are in a car that flips over and travels fifty yards on its roof before righting itself at the last moment so they can drive again. Ham is "bruised and scratched in several places". No word on Monk. No mention of seat belts or what happened to ape & pig in the back seat.
Chapter 3: Ham hears Doc's trilling and says "That sounds like him, and yet it isn’t exactly the same!". "But something warned Ham to proceed with caution" and he unsheathes his sword cane.
Cannot visualize this: "The big chemist whipped out the superfiring pistol which looked like a small drum with a tube sticking out of one side."
Chapter 5: No idea why this happens: "Johnny was close to the professor. He whipped suddenly upon him. But the professor was quick. He sprang nimbly up the hill."
Chapter 9: Doesn't explain how he knew they only wanted to capture him: "Now that Doc’s double had appeared and vanished, the bronze man was surrounded by a throng of men. They were closing in from all sides. Doc was fully aware it was their purpose to capture him. The bronze man deliberately refrained from fighting."
Why would they let him keep it?: "The whole situation was baffling. It was even more so because of the thoroughness with which the bronze man had been disarmed. Even his bullet-proof skullcap with its bronze hair had been removed."
Error in bold: "Doc Savage waited. Little whirlpools stirred briefly in his gold eyes. He could see the eyes of the other man. They, too, appeared to be of bright copper. The light made whirlwinds show in the middle."
Chapter 10: Doc saved at the last second by an East River dredge barge conveniently pulling away the grate holding him back from escaping an old sewer.
Chapter 11: Why is fake Doc talking like a street character in front of people who know Doc Savage personally?: "You damn big lummox!" shouted the bronze man. "Whyn’t you look whatcher doin’?"
Chapter 18: "The bronze giant turned his head. Every feature marked him as the long-absent Doc Savage. If this was the man who had hypnotized Jane Davidson, the young woman indeed had good reason for accusing the bronze adventurer.
Without moving his lips, the bronze man gave forth a faint, eerie trilling. This was a mistake. Johnny spoke. He knew instantly that trilling had a distinctly wrong note."
There's a slide built into the rock mountain and Renny comes down as if on cue: "ONE side of the rock pillar opened. The men in the stocks could see that this was really something like a spiral slide. It must have come into this lower room directly from the observatory above. It was much like fire-escape apparatus."
No idea what this means in bold: "NOT in a long time had the giant engineer had so many targets for those smashing fists. He seemed to have only one purpose: That was to reach the big man who apparently had been impersonating Doc Savage.
"Holy cow!" boomed Renny. "You will go around lookin’ like Doc!"
Chapter 19: The real Doc Savage instantly hypnotizes the fake Doc Savage during a loud action sequence to mouth silent words that the real Doc then makes come out of the fake Doc's mouth by ventriloquism.
List of other things: Doc, Monk, and Renny have perfect doubles that fool everyone, even close up for prolonged periods; Doc disguises himself as Renny and fools all; fake Doc - "He had been an actor—possibly a bad one—for many years. And he was built for the part."; Fake Doc possesses the skill to perform Doc's nerve manipulation and has Doc's exact body; contact lenses are called "metallic shells" because Donovan doesn't want to give anything away so he makes constant references to having people's foreheads rubbed; why do they want Doc's bones?; there's a ray that stops aircraft engines and one to ignite their gas tanks; "The Voice" talks from hidden locations; Doc is tied up to be killed by rats for some unexplained purpose and there's this line "I could dispose of you now, but there must be no marks"; how does Jane Davidson know Doctor Anstratton?; and most of all - what is happening and why is it happening?!
Inspector Higgins is on hand to be in a constant state of huff, hysterics, and scene-chewing high dudgeon. His catchphrase is "Well! Well! Well!" but he's also good for a "Hooey!", "My good gosh!", and "Great Scott!" A typical line is "We ain’t resortin’ to nothin’ but the hoosegow for Doc Savage, if we can catch up with him!". Whatever comic relief he provides fades quickly but Donovan was good with this:
INSPECTOR HIGGINS was jotting down many notes. What these meant, he probably did not know himself...
Inspector Higgins was writing furiously in his notebook. If he knew what he was putting down it was a miracle...
Inspector Higgins left the scene in disgust and went back to headquarters. There he tried to make something out of the notes he had written. They were so badly scribbled they made little sense. After he got them straightened out, they made less sense.
The last act takes place at Cragrock Sanitarium, a setting out of Frankenstein, run by the cackling mad scientist Doctor Anstratton, as bad a character as he is a "good" bad character:
"Doctor Anstratton replied with his high, cackling laugh."
This man laughed with a malicious chuckle. One shoulder twisted much higher than the other. This shoulder was the controlling feature in the life of Doctor Josiah Anstratton.
Doctor Anstratton undoubtedly owned one of the world’s most remarkable brains. Perhaps if he had been normal physically, his mind might not have become warped as it was.
But as he walked, Doctor Anstratton tried to make it appear that the lower shoulder was as high as the other. This gave him the appearance of a hobbling dwarf. But he was a tall man.
Nothing makes sense in Mad Eyes. Mysterious things happen, and plain old things happen, but while the reveal of "air cars" and "metallic shells" qualify as explanations they're so removed from the goings on of the story you might write off the experience as a fever dream. Ham in the park, cars flipping over a lot, the surreal repetition of questions and multiple questions in the same breath, six opening chapters of the same routine, and the last act one big crescendo of insanity that demands a pipe organ soundtrack. Thus ends this incomplete list of things Lawrence Donovan's mind hocked up for Mad Eyes.
The one positive thing Mad Eyes has going for it is the scene where Doc is tied up in a tenement basement room filled with hungry rats:
A few times the small light in the ceiling went out. When this happened, there was a rush of, many small bodies. Then the rats permitted their hunger to overcome their fear of a human presence.
But this torture wasn’t quickly over with. Rather, it was prolonged. Each time the ceiling light went out, it remained dark for a few seconds. When it flashed on again, the squealing rats retreated. This torture of the prisoner had continued for hours...
In their place were the green eyes of the gray rats, who still scurried about. They only awaited the extinguishing of that light in the ceiling....
Here his arms and wrists were in the darkness. It required the maximum of will power to keep his arms there.
Great rats attacked in this dark space. Their edged teeth sliced into the rawhide thongs. They did not miss the flesh. But to the rats, the hide of the binding cord was an unusual delicacy. Doc had remembered that hordes of rats live around tanneries. They are an evil all tanners must combat.
The rawhide thongs went first. Doc’s massive arms did not escape. When his hands at last broke free, blood was pouring over his fingers. He got the thongs off his legs in record time.
But as he heaved himself from the floor, the little light went out. Immediately, the blood-crazed rats were upon him. They sprang upward and clung with teeth and claws. Doc could not see his horde of enemies. He could fight them only when they struck.
The man of bronze got across the dark cellar. He had fixed the position of the stone steps ascended by his double. On these steps, he was able to beat back the rats a little better.
"You are correct, Johnny," advised Doc. "Professor Spargrove had been experimenting with this idea for years. We succeeded in creating what might be called a supermicroscope. When the cosmic rays and high voltage of the magni globes were inducted into the special finders, which were made into metallic shells for the eyes, millions of microbes were enlarged many thousands of times."
"It would seem so," stated Doc. "Invention of these air cars would have made them millions, but they were not satisfied with mere wealth. These cars are a type of Super-Diesel, which draws nearly all of its energy from the stratosphere. They are held to steel rails by magnetic belts rather than by the flanges of wheels."
Few men could discover when anger came uppermost in Doc Savage. His calm control was always perfect. Yet now he was seething inside.
"Regardless of your disguise," said Doc, "I shall know you instantly when we meet again. In your case I shall have several items to remember."
The great fists of Doc Savage were like invisible flying circles. Men fell all around him.
Monk’s long arms lifted a hundred and fifty pounds of fairly good-looking woman from the bushes.
[The least long-worded thing Johnny ever spoke since he was yoked with this verbal affectation] "I fear we would have to resort to some obscure occultism," supplied the long-worded Johnny.
[How you know it's not Doc Savage] The radio speaker under the dashboard of the car still whined out the call for Ham and Monk. It sounded like the voice of Doc Savage.
Ham stood, staring stupidly at this manifestation. Out of the churning water arose a long, slimy head. It was followed by a score of others. Then it seemed to Ham there were hundreds of ugly heads with blobby, bright eyes.
Forked tails lashed through the water. Monstrous creatures came to life. One with a score of protruding necks seized upon another. Somehow, all of the necks succeeded in swallowing the other monster, dividing it into parts.
Onto the grass crawled long, serpent-like bodies. They had forked tongues. Then some seemed to sprout wings. They were attacking each other. Wide mouths gaped. Into these disappeared some of the monsters.
Now the air was filled with writhing, terrible bodies. All around Ham the sun must have disappeared. For he was in the midst of great, pudgy beasts. These flew without wings. Some came close.
Ham yelled loudly. He struck with his sword cane. He did not have time to draw the blade. For his whole body was being enveloped by hideous creatures.
Still the pond was a whirlpool of battle. When Ham’s sword cane struck one of the flying beasts, the creature simply divided into separate parts. Each part became a new hydra-headed monster.
"Good gosh!" he exploded. "With all them infernal machines this Doc Savage has got in there to torture people, he should have been put in jail a long time ago! I never saw such contraptions! But from now on he ain’t goin’ to do no experimentin’ on good an’ law-abidin’ citizens!"
The ugly, squat fellow who had been enacting the role of Monk picked up the body of Sam Simpson. The elevator was some twenty floors from the alleyway basement. Sam Simpson must have turned over a dozen times before all of his bones were broken at the bottom.
Mad Eyes is neither unreadable nor something you have to read for the experience, as with The Fantastic Island. It's a disjointed collection of "things" and you should credit Lawrence Donovan for at least being ambitious. It might not be far off to assume he had no idea what he was writing or why he was writing it. That it's coherent at all could be its greatest triumph.
052 - The Land Of Fear:
One Line Review: A horrible book and punishing to work through
"The skeleton death awaits all who come in contact with those from the land of fear — and the Man of Bronze is not immune. He and his dauntless allies pursue the mystery from New York to Africa, doing battle with Greens Gordon all the way."
The "treasure" of book #52 was reworked for the superior #76 (The Flaming Falcons), the earlier story birthing the goofy name of "Rubberkak" for a cactus-hybrid plant that can yield rubber on US soil. June, 1937's The Land Of Fear is a horrible experience and punishing to work through as it's badly written, too long, and filled with nonsense and conveniences. Harold A. Davis wrote it with co-writing clean-up by Lester Dent, who had to know it was horrible but either didn't care or didn't care to due to professional courtesy. There's so much wrong he'd have to destroy most traces of Davis' ideas to make it work.
A nice thing to say about The Land Of Fear is that there's an old fun house (called a "crazy house") where Doc gets into unexpected troubles at every turn. It's overkill and filler halfway in when he, Monk, and Ham return soon enough for a whole other series of thrills and spills.
Deus ex machina is in full effect and battles with Absurdity and Improbability for domination. Why is Doc taking a yacht to Africa if he's in a rush to get there? Why are the bad guys taking a yacht if they're in a hurry? How does a barge with no crew get filled with explosives so quickly? How did they get concrete mixed on a small island to trap Doc in it? And what about the time and logistics to set the trap? How did Doc disguise himself as someone else almost instantaneously? Why do they alternate trying to kill Doc and keeping him alive? There's more of this below (a partial list) but most aspects of The Land Of Fear are weak and it's one of the worst Doc Savage books. It's also proof positive Street & Smith didn't care much beyond printing something while Lester Dent let this turd go by with barely a polish.
Doc had been accustomed to using a type of anaesthetic in his gas bombs that acted instantly and could be avoided by holding the breath for a few seconds. That secret had been printed in the newspapers, and criminals knew about it.
So he had substituted a gas that remained in the air longer, until it was impossible for any normal person to hold the breath longer and still was effective.
The tablet Doc had given the girl and had placed in his own mouth had been invented by the bronze man long before. They gave off oxygen, absorbed the waste material expelled in the breath, and permitted breathing without using either mouth or nose.
[Credulity strained] A small, oblong object, apparently of steel, rolled down the incline ahead. Doc snatched a peculiar-appearing cloth from a bench, grabbed the oblong object, wrapped it in the cloth, tossed it in one corner.
There was a muffled explosion...
"I wrapped the bomb in a particularly powerful type of steel cloth. It prevented any damage and muffled the explosion." The man of bronze didn’t add that the cloth was of his own devising, for use in bulletproof undergarments.
[Weak] "When you entered the door," Doc said, "you stepped on tiny, almost invisible steel shavings. Those shavings were short, but needle sharp; they pierced the leather of your shoe instantly and covered it like a paste. It would be necessary to remove the leather sole to get rid of them, they are imbedded so firmly. The rest was simple—merely an electric magnet."
"Of course." Intelligence dawned in Spotfield’s eyes. "A powerful electric magnet under the floor, and right by the door, would grip the steel, and since thousands of those small shavings are in my shoes, the force was enough to keep me from moving. All you had to do was to set the magnet to working."
[A fake substance] "You have heard of radidite?"
"It’s a rare stone discovered recently in South America," Doc explained. "Seemingly it has some of the properties of radium, hence its name. But it has no medicinal qualities, and its rays do not burn. However, certain substances, or metal alloys, are highly sensitive to it.
"There are few pieces of radidite in the country, except those I have obtained. I simply dropped a small piece of it into a pocket of each man in the gang I could get close to. The compass has a needle of sensitized alloy inside a partial vacuum. Consequently it swings toward radidite, and indicated to me that some of the gang was approaching."
[When silly crosses into dumb. Why wasn't the water checked when everything else was?] "I told him—as you two were told—to use nothing but these paper cups to drink from," the bronze man went on.
"The paper cups are lined with an oily compound, an antidote for any alkaline poison, and alkalines are usually used in cases of this kind because they are readily soluble in water.
"There is enough antidote in any of these cups to prevent a fatality. Then it is easy enough to take more and bring recovery."
[A nice bit for a film] "Have you ever known fear?" she asked.
Doc Savage’s gold-flecked eyes looked at her without change of expression. Monk’s mouth dropped open. Ham smiled slightly.
"I’ve heard the word," Doc Savage said simply.
Doc caught her as she fell and slapped her smartly across the face. The bronze giant was never cruel, but he knew the only way to handle a case such as this. Kind words would have brought only additional hysteria. A shock was necessary, and he provided that shock.
The policeman scowled and turned back. Then he shrugged. The girl had said they wanted to see Doc Savage. That was a good sign.
[Oh... gosh] His orders were carried out briskly. The door to the bedroom opened. A giant walked out—a giant with a battered face, but with a sickly grin spreading across scarred features. His nose was twisted to one side.
The gangleader smiled. "Kill him?" he asked softly.
"I don’t think he’ll do much fighting for some time to come," the giant rumbled...
"The girl was hypnotized?" asked his companion.
"You asked for some mug who could put a single idea into a frail’s brain!" rapped Gordon. "I got yuh one. Dat broad didn’t have one idea except killin’ Doc Savage. You saw how it worked!"...
It had been a simple matter then for the bronze man to trade clothes with his victim. A master of make-up, he’d even transformed his face, so that it looked like that of the man he’d overcome. The deception had not been noticed in the speed of the get-away and the semi-gloom of the big van.
[Acts as a truth serum] A second fist came up. It opened palm wide and strong fingers pressed the nerve centers at the base of Gats’s brain.
[Code for rape?] "Think I’ll go in and see how our pretty lady is making out!" he snapped. "You stay out here and tip me off if any one starts to come. I think maybe that girl’ll enjoy a kiss."
"A crazy house." Gats’s voice was without expression or inflection. It was as if he was speaking while filled with truth serum.
"What do you mean, a ‘crazy house’?"
"It has two hundred rooms, a thousand doors, a dozen death traps."
Costa Tria had once been in a mine explosion. It had left his features terribly marked, but no more marked than his soul. If there was a good trait about him, none of his companions had ever discovered it.
Greens Gordon had found him in a breadline, had hired him. Greens was not a philanthropist; he hired only men who were as evil as he was—and that covered plenty of ground.
[The two drivers the same size as Doc and the woman] Virginia Jettmore rushed forward and would have darted from the house, but the bronze giant stopped her. Then he stripped the uniforms from the two chauffeurs.
The girl’s eyes flickered understandingly. Without hesitation, she changed into the uniform of the smaller man. Doc shifted as quickly, then dressed the two fallen men in the clothing he and Virginia had discarded.
[Slave owners moving to Africa to recreate the Old South is ironical] Virginia Jettmore’s fingers relaxed, she straightened in the seat, wet her lips. "You’ve heard of Genlee?"
Doc Savage nodded. "A settlement in Africa. Founded by a group of Southerners who fled the States when they saw the North was going to win the Civil War and did not intend to surrender."...
"Theah were about twenty families to begin with," Virginia Jettmore went on. "Theah were accompanied by some of their old-time retainers. They went to Africa, formed the town of Genlee. Originally, it was named aftah General Lee. But time and custom brought the contraction of the name."
"And time brought an increase in the population of your town, but the ways of the old South were always observed, even in costume and custom," Doc Savage prompted.
[Doc's apartment which sometimes exists] Swiftly, he walked to the small apartment he kept behind his elaborate offices.
[Doc's carrying three fire-retardant suits in his pocket] The bronze man whipped back down the corridor. As he ran, he pulled three tightly wrapped packages from an inner pocket. He unfurled these on the run.
"Quick," he rapped, "put these on! We’ve got to go through that room!"
Monk and Ham took the strange packages from their chief. They proved to be queer-looking garments, like union suits, but large enough to go on over their clothes. They seemed to be made of cellophane, were transparent and thin. The substance was a strange type of asbestos, perfected by Doc. With each suit was a hood that fitted tightly. Monk and Ham struggled into them. Doc donned his...
They didn’t feel the heat. The suits, constructed by Doc’s cunning skill, resisted almost any temperature. They were built so that an air pocket was formed between the clothing and the body, and were in effect like great, flexible vacuum bottles.
[How many forms do you need to know?] Doc motioned the two to follow and ran lightly down the blazing hall. Conversation was impossible. All communication had to be by motions. But Doc and his men were all adept at several forms of sign language.
[How you know he's alive. A major day-player and suspected bad guy is dead halfway through according to "evidence".] A skeleton was huddled in one corner of the room. Just a pile of bones and a grinning skull. And on one bony finger was an old-fashioned cameo ring—a ring of old Southern design.
"SPOTFIELD!" gasped Monk.
"And I had him picked as the villain!" said Ham.
[Doc brings a crew member so he can die almost immediately.] In the engine room they came upon Singleton, the Diesel expert whom Doc occasionally drafted into service as engine man when his aids were for some reason absent.
[Done on the fly] THE trap had been cleverly concealed. A shallow, wide trench had been dug along the entire length of the short beach. Into this had been poured a thin mixture of cement. Sand had then been scattered across the top and smoothed out.
The cement had thickened in an hour until it was almost like heavy tar. Doc’s feet had been caught firmly, and as he’d fallen, his entire body had become caked.
[There was nothing to use to make dummies] Then, doffing their outer clothing, they had rigged dummies to stand swaying over the concrete. The bullets from Gats’s machine gun had riddled only those dummies.
[Gordon could have just shot the guy dead right there.] "But what is the secret? What is the skeleton death?" Gordon kept yelling.
"Quiet!" snapped the flat voice. "I am tired of your bickering. Do you doubt me? Do you wish to see the skeleton death work again?" The voice dropped, became low and brittle. "Do you wish to have me try it on you?"
"No! No!" Gordon’s voice was a horrified scream.
[Once again no reason to be kept alive] Doc, Monk and Ham were bound quickly. Chemistry, the redoubtable ape, lay on the deck, lashed hands and feet. Even Habeas had this four diminutive hoofs tied stoutly with rope. Once more Doc and his men were helpless captives.
[Weep for Doc Savage] Ham took the wheel. Doc rubbed the back of Gordon’s neck. The racketeer’s eyes opened. His subconscious brain alone was working; he was under the influence of Doc’s weirdly powerful eyes. Doc asked no vocal questions; his eyes alone spoke, and the gangster answered.
[Weep for Doc Savage, again.] Doc’s voice was interrupted. There came a dull pop and the figure of the bronze man vanished. Once more that harsh, maniacal laughter rang out.
"You’re smart, Savage, but not smart enough!" he grated. "I suspected you inflated a balloon in the likeness of your figure. And every one knows you are a ventriloquist. But it didn’t work. I punctured your balloon."
Laughter, wild and unrestrained, filled the air.
["Rubberkak" is a silly fake word] "A plant which horticulturists have been seeking for years," the old man said proudly. "I have learned how to combine a hardy cactus plant with the moah delicate rubber plant. I have evolved a tree that will produce rubber in the United States."...
"Such a secret is worth millions," the bronze man was going on, almost unheeding Jettmore’s words. "A man could get his own price for a formula that would bring such a plant. Rubberkak. An almost priceless discovery. And you have the formula ready. You will permit me to take your great gift back to the United States?"
[Weak] On the sand beneath a tall palm lay a hideous, grinning skeleton....
"Phosphorus is right," the bronze man agreed. "I painted a skeleton on myself. As long as I had a bright light, the flashlight turned on me, it didn’t show, but when the flashlight went out I expect it did look as though I’d fallen a victim."
[At the time there was no mention of sprinklers] The bronze man had tested his theory when the skeleton killer had appeared at his headquarters in New York. Besides dropping the invisible shield, he had turned on overhead sprinklers. This had created so much moisture that the deadly weapon had been unable to do more damage.
The Land Of Fear is a book to wish on enemies, and if you lend it to someone they'll ask why you hate them.
053 - He Could Stop The World:
One Line Review: A fever dream of creative insanity
"The world was imperiled by a terrifying, malevolent force that had the power to change men's minds. Even Doc Savage's own men willingly deserted him when struck by the waves of the Mind Changing Monster. High in the Sierras, he lived in an incredible fortress -- ruthless, omnipotent, preparing to rule the world. But he hadn't reckoned on the superhuman powers of the Man of Bronze."
There's few things in life that feel better than finishing a Lawrence Donovan-ghosted Doc Savage adventure. Not starting one might be the smart move but there's something special about experiencing all kinds of pain and suffering and then it mercifully comes to an end. It's difficult to summarize a Donovan story as good or bad as they're more just manic episodes from a mind not well and fueled by substances that didn't improve matters.
On the plus side Lawrence Donovan always swings for the fences. Cataclysmic events pile on each other in an endless crescendo. There's an earthquake and a volcano! It's akin to Akira in how nothing is impossible and things gets exponentially weirder. Donovan takes every idea he has at the time and puts them all in the same story no matter how they fit (or don't). Rational explanations are for cowards. Continuity is for wimps. Planning and execution are for the weak. You read a Donovan book assuming nothing will make sense, and if you don't know what's going on it's not your fault. The thing to look for is when the story flies off the rails entirely, and that's when you joyously realize the problem is the book and not you.
Cosmic waves are responsible for mind control, mutant-sized crops and humans, impossible airships, being able to hear and see all, a blue vapor that turns people to ash, the complete control of all radio airwaves, rays that grab and moves objects, and burning snow. The crystal city with death-dealing moving walls might be something else entirely, but who knows. He Could Stop The World hit newsstands in July of 1937.
The bad guys are omnipotent and omniscient. Doc's hypnotic force battles another hypnotic force!:
The man of bronze was beginning to experience an inner satisfaction. He was successfully fighting off the hypnotic suggestion that he turn back. Also, he was controlling Long Tom.
This could have been shorter as the end battle was a marathon. Where did they get giant clothes? If anyone has a giantess fetish involving Pat Savage this one's for you. Why did the telescope guy die? How did the 10'/700 pound hillbilly get into Doc's car and plane? How did this get triggered?:
THE cage of rare tropical birds did not move. But from within its interior flashed a brilliant light. It had the effect of a lightning bolt being flashed before human eyes.
The tip-off on the evil mastermind came with this bit:
"If you should kill me now, Randolph," said the man in the red mask, "the others have instructions to carry on. They have done splendidly at times when I have been absent. You should now know more.
First it seems Ham's been shot. A few lines later it's only anesthetic gas, which Monk keeps in his hair because he's a large adult child:
Two old-fashioned revolvers appeared in the hands of the mountain men. One exploded, and Ham sat down with a queer expression on his lean face. Monk groaned.
Neither was wearing his bulletproof vest. They had started on what was intended to be a pleasure and business trip. The business had unexpectedly got rough.
Monk scratched his furry, red hair. Little pieces of glass capsules fell out. The capsules hidden in Monk’s hair had released a powerful anaesthetic gas.
In some respects, Monk was like a child. He had stuck the capsules there without much thought that he might need them.
[Complete BS that gas can be kept there without being accidentally released almost immediately] Long Tom had been slowly grinding his bony knees together. He was holding his breath. He thought grimly that it was to be regretted he could not warn Professor Archer...
Now the three men confronting Long Tom underwent a peculiar change of demeanor. All fell to the floor and started snoring. Long Tom’s lung capacity was not great. He got to the open window and fresh air.
An envelope of anaesthetic gas had been released by the pressure of his knees. This was a special anaesthetic which would put any man to sleep for an hour or more.
[For good reason this is hard to believe] Doc had flicked one of his feet. From under the toe of his shoe had snapped one of his most powerful devices. This was a high explosive bomb of miniature size.
It had been designed by the man of bronze along a new idea for explosive force. Its blast was effective only within a few feet of the object which it might strike.
But this did not prevent the big policeman from flopping his mouth open.
"Holy mackerel!" he jerked out. "There ain’t no such size man outside o’ a circus, an’ I don’t believe there’s one in a circus!"
[Evasive lawyer Doc Savage] "Who are you?" demanded the sergeant. "You couldn’t be this famous Doc Savage of whom we’ve heard?"
"I could be Doc Savage," said the man of bronze.
"You want me to come right away? I’m all dressed to go out! Where are we going? I hope it’s something terrible! When do we start?"
"Pat’s always getting into things that aren’t any of her business," declared Long Tom. "And why should we fool around with this Ann Garvin? I don’t like college professors, and I like them less when they go around making speeches on boxes."
[In a group not known for being likeable I guess Monk's the smiliest] With Ham was the ugliest and most likeable personage perhaps of all. He was Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, but because of his resemblance to the apes in the jungle, he was known as "Monk."
[???]"When they have Doc, he will become the world’s greatest giant," stated Ham. "I wish Patricia wouldn’t grow so fast, though."
Certainly these words did not make sense. Yet they must have seemed all right to Monk. For the time being he had no quarrel with Ham.
"If they make me into one of them giants, maybe Patricia will like me better," said Monk’s childlike voice.
[Is it possible to see stars from Union Square?] Near Doc and Long Tom a tall, pale-faced old man had taken up his stand. Before him a huge, long telescope was set upon a brass-legged tripod. The telescope pointed directly at one of the brightest stars.
[Guaranteed Minimum Wage For Artists - For and Against, circa 1937] "Not all of us were created for work!" she asserted. "I believe there should be provision made by society for support of all its creative artists—"
The pretty young woman’s idea of a workless era—presumably for the class now surrounding her—elicited ringing cheers. The flamboyant banners were jostled and shaken in encouragement....
"It’s all silly, ridiculous nonsense!" she cried out. "We cannot hope to accomplish anything in life without working for it! Suppose some are artistic, creative? If they cannot earn their own recognition, they do not deserve it—"
"That’s what we all want!" voices were shouting. "If we hope to get anywhere, we’ve got to work for it! Hey! Throw down the banners! We’ll face things like they are!"
Society should see that those who are creative are not forced to depend upon their own earnings.
"As the world’s dictator, I shall correct all evils and reform society in spite of itself. I am in a spot which none can reach. All the armies of the world could not touch me. It is to be regretted that a few persons must be injured and some must die, but that shall be for the greater good of humanity."
"Isn’t there any way you can reach him, Mr. Savage?" demanded Professor Archer. "This is sheer lunacy!"
"All known science cannot interfere with me,"
came the voice of Randolph. "I have the power to furnish light, heat and clothing for the world. I can produce food so none may ever go hungry. With this power, I shall serve as the world’s dictator until drouth and flood and depression have been removed from the earth."
[A football field is 300 feet. That's a large ship] "Four hundred feet long, if it was an inch, and looked like some kind of a silver fish," said the man. "Only when I was watching for it to take a dive, the thing went up, not down. And it had neither propellers or explosion tubes. It made no sound."
[Just go with it!] Though Doc had tossed it away, it was as if some invisible hand had caught it and tossed it back. Set to let go with terrific effect, the tiny, gleaming object now was falling to alight at their feet.
Long Tom knew what one of those grenades could do. The pallid electrician made a sudden leap for the edge of the glasslike roof. One of Doc’s cabled hands kept him from jumping.
"The grenade will not explode," stated Doc quietly. "I have every reason to believe the master wishes to keep us alive."
Long Tom shivered in Doc’s grasp. The man of bronze has outguessed the weird trickery of the mountain master. For the tiny grenade suddenly moved upward. It exploded with only a slight whooshing flare.
"I suspected something like that might happen," stated Doc. "I used a grenade from which the high explosive had been extracted."
"You mean making giant gardens and bigger men?"
"For some time they have had at the California Institute of Technology a small bottle of crystals they have named Auxin," advised Doc. "It has been proved there is enough of a new plant growth hormone in that bottle to increase the size of the world’s vegetable kingdom at least three times. It has been applied and tested."
"And if it could create giants of vegetable life," said Long Tom, "after all the chemical composition of plants and animals, including the human race, is about the same."
[I would have been a much nicer world dictator!] "Doc Savage!" screamed Professor Randolph, from his prison. "Don’t let them do it! They’ve stolen my power to enslave the world! What I meant to make all peoples better they will use to destroy, and murder, and plunder!"
Doc was looking into the room occupied by Ham and Monk. His own spine chilled a little. The crystal walls were moving together. They were coming with smooth, irrevocable crushing force upon the helpless Ham and Monk.
[Face palm and head shake] "When I first noticed Professor Archer twirling those gold eyeglasses around his finger," stated Doc. "Those glasses were his own transmitter for the great power of the wave into either mind control or the death by the blue vapor."
He Could Stop The World combined flasks of cheap alcohol with a personality disorder and elements of other Doc Savage novels such as The Monsters, The Fantastic Island, and Murder Melody, the latter also written by Donovan during a different lost weekend.
054 - Ost (paperback title: The Magic Island):
One Line Review: Indifferent storytelling with endless production notes
"By night, a fabulous city floats like a phosphorescent fantasy over the watery waste of the Pacific. The awestruck sailors who witness this miraculous sight find themselves gifted suddenly with superhuman powers. But by morning the phantasm — and its magic — have mysteriously vaporized. Stranger still, why are a certain crime kingpin and beautiful but ruthless heiress fascinated by the unearthly event? To come up — alive –with an answer, the Man of Bronze will need all his incredible cunning and towering strength."
"What’s the matter with you two silly-sallies?"
August, 1937's Ost is a rehash of 1933's The Phantom City and
probably just as good - not that either is a winner once it enters lost lands of
imagination fabrication. That and not much happens
in settings weighed down in endless production notes of looking around and
describing what you see in places that don't exist. Sci-fi and fantasy readers
love detailed descriptions of substance-"inspired" landscapes, so Ost will have
more appeal there. Otherwise you might not feel magically transported to magical lands so this
verbal magic is mostly padding. In general Ost's second half is a trudge
through the mud for the eyeballs.
Ost might contain the most unbelievable line ever found in Doc Savage as Ost is a primitive land in all ways:
It took the group almost three weeks of rather painstaking work to fashion new Diesel jets out of the materials at hand.
The reveal of the mystical appearances of Ost on the horizon and the space-shifting abilities of the Ostian wise man Goa are these science punts:
"Goa is a master of self-projection," the bronze man said...
"There is some trick to it!" the girl snapped.
The bronze man shook his head: "It is real enough in this case, apparently. Just how it is accomplished is beyond my present ability to explain. At any rate, it is known the brain definitely does set up tiny magnetic fields, and that nervous impulses are probably electrical in nature, so it is not absolutely impossible that the brain does send out impulses just as a radio station sends out ether impulses. Not the same kind, naturally."
"Science has been unable to explain many of the mysteries of the Orient," Doc Savage reminded.
(Among the mysterious feats of Hindu fakirs which science has been unable to explain is the one where the yogi floats unsuspended and unsupported in mid-air before the eyes of the observers. For many years, travelers have reported witnessing this impossible feat. For years, it was claimed by scientists that hypnotism was used. But within recent months actual pictures have been taken of the subject suspended in mid-air. Such pictures appeared in the Illustrated London News among other publications, and were reprinted in some magazines in the United States. While it may be possible to hypnotize an individual and make him think he was seeing something which was not happening, hypnotizing a camera is something else again.
For years, skeptics have laughed off these impossible feats of the yogis by saying that it was hypnotism since a camera photograph showed nothing. But the above instance definitely refutes this contention.—Kenneth Robeson.)
The first part of the story isn't bad and the hospital scenes and boat fight stand up well. It's when everything shifts to the jungles of New Guinea that plot sneaks out for a smoke while head-tripping takes over, painting images of creative randomness that layer themselves on top of each other while plot is at the dog track losing the rent money on a mutt named Crumbucket Magoo.
[Nice phrasing] They did this by taking Doc’s private speed elevator, a lift used only by the bronze man and his aids, and one which would not have been passed by the inspectors for public use simply because it operated at such a speed, that it would have been considered dangerous to individuals with weak physiques.
"He seems to be drugged," Johnny remarked. "How did it happen?"
By the time Doc Savage had explained the needle in the beard, and touched briefly on the fundamental urge which seems to dwell within every human being to grab the whiskers of a foe, immediately he gets in a fight with one, they had reached the hotel.
"Women apparently are driven irresistibly to seize hair when in a conflict," Doc expounded. "A beard seems to offer the same temptation to a man."
[The Phantom City used the submarine Helldiver] The most interesting object, however, was probably the small demountable dirigible which Doc Savage had lately acquired, an all-metal craft which was not large, but which was the only one of its kind inexistence.
It had only two motors, and one small cabin, enclosed within the gas bag. It had a high speed, and was small enough that it could be used to land men in a jungle, for instance, simply by tossing out a grappling hook which would snag a treetop. Moreover, it was stout enough that it could stand a good deal of banging around without damage.
[Grotesque and not possible] Doc Savage rested his metallic hands on the desk. The bronze skin on the hands were smooth and fine-grained, and the tendons, when movement caused them to spring out, were hard cables nearly as large as an ordinary man’s fingers.
[Doc has a thing for bringing up spanking] "I’ll make you wish you had!" the young woman snapped. "Perhaps you don’t know just who I am?"
"You are a young woman who was not spanked often enough when she was little," Doc Savage replied earnestly. "And you have too much money."
The bronze man had an aggravating habit of not seeming to hear queries which, for one reason or another, he did not desire to answer. This had a connection with his custom of not letting his aids know what he was doing, frequently, when he worked alone.
[Fist Science!] The two sprang upon each other. Both seemed fully confident of an immediate victory. They strained, grunted, and clothing tore. They tripped, went to the deck.
Their fighting styles were vastly different. The big, dark fellow used fist science. The other felt about with snaky fingers, twisting a joint here, punching a nerve center there. Jujutsu. Skilled, too.
Suddenly, the giant with the pigeon-egg eye commenced to demonstrate that he also knew jujutsu. He was, indeed, the other’s master at the tricky joint-cracking, nerve-punishing science. His foe emitted a sudden squall of pain, after which he could barely move...
The Benny Boston sailors were tough lads who knew all about fighting, or thought they did. After they had been mixing with the big, dark fellow for a few seconds, they began to conclude there were things they didn’t know.
Men suddenly found themselves on deck, paralyzed, and not knowing in the least just what had happened to them. Those who got hold of the foe frequently thought some one had introduced iron bars the size of arms and legs in the fight.
"Only mental defectives do not get scared," Doc Savage said. "Fear is a normal emotion. If you do not feel it, you are not normal."...
"Bravery is the power of determination that pushes you toward a goal when the natural instincts of fear urge you to turn back."
They knew Doc. He would not look especially concerned if he were falling out of a plane without a parachute.
SOME men might have agreed with her, but Doc Savage had acquired restraint, and moreover, was afraid of women. If not afraid, he at least considered them too difficult, one never knowing what they would do.
Renny looked moderately cheerful, which was bad, considering that the better things went, the more gloom he would register.
Renny did not often put his foot down so vehemently. Moreover, when he sat in a corner and cracked walnuts in his huge fists, it was convincing, somehow. They were not English walnuts, but the black ones, the thick-hulled kind.
Johnny was addicted to his amazing words on most occasions, but when he was alone with Doc Savage, he did not use them.
For Johnny, it was a marked token of respect to the bronze man, or possibly he was afraid of misusing some of his tongue-twisters, which it was to be suspected he did occasionally, although no one had ever caught him.
The gaunt geologist had been a little flippant for a few moments, which was vastly unlike his usual self. It must have been some after effect of the blow, or perhaps his real nature had loosened up for a moment and asserted itself. At any rate, he was getting his dignity back now.
[Doc knows more about Johnny specialty than he does] Gaunt Johnny, the archaeologist, put in, "Head-hunters?"
"Probably. Some of the few remaining head-hunters in the world are in this district."
"You shyster!" Monk squeaked, in a small child’s voice. "Some day I’m gonna cram you all into one shoe!"...
"You stick with that," Monk promised, "and I’ll take you by the neck and wind you up like a clock."...
"Any more argument out of you," Monk stated, "and I’ll pop you so hard your spirit will have a heck of a time locating your body again!"
[Not true] Those who knew him very well, or could outrun him, called him "Ham." He did not like the nickname.
[A typical Doc Savage reader] A dreamer, this Ben Brasken. Not a student. Not a wise man. He read a lot, though. Most of his reading was simple stuff about heroes who were everything Ben Brasken was not. None of it was deep. What he read went in one eye and out the other. At any rate, he was kind of a dumb cluck.
[Really?] Two jackleg foreign noblemen had sued her in the courts, claiming she had promised to marry them. She had started a transatlantic flight. Her pilot had tried to drown them both by diving into the sea when she refused to wed him at the end of the flight. She was what is known as dynamite.
The rat guard was turned so as to keep the rats on shore, but it would have been more appropriate the other way, rats being much more plentiful on the old steamer than on shore.
THE unexpected, even at its mildest, is startling. A man who almost steps on a mouse may jump only a little less mildly than if he had stepped on a jungle lion.
The proprietor seemed all right. He could not have any Chesterfield manners and run a place like this.
[Heckle and Jeckle are now assaulting each other?] BY the time they met Doc Savage in San Francisco, Monk and Ham were not on speaking terms. Each looked slightly bruised, and their clothing had a few tears. It was to be suspected they had come to blows. It was a strange feud they carried on, considering that each would lay down his life for the other.
[An old newspaper in a lounge means everyone now would know what they look like?] There was a reason for their keeping under cover. Long Tom, taking a constitutional the first night out, when every one but the watch on duty had turned in, had come upon an old newspaper in the bedraggled lounge. In it was an article about Doc Savage and pictures of the bronze man and his five aids.
That meant Doc and his party would be recognized as soon as they did any extensive promenading. So they had kept in.
[Call-back to previous story] "Reminds me of the time we found some prehistoric monsters in a volcanic pit," Monk muttered uneasily. "Boy, did they show us a time!" (The Land of Terror)
[The recurring joke of the series] "I got an idea," Monk whispered.
"Treat it gently," Ham snapped. "It’s in a strange place. What is it?"
As with The Phantom City I'm mostly indifferent to the proceedings and each good part in the opening is balanced out by something I couldn't possibly care less about later on.
055 - The Feathered Octopus:
One Line Review: A lot to like but needs tightening and correction
"Lured into a trap by a bogus appeal to his sense of goodness, Doc Savage saw a dangerous plot to gain control of all the world’s airlines. But the monstrous financial manipulator High Lar, his wife Lo Lar and their gang hadn’t counted on the superhuman strength and cunning of the Man of Bronze to uncover their evil plan!"
It's too bad The Feathered Octopus peters out instead of remaining a fairly interesting telling of a Doc Savage story. You first have to gloss over the opening impossibility of Doc not seeing through a costume and acting job:
Among the bystanders was Tobias Weaver. Only he did not look the feeble, old Tobias Weaver now, for his hair had become dark, and his carriage upright and wiry. He was just a man, aged thirty-five or so, who had a very wrinkled countenance, and also a great facility with acting.
Or falling for this:
Out of the bed came the "boy." No boy at all. A grown man, with a tiny face which artful disguise had made into the visage of a dying tike. Where his body had lain in the bed, the mattress was hollowed out; and the form that had shown under the covers was only a dummy of the type which ventriloquists use. The man sprang away from the bed.
What makes this pulp from September, 1937 fun are the touches of humor, background, and observation. Doc has a heart as big as a red sofa pillow, and just as soft. Doc protects Pat because she has to keep the family name alive by birthing half-Savage babies, as if Doc will never contribute to that cause:
Pat was also the cousin of Doc Savage, and his one living relative, as far as the bronze man knew. Beyond himself, she was the one survivor of the remarkable Savage strain, and he wanted it to go on. That was why Doc always tried to protect Pat from danger. He did not belittle her ability to aid him and his strange group of aides. The contrary.
Pat was invaluable in her way. But Doc did not want her to face the dangers which threatened himself and his men. He did not want her life to end. And now, when Pat was in undoubted danger, he was taking the course which seemed best to guarantee her safety.
There's a great scene with an actor named Shakespeare pumped with truth serum. Long Tom is the featured aide and he's not only assigned the female day-player to fall in love with he's also in competition with Johnny. Johnny and Long Tom go gaga over the same woman for no apparent reason except that they do, but it's a nice change from the usual Monk & Ham HR debacle:
The bronze man, without saying so in as many words, gave the idea that he did not want Johnny and Long Tom exchanging sharp words. With Monk and Ham it was different. They always quarreled—and didn’t mean a bit of it.
But Johnny and Long Tom were of different types, and if they got to exchanging digs, irked at each other because both had an eye on the entrancing Lam Benbow, something difficult might develop. The association of these five men and their bronze chief was not one that would stand dissension.
A comedy highlight of the series is Lam Benbow thinking Long Tom is a crook as she marches him at gunpoint to the 86th floor:
Long Tom, who hadn’t been enjoying the affair, stuck out his jaw and said, "If you two ninnies don’t want your ears knocked down, you’d better cut this out!"
Renny and Johnny sobered promptly. Long Tom was a peculiarly serious-minded runt, and it was not always good to rib him too much. A fact not to be overlooked was that Long Tom, who did not look a fit opponent for a fifteen-year-old boy, was a wild cat in a fight. Neither Johnny nor Renny cared to take him on. So they grinned sheepishly.
Which is paid off in another highlight:
Long Tom came in—Long Tom, whose harmless appearance caused him to be elbowed about by almost any one on the street. Benbow drove a fist.
Long Tom weaved, let it go past. He hit Benbow and Benbow lay down, and Long Tom got on top of him; then they went over and over on the floor, making noises somewhat like a matched cat and dog.
Renny straightened up. Johnny got off the floor. They looked at the fight, glanced at each other, and grinned wryly.
"Stop it!" the girl cried. "Burke will hurt your friend!"
"Sh-h-h!" Renny said. "Watch!"
There was a good deal of blurred motion on the floor, punctuated with meaty fist smacks, the ripping noises of clothing being torn; and then Burke Benbow flew out of the mess, hit the wall, met Long Tom’s fist when he bounced, went down with the deceptive-looking electrical wizard on top of him.
And Lam Benbow was yelling, "Stop it! You’re hurting Burke!"
Burke Benbow is High Lar in disguise, evident fairly quickly as Dent repeatedly states nobody knows what High Lar looks while also shoving Burke into every other scene acting a little too interested in the proceedings. Near the end you get this thought not once but twice so you know Doc knew the truth:
Lo Lar’s exquisitely shaped face was thoughtful. "I have thought at times that Savage knew who you were," she said.
"Impossible. Why would he ever come here from New York, bringing me?"
Lo Lar said again, "I still cannot help thinking that Doc Savage knows who you are, Burke."
"Impossible, I tell you!" Benbow snorted. "Knowing my identity, do you think he would have taken the chance of having me along?"
The Feathered Octopus moves along at a nice clip until Chapter 14 (of 17) when the story lands in a violent storm on a tropical island and production notes and B-Roll take over to add words at the expense of content. As a plot point the giant octopus kept as a pet comes out of nowhere and is as juvenile as it is random. Reading it you might think "It's this now?"
Lo Lar is a master villain with an iron will that defies large doses of Doc's truth serum, so this at the end is as unbelievable as Doc falling for the con in the opening:
Then Lo Lar recovered—and showed just how changed she was. She called Doc to her and explained that, as High Lar’s widow, she had inherited the man’s vast personal possessions. And High Lar, as the bronze man and his aides discovered by examining his records, was even more powerful financially than they had realized.
But Lo Lar, his widow, broken in spirit, stated that she wanted to turn everything over to the bronze man to be returned to the former owners.
That startling act on the part of Lo Lar had changed Doc’s aides’ attitude toward her somewhat. And she had made it easier by volunteering, once she heard about Doc’s "criminal curing" institution, to become a patient. That was rather desirable, Doc admitted.
The apparatus, among other things, consisted of two large reels of fine steel wire. The reels were geared so that the wire passed slowly between the poles of a powerful electromagnet. The contrivance, in fact, was a device for magnetically recording sound on wire.
"Holy cow!" he boomed. "We might ask Iron Mary what has been going on around here!"
"Sure, ask Iron Mary," Long Tom agreed.
"Iron Mary" was the nickname they had applied to the mechanical device which recorded all conversation, stenographer fashion, on the wire.
TEN minutes later they were in one of Doc’s cars, a long sedan, headed for Stormington. The sedan, outwardly notable for nothing except unusual size, had such hidden features as armor plate and bulletproof glass construction, oxygen apparatus so it could remain sealed for hours with men inside, if needed, as well as gas equipment of its own, including a form of gas which would choke and stall the motor of any pursuing machine.
Gliding up the gangplank into the Oahu, Doc and his men were bulky of figure. For they were incased in body armor, including helmets which protected even their heads. Nothing less than high-powered rifle bullets would damage them.
Doc Savage indicated a device on the highly complex instrument panel. Briefly he explained what it was—a sonic height-above-the-earth recorder, working on the same principle as the sounding devices used on seagoing ships. A sound was sent to the bottom, was reflected back, and the interval measured electrically.
[Foiled by a combination lock] Doc’s fingers explored the padlock; he had studied locks and could pick almost any of them. But this one was possibly the only type that would defeat him, a good combination type; instead of opening with a key, one made a combination with a knob.
The bronze man showed by his unease that he was in a situation with which his remarkable training had not prepared him to cope. Doc was a scientific product, in a sense; but science had failed to do one thing: it had failed to put a shell around his heart.
Doc Savage, who possessed a source of limitless wealth in a valley in the Central American wilds, frequently dabbled with high finance and industry. Often he had taken over decrepit steamship lines, factories, once even a railroad, and reorganized the systems, inaugurated higher wages, put the loafers to work, trimmed the deadwood, increased employment and profits together.
To work with freedom, Doc had found it necessary to buy controlling amounts of the stock before beginning operations. He usually paid market price for the stock, and sold it back to the former owners—those whom the bronze man felt were entitled to it—at what he had paid for it originally. Of course, the stock was worth much more when Doc resold it.
Out of the back pack, Doc drew a compact micro-wave radio transmitter and receiver, one of the type of portable outfits which broadcasting companies use for so-called man-on-the-street programs, only a great deal more compact. Earphone and transmitter were one piece, like European style telephones. The rest of the instrument was, in fact, a part of this headpiece.
[Nice] "You touch her and you will not see your wife, Lo Lar again," the bronze man interrupted. "Do not make the mistake of doubting me. You have my word on that."
A brittle arrogance which the distant voice had carried now collapsed somewhat.
"I know enough about you, Savage," High Lar said, "to know you would not kill a woman."
"Who said anything about killing? Lo Lar will undergo a brain operation which will wipe out every memory of you. Then she will be taught to hate you and everything you represent."
There was a long silence.
"Then we shall have to see what develops," the voice said.
The receiver went down at the other end.
Monk opened his mouth to say that it was probably Benbow’s sister who Johnny really thought was all right, but he reconsidered and held his peace. Johnny did not fall in love very often, and it was not safe to kid inexperienced fellows, especially long professorial knowledge tanks like Johnny, about their affections.
"Gosh!" he said. / "Great Danes!" Long Tom exploded. / "Whew!" said Long Tom. / "Oh, boy!" said Long Tom. / "Swell!" gasped Long Tom.
The electrical wizard’s circle of friends would have been astonished at what was happening, for Long Tom had never been susceptible to feminine wiles, and certainly he had never been a courteous gentleman given to gallant remarks.
As for Long Tom himself, if he was conscious of incongruity about his ogling admiration for a young woman who was gouging his lower right rib with a gun, he gave no sign...
Long Tom smiled pleasantly at her. This was something that he found very easy to do, and, moreover, the source of various little tickling sensations which he felt here and there, to his pleasant surprise.
Monk, insisting at every opportunity that nobody but a snob could feel at home in such a chariot, insisted on taking his dilapidated old flivver, which rattled a great noise when moving, and for which he had paid a hundred dollars.
"Great grief, Monk," Ham yelled, drawing alongside Monk’s old wreck, "what part of that car of yours makes such an awful noise?"
"That?" Monk grinned at Ham’s seven-thousand-dollar vehicle. "Why, that’s the six thousand nine hundred dollars jingling in my pocket!"
"This is Sunday," Monk said grimly, "which is all that keeps me from knocking you loose from your teeth."
He had a voice like a political campaign loudspeaker.
"Yeo-o-o-w!" Renny howled, and pigeons flew off roofs for blocks around. "We’ve got Doc located!" he added more quietly.
"Gosh!" said the taxi driver, staring at Pat. "Is she—er, did she have one too many to drink?"
"She’s positively polluted," said Renny.
[Asexual Renny cannot fathom] "You’d think," Renny rumbled to Doc, "that those two would know better. Look at Johnny, skinny as a fence rail and using such words that the girl don’t know half the time what he’s talking about. And Long Tom! Alongside Long Tom, for health, a mushroom would look like a red apple."
And if the air was ever wine for man to breathe, it was wine this day.
[The ever-changing process of meeting Doc Savage] And as soon as he had asked for Doc Savage, he was shown to an elevator which stood apart from the others. Apparently a private elevator. The door closed and the cage went up—but only one floor.
The elevator door opened, and stepping out, the old fellow found himself in a long, narrow hallway. He stood at one end of this hallway, and at his right hand, arranged along the wall, were comfortable chairs occupied by numerous types of people...
Some of the visitors wanted gifts of money. These got rather short treatment, which included being handed a slip bearing an address where they could get a job of hard work with a living wage.
Others seemed to have an illness they wanted Doc Savage to treat, and these were also sent away with slips of paper bearing addresses where they could get treatment.
"What’s that?" Shakespeare yelled.
"Truth serum," Long Tom explained.
"We dose you with that," added Renny, "and you become a combination of George Washington and a phonograph."
 There was, had been for years, an airport in the shadow of Wall Street. Wealthy financiers used it for the planes in which they commuted from Long Island and Connecticut estates.
And finally they reached the police station, the main one, where they ran a barrage of more reporters. Doc Savage rarely gave out press interviews, but he was making an exception on the present occasion; and the men of the press were taking advantage of it.
The bronze man spent nearly thirty minutes answering questions, many of them not at all sensible, before he got into the police station.
[Trigger alert] Gundy shrugged. "Like an Oriental, as much as all Orientals look alike. He’s old. Thin. Hideous. You know how Orientals get when they grow old and have led a hard life. He’s just a skinny old devil, with a monster’s brain. Likes weird stuff.
[How to tell the opposite is true] "It looks like Gundy had really double-crossed High Lar," Long Tom said in satisfaction.
[Nope. Not following Doc's instructions leads to bad things] THAT ended the conversation, and Renny stared at the radiophone thoughtfully. Part of the successful coöperation which existed between Doc Savage and his five men was due to the freedom with which it was understood they could express opinions.
If they didn’t like a plan of Doc’s, they said so. And if they didn’t want to follow his commands, they were free to say so, although the latter rarely happened. They were men with intelligence to think for themselves. That accounted for their success.
There's a lot to like about The Feathered Octopus, including the weirdness of the title. The last four chapters need to be tightened and the stupid octopus should not be part of it. Make Tobias Weaver a real old man and the child in the bed a real sick child. Don't have Lo Lar volunteer for a lobotomy, and show how Lam Benbow interacts and reacts to Long Tom and Johnny so their interest in her is for a reason.
056 - Repel:
One Line Review: A generally fun read just for the characters that fill its pages
"Cadwiller Olden was only three feet tall, but he was the most dangerous man on Earth. With his legion of brutal giants, and control of REPEL — a massive, devastating energy force — the murderous midget began an all-out assault against the defenseless bastions of the free nations. As the entire world huddles in fear, Doc Savage battles against the bizarre doll criminal, and the unleashed fury of his deadly tool of destruction, REPEL! (Bantam retitled this novel The Deadly Dwarf)."
October, 1937's Repel was renamed The Deadly Dwarf for the 1968 Bantam reprint. The little person in question, Cadwiller Olden, is not a dwarf but a midget - or whatever we're allowed to say now. Olden generally takes second place to John Sunlight as the default Doc Savage nemesis, but Cadwiller is more entertaining and not the sniveling coward that was John Sunlight. Neither fight or do anything scary, but at least there's a scene in Repel where Olden pretends to be a kid named "Pete" to sabotage Doc's plane. The door was left open for Olden's return but it didn't happen. He's also a barely covert homosexual character - so that by itself has to be worth forty social justice points. Add the little person credits and Cadwiller gets the job of #1 Doc Savage villain!
Olden is one of a number of interesting characters populating Repel. The Sanctum reprint suggests he might not have been the main villain when the novel was first put together. The novel starts with this guy in a wonderful scene:
"Listen here," snapped newspaperman "Snowball" Eagan, "what are you driving at? Who are you, anyway? You haven’t told me your name, and I saw you duck when you saw a cop coming."
"I’m one of the most dangerous international criminals alive," the other man said calmly. "The Shanghai police are watching every road, steamship, railroad and airplane leaving Shanghai. I cannot get out of the city. My pal, Bert, got out. He was lucky. He is now on Fan Coral Island, and I’ve got to get there. The only way of getting there that I can see is to take your place. You newspapermen have a plane chartered which is leaving to-night for Fan Coral Island. The other newspapermen don’t know you very well, and I could easily get by as you."
Snowball Eagan, the newshawk, exploded, "But what is there on Fan Coral Island for a crook like you?"
"If that volcano has coughed up what I think it has, it will make a guy like me just about able to run things in this world," the international criminal said grimly.
"You’re crazy to tell me this," snapped Snowball Eagan, "because I’m not going to change places with you! You can’t bribe me!"
"I wasn’t going to bribe you," the other said.
With which he whipped up a knife and cut the unfortunate journalist’s throat as neatly as could be.
The newspaper plane left Shanghai that night and carried the fake Snowball Eagan.
Olden's bodyguard Nero is a keeper:
THE furniture in the room was big. Every piece must have been specially made. But the creature who stood in the place made the furniture look like doll stuff. He was about the color of a bottle cork that had been in a fire. One finger was off his left hand, and part of one ear was cut from his head. Something with an edge had left a gray gristle connection between his right eye and his mouth, and the eye did not look right. His chest was big enough to make his elbows stick out when he hung his arms. His mouth was open and there was no tongue in it.
He was the biggest human thing Snowball Eagan had ever seen.
Buddy and Bess Baldwin are a brother and sister team loyal to Cadwiller. She is against killing and her brother is sensitive to that:
The girl ran into the jungle and back. She had gotten the gun.
"Let him up!" Bess Baldwin said, and pointed the gun at Doc Savage.
Buddy Baldwin’s eyes fixed on his sister.
"Don’t!" he croaked. "He can kill me before he dies."...
Doc Savage released the man, but stayed a moment, considering something. Buddy Baldwin would not have died had the girl shot, not by any chance. Knowing what he had shown he did about fighting holds, there was not the slightest chance that Baldwin had not known that a shot from his sister would save him.
The Baldwins must have known what Doc was thinking. Buddy Baldwin said, very low, "She has never killed anybody."
Doc got up, walked to the girl and took her gun. She did not lift it.
Bess Baldwin looked relieved when he threw it far into the jungle without looking at it.
When they participate in the overthrow of their boss you expect it's nice people led astray seeing the light, but it's so much more horrifying. In Doc's normal "treatment" the bad guys get their memories erased and better new personalities are put in by who knows what means. Here they go away and come back quickly knowing everything they did before but now being against crime. Holy Hannibal Lecter! I was half-expecting after this bit below Doc walks behind them, grabs each Baldwin's hair, pulls off the top of their skulls cut like bowl lids revealing their brains to the air, and asks "Brain food anyone?" before laughing like a maniac:
Monk thus got around to asking the young lady something that had been bothering him. Bess herself broke the ice.
"When I think that myself and my brother belonged to that gang I am utterly horrified," she said earnestly.
Monk was no diplomat.
"Listen, when did you get around to changing your mind?" he asked.
"Didn’t you know?" Bess Baldwin showed surprise. "When Doc Savage got us the first time, he put myself and my brother through his college."
Repel is a generally fun read just for the characters that fill its pages. Halfway in there's a long stretch of run-and-shoot padding. The properties of the repel substance have no consistency so that's a McGuffin. Besides that Dent writes a number of great scenes and snippets. Ham asks "What’s up, Doc?" Moonshine is called "Ozark panther sweat". For Doc Savage, Repel is a classic. Compared to Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, maybe not so much.
The third member of the group was a formidable tower of a fellow who would weigh in excess of two hundred and fifty pounds—but if he had been built in proportion to his hands, he would have weighed in the neighborhood of a ton. It was doubtful if he could have put either fist in a gallon pail. He had a long, naturally gloomy face which would have been excellent stock in trade for an undertaker.
Ham, a.k.a. Fops Magoo:
It was quickly evident that the girl had about run herself out. She was slower even than Ham, who might have been fast, except that he invariably went around any bushes that might damage his immaculate clothing.
Monk’s apish physique gave him a strange, short-legged gait which made him seem in no hurry even when running at full speed.
[Monk's Meth Bars now w/ Taurine and Ginseng] There is a candy bar Monk invented, one with a chemical in it which keeps you from going to sleep. Monk will probably make a fortune selling it to truck drivers who make long hauls.
Monk hit a jaw. One of the victim’s teeth flew out and hit Monk in one eye. That fortune of war was probably his undoing.
"Doc!" Monk moaned. "He’s dead!"
The men who had carried Monk sprang upon him. They kicked him until they felt better.
[Normally he's in the He-Man Woman-Hater's Club] Long Tom had a weakness for slender girls.
The annoying Ham & Monk frenemy routine is as annoying as their pet proxies:
MONK and Ham were never together very long at any time without practically coming to blows. That exciting things might be happening around them made little difference with their quarrel. They had been known to lie in a frontline trench during a bombardment and pass the time by threatening to skin each other alive.
Johnny. Save your snotty affectations for later:
"Our comiciliary ambulations were ascendant!" Johnny said. "We—"
"This is no time for them words!" Renny boomed. "Doc, we found that native who tried to hold Monk up. He did not get away."
They had seen Doc walk past as many as five chessboards, crowded with men, and when the pieces were swept off, return and place each not only in its correct square, but facing just as it had been.
"You are evidently not fully acquainted with this Doc Savage’s career," said Cadwiller Olden calmly. "Strangely enough, the size of a thing does not seem to gauge its importance to him. He once spent two weeks working on the eyes of a blind apple peddler in Chicago. He made the peddler see, then turned around and ignored an offer of a quarter of a million to do a plastic surgery job on a rich old guy who wanted a young-looking face. You cannot tell about the bronze man."
The quietness of the bronze man’s voice alarmed the Baldwins. It was something like the purring that comes from some grenades before they explode. The Baldwins did exactly what they were told.
Cadwiller Olden: The tiny gem of a man, this fantastic midget:
Buddy Baldwin stopped before a door. He looked at Snowball Eagan. "You pretty well muscled?"
"Then take off your coat and shirt. And when we go in, suck your belly in and make your chest and arm muscles stick out. Like this." Buddy Baldwin showed a rather startling set of ligaments.
"The chief," said Buddy Baldwin, "likes big men."
Off to one side was a child’s crib. It was an elaborate thing, with carvings and gilt inlays, and here and there rows of pearl studding...
Buddy Baldwin had his stomach in and his shoulders hunched forward and his arms crooked, with all the muscles sticking out all they could. Snowball Eagan did that, too, and they stopped beside the crib.
The crib was about four feet long. The man who occupied it had plenty of room...
MOST midgets have something wrong with their appearance. Their legs are stumpy, or their bodies too long, or their faces too round, or their shoulders too broad. This one was different.
He was a little gem of a man.
Given three feet and a hundred and twenty pounds, he would have had a good chance of becoming a matinee god. His head was not too big, his shoulders not too bulky, and his legs were small, sinewy and perfect. His face had that utter handsomeness which pen-and-ink artists give their heroes in the love story magazine drawings.
He wore little bathing trunks and a little bathrobe, smoked a little cigar in a little holder, and a toy glass on a rack at the side held a toy drink in which leaned a toy swizzle stick.
The little man got out of the crib. The dressing gown which he put on was brocaded with gold.
The little gem of a man strutted slightly as he went into the other room.
CADWILLER OLDEN slipped off his clothes. All his body was perfection in miniature. He began to dress. His garments were exquisitely tailored.
Cadwiller Olden came back. He was in impeccable afternoon attire, and carried a slender black cane. He flipped the cane, admired it.
"An exact duplicate, except for size, of one a gentleman named Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks carries," he said. "Quite a gentleman, Ham Brooks. We have the same tailor, although he does not know it."
[A similar take-my-word-for-it scenario as with John Sunlight] "Cadwiller Olden knows his followers would not turn on him," Doc said. "Olden could walk the loneliest jungle with half a million in small bills, and not a man who knew his record would dare touch him."
"Cadwiller Olden is a scientific genius. I have heard him boast that he knew more than you. If he had to be a scientist to figure out what came from Ethel’s Mama, he has the ability."
"He had to be more than a scientist," Doc said. "He had to have enough imagination to realize that here was something scientists have never dreamed existed."
Cadwiller Olden was taking a constitutional up and down the plane wing. His feet were sockless in dark-blue strap sandals which showed his tiny toenails were painted. He wore dark-blue trousers of some woolly stuff, a lighter blue checkered sport coat, a very dark-blue sport shirt with extremely long points on the collars. His throat and head were bare. He wore a gold locket.
He looked like a beautiful toy.
Cadwiller Olden took a running jump off the plane wing and made the shore. He had the agility of a monkey.
Cadwiller Olden, the terribly remarkable little man, had gone silently to his roomful of doll furniture, they said, and no one had seen him thereafter. Undoubtedly he had perished with Nero, his huge bodyguard.
Here's a nice long one-on-one fight scene with Doc:
Baldwin was big. He had learned self-defense in a school where men had fought for their lives. And he had no delusions about his ability. He knew he was up against it.
He got his arms around Doc, then tried to rub his bristling hair into the bronze man’s face. Doc knew that one. The hair was greasy, flecked with something, some kind of powdered chemical that would blind an opponent.
Doc got his jaw around behind one of Baldwin’s ears and rubbed nerve centers. Baldwin screeched in agony.
Buddy Baldwin convulsed. His shirt was silk. It tore. He got out of it, and Doc had the shirt, greasy with sunburn concoction and some of the man’s red, burned hide.
The man tried to box next. He was good at that, too. They sparred. Their four fists seemed to become half a dozen fists. There came three or four small knuckle reports, then a loud one. Buddy Baldwin fell on his back.
Doc rushed. He was ordinarily more cautious. But the other had brushed his knuckles against his hair, and had put some of the chemical in Doc’s eyes. Baldwin got his feet up in time.
Doc lifted, swapped his head for his feet. The kick had caught him where it should have disabled, or worse. But he landed as easily as a cat that had jumped off a porch.
Buddy Baldwin got up. He used his feet now. He knew a lot about a Scandinavian boxing game conducted only with the feet. A deadly art of defense.
Suddenly the two men were together and down. Buddy Baldwin never did know exactly what went wrong. He used his fists. And when he felt the hardness of the bronze man, a kind of unbelief came into his eyes. Sticks, dirt, leaves flew. The volcanic ash was a cloud.
The cloud settled, and Doc Savage was on Buddy Baldwin’s back, with a hold that was something of a nelson, but different in a terrible way. Buddy Baldwin’s skin pores began to leak.
He moaned about his mother.
The uphill landslides were next. When the Fan Coral journalist radioed the story about the avalanches that slid uphill, three of his newspapers radioed right back that they wanted no more of his stuff. They thought he was a goof who was drawing on a not-too-sage imagination.
But it was just what the misjudged journalist said it was. Patches of rock and earth came loose and slid uphill. They were not very big patches. The strips were probably fifty feet wide.
The next night it rained coconuts. And there was no cyclone which could have picked them up and dropped them on Fan Coral City.
["wake up dead" is classic] "I guess Doc Savage and his gang will have to wake up dead," Snowball Eagan growled.
The brown man started to answer when he saw a shadow looming on the ground beside him. It was a big shadow, and it had not been there an instant before.
The shadow was all the brown man ever saw of the fate that overtook him. Fate in the shape of a giant of bronze.
THE big bronze fellow had come silently out of the jungle, and he got the gun and dropped the native with one blow, all as if it had been rehearsed a thousand times. His remarkable bronze features had not changed expression, had in no way showed that the ghostly silence with which he moved was at all unusual, or that dropping an armed native was anything out of the ordinary.
The two men worked forward, both Herculean figures, as men go. Renny’s muscles were perhaps the more spectacular from a distance, but on close examination he faded alongside the sinewy wiriness of the bronze man’s development.
"Keep looking," Doc directed quietly.
The visitor stumbled out, somewhat dazed by the presence of an individual who could spend that much money looking for four friends, a midget, and something in the sky that made a moaning noise and knocked things around.
Doc rarely used handcuffs. He had chemical concoctions which kept prisoners helpless without harming them. The potions had the advantage that only Doc could erase their effects with another chemical mixture, so that if the captives’ pals rescued them, they were still nothing better than living mummies.
SNIG JOHNSON’S farm consisted of a house that was about to fall down and a barn that had.
"Johnny!" Doc called.
Johnny stopped. "Yes?"
"Get the midget!" Doc directed.
What happened next puzzled Bat vastly. He was hauled up. Naturally, he grabbed the bronze man with all his strength. They whirled around and around.
Bat found a gun in his hand—his and the bronze man’s hand, rather. The gun began to explode. It was Bat’s weapon, which Doc had taken in the plane. It went off six times. It only held six cartridges.
Doc became as limp as death in the parachute harness. His arms and legs hung down, dangling.
"You’ve just shot me," the bronze man said. "And if you act as if you haven’t, you are certainly going to wish you had wings."
They swung slowly downward, while Bat thought that over, trying to figure it out.
A renowned specialist in electrochemistry as applied to astronomy, from Vienna, served as spokesman.
"In you alone hope lies," he said without preliminary oratory. "You have studied with us, and we know the extent of your ability and knowledge; or, rather, we know that it is beyond ours. We appreciate the fact that you appealed to us, and are touched by it, and warmed, for it shows that you have not become overconfident of your own ability, in spite of what we know to be true, that you are infinitely more advanced than any of us, your old teachers."
Doc remained expressionless, but kept his gaze on the inlaid table. He was touched deeply, for these elderly men were masters, scientists whose names and work would be known to posterity for centuries. And they were men who did not—he would have been less embarrassed if they did—use what in street lingo is designated as the old "soft soap."
057 - The Sea Angel:
One Line Review: Half-baked and Ludicrous go to war with Unbelievable
"One by one, the biggest wheeler-dealers in the financial world of New York mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again — brutally gobbled up by The Silver Ogre. Until the Man of Bronze took up the eerie trail when the next victim was one of Doc’s own men!"
The only reasonable response to this one is "What the HELL?!" November, 1937's The Sea Angel is so half-baked you might wonder if editors at Street & Smith were illiterate alcoholics who got their jobs through work-release programs. The story possibly can be saved in surgery, but the Sea Angel itself is so ludicrous as it is you can't improve on it and make it worth keeping. The creature of the title is a deal breaker.
Ponder the very idea of a magical sea creature who helps bring financial restitution to swindled humans. It flies, it swims, it has electric tentacles that whip out like bolos, it hops on top of a car and rides like a belly board, and even in daylight nobody can see it's not a clunky costume with a guy in it! It would barely pass as a monster in a Doc Savage book that appears only at night and doesn't do much except scare or kill primitives. When the Sea Angel appears think the carpet monster from The Creeping Terror with some Robot Monster on the side.
Monk's swindling of Ham should have been introduced first thing instead of a cavalier aside in Chapter III, and it should have been handled at least on the surface as a major disturbance in the force of the Doc Savage organization. At the end of the book there's no mention of actions to be taken to correct the story, so conceivably from then on Monk is a criminal and Ham his victim. That aside, the ploy is easy enough to see through as the story is about swindlers being kidnapped, so soon enough let it be known it's a facade.
Nat Piper's low-grade insanity and revenge mission should be delineated up front and improved upon to make it feasible. In the book he was conned out of money and lost some of his sanity but there's no mention of him having more money or accumulating more assets to pay for his gang and everything else, including the Sea Angel. The Do Not Kill rule and seeking justice angle seems like a sham until it winds up not being so, but in the meantime it comes across as a deception. Then it gets weird where Doc's not mad at Piper for kidnapping men and keeping them captive in a frozen hellhole, and then Doc promotes his own solution of enhanced lobotomies:
Doc Savage explained patiently. "Your system is psychologically wrong. Criminal tendencies are the result of a maladjustment of certain little-known glands in the human body. Fear of punishment is only a temporary deterrent to a criminal. Submitting the individual of criminal tendencies to physical pain and hardships only aggravates the condition in most cases. The only feasible cure is an operation or non-surgical treatment of the defective glands which are causing the individual to become non-social."
The story ends with Doc deciding to scramble the minds of anyone who didn't fall in line with Nat Piper's kidnap and forced labor therapy, but not Nat Piper himself! Time served for good intentions?:
It was agreed that Doc should take the "patients" which Nat Piper had not been making much progress with. The bronze man would put them through his institution for curing criminals by brain operations, which made them forget their pasts.
Old Leander Quietman was also sent to the institution, along with the others. After the wealthy men were trained to hate crime and crookedness, they would be allowed to go back to their fortunes.
The chances were very excellent that the men would then do a great deal of good with their money.
The comedic ending of The Sea Angel is a kleptomaniac bad guy asking to have his entire life erased so he will no longer steal things:
Boscoe swallowed a few times, then got it out.
"Look," he said. "Monk’s been telling me about a place you got in up-State New York. Er—uh—Monk—I mean, I was wondering if you could take me there and cure me of being a thief?"
This is all a bit more than a bit insane.
Ham pretends to be nuts and he's in the Gotham Sanitarium - no association with Batman but it was a real place. When Doc comes to tell him to stop pretending to be kooky they all just walk out. Aren't there procedures? The end battle is itself endless. The Sea Angel would have worked as a simple story of Nat Piper's crazed justice scheme and H.O.G. Coolin's revenge and financial gain agenda. The Sea Angel aspect is horrible all the way around. If you needed something supernatural yet real anything would have been better.
Exposition Failure, they name is this, as they already know every detail and why they did it:
"Of course the results are swell," Ham agreed. "It was a great idea of Doc’s. We found out men were disappearing mysteriously. We failed to dig up any trace of where they had gone, or why. But Doc knew something was wrong, and became very interested because such mysterious goings-on are the kind of things he makes his business."
Ham paused to take a deep breath. "We could only find one thing in common about the men who were disappearing: They were all financial sharpers. Each vanished man had sometime in the past given some one a legal skinning."
Ham chuckled. "So we staged this thing. Monk gave me a financial trimming, by arrangement. He fleeced me out of all my money."
The Sea Angel:
Fantastic thing. An incredible thing. Had it been night, the thing might have been a bit more believable.
Eight feet might be the height of the incredible creature. That, though, was a guess. It was frilly around the edges. It was half as wide as high. It had a thick part for a body. It had triangular wings, two of them, and these ran to a point; and from these dangled black ropelike arms, eight or ten feet long. Each arm terminated in a black ball a little smaller than a baseball.
Silver was the creature’s color. The slick silver of a fish. But there were black markings—the edges of the thing, and the arms.
As it stood there, it did bear some resemblance to an angel. It had a mouth. This was evident when the mouth opened and showed a jet-black gullet. The mouth was large enough to take a beer keg, with only a little stretching.
[Nice tentacle shooting for a guy in a sea monster costume] The wings waved a little, then flapped, and the black tentacles whipped out. Each trapped a man...
Science had explained everything, barring a few germs they couldn’t yet see with their compound microscopes. This Sea Angel, this monster, therefore, had to be some fellow dressed up in a trick outfit. That grown men should be scared out of their wits by such a thing was ridiculous.
Renny thought it was as funny as a barrel of monkeys...
"You remind me of the good laugh I had when I first saw the thing!" Coolins snarled. "I don’t like to think about it! I thought it was a man in an outfit. You think the same thing, I’ll bet. Well, it isn’t!"
"Whuz-zuhuhuz-wenn?" Renny said, which was the nearest he could come to, "What is it then?" talking through his nose.
"I’ve seen it fly!" Coolins snarled. "I’ve seen it swim under water, fifty miles an hour or more!"
The man’s eyes were glaring with earnestness. Looking at him, Renny suddenly decided he did not feel so much like laughing.
Coolins gritted, "It’s a monster! Bullets don’t hurt it much. I guess they’re not heavy enough. It can’t be gassed, so it must not breathe!"
Up from the penthouse flew the Sea Angel. It could fly! There was almost uncanny ease to its movement. Like a stingaree going through water, it moved. Swaying a little, it crossed the street and was lost to sight above the other skyscrapers.
[Because Sea Angels hate the 1%] "The Sea Angel is reforming rich men who got their money at the expense of other people. You got yours that way. At least, you got part of it by swindling Ham Brooks. We are going to make you suffer for it. You are going to suffer until you decide you will never make another dollar wrongfully. You will suffer until you decide to give back what you have taken. Then, if your suffering properly reforms you, and you promise never to do a wrongful act again, we may give you another chance."
The Sea Angel! It was swimming beside the submarine, about ten feet beneath the surface. Although it was night, the thing showed up distinctly. It was phosphorescent in nature. It glowed. It writhed and fluttered as it swam, darting about a bit. Even the long, fearsome cords attached to its queer wings glowed with an uncanny luminance. These cords were trailing behind the creature as it swam.
[A certain dignity?!] There was a stir at the large hut. The door opened. In the aperture appeared a gleaming gray bulk. It squirmed, got through the door and became the weird shape of the Sea Angel.
The thing straightened and absently folded its wings, flinging the long, black tendrils over its back. The creature had a certain dignity.
THE bronze man got out of the rig, which was quite a complicated and heavy affair of aluminum beamlets supporting an amazingly light, considering its invulnerability, bulletproof covering. This was chain mesh in nature, several thickness, with padding between.
A man, once he had encased himself inside it, could navigate with fair agility. The weight was distributed so that the affair was not clumsy.
"But what gave them tendrils their kick?" Monk exploded.
Doc Savage showed him the extremely compact and powerful generator of high-frequency electric currents enclosed in the thing. This could be switched on to throw a charge into the long feelers when they were wielded.
"The same system the green devils used on their spears," Monk grinned.
A moment later, the homely chemist remembered. "But this Sea Angel flew. And it swam underwater."
Nat Piper came up and explained, "The thing you saw flying was a rubber imitation of this Sea Angel disguise filled with helium. One of my men released it from your penthouse. We were impressing you."
"How about the thing you showed us underwater?"
"Merely an affair of wood and luminous paint towed under the submarine," Nat Piper explained. "As for this bulletproof disguise here, we all took turns wearing it. First one, then another."
Monk On Trial:
The newsboy was still there, yelling the headlines. Doc bought a paper. When he opened it, black type was big on the page.
GRAND JURY FAILS TO INDICT MAYFAIR!
"Awful Miscarriage of Justice," District Attorney Says.
Nancy Quietman said, "I suppose you have dismissed that man, Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, or Monk, as he is called, from your organization?"
"I have," Doc said quietly.
The girl nodded approvingly.
"It was terrible, the way he swindled that poor lawyer, Theodore Marley Brooks—Ham, as he is nicknamed," the girl said.
Nancy Quietman, in referring to the swindle mentioned in the newspapers, was talking about a scandal that had started the politicians in Washington howling, and which had turned collective Wall Street as pale as a ghost. The politicians were claiming it proved the laws governing Wall Street were too lax, and Wall Street was afraid of what the politicians would do.
Andrew Blodgett "Monk" Mayfair had cleverly swindled Brigadier General Theodore Marley "Ham" Brooks, noted war veteran, out of three million dollars, reducing Ham to a pauper. Poor, impoverished Ham had attempted to take his own life.
On the other hand, the rapscallion Monk boasted that everything had been perfectly legal, and apparently it had, because they were still trying to get him in jail.
Doc Savage had ejected Monk from his organization and publicly branded any one who would commit such a swindle as a type of rascal which was not doing the country any good...
Through an open window at the end of the corridor, traffic noises and the shouts of a newsboy reached them.
"Grand jury fails to indict Monk Mayfair!" the news vendor was howling. "Read about it! Extra! Law cannot punish Monk!"
Long Tom said soberly. "According to the tabloid newspapers, people are beginning to talk about lynching Monk."
Nat Piper, instead of answering, reached out tentatively with one hand and felt of Doc Savage’s arm in three different places. Then he shook his head and whistled.
"They must be muscles, but they feel like bone," he said. "I begin to see how you handled me."
"This guy is a walkin’ arsenal!" he said. "He’s got some kind of a bullet-proof undershirt, and a vest with the pockets full of stuff! Who is he?"
"That’s Doc Savage," some one said.
The man backed away, looking as if he had discovered himself smoking cigarettes in a dynamite factory.
"I’ll be damned!" he remarked. "Here’s little bombs and grenades. Here’s a trick flashlight not much bigger than my fingers. It’s got a spring generator instead of a battery. Here’s a little hacksaw, a tool kit for picking locks." He held up a flat case, said, "I wonder what’s in here?" and opened it.
He then said, "Hh-h-h-h!" and got down on his hands and knees. Two men beside him coughed, and fell over, their teamwork perfect.
A man pointed his gun at Doc Savage.
Doc fell over on the floor and lay motionless.
The man with the gun, instead of shooting, said vaguely, "It got him, too!" Then he collapsed.
It required no more than a minute for everyone in the room to go down. They breathed, but did not otherwise stir.
Doc Savage then got to his feet...
"But how did you know they would open the case?" she wanted to know.
"Every human being has curiosity," Doc replied quietly. "That case was not the only object in the vest which, if tinkered with, would release an odorless and colorless gas which produces quick unconsciousness."
He could stand the pain, the awful agony. But there was more to the gas than that. It worked into the body, absorbed by the skin, and brought on an immediate and overpowering weakness.
The bronze man’s sight blurred; his huge muscles lost the feeling of movement. He went down, not stumbling, not wanting to go down, but just sinking.
Doc hauled himself back to the deck, found Johnny sprawled out helpless, and managed to get them both tumbled over the side into the river.
IN the course of the next three or four minutes, Doc Savage came nearer death, probably, than at any other time in his strange career. The garments he wore, the mail armor and the vest, were heavy, and he lacked the strength to swim. Almost.
Doc Savage passed out completely, and came out of it to find himself on the surface, swimming feebly.
[Stupid, stupid trilling] The bronze man made his small, trilling noise. It had a disgusted quality, for he knew he was not going to get out.
MONK, otherwise known as Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, was a fellow who had always claimed that he didn’t care anything about his clothing. This was not the truth. Monk secretly admired flashy clothes. He had just blown himself to an outfit that was hard on the eyes.
Monk stood in front of one of the many mirrors in his penthouse, admiring the effect. Cutaway coat, striped pants, fawn vest, patent leather shoes and gray bowler. He grinned at himself, pleased.
He had lied, of course. H. O. G. Coolins knew it. He opened his box of matches.
"Strip him," he ordered. "And tie him across the truck hood."
They did this. H. O. G. Coolins began striking his matches and sticking the heads into Percy Smalling’s flesh while they still sizzled.
Percy Smalling screamed until his mouth ran red. After a while, he talked.
THE planes arched over, stood on their noses, twisted from side to side. Machine-gun snouts bled red. One of Nat Piper’s men was sickled off above the waist.
The homely chemist collapsed, helpless. Boscoe and Percy Smalling sprang forward, whipped out blackjacks and tested his skull for hardness.
The boulders came down, little ones the size of baseballs, and some as big as tractors. Hopping one over the other. Slithering and grinding and rubbing sparks.
They treated H. O. G. Coolins much as a grist mill treats a grain of corn...
A little while later, when Monk found a greasy spot on a rock, he swore up and down that he had found H. O. G. Coolins.
THE other men all said, "Lo, chief," or "Howdy, skipper."
Nat Piper said, "Hello, girls."
Doc Savage’s river-front hangar outwardly resembled a warehouse. The sign, "Hidalgo Trading Company," on the front furthered that impression. The building was of brick, big and smoky-looking. The general impression was that it had not been used in twenty years.
Skip The Sea Angel. On a lake like a flat rock.
058 - The Golden Peril:
One Line Review: As a rough draft it's one of the best DS adventures
"Few had known of the ancient Mayan kingdom which provided Doc Savage with billions of dollars in precious gold to finance his unceasing fight against evil. Threatened by The Leader and his international band of cutthroat warriors, the amazing Man of Bronze cunningly battles for the financial security and future peace of the entire world."
"Only the vultures from above could have seen the men-vultures below"
The 58th Doc Savage novel (December, 1937) was assigned to un-trusty Harold A. Davis as a sequel to the first Lester Dent novel from March, 1933. It's a doozy all right but as a rough draft it's also one of the best Doc Savage adventures and would have worked as a better and more self-contained film than George Pal's Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze.
Dent lent his services to the final product but you have to hand it to Davis for not being timid or feeling restrained by standard literary limitations. There's an answer for everything and an out for every peril. Comic book physics are science and luck is guaranteed. For everything that needs to be corrected or altered there's something else glorious and spectacular. The blind worship tone of The Golden Peril needs to be lessened along with its ridiculousness, but uber-Doc is awesome and it's one cliff hanger after another with action that's as exciting as it is implausible.
The day-players are all winners and Davis not only spares us the National Geographic special on Hidalgo and the Mayan Lost Valley, he writes what might be the most exciting and best plotted last third to any Doc Savage adventure. Effort-wise Dent front-loads his stories so the middles and ends tend to be tour guides, exposition, Run & Shoot, and some pop & fizzle before the fadeout. Dent is by far the best Doc Savage author, as indicated by the ghosted Doc Savage novels, but imagine what he could have done with more time and more caring about Doc Savage as something to be proud of as product and legacy.
The Golden Peril is Big Story with kitchen sinks tossed against walls to see what'll stick. Doc fills his radio-controlled plane with thermite and pulverizes his and every enemy plane in the sky. He grabs Monk and Ham like they were toddlers and pulls the ripcord of a suit parachute with his teeth as he jumps down an air shaft. Renny and Johnny escape a cable car death by a means only an eight year old would find possible. There's also a fetish for sadism that tells us more about Harold A. Davis than I wanted to know:
As an archaeologist, Johnny had often studied instruments of torture. He knew the history of most of them, had seen many extensive collections.
But he had never seen a more complete collection than had been assembled here. Every fiendish device perfected during the Spanish Inquisition was there, as well as many used by pirates and savages.
The rack appeared almost gentle compared to the other instruments designed to inflict pain for hours without killing. There was an ironlike cage in the shape of a man.
A victim would be placed there, and the door closed. The inside of that door was of solid iron spikes. Whenever the victim grew tired and slumped, those spikes drove into his body and forced him erect.
Hours of mental and physical torture would pass before the poor wretch would finally fall forward, impale himself on those spikes and be unable to rise again. He would die a slow, horrible death.
Then there was the platform to which a victim would be trussed by his thumbs, with a noose slack about his neck. Blocks of wood were placed under the feet and the arms pulled up high over the head.
Then those blocks of wood were removed, one at a time, until the victim hung by his thumbs, pulling himself up, until he could stand no more and dropped down to strangle.
Iron pinchers were there. Spots were on those pinchers and the spots were not from rust. Toenails and finger nails were extracted with those gentle instruments, while other devices cut away the eyelids.
But all these were given only a passing glance by Renny. His attention centered on a huge machine in the middle of the room. His eyes grew wide, and he gave a strangled cry as he saw that machine. For Doc Savage was being led toward it!
The Leader seems to be enjoying himself too much as he tells Doc how he will die:
"Anticipation is always half the enjoyment," he advised in that cold, lifeless voice. "You cannot see me. I can see you. Sooner or later, death will strike. Hang there, helpless. Meditate on the rocks that wait for your body far below. When you least expect it , this knife will do its work. You will die."
The Leader is a great villain:
The face of the field marshal showed nothing at all. It was lifeless. The nose, cheeks, lips and chin were devoid of all expression, as are those of a corpse. Only the eyes seemed alive. They were malevolent beyond description.
The story tries to make the reveal of his identity as Baron Vardon a shock but it's meaningless as he's a secondary character seen once early on. Had he been along for the rid as a "good guy" you could then act surprised and think back about what gave him away, but The Leader is good enough to stand alone and not be a Scobby-Doo thing.
With every twist of the amphibian, the torpedo made a similar turn. A small screw behind it beat frantically. Short, stubby wings made it a flying engine—and a flying bomb.
And the aërial torpedo was fast. It was gaining. Slowly but surely, it was overtaking Doc’s ship!
The knife made a quick circuit in the air. Sunlight glanced off its shiny surface as it cut cleanly through the rope.
Below—a thousand feet below—sharp-pointed rocks seemed to leap upward to receive Doc’s body as his cocoon-bound figure hurtled downward.
Johnny's word strings are easier to understand so Davis didn't hit the thesaurus all that hard. Johnny didn't wear glasses at this time so this is an error:
"Ah-ah, Doc has extricated himself from much more precarious situations than this," Johnny said hollowly. His glasses were bobbing up and down.
How this mistake escaped editing is a mystery:
Softly, despite his bulk, Johnny eased to the stone. His powerful fingers brushed the mortar away. Then those fingers jammed in hard, caught a firm grip.
Muscles rose in huge ridges on his back, perspiration broke from his face. The big stone creaked. Fine dust flew out. Renny moved over, caught Johnny about the waist, added his ponderous weight.
Identification of bodies had been more difficult. They had been torn into thousands of pieces. But one unanswerable clue had been found:
Among the shattered fragments that had been men, had been found a queer substance, several pieces of it, in fact. That substance had been tested. It was crimson-soaked underwear of the type only Doc and his men wore.
That had convinced even The Leader.
Davis came up with four impressive rigs for the aides to wear but they're not utilized in any way. That should be corrected:
As the din and tumult quieted, those strange creatures appeared, pulling themselves awkwardly over the edge of the well.
There were four of them. They were huge, and far from human in appearance, although each did appear to have two legs and two other appendages that might have been arms.
But where the heads should have been, were bucket-shaped objects, something like divers’ helmets. Shoulders and torsos were hidden in bulky jackets that joined the helmets at the top, and overall-shaped trousers below.
Each of the four was carrying a large cylinder. A bellowslike arrangement was at one end of each cylinder, while a hose was attached to the other end.
The cylinders were heavy. The four, big as each was, grunted inaudibly as they hoisted their burdens and started slowly toward the pyramid.
Other errors and shortcomings below:
[On the 86th floor] The door opened of its own accord. On either side of it panels also slid open. A gap fully twenty feet wide was created in the office wall.
And inside, apparently rushing forward, appeared an entire company of armed men. They carried submachine guns. Their faces were horrible grimaces. They seemed to be leaping from behind shell-torn trees and out of huge shell-holes.
A yell of terror and horror came from the five attackers in the hall. One threw up his gun, fired, then turned to run. Three of his companions also started to take to their heels.
"Halt!" The leader roared the order. His own eyes were gazing wildly. He was making an apparent effort to keep his courage. Then his eyes became normal.
"Stop, you fools!" he bellowed. "It’s a trick! There are no men there! See, they’re not moving forward at all!"
The running gunmen stopped and looked back. Even as they looked, the scene changed.
The company of armed men faded. Gigantic seas took their place. Huge waves with white-topped spray appeared. The beat of surf came, low at first, then louder...
"But—but they had guns. They surely would have killed us, had they remained," exclaimed Baron Vardon.
"No," Doc Savage corrected. "I do not believe they would. You see, they merely thought they saw us. When I pressed my foot on a certain spot on this floor, I opened the doors, and bullet-proof mirrors dropped. You have seen the childish tricks with mirrors used at amusement parks, where a person would appear without a body. This was on the same order. In addition, the mirrors were of a type which permitted us to see through from this side, but prevented them from seeing us."
No one but Doc and his aids were supposed to know the existence of that private lift. It could shoot upward, as if flung by a catapult, and dropped like a plummet. It took both experience and fortitude to ride in it at all.
What he threw looked like a teargas bomb...
Protruding from the body of the thing speeding through the air toward them were rows of tiny spikes. Those spikes made the object look something like a prickly pear.
Every one of those tiny spikes were a plunger. Should any one of the scores of spikes on the side of that bomb touch even the slightest projection, the plunger would set off a thermite compound that would tear a score of men to tiny bits!
[The BS Meter is spinning like a top] Both of Doc’s hands were occupied holding Monk and Ham. He doubled up like a contortionist in the air. His teeth closed on a tiny button on his vest. Then his head snapped erect. There was a swish, a sudden tugging, and their plunging drop was checked to a gentle fall.
Monk looked up above them critically. It was the first time he had seen this experiment. He had often thought of the possibilities of a special parachute built for an airshaft. There was no reason, he had figured, why one of the proper size and shape couldn’t be just as effective in a short drop as the plunger in a pump. There was little space for the fugitive air to escape.
But Monk had only thought about such a parachute. It had remained for Doc Savage to construct one.
"I caught your signal when you pressed the baseboard," the bronze man explained. "So I went to the room below, looked into the panoramic television in the ceiling, and saw the gang.
"The desk was wired to turn over a page of the memo pad. And the chair seat was wired to sag when I wanted it to. The rest—the sound effects—was done by micro-waves and ventriloquism."
"There are two types of aërial torpedoes," Doc said quietly. "One is radio-controlled at will. The other, like this one, was newer. The two planes, the sender and the object to be destroyed, complete a radio-wave circuit. The torpedo rides the beam. No matter what the direction the pursued ship takes, the torpedo will follow."
[A tad silly] "Atomic blasts." Monk explained.
"At—at what?" asked Monja.
Monk blushed slightly. "Long Tom is the electrical guy; he could explain better than I can," he confessed. "But Doc’s got an electrical dingbat rigged up that shoots bolts of juice, and when that juice hits the rocks it releases the atomic energy inside, causing an internal explosion, creating the illusion of artillery shells hitting."
He was a big man, but did not show it. He was so well put together that the impression was not of bigness, but of power.
"We head for Switzerland?" Ham asked.
"We take the danger trail," the bronze man promised.
An unaccustomed color mounted on Doc’s face. There was no time in his busy life for love. He long ago had renounced any thought of marriage. And his unfailing attraction for women had often proved a source of embarrassment. He felt far more at ease in a desperate fight than he did when some beautiful girl showed affection for him.
With a bellow of rage, Monk tore the top of the trunk open. A mean, ratty face was there. But there was a horror and disbelief on it, now. The killer forgot all about his Tommy gun. Here was a man who absorbed Tommy slugs as casually as he would take a shower!
When Doc had left the Valley of the Vanished, he had arranged with King Chaac, chief of the Mayans, to listen in on a radio on every seventh day. When his funds ran low, Doc would send a call for gold. Mayans would take it to Blanco Grande, the capital of Hidalgo, where the president, Carlos Avispa, would see that it was sent on to Doc.
[The realpolitik implications of this in context] "There are many things to consider," Doc Savage reminded quietly. "The fact remains that much trouble has been, and will be, avoided with other countries if United States citizens minded their own business."
[Not only will we be dead, we'll be late for work!] [They got out of this one through comic book physics] The bottom steel thread had vanished. Somewhere, it had either broken or been cut. There was no way to stop the terrific speed of the car. It was hurtling downward at ever increasing speed. There still were thousands of feet to go.
When the car reached the bottom, there would be one tremendous crash. Only pieces would ever be found of car and occupants.
Renny groaned, but not from fear.
"When we don’t get there, Doc sure will think we’ve disobeyed orders!" he shouted.
The face was as lifeless as the voice. Only the eyes seemed alive. The nose, cheeks, lips and chin were not unhandsome, but they were devoid of all expression. Color was in the cheeks, the lips were pink. But that color appeared artificial.
It was almost as if rouge and lipstick had been used. The face might have belonged to a corpse. It seemed impossible that it belonged to a living man. Yet power was reflected there, and a ruthless will.
[Getting shot to death hurts a lot too] The other looked at him for a long moment. "It must be that way, you must win before to-morrow. If not—"
"Not the hand of death, not that!" Glassell screamed...
THE small band of palace defenders was hard-pressed. Not many soldiers remained. Some had deserted in fear of the hand of death. Enemy bullets had accounted for many more...
That sentry wasn’t afraid of guns. But he had heard of the hand of death. And a death that could creep out of the darkness and leave him with a horrible red stain on his neck made sweat course down his backbone.
[Five guys with gadgets are more of a threat than an army? Really?] "The price was high," came that flat, cold voice. "But it was worth it. Doc Savage was more dangerous to us than any ordinary army would be. Now he is dead. He and his aids. And I am happy that I watched him die."
[Artificially created?] "My plane was hidden in the clouds, even above the pursuit ships that were waiting for me. In the amphibian was thermite, in great quantity. Naturally, when the explosion came it was devastating, as you saw."
"But the bodies," protested Avispa. "How did you do that?"
"They were artificially created," the bronze man responded quietly. "I knew The Leader would demand more than an exploded plane to make sure I was dead."
Glassell ate heartily. His close-set eyes were half shut. Already he was planning the exquisite torture he would use. There was the rack now; but that was not so good, it had been used too often. Perhaps it would be better to start by filling the bodies of his victims with sharp toothpick-sized pieces of wood imbedded not too deeply in their bodies. By burning those pieces of wood, every nerve would suffer agony, but the torture would not kill. After that—"
[My disbelief is not suspended. It's swinging on a noose] That second figure also was General Glassell! There were two General Glassells!
One stood near the prisoners. The other stood almost before them. The two looked exactly alike. They were dressed exactly alike.
It was almost as if one of them was standing before a mirror. Or as if the soldiers were seeing double.
"Arrest that man! He’s an impostor!" howled the second General Glassell.
[In a 98% hopeless situation shouldn't they be using real bullets if not explosive shells?] And they needed all the protection they could get. Snipers were raining lead about them. Several times, bullets had smacked into various parts of their anatomy. Only the bulletproof armor they wore saved them.
Even so, Doc’s aids knew they could not hold out much longer. Their rapid-fire pistols, loaded with bullets that brought unconsciousness but not death, sounded occasionally with bullfiddle roars. But they had no chance.
The sight of those golden objects, the clear intimation that they led to a storehouse where an almost inexhaustible supply was hidden, released passions that long had been hidden. The thin veneer that civilization had stamped on the murderous troops intent on a bloody errand was stripped away.
Anything that doesn't work in The Golden Peril can be reworked to something that does, such as having Ham, Monk and Doc all wearing hidden parachutes for a task with a strong probability of jumping as an escape route. Monk's surviving a firing squad with just bulletproof underwear should leave him much more damaged. As a raw story this is one of the best Doc Savage adventures in general with possibly the best last act of the series.
059 - The Living Fire Menace:
One Line Review: Hit-or-miss and mainly a swirling vortex of whiff
"Nations arming for international conflict engage in a behind-the-scenes mineral war that threatens to disrupt the natural balance of the universe. The Man of Bronze rises to the titanic peak of his strength and wit to uncover the secret of the cavern with the living fire!"
"Feels like some one tickling me all over," he muttered. "Sort of a queer tingling."
Harold A. Davis' January, 1938 adventure contributes to the world at large only in that it introduces Doc's utility belt, swiped as-is by the Batman people. Davis is hit-or-miss and sadly The Living Fire Menace is mainly a swirling vortex of whiff. Things go deeply south for Davis by Chapter 10 for the sin of disguising Doc as anyone and everyone, on the fly and good enough to fool these people's associates, using materials stored in his Felix The Cat Magic Fanny Pack Belt. The worst disguise Doc manages to instantaneously pull off is Professor Torgle:
His feet headed one direction, his body another, as if some giant had at one time twisted him halfway around. His head was unbelievably flat on the top. Little eyes that had no color of their own, glowed like tiny red coals. The mouth looked like a ragged slit cut by a knife into a dull piece of red leather.
The living fire idea is nice but Davis overkills it with random sci-fi free-form creativity where rules not only don't apply, they're mocked. If he kept the science to the explanation below the story would have been just as good and twelve times as readable and believable:
"The ore has strange electrical qualities," Doc explained gently. "The longer the human body was exposed to it, the more electricity it absorbed, until the convicts were walking dynamos. If they touched anything that grounded them, they died. If they touched a person not affected as they were, that person died. That was apparent from the first. Z-2 touched an oil barrel with his bare hand. The man at the office had the sole of one shoe eaten away by quick-acting acid. Hoskins and Yardoff, however, evidently had a battery arrangement much as we used to de-electrize themselves."
But, nope, there's force fields and super-magnets and glass guns with real bullets not affected by the super-magnets. There's a ton of action but much of it is meaningless. Did Davis operate under the belief the genre allowed anything and everything because the readers were too young, too dumb, or actually enjoyed the freedom of endless possibilities? Beyond the disguise debacles there's much you have to let pass even if not feasible, as when Doc creates a floating skull puppet head in a matter of seconds, the radio announcements out of the blue about Long Tom and Johnny at the exact moment Ham and Monk are fighting bad guys in a crowded hotel room, and this which can't work because Hoskins' lips weren't moving:
The jolting brought Hoskins to his senses. He recalled then that Doc was known as an expert ventriloquist, realized the bronze man must have been close by and had thrown his voice to make it appear Hoskins was speaking when the barrel-shaped man really was not.
Filed under Obvious Mistakes, Davis has Johnny wearing glasses, a condition Doc repaired in the 12th adventure, The Man Who Shook The Earth. And how did Virginia Hoskins know where Doc kept his hidden phone message recorder?
[Invisibility rays!] There was nothing supernatural about any of it. The faint sound the bronze man had heard in the hallway had told him some one had broken into his office. The low whisper he had given had merely been the proper tone to operate a familiar robot, a mechanical device that opened a sliding panel in a wall that looked solid.
And while becoming invisible was not commonplace, it was something that had been done before.
The switches he had operated had released a series of short high-powered light waves, known as invisible rays. As those rays struck a human being, that human gradually vanished simply because the eye could not distinguish it when penetrated by the speeding beams. Doc had not invented the process; that had been done by Stephan Pribil, a Hungarian scientist. But the bronze man had improved it, so that invisibility came almost immediately.
Doc walked over to a small, square box on the desk. He opened the back, took out half a dozen slips of paper, handed one each to Monk, Ham and Renny.
"But—but these are pictures of the girl," Renny said.
"Right." Doc’s voice was matter of fact. "I tried out this new camera while she was here. Complete prints are made in the matter of seconds and dropped through a slot into the rear of the camera to dry."
Renny’s mouth dropped open, but he said nothing. He had seen too many of Doc’s inventions to be greatly surprised.
[Little jet packs?!] [In another story Doc used a balloon shaped like his head] Monk was making small noises. He walked to the window, reached out and pulled in the bronze face that floated there.
"Ectoplasm!" he snorted. "Nothing but bronze tissue cloth in many folds, cut in the form of a mask, with small gas cylinders at the top to hold it in the air."
[Utility (make-up) Belt!] She saw Doc Savage seat himself on a rock, reach inside his shirt and bring out the belt he always wore about his body.
Only tiny extensions on the glasses he wore had saved him. Those extensions protruded on either side of his face; they were mirrors. Even facing straight ahead, he could see behind him.
[Pulled from Doc's you-know-where] "Doc Savage really is a clever man," Clement Hoskins said. He spoke as if to himself. "He wasn’t near that Tommy gun at all. My men found it, quite by chance. A clockwork arrangement had been attached to it, so it would fire at regular intervals."
[Over the top but fun] Towering high above others in the lobby, he approached the desk. "Who’s in 1412?" he rumbled.
The clerk glanced up haughtily, inspected his fingernails with elaborate unconcern. "And your business?" he asked snippily.
Renny placed one huge, bony monstrosity of a fist on the desk. He closed that fist until it looked like a rough chunk of iron.
"Did you ever hear of Doc Savage?" he asked softly. "Or"—his fist rose and fell expressively—"does this look like a better argument?"
"I—I never saw you before," Virginia stammered. She tried to push the door closed. Renny put one big foot in the opening. It was as if a small-sized gunboat had moved in.
[Opium reference] "Unless one remark we heard means something," Monk piped up. "I talked to a kid who was close to the car that carried Long Tom and Johnny away. He told me something that he said he’d overheard that sounded as if he was having a pipe dream."
Monk was good in a fight, none better; but when it came to the fair sex he quite often seemed to park his brains at home.
[An unserious kidnapping] "That’s what we really came up here to see if we could learn," Ham said seriously. "For some reason, they seem to have been kidnaped. I don’t think it’s anything serious, although I don’t know.
"Hurry!" he yelled impotently. "Hurry! I’ve got to reach Doc Savage before it’s too late!"
The telephone operator was hurrying. The name Doc Savage had done something to her, also. Her voice had an unusually excited timbre as she implored intervening stations for speed.
[Harold A. Davis states the obvious] "I guess we’ll be moving soon," Monk said, "so I’ll get Habeas and—"
"I’m afraid not," Doc warned. "This fire menace is too dangerous to bring your pets along. They’ll have to remain behind."
Grudging credit must be given to Harold A. Davis for not going gently into that good night of stale and boring storytelling, but The Living Fire Menace is not respectful to readers with a modicum of quality control expectations. The electrified men and their power and plight are a great foundation for a story, along with the "treasure" of a new metal from the earth's core and the competing groups of criminals fighting to control it all. The rubber gloves, masks, and clothing are good and creepy:
Yet the bodyguard showed every evidence of having died from a tremendous bolt of electricity—a bolt that had covered his entire body with flame. And Petrod Yardoff, touching him, had been unharmed!
Then the gangleader saw something that had escaped his attention before. There was a thin, transparent, practically invisible rubber mask covering Yardoff’s peculiar cherry-red features. His shoes were of rubber. Even the gray suit he wore was made of rubber.
Davis' story just happens to be a bad telling of a story. Start by not granting Doc The Avenger's disguise abilities, remove the inconsistent science fiction elements, and spend less time running around fighting in the underground settings. Have more scenes in NYC with the electrified men causing panic and mayhem. Make it more betterer, ghost of Harold A. Davis!
060- The Mountain Monster:
One Line Review: An interminable cavalcade of failure for kids and idiots
"The monster came without warning. It came as Indian legend had said it would come, in the night and while a storm raged. It brought terror and horror to peaceful Arcadia Valley. It transformed an Alaskan paradise into a panic-stricken, fear-blanched hell. Only one man could stop it — the Man of Bronze."
"Doc Savage! Doc Savage! The bronze man is here! We are safe! Safe!"
The only good thing about Harold A. Davis' February, 1938 The Mountain Monster is the original pulp cover by Harold Winfield Scott. It captures muscular physicality better than any other Doc Savage illustration.
"Children and Idiots, Harold, Children and Idiots!" That's what ghost-writer Davis must have been told repeatedly when he asked about his target audience. Children and idiots. It might have taken a gallon of cheap scotch and Dr. Stupid's Stuponitron Helmet to bang out this interminable cavalcade of failure. To detail it all would require writing more than the book length itself. The initial monster attack is scary and for a spell there's nothing too horribly Harold A. Davis about it, but once it gives in to its destiny there's no turning back from hell in a handbasket - in this case a blimp.
The worst has to be Doc's escape from a crematorium, followed by Ham and Monk communicating through telepathy and Doc protecting his face from gunfire with a thin cape. More worst continued:
The Indian had said the spider was searching for just one thing—that when it found that, it would leave the valley in peace forever.
It was searching for the heart of a bronze-haired man.
It had been the heart that was missing from Buck Dixon’s body. Buck Dixon had not been bronze-haired.
But Doc Savage was!
[The Renny of feet] But it was his feet that made him outstanding. They were out of proportion to his body. They were downright gigantic! They dwarfed the rest of his body, and he was by no means small. Yet he moved easily and with unexpected swiftness.
[Very odd in context] But John Alden didn’t notice this. His conscience was bothering him. He had intended to merely arouse Doc Savage’s interest, to let the bronze man fall a victim of The Monster and save Arcadia valley.
[This month Chemistry is big enough to carry people around] The noise came from Chemistry. In the confusion, the anthropoid had climbed out the back of the ambulance. In his arms he held John Alden’s body. The open door of one of the taxicabs offered a haven. So Chemistry had clambered into that.
"The ambulance is now on Calumet Avenue, going north," came Doc’s voice in the tiny earphone. They are apparently—wait—" There was an interruption. "Pedestrians report that the ape is no longer riding on top of the machine. He is driving it."
NOT so many blocks away, another voice, as childlike as Monk’s, also was speaking. In fact, the voice sounded exactly like Monk’s. The speaker had been practicing for some hours to get just that effect. He appeared an exact counterpart of the hairy chemist.
"I wonder what that Doc Savage has found out," he shrilled.
Beside him, a wasp-waisted fashion plate leaned over a tiny radio. Even a close acquaintance would have taken him for Ham. He spoke in the cultured tones used by the dapper lawyer.
He had not been unconscious at any time. He had detected the falsity of his visitors, had popped an oxygen tablet in his mouth, expecting them to use gas. They hadn’t used the ordinary type of gas, but the powder was merely another form. But, peculiarly, he had let the battle go on.
Now Doc gave Monk and Ham a whiff of oxygen from a tiny tube. They regained consciousness almost instantly. Monk struggled to his feet, his tiny eyes red with rage.
[Doc Savage, coward, and also wrong on all counts] Doc suddenly moved. He left his feet, dived straight through an open window. Monk grinned. When odds were heavy, Doc sometimes thought it best to get away, knowing he could rescue his men later.
[Let us all slump forward in shame] The lids of the coffins had been removed. But Monk and Ham could not talk. They were too firmly gagged. Nor could they move.
So they continued some experiments in thought transference and telepathy they had begun back in New York. The results were pretty good. Ham almost choked on his gag at the insults Monk was hurling at him. Occasionally the hairy chemist strained at his bonds, as if he wanted to get in at least one more good punch.
Then Ham made his mind a blank. Monk would have said that wasn’t too hard. It served to infuriate the dapper lawyer more than ever.
[Doc moves bindings down his body by creating waves of muscle movement] Doc was wiggling, too. Not perceptibly. He expanded and contracted muscles slightly. It was sort of like an eel wriggling.
His flesh rippled and slid the iron hoops down a fraction of an inch at a time.
Freeing himself from the ropes had been easy. Razorlike false finger nails had capped his own when he had permitted himself to be seized in the furnace room. Those razors had severed the ropes around his wrists. He had merely used his exceptionally limber and facile feet to slip out of his shoes.
The angle from the peephole was such that Barge Deeter could not see the top of Doc’s body when the feet came into view. Doc slipped from his clothes, drew himself back, letting the clothes follow the shoes on toward the fire.
Waste rags he had stored inside the furnace door padded those clothes, made it appear they covered a body. Just as the second door opened, he made a small cloud of smoke....
The tunnelway was of tin. The razor-sharp false finger nails slashed down through one side of it like a can opener. Almost instantly he cut away a small section, rolled through. He was still between the two walls of the furnace, but he was no longer in sight of those at the peepholes.
Monk’s body came along on the asbestos belt. The second door opened to receive him. Again there was a faint cloud of smoke. Doc’s hands reached out, cut the ropes about Monk’s feet, guided them through the opening he had made in the tunnel.
But through the peephole it appeared that Monk went directly into the open door, directly into the open fire there. That was an optical illusion.
[So bad it hurts] The trick Doc used was an old one. He had arranged two mirrors in such manner as to make it appear Monk went one way, when, in reality, he went another. The mirrors had come from the compact kit he carried around his waist.
[What vehicle owner allows this?] A short distance ahead of them, however, they came across a truck in front of a road stand. Doc handed the stand owner a ten dollar bill and climbed in behind the wheel of the truck and drove toward the city.
[Monk cries to Doc like a baby] "Monkeys ought to know that apes are hard to kill," Ham said sarcastically.
"Doc, tell this shyster to lay off me," Monk wailed. "All he does is just—"
"What the—" he muttered.
"Merely two powerful rockets, built in the tail of the plane," Doc explained quietly.
The hairy chemist gulped, and nodded. Doc, he knew, had experimented with rocket ships.
[Barge knows the monster is fake when he says this] "It can’t fail!" Barge exulted. "You’re right. The Monster has been searching for the heart of a bronze-haired man—and that fits Doc Savage. Not even that bronze fiend can cope with The Monster."
The man with the gun went over on his back. His shot went up in the air.
A small object had appeared in Doc’s hand. It was shaped somewhat like a knife. In fact, it did have a sharp blade. But in the center of the knife was a small hole. It was an ingeniously contrived pistol.
The bronze man secured the weapon concealed in his sleeve when he heard the gunman approach. As the other had raised his weapon, Doc had fired.
The bullet was not solid. It was of the mercy type that Doc had perfected. But it hit with a solid blow, and when it caught the other in the face, it had knocked him to his back. The quick-working anaesthetic made him unconscious instantly.
Doc did not hesitate. He grabbed a small metal ball, opened two tiny jets. There was a quick, hissing sound. What looked like a giant soap bubble began to form. Doc and his men were inside the bubble.
The bronze man manipulated the tiny jets again, and the big bubble expanded more. It became a mass of foam, pressed the fire back. Calmly, Doc stepped forward, the others at his heels.
The big bubble rolled along before him, forcing the flame back. Without hurry, they walked right through the fuselage. Only the metal skeleton of the plane remained, and part of that had melted.
[Oh...no...oh no...] He was wearing his bullet-proof underwear. The bullets merely bounced off harmlessly. As he ran, Doc pulled a thin cape from his pocket, and put it over his head. That would protect him against being shot in the head.
[To thank you for service I will give you a lobotomy] "You have befriended Miss Hughes," Doc said quietly. "For that I will have you taken care of in a befitting manner."
The bronze man did not explain that what he meant was that he would have the man sent to his hospital in Upstate New York, where a delicate brain operation would remove his memory of crime, return him to the world as a good citizen.
[Men escaped using a self-destructing catapult] "W-what was that?" Ham spluttered.
They found out as they emerged on the edge of a deep, rock-strewn gully. The gully was at least a hundred feet deep and nearly as wide. A slender, bark-stripped tree was still waving in the air. Ham went back a few yards and examined the underbrush.
"A catapult!" he yelled. "They shot themselves over that gully. They’ll be way ahead of us now." The catapult had been so constructed that it destroyed itself after it had been used.
[Because even a dead Doc Savage is dangerous!] "Be careful!" Deeter shrieked. "Even if he is dead, take no chances!"
A dart had struck Doc’s throat, fired from the Oriental weapon held in Barge Deeter’s hand. But a thin, flesh-colored wrapping had been about Doc’s throat. The wrapping could have stopped a bullet. The dart had glanced off harmlessly. Doc had permitted himself to be taken prisoner to learn the route to the hideout.
Escaping had been no great feat. Barge and his men had stopped to rest several times en route up the mountains, leaving only one man to guard the burro and its burden. Doc had merely traded places with the guard; a chemical had changed the guard’s hair to a bronze color.
Monk led her to the window of the dirigible, pointed below. Far beneath them, was a huge, monstrous shape. It was in the shape of a giant spider. It had eight legs.
It swung from beneath the dirigible by long cables. It had been whipped out of its den as the dirigible rose.
"A fake," Monk explained. "Built like Hollywood builds freak prehistoric beasts, this thing hung from under the dirigible. Men were inside it, could talk by telephone to those in the dirigible."
The Mountain Monster is one of the worst Doc Savage novels with one of the best covers. Admire the cover and then run away screaming like you're being chased by a giant mechanical spider attached to a blimp.
061 - Devil On The Moon:
One Line Review: Not a great story but good naive science aspects and running around
"A fiery red flash bursts through the silence of the night ... a dying green man insists he's been held captive on the moon .. a small blue capsule conceals an unearthly medallion. Can the invincible Man of Bronze piece together this weird puzzle in time to save the world from the devilish merchants of international war?"
"We’re sending you where we send all our prisoners: to the moon!"
March, 1938's Devil On The Moon, according to the Sanctum reprint, was the first book to be returned to Lester Dent for serious revision. Editor and co-creator John L. Nanovic points out a few things that were hopefully upgraded but the bit about Behemoth was, like how Woody Allen described his worst orgasm, right on the money:
"Story seemed poor to me. The feeling of the supernatural was not built up enough in the story until the end where Doc and his men are imprisoned in Greenland. Too--but maybe it's because I know plots so well--it seemed to me that the character of Behemoth was too obvious. It seemed easy to guess that he was Doc Savage, almost from the beginning. Also, Doc's method of escaping from his prison seemed poor."
The build-up and escape are fine. Behemoth should have been revealed as Doc much earlier and the rest of his tenure in disguise adjusted accordingly in narration. Did Lester Dent assume his readers were idiots or new to the characters? In disguise Doc asks so many questions its a surprise he doesn't get shot every other page.
All the aides are involved but they're exceedingly secondary. Maybe they're not all needed for a Doc Savage movie... they are for a few reasons but each needs to be improved and seamlessly bonded together as a team. Doc Savage is not a complete personality and the story needs his assistants to create an attractive, interesting whole. Doc Savage was created with five assistants and you can't just dump three without diminishing and being disrespectful to the source material. The reprint asserts that Devil On The Moon is Pat Savage-centric but it's not there on the page. Her involvement isn't any more involved than in other stories but here she's not whiny and stamping her foot like actresses did in old movies to show they were miffed. While the assistants are bland she is in control of the situation - a nice change kicked in the groin when she insists on doing the wrong thing by letting in the bad guys towards the end. Pig and monkey are again horrible.
According to this book, science in 1938 didn't know if the moon had an atmosphere. Don't begrudge the pulp its sci-fi aspirations. It's cool considering the year and it must have been exciting for the reader. It should be common knowledge though that if you shoot a rocket like a gun shoots a bullet everyone inside would splatter into a thin paste against the back wall.
Devil On The Moon isn't a great story but the naive science aspects of it are quaint and the running around and stuff is interesting. As storytelling it fell short for conveniences large and small. Aldace K. O’Hannigan's appearance made no sense beyond being a false lead, and if Bob Thomas is the evil mastermind his every thought and action shouldn't be narrated as innocent and kind.
Once again, if a person gets killed off-page and the body never seen again - that's the mastermind and he's still alive. People in the 1930s got engaged after knowing each other for a few days because that's how you said I like you a whole lot and we should get to know each other better.
The second device was a highly sensitive "finder" of electromagnetic fields. It consisted of a pickup aërial, an amplifier of extremely high gain, and a headset. It was capable of picking a conversation off a telephone wire at a distance of scores of yards.
Two ordinary drinking glasses stood in a locker over the cabin desk. Doc got one of the glasses, jammed the edge against his bronze skin, over his right eye, hard enough to make an airtight joint. This protected one eye from the tear gas, for he could see, even if in a distorted fashion, through the bottom of the glass. He shut his other eye, held his breath, went out into the passage, shot twice and brought the gunner down with a broken leg, and raced back to the control room.
BEHEMOTH now proceeded to cease to be Behemoth. With a chemical, he removed the rather unwholesome dye on his skin. His skin, fine-textured, became a striking bronze hue. From his lips and nostrils he took pads of flexible, adhesive composition so naturally colored that one might have looked into the mouth without recognizing them for what they were. A number of other details made up the disguise, including tinted glass caps fitting onto the eyeballs—as do the modern "invisible" eyeglasses—which changed the eye color.
Behemoth became Doc Savage, the bronze man, being of mystery, scientific genius and mental marvel, who had been trained by scientists from the cradle for the one thing he was doing now: punishing evildoers and righting wrongs.
[Context is everything, and Long Tom is usually anything but a peaceful soul] "Long Tom was usually a peaceful soul. And since he did not look capable of licking a twelve-year-old boy, his statement seemed slightly grotesque."
Pretty, competent Pat Savage went over to her, and said grimly, "There are two ways of curing hysteria, darling. One is the method doctors use; and the other is mine." With which, Pat slapped Lin Pretti once, very hard.
[Shoot yourself with smaller caliber bullets to build up an immunity to larger ones] "Spies," Doc said quietly, "of many nations now receive immunization from truth serums as part of their training."
Not many people in the metropolis knew for a certainty that this aërie was still Doc’s retreat. Of late, Doc had been carefully encouraging an impression he no longer could be found there. The skyscraper floors had even been renumbered, omitting the number thirteen, a common practice in hotels, so that the skyscraper still had eighty-six floors, with the top floor an unnumbered one which, as far as most people knew, didn’t even exist.
[Groan] "This is a spaceship!" he hollered. "It is launched by explosives, just as a bullet is driven from a gun. Then, for the first few hundred miles out into space, burning gases from stern vents propel it in rocket fashion. This gas propulsion is decreased, for momentum is a tremendously powerful force out in space where there is less gravity pull."
062 - The Pirate's Ghost:
One Line Review: Small-ambition DS adventure works well as genre literature
"At his supersensational best, the Man of Bronze finesses an international band of modern day pirates in possession of the master invention by the Mad Genius of Death Valley!"
The Pirate's Ghost has long been a personal favorite for Sagebrush Smith's obsessive pondering if the Doc Savage he reads about in magazines can really shoot fifty dimes tossed in the air:
What got his dander up was a magazine stating that this Doc Savage could take a six-shooter and hit fifty silver dimes, thrown into the air, with fifty shots.
Sagebrush Smith was willing to stand on a stack of Bibles and say it couldn’t be done. He knew. He’d just like to pay a visit to Doc Savage and show the fellow up...
Daggone," he said, "I wonder if you’d do me a favor?"
The gangling cowboy began scooping silver dimes from his pockets to his hat.
"I’ve been tradin’ everybody outta their dimes," he said. "I finally got fifty here. I want you and me to go off somewhere on the island where that dingbusted Monk and Ham won’t be around to razz me, and I wanta see you hit fifty dimes with fifty shots from a revolver."
"Is it important to you?" Doc asked.
"Kinda. You see—ah—well, I’m thinkin’ of makin’ a change in myself."
DOC and the cowboy went to a secluded spot. Sagebrush Smith threw up dimes. Doc Savage stood beside him and fired. The bronze man hit forty-nine of the dimes.
Sagebrush Smith put the fiftieth dime back in his pocket.
"I’ve got a hunch I’d feel better if you didn’t hit all fifty," he explained sheepishly. "This fifty-dimes-with-fifty-shots business has been a kind of important thing with me for years."
The cowboy rubbed his jaw.
"It’s been an ambition of mine to see you do that," he said.
He took off his hat, scowled at it, put it back on and scratched the back of his neck.
"Ain’t that a hell of an ambition for a grown man to have?" he demanded disgustedly.
April, 1938's Death Valley-based cowboy yarn is a small-ambition Doc Savage adventure that works well and accomplishes its genre literature goal of being entertaining. It pulls a few rabbits out of hats for expedience but The Pirate's Ghost doesn't ask much as long as you don't ask a lot in return. Some don't like that Sagebrush Smith is the focus for a while but he's entertaining and the opening chapters are perfect. Doc Savage's name is bandied about early and often. Monk appears in Chapter 3 and in the next Lester Dent writes one of the best Doc entrances of the series:
"I’ll get it," a cowboy muttered.
He stepped off the porch, stopped.
"Who—who—who"—he pointed—"who’s that?"
Sagebrush Smith, struck by the strangeness in the cowboy’s voice, raised his head and looked. He saw the bronze man. It was the first time he had seen the bronze man. And he never forgot it.
The bronze man came out of the tall sagebrush and at first, walking out there in the moonlight, he seemed of average size. Then he came closer. He wasn’t average size. Wasn’t average anything. He seemed to grow, develop. He became a giant so perfectly proportioned that it was only when he was near other men with whom he could be compared that his tremendous stature was evident...
He reached the porch and spoke. His voice was deep, cultured, remarkably toned, and had also a subtle, compelling power that was in keeping with the power of the man himself.
"Here is something," he said, "that might be interesting."
He held out a palm; an object that might have been a glass marble rolled off it, hit the porch floor with a faint, crunching sound, and became a wet spot. A wet spot for but an instant; then the wetness was gone and there was only the thin glistening of a broken, globular, glass container...
Then a Lazy Y cowhand took in a deep breath and let it out in a sigh and got down on his knees. Ludicrously, the cowhand peered at the porch floor as though hunting a soft place; then he laid down. The other Lazy Y men did the same thing in quick succession until there was no one but the strange bronze man left standing.
The idea that radio static might convey voices of the deceased makes for fine speculative consideration, and the bad guy's con of pretending Meander Surett's device works in order to finance a scam netting them "two hundred and ninety-eight thousand dollars" ($4,859,303.88 in 2015) is real and realistic. The ending wasn't overly ambitious but it was effective and made sense. A nice change as the conclusions of Doc Savage books lean towards a lot of running around.
Sagebrush Smith at age 24 comes across as a simpleton old codger:
"Damn all deserts!" he said feelingly.
"Yeah. Betcher boots."
"Creepin’ Moses!" said Sagebrush Smith.
"Geewhilikers!" he said.
"That," said Sagebrush Smith, "is a gookus-wookus."
"Great Muley steers!" said Sagebrush Smith.
"Ah, frog feathers!" complained Sagebrush Smith.
There's no reason on the page for the real Sally Surett, who barely appears, to betroth herself to a cartoon cowboy. In the Doc Savage world day-players who get kidnapped together tend to become engaged. Lester Dent may have realized he fell short with Smith when he came up with the more worthy Ben "Donald" Duck of July, 1941's The Green Eagle.
Donkeys are called "Mountain Canaries". Chapter 4 has the great title "Big Ape and Pig Man". Doc disguising himself to "disinfect" Hoke McGee and his gang with a long-lasting stink agent is a nice touch:
"Why not take baths?" inquired Mr. Barr.
"We did, dang-blast it—and it only made us smell worse! That stuff he put on us was a chemical or somethin’." The Lazy Y foreman fell into a chair and held his own nose. "You got no idea how it is to be like this. Why, dogs run barkin’ after us for blocks. They won’t let us ride the street cars. We got throwed outta our hotel."
The opening is classic Lester Dent:
... However, Sagebrush Smith managed to confine his troubles to the ordinary ones of a cow-puncher until the advent of a certain fifteenth day of March. This fifteenth of March followed the fourteenth, which was the day Sagebrush Smith got fired. He got canned off the Lazy Y spread for giving the round-up boss, "Hoke" McGee, what he called "a bust in the snoot" over a trifling matter of who had put a deceased rattlesnake in Sagebrush Smith’s bedroll.
Sagebrush was scared of rattlesnakes, also of red-eye whisky and women...
Sagebrush Smith was a long, gangling young man with a freckled hide, and he had no cares. He was not, fortunately or unfortunately—depending on the outlook—very ambitious. There was, in fact, only one thing he really wanted to do, if he ever got around to it: he wanted to see a fellow he had read about, a man named Doc Savage. He just wanted to have a look at this Doc Savage. He had never told any one about the yen. He figured they would think it kind of silly.
The story sidestepped reality when Sagebrush Smith manages to produce an identical metal box filled with bricks to fool Monk and Ham at the airport, and soon after Doc pulls the same stunt. Is there a store at the airport for these? Doc's picking up a 200 lb. box with one hand would only work if there was a handle - which there isn't.
From one pocket, Ham extracted a flat device the length and width of the leather cases used to carry cigars, but deeper, and equipped with a folding crank after the fashion of pocket movie cameras which operated a tiny generator inside the device. There was a lens on the apparatus, a lens almost black in color.
Ham turned the crank vigorously while pointing the device at the wall where he had found the figures. The contrivance was a portable projector of ultra-violet light. The ultra-violet rays, invisible to the unaided eye, struck the wall and caused a fluorescence of words written there with a chalk which Doc Savage had perfected. The chalk, like such common substances as aspirin and vaseline, fluoresced or glowed under ultra-violet light.
Meanwhile, the shark came closer, circled once, then flicked its tail and came down for the bronze man. The water was clear, and the shark’s open mouth seemed to hold a million teeth.
Ten feet from the bronze man, the shark put on the brakes. Then it turned wildly and fled.
Doc swam on, leaving the protection of the chemical which he had put into the water—a chemical the result of a careful study of what sharks, barracudas and other sea-killers were most afraid of.
It was the physalia type of giant sea organism, a thing like a plucked-up mass of purplish roots which had stinging, paralyzing properties, smaller cousins to the things called Portuguese Man of War along the Gulf coast of the United States. The chemical merely gave the water the subtle bite of the presence of the physalia. It terrified the sharks as the smell of a lion terrifies horses.
[No nonsense Doc Savage] Several Lazy Y cowboys still at the bunk house—they had been delayed, probably, by the necessity for digging their weapons out of bedrolls or war-sacks—began shooting. Bullets ate off pieces of sagebrush around the retreating men.
"Your machine-pistol, Monk," the bronze giant said.
The apish man produced a weapon which slightly resembled an overgrown automatic pistol. It had a drum magazine.
"It’s loaded with them new bomb bullets," "Monk" explained. "That’s the reason I didn’t use it."
The bronze man took the gun; pointed it in the direction of the Lazy Y buildings and pulled the trigger. Sagebrush Smith’s ears were assailed by such a roar as he’d never heard before. If there could be a bull as big as Pikes Peak, and if the bull were to bawl, the noise would be about like the one the little gun made.
An entire corner of the Lazy Y ranch house flew into the air; the windmill jumped up and fell over; and part of the corral disintegrated into flying rails. Wagonloads of earth sprang into the air at points closer and closer to the bunk house. The Lazy Y rannys around the bunk house turned and fled like prairie dogs in a thunderstorm.
"That kinda discouraged ‘em," Monk said.
THERE was something about this strange bronze man that gripped and compelled, and Sagebrush, who was indignant and wanted to stamp and shout and demand to know what it was all about, found that his tongue was falling over itself to give civil answers.
The bronze man had a prodigious memory, developed as a part of the remarkable two-hour routine of exercises which he had taken with daily regularity since childhood—exercises that accounted for many of his amazing faculties. He was continually experimenting, had a score of projects under way at times. It might be weeks before he got around to using the data he took from the instruments in Death Valley, but so highly was his memory trained that it would serve as well as a notebook.
The clerk was leaning on the desk downstairs, rubbing his jaw and thinking. He could recall, back during the depression when the hotel had been about to fail and throw every one out of work, that had been taken over by what was known only as the Eastern Management.
At the time, some remarkably sensible suggestions had come from the Eastern Management as to what policies to follow; as a result, the hotel had been prosperous since. The clerk grinned. He was remembering, too, that he had heard that Doc Savage had taken over other near-failing industries—factories, stores, a steamship line or two, even a railroad, and by some magical business touch—probably common sense—had kept them going so that no one had lost any jobs.
Monk looked at Renny, and Renny looked at Monk. Physically, they were the most powerful of Doc Savage’s group of associates. Both of them had been straining at the wheel to make the lift the bronze man had just made—and hadn’t budged it at all.
"There really wasn’t room for two men to lift at once," Doc remarked.
Monk and Renny knew differently. Doc had managed alone what their combined strength could not accomplish.
"Yeah, but there was an hombre with this fashion plate," said Hoke McGee, "that was dang nigh as wide as he was tall, had rusty-lookin’ hair over ‘im, and a face that was somethin’ to stop a clock. After he left, one of the rannys looked in the dictionary under orang-outang and found somethin’ that looked like ‘im."
"That’s my honeybunch!" said Sagebrush.
"The time is comin’ closer," Monk said, "when I take one cowboy in my two hands and squeeze and there will just be a little grease on my hands and no cowboy."
[Fops Magoo!] Sagebrush popped his eyes at what was now happening in the doorway. A rather slender man had appeared in the lighted door. This man was lean, of average height. He wore fine cordovan gentleman’s riding boots, well-tailored whipcord breeches, a checked sports coat, ascot tie, pearl-gray derby with a small, bright feather in the band. He carried a slender black cane.
Ham’s hands didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves; he was accustomed to the sword cane in his hands all the time, and, of course, he was not carrying it while disguised as an Italian newspaper correspondent.
Sagebrush was about to flop down in the sand again for caution’s sake, but thought of the sidewinders and remained on his feet. He’d take his chances with bullets.
The dying man closed his eyes for a while and rested. After a moment or two he started talking again.
"Did Doc remember me?" he asked suddenly. "Did Doc remember old Meander Surett?"
"Yeah," said Sagebrush. "‘Course he remembered you."
Old Meander Surett closed his eyes. He appeared about as pleased as he could be.
"I’m not suprised that he remembered," he said. "I was one of the world’s greatest authorities on electrical research—before I disappeared."
THERE is probably no institution of mankind better equipped with reading matter than the cowboy bunk house. The height of the stack of magazines in the corner will vary with the seasons, shrinking in the winter when they are handy for starting fires, but usually it ranges around shoulder high. So Sagebrush Smith had read about Doc Savage.
"Did it seem to you that Meander Surett could have been insane?"
"That point is important. If the scientist was sane, his letter can be believed; in which case the man has made, beyond doubt, the greatest scientific discovery of ages."
"Think it’s that important, huh?"
"Meander Surett’s discovery, if genuine, cannot be estimated." The bronze man’s unusual voice was serious. "The effects may change civilization, perhaps alter religions and overthrow governments. Results of a thing so unexpected and so startling are hard to estimate. The point is: Was Meander Surett sane—or did he only imagine he had made his fantastic discovery?"
"I can lick both you jaspers!" said Sagebrush rashly.
Ham said to Monk, "You kick this man and I’ll take this cane and carve a map of the moon on you. The moon is covered with craters, in case you don’t know it, you hairy monstrosity!"
"Who’s a hairy monstrosity?" demanded Monk irately.
"You. You’re also a fur-encrusted gossoon, and as simple-witted as you look!"
"You keep that up," Monk said, "and I’ll wring you out until you resemble your last year’s gray spats!"
Sagebrush batted his eyes at them.
"You geezers seem to quarrel a little," he remarked.
One of the Lazy Y gun-slicks had gone forward and disarmed the pilot and co-pilot who had guns because the ship carried mail.
[Always great] The Surfside was very strict about this nothing-happening policy, which was pursued on direct orders from the management in New York. Just the night before, a prominent lawyer had been thrown out of the bar for singing six words of "Sweet Adeline." As for motion picture people, they weren’t even permitted to register.
They hadn’t intended to permit Doc Savage to register.
No indeed! The clerk had heard of Doc Savage, the man of bronze who was always fighting somebody’s war. But after Doc Savage presented a document, the clerk stopped explaining that the New York management was particular about the guests. The document said that Doc Savage was the New York management! The clerk hadn’t known that. He did everything but get down on his knees and bump his forehead on the floor.
DOC SAVAGE stood beside a long table in a room where the furniture was substantial enough to be practical, but not practical enough to be ugly.
"You know," Monk said, "you can’t never tell about Doc."
"What do you mean, tree-dweller?"
"You go along and you think you know what Doc is doing," Monk explained. "And then, whango! You find out he’s got hold of a rope when you thought he only had a string."
"If it wasn’t against my policy to agree with you," Ham admitted, "I’d say you were right."
"How are we gonna keep these three fellows from suspecting something queer happened to them?" Renny rumbled.
Doc Savage managed that quite simply. He removed all traces of the visit of himself and his men, this consisting principally in sponging away the drop or two of red leakage from the pricks of the hypodermic needle. Then he opened the jets of the gas heater and let enough gas into the house to make a perceptible odor, but not enough to endanger any one’s life. Then he called the fire department.
From across the street, the bronze man watched the fire department arrive and rush the three victims off to receive treatment for imaginary gassing. A little later in the night, they would awaken, none the worse for an experience, no detail of which they would be able to remember.
Highly recommended as a nice Doc Savage adventure from the middle of the run.
063 - The Motion Menace:
One Line Review: Disjointed and harmless, reworked by indifferent L. Dent
"The Man of Bronze and his cousin Pat face an inordinate challenge: a machine that makes all modern weapons worthless. A gang of international thieves in control of the invention are shooting high: World Control."
"For the last few weeks, Doc had been molested"
The Sanctum reprint details the long and tortured road of this disjointed yet harmless story first penned by W. Ryerson Johnson and then reworked by a seemingly indifferent Lester Dent. The science of the inertia weapon is given great consideration and in the final product it's as good if not better than your average Doc Savage explanation on why things went boom, floated away, or became ten feet tall, blue, and flatulent.
The finished story didn't see print for a while because of the Hindenburg disaster, and the blimp scene in The Motion Menace was too good and integral to put something else in its place. It hit newsstands in May, 1938. Cover artist Emery Clarke does a nice job emulating the magic of Walter Baumhofer.
A writer who cared enough could make The Motion Menace a wizz-bang humdinger of an adventure. The weak points are screamingly obvious but there's a lot of them to replace and patch up. The first part of the story presents a major threat of fearsome bearded Elders who talk like they came from a magical kingdom, a plane freezes in the air mid-flight, a blimp crashes, bullets fall as in a pool of water, and the bad guys are a massive organization capable of accomplishing anything:
"Berlin Preparation Area Headquarters reports four thousand sixty-three men on assigned positions. No trace of suspicion."
"Excellent!" replied the elderly gentleman.
"Tokyo Preparation Area reports fourteen submarines have our men aboard in strategic positions. One man captured. He confessed to being a foreign spy. He was shot. No suspicion as to his real identity."
By the mid-point Dent (I assume) shrinks it down to Doc and Co. vs. the Main Bad Guys and Co. The alternating surface intentions of the day-players are a good feature, but having Pat even pretend to turn bad because she wants in on big action is weak writing:
"Pull in your eyes," Pat told him callously. "I have found out what this is all about, and it appeals to me." Her voice lifted slightly, became more excited. "This is the biggest thing that ever happened! Those on the inside will have power such as no one ever dreamed of. It’s too good to pass up."...
"Take them away," Pat directed. "Place their pets somewhere so that they can’t cause trouble." Then as an afterthought she said archly, "His Highness is quite nice."
This earlier scene is tense and dramatic but it's never explained because the writers decided not to:
Pat moaned, "Oh—that—that—horror—"
An old man in the background said solemnly, "She knows, now."
"Yes," said another, with equal solemnity. "And she is a nice young woman, with courage. It is sad."
Pat, in her delirium of pain, rolled and mumbled. In her blankness, she seemed to be trying to convey a warning.
"Doc!" she moaned incoherently. "You won’t guess—you’ll never have—a chance!"
Her mumblings became weaker and weaker and her movements less and less, as if an unseen beast of silence were slowly swallowing her.
A day-player makes up a story for the motion stopping menace and comes up with another slice of weak scripting:
"Well, to get back at the story, these Elders managed to communicate with these strange things that we can’t see. They evolved a terrible scheme. They are going to use the creatures to commit wholesale robberies all over the world. You see, the creatures, or whatever they are, being invisible, can walk in anywhere and carry away loot.
Doc disguising someone to look like him with what he carries in his vest is a stretch, and Monk and Ham together are asinine nimrod belligerent children. Dump Pig and Stupid Ape are horrible, and Monk using Dumb Pig as a dummy is the worst:
One of the gang tried to catch Habeas by the tail, and was bitten. The fellow jumped back, whipped out a revolver and aimed at the pig.
The hog said, "Two bits says you miss me."
The man almost dropped his gun. He popped his eyes in amazement. He pulled his mouth shut with difficulty.
"Jimmy crickets!" he exploded. "That damn hog spoke to me! Or am I crazy?"
Habeas, the shote, said, "All crooks are crazy, the way I figure."
The man with the gun walked around and around Habeas. He scratched his head.
"Bless my soul!" he said. "A talking hog!"
In the book's weakest weakness Doc pulls out, with no fanfare or explanation, and atomic gun! Pew- Pew!!
He lifted the cameralike device to an eye, sighted exactly as if he were going to take a picture, and pressed a button...
With his instrument—a powerful atomic gun—Doc caused two more terrific explosions.
Doc found the hole. Into it he dropped one of the tiny, high-explosive grenades which he invariably carried. The grenade was not half an inch in diameter, but it was probably as powerful a thing for its size as man had yet been able to create.
[What fit in a blimp in 1938] The Munchen was nine hundred and sixty feet of proof that somebody besides the Germans could build lighter-than-air craft. She was a hundred and eighty feet thick...
Besides Diesel motors and noninflammable gas, private cabins and a promenade deck, the Munchen had a billiard room, a dance orchestra, a floor show with some very snappy lady numbers, and a swimming pool. The swimming pool was not as nutty an idea as it appeared at first inspection. The water in it was really the supply of water ballast which all airships carry.
The Munchen also carried two airplanes in underside hangars, to be launched from the air and received back in the same manner.
Doc gave brief instructions. The machine-pistol was not a simple weapon. There were, moreover, two different secret safeties, which only the closest examination would disclose. There had been occasions when enemies had captured one of the guns, only to spend hours in a futile effort to make it function.
Doc Savage gripped a handful of the left breast of the operator’s coat. The coat fabric was a stout weave. Yet it tore away as if it were ancient cheesecloth. Altogether, Doc’s fingers got coat, shirt, undershirt—and a flat pistol and its holster.
"As long as I was around Savage, I never saw him turn his back to anybody," Halloc snapped. "Not anybody, mind you, except his five aids. Man, is he cautious!"
Doc Savage made again, very briefly as usual, his trilling. But now, it had a brisk, urgent quality of enraged grimness.
LONG TOM ROBERTS was a quick thinker. Indeed, it had been an occasion of slightly too much quick-thinking which had earned him his nickname. Years earlier, he had once hit upon the bright idea of defending a certain military position by loading an old-time cannon of the type known as Long Toms, and having no regulation shot and ball, had employed a collection of rocks, broken beer bottles, jackknives and beltbuckles.
Monk yelled, "Tell us everything you know!"
"Hell with you!" the captive snarled.
The man probably expected a third degree. It was doubtful if his worst fears approached what he did get. Monk picked him up bodily, slammed him against a wall, caught him on the bounce, crashed him to the floor, then picked him up by the ears alone. Monk let loose, hit him in the middle, straightened the fellow with a smash under the jaw.
Monk gloried in trouble. Doc had a policy of never doing any more physical damage to an enemy than could be helped, but Monk had never thought much of the policy...
Monk knocked the prisoner against the wall again with a blow, let him fall, then jumped onto him. Sitting on the fellow’s middle, Monk grabbed an arm and calmly began to pull the fingers out of joint.
The man, screaming, blubbered, "I’ll tell you!"
Monk tried to expectorate on him, but did not quite succeed.
Monk growled, "Did you know that an animal can be fed poison in amounts so small that it won’t hurt him, but his flesh will gradually become impregnated with the poison until he will kill anything that eats part of him?"
"Dot’s a ha’al of a yoke!" snorted Captain Wizer.
"I hope you keep on thinking so," Monk said.
Ham looked startled. "Is Habeas like that?"
"Yeah," Monk growled. "I didn’t know but what you might make bacon out of him some day, and I had him all ready for you."
"Are you using your own name?"
"Of course not. I’m Miss Enola Emmel, an air tourist."
"Took the words ‘lemme alone’ and turned them around. Not especially good."
"I thought," Pat said, "it was right snitzy."
[Clever ruse on Pat's part] "Suppose," Pat said, "that Doc was never the bronze man he appeared to be. You must admit that big bronze characterization stands out in a crowd. Almost any enemy would recognize him instantly. Think what it would mean if he was never really this bronze man? Suppose he was a totally different individual?"
When aviation was new, airplane company press agents got the habit of breathing hints of sabotage every time there was a crack-up. Nothing definite. Just vagueness about Communists, terrorists, or some other nebulous enemy.
[Nice] The China Rocket was a luxury clipper from San Francisco to Shanghai, China. Two pilots and a radio operator. Hot meals. Pretty hostesses whose smiles would take your mind off air-sickness and the size of the Pacific Ocean, or who would hand you a paper bag if that didn’t work.
PAIN was the first thing. Stinging pain, the kind that comes from a healing wound when it is hurt. It was so agonizing that it put strange lights in front of Doc’s eyes. It started at the end of his extended arm, and flooded back. He wrenched to get the arm free.
The arm would not come back! An irresistible force had gripped it! His muscles—gigantic sinews—stretched, and the joints seemed to give, but he could not free his hand.
Doc kicked with terrific force. His foot hit something. It felt as hard as bone. The impact stung all the way up to the hip. And the thing grabbed the foot. Held it! No amount of yanking freed the leg.
Then, without warning, and before he could get a light going—the bronze man carried a tiny flashlight—to tell what the thing was, it released him.
There was no sound, no noise of breathing, no odor of anything. It just released him. And when Doc lunged, kicked and struck, there was nothing.
Monk began to have a creepy feeling. Was he wrong, or had two of the flies, on the far side of the room, fallen to the floor?
They had! There went another! That one was closer.
Doc scooped up the pig. "Run!"
Doc said, "Coöperation, Monk!"
Monk got in step with the bronze man. One, two, three and jump! They hit the door together, each planting both feet solidly near the lock. Almost a quarter of a ton, moving fast. Coöperation. The next instant, they were sitting out in the sunlight, in the wreckage of the door.
[These two lines use words in interesting ways]
"Yes, Viscount Penroff," a man said inanely.
He popped his heels, saluted and minced out.
"Put him on the rack," the man with the pig said. "We’ll see how much rubber he’s got in his system."
[The era before shredding] "Give them hydrocyanic," the elderly viscount ordered, "then lower the bodies in the acid vat we ordinarily use for the disposal of cancelled bonds."
[The caps and exclamation point say otherwise] "QUICK!" Doc said. His voice did not sound as if he were in a hurry.
[This is weak] "Nope," Long Tom said. "Lucky I remembered I’d met the radio operator on this airship once when I inspected its radio installation on its first trip around the world. When I recalled I looked like one of the operators, and remembered he’d told me he had a girl friend here in Lakehurst, it was simple.
"I just wrote a note in a girl’s handwriting, asking him to come to a dark part of the field. When he got there, I knocked him cold and tied him up. That’s all there was to it."
The bronze man said, "In your pockets in New York was a badge which indicated you were a secret agent of the great Soviet secret service, the Ogpu."
[The entire story is heavily invested in the blackhead angle] "That is Captain Cutting Wizer, the old lad who built that remarkable device Pat used in her beauty shop for eradicating blackheads and skin disorders by the use of unusual electromagnetic fields."
Doc said, "This thing is somewhat complicated, but the theory of gyroscopic interatomic behavior is almost perfectly worked out."...
"They are portable transmitters to set up complicated opposed magnetic fields in narrow panels to accelerate the inherent interatomic stability ratio of matter. Not understanding them, you might damage yourself or us."...
Doc Savage took up the explanation. "Captain Wizer has discovered that inertia is the result of a gyroscopic effect arising out of the orbits of electrons inside the atoms that compose the molecules that make up all matter. This gyroscopic stability, or reluctance to change, can be greatly enhanced by a certain electromagnetic field. In other words, the force of inertia can be instantaneously increased to such an extent that nothing will move."...
"Inertia," Monk muttered. "Increase inertia by magnetic fields. That means all motion stops in the area. Even the air that conducts sound waves would quit moving. And gravity would still exert a force, and things would gradually sink to the ground. Daggone! That explains everything that has happened!"
[It being the last chapter and all, isn't it too late to still be disguising your voice?] A voice called from outside. The harsh, disguised voice of the one known as His Highness.
[So how is this different than the real Soviet Union?] "What was behind it, Pat?"
"Robbery, Monk. Nothing less. They were going to seize the Soviet republic and set up a puppet empire, then loot the public. Take all the taxes they could raise. Then they would do the same with other countries. Oh, it was big. And they would have made it, too. That inertia machine makes all modern weapons worthless."
The strong and weak aspects of The Motion Menace fairly balance each other out but it's not a story to be taken seriously as a legitimate effort. It does have good points and even better potential. As it stands the more standards you apply to it the more it leaks.
064 - The Submarine Mystery:
One Line Review: Worth reading despite it failing the sniff test of plausibility
"It might be a hoax, and it might not be. Blood has been spilled! People are dead! The Man of Bronze ably confronts a dangerous crackpot scheme that has a baffled world wondering what will happen next. Doc Savage investigates modern-day piracy when a Navy sub is destroyed off of Boston Harbor, and it's only survivor is found to be speaking an obscure 16th-century dialect."
From June of 1938, Lester Dent's The Submarine Mystery gets play as the first "humanized" Doc Savage story. Knowing how far and astray this went later on it must be stated this book is lite on the examined and introspective Doc Savage. If you don't enjoy the Freudian Mess Doc Savage you'll glory in how little of it is on display. All of it is contained in the following:
DOC SAVAGE sat down on the running board of his car to reflect. Also to eliminate possible explanations for what had just happened.
In five minutes, he was mystified, and after ten minutes had passed, he was completely at a loss. He had no idea why he’d been kidnapped, or where his captors might be taking him.
Doc Savage was not unaware that he had been for some time acquiring a world-wide reputation as a modern scientific Galahad who went about the globe righting wrongs and punishing evil-doers. He did not work for pay. He had a source of fabulous wealth, gained in one of his early adventures.
Since he did not have to make a living out of his strange profession, he could select any crime that interested him, the result being that any criminal was likely to find the man of bronze on his trail.
Doc had better than a sprinkling of potential enemies, and they had a habit of trying to dispose of him unexpectedly. Possibly a potential enemy was trying something now.
DOC SAVAGE was a product of a deliberate scientific plan; he was the result of what could happen when physical instructors, psychologists and scientists all coöperated. The scientists and the others had assumed charge of Doc at childhood, and had taken turns in his training.
The bronze man had been in their hands almost continuously. His training should have made him a kind of superhuman scientific product. It should have made him a machine. It should have taken the human qualities out of him. In one sense, all Doc Savage’s training had been a flop:
He still had his emotions. The things that pleased or excited other men pleased or excited him. Some of the scientists had tried to remove that, believing that a man being trained for his unusual profession should not have ordinary emotions. They would be a handicap.
For instance, Doc Savage could get just as scared as any body. And as worried. Still, his past training had done one thing: it had fixed him up with a poker face, and he could, under almost any circumstances, show no emotion whatever.
China’s repeated remarks about his lack of progress was sandpapering his nerves pretty raw.
"You," China said, "remind me of a rooster trying to scratch up a worm in a concrete street."
Doc Savage’s mouth tightened, but he managed to hold onto himself.
"While you’re fiddling," China continued, "these queer fellows who talk Old English are probably putting your friends Monk and Ham into sacks, tying weights to the sacks, and throwing the sacks into the river."
Doc’s grip on his temper slipped. For the first time in his life, he told a lady off.
"Shut up!" he said loudly. "And sit down!"
China gazed at him in wide-eyed wonder. She righted an overturned chair and sat down on it.
"I actually believe," she gasped, "that you’re almost human!"
"Have you any idea who I am?" he asked.
Rowe said, "We heard they brought back four prisoners. Three men and a woman. You must be one of the prisoners."
"My name," Doc said, "is Doc Savage."
The name apparently did not mean a thing to Rowe, and that was unfortunate. Most of the time Doc Savage preferred anonymity; he drew a great deal of embarrassment from the fact that his name, his reputation, had spread to the corners of the earth and he could, by merely appearing on the streets of almost any large city, collect a crowd of fans and autograph hounds.
This was one exception. He wished these people knew him. It would take a strong magnet to draw them together in a group that would fight.
This part is interesting in a few ways. First as a demonstration how the 86th floor's front office is weaponized. Second that the narration is third-person subjective usually reserved for Doc Savage. Third, Prince "Do you have me in a can?" Albert is the criminal mastermind so why does this line exist: "Kill the girl? That had been orders, as a last resort."? Because that's how Lester Dent liked to keep these things secret (it's also possible at the time he hadn't assigned Albert to be the mastermind). In addition, if you're the mastermind you don't knock yourself out for a few days:
PRINCE ALBERT had presence of mind. Electricity was smashing through his body, convulsing his muscles and swiping colored lights across his eyes. But he still controlled himself enough to look down, realize the carpet had become electrified, twist wildly out of his raincoat and fling it to the floor. There was enough rubber in the coat to make an insulator. When he jumped upon it, no more sparks flew.
The girl stood wide-eyed. There was no electric fire around her feet.
Prince Albert had dropped his gun. Trying to get it, he sprang out on the carpet. Sparks grew around his feet like hot blue animals snarling and gnashing.
When he took hold of his gun, he got as much blue electric fire as gun. He could not hold the weapon. He screamed in spite of himself. He tried again. He could not make his fingers take the gun.
Prince Albert gave it up, did a kangaroo jump to the insulating raincoat. Agony was turning his face the purple of a man choking. Bawling noises he made were probably his best at swearing.
From the coat, he sprang to the door. With both hands, he clutched the knob. But he let go of the knob instantly, peered at his hands. He saw pricked spots, as if there had been a thorn or two on the doorknob.
Prince Albert got his face close enough to the doorknob to see the little steel needles which had projected and stung him, and he could also see that they were hollow, and that drops of a syrupy, yellow substance had oozed from the steel fangs.
He frog-jumped backward from the door, making mewing noises of agitation, and hit the library door. It was locked. The electricity on the rug—it was obvious now that wires were cleverly woven into the rug design to carry high-frequency current—shook him with paralytic violence. Back to the coat, he floundered.
Deadness was coming into his hands, crawling up his arms. He’d soon be helpless. He realized that.
Trade threat on the girl’s life for his release? Who was there to trade with? There might be nobody; all this could be a wholly mechanical burglar trap.
Kill the girl? That had been orders, as a last resort.
Prince Albert got his knife out of his clothing and made for the girl—took two steps and mashed his out-thrust face against something hard and cold. Glass. Incredibly transparent plate.
He struck at it, hit it with his shoulder and all his weight. The stuff had come down from the ceiling. His own yelling must have covered the sound it made.
Because of the glass, he could not reach the girl.
Prince Albert was trapped! Certainty of that closed in on him like ice. He couldn’t escape. There was nothing, then, but do what they were supposed to do when about to be taken. Every man of his gang carried the pills. The pills were issued fresh every two weeks.
He snatched the stick pin out of his necktie, twisted out the large, yellowish, cheap-looking artificial pearl with his teeth, crushed it and swallowed it.
Prince Albert was still swallowing parts of the pill when the bronze man came in through the library door.
The Submarine Mystery is a good book in that it sports a nice, loose flow. There's less Doc Savage as demigod so with less awe to acknowledge the story progresses more naturally. On the down side action involving ships and submarines bore as confining esoterica and a few things didn't pass the "Really?" test. Here's examples of good things, led by something that should happen more often. Example: Bad Guy kills cute puppy leads to Bad Guy having hands, feet, face, and you-know-what mangled but good:
"We beat you before, and it did no good," the spokesman growled. "Methinks the lash on the boy might have more effect on thee."
The whip hissed a little going through the air, and when it hit the boy, all his muscles seemed to jerk at once.
The spokesman lifted the whip, and when his arm got to the top of its upswing, the whip left his hand and sailed away, turning over and over, its lashes distended like an octopus’s tentacles.
The whip wielder made a noise, a kind of gurgle. His lower face would probably never look quite the same again, for Doc Savage had hit him hard enough to break the jaw in too many places for it to ever mend in a proper shape.
The slug hit Doc Savage in the chest, rooted through coat, vest, shirt, and slammed up against the metallic alloy-mesh bulletproof undergarment which he had been forced, because of perpetual danger, to wear for years.
Shock drove air out of the bronze man’s lungs. He coughed, got it back in. Then he grasped the man, clamped him close with one arm and took hold of the back of the fellow’s neck and put pressure on neck nerve centers. The man did some extra-size kicking. Then he went rope slack. He would probably be out for an hour or more.
Doc Savage looked amiable, but did not answer. One of the earlier bits of knowledge he had acquired was that the less conversation you had with an aggravated woman, the less your grief.
Doc put an electrical-listening device against the farmhouse door before he went in. The listener was a combination of velocity mike and amplifier, and could make a fly walking on velvet sound like an elephant in a jungle. Out of the house came complete silence, and he went in.
"O. K. Don’t answer me, then," China said. "Let’s change the subject. What are you going to do about your missing friends?"
Instead of replying to that, the bronze man went outside and made several circles of the farmhouse, scrutinizing the ground closely. Then he searched the outbuildings. He did a very thorough job of this search, leading China to make a remark.
"There’s a flyspeck you missed over here," she said.
As one exercise, Doc Savage had started out reading the conventional Braille raised-dots-on-paper printing of the blind, and had systematically decreased the size of the Braille letters until he could touch-read astonishingly small type.
It did not take him long to feel out the construction of the door. There was nothing to be encouraged about. The door would have been rather formidable equipment for a vault.
Doc had perceived that Monk and Ham were starting one of their quarrels which, like taxes, would go on and on. He wished to discourage this. When one had been associated more or less continuously with the Monk-and-Ham quarrel for a period of years, it could get monotonous.
Doc Savage had been sitting on the bunk, and now he got up and took off his long nightie. He borrowed the nighties which Monk and Ham wore. He balled them together, added the blanket, and made a tight wad.
Next, he beat on the door, yelled, rattled the door fastenings. He kept it up for about five minutes. As before, the door flew open, and the guard pegged a gas bomb inside.
But this time, Doc Savage jammed his bundle into the door so that it could not be yanked shut again. He picked up the hot, steaming gas grenade, and threw it back into the corridor. Then he pulled the wad of nighties and blanket out of the crack and got the door shut.
There was a great deal of profanity as the tear gas spread through the submarine.
"A dose of their own medicine," Doc Savage said dryly.
When Monk socked the guard, the cigarette flew out of the fellow’s fingers, hit the deck, made a shower of sparks, and sailed on into the dark water.
"You hit him too hard!" Ham accused Monk.
"I was illustratin’," Monk chuckled.
"I hit ‘im," Monk said cheerfully, "the way I’m gonna sock you some day."
THE bronze man cut the siren, began to reduce speed. Traffic closed in around the machine, and they made no more commotion than other motorists.
THE American people and the American newspapers are prone to credit their government, their army and their navy with little or no ability as diplomats. For some contrary reason, they like to insist that whenever a mess comes up, the Americans are sure to put their foot in it. At the drop of a hat, they will declare an American diplomat is no diplomat at all. It now developed that this was a slight mistake.
It's nice how names of nations were mentioned instead of the usual winking, pointing, facial contortions, and being terrified to look directly at it:
The world at the moment was in one of those stages where it is called a powder keg. There was an undeclared war or two going on in Europe; the Japanese were swallowing another chunk of China, and various dictators were shaking hands with each other and making faces at the rest of the universe.
"Not necessarily," the bronze man said. "Suppose some remarkable Twentieth Century pirate got enough men together, got submarines, and started raiding. The international situation is ideal. Suppose the pirate sank a German ship? The Germans would naturally suspect the Russians did it, because Germany is not too friendly with Russia."
The aids discussed this, and began to see how logical it was. It became more likely when Doc pointed out that the pirates of the Spanish Main used exactly the same tactics. Spain was at war with England at the time, and when the Spaniards lost a ship, they were inclined to blame the English.
This bit is a perennial, or an evergreen, or whatever the cool horticulturists are calling it these days. The thing with the rock is weirdness that serves as a distraction, but it shouldn't exist in the first place and the bag guys sure didn't put it there:
Doc was driving along a Long Island road and saw the gray rock where it had no business to be, geologically. Among many other things, Doc was a geologist, experts admitting that he knew as much about rocks as almost any other man. That gray rock was as irregular as a polar bear walking around in Florida.
Doc stared at the rock. So he did not see the two men in the passing truck. The men were blowing their noses in big bandanna handkerchiefs, a ruse to hide their faces. The truck whipped in front of Doc’s car and stopped.
Doc stamped brakes and stopped.
The truck was a huge van. The back end of this suddenly dropped. It became an inclined ramp.
A car promptly crashed into Doc’s machine from the rear. Doc Savage’s automobile was knocked scooting up the ramp into the van.
The back of the van closed up tightly.
I guess it's asking too much to have a seat or two you can pull out of the walls so people don't have to fall on their faces when using the special elevator:
DOC and the girl took the speed elevator to the street. Having come down eighty-six floors at practically free-falling speed, China Janes struggled with her breathing and her composure. The dark sedan which the bronze man drove rolled several blocks before she got organized.
Under Exposition Griping, Doc doesn't know Dumb Ape and Stupid Pig? Who once again make themselves useless and have no reason to be endangered nine times a year?:
"Here’s a good one, Doc," Monk chuckled. "Chemistry, that blasted runt ape pet of Ham’s, has been devilin’ my pet pig, Habeas Corpus, for weeks. But the worm finally turned. Habeas got hold of Chemistry and blamed near ate a leg off him, and the ape has been roostin’ on the chandelier all day, afraid to—"
There's no lack of good Monk descriptions. He also makes a noise, so Doc has his trilling, Monk buzzes when angry, Renny farts in a low baritone when listening to jazz, Ham whistles air out his nose like a kettle when confronted by corduroy pants, Johnny squeaks when he's tied up too deliciously tight, and much too often Long Tom emits a small sound like he's either trying to push out or keep in a poop.
"MONK," otherwise known as Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, was a man who was somewhat ridiculous in two or three ways—being amazing in appearance, shorter than many men, wider than most men, and more hairy than almost any man; and he had a face that was something to start babies laughing, the little tikes probably not thinking it human, but something funny made for their amusement.
Monk buzzed. He had to be very mad before he buzzed.
Doc took all the buttons off his coat, and crushed these separately, then mixed the powder. Then he tore his necktie in two pieces and used the ends to fashion receptacles for the powder on top of the door hinges. He poured the powder in the receptacles.
The bronze man then tore the lining out of the watch pocket of his trousers, wadded it, and rasped it along the wall as if he were striking a match. The cloth burst into flame. He applied this flame to the powder.
There was a loud, hissing noise and an incredibly white light; the hinges began to melt, and molten metal spilled down on the floor. The powder Doc had mixed was a form of thermite which was much hotter than the usual type formed by combining powdered aluminum and a metallic oxide.
While the special thermite was melting the hinges, Doc Savage grasped the door and shook it. It soon came loose, hinges melted away.
Doc ignored the office door, went on down the corridor, and stopped close to an apparently blank wall. Here he went through what would have been an insane procedure, had it not been for a mechanism concealed inside the wall. The contraption inside the wall could best be described as a lock worked by a combination of sounds—finger tappings in this case.
The bronze man tapped the combination, carefully counting out the fractional-second timing. A sensitive amplifier, a relay and an electric motor did the rest, and a panel opened.
Without hesitating, Doc stepped through into a passage which was narrow because it occupied space between two false walls. It served the double purpose of a secret passage in or out of headquarters, and storage for stuff which the bronze man wished to keep out of sight. Doc got into the laboratory through another secret panel.
King John's Castle on Heritage Island in Ireland might have been the inspiration for the island setting.
On the down side, the reason to kidnap Doc and his pals and not kill them no matter what falls flat. To blame their piracy on Doc Savage? Why not just be pirates and try super hard to not get caught? Why bring the world's #1 pirate stopper into it on purpose? Are you in any less trouble for piracy on the high seas if Doc's the patsy and you're just a pirate killing and stealing?... The submarine yard is a stretch. Are there that many evil skilled submarine builders in the US to operate a shipyard? They're building US Navy submarines AND making duplicates of them in the same yard without anyone being the wiser?
Might it have been easier to build your own subs from an existing design, or even better buy a few, preferably used? You're pirates on a speck of an island somewhere. You don't need a factory in Brooklyn manufacturing submarines... The story's closing yuk at Heckle and Jeckle's expense is cringe-inducing. All women must get married at the first opportunity and the boys decide the best way out is to "proposition" women on a battleship:
A WEEK later, when the British warship had taken the
pirates and their loot aboard, and was waiting for Doc Savage and the others,
Doc had a visit from Monk and Ham.
Monk and Ham seemed unexpectedly friendly with each other. They looked, in fact, as if they had been mutually sympathizing. They also appeared apprehensive.
"Doc," Monk said earnestly, "both Portia and China admire you."
"Exactly," Ham agreed. "Both young women regard you very highly."
Doc Savage was puzzled. "What is this leading up to?" he asked.
"With encouragement," Monk muttered, "the young women might fall for you."
"In fact," Ham groaned, "they’ve got to!"
Doc said, "I do not get this."
"Look at us!" Monk commanded.
Doc looked at them. Except for a large case of jitters, there seemed to be nothing wrong.
"You’re looking," Monk explained, "at two prospective bridegrooms."
"Congratulations," Doc said.
"Congratulations, nothing!" Ham wailed. "We don’t want to get married! Doc, you’ve got to steal our girls away from us! Make love to ‘em! Make ‘em forget us!"
Doc Savage pondered this dubiously. "You’d better find another thief," he said at last.
Monk and Ham groaned.
"Come on, Ham," Monk muttered, "let’s proposition some of them snappy-lookin’ officers on that battleship."
The Submarine Mystery is worth reading, in spite of what fails the Really(?) test. In 1938 there's an island that's well known but rarely visited, where people talk as if it's the 16th century? Really?
065 - The Giggling Ghosts:
One Line Review: Fun, but the blatant obviousness of it all is diminishing
"Fears of ghosts and a deadly giggling gas become a terrifying reality to millions of people threatened by the S.R.G.V. The Man of Bronze faces a supreme test as he pits might against the forces of evil."
"The girl giggled angrily"
The cover for this and 1935's Quest Of Qui present Doc Savage at his most handsome. The cover for The Giggling Ghosts (July, 1938) shows Doc as younger with softer features. The story isn't bad but there's an obviousness to it that detracts from whatever Lester Dent is trying to keep a mystery. The paperback blurb at the top gives away the plot too. It's not bad or boring as it goes through the motions of an adventure that isn't/shouldn't be fooling anyone. The factors cancel each other out and what's left is an ok story.
The Giggling Ghosts never leaves the NY-NJ area, connected in timely fashion by the newly finished Lincoln Tunnel. Action-wise it keeps things moving with general mayhem highlighted by Doc crashing his autogyro onto a penthouse roof to make a surprise entrance. Plot-wise Dent presents a scheme that's blatantly simple, but he keeps things interesting with tampered seismographs, magnetic key discs, "giggling" ghosts, and a rigged diving bell that tricks bad guys into thinking they're slowly drowning. The mystery bad guy reveal should have been a surprise but the love angle trumps all and the bad guy winds up being the bad guy. Dent tried his best on this angle until he went with Option A. How can you tell who the main bad guy is right away? It's things like this:
"I haven’t the slightest doubt but that you are molested a great deal by pests," Lawn said. His melon of a stomach shook as he chuckled. "But I should like very much to go along with you, providing you have any intention of continuing to investigate this—ah—mystery."
"Why do you wish to go along?"
"Well, I’ve read a great deal about you." Lawn squirmed and looked embarrassed. "Matter of fact, I’m a great admirer of yours. I’d give a lot to watch you work for a while." He smiled fatuously. "I suppose it’s a form of hero worship, and I’m fully aware that you probably consider me a silly pest."
"There has been trouble before in elevators that lead up here," the bronze man said. "We installed a mechanical device, that, if the operator doesn’t hold the control in a certain fashion, causes the cage to rise slowly to this floor. Also, an alarm bell rings. Now what happened?"
Miami Davis then stepped out of the elevator, advanced—brought up with a gasp. She had walked into something she couldn’t see! She explored with her hands. Bulletproof glass, she decided. It must be that...
She had discovered the panel did not quite reach to the ceiling, and that accounted for her having been able to speak to the bronze man. She didn’t feel like trying to climb over the top.
Doc Savage went to a wall panel in the corridor, opened it, and disclosed a recess containing small levers. He moved a lever and an electric motor whirred and the glass panel sank into the floor, its edge then forming part of the modernistic design of the floor.
[First mention of the widespread availability of garage door openers] This was Doc Savage’s water-front hangar and boathouse. The doors opened automatically as his coupé approached, a matter accomplished by a radio device, an apparatus similar to the type which anyone interested in gadgets can buy on the market.
[There's no way the knots could be bulky enough to matter] The silken cord was equipped with knots—bulky knots for climbing purposes—and the bronze man went down after the captives, apparently unaffected by twenty floors of space below.
Monk had worked out ingenious methods of carrying chemicals. Men’s suits, for instance, had a stiffening fabric around the shoulders and collars. Monk had impregnated this fabric with a stiffening agent that was really a thermite compound—a concoction which burned with metal-melting heat.
Doc’s aids got to work on the locks. They tore the fabric out of their collars, wrapped it around the locks, and lighted it by grinding a vest button against it. The button was a firing agent for the thermite.
The bullet cut the air close to Doc’s head, its sound like a big fiddle string breaking. Possibly it missed the bronze man only because he was holding the flashlight so as to give a wrong impression of where his body was—a habitual bit of caution.
[Logistically picking up up two people seems improbable bordering on impossible] The bronze man then picked up the two prisoners, handling them both without apparent difficulty, and prepared to leave.
[The comedy stylings of Clark Savage, Jr.] "It’s got us superamalgamated!" Long Tom said.
"It would superamalgamate anybody," Doc told him.
"Stop that!" Doc Savage said. There was such a quality of power and command in the bronze man’s voice that it quieted the young woman although Doc himself was a little surprised that he got results; he could never tell about women.
Renny blocked out his two huge fists and shoved them under Hart’s nose.
"You see these?" Renny demanded.
Hart ogled the fists.
"Water buckets!" he muttered.
"They’re the buckets to pour water on that temper you’ve got!" Renny said.
[Not true for the series, but funny anyway] Monk’s utter homeliness gave him one advantage: it was impossible to tell, from looking at him, what emotion he was experiencing.
[New to this adventure] Ham maintained a law firm of his own that was so expertly staffed that it could run itself for months while Ham was off adventuring.
[First time reading this angle] Long Tom had been a weakly baby, and a feeble-appearing youth, and all through his manhood he had looked as if he ought to be in a hospital. This appearance of being an invalid was misleading; Long Tom could lick nine out of ten of the average run of men on any street.
It was a fact that undertakers always brightened when they saw Long Tom Roberts, because he appeared to be an immediate prospect for a funeral.
There is nothing extraordinary about giggling. Most persons giggle a little at one time or another. The psychologists claim that it is a form of laughter, and therefore good for you.
But when ghosts giggle, it is different.
The giggling these ghosts did was not good for anybody, it developed.
[Strange "duh" sentence] As a matter of fact, all Doc’s men were in enough danger constantly to make them concerned about each other’s safety.
There is some argument about whether self-preservation is man’s strongest impulse. In the case of animals, there is evidence indicating the impulse of self-preservation may be subjugated by the emotion of rage.
Small dogs, for instance, will attack much larger dogs, even when there is every certainty that they will meet defeat, maybe death. Men, on the other hand, seem to be motivated more by the desire to preserve their lives.
The male lead day-player, William Henry Hart, says three times, without being prompted, "I don't like women". This is a fun, small adventure that doesn't stray far from home and is as complex as a twelve-piece jigsaw puzzle. Take the median of the all Doc Savage books in terms of enjoyability/readability and The Giggling Ghosts falls slighter higher on the list.
066- The Munitions Master:
One Line Review: Improbable and Impossible battle it out. Stupid wins as it bet on a tie
"Screaming trunks of soldiers seared by white-hot fire ... a small, twisted man carrying long loaves of bread ... a thin liquid with a peculiar sickening smell ... Branded the worst traitor in history, the Man of Bronze fights through the flames of revolution to uncover the master of a world of the Living Dead!"
"The horrific 'Burning Death' is unleashed on French soldiers while Doc Savage is in Paris working with medical consortium. Through the machinations of Carloff Traniv, an emergency conclave of world leaders hold Doc responsible and order his immediate apprehension. To clear his name, Doc must clear his name before the Munitions Master can complete his scheme to arm every side of another World War."
"I, Doc Savage, am going to rule the world!"
"It will be destroyed! I, Doc Savage, who am to become the ruler of the world, so promise!"
Holy hell in a handbasket this story is an unholy hot mess. Improbable and Impossible battled it out but Stupid was the winner as it bet on a tie. Harold A. Davis, who named his son "Layay", blacked out mentally as a writer and wrote down anything and everything no matter what it was or how it sounded. The Munitions Master is failure on a grand scale but not the worst in the series only because of its three saving graces:
1) The opening scene of terror is easily one the best you'll find in all of Doc Savage:
He was having difficulty getting that burden through the crowd. It consisted of three loaves of French bread, three or four feet long. The staff of life, not the symbol of horror and death.
In some countries it would have been uncommon to see bread carried in such a manner. In Paris, such a burden was taken for granted. Long loaves of bread are carried through the streets as a matter of course...
A band blared. Those in the reviewing stand rose to their feet. The military men saluted. There was a moment of silence as long ranks of young, tanned, physically perfect appearing soldiers started to march by.
Then it happened!
THERE was an unbelieving gasp. Then came the terrible, almost animal-sounding screams. The screams came from the soldiers.
But only for a moment. Then noise burst from the crowd. Panic seized the multitude. The crowd became a seething mass of motion in which men fought blindly in wild panic, in which women were trampled underfoot. Those at the rear fought to get near the street to learn what had happened.
In the street itself there was a strange sight. The ranks of soldiers had disappeared. In their place were rows of fallen figures that twisted and squirmed, and from which groans and horrible noises came constantly...
Several hundred soldiers had fallen. They lay huddled, still in some semblance of the straight, well-ordered lines in which they had been marching.
But they would never march again. They had been crippled forever, had been left with shattered bodies.
It was as if their legs had been melted away, halfway to their knees. Their feet and the lower part of their legs had disappeared. There was a peculiar, sickening smell in the air...
There was nothing to indicate how the soldiers had been crippled. The stubs of their legs were seared as if from white-hot fire. That alone kept the men from bleeding to death. Had a sheet of intensely strong flame swept the street, it would have produced such a result; but there had been no such sheet of flame.
It was easy to understand, though, why the soldiers were silent. They were suffering from shock, dazed and half unconscious from pain....
The soldiers were crippled. Their wounds had been cauterized. A majority would live, but for many it would mean lives as crippled as their bodies.
2) There's cunning and intrigue on a global scale. Evil mastermind Carloff Traniv's scheme to take over the world revolves around fomenting discontent and backing dictators all over the world, making him the world's behind-the-scenes ruler:
"Every radical band, every dissatisfied minority in the world, is taking advantage of the attention focused on Doc Savage to start something of their own. Savage, or some other criminal, may be behind part of it. The rest of it is just a contagion of ideas."
3) In an ironic turnaround Traniv utilizes a bastardization of Doc's Crime College surgeries to create an army of zombie soldiers and control the world's leaders against their will.
There's a few miscellaneous notes but mostly there's a parade of bad writing decisions allowed to see print by Street & Smith because editing is hard. So much is wrong with The Munitions Master, from treating Chemistry like a human to the bad guys not taking away Doc's magical fanny packs to Doc not trying to contact anyone in the government to claim his innocence. And everything in-between.
Behold the glory of Harold A. Davis:
"How did you get away from that mob?" the girl asked. Frank wonderment was in her voice.
"It really was quite easy," Doc explained conversationally. "I merely released a powder that momentarily deprived those closest to me of the power of sight. As well as hampering their powers of locomotion. Before they recovered, I altered my appearance and moved away."
The tall young man took a desperate chance. He hurled himself directly at Doc.
The two guns disappeared in Doc’s pockets. He faded back. As the man lunged by, one of Doc’s hands floated out. His fingers appeared to caress the back of the fellow’s neck.
The young man halted, jerked erect, then stood absolutely motionless. His eyes had a queer, vacant look. The girl stared, amazed...
The man who called himself John Marsh had not moved. Doc’s fingers had struck nerves in the back of Marsh’s neck. He was semiconscious, but did not know what was going on. In a comatose state, he would answer any question truthfully.
The powder was one of his own devising, one that might have won a fortune if he had sold it to prize fighters. It cleared the brain instantly of the effect of a knockout blow, but at the same time left the victim so he would do exactly as he was told, whether to answer questions or to resume fighting.
Pecos Allbellin swallowed hard. "B-but, what happened to Doc Savage?"
Traniv smiled slowly. "He fell into my trap. What I did was to create a vacuum of sudden, terribly intense coldness in this room. "The moisture that was in the room froze instantly. So did Doc Savage. You might literally say he is ‘on ice’ until I want him."
[Good thing Doc found a stupidly long rope on the roof, and thank heavens for hypnotism] Doc’s actions had been simple. He had merely snared the other from above, dropping a rope about the man while he himself remained on the roof top.
He moved so swiftly that none noticed the man go sailing upward. Then Doc had knocked him out.
From the fake cop—by using hypnotism—the bronze man had obtained the directions for reaching Carloff Traniv’s office.
At the first hint of change of temperature, he had forced himself into a comatose state. This had slowed his heart, had reduced his body heat. Thus he had not been rendered unconscious.
Traniv threw a switch. He glanced sardonically at Doc’s prone body, inserted a small, oval object in his mouth. Then he spoke into the microphone.
"Doc Savage speaking,"
he said. His voice was more than a credible imitation of that of the bronze man. The artificial larynx he was using had been cleverly devised.
Half a hundred strange craft were swooping down with deadly speed. They looked like a flock of hawks, only much more vicious.
They were flying machine guns, radio-controlled.
With a wing spread of small gliders, they had no human pilots. In the nose of each was a machine gun...
The flying machine guns were making sure that no one who had been aboard the U. S. S. Georgia was left alive!
"A thermite combination that burns any metal which it comes in contact with," Traniv was explaining casually to Allbellin. "Our ships are covered with a special preparation to protect them. All that is necessary is to release the powder, like a smoke screen, and let other planes fly into it."
"I saw what was on the bottom of each of them flying machine guns. They all had the same words!"
"And those words?"
"Doc Savage, World Ruler!" said Seaman Phelps.
The electric vibrator he had used in Carloff Traniv’s office had covered his body with a dry layer of static electricity. Ice had formed over that, leaving Doc himself dazed, but unharmed. The ice alone had been thick enough to hold him prisoner.
Aboard the plane, however, with his faculties back to normal, Doc had reversed the process he had used when he had been trapped. Then he had thrown himself into a comatose state, lowering his body temperature.
This time he worked himself into an artificial fever. It had taken time, but the ice had melted slowly until only a thin crust remained.
"W-what happened, Doc?" Monk gasped.
The bronze man’s eyes flashed faintly. "A gas," he explained simply. "A type of gas that spreads instantly and freezes on the eyeballs. It coats the eyeballs in such a manner that the faint shield it forms works as a telescope would work were you looking through it toward the small end. In other words, things close at hand appear to be far away. At the same time it makes things look upside down. I had a few of the gas pellets in my carry-all vest and broke them."
A look of reluctant admiration crossed Traniv’s features. "Doc Savage is a genius," he admitted. "I turned loose a radio heat wave as soon as I saw Savage had freed the robot control. It should have blasted the transport out of the sky. It didn’t. That bronze devil checkmated the wave the only way it could be stopped: He tuned loose a static machine that disrupted the burning ray."
[Doc had no ability to create clouds] Doc was the last from the plane. And all went out in concealment of the artificial cloud bank Doc had created. They were invisible because the cloud bank drifted earthward almost as fast as they did.
Monk began to laugh. His jaw suddenly remained rigidly open. He could not move a muscle. Even Doc Savage was motionless.
"You are in the grip of my electrical paralyzing field," Traniv’s voice came. "You have encountered it before, Doc Savage. You have even used it. But never before have you seen it so highly perfected."
"I have a surgeon here, an excellent one. He is responsible for the lying dead men you see—my soldiers. He has developed an operation that severs certain nerves leading to the brain. Once those are cut, my soldiers obey only military commands. They can think of nothing else; they can do nothing else.
"That is simple. Just before the operation they are told what I desire. Afterward, they remember nothing, are merely automata.
"Unfortunately, my surgeon has also been operated on. He can do nothing but the one operation. I desire one of a different type. You will do it for me."...
Doctor Fernor Koral had been the second surgeon to master the technique of the will-destroying operation. There had been another before him. But the misshapen scalpel-wielder didn’t remember that. The first surgeon had performed the operation on Koral.
Monk pointed to the chains that had held them. "He put some kind of funny belts on us," he said. "It’s a good thing Doc made us learn how to twist our bodies to get out of things. We wiggled out of the belts. Then something hit the chains."
For a moment John Marsh stood weaving, shaking his head. He should have been dead, but there were a few things not even Mary Standish knew about him.
One was that he was bald. And to hide that baldness, he wore a toupee. Because of the dangers in the business he was in, that toupee was fitted over a steel skullcap. The steel had absorbed most of the shock of the blackjack blow.
En route to the operating room, Doc had freed himself from his metal bands with acid secreted in a glass ring he wore on one finger. The dead-faced soldiers and Koral had suddenly been overcome by a whiff of one of Doc’s anaesthetic glass balls which he had taken from his carry-all vest. The bronze man had then made his personage up to resemble, Koral, and disguised Koral as himself.
After all, even wearing a soldier’s uniform, and despite Ham’s sarcastic comments, Chemistry did not look much like a soldier. He was inclined to drag his rifle by the barrel, rather than carry it on his shoulder as he should.
"Through his chemists Traniv perfected a paste, which, when it came in contact with a certain type of gas, would burn instantly anything which it touched. In the case of the Paris troops this paste was placed on their boots when the men thought they were using shoe polish. A man carrying hollow loaves of bread released the necessary gas."
Certain statesmen might have been forewarned. There had been queer activities in certain parts of the world. In fact, the horror had struck twice before.
The first time was in China. But the story was not believed—so many strange stories come out of China. The second time was in Russia. The world did not hear of that. The report was suppressed.
[They don't but do anyway] In another car, at the same time, Chemistry, tied firmly and still squealing occasionally, was being taken in the same direction.
"Don’t know what anyone would want that gorilla for," one of his captors moaned. The man’s face was battered.
"Who sent you after me?" Doc asked quietly.
The man’s mouth opened. "It was Car—"
His words broke off. He gave a shrill scream. Then he was silent.
Doc’s low, trilling sound, filled the room.
The man would never talk again. He now lay in two parts. His body had been completely severed, directly at the waistline.
Each end of that body was seared, exactly as the stricken soldiers’ legs had been seared!
"We have been branching out, as you know, Pecos. To continue in our ambition, it is necessary to branch out more. Such was the reason for the display to-day.
"But it was also necessary to have someone to take the blame, a fall guy. I picked Doc Savage for that. No one else has reputation enough, has been such a master of strange inventions. He is the only one that we could blame, and get it believed."
The Munitions Master was squeezed out in August, 1938. Some people say you can't make up stuff like this, but as Harold A. Davis proves, I guess you can.
067 - The Red Terrors:
One Line Review: Very good first half drowns underwater in second
"The Red Terrors-they came out of the depths to seize an unsuspecting ship and transport its precious human cargo to their watery domain. There, in a lost sunken world under the sea, they lived securely. Until they sank the wrong ship....and the MAN OF BRONZE came to call."
This is at best a marginal sequel to The Mystery Under The Sea. Doc Kool & the Gang don't recall being able to breathe in a magtastical underwater city only thirty months prior. It's not the same city and there's a big blue shapeless bubble mass that encompasses the place, so you can move around better than in ocean water. The action's a tad faster than the other book. Think regular turtle vs. miffed turtle.
For almost half its length The Red Terrors (September, 1938) is a quite very good Doc Savage story. Lester Dent treats the characters with the respect they deserve and comes up with innovative descriptive language. Once the story hits the sea it straps on figurative leg anchors of nautical terminology and seafaring minutia, and when it ends up in the blue bubble on the ocean floor we're back to slo-mo science fiction/fantasy elements that flow like an improvised bedtime story when you're too tired to think. Doc Savage fans love this stuff. Otherwise it's boring that the underwater people (they're not given a name) inject their crops with nutrients, their round houses are made of alabaster, and there's twelve different things you need to know about the blue bubble air.
Individual Doc Savage books are of limited value to Doc Savage as a creative property. Whatever works you pull out to keep and the rest you dump into an archive box. No book is worthy of adaptation page for page. A general plot outline, super, but what matters most is presenting the best Doc Savage you can and making sure it's consistently awesome. The good first and the least for last.
As a nice change of pacing the story takes place over what's close to five months. It starts with Doc on a working vacation of nine weeks, he spends three weeks on land looking for his lost aides, and at the story's close everyone's stuck underwater for six weeks. Dent's on fire with bits like these:
A SAILOR named Steve ate an apple, and killed thirty-eight men. By eating the apple, he killed the thirty-eight men just as effectively as though he had taken hold of the trigger of a machine gun and pumped lead into the victims. Steve’s process, however, was a little slower and more terrible.
The Muddy Mary was an old hag of the sea, and like the old hags of the streets, she wandered around oceans, picking up a nickel here, a penny there.
Harry Day’s breathing was staccato. He panted. He also made a small sound occasionally, the kind of noise that men make when very terrified. Such a sound as soldiers make when watching a bomb fall toward them, or some dogs when they see a man with a club.
Johnny was William Harper Littlejohn, who was often described as being two men high and less than half a man wide. He carried a monocle magnifier which he never put in his eye, and he was an eminent archaeologist and geologist, and an eminent user of big words.
The rumble of Renny’s voice usually caused listeners to look instinctively to see if the walls were shaking.
The missing men, Renny and Long Tom, did not appear in Doc Savage’s skyscraper office, communicate with the bronze man, or show up in hospitals. Morgues did not report a body with big fists, or a body that looked as if it should have been on the slab years ago.
Bony Johnny stared at the wall and groaned. It was a very pained groan.
"You feeling worse?" Monk demanded anxiously.
"Worse mentally," Johnny grumbled. "I’ve got a hunch we’ve got to head for that spot in the South Atlantic. Here I’m all bunged up with broken bones and things." He doubled a fist and shook it as emphatically as he could with his one serviceable arm. "I’m going along anyway!"
He was wrong. They left him in New York, howling his head off.
"Monk! Ham!" he said abruptly. "Do not move. Don’t waste energy. We are in a bad predicament."
THE two aids stared at him. The bronze man never exaggerated, and if anything, he was given to the most remarkable understatements. In the past, Monk and Ham had seen him go through a thing where houses were blown up, ships sunk and dozens of enemies perished, then had heard Doc dismiss it as a "slight difficulty." If Doc said they were in a bad predicament, it was probably more than bad.
Monk and Ham's frenemy routine is handled well in The Red Terrors, but before that, Monk's also more realistically funny. In context of how Dent writes him in this novel, when he immediately responds with "Is she good-lookin’?", he's saying it as a time-tested catchphrase about himself as a degenerate hound dog:
"Harry Day, the deep-sea diver, has a sister," the bronze man said.
"Is she good-lookin’?" Monk asked.
"The sister’s name is Edwina Day, and she lives in an apartment on Central Park West," Doc Savage added. "We can pay her a visit and see if she can tell us anything about her brother."
"I’ll bet she’s a blonde," Monk said, "and as cute as a pickle seed."
Ham rarely gets the respect he deserves, and he doesn't deserve much as he's as often a fop Zachary Smith as he is a serious personality. Dent nods kindly in Ham's direction as a person of substance and value, and in The Red Terrors his banter with Monk is friendly and not the tantrums of adult children:
Ham Brooks was eccentric in three ways. First, he had an overpowering yen to go down in history as one of the best-dressed men of any age. Second, he had acquired his pet ape, named Chemistry because of the animal’s likeness to Monk Mayfair, only to become extremely fond of the animal.
He ignored the ludicrous aspects of a dapper, highly educated gentleman of his caliber having such a pet. He did not consider it ludicrous, having become accustomed to Chemistry.
Ham’s third peculiarity was his perpetual squabble with Monk. It was understandable that he and Monk should quarrel, for they were of opposite types, tastes and dispositions. About the only thing they had in common was the love of adventure which held them to Doc Savage.
They insulted each other liberally and at every opportunity. It had become classic with the people who knew them that Ham had never addressed a really civil word to Monk, and vice versa.
The real peculiarity about their quarrel was its falseness. It was a smoke screen. It was no more genuine, no more typical of their real feelings than the acted-out battles which appeared on the motion picture screen.
Monk and Ham were the best of friends, even though they went around threatening to feed each other to the first lion they found. But either one would risk his neck for the other. When they got in a jam, the first thought either man had was for the safety of the other.
So, when consciousness came to Ham, his first concern was for Monk.
"Monk!" he croaked.
"I’m all right," Monk’s voice said. "How are you?"
"I’m all right," Ham replied.
Ham’s real career was that of a Doc Savage assistant. His hobby was quarreling with Monk. Ham shaded his eyes with a hand and peered dramatically at Monk.
"Great Jehoshaphat!" he exclaimed. "A perfect specimen of prehistoric man! Where’d you get it, Doc? Out of a tree?"
"You shyster!" Monk said. "I’ll hit you over the head so hard you won’t be able to tell the tacks in your shoes from the fillings in your teeth!"
"Monk, Ham and myself will go after Harry Day," Doc said. "Renny, Long Tom and Johnny get hold of the girl. Harry Day has told her his story. Get her to repeat it."
"Ah, bugs!" Monk said.
"Something wrong?" Ham inquired.
"Doc is kinda overlookin’ my power over women," Monk said.
"What Doc isn’t overlooking," said the dapper lawyer unkindly, "is the power of women over you!"
"If anything happens, we can swim to the surface," Monk remarked.
Ham winced. "Is that so?"
"I won’t have any trouble swimming," Monk continued, "because I was a lifesaver once."
"Lemon-flavored, I’ll bet," Ham declared.
Monk threw back the lid of a locker, dragged out a diving suit, and began drawing on the heavy rubber-and-fabric garment.
"Brothers," he said, "you can stay down here and have remarkable things happen to you. Me, I’m goin’ up and see if the sun is still shinin’."
Ham said, "For a mythogenic, you don’t have bad ideas."
Doc doesn't like to answer direct questions about ongoing cases and by pretending you didn't speak he's at best impolite and at worst a skosh dickish. Better to have him respond politely with things like "I'll let you know when I do". This bit works better as-is as he's cutting off debate to move forward, and while Dent points to Doc's winning percentage the real story is that it's Doc's show. His aides must know they're living the dream to have him include them on his adventures. He's also the richest, smartest, strongest, best looking, most talented, and most respected person on the planet - so yeah, there's that too when it's time to pick a leader and follow instructions:
Doc Savage said, "Our best move is to get out of here."
The bronze man made a slight gesture. Without more objections, his associates followed him out of the apartment.
Monk and the others had learned it was unwise to argue with Doc. Not that he had any rules against arguments. He didn’t. It was simply that his batting average on judgment was so high that it was pretty dependable.
Any decent description of Doc's Lobotomy College graduates is worth a glance:
Renny then cabled the Cape Town operative, but nothing substantial came of that. Not that the Cape Town operative wasn’t efficient. He was. All Doc Savage’s operatives, scattered in the far corners of the earth, were efficient.
All these highly efficient operatives of Doc Savage had one very peculiar thing in common: Each one could remember back just so far in his life, and no farther. There was not one of them who could recall any incident in his youth. More peculiar, none of these operatives could remember a period when he or she had been a desperate criminal.
The operatives were "graduates" of Doc Savage’s unique "College" for curing criminals—an institution where the patient first underwent a remarkable brain operation which wiped out all memory of the past.
After the operation, the former criminals were educated to hate crime and to like being upright citizens. Many of the "graduates" became operative in the information-gathering agency which Doc Savage had created to aid him in his life’s work.
Newspapers tend to not like Doc for professional reasons:
Doc Savage’s life’s work was unusual.
His work was righting wrongs and thwarting evildoers in all parts of the world. He did not hire out his services. He never took a case unless a wrong was being done, and unless it appeared that the regularly constituted law authority was unable to cope with the malefactor.
Within a very few years, Doc Savage and his group of five scientific assistants had built up a world-wide reputation. Doc Savage had also become something of a mystery name. He was sometimes called "The Man of Bronze". The world knew he was a combination of scientific genius, muscular marvel and mental wizard. But not much else was known.
Newspaper reports concerning Doc Savage were usually so fantastically garbled that even the public didn’t believe them.
The newspapers found it practically impossible to get any interviews with Doc Savage. The bronze man avoided publicity. The newspapers resented this.
At the time Doctor Collendar disappeared, the newspapers were resenting it more than usual.
The Mystery Under The Sea fails partly by not addressing what Dent got around to here:
It was difficult also to adjust their minds to the fact that they could walk into the water and live without wearing diving suits or bulky paraphernalia for purifying their breath and supplying oxygen. The chemical capsules took care of that. All they had to do was to be sure and not breathe in the sea water.
To stop breathing, they discovered, was a physical feat. The first minute or so was not so bad, but after that, there was an overpowering urge to resume respiration. The unconscious breathing habit of years was not easily denied.
Monk failed completely on his first attempt, got his lungs full of stinging salt water, and had to be dragged back into the gas and emptied out. When he finished hacking and gagging, he had a great deal to say about the blue world under the sea, none of it complimentary.
In case you want to know some movies that came out in 1923:
The interior of Doctor Collendar’s office suite looked as though it had been the scene of one of the free-for-all fights which always came at the climax of movies fifteen years ago.
Doc Savage does not negotiate with terrorists:
Doc Savage went into another room where he had some of his equipment and came back adjusting the point in a hypodermic needle.
The prisoner, who was lashed wrist and ankle with adhesive tape, stared at Doc Savage. His eyes popped and the corners of his mouth began to leak saliva.
"What’re you gonna do?" he croaked.
Monk looked as fierce as he could.
"One shot of that stuff," the homely chemist growled untruthfully, "and for the rest of their lives they can’t move, talk or do nothin’ a-tall."
The prisoner had a convulsion and courage jumped out of him. "Don’t do it!" he squawled. "Maybe we can make a deal!"
"We do not make deals," Doc Savage said.
The bronze man emptied the contents of the hypodermic needle into the victim. It was truth serum.
The anesthetic gas lasso works like a charm:
Doc Savage gave the engine gas. The machine bucked over the curbing. Rocking and skidding, wheels throwing sand, the machine circled the house. The dashboard was equipped with a surplus of levers and knobs. Doc Savage held a thumb on one of the knobs; there was a loud hissing, and bluish vapor poured from under the car.
Doc drove completely around the house twice, took his thumb off the knob, and tanks under the car ceased spewing gas. He stopped the car.
"Give that gas five minutes!" the bronze man said.
The first half of The Red Terrors is fantastic. Use it as a resource on what works best in the Doc Savage universe. Now on to the flammable second half... It's random, silly, boring, contradictory, slow moving, and not worthy of the fantastical wonder-weaving of the descriptive narrative. Starting small, as a chemist Monk damn well knows what this means:
"The pigmentation permeates the tissue," he remarked.
"You sound like Johnny," Monk complained. "What do you mean?"
"The skin does not seem to be dyed," Doc said.
Doc Savage has no way of knowing the Muddy Mary sank for the exact reason it did:
"The diphtheria epidemic caused a sailor to close the wrong valve and the boilers blew up and the Muddy Mary sank," Doc Savage continued. "By chance, it sank directly over this strange gas-filled pit, and settled on the floor of the pit. Your brother miraculously managed to remain alive."
Monk and Ham and the girl threw off their bonds and rushed for the group at the door. The blue gas here, while less dense than that outside, was still almost like water in the manner in which it impeded movement. So their progress across the room, a combination of swimming and sprinting, would have been ludicrous had it not been so serious.
The Red Terrors are strong, fast, and know how to handle themselves physically. They periodically take over sea vessels and force the sailors down to their world. Then conveniently enough at one point they don't know how to fight because they've been aqua-hippies for centuries. A similar thing occurs in Murder Melody:
"When the sea has cooled one hundred times," Tukan said in his queer-sounding English, "we send forth an expedition of our strongest high priests. They travel upon the sea until they find a ship. They seize the ship and bring it to this spot, and the sailors are brought down to become like our people."
Doc had been making observations and putting inquiries. The result was an understanding of just why Tukan and his people were long on defense and short on offense.
"It has been thirty or forty centuries since these people had a war," the bronze man explained. "They live together here in perfect peace. Something like this has them baffled."
This section says the bad guys are too stupid to realize the grenades they throw won't go far. This while they also have some underwater men on their side who should know this:
They cannot use the things that explode," Doc Savage pointed out, "because they must throw them. And they cannot throw them much more than the length of two arms. They will not, therefore, make use of them."
The exact purpose of these unique tilting lances was not evident until the two forces met. First, Collendar’s men threw two grenades, which exploded. As Doc had predicted, the grenades did nothing except teach the fellows who threw them a lesson.
Doc gives all the bad guys lobotomies using whatever's in his field kit and is finally allowed to leave because it sets up a punch line at the end about having six wives, but who's counting...
068 - The Fortress Of Solitude:
One Line Review: Putz John Sunlight is all build-up and no delivery. Sad
"The deep mysteries of Doc Savage are finally revealed! John Sunlight, poetic genius of evil, gruesome master of a thousand elements of screaming terror, discovers the innermost secrets of The Man of Bronze. Doc Savage finds himself enmeshed in a diabolical web of dark horror as he valiantly battles the appalling machines of destruction he himself has invented!"
October, 1938's The Fortress Of Solitude gets around to visiting the artic retreat first mentioned in 1933's The Man Of Bronze. Now a blue dome instead of a volcanic Tolkienesque design, it wasn't paid for with Mayan gold but the personal funds of Clark, Sr., possibly driving him to the near bankruptcy of the first novel. Doc could have had a cabin in the Ozarks, but no, it had to be near Santa's Workshop, requiring endless flights and deplorable engineering and work conditions for the Eskimos he relocated from their homes elsewhere to be his Oompa Loompas. The book is "big" for two reasons - 1) It's a solid Exhibit A that Superman's creators weren't all that original, and 2) it introduces John Sunlight, the only villain to appear twice.
Oh... John Sunlight. He's the biggest nothing of all time. He's all build-up and no delivery. Lester Dent tells you twelve ways to Sunday he's evil incarnate but there's no there there. His evil and powers of control over other's minds are so consuming, trust me, you'll just have to take my word for it. Foreign governments take his calls because of whispers of his evil. It's not as if Dent has him do anything to earn it. He's obviously Rasputin but Napoleon is there in terms of ambition. Here is the entirety of John and Clark, Jr's direct interactions:
But the strange poetic-faced man with the distorted mind was fast. He was faster than even Doc had dreamed. He pitched widewise, got behind some of his men, went on—toward the snow hole that led into one of the smaller connecting igloos.
Sunlight is a piss-poor default nemesis, and the "consensus" he's Doc's greatest foe is weak and simplistic. Being in two books makes him special, and being so evil and smart (only asserted) makes him Doc's equal? Seriously? Is Fortress Of Solitude a good book? It earns a few points for working as hard as it does to achieve grandeur, but it loses those points for not delivering besides having John Sunlight and the Fortress exist in the same novel. The Doc Savage world loses points for falling for it when they should know better. There's a difference between "Anything" and "Something", and the effort to make the first the second is a waste of time for all involved.
Funny names are a thing - Giantia, Titania, Adonis, Beauty. Camouflage - if the fortress was white instead of blue John S. may never have found it. Monk and Ham are cringe-worthy idiots:
"Did you say Fifi is cuddlin’ up to Ham?" he howled.
"You tell Ham to cut that out!" Monk squalled wrathfully.
The Flea Run but not called that:
Monk followed Doc Savage into the big laboratory. They wended through long tables laden with intricate glass and metal devices. Many cabinets stood filled with chemicals.
Doc opened a wall panel, disclosing a steel barrel several feet in diameter. There was a door in this, which he opened. He stepped through into a bullet-shaped car which was well-padded, and traveled through the steel barrel, driven by compressed air. When Monk got in, there was little room to spare.
Closing hatches, Doc pulled levers which tripped the air pressure on. There was a shock, a whining noise, and the vibration of great speed. Then they were jammed against the lower end of the cartridge-like car as air cushioned it to a stop. Holding devices clicked and a red light came on.
Doc and Monk stepped out in the bronze man’s Hudson River water-front hangar boathouse.
Cannibalism happens, so at least there's that:
"Get the bodies out," John Sunlight directed, a spark of awful determination in the eyes that now burned like sparks in the hollows of his dark, poetic face.
They did it, shuddering all the while, for they knew what he meant. There had been no food for days and days, not even boiled shoes.
THERE was a guard at the head of the stairway that led up the last sheer few yards of rock to the castle front door. He was a dark man. He leaned on a rifle, and he was preoccupied with thoughts of the months he had spent on the ice-breaker in the arctic. He was recollecting some of the things they had eaten, and it had made him a little sick at the stomach.
Doc's Detective Agency:
Doc contacted the foreign representatives of a famous world-wide private detective agency. Doc had organized this agency. Its real work was to gather information for the bronze man. When not doing that, the agency did a very profitable business along regular private detective lines...
Doc trusted his private detectives implicitly. And for a strange reason. Doc trusted each private agent because each one had once been a vicious criminal.
Whenever Doc Savage captured a crook, he sent the fellow to a strange institution in upstate New York, a place Monk and the rest called the "college." At the college, the crook underwent a delicate brain operation which wiped out all memory of the past, after which the patient was trained, taught to hate crime and criminals. The private detectives were all graduates of the college.
In Oct. 1938 Doc's relationship with the press is this, but it's atypical of the series:
But too many had. Doc Savage—Clark Savage, Jr.—had of late been trying to evade further publicity, and he had an understanding, finally, with the newspaper press associations, with some of the larger newspapers, and with most of the fact-story magazines extant. They weren’t to print anything about him. They were to leave his name out of their headlines.
The Body-Positive movement screams out about trigger warnings, microagressions, and safe spaces:
Fifi had the cutest form of any small girl Doc had ever seen. Short girls are usually spread out a bit.
John Sunlight. Note the affectations and underlying insecurities, and revel in the build-ups:
Russia was the first government to become afraid of him. It just happened that Russia was the first—John Sunlight wasn’t a Russian. No one knew what he was, exactly. They did know that he was something horrible with a human body.
John Sunlight was accused of using blackmail on his superior officers in the army to force them to advance him in rank, and that might be only misdirected ambition. Serge Mafnoff knew it was more grim than that.
Anyway, John Sunlight didn’t look the part. Not when he didn’t wish, at least. He resembled a gentle poet, with his great shock of dark hair, his remarkably high forehead, his hollow burning eyes set in a starved face. His body was very long, very thin. His fingers, particularly, were so long and thin—the longest fingers being almost the length of an ordinary man’s whole hand.
The jury didn’t believe Serge Mafnoff when he told them that John Sunlight had the strength to seize any two of them and throttle them to death. And would, too, if he could thereby get the power to dominate a score of men’s souls.
SEVEN months later, John Sunlight stepped out on the bridge of the ice-breaker, and forty-six persons sank to their knees in craven terror. This pleased John Sunlight. He liked to break souls to do his bidding.
No one had been killed yet. The forty-six included the crew of the ice-breaker, and the convicts. For one of the queerest quirks of John Sunlight’s weird nature was that he preferred to control a mind, rather than detach it from the owner’s body with a bullet or a knife.
He did not want men to die. A man dead was a man he could not dominate.
He walked toward the Strange Blue Dome. It was now lost in the fog. John Sunlight went slowly, seeming to select and plan each step with care, for he was weaker than the others. He had taken less food than any of them, from the first, and the reason was that he did not want them to die. They were his, his toys, his tools, and he prized them as a carpenter values his best planes and saws, only infinitely more.
So he had given them most of his share of the food, to keep them alive, that he might dominate them. He was sustained now only by the power of the awful thing that was his mind.
This John Sunlight was a weird, terrible being.
John Sunlight gave a violent start—in spite of the fact that he rarely showed emotion. This was different. Insanity was the one thing he feared. Insanity—that would take away the incredible thing that was his mind.
JOHN Sunlight sat on a deep chair which was covered with a rich purple velvet cloth. He wore a matching set of purple velvet pajamas and purple velvet robe, and on the forefinger of his right hand was a ring with a purple jewel.
John Sunlight had very few changeable habits, but one of them was his fondness for one color one time, and perhaps a different one later. Just now he was experiencing a yen for purple, particularly the regal shade of the color.
The man could go in for colors like a male movie star, and still be dangerous.
He did not look dangerous as he listened to his men tell him they had been gassed on the building roof, and had awakened to find the girl, Fifi, gone, and that nothing else had happened to them—except that they hadn’t succeeded in blowing up anybody with the bomb plane.
John Sunlight never looked dangerous.
"That is too bad," he said.
He resembled, with his thin aesthetic face, a dreamer of a poet who had listened to an editor turn down one of his rhymes.
Baron Karl made a little speech when he met John Sunlight.
"I salute again," he said, "the man who has inherited the qualities of the Erinyes, the Eumenides, of Titan, and of Friar Rush, with a touch of Dracula and Frankenstein."
"Those were very bad people," John Sunlight said dryly.
Baron Karl peered sharply at the other, a little apprehensive lest he had angered John Sunlight. He was afraid of the man.
"Let us call you a genius," he said, "and I say that sincerely. Er—may I sit down?"
That was all, and the prince left. He was mad at himself, because he was royalty, and here he was taking orders from a man who had no royal blood whatever. He was taking the orders simply because he had heard enough about the man to make him afraid not to do as he was told.
John Sunlight, it seemed, was more rumor than man. An evil rumor, a name that was whispered from mouth to mouth in the circles of international intrigue. The agents had found men who feared him, and would not talk. Many of those. But here and there they had unearthed a scrap of real information.
John Sunlight wore light duck trousers and a white silk shirt which was open at the neck. Tropical attire! And yet it must be thirty below zero outside. A warm day in the arctic for this season. But still thirty below.
John Sunlight was not unaware of the effect. He liked effects. Probably his whole weird, macabre life was devoted to getting them.
John Sunlight got up and took a quick turn around the tent, his feet causing the frozen snow under the tent floor to make squeaking noises. It was bitterly cold, and he had been putting on a show, going around in light trousers and thin silk shirt, pretending not even to notice the chill.
But now he forgot himself and gave a violent shiver. He shook, in fact, until he all but fell down. Then he got control of himself and glowered. It always aggravated him to have his control on himself slip.
JOHN Sunlight gathered his dark-red cape around him. He had worn black earlier in the evening, but now he had changed colors again, and wore an impressive, bloody-red ensemble. It gave him the aspect of a satanic alchemist. He was probably aware of that.
They looked at the Strange Blue Dome for a long time. And they became very puzzled. It was no whale, blue or otherwise.
It was no rock, either.
It was like nothing that should be. Its height must be all of a hundred feet, and there was a shimmering luminance to it that was eerie, even if they had not seen it standing, as if completely disembodied, above a gray carpet of fog. Generally, it resembled the perfectly spherical half of an opaque blue crystal ball—of incredible size, of course.
Next, John Sunlight made a complete circle of the thing. He found no door, no window, no break of any kind.
The blue dome was not made of bricks, or even great blocks. It appeared to be one solid substance of a nature unknown. Not glass, and yet not metal either. Something mysterious.
FOR miles and miles in all directions the white waste looked absolutely barren—except directly ahead, where there was obviously an island.
The island seemed to be solid stone, with no bit of soil and no vegetation. Just a high, bald knob of stone. A mass of rock rearing up from the floor of the Arctic Ocean. It must be as solid as Gibraltar, for it stood firm against the ice pack. The ice had piled up against the island, and for leagues it was broken in great bergs. The floes had squeezed and piled one on top of the other, and the ice had lumped up in masses that were sometimes as large as factory buildings.
The Strange Blue Dome stood, a weird-looking thing, on the rock island.
It was like half a blue agate marble.
Like a marble that some fabulous titan had lost here in this unknown part of the globe, to become buried in stone and surrounded by fantastic ice.
Then Doc found what he was seeking. A crack, apparently. He began to lay the permanent magnet on various parts of the stone, as if he were using its attraction to work a combination.
There was a crunching, and a section of the rock flew up, lid fashion. Doc dropped into the aperture.
It was only a box. In it were two switches. Doc threw one of them.
Monk, knowing something was going to happen, turned his eyes toward the great dome of glasslike blue. He waited, seemingly an age.
Finally, "Doc, nothing—nothing—" he breathed, and couldn’t find the words to go on.
"Gas," the bronze man said in a low voice. "It may work; may not. When the place was built, the gas was installed against such an emergency as this."
The construction of the dome, the strange, blue glasslike material of which it was made, did interest Ham. He asked Doc about that, and learned it was a form of glass composition which could be welded with heat, and which had strength far beyond that of true glass. The welding operation explained how the dome had been constructed without joints. The stuff had the advantage of being a nonconductor, which meant that it kept out the cold.
Really, Doc Savage was a normal fellow who had been taken over by scientists as a child and trained until early manhood, so that he was rather unusual but still human enough. He had missed the play-life of normal children, and so he was probably more subdued, conscious that he hadn’t gotten everything out of life.
There was nothing spooky or supernatural about this sound. Doc had acquired it as a habit in the Orient, where the Oriental wise men sometimes make such a sound deep in the throat—for the same reason, approximately, that the rest of us say, "Oh-h-h, I see. I see, I see-e-e," when understanding dawns.
Then they stared in amazement at the bronze man. His face—they had never seen quite such an expression on his face before. It was something stark. Queer. They could not, at first, tell what it was; then they knew that the bronze man was feeling an utter horror.
"Doc!" Monk gasped. "What is it?"
Doc Savage seemed to get hold of himself with visible effort. Then he did a strange thing; he held both hands in front of him and made them into tense, metallic fists. He looked at the fists. They trembled a little from strain.
Finally he put the fists down against his sides and let out a long breath.
"It cannot be anything but what I think it is," he said.
The bronze man snapped the library door shut behind him, then did nothing more exciting than stride to one of the great windows and stand stiffly, staring into the hazy northern sky. Doc’s sinew-cabled arms were down, as rigid as bars, at his sides, and his powerful hands worked slowly, clenching and unclenching.
He was doing something that none of his men had ever seen him do before. He was taking time out to get control of himself.
Doc Savage said nothing more on the subject of the two giantesses escaping. He never criticized his crew for errors or shortcomings. The bronze man made mistakes himself.
[Funny line] "If we understood women, we might have argued her out of it," Doc said.
He locked the door leading to the roof, then sealed it with a bit of chewing gum. Not ordinary gum, exactly. This would turn white when he touched it with a drop of chemical; and if it didn’t turn white, he would know it was different gum.
He gave each one of them, Fifi included, a treatment with truth serum.
Truth serum, at the best—and Doc Savage had done considerable work toward developing the stuff, as had Monk—was not always dependable. It functioned by causing the patient to lapse into a coma, so that the mind exercised no conscious control over the will. When the subject heard a question, put insistently, the impulse was to answer it, and the dulled will power was unlikely to interfere.
Doc Savage wore a bulletproof helmet gas-protector, a transparent globe of a thing made of tough glasslike composition, holding the bronze man’s entire head. The rest of Doc’s great form was enveloped in a coverall garment of bulletproof chain mesh, there even being mesh gauntlets.
Doc dropped a hand grenade against the door, got back.
Long Tom landed spread-legged in the center of the cabin, knocked another switch. This ignited flares. The flares had been planted in the ice near the plane; they were high on light, collapsible rods, and reflectors threw the light away from the plane, kept it from blinding those in the craft.
A glare as white as the sun spread hundreds of yards in all directions from the plane.
Long Tom picked his machine pistol out of its holster, used the muzzle to prod open the lid of a firing port in the plane cabin. He latched the pistol in single-fire position. He shot. The gun noise was not big, but the sound its bullet made was astounding. The slug was high-explosive. A cloud of ice flew up in front of the three riflemen.
Long Tom shot again, this time at one of the men. This second bullet was a "mercy" slug; it would cause unconsciousness without doing much damage. But apparently he missed with that one.
The third shot, he put in front of the trio. This bullet hit and became a cloud of black smoke.
That was how the supermachine pistol charge alternated—one explosive, one mercy, one smoke barrage.
"Doc Savage perfected a device," he said, "which, by creating a magnetic field of superlative intensity, completely stops atomic motion, and results in the collapse of any matter in that field."
John Sunlight had been trembling a little. He was a nervous man, and when excitement came, he sometimes lost some of his control. He forced himself to become calm.
Remember the newspaper stories about the mysterious blackness that appeared around Serge Mafnoff’s house in New York City?" he asked...
"That was another war machine," John Sunlight snapped. "The blackness was caused by a combination of short electrical waves, and high-frequency sonic vibrations, which paralyze the functions of the rod-and-cone mechanism of the optic nerves in eyes. In other words—a blinding ray."
This has to be a low-point for Doc Savage. To keep Doc's retreat secret he "talks" everyone except his aides into getting a lobotomy, guaranteeing them at least they won't die in the process. Who the hell would volunteer for this? Fifi just had a bad few days on an adventure and she thumbs up forgetting all her friends, relatives, and past experiences?:
Doc pointed out that the whole experience, from the time the convicts escaped the Siberian prison camp was so terrible that their minds would be better off if all memory of the past was wiped away. Then he explained about his brain operation, guaranteed no one would die, and promised that all memory of the past would be gone. Incidentally, no one would recall the Fortress of Solitude, either.
He sold the memory-wiping operations en masse. It was such a good talk that Monk and Ham and Long Tom were almost impelled to join in...
Ham left Monk sputtering, and went away to make a little progress with Fifi. After all, Fifi had repented; and after all, Fifi was a very cute trick. Not to add that pretty soon she was going to be relieved of her memory. What more could a confirmed bachelor such as Ham look for?
Here Doc's an uncaring coward:
John Sunlight was outside. So was Civan, the pilot Porto Novyi, and—Doc did not know how many others. But a score, at least. The men who had been on the Soviet icebreaker on which the convicts had escaped from Siberia. How many of those would turn against John Sunlight now was a question. Some of them, surely. Then there were the rest of the Eskimos—friends, but unarmed.
The odds were still terrible.
[A few minutes later]
"John Sunlight!" Doc rapped. "Get him!"
Old Aput, before Doc could stop him, shot for the igloo door, hit on his stomach, sledded. He must have gone out of many an igloo in a hurry in his time to become that skilled.
A rifle whacked.
Old Aput came sliding back in, just as fast, and when he stopped sledding, began trying to straighten out his right arm, which a bullet had broken.
Long Tom's childish and angry disgust around women gets old fast:
"Aw—throw her out!" Long Tom flung in disgust.
Long Tom glared at her. "You want me to fan your skirts with a frying pan?"
"Women and trouble!" Long Tom groaned.
Long Tom made a face. "Ugh!"
"Whatcha mean—ugh?" Monk demanded.
"That’s little honey lambkins," Long Tom explained. He made another face. "Fifi."
"You don’t like Fifi?" Monk asked incredulously.
"Listen," Long Tom said sourly, "all the time you guys were gone, I kept trying to add things up so this mess would make sense. Every time I came to Fifi, I added a zero."
"Listen, Doc, that Fifi is a pain," Long Tom complained. "All she does is cuddle up against Ham and wail, ‘Poor little me’!"
"Ahr-r-r!" Long Tom said disgustedly.
"You little idiot!" Long Tom hissed. "You made us bring you along!"
Exposition is weird in that a few things are immediately repeated to make sure you got it. Exposition meets convenience here where Doc pretends to be Sunlight so Giantia and Titania learn what's really going on:
"Fifi—alive!" Giantia croaked. "But she was in that ballyhoo plane. Doc Savage blew her and the plane to bits."
Titania said, "I—" then went silent, for the John Sunlight voice was going on.
"As long as the two fool women think Doc Savage got their sister killed," the voice said, "they will work with me. They may be useful."
The voice cackled delightedly.
"I’ve even made them think," it ended, "that Doc Savage blew up that ballyhoo plane. They don’t know there was a radio-controlled bomb in the plane, and that Fifi wasn’t even in it—that her voice was coming off a phonograph record."
Doc and Monk disguised as the Prince's bodyguards will fool him? Really?:
"I don’t think he’d recognize us anyway, considerin’ how we’re disguised to look exactly like Adonis and Beauty."
There were no other plans except to die from Hypothermia:
"The blue dome," John Sunlight said, "is the Fortress of Solitude."
She didn’t know that Ham and Long Tom were gathered to leap backward into the water, and that they had other plans if that was successful.
069 - The Green Death:
One Line Review: Potentially best story ever falls apart in every direction
From Matto Grosso -- in the deadly heart of the Green Hell -- comes an organic mystery that paralyzes even the Man of Bronze: an oozing horror that wipes out the line between life and death!
Harold A. Davis wrote the lion's share of this novel from November of 1938, and while it lasted it might have been the best Doc Savage adventure of all time. At the exact moment it's revealed there's a lost tribe of Amazonian women warriors the story retains much of its potential while falling apart in every direction with expediencies and conveniences pulled from Felix The Cat's Magic Bag of Tricks. The story can be saved from itself but you'd have to compensate for all the gave up and stopped trying bombs lobbed around the room.
When the story works it does so very well. The opening chapter is great. Doc's always a few steps ahead of the bad guys. The violence is gripping and the action non-stop. Gadgets left and right. Dirigibles fight it out. Things blow up. The horrible Green Death is horrible. Doc fights a man-killer in a tree and allows his upper body to be ingested by a boa constrictor. If you remove its weaknesses The Green Death would make for an excellent Doc Savage movie and as a book would be easily in the top three.
The first thing that needs to go is the involvement of Dumb Ape and Stupid Pig. Whatever they contribute shouldn't be there, and what's there is pretty bad. Chemistry puts on a parachute and jumps out of Doc's dirigible while Habeas falls a thousand feet to the earth and doesn't get hurt with no explanation given because one couldn't be thought of. Chemistry saves Monk from other jungle apes by giving a speech - "He jabbered at a great rate. He made an oration that even Ham agreed, later, was worthy of any lawyer." You can't make this stuff up, but clearly it was.
Johnny has an industrial fan with him in a tomb. Even the jungle people are smart enough to know you don't let one person, especially someone you don't like, hold your people's greatest secret with no backup plan - "The tribe itself had concurred in having one person know the secret". There's electricity for two film projector gags made up on the spot with no editing equipment. Doc carries on his person suction cups with hooks plus the amount of wire you need to string up a boa constrictor big enough to swallow Doc, and there's flat spaces in a crude tunnel to use said suction cups. Using only his vest supplies he disguises himself to where the evil bad guy leader's men are fooled:
The man Johnny watched was clad in the sartorially-perfect garments of Sleek Norton. His features appeared the same——but his eyes were the gold-flaked pools of Doc Savage.
Sleek Norton has no reason to go about the elaborate preparations needed to turn Monk, Ham, and Renny into victims of the Green Death gas instead of shooting them in the head, and then once afflicted he plans on tossing them from a dirigible one at a time for fun, but not before this promise of exposition to come:
"Later, much later, I’m going to drop you overside, also," Norton was promising. "Before I do, I’ll explain several things to you. For when you go over, you will have no parachute attached. I’m not in the least afraid you will survive to talk."
There's no need to explain anything and then this makes no sense since there was no reason they needed Doc in the jungle:
It had been sufficiently important for Sleek to send Hugo Parks to New York, to lure Doc to the jungle. Then it had been important enough for Sleek to take drastic steps to prevent Doc from arriving.
The treasure of the story is not emeralds and this is lobbed in gratuitously:
She stood directly beneath one of the more ornate paintings, one ornamented with many colored stones. Those stones were emeralds, each one worth a fortune. Zehi did not know that. Only Doc Savage had noticed them; had realized their value. And Doc Savage would never tell.
The closing gag involves Monk kissing Chemistry thinking it's the lead female day-player. Monk forces himself on her without knowing her or asking permission of any kind.
Monk sighed, got up his courage. Slowly, cautiously, he put out one arm, pressed it about the figure next to him. Then he pulled that figure toward him, his lips opened and closing in delicious anticipation.
The figure turned suddenly. Monk found himself staring into the hairy face of Chemistry. Lights flashed on. A flashlight boomed. Ham stood grinning, a camera in his hand.
Expediency and BS as needed:
The ordinary knockout drops drug the brain, getting into the bloodstream through the stomach. Doc used a powerful counterirritant, one that poured oxygen into the system and provided such a heavy jolt to blood vessels feeding the brain that it cleared the poison out almost immediately.
Sleek Norton never was quite sure what happened. All he could be certain of was that every flashlight in his mob went out. Those that weren’t on at the time were found to be useless. Thin wires attached to a high-frequency generator Doc carried overloaded those flashlights, burned out the bulbs.
THE whirling blades of the gyro sliced through a blanket of small balloons. The balloons had been freed by Sleek Norton’s men, and had been left directly in the path the gyro would have to take if it tried to return to the dirigible.
The balloons were filled with a suffocating gas.
It was a mere flick of his fingers, but the capsules sailed more than two hundred feet back down the corridor.
[If there was one flat surface I'll...] And as he spoke, he hung the snake across the passageway. He used fine wire attached to small suction cups. He looked like a side-show snake charmer about to do a trick.
[It's a pig!] Forlorn and alone, the pig finally took up a hiding place in a clump of brush, and prepared to wait. There was still the bronze man. Habeas had great faith in Doc. He did not know what Norton and the others had been told.
First, he had taken an ointment from his emergency kit, which he had smeared on his head, face and body. That removed the blood odor from his person.
[For a fast moving autogyro to appear as a simple cloud? Absolutely not] The false cloud had been easy to create.
[The secret room in Doc's dirigible had a regular machine gun in it] Above, in the secret room, Scotty Falcorn had been busy also. Scotty was like a man reborn. Doc Savage had removed him from the peril of instant death; had given him a chance for life. Falcorn was more than grateful. His eyes flashed joyfully as he found a submachine gun hidden in the room. Then he found a supply of ammunition.
[Completely nonsensical in context] "Or I can use it for death insurance——and later bring my men back to life.
The Amazonian warrior women are straight out of a bad b-movie. Zehi falls for Doc because he's a hunky dream hunk of a man, as does the toughest of the warrior women:
Unconsciously, Princess Molah’s hand went to her white aigrette. She wanted to be sure it was on straight. She had never seen a man like Doc Savage, and she was still a woman, even though a warrior.
A long, lean, ex-pug appeared in the doorway behind. He had been on the watch, had seen the signal from the sedan and warned the others in the room. He wore brass knuckles on each fist. He set himself and swung.
The knuckles caught Ham just behind the ear. The dapper lawyer never even knew what hit him. Monk whirled——but he whirled just in time to get his jaw in the way of the second pair of brass sleep-makers. He became very quiet and inactive.
The men yanked free and started to run. Doc was on them at once. This time, a fist shot out. A man screamed and dodged, catching hold of his companion as he went to the floor.
There was a vivid flash——then silence. The man had fallen on the exposed end of the high-tension wire. He and his companion had been electrocuted instantly.
They had expected the flame to vanish. The sudden increase in the fire caught them by surprise. Before they could whip their planes up, they ran into the blanket of crimson destruction. A moment more and their ships were plunging on downward, flaming coffins.
One of the pilots tried to jump with his parachute. The parachute caught fire before he could leave his ship. He stood no chance.
The recent escape from the attacking planes brought little comment from Doc’s aids. They understood the weapon he had used. It had merely been a highly-developed flame-thrower, using a thin type of inflammable gas that would float in the air and spread rapidly, yet still produce terrific heat.
"I tried him on the wave length of our own microwave set," he said slowly. "Then I thought he might be receiving, but be unable to send, so I tried the ray vibrator. I got no response from that, either."
Doc’s gold-flecked eyes flashed slightly. The ray vibrator was an invention of his own, one through which he sometimes kept in touch with his men when radio transmission would not work. If Johnny had heard Renny’s calls, he would have hooked up a small, oscillating tube. The resultant waves could easily be picked up on the sensitive devices in the radio room.
The hairy chemist grunted and went through several contortions, inching his way across the floor until he was close to the lawyer. Then he slammed the heel of one shoe down hard on the floor.
A thin, razor-edged piece of steel shot out of the toe of his shoe. It was held firmly in the leather. It wasn’t much of a job for Monk to cut loose the ropes that held Ham. The invention was one of Doc’s and had proved its value before.
"The type of explosive bomb used under autos always exerts its force upward," Doc explained. He slowed down as the car neared a big warehouse bearing the name "HIDALGO TRADING COMPANY."
Doc continued: "The underneath side of this car is lined with containers of a compressed gas that, when once released, exerts a tremendous downward pressure. The bomb exploded. It freed the compressed gas, which blocked the upward charge of the explosive, forcing it to seek escape in other directions. In this case, that direction was toward each side."
And he knew, now, why he had lost sight of the big airship.
Doc had released a thin gas. The gas had acted as a mirror, hiding the dirigible beneath it. The angle of the sun’s rays had combined to give the impression that there was nothing in sight.
The bronze man dived toward the stern of the ship. Soon he had pulled a queer-shaped object into view. In appearance, it was something like an ancient blunderbuss, except that the muzzle flared even wider, being almost two feet across. A large tank was attached to it...
The blunderbuss-appearing weapon pointed straight up. Doc pressed a lever. A sheet of flame swept skyward. It was a tremendous blanket of fire, starting a good two hundred feet above the dirigible and extending for yards on all sides.
There were four powerful explosions as the bombs plunged into the flame and were discharged. Bits of steel rained down harmlessly.
Doc turned a petcock. The flame broadened until it seemed to cover the sky, forming a protective curtain high above the dirigible.
A searing, blinding flame climbed into the air. Doc hurled another vial. Concentrated Thermit compound burned the metal door as if it had been paper.
[Psychology was once a hands-on game] Doc Savage stepped forward, caught the other by the shoulder and shook him hard. Sanity returned to the man’s eyes.
Huge as a tiger, it was even more ferocious. It had the agility of a leopard and could tear a man to thin strips. Had its claws caught, Doc would have been mutilated, possibly killed.
The claws did not. Fast as the cat was, Doc was even faster. His two hands shot out, caught the rear legs of the giant cat, and twisted. An almost human shriek came from the cat. Without leverage, it was unable to free itself. With Doc holding on tightly, the two plunged toward the ground.
Branches broke their fall. And when they landed, the jungle cat was on the bottom. All Doc’s weight caught the animal in the belly, momentarily stunning it. The bronze man did not pause; he was on his feet instantly, had leaped again for a tree. In a moment he was gone.
[???] Doc’s powerful fingers came up, touched the large bump on his forehead. Then he used the fingers of both hands, massaging the bump with tremendous strength. The bump disappeared.
But the bronze giant insisted she put the white tablet on her tongue. It was necessary, he told her, to save her life. Finally Zehi shrugged, obeyed instructions. It was difficult to argue with this man. He might even be a god and not a man at all.
[Fops Magoo's main concern as he's about to be killed] Someone had found Ham’s immaculate attire in the jungle. The fastidious lawyer had hung his clothes on a tree limb, but now they lay on the ground.
Monk was methodically wiping his feet on his companion’s spotless morning coat. Each time he did, he looked innocently at Ham. The lawyer apparently would die of apoplexy long before the green death got him.
[That's what SHE said!] Renny was fast; he moved like a ten-second man.
The tall, thin man had snatched a gun and fired recklessly toward the foes he could not see; then he, too, had run. There had been nothing else to do.
That had been hours ago. The sun was high now. And hour after hour he had kept up a steady jogging pace, never seeming to tire. But he had not shaken off pursuit. Only minutes ago a single poisoned arrow had sped past his head. He had seen nothing, heard nothing; but death was trailing him.
Despite the worry in his eyes, the tall man did not appear afraid; rather, he seemed irritated, as if he had been interrupted while performing an important task. Suddenly, he paused. A shot had sounded from ahead.
"There are fingerprints here. They are the prints of Johnny," he said slowly. "But——"...
"The fingerprints," Doc said, "were not those of a living man."
"A chimerical phantasmagoria of a deranged cerebrum," the gaunt Johnny wheezed. It was not unusual that Johnny’s first words should be the longest he could think of.
Monk got up. He got up with two men clinging to him. The homely chemist was chuckling almost pleasantly. He caught hold of the two men trying to strangle him and knocked their heads together very hard. They ceased to take an interest in affairs.
AT dusk, Monk went to the small galley. Ham said it was because Monk was a chemist and knew how to prepare elaborate mixtures in a laboratory, but at any rate he could turn out an excellent meal.
Monk grinned. "I’m built for that jungle work, shyster," he said. "This country ain’t no courtroom."
[Probably added by Harold A. Davis] Doc wheeled the body back farther into his suite of offices. The room where he halted was as complete an operating room as could be found in most modern hospitals.
The other spat softly, shrugged his shoulders. The pin points of his eyes showed he was under the influence of narcotics. He held his Tommy gun with loving hands.
[Davis probably wrote this, because if it was Dent he wouldn't have stated Johnny's "death" as an accepted fact. He'd go more for "It appeared", "It would seem" or at worst "As far as they knew Johnny was dead"] The mysteries of Matto Grosso and the green death lay ahead, but no hint of the seriousness of the trip showed on the features of Doc and his aids. All were worried about Johnny, but long ago they had realized that sooner or later they would go on one adventure too many; that some of their loyal group would fall victims to death.
It was too bad it had to be serious-minded Johnny. It was worse that he had fallen while on a comparatively peaceful trip of exploration.
[Nice delayed fuse gimmick] He poured the liquid throughout the main lounge and over the clothing of Doc and his aids. Habeas and Chemistry looked on wonderingly, sniffing at the unaccustomed smell of the gas.
Then Parks fixed a candle so it would burn down and ignite the gasoline within a few minutes.
[Thankfully Doc didn't destroy his own ship again to fake his own death when it wasn't necessary] THE bronze man had never been unconscious. He had only pretended to drink the drugged coffee. He was on his feet as soon as Hugo Parks left the dirigible.
The huge ball of flame the large-headed man had seen had been merely a cloud of burning gas, ejected from the flamethrower. With all lights extinguished on the dirigible, Hugo Parks had been fooled completely.
[Well written] Renny gave a great heave. He didn’t care how many men he had to fight. He had to help Doc. Suddenly he felt a sense of freedom. The ropes did not give. But the modern, tube-steel chair back groaned, then snapped.
Renny jerked erect. Behind them, the dandified figure of Sleek Norton stepped softly. Sleek’s eyes narrowed just a little. His lips smiled cruelly. With one smooth gesture he pulled a heavy automatic from his shoulder holster, slammed the butt down on Renny’s skull.
The big engineer collapsed. He did not hear the sudden change in the tempo of the drums, did not hear the clamor that drifted over the jungle——a clamor of rage, then of panic.
"Piranha," Doc said. "They could make a skeleton of a horse in a dozen minutes. These streams are full of them."...
"Come on!" Doc said. He flung a tiny capsule in the water as he stepped forward. There was a dull explosion and a small geyser of water shot up.
"Minor explosive," the bronze man explained. "It will act like a depth bomb. It will not kill the fish, but they will be stunned for a few moments."
Doc and Johnny plunged through the stream. It was waist deep.
[Good scene] The boa relaxed its coils slightly, but not entirely. It merely lessened its grip about the part of the meal to be swallowed first. Doc’s head was turned toward the maw. A small antelope had been the snake’s largest single meal heretofore.
But a boa can disjoint its jaws to receive almost any size meal. The limit of distension is miraculous. The jaws opened wide enough for Doc’s head and shoulders. A boa constrictor does not chew its food; it doesn’t even bite it. It merely swallows it whole and lets the powerful gastric juices do the rest...
The second the big coils shifted, Doc’s fingers were in his equipment vest. A hypodermic needle was whipped out of a pocket. It jabbed through to the inner lining of the big snake’s stomach. The reptile began to relax. Doc jabbed the hypodermic a second time.
The Green Death would take a lot of work to fix, but it would be worth it.
070 - The Devil Genghis:
One Line Review: Great story for 13 of 20 chapters. Then enter putz John Sunlight
"A fantastic horror has come out of the polar regions -- a menace so bizarre it causes men to go insane! The Man of Bronze and his courageous crew penetrate the rugged Asian interior on a perilous mission: to find out the source of this mystery and smash the evil genius who controls it."
Dated December, 1938, The Devil Genghis is the follow-up to The Fortress Of Solitude, separated by a month to satisfy a weird Street & Smith policy about sequels. It's a great story for the first thirteen of its twenty chapters - dying once the action hits the deserts of a place not Afghanistan but nearby as "Afghanistan" is mentioned four times. The Fortress Of Solitude was a big deal because you finally got to see the place after a number of mentions since the first novel. On that count the book was acceptable. The bigger deal of the two novels in tandem are the appearances of John Sunlight - the most screamingly overhyped Doc Savage villain of all time!
Has anyone not rolling on the Doc Savage cult log bothered to read these novels as adults? John Sunlight is a big, fat, non-delivered promise. In the first book he's hyperbole to the nth degree backed by nothing on the page. It's all take-my-word-for-it by Lester Dent, and Doc's only encounter with Sunlight is this:
But the strange poetic-faced man with the distorted mind was fast. He was faster than even Doc had dreamed. He pitched widewise, got behind some of his men, went on—toward the snow hole that led into one of the smaller connecting igloos.
In The Devil Genghis, early on Sunlight pops in and pops up again at the close of Chapter 17. Once again they don't fight and this is the entirety of their physical contact:
Doc flung to the window, clutched, got an ankle. He set himself to yank. Outside, John Sunlight twisted up and saw who it was. He made a snarling sound, and fought.
They had always known that John Sunlight had a physical strength as unbelievable as his mind. But Doc had, even then, underestimated. For John Sunlight, wrenching and twisting, got free of the bronze man’s hands.
John Sunlight had only a few feet to fall, and landed on the rocky earth at the edge of the great landing field which he had made for his airplanes.
John Sunlight is a little Rasputin, a dash of Napoleon, but mostly a sniveling and cowardly Liberace. His fascist utopian daydreams were stapled on for timely gravity but John Sunlight is a mixture of intriguing ingredients left in an oven never turned on. Count Ramadanoff in the camp classic The Fantastic Island was a much better all-time villain. Sadly in that one once Doc smacks him down he's neutered for the remainder. In the John Sunlight section below you'll hopefully see, even out of context, how poorly he worked out.
For the first thirteen chapters The Devil Genghis is a very good book with a great female friendly foe (Toni Lash), a killer aerial dog fight with slapstick overtones, and Doc playing both the violin and clarinet on stage. Two years before Bugs Bunny got around to making it his catchphrase, here it's written "Renny boomed, 'What’s up, Doc?'". Toni Lash and her partner Cautious are an interesting pairing, and as international spies they might have been worthy of their own series:
Cautious got a chance to whisper to Toni Lash.
"What the blazes has this turned into?" Cautious demanded
The girl shook her head. She seemed frightened. "It don’t look so good," she admitted.
"It looks like you have been demoted."
"The Genghis," she said grimly, "must be peeved about our repeated failures to get Doc Savage."
"In that case," Cautious said, "woe is us!"
Sadly at the end Dent tosses Cautious into the Bad Guy pile and that's that. Other items from the good file:
IT is said that the first principle of civilization is to live in peace with your neighbor—that every great war sets civilization back fifty years.
If this be, then there exists a region in Asia where civilization has a hopeless handicap. This spot is located in a mountainous section not far from Afghanistan—which is not exactly a land of peace itself—and also not distant from Tibet, where every man carries a rifle and, if he be true Tibetan gentleman, shoots at every stranger on sight.
In the section, civilization probably gets its fifty-year setback on a fortnightly average.
"They want to come down and have dinner with us," Doc explained.
"They picked a fine way of openin’ negotiations for dinner," Monk grunted.
"Oh, that is the custom of the country! They were just shooting in hopes of making us run off and leave our belongings. Now that they see we did not run, they consider us brave enough to be worth visiting."
The pilot was a beefy white man. When he turned his head, his teeth were showing. They were big, white false teeth. In each of the pilot’s cheeks was a bullet scar which explained why he had to wear false teeth—his original teeth had been shot out of his mouth at some time in the past.
This exposition was nicely crafted:
"The mystery came out of the arctic in three steps," Doc said...
"A dog was the first thing stricken," Doc said.
"The dog was food, but it got away. Perhaps the mystery needed food."...
Doc said, "And the Eskimo’s clothes were taken, Let us say the mystery needed clothes."...
"And the mystery moved south a hundred miles, where it got Fogarty-Smith’s plane. Let us say the mystery needed an airplane."...
Yes," he said, "but what did Park Crater have? What did the mystery take from Park Crater?"
"Park Crater had Toni Lash."
File under Funny:
Toni Lash was the current mystery woman of the Riviera. The reigning sensation. She was tall, dark-haired and—well, striking was the only word. She struck the men breathless. She made the other women, especially the married ones, feel as though they were being shot at.
Toni Lash went over, tested the bronze man’s bonds, satisfied herself as to their tightness.
"Hooray for our side!" she said dryly.
At the end of the trip, Johnny was doubled over to keep from seeing things flashing by. He had perfect confidence in Doc Savage’s driving ability, but still—a man sitting in a motion-picture theater, when he sees a comic cannon ball come toward him on the screen, knows very well he won’t get hit, but he dodges anyway.
Doc yanked at the control wheel. The plane’s nose came up. Centrifugal force jammed the bronze man down in the pilot’s seat. Strain made the plane wings bend. Then earth and sky had changed places, and the plane lay on its back, almost motionless.
Back in the cabin, there were howls and thumps—and the human cargo landed on their heads on what had been the ceiling...
The plane fell off, began a tailspin. Doc helped the spin along with the controls, the motors. Over and over, around and around, the ship gyrated. In the cabin, the Asiatics rattled around like whatever it is that makes the noise in a Spanish dancer’s castanets.
Then he pulled out of the spin, put the nose of the plane straight down. Men came tumbling forward in the cabin, and three parachute packs and a man landed in the cockpit.
Doc clubbed the man with a fist. He came back on the wheel, and the big plane stood on its nose; men went piling toward the cabin rear, parachute packs hopping after them like playful pups.
Out of the cab came a long head, a long neck, and a body that seemed to be of unlimited length. Probably the effect of extreme length was accentuated by the fact that the man was thinner than it seemed anyone could possibly be. Not only was he just a string of bones, but even the bones were thin.
This was Johnny—William Harper Littlejohn, who could look at a twelfth dynasty Egyptian hieroglyphic and tell how many years the man who wrote it had gone to school. His suit did not fit him. No suit would ever fit him.
Johnny didn’t turn. He pitched for the man. It wasn’t as foolish a move as it seemed. The gun pointed at Johnny’s chest, and he wore a bulletproof vest.
The gun banged. Johnny was twisting. The bullet missed him entirely, dug plaster out of the wall. Johnny got the gun arm, and went to work.
Johnny at work in a fight was something unique. He had the physical build of the type of spider called a granddaddy longlegs, and he was all bone and whipcord sinew. When he tied himself around an opponent, the foe immediately felt as if he had fallen into a tight-fitting cage of iron bars.
They hit the floor. The attendant lost his gun. He howled in an Asiatic tongue. It was very pained howling. Johnny rolled to the wall with him, began bumping the fellow’s head against the baseboard. The man bleated.
LIEUTENANT COL. ANDREW BLODGETT "MONK" MAYFAIR had once been approached by a motion-picture producer who had assured Monk that he could make a fortune as a cinema actor. Monk, who had always had an eye for a pretty girl, thought of all the beauteous damsels in Hollywood, and grew rather enthusiastic about the idea. However—
"Why," the producer said, "you’d make Frankenstein and King Kong look like pets for babies."
So Monk grinned his homely biggest to cover his broken heart, and turned the film offer down, explaining that he already had made a fortune.
Monk was not really sensitive about his looks. In fact, his homeliness seemed to be an advantage with the fair sex. It hypnotized the girls, or something.
Ham the Fop packs like Paris Hilton for what might be a death mission:
Ham had never gone anywhere equipped only with a mere shirt. A wardrobe trunk of the size of a piano box was his idea of a minimum wardrobe for an ocean voyage.
Ham had fourteen suitcases and two trunks sent to the liner. Then he discovered that they were to keep under cover, and he would have no opportunity to flaunt his wardrobe.
Doc is handled very well in The Devil Genghis:
The giant man of bronze, who was better known as Doc Savage, was breaking a personal rule, doing something he almost never did. He was preparing to appear on a stage, before an audience, and exhibit one of his many abilities.
Now he rode in a taxicab, heading toward huge and famous Metropolitan Hall, where he was to stand on a stage and play a violin. Later in the program, he understood he was scheduled to "lick a licorice stick" and "send out with some hep cats," which was the current slang way of saying he was to play a clarinet with a good orchestra. He did not mind mixing classical music with popular "swing," because he had no false, highbrow ideas about what music should be...
He did not feel any special fear, for he had been in real danger too many times before. Also he had learned that fear was a bad thing to allow in the mind when one followed a career such as his. For the rest, he knew he would enjoy the program to-night, because he liked all types of music, although he rarely had a chance to enjoy it.
Doc Savage had not been able to enjoy many of the pleasant things in the life of a normal man. From infancy, he had been trained by elderly, learned scientists who had forgotten how to play; and sometimes he wondered if this unusual upbringing didn’t cause him to unconsciously regard men and women with reference to the psychological classification of their minds and how many chemical elements their bodies contained.
To-night, he would enjoy himself.
Doc Savage, on the stage, did not look nearly as ill at ease as he felt. He had been trained to conceal his emotions. And certainly the skill with which he had played his classical number on the violin left no suspicion that he was not perfectly at home. The quickest and loudest applause had come from the members of the audience who really knew music.
Now the bronze man played the clarinet number with the swing orchestra. The result was a joyful uproar. No one had to have an advanced education in classical music to know here was a number well done. In the vernacular of swing, the boys "sent gate," "slapped jibe on the dog house," "busted hide" and "gripped that git box." They went to town. The "jitterbugs" in the audience got up and danced in the aisles. It was a tremendous success.
Doc Savage, putting his instruments in their cases, and walking along a passage to the front entrance, was in a thoughtful frame of mind. Suddenly, he was realizing just how far from normal was the life he had lived, and was living.
He did not expect to be noticed. As a matter of fact, he had no public reputation at all as a musician, so he doubted very much that his name among the artists would bring anyone near Metropolitan Hall to-night...
"There’s umpteen thousand people," the taxi driver explained. "Lookit ‘em! The whole block is packed."
This seemed to be a fact.
The taxi driver said, "Pay me, if you don’t mind."
Doc paid him. The taxi driver then got out and slammed the door.
"I’m gonna go get a look at the guy, too," he said.
"A look at who?" Doc asked, surprised.
The driver snorted at such ignorance.
"Doc Savage is gonna be here to-night," he said. "Who else d’you think that mob is waitin’ to see?"
The driver left, horning people aside with his elbows...
He began to feel an attack of stage fright. During the taxi ride, he had looked forward to enjoying some music quietly. He was in a mellow, human mood, and it was a shock to find a packed, shoving throng hoping to get a glimpse of him.
Maybe the taxi driver was wrong...
Doc’s stage fright got worse. He had always been embarrassed by public attention, and right now the last thing he felt like doing was to run a gauntlet as this one.
He discovered himself retreating, toying with the idea of telephoning that he was ill, a thought he put aside at once. He had promised to appear, and he always kept a promise.
WHEN he saw her, he felt the same thing that other men always felt. He was human, in spite of the training that had tried to make him a scientific product. And she was beautiful. She was probably, he thought, the most striking feminine creature he had ever seen.
Doc Savage made known his identity.
The officer was not impressed. He seemed to consider Doc some kind of crook. So they went to the bridge and saw the captain.
"You’re being very silly, mister!" the captain told the officer. "This man is Doc Savage, and he probably has more real influence than any one man in the world."
The frocks in Toni Lash’s wardrobe were expensive. Doc probably knew less about such items than he knew about any other subject, but he was sure the stuff was exclusive.
[It is an annoying habit] Johnny looked at Doc Savage sharply and demanded, "What kind of suspicion, Doc?"
The bronze man did not seem to hear.
"I asked you," Johnny said more loudly, "what kind of suspicion—"
He remembered, and did not finish the question. Doc had heard him the first time. This was the bronze man’s habit, one of the few aggravating ones he had.
Doc Savage habitually did not voice his suspicions when they were only suspicions. Not until a theory had become a proven fact in his mind would he go into explanations. Until he wanted to talk, Doc would seem not to hear any questions on the subject.
[Doc should have put Renny into the straight jacket] "Do not hurt him," Doc Savage said.
Doc’s face looked, at this moment, as though it actually were made out of bronze. Each muscle seemed solidified by mental control so that it would not show emotion, lest horror, if it managed to set a single muscle quivering, might use that foothold to spring through the whole of the bronze man’s great body, and his mind.
DOC SAVAGE said, "What you have accomplished, Johnny, is more valuable than anything that we have done so far." And it was obvious that he meant it. He never made statements for the mere purpose of praise. But this time he sounded especially sincere.
THERE was one thing that Doc Savage had always known he could not do, and he had never tried to do it, and right now he was glad he had never tried. He couldn’t figure how a woman would act next.
Doc looked back. The cabin lights were on. He saw a hand sticking up, holding a gun. He fired once, hardly seeming to aim. The gun flew out of the hand, and the hand looked different.
AS the young woman looked at her visitor, there was awe and dislike on her grieved face, but fascination, too, almost as though the visitor were a serpent and she a weakened bird.
The visitor did not have a snaky look. There was something about him that was a great deal worse. But it was hard to define. At first glance, the man just seemed to be a long sack of bones with a thin, poetic face and a pair of smoldering, compelling eyes.
Toni Lash said, "I checked up on the newspaper stories after I saw you last week. You are supposed to be dead."
Something strange and hideous appeared, as a brief flicker of emotion, on the man’s long poetic face. It was as though his face had turned fiercely animal for a moment.
"Perhaps I am dead, and come back to haunt people," he said. Then he laughed grimly.
He wore solid gray. Every article of clothing on him was gray—shoes, socks, suit, tie, shirt, hat—all exactly the same shade of gray.
"You were wearing all the same shade of blue the last time I saw you," Toni Lash said. "You seem to—"
"Let us not talk of small things," the long, sinister man said quietly. "I have heard of your grief."
THE devil had walked into that room. The door had remained locked, the window screen was fastened, and outside the window a bird went on singing merrily, unfrightened by anything. But inside the room, a Satan stood; and he was as vivid to Johnny Littlejohn as if he stood there in reality, surrounded by the odor of brimstone, and leaning on his thin, three-tined pitchfork, his long tail with the spike on the end looped over his arm.
Two words had conjured the devil: John Sunlight.
Johnny Littlejohn had never seen John Sunlight. He had missed the grisly adventure of Doc Savage’s fight with John Sunlight. That had been months ago. That was when Johnny had first gone to Egypt, and he had been there doing archaeological work throughout the frightful days when John Sunlight had descended on New York.
John Sunlight was one of the strangest, most sinister men they had ever encountered. Whether his real name was John Sunlight, no one knew, just as his past had always been more or less a mystery. He was a schemer, a plotter, a creature with a diabolically inhuman mind. The world knew that. A fantastic man, gaunt and bony, with the face and eyes of a poet, the ambitions of a Napoleon, the principles of a fiend. A man who liked to wear fantastic costumes of solid colors, changing them several times daily. A man who looked weak, but who had the strength of a Sandow in his hands. A man who liked to destroy souls, but who never destroyed a body—John Sunlight never killed a man if he could help it.
John Sunlight did not kill—he did the kind of things to his victims that he had done to Renny, Park Crater, Fogarty-Smith and Kummik, the Eskimo.
John Sunlight—he sat at the head of a table at which were at least a score of others. John Sunlight! Doc knew that face. That gaunt and bony frame, the face that was the countenance of a poet, the hands that were so long and slender—Doc knew them all. They had not changed.
Only John Sunlight’s hair had altered. It was white now, every hair of it. It must have turned in the arctic, when he had undoubtedly undergone incredible sufferings on the arctic pack ice.
John Sunlight still had his liking for strange costumes of solid colors. He wore white now, a bizarre outfit of white sandals with turned-up toes, white tights such as acrobats wear, and a loose blouse of white silk with voluminous, flowing sleeves. The white costume, with his white hair, made him striking.
Doc wondered, walking on, if John Sunlight’s hair actually turned white; or had he dyed it white to match his fondness for one solid color in his dress?
John Sunlight did not have a gun. He stood, a lean tower, with arms folded. His garb was blue now, blue after the fashion of a sheik, with voluminous trousers, a loosely gathered robe, and a blue turban almost as large as a bushel basket, on the front of which scintillated a single blue jewel.
"The wrong I am going to right," he said impressively, "is the fact that mankind lives under different flags and speaks different languages."
His voice became louder, acquired a kind of burning fervor. There was fanaticism in the voice.
"I am going to conquer the world," John Sunlight said.
He threw up his jaw.
"Then I shall disarm all of mankind," he announced. "I shall take every rifle, revolver, cannon and machine gun, and I shall make it a death penalty to own a firearm. Mankind has advanced far enough that it does not need firearms."
John Sunlight lifted both arms dramatically.
"Next, I shall make every person in the world learn to speak English," he shouted. "English shall become the common language of all mankind."
He shook his fists.
"I shall wipe out every state and national boundary. I will make all mankind of one nation, one language, and without arms."
He paused, lowered his arms and smiled.
"There will be no more wars," he said, "because there will be nothing left to cause wars."
John Sunlight moved. He took off like a blue heron that had been hit with buckshot. He made a bleating noise of astonished terror. Rugs skidded under his churning feet, but he gained a door, sloped through.
[An unnamed extra kills the great John Sunlight] The man stuck at least a yard of sword through John Sunlight’s midsection.
"Jovoon!" the man screamed. "Look! He dies! Like an ordinary mortal, he dies!"
There was a roaring, a surging about the fallen Genghis. Men rushing in, waving swords, fighting with each other to be one of those who put sword to the Genghis.
"Forgiven are those whose blades enter his body!"
That cry got started somehow, and spread, and there was not enough of John Sunlight’s body in that one place for all the swords to find it; so that suddenly it was in a dozen sections all over the flying field, where it was available to more swords.
Before hitting on other lesser parts of The Devil Genghis (besides John Sunlight), here's this week's vocabulary words: "Gadder" is "one that travels about habitually, restlessly, or with chiefly social purposes" and a "Gossoon" is "a serving boy". The novel opens with what's below and then the mystery at the end is resolved as what follows. So then, John Sunlight drugged and then hypnotized a dog into believing something evil was above its head. The first chapter is marvelously whimsical:
IT was too bad the dog could not talk.
The dog came yelping and kiyoodling across the ice at a dead run. It was an Eskimo dog. The dog stopped in front of an igloo and had a fit.
The dog seemed to be trying to bite something in the air above it. It kept jumping up and snapping its teeth. For hours it just sprang high and snapped its jaws.
"You know what I did?" John Sunlight barked.
"It was hypnotism, aided by a drug," Doc Savage said. "You seized each of those men and treated them with a drug that paralyzed their minds. A drug that stopped their minds on one thing, as it were. And while the drug was taking effect, you used hypnosis as well, fixing in their mind the hallucination that they had to go on fighting silently against you as you stood over them."
Sunlight has Doc in a death trap -- easily resolved with a pillow!:
John Sunlight said, "the moment you let go of that thing you are holding, you will die."
Doc Savage looked at the wax likeness which he was gripping, holding a few inches off the white bed.
"It is wired to a device," John Sunlight’s voice said. "Drop it and the device will kill you."
He grabbed a pillow off the bed and jammed it under the wax figure, to prevent the thing dropping back to the bed and firing the shrapnel trap.
Ham's disguise and his walking around a lot without being found out as a guy in a mask is a bit much:
Ham then retired into the yurt to adjust his faceless make-up, which consisted of a substance developed in Hollywood, a material that was applied as a semi-liquid and molded as it hardened. Ham’s breathing was done through a tube, and he wore goggles behind the make-up, which was applied thinly over the lenses, and being transparent, enabled him to see about as well as he could have with very dark-colored glasses.
Doc disguised as an old lady? It couldn't be an old guy in a special wheelchair that hides his size?:
The reason for the wheel chair became apparent when Doc put on a white wig, a pokey-looking old hat, and wrinkled his face by applying a coat of colloidal substance which, as it hardened, he molded into wrinkles; then he applied ordinary theatrical make-up to get a natural enough effect. Disguised as an old lady, Doc sat in the chair, tucked the steamer rug in around his legs.
Ham and Monk make a bet on who can pick up the prettiest woman on the ship like they're Hope & Crosby:
Monk and Ham merely asked a first officer, "Who’s the prettiest girl aboard?"
"Toni Lash," the officer said.
And so they lost no time heading straight for trouble.
Doc brought twenty pounds of flash powder with him to the desert?:
Doc lifted the sword, struck the rock. Following events were up to everyone’s expectations, including Doc’s.
First was the flash. It was an incredibly brilliant flash, all the world seeming to turn into utter flame. Every hillman was completely blinded.
What the hillmen did not know about the flash was that it had been produced by nearly twenty pounds of super-flashlight powder of photographic type.
Stupid Pig and Dumb Ape brought along on death missions is animal abuse:
The matter of the two pets had been frequently discussed. Toni Lash had explained that she had taken them along when they dropped overboard from the liner, and she was sure that the two animals had been in one of the three planes which had taken off from London. But further than that, she did not know. It was recalled, however, that John Sunlight had been fascinated by the two unusual pets during their previous encounter with him in the matter of the Fortress Of Solitude, so it was possible that the animals were still alive.
[Liberace's toadies] THE messengers from John Sunlight arrived the next day. Ten of them. They were dressed in brilliant yellow—yellow boots, skin-tight trousers, neat jackets and skull caps. They rode horses equipped with yellow saddles and bridles.
Read the first thirteen chapters and skim the rest. Enjoy the multi-layered Doc and the intriguing Toni Lash. Realize the John Sunlight legend is a hollow shell. Whatever you read about him outside his two appearances are pitch meetings, outlines, and drunken promises made at 2 AM. Go with what you read and not what you're told to think.
071 - Mad Mesa:
One Line Review: Nice adventure in need of momentum and forgiveness
"In one of the most masterly of Doc Savage adventures, the Man of Bronze is jailed! But all the prison bars in the world could not hold Doc when he was on his way to dispelling the madness in the desert that changes people into other identities!"
"Killing men keeps you awake at night," the bronze man said. "Even men like these."
Mad Mesa is a nice adventure that could use more momentum in its center and asks nicely to not ask a few obvious questions, such as why Doc Savage doesn't have a backup plan when he allows himself to be kidnapped and placed in a penitentiary as Big Eva, or how it's possible to bribe an endless parade of the right people to propel your evil plans forward.
January, 1939's adventure has Doc nearly at top form but he's less the stoic superman as he plays it by ear a bit as he goes along, leading to the mentioned above drag on forward thrust. When the warden doesn't believe Doc's who he says he is and tosses him into solitary, Doc's stuck with his own thoughts of what if he can't ever get out? He does soon enough but the Skill vs. Luck Ratio should be more weighted in the former.
The gimmick of Tom Idle waking up as Hondo Weatherbee was seen again in 1944 in According To Plan Of A One-Eyed Mystic with Renny on the receiving end. It works well in both novels. Lester Dent gives it away in clues:
His face was different—and yet, not completely. It was sallow. The cheeks seemed lumpy. He brought his hands to his face and explored, discovered that there were indeed lumps in his cheeks that felt as though they might be old scar tissue. But his eyes were the same. Bloodshot with strain, it was true; but still his eyes.
Big Eva: "Is he mixing in this—" The huge, bestial crook swallowed two or three times. "But hell, he couldn’t have gotten wise. There’s no way—"
Another plot device you have to wave by like a traffic cop is when innocent Tom Idle both knows how to use the underground prison mail system and that it even exists in the first place. Who pays for postage is anyone's guess:
The prison grapevine is a furtive thing. All penitentiaries have them. This was how it functioned:
Tom Idle was served four pancakes for breakfast, ate two of them, and left two on his plate with a letter secreted between them. In the kitchen, the convict dishwasher was careful to put the two pancakes, still with the letter between them, on top of the garbage can. The driver of the garbage wagon mailed the letter.
[Doc in a rare comedy routine] Monk asked, "Did you find a cure for colds, Doc?"
Doc Savage looked at Monk and sneezed.
"All I found out," he admitted, "was how to catch one."
"Work standing in a draft."
"Ah, so that’s what science has come to," Monk chuckled.
[Coming out of a drugged state and also for dramatic effect] THE likeness shocked the bronze man. He had gone into this deliberately while holding in his mind the suspicion of what would happen, and hoping it would happen. But suddenly he doubted himself. His confidence slipped.
He gripped the cell bars with both hands. He exerted force. Was this really his body? He had to know that. The sinews stood out in his arms and shoulders. His temples pounded with effort—and the cell bars slowly gave.
"Great grief!" Tom Idle croaked.
Doc Savage released the bars, his uncertainty gone. He knew now. His body was still his own body.
The gun in his hand coughed lead and noise. He never carried a gun, but he could use one. He had spent hundreds of hours in intensive practice—and not with the special target weapons used in matches, for his shooting was never the match kind. He practiced snap work, firing from difficult positions.
"By thinking things won’t work," Doc said, "you just give yourself an unnecessary advance scare."
This bit of philosophy, as a matter of fact, was opposite that which the bronze man practiced. He always acted on the mental theory that everything conceivable would go wrong with anything he attempted, a conviction that impelled him to prepare against all possibilities. It probably accounted for his high average success in attempting the apparently impossible.
[Yeah, Johnny, why not give normal a try?] Long, thin Johnny said, "They interlocuted the viand purveyoress infinitesimally."
Ham snapped, "Why not just say they asked the waitress somethin’."
Still, the thing was so strange that no one might have believed it, even if it had happened to Hitler, or Mussolini, or someone equally well known. No one believed Tom Idle. No one believed him in time, that is, to stop the baby monster of horror which began to grow when it took its first bite and swallowed Tom Idle.
The horrified man acted as if the devil had asked him to come down and sample the warmth.
[Unusual wordplay referencing the immediate next chapter with repeated words in title] The appearance of the black-gloved man did not clarify the situation, either.
Chapter II. THE BLACK-GLOVED MAN
DOC SAVAGE had often considered changing the location of his headquarters. Too many people knew that he could be found on the eighty-sixth floor of the New York skyscraper that came near to scratching clouds, and not all of these people wanted to see the "Man of Bronze" go on living.
That was why Doc Savage, or one of his five assistants, always X-rayed the incoming mail. The X-ray would show which packages contained bombs. The bomb percentage in the mail had been high during the last year. Also, all the mail was subjected to a spectroscopic analyzing device which detected such clever ruses as perfume on a letter, to invite one to sniff, coupled with a subtle poison to bring death with the sniff.
[By definition, scumbags] Monk and Ham went into a competition, to see who could date up the waitress. The waitress was not good-looking and did not seem overly bright, and neither man really wanted a date.
DOC SAVAGE and his men had referred to the "college" casually. No one else would have been prosaic about the place. But then, very few knew the "college" existed. The newspapers didn’t, certainly. Or they would have broken out the type they used for war, earthquakes and the World Series...
The warning signs were mildly misleading, for the disease that was treated was not contagious, not by germs. The disease was crime. Such criminals as Doc Savage captured were taken to the place, where they underwent delicate brain operations at the hands of specialists whom Doc Savage himself had trained. The operations wiped out all the patient’s memory of the past.
Permanent mental amnesia was created surgically. After this, the patients were trained to hate crime, and were taught trades at which they could earn honest livings. Finally, they were discharged, specialists in some profession, with no knowledge of having been criminals in the past.
[Crosses a line] "The girl," Doc said, "will go through in the usual way."
The waitress was not much of a criminal, and she had received such a scare that she would probably reform. But the course of training would benefit her, so Doc was putting her through the place.
Pickings in the wild and woolly West had been thin, however, and Heek had returned to Ohio, where he’d led a typical crook’s life—in jail and out, hiding from police, double-crossed by fellow crooks, and suffering from disease—until as recently as yesterday.
"Wampum?" One of the men was puzzled.
"Money. Dough and spondulicks to you, paleface."
He at least knew that the safest refuge for a dunce is an air of mystery.
DOC SAVAGE and his five assistants had operated together long enough that they had worked out definite methods of procedure. They had agreed upon a hotel, for instance, in each large city, which they would use for headquarters, where they would leave messages in case they became separated.
[Intro to Exposition Hell] Hile eyed his men. "Now, I’m going over this once again."
"Hell, we’ve got it all clear," one muttered.
"You never get a plan too clear," Hile snapped. "We’ll hash it over again.
Mad Mesa is a nice story with a slightly relaxed tone and a plot that remains interesting throughout. Trim off some extraneous word count and it gets even better. You do have to go along with the gags it pulls, but it's a fun story and worth the critical reprieve.
072 - The Yellow Cloud:
One Line Review: Good conspiracy and characters meet odd/silly choices
"The Navy’s new ultra-secret super weapon vanished from the skies — pilot and plane eaten up by a yellow cloud a quarter of a mile long. The country’s military safety hung in the balance until the Man of Bronze uncovered the deadliest spy apparatus ever."
"That guy," Monk said disgustedly, "is a noodle-head."
February, 1939's adventure was ghosted by Lester Dent's secretary Eveleyn Coulson, also a friend and travel companion of the Dents. Dent gave it a polish and later Philip Jose Farmer went out of his way to ridicule it. The Yellow Cloud is more oddly silly than bad, but it's not as bad as it could have been and it's not gonzo like you'll find from the male Doc Savage ghostwriters. It's easy to see where it succeeds as much as it fails, so in the long run it's worth reading and enjoying on whatever level it's succeeding or failing.
Making Vikker's place in the middle of a Canadian nowhere a "crazy house" with moving walls, spinning pits, and a tame bear who seems vicious, is from the wouldn't-this-be-fun school of random choices. Pat's plastic surgeon being part of the gang is randomly convenient, but as not as much as the evil mastermind being a fake Monk who convinces everyone he's Monk wearing face bandages. Monk deciding he wants plastic surgery to become better looking is completely against his character but it sets up the setup. Heck Noe's practical jokes are annoying and how he jumped out of a plane expecting to be picked up by Doc Savage is a mystery.
This is not the only time this bit sees the light of day, but it's always a set-up and it's highlighted how this story makes it even worse:
"Doc Savage," said the little brisk man, "sent me to get you."
"Yes?" Monk said. "How come?"
The other explained. "Doc Savage got a call from a man who is in trouble. He’s down the street."
"Who are you?"
"One of the bystanders. Doc Savage merely asked if I would come for you." The little man made a quick gesture. "Will you please hurry? I rather got the idea it was a rush matter."...
There were two men in the rear seat.
"My friends, Joe and Charlie," the man said. "Get in."
There was nothing suspicious about it, really.
The simple explanation for the yellow cloud incidents is a good one. Better this than creatively writing a check you can't cash at the story's end:
Doc Savage said, "There was no yellow cloud when Renny and the X-ship vanished. They knew Renny was going to test-fly the X-ship, so they prepared. There was a stowaway in the plane. In the air he knocked Renny out. The man could imitate Renny’s voice, which was not difficult over the radio. He described an imaginary yellow cloud. He probably used a bunch of small firecrackers to make sounds that the listeners thought were the plane being crushed. And he had previously prepared the photographic plate showing the yellow cloud, which he tossed overboard. The plate was faked, of course."
The resolve of Long Tom's televisor mystery was also nicely simple and direct. The mix of day-player personalities is good and how and why they interacted are some of the story's better features. The napkin holder radio transmitter is a memorable gadget.
[Magic undershirt] Ham eventually got out of the undershirt, and seemed hard to convince that there were no holes in his stomach. The undershirt—it had been devised by Doc Savage, and all of the bronze man’s group wore them habitually—was of very light, special alloy chain-mesh fabrication, effective against anything less than a military rifle slug.
Doc Savage’s New York establishment was elaborate, particularly in the matter of defenses; their enemies were many, and some of them were ingenious. To facilitate quick secret passage from the water-front hangar to the group headquarters, Doc Savage had installed the thing that Monk called the "flea run."
Ham opened a steel door of what appeared to be a large concrete block that stood on the floor. They stepped inside into a bullet-shaped car, hardly more than four times the size of a barrel. This was well padded, the necessity for the padding being plainly evident as Monk closed the switch and there was a rush of compressed air and the car began slamming through a tubelike tunnel. The speed increased. Monk and Ham held onto things. The car shook, slammed, jarred and finally came to a stop with a terrific bump.
The napkin dispenser was a compact radio transmitting station, of the type commonly used by commercial radio networks in broadcasting crowd programs, the type of transmitter dubbed a "beer mug." The thing was complete—microphone, crystal oscillator frequency doubler, power amplifier, modulator, and power enough for several hours’ operation—and it was sensitive enough to pick up ordinary conversation at a distance of several feet and transmit the words to another receiver to which Doc Savage had been listening outside the candy store.
[Implying Doc was the first?] To test-fly the X-ship, the army had called upon the greatest engineer in the army reserve—a man who was probably also the second greatest engineer in the world.
Colonel John Renwick was this engineer—Renny Renwick, the man with the fists, and the I’m-on-my-way-to-a-funeral face.
Ham yelled, "You awful mistake of nature! Some day I’m going to cut your toenails off close up to your ears!"
[Not the best thing to have Doc be smarter than the assistants in their own fields. Too Uber] Ham went into the library and tried to keep his mind off Pat’s disappearance by reading a book on corporate law procedure, which Doc Savage—no one knew how he had found time—had written.
Ham had always held a suspicion that Doc Savage knew more law than he, Ham, did, and reading the book verified the suspicion. Doc Savage, due to scientific and intense training which he had received from childhood—his parents had planned from the first for him to follow his present strange career—had given him a skilled and complete knowledge of many things.
Monk Mayfair had a ludicrously wide mouth, a nose that did not have the same shape with which it had started life, and the kind of hair that the brush salesman rubs when he says, "Lady, this is exactly what you need to scrub that back porch."
"If someone else will ask me questions, I will answer them," he said. "I do not care for this prehistoric person—this Monk."
I’m going to Florenso, the Vienna plastic surgeon," Monk snarled. "And no cracks out of you, you fashion plate!"
"To have my face operated on and beautified!" Monk said grimly.
Ham opened and shut his mouth like a fish.
Ham Brooks had been selected "The Best Dressed Man in New York" five times running. He was the Beau Brummell of the decade, a tailor’s dream, and a never-ending pain in Monk’s neck—if one listened only to what Monk said. Ham Brooks had a thin waist, broad shoulders, an orator’s wide and rubbery mouth, a voice that made radio announcers hide their faces in envy.
"Pat, that was a dirty trick," Monk said.
"Oh, sure," Pat said. "Do you remember the time you gave me a package and told me to go off to the mountains and guard it with my life? After I guarded it for a week, I looked in it and found a picture of a goat. Was that nice?"
"It got you out of danger," Monk pointed out.
"Hah!" Pat said disgustedly.
There was everything necessary to take a fat dowager who was dripping chins and streamline her into a sixteen model, or make her think she had been streamlined, it being a profitable process for Pat in either case.
There had been a congressional investigation, and it had resulted in the boot being taken to certain high staff officers until, as one old-timer put it, the seats of their pants rang like bells.
The idea of tonight’s test was: The new X-ship had a silenced motor, a special propeller, and it was hoped it could fly so silently at an altitude of twenty thousand feet that no electrical listener could spot it. This night’s test would tell.
In fact, they were bound together about as closely as it is possible for men to be cemented, for they were all members of one of the most unusual little groups—only six men belonged—that ever had been assembled. A group, incidentally, which had no name, except that they were known as Doc Savage and his men. The group did not need a name to be feared in the far corners of the earth.
The group had no name, but mere whispered rumor of its presence in a neighborhood brought terror to wrongdoers, men outside the law.
There was every indication that the cloud was what Renny’s voice had described—length a quarter of a mile, width half that, depth two hundred feet in places, more or less in others. They could not tell about the yellow hue, for this was not color film. But it was unusual. It was a solid cloud. It seemed to have body to it.
"Long Tom," Doc Savage said, "has hit upon something really astounding and revolutionary in television. A discovery so unusual that he has not been able to figure out the scientific theory of why it works."
"If Long Tom can’t figure it out," Ham said, "it must be pretty complicated. He knows more about what goes on inside an electron than I know about a courtroom."
Monk growled, "You mean Long Tom has built a new television gimmick, but don’t know why it works."
"Exactly," Doc agreed.
[How you know Heck Noe is a bad guy. He's a goof who asks to go along, and Doc allows him] Heck Noe put his hands in his pockets, teetered back on his heels until it seemed he would fall over. He wore a determined look. "In that plane," he said, "was a brief case of mine. It contained the only copies of mineralogy surveys that it took me two years to make. With them gone, I’m out two years of work. I want them back. How about letting me help you on this mystery?"
Pat said, "Oh, Doc never lets anyone help him."
"There will be no objections," Doc told Heck Noe, "to your aiding us."
[1939 Panic Room] Abricketta Palmer had gone upstairs to the emergency bedroom—the place had bullet-proof doors and a host of burglar alarms
[Ethical criminals] Van Blair croaked. "As long as people didn’t die, it wasn’t so bad. But I saw that people were going to die. Heck Noe saw it, too. We thought we would take the game away from Vikkers and run it in a humane way, without killings."
[This is astoundingly creepy. They eventually gave up protesting getting lobotomies] "It won’t hurt them," Doc said, "to get the same treatment as Vikkers and the others."
Phil van Blair, Heck Noe, and Brick Palmer didn’t think that quite fair, they explained vociferously. Which led Doc Savage into an explanation that they would merely go, with the other Vikkers’ crew, to the bronze man’s criminal-curing "college," an unusual institution which he maintained secretly in upstate New York.
Here they would undergo delicate brain operations which were not dangerous when performed by the specialists Doc had trained, and which would wipe out all memory of the past. Following that they would be trained to hate crime and criminals, and taught trades or professions at which they could make good livings.
Van Blair, Heck, and the girl still did not like it very much, even after Doc explained. But they gave up protesting.
The conspiracy and characters are generally strong. The crazy house doesn't have to exist. The plastic surgeon at Pat's shop who sets up the mastermind to become a fake Monk because Monk decides on his own he wants to be handsome can't be fixed. The Yellow Cloud is what it is and believe you me there are worse Doc Savage books you can curl up with at night.
073 - The Freckled Shark:
One Line Review: As good as it is not that good. Strong start loses steam
"In his most exotic adventure, the Man of Bronze encounters the insane money lust of Senor Steel, president-dictator of Blanca Grande (a very unfortunate South American republic); decodes the awful secret of Matacumbe; and sinks -- for what may be the last time -- into the muddy horror of the primitive jungle."
Yeah, the bondage rape cover. Some might call it a "rescue" but her dead eyes are gazing off into the nebula as if to mock "I'm free. You can't hurt me any more". This isn't a scene in the novel, so hooray for pulp fiction exploitation.
1939's The Freckled Shark, which is nowhere to be found as penis slang, is as good as it is maybe not good. It starts out stronger than it finishes and the attention span of Lester Dent seemingly also diminished as it went along. There's an ongoing narrative conceit to make you wonder if Dent considered his readers either mentally simple or game enough to go along with the gag for as long as it took. That would be Doc disguised as Henry Peace - a redhead hick knockaround adventurer looking to make a buck. That Monk never figures out it's Doc is as absurd as how long it took Dent to acknowledge Peace and Savage are the same person.
Doc is fun as Peace until Chapter 13 when he becomes self-conscious and frets like a high school freshman. It works fine when expressed as "Henry Peace had told a fib when he said he couldn’t fly a plane. He had told large fibs about several things. He seemed to be enjoying it." Less so with:
Doc Savage was thoughtful as he walked. He was puzzled with himself. He was rather enjoying being Henry Peace. He didn’t approve, exactly, because Henry Peace was an untruthful rascal who had a weakness for a pretty girl. Henry Peace was boastful, insolent, and made love at every opportunity.
It wouldn’t do, Doc Savage decided uneasily, to play Henry Peace with too much enthusiasm.
It might become too pleasant.
Below is a major forced error that could have been easily resolved otherwise. A big to-do is made of a safe protected with poison gas:
Yanking the lid open quickly, Señor Steel popped a large bottle through. They could hear the bottle break.
Señor Steel closed the lid instantly.
Monk, close to Doc Savage’s ear, breathed, "A gas chamber on the vault."
Monk’s chemistry knowledge had told him that. There was a chamber between doors of the vault, an air-tight one, probably filled with some form of deadly gas; and the bottle of chemical which Señor Steel had broken in the chamber would neutralize the gas, render it harmless, so that the vault could be entered.
At the end Dent has to find a way to have the two main bad guys meet a bad end. He chooses to have them kill themselves out of greed in a mad dash for the riches in the vault, forgetting the steps they knew they had to take in order to not immediately die. He could have had one of the tortured prisoners toss poison into the vault after the villains neutralized the gas, but it had to be this:
"During that fight," he yelled, "two of them tried to get into the vault through that gas chamber. They didn’t make it. They’re both dead in there. I stumbled over the bodies."
Would smart criminals in 1939 fall for this ploy for Doc to get a message to his aides, and was thing a real thing?:
Stop the car!" Henry Peace barked abruptly. "There’s a post office. I’m goin’ in, write out my will, and mail it to the executor."
Lester Dent should be the patron saint of pulp fiction expediency. Take it away, St. Lester, materializing a machine pistol drum of blanks out of thin air, which otherwise has no reason to exist:
Doc Savage breathed: "Here are the ammunition drums you thought you lost. Also a spare machine pistol."
"I slipped them out of your pockets the first time you fell in the mud. Later, when I examined your gun, I substituted blank cartridges."
The only other glaring weak point of the story is Dent believing corrupt yet benevolent con artists are the best people to run the South American country of Blanca Grande. And this line that hasn't aged well: "He put his head back and ran like a pickaninny..."
On to the good aspects of the story. Henry Peace is a fun character and it's nice to see Doc having fun in character simply by seeing the fun in the ruse. The character descriptions are strong, a load of cool devices are used, and the humor is sharp. Doc turns one of the cushy chairs in his reception room into a lie detector. Johnny's wordiness works for a while until it grows stale.
This seems like a one time deal:
Henry Peace retreated into the cabin, sank into a seat. He fished in a pocket, brought out a metal box the size of a tobacco can, but about half as high. From this he extracted what might have been a sponge. He put this in his mouth. In the can with the spongelike object was a small nose clip. Henry Peace closed his nostrils with this. The Havens had not noticed.
Out of another pocket, Henry Peace took a bottle. He uncorked it, splashed the contents on the cabin floor. The stuff was liquid and it vaporized to gas quickly.
After a little while, Rhoda Haven looked sleepy and sank to the cabin floor, and soon Tex Haven was lolling back in the cockpit seat, his eyes closed.
He [Johnny] got up—he had been in
shirt sleeves—and put on his coat, which fit him with about the same effect as a
flag draped about the top of a flagpole on a windless day. He looked almost
completely like a scarecrow. Certainly he did not resemble one of the most
eminent living authorities on the subjects of archaeology and geology. He gave
his monocle-magnifier a flourish, bowed low—pretty girls were not without their
effect upon him—to Rhoda Haven, and escorted the young lady to the street.
Monk’s face was fabulously homely, but fortunately it was a pleasant kind of homeliness. Dogs wagged tails at him, and children, who logically could have been expected to be frightened to death at sight of such a face, chuckled in delight. Babies always cooed and wanted to smack Monk’s nose with their little fists, although much larger fists had already knocked the nose rather flat, as well as made some permanent changes in the shapes of Monk’s ears.
Furthermore, there was some
quality about the face that seemed to fascinate pretty girls. By grinning,
smirking and crinkling his small eyes, Monk imagined he could increase his
But it was hard to look at Tex Haven and imagine a wampus-cat of any kind.
The man looked mild. He had a long face that was as benign as the countenance of a village parson. He had a long body that looked as if it had been constructed to fit inside a judge’s robes. His teeth showed a lot, his brownish hair was always tangled, the light of sunny Ireland was always in his blue eyes; and one looked at him and naturally expected him to laugh and chuckle more than he was silent. In truth, he rarely spoke a word; and when he did, it was a low-voiced one.
Tex Haven spoke gently to men,
spoke loudly and pleasantly to babies, and hardly ever spoke to women. He kept
away from high windows, looked four or five times each way before he crossed a
street. He never drank. He swore terribly. He smoked a corncob pipe.
She was a tall girl, as long and gentle-looking as her father; but whereas old Tex Haven’s construction ran a bit too much to bones, the daughter was streamlined.
Her hair was deep and coppery and always perfectly waved, her eyes were gentle, her mouth sweet and kind. There was a Madonnalike gentleness about her face. She dressed well, but with almost nunlike severity. She never drank. She swore only when it was necessary. She did not smoke, and whenever she got hold of one of old Tex Haven’s corncob pipes, she invariably took a hammer to it—then threw away the pieces.
Rhoda Haven had degrees from four of the world’s greatest universities. She had explored the Inca country of South America, and written a book which was used as a text by archaeologists. She had nearly lost her life in experiments with a terrible tropic fever, and had come out with a cure for the fever, something that had previously baffled scientists. She had written a treatise on governmental administrative science that would probably win a Nobel prize.
A great sculptor had said that her head was the perfect type of patrician beauty.
"Henry Peace," said Rhoda Haven indignantly, "will make this Doc Savage look tame before he’s done!"
Monk snorted so loudly that he
hurt his nose.
Rhoda Haven knotted small fists.
"You affect me," she said, "like the ocean."
"You mean because I’m awe-inspiring, and toss things around?" said Henry Peace.
"No. You make me sick."
Old Tex Haven got out his corncob pipe and looked at it as if it had betrayed him.
"And what would you calculate your share?" he asked mildly.
"Third of what?"
"That is what you can now tell me," Henry Peace said.
Old Tex Haven made faces and
snorting sounds, and continued to eye his corncob pipe as if it had suddenly
The display moved Brigadier General Theodore Marley—Ham—Brooks to make a remark.
"The more I see of you," Ham said, "the more I’m reminded of a famous scientist."
"Darwin," Ham said.
Henry Peace looked at the air-speed meter. The needle stood close to five hundred.
"Five hundred—great blazes!" Henry Peace squalled. "We’re goin’ five hundred miles an hour. No plane ever went that fast before!"
"It’s a foreign crate, so the
air-speed dial is marked in kilometers, stupid," Rhoda Haven told him.
"Inchoation is contiguitudinous," Johnny remarked.
"Eh?" said the messenger.
"Maybe he means," Monk suggested, "that now we start."
"Why didn’t he just say so?"
"He only speaks English when he has to."
"Oh. One of them kind of guys,
eh? I don’t see why these foreigners who come over here can’t speak American."
Old Tex Haven craned his neck and squinted, then began to do something which he rarely did, but which he could do well—curse. He swore steadily, none of his words particularly profane by themselves, but connectively producing a blood-curdling effect. Toward the last, he speeded up until he sounded like a tobacco auctioneer.
074 - World's Fair Goblin:
One Line Review: Fun for kids, silliness for adults, better as a comic book
"The thing called MAXIMUS was eight feet tall and matted with hair. It ran amok among the sophisticated, scientific marvels of the fair, striking stark, cringing fear into the sightseers. The Man of Bronze battles the brilliant brain that controls the monster -- an evil genius capable of creating an army of huge horrors."
April, 1939's World's Fair Goblin was the first Doc Savage effort from William G. Bogart, then an editor at Street & Smith. According to the Sanctum reprint the story was a promotional tie-in for the 1939 World's Fair and S&S staff were given a preview tour months before it opened to check and map out the place for a Doc Savage adventure that never leaves the property. In the television world this is called a Bottle Episode.
The first draft was by Bogart. Lester Dent re-worked it and then as editor Bogart made changes again prior to publication. How much did Bogart put back what Dent took out? Was the intent from the start to dumb down World's Fair Goblin for children? The book is silly from top to bottom - Exhibit A being a secret escape hatch dead-dropping to a long slide that goes down hundreds of feet. Was the architect of the building also the evil mastermind? No, but wheeee, a slide!
You can't review this like a normal Doc Savage book because it's aimed at juveniles for whom this might possibly be all gold. The obvious inspiration is Frankenstein and there's a howling thunderstorm and a mad scientist trying to make a Man Of Tomorrow monster. Doc hypnotizes a mad scientist on the sly and a hulking monster-man named "Maximus", leading to this scene where two men wrestle for control of the mind of Maximus by giving him the hypno-eye at the same time:
With great tonal inflection, Doc Savage ordered: "Maximus! You are listening to me now, understand? You are to obey me."
The hand of Maximus paused. He turned uncertainly, his staring-eyed gaze going to Doc Savage, and then shifting away, as though pulled by some other force.
Doc Savage said tensely, "One man in this room has controlled Maximus. He is trying to overcome my power over this dumb servant now. Because that person also needs the metal cylinder—and someone in this room has it!"
Doc's a superman but also not on top of his game. He can't catch a standard issue bad guy in a crowd. A goofy gadget backfires on him, and icky girls make him squeamish:
The girl with the wide blue eyes fought harder for a moment, then stopped suddenly, defeated by the bronze man’s strength. She stamped her small foot again.
"I suppose," she snapped, "that if you want to make love to me, I can’t help it!"
Doc jumped and released her. He got a little red.
From the Nope File, Mandroff turns himself into Adam Ash by changing the color of his eyes, and only a slight change in his voice tips off Doc. Doc's met both of these people more than once and can't tell the difference except for a slight voice variation?:
Doc also produced a set of paper-thin eye shells of brown shade. He told how Alexis Mandroff had disguised himself as young Adam Ash, using the eye caps to cover his own gray eyes. Mandroff had known about Adam Ash going to watch the moon-rocket show, and had quickly disguised himself and taken the public relations consul’s place—after having Ash grabbed by Maximus. It was Mandroff who had appeared after the moon-rocket show, instead of Adam Ash.
Doc Savage said nothing for a moment. But his flake-gold eyes were unusually sharp. Some slightest change in the good-looking public relations consul’s voice had been only noticeable to the bronze man. That voice seemed just a trifle shrill.
The giant goblin Maximus "was given injections of thyroxine and adrenalin—and changed rapidly into a pituitary giant", which in 1939 meant he could toss around boulders willy-nilly and run like Jesse Owens:
It was probably eight feet high. It was not that wide. It had arms, legs, body. It had eyes that were great and awful, and it had strength that was the most awful of all.
They saw it only an instant, not very clearly at that, for it hurled rocks at them, boulders as large as barrels.
Fast as the bronze man was on his feet, the thing had gained. It rounded a corner.
electrotherapeutics—he had discovered some remarkable things about how diseases of the human body would react to electrical treatment.
He was a small man, thin, with thick white hair on top of a large head. He made you think of the type of musician slangily called a "long-haired boy."
[Humor alert] A cop explained, "It’s the way the place is built, I guess. But where’d that nut go to?"
"Search me!" grumbled another cop.
They did not search him, but they did search the Trylon—those parts of it where it seemed conceivable that a man might be hidden—and then went over the surrounding grounds.
[Special Capsule of Speed Meth Crank that is!] Monk straightened out rapidly. The fresh air soon cleared his fogged brain, and Doc Savage had made his aid take a special capsule that quickly brought back renewed strength, after which Monk seemed all right.
On to the weirdness that makes World's Fair Giant a confusing mess for adults and an awesome ride for kids!:
[The bad guys hold fake wood tommy guns when they have real guns on their persons] But Monk howled, "Dang it—them Tommies are fakes!" and dived forward...
The five dazed thugs were on their feet again—each was that degree of toughness that he had only been knocked out for a moment or two—and now they were in charge of Ham and the hairy-fisted chemist. Real guns taken from shoulder holsters covered Monk and Ham now.
[Monk, one of the world's greatest living chemists, doesn't know the word "Fluoresce"?] I wasn’t scratching Habeas’ back," continued Monk. "I was writing the words."
Ham scowled. "What words?"
"The message to Doc," grinned Monk. "I told him just where we were and to hurry over here. I whispered to Habeas to hurry back and find Doc. He’ll use that powder on the pig’s back, and my writing will fl—flour—"
"You mean fluoresce," explained the dapper lawyer.
"Yep. That’s it. And now Doc will see the message and get us out of here!"
Ham looked relieved. "Sometimes," he said, "I think you’re almost intelligent. You know what?"
[To cast doubt on the main day-player good guy's daughter?] Doc had been straining his ears to catch every tonal inflection of the speaker’s voice. It was a voice that held the first rather shrill, falsetto pitch of a person with a twisted mind.
Doc Savage had made an intense study of the human mind. So he knew that the way this person spoke, the somewhat nervous, shrill pitch, was indicative of near-madness.
Either that, or—another, more startling thought hit the bronze man—the figure could be that of a woman!
Doc said without a break in his vibrant flow of words, "Drop that gun!"
The deadly .45 in the hand of the surgeon slipped to the floor.
Martin Uppercue strained against his bindings, his words hardly those of a hypnotized man.
"You did it, Doc Savage!" Uppercue shouted. "You’ve hypnotized him!"
MARTIN UPPERCUE’S exclamation was correct. For Doc Savage, instead of hypnotizing the helpless scientist himself, had been cleverly drawing the masked figure’s eyes to the ring. The figure in white had, unknowingly, centered his gaze upon the bright stone.
[Not look under his mask when you have the chance?] "Cover the door," Doc directed, as he whipped back toward the adjacent small room. He had to tie up the masked figure, help Uppercue, return and aid Long Tom before the gunmen arrived.
[Where did blinding powder come from, why not have Long Tom shoot like he did to take out the other two guys, and Doc's vest contains everything] Long Tom’s queer-looking pistol cut down the second thug. Again the mercy bullets had struck in the legs, and the man would recover, to talk. The special bullets only caused temporary unconsciousness.
But the twisted expression on the third gunman’s face said that he would not go down until he had brought death to at least Doc or his assistant.
So the bronze man hurled the powder that brought temporary blindness to anyone in its path.
The gunman choked, batted at his eyes, started triggering his gun recklessly. But he was shooting too high, through the enveloping powder that brought the blindness...
The man fired his last shot through the opaque glass skylight above. A pane of glass crashed downward; a gust of night air came into the room—and blew the powder directly into the faces of the bronze man and his assistant!
They staggered about blindly...
Both men wiped their eyes with the solution, and almost immediately they were able to see again. The liquid was a special preparation of the bronze man’s invention, made by Doc to counteract the effects of the temporary blinding eye powder.
[Really? A huge slide secret escape?] But in that brief second before Doc’s shoulders hit a slick surface and he went skidding downward at a furious pace, he had realized that the secret panel could not possibly lead to death.
For certainly the masked surgeon and Professor Uppercue must have used this exit.
Doc knew that he was hurtling down a long, steep slide, much like the chutes used in a fun house at Coney Island. Only this particular slide must have started at a great height, for the plunge downward was breath-taking, and at train speed.
Finally, Doc felt a slackening in his terrific rush; the chute was flattening out. Built like a highly polished and waxed semishell, there was not a single thing to grasp.
[Torture never works and Pat's on her own] Doc said, "Temporarily, I believe the girls—wherever they are—are safe. That masked surgeon figures Kay Uppercue knows something. He doesn’t dare harm her. And Pat can take care of herself."
[What the...] Strangely, the bronze man offered no resistance. And right beneath Doc’s armpits, if he moved his arms in a certain way, were hidden small containers that would have sprayed an enveloping black gas into the faces of all.
[Not according to physics!] But Mandroff had not figured on the trained hands, the fingers of Doc Savage. Daily, the bronze man exercised various parts of his marvelous body. Those bronze-colored hands contained a grip of steel.
Doc’s fingers had splayed as he struck the curved roof. Fingertips had flattened mightily against the wet steel surface. Like a vacuum-cup tire grips a slippery pavement, Doc’s fingertips had stopped his slide.
[Even infants laugh at this] Yet Long Tom made no attempt to get up and join the mêlée. One leg remained stiffly straight before him on the floor, as though broken.
But Long Tom picked up a crook’s fallen gun and bopped heads as Monk and Ham sent dizzy victims flying his way.
[Invisible Glass] Monk said, "I’ll get that guy—"
And then he gave a yip of pain. The hairy chemist had cracked his head against something that appeared to be only empty space between him and the doctor.
From where he was still tied, Professor Uppercue exclaimed, "It’s a sheet of shatterproof, invisible glass. You can’t reach him—"
Fun for kids, harmless silliness for adults, World's Fair Goblin would have worked better as a comic book. It's as good as it makes sense, but lower that bar and enjoy a baby bottle episode in the 1939 World's Fair!
075 - The Gold Ogre:
One Line Review: Spin-off story for younger readers is just that
"A legion of tiny terrorists launches a startling series of raids against Crescent City. Death, destruction, and a disease which drives men mad, are the results of the audacious attacks. The Man of Bronze meets a new quartet of allies — and confronts the oddest opponents he’s ever challenged…."
"If Doc Savage is alive now," he said grimly, "he can’t be killed."
Spin-offs aren't new but they go back to at least May of 1939 with The Gold Ogre, which tries to be both a Doc Savage adventure and a book for and about younger readers. More an experiment than a real Doc Savage book it's interesting just on the level of how it's conceived and executed. A few people die at the beginning and Doc drugs himself, but otherwise it's written for a younger audience. The Gold Ogre succeeds and fails but it's not a concern as it's a test - one that didn't go anywhere.
The first chapter is the best and it's a typical Lester Dent opening with whimsy, mystery, and fantastical elements that might not work out to anyone's satisfaction. The ogres are interchangeably referred to as cavemen and their height is below the normal little people range. It's a plus Dent doesn't pretend they're fantastical for very long. Doc shows up for the first time in Chapter 6 and Monk & Ham pop in at the end to prove they're more juvenile than the book's four young protagonists Dent set out to represent the archetypes of "Philosopher and Thinker", "Serious Worker", "Fun and Joy Boy", and "Get-Rich-Quick Boy:
[Don Worth] The son was a good boy—he was named Don Worth, and he was already a little too serious for his years, and worked a little too earnestly. At least, the boy was more serious and worked harder than other boys of his age...
He was almost a giant for his age—although still a youth, there were muscles cabled across his shoulders, and coiled inside his coat sleeves that made him more than a physical match for most fully grown men. Other boys were frequently amazed at big, quiet, serious Don Worth’s muscular strength. He was a young Hercules.
Don Worth had a will power that was stronger than his big muscles, although you didn’t realize that until you knew him well. He was a very gentle young man who never forced his ideas on anybody; also he was extremely ambitious. He was going to make a success in life, no matter how much earnest work it took. He got up early and went to work, and he labored industriously until dark, then usually could be found studying. Most busy bees were loafers compared to Don Worth.
Because he was so serious about life, Don Worth was kidded a lot. He took the razzing good-naturedly, and everybody liked him. Now and then some bully mistook his quiet seriousness for cowardice, so that Don Worth occasionally had a fight. The fight usually consisted of Don Worth’s taking hold of the bully, and after he’d had hold for a moment or so, the opponent was invariably howling and glad for a chance to run.
[B. Elmer Dexter] B. ELMER DEXTER was about the same age as young Don Worth, and they were pals. They had just two things in common. Both owned poor parents, and both were determined to make a success—but B. Elmer Dexter had no intention of working for it. Work? Not for B. Elmer. Not while he had so many swell ideas for getting rich in a hurry...
B. Elmer Dexter read swiftly. He did everything swiftly. He was a slender fellow with dark hair, snapping eyes, more conversation than a radio announcer, and a personality that whizzed like an electric dynamo. He was almost completely the opposite of big, serious, placid Don Worth.
[Morris "Mental" Byron] "Let’s see what Mental Byron thinks of it," he said. "Mental knows everything."
Don Worth nodded. The opinion of Morris (Mental) Byron would be worth while. Everybody respected Mental’s brains and thinking powers.
They found Mental Byron, as they expected, seated comfortably against a boulder on the lake shore, cogitating. The boulder was his favorite spot, for it afforded one of the most inspirational and beautiful views around Camp Indian-Laughs-And-Laughs. Mental could sit for hours and contemplate something beautiful. He was a dreamer. And no mean philosopher, either...
No one had ever seen Mental any other way than calm.
He was a long youth with a rugged face—in fact, he looked remarkably like the picture of Abe Lincoln...
Mental took the message and examined it thoughtfully. From his manner, one would have guessed him as much older, whereas he was exactly the same age as Don Worth and B. Elmer Dexter.
[Leander "Funny" Tucker] Leander (Funny) Tucker was in his cabin, all right, and he was full of repentance. Funny Tucker, if he didn’t watch out, would soon be as wide as he was tall—but there was scant possibility of his watching. Funny liked his food. Also his laughs. Funny Tucker was a roly-poly joy boy without a care in life. His fund of gags, both his own and those purloined from the radio and movies, was unlimited.
"Excitement!" he exclaimed. "Hot ziggety!"
[A monk thing to say] "I’ll knock your ears down," Funny advised, "so that people will have to talk into your pocket to make you hear!"
Don Worth is the Doc Savage-inspired leader and Funny is fat because fat people are funny. Mental is set up to be as annoying as Johnny with a series of front-loaded sayings that thankfully get dropped as a running gag like a dress on prom night:
"Don’t be too worried when you stumble. Remember, a worm is the only thing that can’t fall down."
"Being on the right track is a very good thing. But if you just stand there, you’ll likely get run over."
"If you go around firing a shotgun in the air long enough, you’re bound to hit a duck eventually."
The drawings of the kids show Don to be a young James Cagney while Funny i based on Babe Ruth. The other two were sent from central casting but Mental would have made a better Don Worth. If you think Doc's assistants exist to be kidnap fodder, wait until you meet the Junior Doc Four! They have no weapons, can't fight adults, get tired easily, and probably can't take sustained torturing. What they do have is a shared love for excitement!:
"NOW look here," Don Worth said uncomfortably, "I can’t burden you with my troubles. You’re having a swell time here at camp, and you don’t really want to go back to Crescent City. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it, but you fellows wouldn’t have a good time going with me."
"I think we would," Mental said.
"We like excitement. And this sounds exciting."
It also was apparent that every one of the four boys was determined to go along—which began to apprise Doc Savage of one outstanding fact about their characters. One thing that all four had in common. They liked excitement. Adventure, to them, was like a fire to a fireman.
Mental and Funny's parents are loaded, so that's set up as the group's source of funds when needed:
MORRIS MENTAL BYRON and Leander Funny Tucker were—unlike Don Worth and B. Elmer Dexter—the possessors of fathers who had a great deal of money. So Mental and Funny staked the crew to a taxicab in which they rode from the station toward the rather poverty-stricken district on the edge of Crescent City, where the Worths lived.
The box lay in the man’s path. It was about a foot long, four inches wide, not quite as high. It was green, but there were ventilation perforations in the top. The man picked up the box curiously, peered through the perforations.
"Hell!" he exploded.
Money! He could see paper money inside the box. There must be a great sheaf of it, because the topmost banknote, the one he could see, was jammed against the top. It was a twenty-dollar bill.
"Talk about luck!" the man chortled.
He tried to get the box open. It was stronger than it looked. His best prying efforts failed.
He ended up by tucking the box inside his clothing, and hurrying away...
"Actually, the box contains a tiny short-wave radio which is sending out a continuous signal," the bronze man informed them. "The box can therefore be located with a conventional radio direction-finder."...
It is possible to rig a device on the direction-finder which will cause an alarm bell to ring if the tin box is moved any appreciable distance."
Doc Savage carried the radio direction-finder, too—he had converted it, he proved, by turning a knob, into a supersensitive detector which would indicate the presence of electric wires carrying even the slightest of current changes...
"Say!" Mental breathed. "You’ve got a gadget for every situation, haven’t you?"
[How does one do this?] "The odor is the same as that contained in a number of small glass capsules which are scattered over the floor of my room. Any stranger prowling in the room is almost certain to step on them, break them, and release the odor. I scattered the capsules last night. I have trained myself until the presence of this particular odor will arouse me from a sound sleep."
"Merely take the shoe off, remove the gadget and tear loose the little metal ribbon you will notice on one side of the thing, and throw it from you. But throw it outdoors. Not under trees, or inside a building, or in any other close place. Outdoors, you understand."...
"The container inside Don Worth’s shoe," Doc said, "held a chemical which turns to a vapor, and the vapor will settle on its surroundings, making a smudge which becomes quite visible as a purplish smear when seen by infrared light."
Doc Savage lunged clear of the mêlée, got between the fighting group and the door. He stripped off his coat, his vest.
The front lining of his coat, and the back lining of his vest—two parts of his garments which never, ordinarily, came in contact—were taken in the bronze man’s hands and rubbed together. The friction created a hissing blue flame that began to burn the cloth.
Chemically treated, the cloth—it was impregnated with the compound parts of tear gas—began to give off blinding vapor.
Doc Savage was a remarkable individual, a man of astounding abilities, and also a man who followed one of the strangest of careers—but he was no clairvoyant. He was not superhuman. He didn’t know that Thomas Worth had met a little gold ogre of a caveman in the darkness near the Crescent City airport.
DOC SAVAGE did not like publicity. It might make stars out of actors, and governors and presidents out of politicians, but it was the kind of stuff that could land Doc Savage six feet underground in a pine box. Publicity would tell enemies too much about his movements.
Doc Savage folded one of his business cards—a rather striking card of plain bronze tint, with lettering of a bronze slightly darker than the rest of the card—and shoved it through one of the door slots.
For a little while, he did not know where he was—his mind was befogged, for he had been drugged. He had drugged himself. The capsule, that had contained the potent sedative which he had taken deliberately, lay at his side...
He had taken the sedative after reaching safety. Taken it because he knew he was in no physical shape to pursue the raiders, and because he wanted to rest, and did not want to be tortured by thoughts while he rested. The sedative had made his mind blank, except for a few grisly nightmares, while he had rested.
"Wait here," Doc directed quietly.
"What are you going to do?"
"Get the midget."
Doc Savage shouted, "No unnecessary killings!" It was his policy never to take a human life if it could possibly be avoided.
If Monk heard, he pretended not to, Monk not being entirely in sympathy with the bronze man’s respect for the lives of gentlemen such as Vick Francks. Monk scattered rifles through the crowd.
IT was doubtful if there existed a more pleasant summer camp for boys than
It was a hideous little gold man. A man who looked to be not much more than two feet high. The fellow had a wide thick-lipped mouth, small pig eyes, and two holes for a nose. His face was not hairy; the rest of him was. Long, scraggly, golden-colored hair that looked like gilded moss.
The little golden ogre was naked except for a loincloth. This was brown, rather than golden, and looked as if it was made out of muskrat fur. His sandals were made of some kind of tree bark, held on by thongs which ran up between his small gnarled toes and tied around his hairy golden ankles.
A club was gripped by the little ogre. The club wasn’t gold either; it was made of a dark wood and studded with large thorns. The small golden ogre—he resembled a miniature caveman—gripped the club with both hands, and there was an expression of bestial ferocity on his face.
The Worths could barely afford electric lights, and they had to burn twenty-five-watt and thirty-watt bulbs to save money, and these did not give much light—but enough to show Mary Worth what made her faint.
[Teenage slash-fiction starter kit] The fight usually consisted of Don Worth’s taking hold of the bully, and after he’d had hold for a moment or so, the opponent was invariably howling and glad for a chance to run...
Mental reached over and put a hand on Don Worth’s shoulder. There was something that Don found definitely comforting about his touch...
"Old Marcus Gild is sure acting queer."...
The biggest of the three men had seized Don, who was the strongest. The man was big enough to assure Don being helpless...
They got Marcus Gild off the unfortunate man. They sat the old financier against a rock, and proceeded to slap and kick him. He did not seem to mind much...
[Or, he could have destroyed it or taken it with him] "They must have carried your father away, and he managed to leave a note by the stone fence. They seem to have found out about the note, and one of them came back to hunt it. He found it, and buried it where he thought nobody would ever locate it."
[I laughed] First, however, Mental and Funny Tucker rented a car with money which Doc Savage supplied. It was thought advisable that Doc himself not rent the machine, since he was supposed to have died in his plane.
[B. Elmer has incredible wrist strength] "Kick it straight," B. Elmer warned tensely. "I can only move my hands a few inches."...
"Throw it out of the lumber dock," Don said. "Pitch it as far as you can."
B. Elmer stuck out his tongue, clamped it with his teeth, and threw. The gadget fell far out in the sunlight, in the middle of a pile of rusty bull chain, and lay there giving out its strange odor.
[Nice small observation] DOC SAVAGE waited for a breeze to come rustling through the woods; one came, and made enough noise to cover his furtive departure from the spot.
"It hasn’t got heads or tails," Funny said. "All it’s got is mystery and a bunch of things that just couldn’t happen in real life."
[The recurring Doc Savage "thing" of punching unconscious men in the face is not a good thing] He used Vick Francks’ belt, and his own, to bind the man’s ankles and wrists. Then, to make sure the fellow was really unconscious, he hit him again.
The book ends as one would expect it:
"We’ve got an idea," Don Worth explained.
"It’s a swell idea," B. Elmer said.
"We like excitement," Funny Tucker added.
"So we figured it would be swell to join you," Don Worth told Doc Savage, "on one of your future adventures."
Somewhat to his own surprise, the bronze man discovered he was not averse to the idea. Many persons had wanted to join his little group in the past, and he had turned down the applicants as fast as they came, for one reason or another. But these boys were different. They were four young fellows who were unusual, had courage, and a great many likable qualities.
"We’ll see," Doc Savage said. "It might be managed."
It wasn't managed and nobody knows what became of Don, B., Morris, and Leander. Nothing ever measured up to their one exciting adventure with Doc Savage - The Man Of Built Up Expectations And Empty Assurances!