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The New Doc Savage Movie Idea Page



Archived Doc Savage Pulp Reviews

Page One Of Four


RED = New To Site: 001 - The Man Of Bronze 002 - The Land Of Terror 003 Quest Of The Spider 004 The Polar Treasure 005 Pirate Of The Pacific 006 - The Red Skull 007 - The Lost Oasis 008 - The Sargasso Ogre 009 - The Czar Of Fear 010 - The Phantom City 011- Brand Of The Werewolf  012 - The Man Who Shook The Earth  013 - Meteor Menace 014 - The Monsters 015 - Mystery On The Snow 016 - The King Maker 017 - The Thousand-Headed Man 018 - The Squeaking Goblin 019 - Fear Cay 020 - Death In Silver 021 - The Sea Magician 022 - The Annihilist 023 - The Mystic Mullah 024 - The Red Snow 025 - Land Of Always-Night 026 - The Spook Legion 027 -The Secret In The Sky 028 - The Roar Devil 029 - Quest Of Qui 030 - Spook Hole 031 - The Majii 032 - Dust Of Death 033 - Murder Melody 034 - The Fantastic Island 035 - Murder Mirage 036 - Mystery Under The Sea 037 - The Metal Master 038 - The Men Who Smiled No More 039 - The Seven Agate Devils 040 - Haunted Ocean 041 - The Black Spot 042 - The Midas Man 043 - Cold Death 044 - The South Pole Terror 045 - Resurrection Day 046 - The Vanisher 047 - Land Of Long JuJu 048 - The Derrick Devil 049 - The Mental Wizard 050 - Terror In The Navy


!Standard Spoiler Alert!


There's no such a thing as Doc Savage spoilers because you either figure out who the bad guy is soon enough and/or it doesn't really make a difference which day-player gets the nod. It might be better to know beforehand so you can see how well Lester Dent and Co. handled said ne'er-do-wells from the start.

001 - The Man Of Bronze:

"High above the skyscrapers of New York, Doc Savage engages in deadly combat with the red-fingered survivors of an ancient, lost civilization. Then, with his amazing crew, he journeys to the mysterious 'lost valley' to search for a fabulous treasure and to destroy the mysterious Red Death."

The first Doc Savage novel hit newsstands on February 17, 1933, weeks before the start of The Great Depression. The characters were conceived by Street & Smith's John Nanovic and H. W. Ralston as a follow-up to the success of The Shadow. They brought in Lester Dent to be "Kenneth Robeson" and the rest is a Wikipedia page. In 1953 Dent wrote that he held the record for titles written for a single character - 181 or 182 (The Red Spider) - I guess even he didn't know. Was he diminishing the work of his ghost writers? The title was very popular and lasted until the summer of 1949.

Dent asserts Doc was put together to be a combination of Sherlock Holmes (sleuth), Tarzan (muscles and agility), Craig Kennedy (science detective), and Jesus Christ (morals). The Man Of Bronze and the next book, The Land Of Terror, were kill-tastic to where Street & Smith had to wrangle Dent down to an agreement that Doc would shoot mercy bullets and vow not to kill- a point Dent passive-aggressived into having the bad guys die on their own accord with Doc being vague in his warnings.

The Man Of Bronze is a straight-up origin story that opens with the death of Doc's father, Clark Savage, Sr. Doc and The Fractious Five got together in WWI and banded together (I assume) as highly intelligent misfits. The book addresses it more as a shared love of adventure but it couldn't be anything other than a fully-realized Ubermensch taking under his wing a bunch of geniuses nobody else would have as they're all annoying, weird, and don't play well with others.

The Man Of Bronze is well planned and fun to read, but a few things left me shaking my head to where I thought if it was tightened up in a few places the book would be the uncontested classic of the series. Most of it has to do with the Mayan "Valley Of The Vanished".

The 1975 Film Of Shame is a children's movie written by adults for an audience they knew nothing about but probably correctly assumed weren't rocket scientists. It would have been nice if they wrote "up" to kids but the legacy of TV's Batman probably accounted for the high-concept of the Doc Savage film - a split of The Man Of Bronze, The Green Death, and The Mystic Mullah. From the first Doc novel you'll find the opening section and a wink towards the Mayan gold. They share the silly visual of Doc ripping a bullet out of a wall and his muscles enlarge so much his sleeve rips open, and the remote-controlled plane blowing up. Doc, you have to do a full flex when you're getting measured for a suit! The book says "Monja, you've been a brick." while the movie offers the classic line "Mona, you're a brick".

With book #1 you have black light lanterns, spring-wound flashlights, Doc's machine guns, Monk's unconsciousness gas (not yet in small glass marbles), and mention of The Fortress Of Solitude. Doc and Renny both ride the running board of a taxi but it might be because the cab was full. The Autogyro exists for a short time on the north shore of Long Island, where all of Doc's planes are kept in commercial hangers.

The headquarters on the 86th floor of a (for now) 100 story building was his father's operation. Where the books are kept is called "his father's great technical library". Jr. and his pals were operating as a minor league crew and his father's death sent Doc down the path his father blazed for him. Doc's dad was nearly broke by this point. There's much talk of legacy and mission, and near the beginning Doc doesn't even ask:

"I'm going after this heritage my father left," he said at length. "I don't need to ask - you fellows are with me!"

"And how!" grinned Renny. And the others echoed his sentiment.

The novel ends as does any good origin story, with a rousing rendition of "We've Only Just Begun":

Their regret at leaving the idyllic paradise was assuaged by the thought of what was ahead of them. The yearning for adventure and excitement warmed them. Wealth untold was in their hands. It was ample for even their great purpose in life.

Many parts of the world would see the coming of this bronze man and his five friends of iron. Many a human fiend would rue the day he pitted himself against them. Countless rightful causes would receive help from their powerful hands and superbly trained minds.

Indeed, these men were destined hardly to reach New York before new trouble struck them like lightning bolts.

The giant bronze man and his five friends would confront undreamed perils as the very depths of hell itself crashed upon their heads.

And through all that, the work of Savage would go on!

As to not make this a book-length review of a book I'll get to the lessers and then hop into quotes and such. The remote-controlled plane sent up as a decoy makes little sense and it could have killed or maimed any of a number of people minding their own business. Doc lost all the supplies he packed and knowingly endangered lives. Check the plane. Check all the contents. Leave at night. Jeez!:

The tri-motor ship seemed to turn instantaneously into a gigantic sheet of white-hot flame. This resolved into a monster ball of villainous smoke. Then flipped fragments of the plane and its contents rained downward upon the roofs of Jackson Heights, a conservative residential suburb of New York City.

So terrific was the explosion that windows were broken in the houses underneath, and shingles even torn off roofs.

No piece more than a few yards in area remained of the great plane. Indeed, the authorities could never have identified it, had not the airport men known it had just taken off from there.

It would have helped to know the population count of the hidden valley and the breakdown of how their society was arranged. You had the red-fingered warriors, The King and his daughter, and vague others, but how many they were and their fighting skills compared to the warriors would have made it easier to understand the situation. It's also bad to turn your worst citizens into a weaponized and organized gang:

To become a warrior, a Mayan had to attain a certain degree of ugliness, both physically and of mind. The Mayans had no prison system. When one of their number committed a minor crime, he was sentenced, not to exile or prison, but to become a fighting man - a protector of the tribe.

These red-fingered warriors fought off invaders, and kept the Valley of the Vanished for the Mayans alone. Thus, many of them were slain in battle, and hence actually punished.

They were the most ignorant and superstitious in the Valley of the Vanished, these crimson-fingered fighting men.


"Those of our men who are inclined to violence naturally turn to the warrior sect. Many lazy men join the fighting group because the warriors do no labor. Too, petty criminals are sentenced to join the red-fingered ones. The fighting guild are a class apart. No upstanding Mayan would think of taking one of them into his home."


Elderly King Chaac put in with a firm declaration. "The sect of red-fingered men will never be permitted to revive. Henceforth, we shall punish minor criminals by making them mine the gold. The most manly of our men will do whatever fighting has to be done."

The Mayan valley is pure blood and descended from royalty, but almost all of the citizens are primitive and reactionary. The King and his daughter are smart through some kind of leisure-time thinking osmosis. Just have Clark, Sr. be the source of their study materials:

Some of the morning Doc spent in conversation with King Chaac, considering the elderly sovereign had never heard of a modern university, be had some remarkably accurate knowledge about the universe.

Pretty Princess Monja, Doc discovered also, would pass in any society as a well-educated young woman. All she lacked was a course in the history of the rest of the world. It was amazing.

"We lead a life of leisure here in the Valley of the Vanished," King Chaac explained. "We have much time to think, to reason things out."

I found this a bit condescending. Clark, Sr. worked to remove all spirituality from the leader of a highly spiritual people? Would anyone reading this think it cool to do this to Buddhists?:

"Your father spent some months in this Valley of the Vanished," he told Doc. "He taught me many things - the fallacy of belief in evil spirits and heathen deities. And along with the rest he taught me that what you have just promised to do is impossible. If your men were hurled into the sacrificial well, they are dead until judgment day."

A faint smile warped Doc's strong bronze lips; appreciation glowed in his flaky golden eyes. The Mayan sovereign was as free of superstitious, heathen beliefs as any American. Probably more so than many.

How the hell can Clark, Sr. think he can just give his son the Hidden Valley? I swear, White People...

Renny is 6'4", 250 lbs:

Renny held up a monster fist. "This is all the truth serum we need! I'll show you how it works!"

Big, with sloping mountains of gristle for shoulders, and long kegs of bone and tendon for arms, Renny slid over to the library door. His fist came up.

Wham! Completely through the stout panel Renny's fist pistoned. it seemed more than bone and tendon could stand. But when Renny drew his knuckles Out of the wreckage and blew off the splinters, they were unmarked.

Renny, having demonstrated what he could do, came back and towered threateningly over their captive.

Monk is 5' "and a few inches", 260 lbs., arms six inches longer than his legs, and owns a penthouse apartment/lab on Wall Street:

Monk had a technique for running in the dark. His unnaturally long arms played an important part. He simply doubled over and traveled by great bounds, balancing himself with his long arms when he stumbled. He could make unbelievable speed.

Ham has prematurely gray hair and gets in a lot of law action. Everyone does in their own field, which is nice. Johnny doesn't have a large vocabulary or professorial manner yet. Dent writes he has the best endurance of the aides. Also this:

That was Johnny's way. He had absolute faith in what he called his hunches. And nearly always he was right. On occasions when he was wrong, though, he was very wrong indeed.

Long Tom:

Long Tom wasn't as unhealthy as he looked. None of the others could remember his suffering a day of illness. Unless the periodic rages, the wild tantrums of temper into which he flew, could be called illness. Long Tom sometimes went months without a flare-up, but when he did explode, he certainly made up for lost time.


In a certain French village there had been ensconced in the town park an old-fashioned cannon of the type used centuries ago by rovers of the Spanish Main. In the heat of an enemy attack, Major Thomas J. Roberts had loaded this ancient relic with a sackful of kitchen cutlery and broken wine bottles, and wrought genuine havoc. And from that day, he was Long Tom Roberts.

Ham and Monk

"I don't blame her, either," Monk whispered to Ham, making very sure his voice was so low nobody else heard, "Imagine having to stare at that phiz of his across the breakfast table every morning!"

Ham looked at Monk - and released a loud laugh. Monk's face was fully as homely as Morning Breeze's, although in a more likable way.


"Knock on wood, you lunk!" Ham muttered somberly. Monk grinned and tried to knock on Ham's head.

Doc. Doc's my height and weight but I have trouble opening jars:

The bronze man showed wide, very strong-looking teeth, in yawning. Seated there by the immense desk, he did not seem to be a large man. An onlooker would have doubted his six feet height - and would have been astounded to learn he weighed every ounce of two hundred pounds.


[unforced error] Doc, a bronze giant nearly twice as tall as some of the swarthy fellows


[Doc should be muscular like a gymnast/swimmer] Doc's bared arms looked like those of an Atlas. The muscles, in repose, were not knotty. They were more like bundled piano wires on which a thin bronze skin had been painted. And across his chest and back great, supple cables of tendon lay layer upon layer.


"Keep back!" Doc directed. He liked to fight his own battles. And there seemed to be only one man opposing him.


[Doc knocks out a shark] But the bronzed, powerful body was not there when the needled teeth slashed. Doc was alongside the shark. His left arm flipped with electric speed around the head of the thing, securing what a wrestler would call a strangle hold.

Doc's legs kicked powerfully. For a fractional moment he was able to lift the shark's head out of the water. In that interval his free right fist traveled a terrific arc - and found the one spot where his vast knowledge told him it was possible to stun the man-eater.

The shark became slack as a kayoed boxer.


"Monk, you'd better accompany Ham as bodyguard," Doc suggested. "You two love each other so!"


[Don't try this at home, kids] Poising a moment easily, he took the three-story drop as lightly as if he were leaping off a table.


[Doc's said to be smarter than his aides in their own fields, but he's cool about it] Doc nodded. He had already noticed that, but he did not say so. He made it a policy never to disillusion one of his men who thought he had been first to notice something or get an idea, although Doc himself might have discovered it far earlier. It was this modesty of Doc's which helped endear him to everybody he was associated with.

Doc's Legacy and The Mayan Arrangement:

"A third of the gold I shall use to establish a gigantic trust fund in America. It shall be for the Mayan people, to be used should they ever have need of it. One fifth goes to the government of Hidalgo. The rest is for my cause."


Long Tom, the electrical wizard, at Doc's command, rigged a radio receiving set in the palace of the Mayan sovereign. The current for this was supplied by a small generator and water wheel which Long Tom installed beside the stream flowing from the pyramid top. He made the work very solid. The set should function perfectly for years. He left spare tubes.

With longlasting ink, Doc made a mark on the radio dial. This designated a certain wave length.

"Tune in at that spot every seventh day," Doc commanded King Chaac. "Do so at the hour when the sun stands directly above the Valley of the Vanished. You will hear my voice sometimes. But not always, by any means. I shall broadcast to you at that hour - but only when we are in need of more gold. Then you are to send a burro train of the precious metal to me."

"It shall be done," agreed the Mayan ruler.

The Mayan Pyramid

From the little flat towered a pyramid! It adhered in a general way to the architecture of the Egyptian type of pyramids, but there were differences.

For one thing, the sides, instead of drawing inward in a series of steplike shelves, were smoothed as glass from top to bottom. Only in the front was there a flight of steps. Not more than twenty feet wide was this flight, and the steps were less high and deep than those in an American home. The stairway was like a ribbon up the glittering, sleek side of the pyramid.

The top of the structure was flat, and on this stood a sort of temple, a flat stone roof supported by square, wondrously carved pillars. Except for the pillars, this was open at the sides, permitting glimpses of fantastically wrought idols of stone.

Strangest of all, perhaps, was the color of the pyramid. Of a grayish-brownstone, yet it glowed all over with a strange yellow, metallic aurora of tiny lights caught and cast back.

"Priceless!" murmured Johnny, the archaeologist.

"You said it!" grunted Renny, the engineer.

"From a historical standpoint, I mean!" corrected Johnny.

"I meant from a pocketbook standpoint!" Renny snorted. "If I ever saw quartz absolutely full of wire gold, I see it now. I'll bet the stone that pyramid is made of would mill fifty thousand dollars to the ton in free gold!"

The Hidden Lost Valley Mayan Place:

[So, the warlike tribes don't like gold?] King Chaac smiled benignly. "Because we are satisfied with our way of living. We lead an ideal existence here. True, we must fight to keep invaders away. But the warlike tribes surrounding this mountain do most of that for us. They are our friends. It is only every year or two that our red-fingered warriors must drive off some especially persistent invader. Thanks to the impregnable nature of this valley, that is not difficult."

"How long have you been here - when did you settle here, I mean?" Doc asked.

"Hundreds of years ago - at the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico," explained the old Mayan. "My ancestors who settled the valley were a clan of the highest class Mayans, the royalty. They fled from the Spanish soldiers to this valley. We have been here since, satisfied, as I said, to exist without the rest of the world."

Doc, reflecting on the turmoil and bloodshed and greed that had racked the rest of the world in the interim, could not but agree that the course these people had taken had its merits. They might be without a few conveniences of modern homes, but they probably didn't miss them.


It was all plain now. His father had discovered this lost valley with its strange inhabitants and its fabulous hoard of gold. He had decided to leave it as a legacy to his son. He had secured possession of the land inclosing the Valley of the Vanished. And he had made some arrangement with King Chaac. The thing to do was to find out what kind of arrangements!

Doc put the inquiry: "What sort of an agreement did my father have with you?"

"He did not tell you?" the old Mayan asked in surprise.

Doc lowered his head. Slowly, he explained his father had died suddenly. The elderly Mayan maintained a reverent silence for a time alter he heard the sad news. Then he outlined the business aspects of the gold deal.

"You will necessarily give a certain portion to the government of Hidalgo," he said.

Doc nodded. "The agreement is one fifth to the government of Hidalgo. That is eminently fair. The President of Hidalgo, Carlos Avispa, is a fine old gentleman."

"A third of all gold removed is to be placed in a trust fund in the name of my people," explained King Chaac. "You are to establish that fund and see that suitable honest administrators are appointed. The other two thirds you are to have, not to build up a personal fortune, but to spend as you see fit in furthering the work in which your father was engaged - in righting wrongs, relieving the oppressed, in benefiting mankind in every way possible."

"A third to your people don't seem like a very big percentage," Doc suggested.

King Chaac smiled. "You will be surprised at the sum it will come to. And we may never need it. This Valley of the Vanished, you understand, remains just as it is - unknown to the world. And the source of this gold will also be unknown to the world."


They found it as much a prison as a fortress. The narrowest of paths chiseled into the sheer gorge side was the only route out, afoot. And by air, nothing except a seaplane could land. No dirigible could withstand those terrific air currents.


[People being people this part is weak] Doc expressed the proper appreciation. The conversation came around to how the gold was to be transported to civilization.

"We can hardly take it in the plane, due to the terrific air currents," Doc pointed out.

The elderly Mayan sovereign smiled. "We have donkeys here in the Valley of the Vanished. I will simply have a number of them loaded with gold and dispatched to your banker at Blanco Grande."

Doc was surprised at the simplicity of the scheme. "But the warlike natives in the surrounding mountains - they will never let a pack train through."

"In that you are mistaken," chuckled King Chaac. "The natives are of Mayan ancestry. They know we are here; they know why. And for centuries it has been their fighting which has kept this valley lost to white men. Oh, yes, they will let the pack train through. And no white man will ever know from whence it came. And they will let others through as the years pass."


Before then, the corridor had widened. It became a vast room. Solid rock made walls, floor, roof.

The rock showed veinings of gold! It was the same kind of rock of which the pyramid was made!

But it was not this that stunned them.

It was the row after row of deep niches cut into the walls. Literally hundreds of thousands of the cupboardlike recesses.

In each was stacked golden vessels, plaques, goblets, amulets. Everything the ancient Mayans had made of the precious yellow metal could be seen.

"This is the storeroom," said Princess Monja in a low voice. "Legend has it forty thousand artisans were continuously employed making the articles, which were then stored here."

Doc, Monk, and Johnny hardly heard her. Sight of this fabulous wealth had knocked them blind, deaf, and dumb to everything else.

For the niches held only a fraction of the hoard here! It lay on the floor in heaps. Great stacks of the raw, rich gold! And the treasure cavern stretched far beyond the limits to which their wick-in-a-bowl lamp projected light.

Doc shut his eyes tightly. His bronze lips worked. He was experiencing one of the great moments of his life.

Here was wealth beyond dream. The ransom of kings! But no king could ever pay a ransom such as this! It was enough to buy and sell realms.

Doc's brain raced. This was the legacy his father had left him. He was to use it in the cause to which his life was dedicated - to go here and there, from one end of the world to the other, looking for excitement and adventure; striving to help those who need help; punishing those who deserve it.


"The metal was taken from deeper within the mountain. Much yet remains. Much more, indeed, than you see stacked here."

Doc, Jr. and Doc, Sr. long term plan:

The elder Savage had been known throughout the world for his dominant bearing and his good work. Early in life, he had amassed a tremendous fortune for one purpose.

That purpose was to go here and there, from one end of the world to the other, looking for excitement and adventure, striving to help those who needed help, punishing those who deserved it.

To that creed he had devoted his life.

His fortune had dwindled to practically nothing. But as it shrank, his influence had increased. It was unbelievably wide, a heritage befitting the man.

Greater even, though, was the heritage he had given his son. Not in wealth, but in training to take up his career of adventure and righting of wrongs where it left off.

Clark Savage, Jr., had been reared from the cradle to become the supreme adventurer.

Hardly had Doc learned to walk, when his father started him taking the routine of exercises to which he still adhered. Two hours each day, Doc exercised intensively all his muscles, senses,and his brain.

As a result of these exercises, Doc possessed a strength superhuman. There was no magic about it, though. Doc had simply built up muscle intensively all his life.

Doc's mental training had started with medicine and surgery. It had branched out to include all arts and sciences. Just as Doc could easily overpower the gorilla-like Monk in spite of his great strength, so did Doc know more about chemistry. And that applied to Renny, the engineer; Long Tom, the electrical wizard; Johnny, the geologist and archaeologist; and Ham, the lawyer.

Clark, Sr. must have been a swell guy:

"Your esteemed father taught me the English tongue," smiled King Chaac. "I recognize you as his son. You resemble him."

Doc nodded slowly. He should have guessed that. And it was very good to know his great father had been here. For wherever Savage, Sr., had gone, he had made friends among all people who were worthy of friendship.


"Your father saved my life with his wonderful medical skill.


A motorcycle cop fell in behind them, opened his siren, and came up rapidly. But when he caught sight of Doc, like a striking figure of bronze on the side of the taxi, the officer waved his hand respectfully. Doc didn't even know the man. The officer must have been one who knew and revered the elder Savage.

Hidalgo and The Legacy:

"These papers are a concession from the government of Hidalgo," Ham declared. "They give to you several hundred square miles of land in Hidalgo, providing you pay the government of Hidalgo one hundred thousand dollars yearly and one fifth of everything you remove from this land. And the concession holds for a period of ninety-nine years."

Doc nodded. "Notice something else, Ham! Those papers are made out to me. Me, mind you! Yet they were executed twenty years ago. I was only a kid then."

"You know what I think?" Ham demanded.

"Same thing I do, I'll bet!" Doc replied. "These papers are the title to the legacy my father left me. The legacy is something he discovered twenty years ago."


Some hours later they were over the border of Hidalgo. It was a typical country of the southern republics. Wedged in between two mighty mountains, traversed in its own right by a half dozen smaller but even more rugged ranges, it was a perfect spot for those whose minds run to revolutions and banditry.

In such localities governments are unstable not so much because of their own lack of equilibrium, but more because of the opportunities offered others, to gather in revolt.

Half of the little valleys of Hidalgo were lost even to the bandits and revolutionists who were most familiar with the terrain. The interior was inhabited by fierce tribes, remnants of once powerful nations, each still a power in its own right, and often engaging in conflict with its neighbors. Woe betide the defenseless white man who found himself wandering about in the wilder part of Hidalgo.

The warlike tribes, the utter inaccessibility of some of the rocky fastnesses, probably explained the large unexplored area Renny had noted on the best maps of Hidalgo.

Guns and violence

Expensive binoculars reposed in a desk drawer, a highpower hunting rifle in a corner cabinet. In splits of seconds, Doc had these, and was at the window.


Doc's hand seemed hardly to touch the Mayan's knife arm before the bone snapped loudly and the knife gyrated away.


The Mayan twisted. With surprising alacrity, his other hand darted inside his green shirt and came out with a shiny pistol. He aimed at Ham, not Doc. Ham was handiest.

There was only one thing Doc could do to save Ham. He did it - chopped a blow with the edge of his hand that snapped the Mayan's neck instantly. The fellow died before he could pull trigger.


One of Long Tom's clawlike hands found a rock. He popped it against a skull - knew by the feel of the blow that one of the red-fingered fiends was through with this world.


No gallant of old ever bared his steel quicker than Ham unsheathed his sword cane. He got it out in time to skewer two of the devils who piled atop him!


So sudden was the attack, so fearsome a figure did Monk present that the red-fingered group turned to a man and fled wildly into the brush. Monk overhauled one before they got away. He heaved the loathsome creature up like a feather and dashed him against a tree. The lifeless body bounced back almost to his feet, so terrific was the impact.


Doc's friends' whipped out automatic pistols, which they had kept under their clothing. These automatics were fed by sixty-cartridge magazines, curled in the shape of compact rams' horns below the grips. The guns were what is known as continuously automatic in operation - they fired steadily as long as the trigger was held back. Both guns and magazines were of Doc's invention, infinitely more compact than ordinary submachine guns.


The devilish warriors, rent and torn by the obsidian shrapnel, were tossed high into the air. Many perished instantly, paying in a full measure for their murderous attack on the Mayan citizenry during the ceremonials.


A warrior! The man probably never saw for sure it was Doc Savage who had seized the weapon. A block of bronze knuckles belted the man's temple. He went to his spirit hunting grounds as suddenly as Mayan man ever did.


Morning Breeze was knocked off the trail.

OVER and over spun the squat, vicious Mayan's body. It struck a rock spur. Morning Breeze probably died then. If he did, he was saved the terror of watching the rock-fanged bottom of the abyss reach for him. The foaming river was like slaver on those ravenous stone teeth.


Finally, by a tremendous effort, he did the one thing that could get him away from those terrifying eyes of Doc's.

The snake man jumped off the trail!

Slowly, his body spun on its way to death. The face was a pale, grotesque.


He expertly skewered a fellow who tried to stab him.


The fight within the room was over in a matter of thundering seconds.

Doc Savage turned on the lights. Ten bandits in various stages of stupor and unconsciousness and even death, were strewed on the floor. Three of them would never murder again.

Their Mission:

"Our big job is about to start, huh?" said Monk, vast satisfaction in his mild voice.

Doc nodded. "The work to which we shall devote the rest of our lives."

At that statement, great satisfaction appeared upon the face of every man present They showed eagerness for what was to come.

Doc dangled a leg from the corner of the table. Unwittingly - for he knew nothing of the red-fingered killer lurking in the distant skyscraper that was under construction - Doc had placed his back out of line with the window. In fact, since the men had entered, he had not once been aligned with the window.

"We first got together back in the War," he told the five slowly. "We all liked the big scrap. It got into our blood. When we came back, the humdrum life of an ordinary man was not suited to our natures. So we sought something else."

Doc held their absolute attention, as if he had been hypnotized. Undeniably this golden-eyed man was the leader of the group, as well as leader of anything he undertook. His very being denoted a calm knowledge of all things, and an ability to handle himself under any conditions.

"Moved by mutual admiration for my father," Doc continued, "we decided to take up his work of good wherever he was forced to leave off. We at once began training ourselves for that purpose. It is the cause for which I had been reared from the cradle, but you fellows, because of a love of excitement and adventure, wish to join me."

Doc Savage paused. He looked over his companions. One by one, in the soft light of the well-furnished office, one of the few remaining evidences of the wealth that once belonged to his father.

"Tonight," he went on soberly, "we begin carrying out the ideals of my father - to go here and there, from one end of the world to the other, looking for excitement and adventure, striving to help those who need help, and punishing those who deserve it."

Trilling was more specific:

For this weird sound was part of Doc - a small, unconscious thing which he did in moments of utter concentration. To his friends it was both the cry of battle and the song of triumph. It would come upon his lips when a plan of action was being arranged, precoursing a master stroke which made all things certain.

It would come again in the midst of some struggle, when the odds were all against his men, when everything seemed lost. And with the sound, new strength would come to all, and the tide would always turn.

And again, it might come when some beleaguered member of the group, alone and attacked, had almost given up all hope of survival. Then that sound would filter through, some way, and the victim knew that help was at hand.

The whistling sound was a sign of Doc, and of safety, of victory.


Monk shut his eyes. He opened them instantly - it was all he could do to stem a yell of utter joy.

For into that unsavory room had penetrated a low, mellow sound that trilled up and down the scale like the song of some rare bird. It seemed to filter everywhere. The sound was strengthening, inspiring.

The sound of Doc!

The first laser pointer:

Long Tom had made a swift swing into the library and laboratory, collecting odds and ends of electrical material. With a couple of powerful light bulbs he unscrewed from sockets, some tin, a pocket mirror he borrowed from - of all people - Monk, Long Tom rigged an apparatus to project a thin, extremely powerful beam of light. He added a flashlight lens, and borrowed the magnifying half of Johhny's glasses before he got just the effect he desired.

Long Tom sighted his light beam down Renny's string, thus locating precisely in the gloomy mass of skyscrapers, the spot from whence the shots had come.

Fun stuff:

Doc led out through the lobby at a trot. A taxi was cocked in at the curb, driver dreaming over the wheel. Four of the six men piled into the machine. Doc and Renny rode the running board.

"Do a Barney Oldfield!" Doc directed the cab driver.


Their taxi was still waiting outside. The driver began a wailing: "Say - when am I gonna get paid? You gotta pay for the time I been waitin' - "

Doc handed the man a bill that not only silenced him, but nearly made his eyes jump out.


Strolling back to the little city beside the golden pyramid, Doc and Renny encountered the attractive Princess Monja Obviously, she had maneuvered this meeting. She was, it could plainly be seen, greatly taken with the handsome Doc. This embarrassed Doc no little. He had long ago made up his mind that women were to play no part in his career. Anyway, his was not a nature to easily lend itself to domestication. So he answered Princess Monja's eager patter in monosyllables, and carefully avoided being led into discussions about how pretty American girls were in comparison to, well - Monja, for instance.


Long Tom, like the rest of Doc's men, would not be wooing a Mayan damsel at this hour. They were not interested in women, these supreme adventurers.


Morning Breeze saw Doc bearing down on him. Terror seized the squat, ugly-faced culprit. He shouted for his fellow warriors to protect him. Four of these advanced. Two had short spears. Two had the terrible clubs with razor-sharp flakes of obsidian embedded in the heads. Emboldened by Morning Breeze's shrieked orders, they rushed Doc. And fully fifteen more warriors, all armed, joined the attack.

What followed went into Mayan history.


DOC Savage, up ahead of the sun, spent the usual time at the exercises which kept his amazing bronze body the wonderful mental and physical thing it was. From force of habit he liked to go through his ritual while alone. Bystanders were always asking questions as to what this and that was intended to do, pestering him.


From time to time, he spat strange, clucking words. A gibberish of hate!


A "gink" is a "foolish or contemptible person", a "tyro" is a "beginner or novice", and a "phiz" is "a person's face or expression".

002 - The Land Of Terror:

"A vile greenish vapor was all that remained of the first victim of the monstrous Smoke of Eternity. There would be thousands more if Kar, master fiend, had his evil way. Only Doc Savage and his mighty five could stop him. But the corpse-laden trail led to a prehistoric crater and mortal combat with the fiercest killing machines ever invented by nature."

"Call Renny, Long Tom, Johnny and Ham," Doc directed. "All of you show up at my place right away. I think I’m mixed up in something that will make us all hump."

The second Doc Savage novel, from April, 1933, features Doc "Murder Machine" Savage in all his gory glory, sending bad guys to heck like a funeral home salesman on commission. When not invoking the "penalty" bad guys must pay he's serving up death as a dish best served now! Doc even guts a prehistoric skunk with a few knife strokes and wears it as a coat! How he didn't look like Carrie after the prom and smell like Satan's armpit is anyone's guess.

The Land Of Terror is a good book that loses points for most of its length by including the evil mastermind Kar incognito as Oliver Wording Bittman, a man Doc feels indebted to because Bittman once saved the life of Doc's father. The "Gabe Yuder" red herring was rank from the start. Maybe I've read too many Doc Savages and seen too many Scooby Doos, but Lester Dent's efforts to indicate Bittman's guilt while at the same time pushing the not guilty line are distracting. The other dinosaur title I've read, The Other World, isn't very good, so get your Doc Savage dino-jollies in The Land Of Terror.

Besides Johnny not being a vocabulary snob the aides are who they are for the title's run. Doc's death count increased exponentially from the first adventure and at this rate he'd soon be more Dexter than Doc. It was a good thing Street & Smith convinced Dent to calm down with the killing sprees and a grim focus on penalties and punishment.

The stuff that destroys everything is pretty neat:

THE weird phenomenon, as the rustic bridge was wiped out by the fantastic Smoke of Eternity, was even more striking than had been the dissolution of Jerome Coffern’s body.

The metallic capsule bearing the Smoke of Eternity had splashed the strange stuff some distance in bursting. A great section of the bridge seemed to burn instantly. But there was no flame, no heat.

The play of electrical sparks was very marked, however. In such volume did they flicker that their noise was like the sound of a rapidly running brook.

The Smoke of Eternity, after passing through and destroying the bridge, next dissolved the water below. So rapidly did the eerie substance work that a great pit appeared in the surface of the lagoon.

Water rushing to fill this pit, formed a current like a strong river.


The result was awesome to the extreme. The earlier phenomena when the Smoke of Eternity was released were pygmy in relation. It was like comparing a match flame to an eruption of Vesuvius. In the space of seconds, the Jolly Roger, the ramshackle wharf, and a sizable bite of the shore were wiped out.

It was impossible to tell how deep into the bowels of the earth the annihilation extended. But it must have been a respectable distance, judging from the terrific rush of water to fill the hole. Anchored ships far down the Hudson snapped their hawsers, so great was the pull of water. A Weehawken ferry gave its passengers a hair-raising ride as it went with the current.

The gray, vile smoke arose in such prodigious quantity as to make a pall over all the midtown section of New York. The play of strange electrical sparks created a sound like a hurricane going through a monster forest.

But, beyond a general scare, no harm to anybody resulted.

The Lost In Time volcano place was tense and action-packed. There's no way the plane, plane hangar, or anyone human could survive the constant attacks of prehistoric creatures:

"A pterodactyl", "Tyrannosaurus!", "A creodont!", triceratops, brontosaurus, stegosaur, "A primitive type of deer", something from the hyena family, "A colony of monster, prehistoric beavers had attacked them!", "a large ground sloth", "ancestor to the common and obnoxious American polecat! [skunk]", "armor-backed beasts resembling armadillos", "prehistoric horse types no larger than sheep", "Many species of chipmunklike creatures", "the ancestor of a common porcupine"


""The insects are interesting," remarked Long Tom. "There seem to be few butterflies, moths, bees, wasps or ants. But there’s plenty of dragonflies, bugs, and beetles."

"The insects you see are the less complex types, for the most part," Doc explained. "They aren’t quite developed enough to make cocoons or gather honey. They came first in the course of evolution."


Monk wasted little time after receiving Doc’s call. He shucked off his rubber work apron. He had a chest fully as thick as it was wide. He put on a coat especially tailored with extra long sleeves. Monk’s arms, thick as kegs, were six inches longer than his legs. Only five feet and a half in height, Monk weighed two hundred and sixty pounds.

His little eyes twinkled like stars in their pits of gristle as he gave his secretary a few orders about his correspondence. Monk knew he might be away six months—or only an hour.


Monk snored. His snores had the peculiar quality of no two sounding remotely alike.


"We’d better take a page out of the life of Monk’s ancestors and climb a tree for the night!" suggested Ham.

"Yeah!" growled Monk, goaded by the insult. "Yeah!" He apparently couldn’t think of anything else to say.


Renny was entertaining and overawing the islanders by the amazing feat of crushing hard coconuts in one vast hand.

Long Tom:

[Noted for naming real people] The undersized man was Major Thomas J. Roberts on the official records, but Long Tom to everybody else. He had done electrical experiments with Steinmetz and Edison. He was a wizard with the juice.

Doc's abilities are waaaaay over the top:

But at the moment Doc was doing a problem of mathematics in his head, an intricate calculation concerning an advanced electrical research he was making.

The problem would have taxed the ability of a trained accountant supplied with the latest adding machines, but Doc was able, because of the remarkable efficiency of his trained mind, to handle the numerous figures entirely within his head. He habitually performed amazing feats of calculus in this fashion.


The grounds of the manufacturing plant were surrounded by a stout woven wire fence. This was more than eight feet high and topped off with several rows of needle-sharp barbs. Its purpose was to keep out intruders. A gate near by was shut, secured by a chain and padlock. No doubt Jerome Coffern had carried a key to this.

Doc Savage approached the fence, running lightly.

Then a startling thing happened.

It was a thing that gave instant insight into Doc Savage’s physical powers. It showed the incredible strength and agility of the bronze giant.

For Doc Savage had simply jumped the fence. The height exceeded by more than two feet the world record for the high jump. Yet Doc went over it with far more ease than an average man would take a knee-high obstacle. The very facility with which he did it showed he was capable of a far higher jump than that.

His landing beyond the fence was light as that of a cat. His straight, fine bronze hair was not even disturbed.


With silent speed, Doc was over the roof edge. Even a bat, master of clinging to smooth surfaces, would have had trouble with the wall. Grooves between the bricks furnished the only handholds. Doc’s steel-strong bronze fingers found the largest of these.

At the window, there was no perch. But Doc hung by little more than his finger tips. His tireless sinews could support him thus for hours.


An old woman held out, hopefully, a bundle of the late newspapers. She was almost blind. Her clothing was shabby. She looked hungry. Doc stopped and took one of the papers.

He looked at the old woman’s eyes. His expert diagnosis told him their ailment could be cured by a few great specialists. He wrote a name and address on a corner of the paper, added his own name, and tore this off and gave it to the crone. The name was that of a specialist who could cure her ailment, but whose fee was a small fortune. But at sight of Doc’s name scrawled on the note, the specialist would gladly cure the woman for nothing.

Doc added a bill he took from a pocket. For a long time after he had gone, the old, nearly blind woman stared at the bill, holding it almost against her eyes. Then she burst into tears. It was more money than she had ever expected to see.


Doc’s lungs were tremendous. He could readily stay under water twice as long as a South Sea pearl diver, and such men have been known to remain under several minutes.


[Dapper Dan pomade and coconut oil body cream?] An onlooker would have remarked a striking thing about Doc as he came out of the water. Doc’s straight bronze hair showed no traces of moisture. It was disarrayed. It seemed to shed water like the proverbial duck’s back. Nor did moisture cling to Doc’s fine-textured bronze skin.

This was but another of the strange things about this unusual metallic giant of a man.


Monk’s ill-timed bark of pleasure expelled the last vestige of air from his lungs. As a result, his drowning was nearly finished before Doc could get him to the surface.

"Imagine finding you here!" Doc chuckled. "You pick the strangest places to visit!"


Doc’s ears and nostrils told him no one occupied the apartment. He tried the door. Locked! He exerted what for his great muscles was moderate pressure. The door swished inward, lock torn out.


[Doc insults Monk. That's not cool, man] "Wait!" Doc’s strong bronze hand stopped Monk.

"But Doc—" Monk started to object.

"Dry up—you homely ape!" Doc was actually chuckling in the face of the frightful danger! His tone was calm. His movements, although lightninglike, seemed unhurried.

Trilling in the first book is a rallying cry. Now it's expanded to include every possible thing possible:

Of a sudden, a weird sound permeated the surrounding air. It was a trilling, mellow, subdued sound, reminiscent of the song of some strange jungle bird, or the dulcet note of a wind filtering through a leafless forest. Having no tune, it was nevertheless melodious. Not awesome, it still had a quality to excite, to inspire.

This sound was part of Doc—a small, unconscious thing which accompanied his moments of utter concentration. It would come from his lips when a plan of action was being evolved, or in the midst of some struggle, or when some beleaguered friend of Doc’s, alone and attacked, had almost given up hope of life. And with the filtering through of that sound would come renewed hope.

The strange trilling had the weird essence of seeming to emanate from everywhere instead of from a particular spot. Even one looking directly at Doc’s lips would not realize from whence it arose.


"We’ll use Doc’s scooter!" Renny barked.

They ran down the battery of elevators. The metal-paneled last door was shut. Apparently no cage stood there.

Renny’s monster hand found a secret button and pushed it. The doors cracked open. A waiting cage was revealed.

This was Doc Savage’s private lift, to be used in reaching the street in moments of emergency. Doc’s friends called it his "scooter." It operated at a far greater speed than any other cage in the huge skyscraper. It always waited here on the eighty-sixth floor for Doc’s use...

He sprang into the elevator with the others, Monk hit the control lever. The cage floor seemed to hop out from under their feet. So swift was the descent that the sensation of falling persisted for some seventy stories. And the stopping piled them down on all fours.


[This one is "convenient"] Doc had another plan. Inside his buttoned coat, he wore a metal plate which covered most of his chest. It was no ordinary metal, that plate. It was composed of the same material as the capsule missiles which held the Smoke of Eternity.

Not without results had Doc consigned himself to his locked laboratory to analyze the capsule. The metal was a rare alloy, but its nature had soon been revealed by a searching analysis.

As a matter of precaution, in case he was shot at with the Smoke of Eternity, Doc had fashioned himself a body armor from the rare alloy, a supply of which could be assembled from the absolutely complete stock of little-known medicals and chemicals which his laboratory held.

Hence, the instant Doc saw the air gun about to discharge, he put forth a herculean effort and managed to get his armor before the muzzle. The capsule containing the terrible dissolving compound shattered on the armor.

Doc had saved himself!


[The average cruising speed of today's commercial jets is above 550 mph] The afternoon was young when they took off in Doc’s speed plane. This craft was a latest design, tri-motored, low-wing job. The landing gear folded up into the wings, offering little air resistance. It had a cruising speed of about two hundred miles an hour.

It was the final word in aircraft.


Monk’s brain was working rapidly, despite his rowdyism. This voice had an ugly, unreal rasp. He knew Kar must be pulling his mouth out of shape with a finger as he spoke, thus disguising his voice.


The fellow was tall and thin. His pasty complexion, his shaking hands, his inarticulate mumbling, marked him as a drug addict.


The police never received a single one of Kar’s villains for trial and sentence to the penitentiary. Instead, Doc sent his prisoners to a certain institution for the mentally imperfect, in a mountain section of up-State New York.

All criminals have a defective mental balance, otherwise they would not be lawbreakers. A famous psychologist would treat Kar’s men. It might take years. But when released, they would be completely cured of their criminal tendencies.

Here's the top death and violence scenes involving Doc and his assistants. The book ends with Doc letting Kar go and then tossing a suitcase of the matter-vaporizing "Smoke Of Eternity" at him from a plane:

"Do you want to die?" Doc’s voice was like the knell of doom.


One man tried to dive past. Doc’s left arm made a blurred movement. His open hand—a hand on which great bronze tendons stood out as if stripped of skin and softer flesh—slapped against the man’s face.

It was as though a steel sledge had hit the fellow. His nose was broken. His upper and lower front teeth were caved inward. The man flew backward, head over heels, limp as so much clothes stuffed with straw.

But he didn’t lose consciousness. Perhaps the utter pain of that terrible blow kept him awake.


No flicker of mercy warmed the flaky glitter of Doc’s golden eyes. Two of these villainous little men had murdered his friend, Jerome Coffern. More than that, they had robbed the world of one of its greatest chemists. For this heinous offense, they must pay.

The three who had not committed the crime directly would suffer Doc’s wrath, too. They were hardly less guilty. They would he fortunate men if they escaped with their lives.

It was a hard code, that one of Doc’s. It would have curled the hair of weak sisters who want criminals mollycoddled. For Doc handed out justice where it was deserved.

Doc’s justice was a brand all his own. It had amazing results. Criminals who went against Doc seldom wound up in prison. They either learned a lesson that made them law-abiding men the rest of their lives—or they became dead criminals. Doc never did the job halfway.


The life of a less agile man than Doc would have come to an end there. But Doc’s bronze hand flashed up. It grasped the man’s face. It twisted. There was a dull crack and the murderer fell to the walk. A broken neck had ended his career.


Seized with an idea, Doc grasped a pike and a cutlass. There was nothing fake about the weapons. They were genuine heavy steel. The cutlass was razor keen.

Doc retraced his route. He was in time to see one of his ratty quarry peering into the hatch. The villainous fellow got a glimpse of Doc’s bronze form. He fired his revolver.

But Doc had moved. The bullet upset an image of a whiskered pirate. An instant later, the pike whizzed from Doc’s long arm.

The steel-shod shaft found accurate lodgment in the gun fiend’s brain. The man toppled headlong into the hold. His body, crashing to the floor, sent a gruesome papier-mâché head bouncing across the planks.


Suddenly a thin claw shoved a revolver over the hatch lip. The gun exploded repeatedly, driving random bullets to various parts of the hold.

Doc’s powerful form floated up from the floor. The razor-edged cutlass swished. The hand that held the revolver seemed to jump off the arm to which it belonged. It was completely amputated.


The running rat twisted his head and saw Doc. He brought his gun around. But the weapon was far from being in a position to fire when the sharp, heavy cutlass struck him. Doc had thrown it.

The blade ran the gangster through like a steel thorn. He convulsed his parasite life out on the deck.


"Doc Savage!" the rodent of a man wailed. Convulsively, Squint clutched for the revolver he had secured aboard the pirate ship.

Doc’s powerful bronze hands seized a table. The table drove across the room as though impelled from a cannon mouth.

Striking Squint squarely, it smashed his worthless life out against the wall. The man’s body fell to the floor amid the table wreckage.


Doc pursued. He put a great deal of effort in his flashing lunge. He wanted to question this rat. And he knew he would have to get the fellow before—

It happened!

Came a piercing shriek! It ended in a ghastly thunking sound and a horrible gurgling.

The man had fallen through the death trap in the passage—the trap from which the spar had saved Doc.

The upended swords in the pit under the trapdoor had thorned out the life of the fellow before Doc reached him!


To Renny and Johnny, Doc breathed a command. "You two stay here. Watch that window. Shoot at the slightest hostile move.


An ugly face poked out of the window. A pipestem arm brought an automatic pistol into view. But before the weapon had a chance to discharge, an incredible vise of bronze fingers clamped the killer’s scrawny neck. They jerked.

The man came out of the window with a snap. Screeching, he fell to his death far out in the street.


The machine gunners were preparing to fire. The leader of the gang would be the first to kill. He hissed,

" Now!"

But the fellow’s trigger finger did not discharge a single shot! The rapid firer was whisked out of his clutch by a grip of such strength there was no resisting it.

The weapon erupted a loud squawl of reports. A ghastly lead storm struck Kar’s assembled slayers. Dying men toppled over the hatch rim, to fall into the hold like ripe fruit...

Kar gunmen who had been covering them from the bulkhead door now tried to shoot. They were too late. A hot wind of bullets wilted them.


Near the plane, a sooty cauliflower of smoke had sprouted. Bits of débris still swirled in the air. It fell about a gruesome, torn thing upon the lagoon edge. The dismembered body of a man!

"It was one of Kar’s gunmen!" Renny called. Renny held a smoking machine gun. "The fellow had a bomb, with the fuse already lighted! He was running to throw it in the plane when I saw him and shot."


Doc’s own gun rapped. Once! Twice!

A man came tumbling, slowly, stiffly, out of the foliage. He was a short, broad man. He had the look of a human frog. Doc had never seen him before.

The man piled into a dead heap. One bullet had drilled his forehead. The other had stopped his heart.


The big bronze man’s pistol spoke once. The report was like that given off by the popper of a hard-snapped bull whip.

The gunman melted down as though all the stiffening had been drawn from his body. On his forehead, exactly between his eyes, was a blue spot that suddenly trickled red. The man fell on top of his weapon and it continued to rip off shots until the drum magazine had emptied.


Then his neck unjointed! He died quickly. His actual going was painless, whatever the terror of the moments before might have been. For Doc’s sinewy hands had brought a merciful end.

003 - Quest Of The Spider:

"Inside the grim, swamp-surrounded "Castle of the Moccasin," the Man of Bronze and his faithful, fearless band are trapped -- perhaps forever -- in an insidious web of evil by a masterdevil known only as the Gray Spider!"

The third Doc Savage novel saw the light of day in May of 1933. As a Bantam paperback it was #68 for a very good reason. It's nonsensical, weird, and silly to where you can't even call it bad. As they say, it's "Not even wrong". The first book was a grand mission statement, the second a tense actioner and celebration of death, and this one possibly a test on Lester Dent's part to see if anyone was paying attention as he writes like he has no idea what he's doing. It's bad with a strong lean towards good-bad. Reading it was fun just to see what the hell else would creatively go wrong.

Quest of The Spider contains the first mention of Doc as a "Superman":

Edna Danielsen seemed doubtful. "But can even a great lawyer and quick thinker help us? The Gray Spider must have hundreds, thousands, of men in his evil organization. A lawyer can't whip an army! Not even a superman could!"

Big Eric's firm lips arched in a tight smile. "That is exactly why I’m going to see Ham Brooks. Ham knows a person who is just what we need—a superman!"

"I don't understand!" Edna was puzzled.

"Doc Savage!" Something like awe was in Big Eric's voice as he spoke that name.

Cataloging the weird, wrong, and laugh out loudness: There's big talk about the "Cult of the Moccasin!" and better yet the "Castle of The Moccasin!", and since there's not one snake in the story I'll assume they're referring to shoes! Edna Danielson says the Gray Spider might have thousands of men in his organization. That would be an army, not a local fellow swindling lumber mills. A grown man wearing a heavy coat hides under the floorboards of an office only "a few inches deep". Johnny, Monk and Renny wear disguises to join the evil gang and get caught soon enough by not staying in character. Johnny kidnaps a small child and laughs about it. Renny drives around turns at sixty mph and somehow the car doesn't flip. A number of lumber mills get turned over to crooks by having the rightful owners decide to "take a long vacation" and sign over their business to strangers, as if this won't trigger suspicion on the part of banks and law enforcement. Almost a dozen bad guys each fit into cars chasing the good guys. Then after a three car wreck the clown cars immediately empty and they crawl all over the good guy's car.

In the middle of a siege in a swamp Doc has the equipment and time to do his daily two hours of exercise. The poison gas in Big Eric's office is forgotten about quickly. You have this line: "Yet the roaring wind seemed to have absolutely no effect on his bronze immaculateness." "Doc 'Alligator' Savage ", a quote from the book, puts on an alligator costume and crawls among the swamp men fooling them he's 1) an alligator, and 2) a particular alligator they know personally:

The alligator now did what no commonplace saurian ever did. It got up on its rear legs. The repulsive stomach of the thing was closed with, of all things—

A zipper fastener!

With a s-s-wick! of a noise, the zipper came open.

The mighty bronze form of Doc Savage flashed forth.


"Exactly," said Doc. "That stuffed 'gator was in the rumble seat of the roadster. It was one of the things I brought along into the swamp, on the chance we might need it. I simply dived and got it, after the car went into the water. The thing could be folded up in a fairly small space, for all its large size. And it looked natural enough to fool the swamp men, especially when seen only by moonlight. In the daytime, they might not have been deceived so easily."

A boat that fits in your pocket!:

"In the rumble seat—a collapsible silk boat you can almost put in your coat pocket. Also, there's an outboard motor that hardly weighs more than a portable typewriter. Other things, too!"

Normally I'd file this under violence but this is nuts!:

"I do not know that!" hissed the masked man. "I have exhausted my resources in an effort to learn! But it is no use. Whether he has one man or a hundred, I do not know! His aids might even be women! That is an idea! Kill all women who have registered lately at the hotel. Wipe them out along, with the men!"

On par with the alligator cosplay suit Doc packs just in case, The evil Gray Spider breeds a special kind of poisonous zombie fly that bites you ASAP:

"There's where you're wrong, swamp boy!" he declared. "These are very special flies. If one of them should bite you, it'd kill you instantly."

Buck Boontown looked as if he found this hard to believe.

"These look like ordinary swamp flies because they were just that—before I got hold of them," the Gray Spider explained. "I have sprayed a very powerful poison upon them. The bodies of the flies have absorbed this poison, which has no effect on them. But their bites are now highly venomous. They will bring instant death to a man."

The Gray Spider leered. "Making these flies poisonous is a very special secret of mine. It took me a long time to figure out a way of doing it. But I'm telling you, it works!

"Furthermore, I have starved these flies until they're famished. They live by sucking blood. They'll go after any living thing that's handy when they're let out of that box. And whatever they bite will die!

"You are to release them near the bronze devil and his five men."

File under General BS:

DOC entered the elevator. Monk turned and followed him inside like a big dog, still carrying his five victims under his arms.


They went down a corridor. Stairs sloped into the innards of the earth.

Doc took the stairs with incredible leaps that covered fifteen steps at a time. He placed his feet in the mathematical center of the treads upon which he landed, as though he had been stepping down one at a time.


It was a full thirty feet to the ground. Yet great muscles cushioned his drop until it seemed he had hardly more than stepped off a chair.

If you're offended by off-color characterizations of inbred voodoo criminal monkey-men and their kin you may want to skip this book.

Other things of note: Doc's quite the superman, but he's not yet learned to not insult Monk:

"You don't lick any one this time," Doc told him. "You use that brain nobody would suspect you've got.

Doc and guns in book #3:

A bronze blur, Doc scuttled fifty feet down the walk and calmly seated himself behind a fire hydrant. He had no gun. Indeed, he so rarely found necessity for a weapon, that he seldom carried one. He waited.


Monk grinned widely. Strangely enough, any and all nasty cracks about his looks tickled Monk. He was one of those rare individuals—a homely man who was genuinely proud of the fact that his features were something to stop a clock.

Violence. Much less than previously, so that's good:

The four clutched their sharp knives. They were at least not cravens. They would fight to the death! 

TO the death it was! And it came more swiftly than they had dreamed possible.

One monkey man launched a stab he felt certain would end the fray. It was aimed directly for the bronze giant's heart. But the monkey man felt a terrible paralysis seize his wrist and arm. He did not have time to realize a steel-thewed hand had grasped his darting knife fist and turned it toward his own vitals—the blade was in his heart before he could realize that fact...

Another monkey man struck at Doc with a razor-sharp stiletto. He, too, believed his stroke would go home. But by some miracle the bronze man moved a trifle. The blade only sheared open his coat and shirt.


The beginning of the oath was the fellow's last word. He tried to strike again. There was a hollow snap. He collapsed. Great hands had broken his neck.


[Visually fun] Doc did not bother to tie them. When one tried to flee, he was knocked flat on his back before he had taken a single step. They had no more chance of escaping Doc than a captured mouse has of evading the cat that caught it.


One of the efficient light machine guns Doc had perfected turned loose in Big Eric's fist. It seemed to melt the man in front of the muzzle. A second swamp man died before the ripping weapon.


"I investigated," Doc explained. "Two of those boxes hold ordinary hand grenades. The others contain a supply of poison-gas grenades. It's the same kind of deadly gas the Gray Spider has twice sought to use on us. The wind will carry it over our foes."...

"We will use the gas only as a last resort," he pointed out "After all, the fiendishness of these swamp men is largely due to one man—the Gray Spider. If we can get the master devil and the group of his important lieutenants, which he calls the inner circle of his Cult of the Moccasin, it will be unnecessary to do any wholesale killing. The other swamp men, freed from the Gray Spider's sinister influence, can be reformed."

Some internet reviewers said the mastermind reveal appeared random, but Dent first leads you to Horace Haas with a standard "beyond reproach" fake and then steps back from it, so you really don't know. In The Land Of Terror, Kar was obviously Oliver Wording Bittman from the start, but Doc didn't look in that direction because Bittman once saved Clark Sr.'s life. Here's the standard fake:

"The office of Horace Haas, my junior partner," explained Big Eric. Then, realizing the place hardly looked like a business office, he added defensively, "Horace Haas may not be a crack business man, but he furnished the capital for my start in life!"


"Now, listen here!" he grumbled: "Horace Haas may be a fop and a spendthrift, but I'll stake my life he wouldn't lay a finger on Edna or me! He's not the Gray Spider!"

Filed under Drugs, the current name for this is Scopolamine:

Doc Savage came back. He carried a small leather case. This held, on a plush bed, two hypodermic needles.

Doc applied one of the needles to the eavesdropper's arm.

Nothing seemed to happen. The fellow merely sat there, absently rubbing the spot where the needle had pricked.

"Get up and sit in a chair!" Doc commanded compellingly.

The man obeyed meekly.

Noting the astounded faces of the others, Doc tapped the hypodermic needles and explained.

"The first holds a drug which affects a certain portion of the brain, rendering the victim incapable of thinking. This fellow, for instance, will now do anything I tell him because he cannot think of reasons why he shouldn't. I could tell him to go over and jump out of the window, and he'd do it without being able to think that the fall meant certain death. This drug is one of my late developments."

Doc indicated the second hypo needle. "This contains a drug which neutralizes the first. In other words, this man will remain in his present condition for days, unless he receives the second drug."

Doc charges rich guys a "fee":

Big Eric smiled widely. "I'm dang glad you're going to help me fight this Gray Spider! I like your style!"

Doc Savage did not reply immediately.

"I haven't said I would," he pointed out.

Big Eric blanched. He stuttered: "Why—won't you?"

"I will," Doc told him quietly. "Providing we can agree on the matter of the fee you will pay."...

"The fee is one million dollars," Doc said as calmly as though he were a laborer asking three dollars a day for his services.

"Huh!" Big Eric purpled. He all but choked. He howled: "One million! And you're the guy who goes around benefiting humanity! It looks to me like you're trying to hold me up—"...

Big Eric suddenly got the idea it would be useless to squawk about being overcharged. At the same time, he was too canny to put out such an outrageous fee without knowing he would get his money's worth in results.

"You will turn this million over to a committee you and I will select," Doc continued. "It will be used to supply food and clothing and education to the poor and destitute in Louisiana."

"Oh," said Big Eric, suddenly ashamed of his outburst. He offered a hand. "I'll do it, of course."

Doc explains his lobotomy farm operation to Johnny:

"It's too complex to go into now," Doc told him. "It is done by many methods. Most undergo intricate brain operations that wipe out all memory of their past. Then they are taught a trade by which to make a living, as well as upright citizenship.

"In other words, we merely reduce their minds to a blank and give them the sort of training they should have had. When they're released, crime does not occur to them—simply because they don't know they've ever been criminals."

On that note I wish this "mysterious stranger" was a recurring character who looked like Arthur Slugworth from Willy Wonka:

In a day or so, a mysterious stranger would arrive. He would take the two men to an amazing institution in the northern part of New York State.

Fun things: Planes had wicker seats and parachutes (!?)

[The golden years of flying!] "I'm gonna keep an eye on that slick-haired gigolo!" growled Big Eric, still watching the evil-faced man, who sat forward. The massive lumber king removed a large army automatic from a hip pocket. He put it in a coat pocket, where it could be gotten at more swiftly.


Beautiful Edna Danielsen twined her fingers together thoughtfully. She was beginning to realize Doc Savage was a personage mighty beyond all her imaginings.

She wondered what he looked like. He'd probably be a shriveled little wart with a head like a barrel. He would wear glasses with lenses as thick as milk-bottle bottoms.

Doc's body would be just ample enough to carry his magnificent set of brains around, Edna decided. That was always the way with geniuses. They had spent all their life studying intensively—which in truth is what makes a genius. But as a consequence, they became pale, shriveled, bald specimens.

It wasn't a complimentary mental picture Edna painted of what she expected Doc Savage to look like. She reflected he'd have whiskers. They'd look like he was going around with his chin buried in a bird nest.

Edna was due for a shock.


Not a cloud scummed the sky.


A FRECKLED stenographer strangled on the gum she was chewing as the big bronze man appeared like magic in the window beside her desk. She was still coughing when Doc crossed the room and entered the corridor. She had received the shock of her gum-chewing career.


All four tires, frozen immobile by the brakes, squealed like hungry pigs.


[Drip painting] He entered a large room. The color scheme looked like it had been conceived by a futuristic artist who had gone crazy among his paint pots. Streaks and spots and daubs of green, red, blue, yellow, white, aluminum, gold—it all made neither sense nor beauty.

004 - The Polar Treasure:

"Menaced by 'the strange clicking danger,' Doc Savage and his fabulous five-man army take a desperate journey on a polar submarine in search of a missing ocean liner and a dazzling treasure. Their only clue is a map tattooed on the back of a blind violinist. Awaiting them at their destination is the most terrible killer the Arctic has ever known."

The fourth Doc Savage novel, dated June, 1933, is great fun and succeeds at most levels as escapist entertainment. Whatever it doesn't get right falls can be filed under Quibbles. It's a fast-paced adventure with cool stuff, neat things, and is there violence, drug abuse, and revenge killing? Oooh yeah....

There's a stylistic tip of the hat to ancient legends recounted in King Arthur: Tales Of The Round Table. Doc Savage often crosses the line from Peak Human to Tall Tale, and it surely happens in The Polar Treasure, but Lester Dent knows how to apply Sir Galahad to Doc Savage in a timeless fashion, whereas ghost-writers like Lawrence Donovan can easily default to North Korean Dear Leader worship ("Doc Leader jumped over Mount Whitney in a single leap after bowling a perfect 300 game on his first try. Before lunch he ran the Four-Minute Mile in three minutes and brought the entire United States Army to their knees in defeat!")      

The Polar Treasure is where Doc both writes violin music that makes a grown criminal cry and punches a polar bear to death. Doc hadn't yet reached the point where Gandhi comes to him in a vision to get him to calm the F down, so Doc's machine guns are street-sweepers of death and he not only continually refocuses on his mission to avenge his aides with killing, he does it in a way that guarantees none will survive. Doc's psyche is fully formed and functional in that he's human with all the basic emotions you need while also being the focused and unstoppable Ubermensch on the side of good. Some of his physical feats are extravagant but Doc Savage as a person is awesome. A strong point of the novel is focusing on Doc in isolation for most of the last third. Instead of stalling for time before a big finish (or a quick resolution) The Polar Treasure is strongest when Doc goes it alone. There's no Run & Fight filler as everything is new, creative, and forward moving.

Is there nothing Doc Savage cannot master, I asked rhetorically? Is it possible for the fiddle tune he wrote to be listed as composed by "Clark Savage, Jr." yet also as "unknown"?:

Near by loomed the enormous bulk of the New York Concert Hall. From the stage door on the side street crept strains of a music so beautiful that each note seemed to grasp the heart with exquisite fingers...

The flat-chested man, cowering and fearful, knew little of Victor Vail. He only knew the music affected him strangely. Once it made him think of how his poor mother had sobbed that first time he went to jail, long years ago. He nearly burst into tears...

Victor Vail had finished his violin playing. The audience was applauding. The hand-clapping was tremendous. It sounded like the roar of Niagara, transferred to the vast hall...

"Clark Savage, Jr!" he gasped in a tone of awe. "Why, among the violin selections I rendered in my concert tonight was a composition by Clark Savage, Jr. In my humble opinion, and to the notion of other artists, that composition is one of the most masterly of all time. Surely, you are not the composer?"...

The sightless master of the violin, indeed, considered it such. He had many times wondered about the mysterious Clark Savage, Jr., who had composed that great violin selection. Strangely enough, the composer was listed as an unknown. He had claimed no credit for the marvelous piece of work.

This was astounding in itself, considering what moneymad beings the human race had become. The composer could have ridden to a fortune on the strength of that one selection.

Doc's daily two hours of exercise explained with isometrics highlighted. Braille training is under "other". Note Ham's description as "husky" was later jettisoned for waspish:

Doc took his exercises - a terrific two-hour routine each day of his life, and nothing interfered.

Doc's ritual was similar to ordinary setting-up movements, but infinitely harder, more violent. He took them without the usual exercising apparatus. For instance, he would make certain muscles attempt to lift his arm, while other muscles strove to hold it down. That way he furthered not only muscular tissue, but control over individual muscles as well. Every ligament in his great, bronzed body he exercised in this fashion.

From a case which held his special equipment, Doc took a pad and pencil. He wrote a number of several figures. Eyes shut, he extracted the square and cube root in his head, carrying the figures to many decimal places.

Out of the case came a device which made sound waves of all tones, some of a wave length so short or so long as to be inaudible to the normal ear. Years of straining to detect these waves had enabled Doc to make his ears sensitive enough to hear many sounds inaudible to ordinary people.

With his eyes closed, Doc rapidly catalogued by the sense of smell several score of different odors, all very vague, each contained in a small vial racked in the case.

There were other exercises, far more intricate. Ham shook his head wonderingly. He knew that five minutes at the clip Doc was doing the routine would be more than he, himself, could stand. And Ham was husky enough to give most professional boxers a drubbing.

From the cradle, Doc had done these exercises each day. They accounted for his astounding physique, his ability to concentrate, and his superkeen senses.

Say no to drugs, except if staying on them keeps you "normal" enough for a life of crime. The "strange clicking danger" in the plot summary is also a drug reference:

The only discovery of note he had made was that Dynamite Smith, the big oiler, used narcotics almost steadily. Doc consulted Captain McCluskey about this.

"Sure, I knowed the swab was a dope head," the walrus assured him. "Rust my anchor, but it don't seem to hurt him. He's been usin' the stuff for years. Let'm alone, matey. The stuff just keeps 'im harmless."


"They gave the Eskimos liquor," Roxey Vail went on. "And they gave them worse stuff, something that made them madmen - a white powder!"

"Dope - the rats!" Doc growled.

The first description of Doc's submarine The Helldiver. Another books lists its length as 700 feet. Doc didn't put all that much money into it and he took full ownership after killing the man who built most of it. He was a bad man, sure, but dead men also conveniently can't pursue title ownership:

The thing looked like a razor-backed cigar of steel. The hull was fitted with lengthwise runners resembling railway rails. As a matter of fact, these actually were such rails, converted to the purpose of ice runners. They were supposed to enable the underseas craft to slide along beneath the arctic ice pack.

A wireless aerial, collapsible, was set up for action. There was a steel rod of a bowsprit ramming out in front, the size of a telegraph pole. The rudder and propellers were protected by a steel cage intended to keep out ice cakes.


[Add-ons to the original design.] "A special radio. Electrical apparatus for sounding and locating icebergs. A collapsible seaplane. Better diving suits than you have. And other things of that nature."

Galahad/Tall Tale/Doc Leader:

Doc was one of the finest marksmen they had ever seen, even if it was seldom that he fired a shot. They had seen him toss up twelve pennies in a single handful, and using two pistols, touch every one with lead before it fell to earth.


But from the spot where that great voice had first roared a warning, there glided a form that might have been liquid bronze. Nearing the struggling man and girl, this became a giant, Herculean man of hard metal. Hands floated out.


THE STEPS whined under the giant bronze man's considerable weight [A little over 200 pounds!!]. To avoid the noise, he leaped lightly to the banister. Like a tight-rope walker, he ran up the slanted railing.

He took the second flight in the same manner, not troubling to see if those steps squeaked also. By using the banister, he avoided any electrical alarms which might have been under the steps.


[Chins collapsed like eggshells.] Not one of blind Victor Vail's attackers saw the giant metallic figure arrive. They knew nothing of its presence until they felt its terrible strength.

Then it was as though a tornado of hard steel had struck them. Chins collapsed like eggshells. Arms were plucked from sockets and left dangling like strings.

The men screamed and cursed. Two flew out of the melee, unconscious, not knowing what had vanquished them. A third dropped with his whole lower face awfully out of shape, and he, too, didn't know what had hit him.

Others struck feverishly at the Herculean bronze form, only to have their fists chop empty air. One man found his ankles trapped as in a monster vise of metal. He was lifted. His body swung in a terrific circle, mowing down his fellows like a scythe.


From a position thirty feet away, Doc planted his flash beam on them. They were in a nice, tight bunch. A great chair stood at Doc's elbow. No doubt it would have been a load for any single steward who had long ago sailed on the ill-fated Oceanic.

It lifted in Doc's mighty hand as lightly as though it were a folding camp stool. It slammed into the midst of the Eskimos. They were bowled over, practically to a man.


[Way over the top but a scene nicely set up by having McClusky beat up Monk and Renny in order to establish his skills. Doc's a little over 200 lbs. and maybe 6'1" at this point. He grew in size as the radioactive material he surrounded himself with and implanted in his clothes "evolved" him until be became Doc Sampson.] His hand was trapped in mid-air by case-hardened bronze fingers. For an instant, McCluskey thought the hand had been cut off, so much did that grip hurt, and so numb did it make his arm.

He started a blow with his free fist.

It traveled hardly more than an inch. Then that hand was closed in a fearful clasp. The hard paw crushed like so much dough. Big blisters of blood popped out on the finger tips, and burst with fine sprays of crimson.

The walrus screamed like a hurt child.


[Doc Leader's fingers are strong like wrench!] Even Ben O'Gard himself came fawning up with a wrench to assist in the work. But Doc waved him aside. His bronze fingers were more speedy than any wrench - and they could tighten a tap just about as snugly.

In my treatment of a new Doc Savage movie I had Doc's revelation at the end being he can't win unless he stops being so protective of his friends. I didn't just make that up:

"Wait here," Doc directed. Doc was always leaving his men behind while he went alone into danger. Long ago, they had become resigned to this, much as it irked them to stand back when excitement offered. They literally lived for adventure.

But no one could cope with danger quite as Doc could. He had an uncanny way of avoiding, or escaping from, what for another man would be a death trap.

Doc Talks To Himself Alert!:

Doc picked himself up.

"I'd better hold onto something," he remarked to no one in particular.

The floor in Doc's lab is made of polished bricks with a twist:

Two half circles of these bricks suddenly whipped upward. They were not unlike a monster bear trap. The gunman was caught.

His rapid-firer cackled a brief instant. Then pain made him drop the weapon. Madly, he tore at the awful thing which held him. It defied him. The bricks which had arisen were actually of hard steel, merely painted to resemble masonry.

Before possibly deliberately sidelining Johnny as an equal partner by saddling him with a vocabulary affectation, Dent gave him a formal speech pattern:

Johnny's voice was that of a lecturer. He chose his words precisely, after the fashion of a college professor. As a matter of fact, Johnny had been both in his time.


[This is before Doc got around to performing eye surgery on him like he does to Victor Vail in this story. Poor Johnny.] He wore glasses. The right lens of these spectacles was much thicker than the left. A close observer might have noted that this left lens was in reality a powerful magnifying glass. For the wearer of the unusual spectacles had virtually lost the use of his left eye in the World War. He needed a powerful magnifier in his business, so he carried it in his glasses for handiness.

Long Tom and his big head:

The small man came stamping back. Besides being short, he was slender. He had pale hair and pale eyes, and a complexion that looked none too healthy.

Only his extremely large head hinted that he was no ordinary man. "Long Tom," formally known as Major Thomas J. Roberts, was an electrical wizard who had worked with foremost men in the electrical world. Nor was he the physical weakling he appeared.

Cruel comedy with sadist Monk. One guy in each arm makes more sense:

The gorilla of a man saw Doc. His knot of a head seemed to open in halves as he laughed.

"Listen, Doc!" he said in a voice surprisingly mild for such a monster. "Listen to this!"

His enormous arms tightened on his three prisoners. As one man the three howled in agony.

"Don't they sing pretty huh?" the anthropoid man chuckled. He squeezed the trio again, and listened to their pained howls like a singing teacher.

Doc invites Renny to do what he loves most, and a classic Renny door panel punch:

"We might as well go in there all of a sudden!" Doc breathed.

"0. K., Doc," murmured Renny.

He lifted his gallon of iron-hard knuckles. He struck. With a rending crash, the door panel was driven inward by Renny's great fist.


They ran down a passage.

An amazing thing happened to a stateroom door ahead of them.

The panel jumped out of the door, literally exploding into splinters. An object came through which resembled a rusty keg affixed crosswise to the end of a telephone pole.

Such a hand and fist could belong to only one man on earth.

Science sleuthing gimmick de jour:

"The stuff in this sprayer and the sticky material on the floor form a terrible odor when they come together, even in the tiniest quantities," Doc explained as the cage raced them down. "So powerful are these chemicals that any one walking through the stuff in front of the door will leave a trail which can be detected for some hours. That's why we took off our shoes. We had walked through it."


There were few pedestrians on the street at this late hour. Even these, however, promptly stopped to gawk at Doc and Renny. It might have been the fact that Doc and Renny were without shoes, and going through the apparently idiotic process of spraying an awful perfume on the sidewalk.

Doc putting the Human in Peak Human:

"Listen - here's what you're to do!" Doc interrupted. He didn't like the tearful business of receiving thanks from young women whether they were pretty or not.


"Isn't she - a wonderful girl" he gulped proudly.

He had seen her, all right.

"She's swell," Doc chuckled. "She's gone to get her mother. They'll meet us."


"Now listen, Doc," he began. "You better - "

Doc smiled faintly. He picked up the argumentative two hundred and sixty pounds of man-gorilla by the slack of the pants and the coat collar, and sent him whizzing down the icy cable.

"Beat it!" he called down at them, then sank behind a capstan.


Doc groped for something that would express his happiness, for he had given these five friends of his up as dead men. The proper words refused to come. His throat was cramped with emotion.

"What a bunch of bums!" he managed to chuckle at last.

Violence and Doc's determination for revenge:

The group ran for the stern. Renny secured an automatic pistol from the Eskimo whom Ham had skewered with his sword cane.


[The abrupt execution of a major player] A captive was hauled up from below. He squealed and whimpered and blubbered for mercy.

Two pirates held him. An automatic in Ben O'Gard's hand cracked thunder. The prisoner fell dead.


[Doc's "fine" means killing is swell] "Good work, Johnny," Doc replied. "You armed?"

Johnny opened his bundle of papers like a book. This disclosed a small, pistollike weapon which had a large cartridge magazine affixed to the grip. A more compact and deadly killing machine than this instrument would be difficult to find. It was a special machine gun of Doc Savage's own invention.

"Fine," Doc breathed. "Wait on the street. I'm going up to that room."


He wanted to get the girl to safety. Then he was going to hold grim carnival on the glacier with Keelhaul de Rosa and his killer group.


[Doc eats raw bear meat from the bear he killed and chews it while contemplating his revenge] The heat of the hunt finally drove Doc to the remote reaches of the glacier and rock crest of the land.

There he replenished his vast reservoir of strength by dining on frozen, raw steaks he wrenched with his bare, steel-thewed fingers, from the polar bear he had slain.

The mighty bronze man might have been a terrible hunter of the wild as he crouched there at his primeval repast. But no such hunter ever possessed cunning and knowledge such as Doc Savage was bringing to bear upon the problem confronting him.

Being adventure #4 Doc's not yet known by beat cops but at higher levels he's an untouchable Big Shot. It leads to funny scenes like this but I can't see how it can't lead to resentment that he can get them in trouble through his connections:

"Stick 'em up!" boomed the sergeant. Then a surprising thing happened.

The policeman lowered his gun so hastily he nearly dropped it. His face became actually pale. He couldn't have looked more mortified had he accosted the mayor of the city by mistake.

"Begorra, I couldn't see it was you, sor," he apologized. The bronze giant's strong lips quirked the faintest of smiles. But the sergeant saw the smile - and beamed as if he had just been promoted to a captaincy.


The rooky's eyes popped. "Gosh! Who was that guy?"

The sergeant chuckled mysteriously. "Me lad, yez know what they say about our new mayor - that nobody has any pull wit' him?"

"Sure," agreed the rooky. "Every one knows our new mayor is the finest New York has ever had, and that he can't be influenced. But what's that got to do with the big bronze fellow?"

"Nothin'," grinned the sergeant. "Except that, begorra, our new mayor would gladly turn a handspring at a word from that bronze man!"


At the police station, the captain in charge insisted on stripping to his underwear so that Doc would be properly clad.

Filed under Miscellaneous, Monk rolls his own cigarettes, Monk & Ham don't have their idiot pets yet to act as "fun" surrogates so they hate each other a lot, their building has 100 floors, Monk's arms are as thick as his legs, the steel safe in the office is the height of Doc's shoulders, Doc's machine guns make a noise that "sounded like tough cloth ripping", Dent distinguishes one bad guy a number of times by his flat chest, calls an Eskimo a "greasy bag of fright", evokes this classic image "The walks were crowded. Each subway kiosk vomited humanity like an opened anthill.", and offers up a mental image that's as original as it is silly, "Like two dark cotton balls before a breeze, Doc and Renny drifted into the shadows." How much did Victor Vail earn for each violin performance? "Many music lovers maintained him to be the greatest living master of the violin. He ordinarily got hundreds of dollars for rendering an hour of violin music before an audience. "

The Quibbles: While a nice visual and a neat plot element, there was no reason to tattoo a map on Victor Vail's back. The bad guys were there and everyone could have scribbled a map on paper. On an ocean liner they had the supplies to make a tattoo you could only see on an X-ray? Why head the ocean liner to the Artic when the bad guy's ship was slower than theirs?:

"But an enemy sea raider chased the liner northward. The enemy boat could not overhaul us, but it pursued our craft for days. Indeed, the Oceanic sailed far within the arctic ice pack before escaping. "

The pirates ship was slower than an ocean liner? Even if that's the case, why not just head toward a safe port? Then there's Mr. Clicking Teeth wearing a black wig on the Hellfire. There's too few people in too small a space. Wearing a wig would just make you stand out as a "new" person that shouldn't be there.

There's a scene where Doc and Ham escape from an airtight bank vault by using Doc's exploding extra wisdom teeth. They were rendered unconscious in a cab and wound up in this bank vault to eventually die by asphyxiation. While a neat pulpy escape there's no reason not to kill them in a random back alley.

Not that I'm accusing Doc and The Gang of murdering three innocent people so they couldn't squeal about the gold & diamonds or ask for a cut, when the next novel opens (Pirate Of The Pacific) only Doc's group makes it back from the Arctic. What became of Victor Vail and his wife and daughter? A table for three (lobotomies) maybe?

Doc added extra wisdom teeth to his mouth. He wouldn't have been able to close his mouth if he did. Later on in the series it was corrected to fake wisdom teeth. I also picture Doc biting down hard on an errant piece of walnut shell and the 86th floor blows up but good:

"Our captors probably looked in our mouths," Doc explained. "But they forgot to count my teeth. They didn't notice that in my upper jaw there is an extra wisdom tooth on each side. They're false, and they hold two chemical compounds of my own concoction. When combined, these form one of the most powerful explosives."

A purr of interest. Doc Savage purrs:

"Why - why - I recall that he did bring up the subject! And I told him I never wanted to hear of the ghastly affair again!"

Doc's great voice suddenly acquired a purr of interest.

"I should like very much to know what actually happened during that period you were unconscious!" he said.

Doc Savage should always refer to himself as "Clark":

"Doc Savage," said the bronze man.

"Doc Savage," Victor Vail murmured. He seemed disappointed. "I am sorry, but I do not believe I have heard the name before."

The bronze giant's lips made a faint smile.

"That is possible," he said. "Perhaps I should have been more formal in giving you my name. It is Clark Savage, Jr."


[Did they go to a bank in Greenland and take the money out to buy the plane?] "Where is the pilot Victor Vail hired to fly him?" Doc asked.

"The monkey got cold feet!" Renny grinned. "Looking at all these icebergs got his goat. He refused to go on. So we took him back south to a little settlement on the coast of Greenland, bought his plane for twice what it is worth, and left him."


[Would the bad guys think to look for this valve before setting themselves up to die?] "You mean the gang can't take the submarine beneath the surface without this valve?" Long Tom demanded.

"Exactly," Doc replied. "They will realize they'd never come up if they did. The craft would be flooded. Too, they haven't the chemical to melt themselves out of a jam. The Helldiver cannot escape from this arctic ice pack without submerging to pass under solidly frozen floes."


[There's no reason to believe she'd try to avenge him. And while a spanking is the answer to most disagreements, isn't there an HR policy against it?] EVEN AS he raced toward where he had left her, Doc fathomed what had occurred. She had disobeyed his injunction to stay hidden. The reason - she had heard the shouted information that Doc was dead. She had started out with some desperate idea of avenging him.

Doc appreciated her good intentions. But at the moment, he could have gotten a lot of satisfaction out of turning her over his knee and paddling her.


[Doc's casual judgmental cruelty isn't cool] A man shoved his head out of the main hatch amidships. All this man needed to make him a walrus was a pair of two-foot tusks. Doc had always believed Monk the homeliest human creation. It was a toss-up between Monk and this man.

The Polar Treasure is a classic Doc Savage novel. Force a friend to read it today!

005 - Pirate Of The Pacific:

"Not ships but nations are the prey of the sinister Oriental mastermind, Tom Too. Only Doc Savage and his daring crew stand a chance of saving the world from this figure of evil and his lethal legions. On land and sea, in the weirdest corners of the wide world, Doc and his friends plunge into their wildest adventure -- against their most dangerous foe!"

The fifth Doc Savage novel (July, 1933) pits Doc + Five against every Asian stereotype in the Western arsenal. This was when the battlefield atrocities of the first World War were not forgotten and that part of the world continued to boil until WW2 exploded and the Japanese did some stuff just like the Germans did some things. Today Japan is a nation of anime cosplayers and Germany a commune of hippies so laid-back you'd never know they twice tried to murder the world not that long ago.

Pirate Of The Pacific is heavy on Run & Fight (also see Run & Shoot), an exciting yet gratuitous and time-filling endeavor that looks good but is less script than choreography. As I've aged my patience with Run & Fight has diminished greatly. The fight scenes of Ong-Bak and John Wick excel because the choreography is innovative, but run-punch-run-shoot-punch-run-shoot-run-punch nonsense is just that. The shorter and more impressive the better. Having read a number of later Doc Savage books in a row I've been spoiled by their brevity. John Waters once famously said no film should be over ninety minutes. For a original screenplay I can't agree more. Adapting sprawling works of literature is another story. Doc Savage is not Lord Of The Rings and no book deserves more than ninety minutes running time. As monthly pulp fiction it should be consciously limited to ninety minutes as a distinctive genre style. As a general rule one minute of screen time equals one script page. These are novels so I have no idea what the conversion rate would be.

Besides racial stereotyping the book's other major feature is that Doc hasn't yet decided to dial back the death dealing. He doesn't carry a gun but no mercy bullets are in the machine guns his crew uses and Doc doesn't shed a tear when inscrutable, slant-eyed, lemon-skinned Mongols get plugged with lead. At the end Doc seemingly asks for leniency but it's not for the sake of not killing:

"Now!" Doc clipped. "Get 'em in the legs and arms!"

His gun spat. The weapons of his men rapped a multiplied echo. They were crack marksmen, these men. They took their time and planted bullets accurately.

Two yellow men fell out of the launch almost together, bit in the legs. Pain made them squall noisily. Others cackled in agony as slugs, placed with uncanny precision, took them in the hands and arms.

There was psychology behind Doc's command not to kill. One wounded Oriental, yelling bloody murder, could do more to spread fear among his fellows than three or four killed instantly.

Pirate Of The Pacific isn't a bad story. Doc's escapes from calamity are creative and feasible, the action moves well, and the locales are visually exciting. There's just not much to take note of as you read, or at least not much beyond what you already know and expect.

A few things I learned: In 1933 yelling "Get Hot!" at the radio meant the music was swinging. Renny is 6'4". Doc is almost two hundred pounds! Doc's building is 100 stories tall. He later had the upper floors removed and the tenants received free lobotomies! There's an empty office on the 86th floor. Monk rolls his own cigarettes. Doc wears a cool watch that's a receiver for a TV transmitter he hides in bad guy hideouts.

Of all the Doc Savage tropes this has always been my favorite. Doc tries to be reasonable but goes over people's heads when he has to:

"I wish your cooperation," he told Captain Hickman. "Whether you give it or not is up to you. But if you refuse, you may rest assured you will lose your command of this ship within thirty minutes."

Captain Hickman mopped at his face. He was bewildered, angry, a little scared.

Doc noted his indecision. "Call your owners. Ask them about it."

The Malay Queen commander hurriedly complied. He secured a radio-land-line connection with the headquarters of his company in San Francisco He gave a brief description of the situation.

"What about this man Savage?" he finished.

He was wearing earphones. The others did not hear what he was told.

But Captain Hickman turned about as pale as his ruddy face permitted. His hands shook as he placed the headset on the table. He stared at Doc as if wondering what manner of man the big bronze fellow was.

"I have been ordered to do anything you wish, even to turning my command over to you," he said briskly.

The trope of Doc riding outside of cars on the running board is cartoonish and it made the 1975 Film Of Shame that much sillier. Why stay hidden in a bullet-proof vehicle when you can make yourself a billboard-sized target?:

A taxicab took Doc and his five men uptown. Doc rode outside, barehead. standing on the running board. He habitually did that when danger threatened. From this position, Doc's weird golden eyes missed very little - a sniper had hardly a chance of getting a shot at them before he was discovered.


Doc took a cab downtown. The hack driver wondered all the way why his passenger rode the running board of the taxi, rather than inside. The hackman had never before had a thing like that happen.

Unforced error! Ham, not Monk, would be the third person to lack the leg strength needed to stay standing. It only exists for Monk's punch line at the end.

He spun from the window, crossed the office. The speed with which his big bronze form moved was startling. He entered the corridor, glided down it to the end elevator. At his touch upon a secret button, the elevator door leafed back.

So quickly had Doc moved that his five men were still in the office. They piled out, big-fisted Renny in the lead, and joined Doc in the lift.

The cage sank them. It was a special installation, used only by Doc Savage, and geared at terrific speed. Such was the pace of descent that their feet were off the floor for the first sixty stories. Monk, Johnny, and Long Tom were wrenched to their knees by the shock of stopping.

"What I mean, that thing brings you down!" Monk grinned, getting up from all fours.

Seriously? 25 feet like it's nothing?:

Directly below Doc was a sheer drop of perhaps twenty five feet. He sprang down - and so tremendously powerful were his leg muscles that the great leap hardly jarred him.

An early explanation of Doc and guns:

"Aren't you going to carry at least one of these guns?" he queried.

Doc's bronze head shook a negative. "Rarely use them."

"But why?"

Doc was slow answering. He didn't like to talk about himself or his way of operating.

"The reasons I don't use a gun are largely psychological," he said. "Put a gun in a man's hand, and he will use it. Let him carry one and he comes to depend upon it. Take it away from him, and he is lost - seized with a feeling of helpless-ness. Therefore, since I carry no firearms, none can be taken from me to leave the resultant feeling of helplessness."

"But think of the handicap of not being armed!" Mindoro objected.

Doc shrugged and dropped the subject.

Ham and Renny grinned at this word play. Doc handicapped? Not much! They had never seen mighty bronze man in a spot yet where he didn't have a ready way out.

Doc's not sending heathens to their makers like in The Man Of Bronze but this is brutal:

Some terrible, unseen force had struck his jaw, breaking it and all but wiping it off his face.

Guns are killing machines, and Doc knows how to design weapons that bring the pain:

Wham! A gun had appeared magically in Long Tom's pale hand, and loosed a clap of a report.

The bullet caught the Mongol between the eye - and knocked him over backward. His knife flew upward, pointfirst, and embedded in the ceiling.

A cop, drawn by the shot, ran in, tweeting excitedly on his whistle.

There was no trouble over the killing, though. Long Tom, as well as Monk, Renny, Ham and Johnny, held high honorary commissions in the New York police force.


With an angry roar, Renny heaved up. He spun a complete circle, the machine-gun muzzle blowing a red flame from his big fist.

Yells, screams, gasps made a grisly bedlam. Bodies fell. Wounded men pitched about like beheaded chickens.


"Three of the devils were in the car!" Renny grimaced. "They're all ready for the morgue."


Ham's gun hooted its awful song of death. The faces sank from view, several spraying crimson.


Then Ham, Renny and Mindoro joined the fray. Their super-firing machine guns made frightful bull-fiddle sawings. Before those terrific blasts of lead, men fell.

Pirate Of The Pacific was given second-billing as a Sanctum reprint so I assume it's a lesser work. The racism didn't help. I enjoyed it but wished it was shorter. One last quibble was how the identity of Tom Too was always teased at but never revealed, as if he'd be someone you'd least expect. He wound up being a secondary character seen only in one setting. It didn't surprise me one bit since Dent provides a big clue as to why he shouldn't be trusted in the first place:

The first mate was somewhat of a fashion plate, his uniform being impeccable. He was a slender, pliant man with good shoulders and a thin-featured, not unhandsome face. His skin had a deeply tanned hue. His eyes were elevated a trifle at the outer corners, lending a suspicion some of his ancestors had been Orientals. This was not unusual, considering the Malay Queen plied the Orient trade.


The impeccable first mate bowed, his polite smile increasing the Oriental aspect of his features to a marked degree.

006 - The Red Skull:

"Into a subterranean world of red-hot lava, Doc Savage and his fantastic five descend -- to face the most fiendish foe of his career. Awaiting Doc is an irresistible power that can level mountains... that can enslave the world... and that threatens to make Doc's most dangerous adventure his very last."

The sixth Doc Savage adventure, dated August, 1933, is not a bad story if you don't ask much from it and forgive its "smallness" settling in halfway. It lacked one or two more "explosive" plot twists usually peppered into a Doc Savage adventure. With that it could have stood to lose a few pages of word-count. I'm grateful the Monk & Ham bickering isn't aired out ad nauseam, and it's before Stupid Pig and Dumb Ape, so that's also working in its favor. There's nothing wrong with any of the characters and the identity of the mastermind is an true mystery, even if by that I just mean it wasn't made obvious long before the final curtain. The only issue with gadgets was the over-reliance on anesthetic gas as a go-to.

What redeems the book in a big way at the end is how Lester Dent's recent agreement with Street & Smith to tone down the killing is passive-aggressived into a planned execution of the mastermind by his own hand. Here's the bits and pieces, ending with Doc trying not to crack up laughing at Monk sending Buttons to his death:

"We have a task to perform, brothers," he said in a tone which, although low and soft, was absolutely emotionless. "It’s not a pleasant task, but the cause of justice demands that we do it."

His men gathered close, lending intent ears. They knew what was coming. Doc was going to hand the master killer his just deserts!..

Terror-stricken, the masked man spun and fled. The most convenient route lay across the top of the partially completed dam. He went that way.

An unexpected event now occurred. Out of the great maw of the spillway tunnel popped another running man—Buttons Zortell. He, too, chose the handiest avenue of flight—the dam top...

Then the masked man saw a six-gun. It lay on the dam top, in plain view.

The fellow did not stop to reason how the weapon had come there. He saw it only as a means of murder, a tool delivered to him out of a cloudy night sky, that he might slay the giant bronze man whom he feared beyond all beings.

Scooping the gun up, the king killer whirled. He took a deliberate aim at Doc Savage and pulled trigger.

Came a slamming roar! But no bullet left the gun muzzle. Instead, there leaped forth a dazzling white flame sheet. The six-gun barrel had been tamped with photographic flashlight powder!..

He knew his cold-blooded attempt to kill Doc Savage had brought his own death! The flash had actuated the photo-electric bomb! He launched a scream of terror. He was afraid of death...

Nate Raff and Buttons Zortell vanished—sank into a howling, foaming, grinding torrent of muddy water, concrete and steel. The canyon walls quivered from the awful shock of the great dam turning over and tearing to pieces. Boulders as large as cars were jarred off the cliffs...

Safe on the chasm sides, Doc Savage and his men watched. No word was spoken of the flash-powder-loaded gun which Doc had placed upon the dam—the gun which had delivered backfire justice!..

"Monk," Doc said dryly. "Weren’t you guarding Buttons Zortell?"

Monk assumed an injured expression and indicated his left eye, which was slightly peeled.

"Aw-w, can I help it if he popped me in the glim and got away?" he complained.

Doc kept his face straight. He remembered that Monk had expressed an opinion that Buttons Zortell—murderer that he was—should be meted the fullest punishment. That Buttons should escape from Monk at all was remarkable. That he should escape at just the right moment to meet death on the dam was even more remarkable.

I don't know if this was intentional as parody but the evil mastermind is out of the Silent Movie era:

The explosive, he lowered down the inside wall of the dam, letting it sink many yards beneath the dirty, muddy water.

The preparations completed, he kneaded his hands gleefully. A bright light, shown in the canyon depths behind the dam, would result in instant destruction of the great edifice.


"The minute you see Doc Savage on the canyon bed, light this!" the man ordered, and gave the flare to Buttons Zortell.

"What’s it for—a signal?" asked Buttons, somewhat confused.

The masked man hesitated the briefest moment, then chuckled. "That’s it! Sure! It’s a signal!"

"What’ll happen after we signal?" Buttons wanted to know.

"I’ll take care of that!" the other snarled. "Quit chewin’ the fat an’ get movin’! C’mon, drag it! The whole kit an’ kiboodle of you! Hurry things up!"


[So, when Monk washes his hands he tear gasses himself?] MONK snorted gleefully as he ran. Under his finger nails he had carried caked deposits of several chemicals—he wore his nails long for that sole purpose. Dampened and mixed, the compounds gave off a potent form of tear gas.


Renny, engineer of impressive repute, took over the mechanical end—the actual work. He was greeted with sour looks by a number of the underforemen, who resented seeing an outsider in authority.

Within an hour, the grumbling stopped. The complaining ones stared in astonishment. Here was a man, they realized, who knew his stuff!


The plant attendant, a gangling giant almost as big as Renny, let the ammonia compressors overheat. As a result, a bearing froze. Renny raised a roar that could have been heard a mile—not an uncommon performance for a construction man.

The attendant took a swing at Renny—and awakened in the camp hospital four hours later. For the next week, the fellow maintained he had been hit by no human fist—it could have been nothing less than a sixteen-pound rock hammer. Eye-witness testimony was to the contrary.


"You see, Mister Savage, we took it for granted you would aid us," he now offered. "We had heard great things of you, and the strange life you lead. Or at least it seems a somewhat strange existence to me—your business of traveling to the far corners of the earth to help those who need help."

[Doc "The Grim Reaper" is still craving justice] "And punishing those who have it coming to them!" Doc was moved to add, thinking of Monk’s attractive secretary in the hands of Buttons Zortell.


Jud had once thrashed a very small and weak boy for accidentally bumping into him. He had always remembered what a puny little bundle of flesh the kid had been in his hands.

Jud felt like that boy now. Every move he made was thwarted by arms of steel. He swung awful blows—only to have his fists actually seized in midair and shoved back to his side. And wherever the bronze grip of his Nemesis settled, numb and ghastly pain was left.


It was not often that Doc used his fists. When he did, no blows were wasted. Should he have had to strike a second time, he would probably have added a half hour to his daily exercise routine.

Monk's capable assistant Lea Aster makes her first appearance and she's awesome. According to the Sanctum reprint after Pat Savage was introduced there was no need for two of a kind, so Lea was, as George Orwell wrote, made an "unperson":

Dashing forward, Buttons Zortell seized Lea Aster. The blonde screamed, struck at him...

LEA ASTER was an athletic young woman. The roof outside the penthouse held a screened-in tennis court, and few days passed that she and Monk did not play a few hard-fought sets of the game.

She was inflicting punishment on Buttons Zortell. She hit him on the Adam’s apple, a blow Monk had shown her with the assurance that it was one of the most painful that can be landed...

Lea Aster, the instant she was released, sprang upon Buttons Zortell. The force of her charge knocked the man to the floor. They scuffled violently until they were separated...

Lea Aster kicked the man holding her. He gasped, then flung her into a corner...

For answer, Buttons suddenly rushed Lea Aster. He fought with the blonde young woman an instant, then succeeded in knocking her unconscious with a fist blow.


[Enjoy the understated joke from Doc at the end!] From an inner pocket, he drew a small object—a common firecracker of the dime-a-package variety. This was capable of making a report like a gun-shot. It was fitted with an extra long fuse. Doc sometimes found it convenient to have a shot sound occur at one point while he was at another. He carried the firecrackers for this purpose.

He placed it carefully beside the watch, lighted it, and quit the tenement...

Behind him, the earth seemed to fly to pieces. The pavement convulsed under the concussion of a terrific explosion. Smoke and débris spouted from the sashless tenement windows. Bricks fell out of the walls. Should any one have been in the vacant building, there was no question but that they would have died...

"But what caused that explosion?"

"I left a firecracker behind."

Monk snorted. "No firecracker could make a blast like that!"


[ A "televisiphone"] Ham glanced at his watch. "Monk will want to be in on this. What say we call him?"

Doc nodded. Striding to a desk, he flipped one of five small switches.

On the desk stood what seemed to be a box with a frosted glass panel in one end. As Doc moved the switch, a movielike image appeared on the panel.

This mechanism was a telephone-television apparatus of Doc’s construction. The five switches connected to circuits that led to the places of business of Doc’s five men—a switch for each man.

On the scanning screen of the televisor appeared the interior of Monk’s laboratory in a penthouse atop an office building near Wall Street...

Doc spoke into a microphone which was part of the mechanism. "Is Monk there?"

"Not yet," Lea Aster’s voice, rich and modulated as finely as the tones of a high-salaried radio singer, came from a loudspeaker built into the televisor. "He hasn’t come in yet."

"Have him give us a look when he arrives," Doc replied.

This was clever on the part of the bad guys:

Doc did not reply with words. He leveled an arm at the city telephone, which stood on a table near them. The receiver was off the hook and resting on the table top.

Moving to the instrument swiftly, Doc pressed the receiver to his ear. He heard sounds of a man breathing. These persisted several seconds...

Buttons Zortell was the man at the other end of the phone wire. Something of the sudden tension which had seized the laboratory was transmitted to him. He became alarmed. Hanging up quickly, he quitted the booth from which he had been listening and hurried outside.

I think this is the first instance of this nonsense where flexing a muscle releases a gas. Muscles flex all the time!:

Inside his right coat sleeve, over the biceps, was a small, secret pocket. This had held several thin-walled glass balls. They contained a quick-spreading anaesthetic gas which produced instant unconsciousness—yet which became harmless after diffused in the air more than a minute.

Doc had merely broken the balls to release the gas, by tensing his tremendous biceps muscle, and held his breath until the vapor became impotent. The men would be senseless for some time.

Doc and Guns:

For once, Doc could have made good use of a gun. No firearm was at hand, however. He never carried one, although he could handle them with unbelievable accuracy.

There was a good psychological reason behind Doc’s decision not to carry a gun—he did not want to form the habit of relying on one, for well did he know that no person is quite as much at loss as a gunman without his gun.


No golf balls lay on the fairways, not even luminous balls of the type sometimes used by those eccentric persons who play night golf.


[Buttons Zortell] This man had two scars, one on either cheek. They looked like gray buttons sewed to his leathery brown features, and indicated that he had been shot through the face sometime in the past.


[When you called a newspaper they told you anything you wanted to know?]"I don’t know as I blame the boss, at that. I got a newspaper on the phone as soon as we hit New York. They gave me the dope on Savage. What I mean, it was plenty! I figured at first they was kiddin’ me. So I called another newspaper—and they told me the same stuff."


"I got Doc Savage’s life history," Buttons snorted. "It seems his dad trained ‘im from the cradle to make a superman out of ‘im.


[Later changed to his real name and not his nickname] The express elevator lifted Bandy to the eighty-sixth floor. He experienced no difficulty in locating the door he sought. The plain panel bore, in extremely small bronze-colored letters, the two words:



The speed elevator braked to a stop, doors opening quietly. Doc drove a swift glance at several large mirrors across the lobby. These were part of the modernistic decoration scheme—although they had been installed only after Doc became a tenant in the skyscraper. They were arranged so as to reflect the interior of the lobby to any one within the elevator cage.

Not a great book but not that bad either once it's all said and done. The deliberate set-up to crush the main bad guys under tons of crushing death was sweet, and the rest get lobotomies - on the house!

007 - The Lost Oasis:

"While seeking to solve the mystery of "the trained vampire murders," Doc Savage and his amazing crew suddenly find themselves prisoners of Sol Yuttal and Hadi-Mot aboard a hijacked Zeppelin. Their deadly destination is a fabulous lost diamond mine guarded by carnivorous plants and monstrous, bloodsucking bats."

The seventh Doc Savage pulp wins on points in spite of yet also because of its weird elements. There's two large sections where Doc & Co. and Bad Guys, Inc. are separated and battle mainly from afar, but they don't feel as time-stalling as what you'll trip over in other Doc adventures. Poisonous giant bats, large man-eating plants, circling vultures, and killer snakes populate a desert oasis ripe with flawless raw diamonds, and a lost zeppelin is the only way in or out. Neato! This one's dated September, 1933.

There's an overuse of anesthetic gas, Monk & Ham's squabbles are annoying, and Ham's the group's designated general wise-guy d-bag:

"This," Monk said emphatically, "is beyond a question the hottest spot on earth! I'm as roasted as a turkey!"

To which Ham sneered: "No, you're not! You can still gobble."

I'm glad that didn't last long in the series. Vultures are called "Pharaoh's hens!" and the zeppelin's skin is made from linen and "Goldbeater's Skin" - the outer membrane of a calf's intestine.

The bats are a neat trick but also problematic. It's vague if they're trained or just crazed killers who come running for food when one guy whistles. Here's more on "The Fluttering Death":

A ghastly event occurred there in the sepia gloom. A listener might have heard Jules take a few steps. Then came a strange sound. A hideous sound! It was low, fluttering. It might have come from some foul cloth, gently shaken, for there was a loathsome odor.

Jules heard. He screeched - a ripping cry of terror which seared the membranes of his throat! His feet banged the deck as he ran wildly! His gun crashed again and again! Frenzied shots!

The gruesome fluttering became louder, more violent It overtook Jules. A thud! The sound was not loud.

Jules shrieked - shrieked again and again! It was as though he were crying out his very life stream. His screeching became a spasmodic gurgling. The gurgling weakened, weakened until at last nothing at all could be heard.

A dreadful silence followed. It persisted for some seconds. From far off In the darkness sounded a series of tiny, squeaky whistles.

As if this were some sort of a signal, the hideous fluttering sound arose where Jules had fallen. There was a wave of the faint, nauseating odor. The fluttering receded in the darkness until finally swallowed by distance...

The man lay on his back, limbs contorted in frightful fashion. His hand still gripped the revolver. His eyes protruded, his teeth were bared. His expression was that of a death mask of ghastly terror. A single horrible tear gaped in Jules's throat. Through this, it was evident much of his blood had been sucked.


"Vampire bats!" He began dispatching the things with his gun...

"Ugh!" she shuddered. "They're just ordinary vampire bats, except that they are poisonous, and very large. Hadi-Mot takes care of them. He has trained the things to come when he makes a tiny squeaking noise. He always makes that sound for a time before he feeds them."

Doc had been inspecting the hideous snouts of the things. Now he straightened.

"I thought perhaps the fangs were artificially poisoned," he said. "But that is not the case. They seem to be venomous by nature. Did you ever hear where they came from?"

"From some savage native tribe far in the interior of Africa, I think," the young woman replied. "The tribal witch doctors had developed the things, spending generations at the task. They used them to murder savages upon whom they had cast a spell. At least, that is what Hadi-Mot boasted. He and Yuttal lived with that tribe when they were trading."

"That probably explains it," Doc decided. "The things are bloodthirsty by nature, and when famished, will go for any living form. The venomous quality might be developed through a process of feeding or breeding."

It would have worked better if the criminals trained a few and kept them separate from the colony of hundreds of others living in a cave. The portable rattan cages they use when the colony is set free are vital to the ending but weak on their own. Walking around in a rattan box you're holding onto isn't going to stop giant vampire bats from knocking it over. The Lost Oasis falls short in the logistics of how the bats are kept, how they're released, and what happens once released. Better to have a few pets do something specific and then have the rest live in a gated cave, and when released at night they go nuts and fly back before sunrise. When released, the bad guys and slaves are locked in secure housing. But then you can't have the criminals die as they did by the irony of their own hand!

The slaves as human shields was a good scene:

From half a dozen different points, compact groups of men appeared. They advanced, moving with a slow, shuffling tread - a tread of men going to their death Some of them shrieked wildly and sought to break away from the groups! But chains held them back.

These men were the slaves. They were being used by Yuttal and his gang as living shields.

"Holy COW!" Renny groaned. "Now they've got us! Our gas is no good! Yuttal's thugs are masked!"

DOC AND the others held their fire. They could not, of course, shoot down these defenseless, shackled men - although most of the slaves seemed to think that might happen. It was a study in human emotions to watch them advancing. Some had steeled themselves to a sort of exaggerated unconcern. Others trembled until they could hardly walk. Many strode mechanically, like men already dead. A few had collapsed and were being dragged.

Doc's machine guns shoot real bullets but the death count is series standard for Doc Savage:

The gun roared, firing so swiftly that it set the air throbbing as if a Gargantuan bull fiddle had come to life!

Shrieking, the skulker dragged himself back! His leg was mangled.


Doc's small bag opened silently under his bronze fingers. He removed a small container. This held a rather bilious looking powder.

Doc sprinkled a thin film of the powder upon the deck, covering an area several feet in all directions from the body. The instant the powder came from the container, it glowed brilliantly. It became like liquid fire!

But after the stuff came to rest on the deck, it ceased to glow except in spots.

The spots which still shone marked the ill-fated Jules's footprints, as well as Doc's own!

Doc Savage had many weird chemical mixtures at his command. Probably none were more unique than this powder. It had the quality of glowing only when jarred. The jarring caused the particles to break, exposing new surfaces to the air, and these shone momentarily because of a reaction between the compound and the air.

Why the footprints glowed was simply explained. Jules and Doc, stepping upon the deck planks, had depressed the wood to a microscopic degree with their weight. The wood fibers, still in the process of springing back into position, were jarring the unusual powder enough to cause it to expose new surfaces to the air, thus creating a phosphorescent reaction.


[Note they're larger than the condensed milk cans that followed] EVERY ONE at once donned the somewhat bulky fluoroscopic eyeglasses. These were near the size of shoe boxes, for their functions were intricate. They were not very heavy, however. In addition to being padded to fit the face, they were held in position by straps.


From the rear of Doc's jaws, an extra pair of molars were removed. These teeth were hollow shells containing two chemicals which, when mixed, produced a powerful explosive.


Johnny pulled at his jaw with a bony hand. Of the five, Johnny was the freshest. His qualities of endurance were astounding. He never tired. Ham claimed this was because there was nothing on Johnny's bones to get tired, Johnny being only a few degrees more plump than a skeleton.


It was a peculiarity of Johnny's gaunt physique that he needed more drinking water than the average man.


Once, in signaling a turn, the driver held out his hand. The hand was enormous. Indeed, it was such a huge hand that a motorist, an observant fellow, who chanced to be driving behind, blinked in amazement.


The muscular development of the bronze man was such as to command attention anywhere. Sinews wrapped his form like great cables. Their size, the way they seemed to flow like liquid bronze, denoted a strength little short of superhuman. Yet, because all the muscles in his giant figure were developed to an equal degree, Doc's form possessed an unusual symmetry. There was none of the knotty, bull-necked look of the professional strong man about him.


Rumors about Doc's feats were plentiful, however, and from these some of the most inventive scribes had turned out yarns which, although a bit careless of the facts in spots, made interesting reading. They ascribed to Doc the ability to do almost anything. Since the bronze man was something of a phantom, about whom few facts were obtainable, the writers let their imaginations run riot.


"You're sure they won't kill?' Doc asked sharply.

"Positive!" declared Monk.

"That is well," Doc replied. "We don't want any killing except when necessary in defense of human life."


Only Doc was unmoved. He rarely laughed, unless for the purpose of putting some one at ease, or in playing a part - which did not necessarily mean he was perpetually gloomy. He merely did not show delight, just as he rarely betrayed horror, disgust or other emotion.


[What the H does this mean?] His flashlight beam seemed to collapse in mid-air as he switched it off.


[cute line] His flashlight beam did a spooky dance, so shaky was the hand which held it.


"And watch out!" Doc continued. "I am not yet sure whether these two are friends or enemies. Keep your eyes peeled. You may be attacked or they may be attacked. In the latter case, I want you to guard them."


One of them was by far the fattest man Doc had ever seen. The fellow was hardly more than five feet in height, and he seemed almost that thick. He was a great, lardy ball, with flapping sacks of fat for arms and legs.

The fat man's head narrowly missed being a part of his round body. It was hardly more than a hump. His mouth was a gigantic curve; his nose was enormous; his eyes were very large.

Ample features usually lend a pleasant aspect to the human face. They did not do so to this fellow. His features were so evil as to be appalling.


"You're Doc Savage!" he gulped. "Say, mister, there wouldn't be a chance of me collectin' that million-bucks reward, would there? The dough was supposed to be paid to the guy that found you!"

"It happens that I found you," Doc pointed out sardonically. "Anyway, you're a few hours too late."


Doc himself wondered what latest act of Monk's had got under Ham's skin. He soon saw what it was. Monk was wearing an outfit of clothing, from hat to spats, which exactly matched Ham's garb. On Ham, the somewhat flashy attire was sartorial perfection. But the garb made the homely Monk look like he was rigged up for a carnival spieling job.


[Alternate title for the series] They might have been designated as the firm of Trouble Busters, Inc.


Doc entered the library. He possessed a great file of newspaper clippings, kept up to date for him by a firm engaged in such work.


Doc did not trouble to get a taxi. He took the center of the street, where the going was less hampered, and ran.


Manhattan is a narrow strip of land surrounded by water. A fast car can reach the water front in a few moments from any part of the isle. In a boathouse on the Hudson River side of the island, Doc Savage kept two amphibian planes. One was a monster high-speed trimotored craft, The other was an autogyro, also of rather large size. Both craft had silenced motors.


[Not a chance of anyone getting hurt] "Get well ahead of the machine," Doc told Renny. "We'll drop a few fistfuls of Monk's gas bombs in the path of the cab. When the car runs into the vapor, those aboard win be made unconscious. Pick a spot where the road is crooked-where the taxi will be traveling slowly. We don't want any one hurt."

The good outweighs the not-so-good, and if you power through the sections where distance separates the warring parties you should enjoy this a decent amount for the decent amount of decentness it offers.

008 - The Sargasso Ogre:

"A ruthless attempt on the life of one of Doc’s crew thrusts the Man of Bronze and his incomparable companions into a chilling new adventure. From the ancient, skull-lined catacombs of Alexandria to a fantastic sea of floating primitive life where they unravel the centuries-old mystery of the Sargasso, Doc Savage and his men once more pursue the perverse agents of evil!"

"He went directly to the high poop."

"A narrow, low door admitted to the poop"

The Sargasso Ogre is one of the better Doc Savage books for a few reasons - 1) The bad guy is a decent opponent for Doc in the muscles and fighting department, 2) The Sargasso Sea exists and part of Bermuda Triangle lore, and it's easier to visualize ships, seaweed, flotsam, and jetsam correctly than a fantastical place under the earth or sea, and 3) It's a great story that drags only a little to hit word quota. Doc's alone for almost half the book, and that's usually a good thing. The book failed me three times, but otherwise it's a fun adventure and worthy of your "valuable" leisure time. 

The Sargasso Sea is a real place teeming with fish, sea flora, and non-biodegradable plastic waste. Not so much boats. The premise of this adventure came from a 1909 book and 1929 silent film titled The Isle Of Lost Ships. The Sargasso Ogre was a silent book that came out in October of 1933. It's also #8 in the Doc Savage series and also supposedly Lester Dent's favorite.

I'll leave the lesser things for last because The Sargasso Ogre has better features to highlight. Ham & Monk die for reals and Doc has to go John Travolta on them like what happened to Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction: "Doc Savage, introducing adrenalin and other stimulants with a long hypodermic needle, which actually reached the hearts of the two men, caused the pulse to start once more."

Jacob Black Bruze as The Sargasso Ogre is a great Doc villain who loses points by turning coward after his big fist fight with Doc which lasts longer than usual for the series. If Dent didn't make him a putz after that, Bruze might easily be the best Doc Savage bad guy of all time:

A grim, hawk-faced giant occupied a chair in the center of the cabin. The night was warm, made sticky by the rain, and he wore no shirt. His torso was enormously muscled. He had a set of biceps which were only a little smaller than footballs...

"Don't you guys get worried." Bruze held up his right arm and flexed the muscles. The limb seemed to acquire additional ligaments -- it became unbelievably huge and hard.


The stranger was balancing expertly on his hands and raising and lowering himself. This was no mean feat, but he was doing it easily. And he did it innumerable times.

He had a regulation exerciser of spring cables. Five such cables were all an ordinary man could handle. Yet there were more than fifteen strands on this apparatus. After working out with that a while, the man turned a score or more of handsprings, flinging himself high into the air.


Doc Savage skirted the embattled crowd and whipped toward Bruze.

The Sargasso Ogre saw him.

Instead of retreating, Bruze rushed forward. This was remarkable in itself. Few in number were the men who, after obtaining a hint of Doc's enormous strength, had ever sought to close with him. But Bruze was probably the strongest man Doc had ever pitted himself against.

Bruze had a pleased leer on his hawklike features. He was supremely confident in his muscles. They were huge. Already, tensing knots of them had torn out his shirt sleeves and ripped his shirt across the shoulders. It looked as if the man were bloated.

The two men met thuddingly! Two leviathans of bone and flesh. Blows smacked-blows which sank like fingers jabbed into putty, although the sinews upon which they landed were tough as bundled wire.

The pleasure suddenly went out of Bruze's leer. A shocked look came on his predatory features. His expression was that of a man who had met up with an unpleasant miracle. He had never dreamed there was a foe such as this bronze man.

Doc, too, was somewhat startled. This man Bruze had a strength little, if any, short of his own.

Both men knew most of the fighting tricks in the book. Bruze tried battering with his fists, only to miss two thirds of his swings. He resorted to biting, gouging, kicking, and even clutched at his knife.

A bronze fist drove him backward before he could get the blade!

They smashed together again! They toppled to the deck! They grasped each other, and so terrific was their clutch that when their fingers slipped, skin came away as if scalded.

As a fight, it was virtually even. But Bruze was not satisfied with that.

"Help me!" he bellowed at his men. "Scrag this guy! Shoot him! Use a knife!"...

Bruze began to squeal and hiss as he fought. This did him no good. It merely wasted his breath. And it showed he was getting scared about the outcome of this hand-to-hand battle he had entered so confidently.

He was accustomed to opponents who were like rabbits in his grasp, not a tawny tiger who was his own equal.

Bruze got a grip on Doc's throat.

Doc whirled.

Bruze tried to hang on, but was flung off. He spun down the deck like a vaudeville tumbler, his great strength warding off injury.

He came to his feet. It was then that he realized his gang I was whipped. Instead of returning to the attack, he vaulted over the rail and vanished toward the weedy water.


The pair stood there a while, hands cupped back of their ears.

"Ain't nothin' to do but wait!" Bruze growled. "Dammit! If it hadn't been for this wound of mine, I'd have gone along!"

This made it plain that Bruze was using the imaginary injury to keep out of any engagement in which he might encounter Doc.

Doc's on top of his game, great but not descended from Mount Olympus:

[I've always liked this one] Doc had a fair knowledge of this section of Alexandria, just as he had, stored in his retentive memory, what amounted to a map of every large city on the globe. This was part of an amazing course of training which Doc had administered to himself -- a training to fit himself for this strange life work of helping those in need of help, and punishing those who deserved it.


[He did and he didn't, but mostly didn't] Doc got the door open. He whipped through, hands empty except for his flashlight. Doc Savage never used a gun in his fighting.


Doc kept the orchestra going most of the time. At his suggestion, only the liveliest tunes were rendered. He himself devised new arrangements when the old pieces grew stale, showing in the process that he possessed a knowledge of music as remarkable as his learning along other lines.


[As seen in Alien] Doc was seeking a large ship, one aboard which he could play something in the nature of a frightful game of hide and seek with his pursuers. He was a master at that sort of thing. He could seek them out, one or a few at a time, and overpower them until they gave up in terror and fled.


Doc studied the charming picture she presented. Along with his other training for his perilous career of hunting trouble, he had taken a course in feminine psychology. Sometimes he wondered if he had learned anything, after all. The intricacies of the feminine mind were beyond any psychologist.


Doc told them all the latest news, including the newest in feminine styles. When he saw how pathetically eager they were, he used crayons, which some one produced, and sketched the summer dress models from Paris and New York.

Another man would have been astounded at Doc's knowledge of these things. To the ladies, it was scarcely less remarkable.


Doc was woman-proof. In his life, with its constant peril and violence, there was no place for the fair sex.

Consequently, he disregarded them. He simply exercised his remarkable will power and carefully avoided any entanglements.

This was not difficult for Doc. But it was occasionally tough on the young women who came in contact with the bronze man's amazing personality. They could not help but be attracted.

Doc was not unaware of the effect he had upon the fair sex. So he took care not to be snared, even by so gorgeous a young lady as this titian-haired queen.


His rather pleasant, unlovely features, bore numerous ancient scars -- thin, gray lines, as if a chicken with chalk feet had paraded on his face.


[Would have been nice if Ham used the "sheath portion" as a defensive weapon and club while also using his sword cane.] THEY returned to Doc's suite, where Ham secured the sheath portion of his sword cane. When the blade was cased, it became an innocent black walking stick. Ham was never seen without this article.


Johnny squinted through his peculiar spectacles. "Do you want to bet that it was not the unwhiskered Santa Claus who searched Doc's suite?"...

It was a habit of Johnny's, this offering to wager -- but he never suggested a bet where there was a chance of losing.

The Sargasso Sea Junkyard is a great setting:

The Cameronic had drifted almost to the center of the Sargasso Sea during the night! They had reached the spot told of in story and legend!

Ships were before them. An amazing fleet! They seemed to date from all ages. Some were comparatively spic and span, craft which had been here only a matter of weeks or months. Others were older. Centuries older, if their strange construction was a guide.

Many of the craft floated high in the water. More were half-hull deep. Not a few were water-logged and practically submerged -- little more than mounds in the repellent, yellow weed. Some were canted on their sides. Here and there, one had capsized completely.

Monk started counting, but speedily gave it up. The number of the derelicts was bewildering. Their masts were like a naked jungle on the horizon.

The hulks had been brought together by the push of ocean currents from all sides. Nor was the strange forest composed of ships alone. There was everything that would float -- sticks, planks, hatches, logs, bottles, metal barrels, and wooden barrels! Every conceivable kind of trash!...

The wrecks were not jammed as closely together as it had seemed from a distance. A few rubbed rail to rail. But many floated some yards from the nearest neighbor.


"Men -- women, too -- have been here for generations," she said. "No one knows for just how long. Some of the Sargasso Ogre's gang are descendants of people who have been here a century or more. They are the worst. Long existence in this place seems to drain every human quality."...

"THERE have always been bad men in the Sargasso," Kina la Forge went on. "But they have been controlled. We had a government, a tiny republic, such as the books say you have in the United States. My father was president."


Doc drew a small case from a pocket. This held a peculiar powder. At frequent intervals, he dropped a pinch on the tunnel floor...

Ahead of them, marking the way to the exit, was a procession of glowing spots. These might have been red-hot coals! As a matter of fact, they were the chemical powder which Doc had sprinkled along his incoming path. This powder, although it possessed no glow at first, became phosphorescent after a short exposure to damp air.


Doc had thrust two fingers far back in his mouth. They came out, bearing two molars. These were extras which Doc always wore. They held two different chemical mixtures.


Upon his finger tips were the tiny hypodermic needles which administered the sleep drug. These needles were in- cased in cleverly made thimbles of bronze. Their presence upon his fingers could hardly be detected.

The fact that the thimbles were not noticeable, immediately gave Bruze's men the idea that Doc possessed supernatural powers. For, at his mere touch, whiskered. tough-muscled villains were stopped in their tracks. In each instance, they seemed to sleep a few seconds on their feet, then slump heavily to the deck, where their slumbers were continued.

Violence is generally reduced from how it flowed in the first books:

The trouble was not long coming. Weather tarpaulins were up on the bridge of the Cameronic. A knife blade furtively opened a rip in one of these. A rifle barrel appeared.

Doc's alert eyes discerned the weapon. What followed took only snap parts of a second. Doc swept the compact little machine gun from Monk's furry paw. It stuttered -- twelve reports, perhaps! They were so swift that no ear could have counted them, or hardly have distinguished them one from the other.

Behind the weather cloth, a man jumped up like a toy on a string. He screamed, whirled around and around, dervish fashion, and pawed at a mutilated arm. Then he ran for cover...

On the bridge, two men ran into view with automatic pistols. But before they could fire, Doc's compact weapon racketed again. The pair seemed to melt down as lead tore at their legs.

Doc was refraining deliberately from killing; his men would do likewise.


Doc lunged in. He was a bit too late. Captain Stanhope, little old grandma that he was, had not the strength to match his opponent.

The latter twisted his gun into the skipper's chest, and pulled the trigger.

The roaring explosion caused the gun to jump backward from the skipper's chest as if it were a scared thing! The bullet tunneled through Captain Stanhope's heart, went on, and parted his spine. He was instantly dead -- dead beyond even Doc Savage's miraculous ability to restore life.

The killer sought to turn his gun on Doc, but didn't succeed. It was doubtful if he even saw the fist which hit him. But his ugly jaw suddenly skewered over and under one ear.

Nice Stuff:

[Opening lines] AN American man of letters once said that, if a man built a better mousetrap, the world would beat a path to his door.

Pasha Bey was like that. His output was not mousetraps, but it was the best of its kind. Being modern, Pasha Bey had become president of a vast organization which specialized in his product. The fame of Pasha Bey was great. From all of Egypt, men beat a path to his door, which was likely to be anywhere in Alexandria. They came to buy his product, of course.

Pasha Bey's product was murder!


It was necessary to keep a close watch to avoid collision with floatsam. At one point, he maneuvered around a large life raft.

There were at least half a dozen skeletons upon the raft, lying in the lashings of rotting ropes. They were victims of some sea tragedy, no doubt, individuals who had perished of thirst or hunger long before their raft had been carried into the Sargasso.


The gunner saw Doc. His eyes bulged. His mouth dropped open and his tongue hung out. It was the first time Doc had ever seen a surprised man's tongue hang out.


DOC SAVAGE and Long Tom glided into the gloom-filled tunnel. They had held back from the fight, practicing a policy of letting dog eat dog.


Captain Ned Stanhope, his name was. He was a little old grandma of a man.


The water strung down out of the heavens like oyster soup.


Renny took charge. Their fighting campaign, to be effective, required some one in command.

Although Doc's five aids held an equal ranking, it was the big-fisted engineer who was most fitted for the present emergency. Renny was a master of tactics. Had the job ahead involved chemistry, Monk would have assumed control; had it been an electrical task, Long Tom would have led.


[Casually eating a candy bar is a rare Doc thing, and did he pay for it?!] Employing a regular lifeboat davit, Doc lowered his shell to the surface. Munching chocolate he had taken from the Cameronic candy shop, he slid down the ropes and planted himself carefully in the light hull.

The three lesser aspects of the book are Doc in disguise (small thing), Jacob Black Bruze's twinge of ethical remorse (larger thing), and the violent resolution of hostilities at the end (big thing). I never believe it when Doc disguises himself, especially on the fly, as another person well known to others in his group. It's a suspension of disbelief for children and adults who let this go because they figure they're reading something aimed at children. Doc as "Big Shiek":

Seven evil-looking men now appeared in a group. They were chuckling at the expense of one of their number. This fellow was very fat, judging from the flabby bulges which stuffed his garments. If his appearance was any criterion, he would weigh at least three hundred pounds.

His skin was a brownish color. He wore a flowing burnoose of fine silk, and had curly black hair. He was a half-caste white.

His face was swathed partially in bandages. He carried one arm in a sling.

"Wallah!" he gritted with a strong Arabic accent. "By the beard of my father, I will stick a knife in the next man who makes what he calls the wisecrack!"

Considering the premise it's obvious Bruze and his gang have killed at least hundreds of people, and since there are no children I assume they were also not allowed to live when their ships were lost to the Sargasso Sea. Bruze soon enough would be killing the 300 people from the newly wrecked Cameronic. Why then does Dent give us this?:

He advanced, keeping well under cover. He felt a little queer inside, and a strange sort of reluctance possessed him. Bruze was a calloused thug. He did not recognize these subconscious urgings for what they were.

Somewhere inside Bruze there was a speck of humanity. A tiny trace of a decent man! Bruze had had nothing to do with this inner fellow for so long that he had forgotten his presence.

The simple fact was that Bruze felt reluctant to perform the horrible deed he was contemplating. In spite of himself, he hoped those aboard the battleship would surrender.

The self-created death trap, a staple of the Doc Savage oeuvre, serves its dramatic purpose but is otherwise a cheap out. Doc's been effectively hit-and-running Bruze and his men for a while so Bruze, a smart person, shouldn't be falling for the ship he's surrounded with floating gasoline being now free and clear of any danger to himself. The ship's former inhabitants have surrendered to the location where he keeps his most secret possession, and a pile of loot is on the abandoned ship for easy plucking? Bruze and most of his men go on the gasoline death trap with Doc still alive? I guess so...

A small annoyance - "A flip freed the grapple... The silken line was enameled". A rope has to have weight in order to undo a grapple hook. Here the line is enameled, so maybe, but usually it's just a thin silk strand that can't be a rope because then it would be too bulky to wear in your vest.

To make The Sargasso Ogre a great book, and most likely the best ever, I'd drop Doc's Big Sheik disguise, jettison Bruze's foreign thoughts of remorse, have Bruze never be a coward or shrink away from fighting Doc directly, and redo the ending to get Bruze and his men on the doomed vessel in a way that doesn't break the back of credulity.

009 - The Czar Of Fear:

"DOC SAVAGE IS ACCUSED OF MURDER! The bronze giant battles police, thugs, and a macabre foe in a spectacular struggle to save a city from total desolation. The Arch Enemy of Evil pits his tremendous resources against the grisly and mysterious Green Bell--the sinister hooded figure whose deadly genius threatens to destroy Doc and drive thousands of innocent people mad!"

Number nine in the series, dated November, 1933, The Czar Of Fear was probably a neat book if you were hitting puberty. As an adult I found it filled with the kind of nonsense only a child finds feasible. As adult reading it's bad and at times laughably so. Is it then a bad book? Not that as much as slapped together for young readers who take everything at face value. If you're a lawyer you might rip apart every legal drama as wrong on many levels of process and procedure. I'm doing that with The Czar Of Fear because I'm not twelve.

Where to start... where not to start? The Green Bell outfits are tall cylinders " might have been a black six-foot tube of flexible India rubber, except that it had arms and legs." Not practical for running around committing murders, and especially bad for sitting, and there's times to wear a costume, but not when being seen wearing said costume in public will immediately give you away as a member of the Green Bell's gang.

If you're The Green Bell hisself you can wear a gong under your Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man costume to alert your men within talking distance instead of simply saying out loud that they should assist you. And did you know random thug criminal types with police records can accuse you of murdering a stranger and the police will come after you like you just killed the entire cast on-stage at the Ambassador Theatre's 1933 revival of "Springtime For Henry"? It's true!

An immobile scarecrow wearing a Green Bell costume will fool a room of people it's a real person, and its voice will sound relatively normal even though it's coming from a pipe that runs under the ground a good distance and then drops 250 feet down. If you tie a wire to a bottle buried in the earth it will pull the trigger on a machine gun hidden in a tree. Ventriloquism works even if you can't see the speaker, or think a ventriloquist is in a certain place, or there's no attempt at physical misdirection. Doc's offer to buy all of Prosper City's industries and then sell them back makes no sense when he could just throw more money at people like he does anyway, and Doc's a swell guy for enlisting men on a mission that might get them killed, but at least their families will get by financially for as long as Doc is around to make the payments:

"You fellows are going to earn that money," Doc told them. "You are going to form an armed guard to protect the plants as we open them. Some of you may be killed. But the family of any man who dies in the line of duty will receive a trust-fund income of two hundred dollars a month for the balance of life."

The Green Bell's identity is obvious because of bits like this. When early on in a Doc novel it's asked who the secret mastermind could possibly be, you've already met him:

"The Green Bell telephoned us," was the droned answer. "He just said for us to follow you and kill you and your men when we got a chance. We were not to harm the two women and Ole Slater."

When Doc sinks his hand into someone's arm to where his fingers sink all the way in, that's also a sign the person's not a nice fellow. The insanity device turns anyone near it insane in short order, so who volunteered to place it next to Slick Cooley's jail cell and then come back later while it's still on to remove it? The last major fail is when Doc tricks Tugg into thinking The Green Bell set him up to be killed. Tugg goes to Doc Savage instead of trying to find and kill The Green Bell, and he even admits to the police he committed murders, but then when The Green Bell whispers to him in Aunt Nora's house it was all Doc's doing, Tugg's back on board with the Green Bell.

On lesser notes in the lesser column, the exclamation abuse is brutal! The endless wondering the identity of the Green Bell is filler. Trilling is used repeatedly as a signal and it also speeds up hypnotism. Knowing the population of Prosper City would have been helpful because it's vague as to how many people were out of work and why are there thirty policemen and there's a city newspaper so that must mean something vis-a-vis population. A bunch of Doc Savage novels would be easier to visualize if you knew something as mundane as population counts.

On the plus side, Aunt Nora is twice called "A Brick", and it's fun how the bad guys think they can hire Doc as contract muscle. Long Tom calls mosquitoes "Jersey Canaries". The Czar Of Death also contains the first reference to The Hidalgo Trading Co. warehouse.


"Doc Savage can! Take the word of an old woman who knows enough to discount half of what she hears. Doc Savage is a man who was trained from the cradle for the one purpose in life of righting wrongs. They say he's a physical marvel, probably the strongest man who ever lived. And moreover he's studied until he knows just about everything worth knowing from electricity and astronomy to how to bake a decent batch of biscuits."


Doc grasped the fellow's arms. Bronze fingers all but sank from view as they tightened.

An agonized wail was forced through the man's teeth. He dropped his gun. The excruciating pressure on his arm muscles caused his fingers to distend like talons.

He tried to kick backward. But pain had rendered him as limp as a big rag. His head drooped; his eyes glazed. He was on the verge of fainting from the torture.

Doc tucked the slack figure under an arm, entered the speed elevator, and rode back to the eighty-sixth floor.


[Doc uses a gun] Doc reached for the pistol which he had taken from the fake watchman. He rarely carried a gun himself. He held the opinion that a man who carried a firearm would come to put too much dependence on it, and accordingly, would be the more helpless if disarmed.

An ear could barely divide the twin roar which his shots made. The charging pair seemed to go lopsided, reel, then topple down, two loose bundles of arms and legs.

Long Tom:

Ordinarily, Long Tom kept a level head; but on rare occasions, he flew into a great rage. He was having one of his tantrums now. The accusations against Doc had heated him to the exploding point


AS THE women were leaving, the gorilla ambled upon the scene.

This personage had, to give him his due, some man-like qualities. His finger nails were manicured, even if the job had been done with a pocketknife. His little eyes glistened with keen intelligence in their pits of gristle. His face attained that rare quality of being so homely that it was pleasant to look upon.

His clothing was expensive, although it did look like it had been slept in. He would weigh every ounce of two hundred and sixty pounds, and his hairy arms were some inches longer than his bandy legs.


Then he hit Slick. Hit him on the nose!

Slick's curly hair was varnished straight back on his head. The blow was so hard that it made the hair stand out suddenly in front, as if blown by a wind from behind.

Describing a parabola, Slick lit on his shoulders and skidded a score of feet. His nose had been spread over most of his weasel face.

Doesn't Work:

The voice was pouring from an underground pipe! "Never mind," the master mind said hastily, apprehensive lest his hirelings learn the figure in the barn was only a stuffed dummy of wood and fabric. possibly two hundred and fifty feet below.


BACK TO the open front window, Doc moved. The wall of one circus tent was not many yards distant. He faced this. The remarkable muscles in his throat knotted into strange positions.

He spoke loudly, using ventriloquism. His words seemed to come from the tent wall. They were strange words -- a not unmusical stream of gutturals.


The officers advanced. Counting Doc's four aids and the score of recruits for the food distribution, there came near being one prisoner for every policeman.

The search got under way. Monk coughed loudly. Instantly, every captive brought his right hand in contact with the face or hands of the lawman who was frisking him.

The Policemen toppled over like mown bluegrass. They lay where they fell, snoring loudly.


[Talking to himself about his plans?] Slick had been facing the camera when he whispered: "I'll plant my toy there, then go to Chief Clements's office and wait for him to turn up!"

Doc Savage was a proficient lip reader.


"That explains what just happened here, Ham! Jim Cash hid his evidence against the Green Bell, and marked the hiding place on his arm! He must have written me a letter from Prosper City, suggesting that, in case he was killed, I should look on his arm for the information."


A machine gun was lashed to the tree. Its ugly snout angled downward. Doc sidled along the limb, examined it. He sighted down the barrel. It was aimed at the tiny recess in the thorns, which probably held the poison.

A flexible wire, attached to the trigger, ran down through tiny, greased pulleys. A death trap! Any one who grasped the poison bottle would be instantly riddled.


[And Tugg just believes him?] The verbal interchange had been short. In a single angry sentence, Tugg had told of the machine gun. With equal terseness had come the reply that the whole thing must be a clever plot by Doc Savage.


The darksome form suddenly lifted a clenched, blackgloved fist. The fist rapped against the bell design done in green on the mantle. And the bell rang! Dull, muted-but it rang!

Same sort of a small gong was mounted under the black cloth.

A signal!

Near-by darkness came to rushing life. Dusky figures popped up like evil genies. Their arms waved, tentacle fashion, and yellow-red sparks leaped out of the ends. Gun sound convulsed the air.


"Damn you! Damn them eyes!" He squirmed madly, gnashing the links of his handcuffs together. "What d'you wanta know? I'll spill! Only turn them glims the other way!"

ASTOUNDED EXPRESSIONS settled on the faces of those in the room. They had seen this man on the floor defy blows and threats of death. But he had succumbed to the mere stare of the bronze giant.


Monk maneuvered over behind Doc, eyed the table, then asked: "How on earth did the guy get it? There was a ring of cops around the table!"

Doc pointed at a tiny cut in the table top.

"He simply fled a penknife to a thread, leaned over a cop's shoulder, and speared the piece of wood. Harpooned it, if you like


"The murder charge against you in New York is all washed up!" Ham declared.

"How'd you work it?" Doc inquired.

"Simply by putting the fear of Old Nick into the four lying witnesses! I dug up some stuff in their past -- burglary and blackmail. That did the trick! They broke down and confessed that they were hired to say they saw you kill Jim Cash!"


[What about her personal belongings?!] "How did Aunt Nora take the loss of her house?"

"Swell! She said it was an old wreck that she'd been tryin' to sell for years, anyway!"


Doc always carried a few ordinary firecrackers with long fuses. These had proved convenient on many occasions.


DOC BACKED from the window. Without apparent haste, but none the less with deceptive speed, he crossed to the massive table and touched several inlaid segments. These depressed under his fingers, but immediately sprang back into place, so as to conceal the fact that the table top was one great cluster of push buttons.

Misc. and Good Stuff:

Jim managed a gray smile.


"New York is not my stompin' ground, and this Savage bird hangs out here. I don't know much about him. Kind of a trouble buster, ain't he?"

"Exactly! I understand he is a very fierce and competent fighting man, who has a group of five aids."

"A muscle man with a gang, eh?"


An express elevator which ran noiselessly and with great speed, lifted Judborn Tugg to the eighty-sixth floor. He strutted pompously down a richly decorated corridor.

Sighting a mirror, Tugg halted and carefully surveyed his appearance. He wanted to overawe this Doc Savage. That was the way to handle these common thugs who hired themselves out for money.

Tugg lighted a dollar cigar. He had another just like it which he intended to offer Savage. The fine weeds would be the final touch. Doc Savage would be bowled over by the grandeur of Judborn Tugg.

Tugg did not know it, but he was headed for one of the big shocks of his career.

He knocked on a door, puffed out his chest, and cocked his cigar in the air.

The door opened.

Judborn Tugg's chest collapsed, his cigar fell to the floor, and his eyes bulged out.


"The guy as good as got away!" he advised the huge, furry man and the two women, when he rejoined them. "Now -- you two ladies! We've still got to settle about them guns you were carryin'!"

"The ladies tell me they were on their way to see Doc Savage," the hairy fellow advised in his babylike voice.

The cop blinked. Then he grinned from ear to ear.

"That makes it different," he chuckled. Then he walked away, acting as if he had never seen the two women.


Grinning, Monk ambled to a public telephone in the corridor. He got the number of the Hotel Triplex from the phone book, then called the hostelry. He asked the hotel operator for the night manager.

"You have a guest named Judborn Tugg," Monk informed the hotel man. "Doc Savage just threw this fellow out of his office."

"In that case, we'll throw him out of the Hotel Triplex, too," Monk was advised.


[funny line] "You may get your wish!" tolled the Green Bell. "My little scheme will undoubtedly result in Doc Savage dying in the electric chair!"


"This disguised hangar -- these planes -- that office of yours!" She waved her arms. "These things have cost a lot of money! You must be rich as sin!"

The bronze man only gave her one of his rare smiles.


Aunt Nora's house stood on the outskirts of Prosper City, at the foot of a range of high, wooded hills, which the local citizens called mountains.


An agitator drew a pistol and tried to kill Monk. The first shot missed.

Renny lunged in and flung a fist that was as big and hard as half a concrete block.

The gun wielder dropped, his jaw broken like so much gravel.


"You're going to die," Doc told him -- but neglected to mention the mortal date.

Slick naturally presumed Doc meant immediately. Doc had no intention of slaying Slick. He had merely stated a natural truth, and let Slick draw his own conclusions.

The Czar Of Fear seems to be popular with Doc Save fans. For them I hope it's made into a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, 'cause that's the level to which it rises. Or sinks.

010 - The Phantom City:

"Arabian thieves led by the diabolically clever Molallet set one fiendish trap after another for Doc Savage and his mighty five. Only "Doc," with his superhuman mental and physical powers, could have withstood this incredible ordeal of endurance which led from the cavern of the crying rock through the pitiless desert of Rub' Al Khali and its Phantom City to a fight to the death against the last of a savage prehistoric race of white-haired beasts."

Check out concave-chest Doc Savage! Twink (but not as bad as the guy on the cover of The South Pole Terror)! The tenth novel, dated December, 1933, is famous for the first appearance of Dumb Pig (Habeas Corpus), bookend to Stupid Ape (Chemistry), first seen in 1935's Dust Of Death. On the Fantastical Meter, The Phantom City scores high with a white-haired good-guy race and a white-haired primitive bad-guy primitive, a lost city, a villain with rapper's teeth, an old-timey Coilgun, rafts made out of inflated camel skins, and who knows what else, but as I'm in the minority of not enjoying ramping up my attention span to follow improvised fantasy fiction I soldiered through the second half and lived to write about it.

I was hoping the Sanctum reprint would explain why Stupid Pig was created in the first place. There was no potential for a plush toy sell-through with Automat Happy Meals, and lord knows the Doc Savage world was crowded enough with Doc, Five Guys, and Pat - the latter most fondly remembered because bewbs. My guess is earlier Ham & Monk interactions were too nasty, so a few Arnold Ziffel hijinks might lighten the mood from hate to madcap. Maybe? Here's how Dumb Stupid first entered the national consciousness:

An ear-splitting howl came from below decks! There were loud smacks, the frantic clatter of feet. An instant later, Monk shot up out of the deck hatch like something furry erupted by a noisy volcano.

Under one arm, Monk carried a pig. The shoat was fully as homely a specimen of the porker species as Monk was of the human race. It was a razor-back with legs as long as those of a dog, and ears so big they resembled wings.

Ham came close on Monk's heels, belaboring with his sheathed sword cane. He was in a dancing rage.

"You hairy missing link!" he howled. "I'll skin you alive! I'll hollow you out until that pig can use you for a garage! I'll - "

"what's the trouble?" Doc questioned.

An innocent look on his homely face, Monk scratched the enormous ears of his pig. "The shyster don't seem to like Habeas Corpus, here!"

Ham shrieked: "You dressed the pig up with my best necktie!"

"Habeas Corpus likes corn." Monk smirked. "The necktie was corny yellow, and Habeas was a bit seasick, so the tie made him work up an appetite

"I'll work you up!" Ham gritted.

Renny emitted a thundering laugh. "Where'd you get that missin' link of the pig race, Monk?"

"In Bustan," grinned Monk. "He's got the makin's of a great hog, Habeas Corpus has. I found 'im chasin' a dog big enough to fight a lion."

"And you probably stole him!" Ham sneered. "Nix! I paid his Arab owner one qirsh for 'im! That's about four cents, American money. This Arab said Habeas Corpus had taken to goin' out in the desert and catchin' hyenas." Monk gave Ham a meaning look. "He kept so many dead hyenas dragged up to the Arab's house, that it was a nuisance, and so the Arab had to get rid - "

"Are there hyenas in the Arabian desert?" Renny queried.

"I forgot to ask the Arab," Monk grinned.


[The idiocy starts right away. Monk immediately drags the pig along on a dangerous mission]

The little boat raised its bows and dragged a fan of wake shoreward.

Monk had his pig, Habeas Corpus, between his knees. With his furry hands, he fished out one of the compact rapid-firer pistols. Ham also produced one of the remarkable guns.

Maybe a lightening of tone was desperately needed because of things like this below. Ham's happy because he knew Monk would spend the entire long trip vomiting from sea sickness:

Ham, immaculate in white ducks and sun helmet, smiled blissfully. Monk had spent a miserable time crossing. There had been much rough sea.

The story flows well enough in NYC and even in the desert and Phantom City. Besides my eyes glazing over on the slow exposition of explaining things in this exotic land of adventure and danger, The Helldiver in practice has often confused me as it's the length of a football field (in this story at least) yet "Kenneth Robeson" writes about it traveling around in cramped spaces as if it's much smaller. When I read "They had been wending along the river for a long time" I'm thinking it's not a straight route, so to accommodate a football field length sub would mean it's a pretty damn wide underground river. Which it can't be. As XTC once sang, "Science Friction burns my fingers".

The black light assault on the Times Square hotel was neat. Dent describes rain as both a "leaking night" and a "drooling night". And how rap is this guy?:

The man's right eye moved as he appraised Doc and his two companions - but his left eye remained strangely fixed. He showed most of his teeth in a great smile. The teeth were artificial, of platinum or white gold. In the center of each was set a clear diamond of fair size.

The reprint hints that The Phantom City was the first novel to highlight the non-lethal Doc Savage philosophy. Note the added passive-aggressiveness of the second part:

Too, Doc never took human life if it could be avoided. His enemies, however, had a distressing habit of coming to an untimely but deserved end in traps they had themselves set for the bronze man.


Even in the most heated combat, Doc never took life directly if it could be helped. His kindness, however, did not keep him from permitting his foes to occasionally fall a victim of some death trap of their own.

There's still violence, and Doc never explains to them why the bad guys shouldn't come after him at the end, ensuring their horrible deaths:

There was a frightful power in the bronze man's fists. They hit with precision, searching out vulnerable spots. And they left squarish patches of crushed, broken skin which oozed scarlet.


The fellow trying to club the girl sought to reverse his pistol. Monk flung the rock. It caught the dark man in the face. There was a mushy plop as it hit, and the whole character of the man's features changed.

How the Hellfire is described:

The craft was slender, cigar-shaped, possibly a hundred yards in length. The hull was without a superstructure, although there was a collapsible shield which could be raised to form a navigating bridge. The bows terminated in a spring-steel ram of a bowsprit larger than a telephone pole. The rudders and propellers were inclosed in steel baskets to protect them from ice cakes, as were the diving fins.

From bow to stern ran massive steel runners, intended to enable the strange craft to skate along under the polar ice floes.


The Helldiver was fitted with two caged propellers, one port, one starboard.

Incidentally, there was a third propeller in the center, completely inclosed in a box of steel plates, which were hinged, and, in an emergency, could be dropped to permit use of the screw. This prop had never yet been used, except in tests. Nor did they need it now.

The low license plate number:

The traffic cop on the corner glanced at the license tags. He snapped erect. In New York, low license numerals designate the cars of the influential - this one was a single figure. The officer squinted to see who was in the machine. He smiled widely and executed a brisk salute.

I think at other times Doc couldn't imitate women well, but today he can:

The voice was a perfect imitation of that of Karl Zad. An eavesdropper m the next room could hardly have told the difference.. Among Doc's other accomplishments, which he had perfected by intensive study and practice, was a remarkable command of voice mimicry. He could imitate almost any tone. Moreover, he could simulate what defied most male mimics - the voice of a woman.

This is creepy. I have no issues with Doc's lobotomy camp for cretins. Maybe in 1933 that was speculative medical science at its most beneficial. Here he uses his connections to remove bay guys from police custody so he can cut into their brains:

"You can forget the four prisoners," Doc told the police captain. "They have not harmed anybody."

"Er-um-m-m!" mumbled the officer doubtfully. "I had better see if that is all right."

He called his superior, came back with his ears red, and said effusively: "The prisoners are yours. Officially, they do not exist."

First off, Doc's men do fear him. Someone who can kill you with his left pinky instills fear in you to not get on his bad side. Second, they do have to take his commands. Doc allows them to associate with him and they feel honored to be allowed to do so. Third, it's correct his plans are always the best:

Doc blocked them. "Upstairs, men!"

They went up, obeying not because they feared Doc, or had to take his commands, but because they knew his directions were usually the best.

Renny's hands are "slightly less than a gallon of rust-colored, case-hardened knuckles". Johnny lost about a foot of height: "JOHNNY was a six-foot bag of bones". He hasn't become a walking dictionary yet: "Johnny had a precise, classroom manner about his speech." Doc's underground garage utilizes a lift:

Glistening in the rain. Doc's limousine stood where it had been deserted at the curb. Entering, Doc wheeled it toward the big metal doors. A special lift lowered the machine to the basement garage which held other cars belonging to the bronze man. These were roadsters, coupes, phaetons, and an assortment of trucks; all were powerful vehicles.

[An Olde Time Rail Gun]"It's a magnetic gun!" Long Tom explained. "I've experimented with models of small power, but never with one as strong as this. There's a powerful set of batteries, not unlike flashlight cells, wired to an electromagnet. The steel slugs are fed from a magazine, and by a system of contacts, magnetism is employed to set them in violent motion in the barrel. The current shuts off at the proper instant, and lets them fly out."

Ten episodes in Long Tom already has a personal museum of lost & found items. In the 1948 story I Died Yesterday, narrated in the first person by Pat Savage, she has a similar collection of Doc's gadgets that by then had fallen by the wayside:

Long Tom shouldered the strange weapon. "I'm going to add this to my museum."

Of late, the electrical wizard had taken to collecting unusual objects which they encountered in their adventures. He had equipped a private museum at his bachelor quarters in a high-class club. His assortment already contained some interesting articles.

There weren't enough white-haired humans left to rebuild, and they still had to fight off the insane white-haired beasts. A full rescue from that hell seems more in order.

I find myself ultimately indifferent to The Phantom City, but to leave on a classy note, if I'm not mistaken someone ejaculated that they pulled a boner:

"Holy cow!" gulped Doc's assailant. "Did we pull a boner!"

011 - Brand Of The Werewolf:

"Seeking to avenge his brother’s his cousin Pat Savage's father's murder, Doc Savage and his daring crew become involved in a desperate hunt for the lost treasure of the pirate, Henry Morgan. Stalking them every inch of the way is the archfiend, El Rabanos, and his strange ally, the werewolf’s paw!"

The eleventh Doc Savage novel is remembered for its introduction of Doc Savage's cousin Pat and having "Werewolf" in its title. The idiot paperback cover shows Doc being choked by the Lon Chaney, Jr. Universal archetype, while Baumhofer's features a 1934-current werewolf and Doc showing his teeth like he's Charles Nelson Reilly. There's no winner.

Published January, 1934, Brand Of The Werewolf is not a good story. On its own level it's well told but there's precious little going on and the Good Guy Vs. Bad Guy interactions are much more from a distance than up close and personal. There's too much off-page (cousin of off-screen) and the endless rehashing of exposition is partnered with slow moving procedural descriptions of Doc's tracking abilities and action scene recreations based on ground disturbances and bent branches. If you want to read a novel dedicated to Doc's visual CSI skills, choose this one. The bad guy's "mysterious" death dealing technique is a non-starter as it's basically the same thing Doc uses on a daily basis, only deadlier, and both sides take turns lobbying gas at each other:

"The stuff which caused the mysterious sleep," Monk grinned. "It's an odorless and colorless gas which is poisonous if inhaled long enough."

Internet folks express disappointment the story doesn't pit Doc against a real werewolf, but when written werewolves were not a thing, chosen most likely to fit the landscape of the deep woods of Canada. There was an American silent movie in 1913 but Werewolves of London was released in 1935 and it wasn't until 1941 that Universal's version was released and made the werewolf a staple of the horror genre. Even Abbott and Costello met the werewolf.

The book's one virtue is that Lester Dent does a nice job establishing settings and it's easy to visual where you are and what you're looking at. On the downside Brand Of The Werewolf is filled with filler, so a good thing becomes less so when it's substituting for action and plot advancement. Here's Dent at this best:

The little metropolis was quiet. Every other street light had been extinguished to conserve electricity. Very few houses were illuminated.

Overhead, the clouds abruptly parted and let moonlight spill down. After the earlier darkness, the moon rays seemed as brilliant as sunlight. Trees along the thoroughfare were scrawny, probably because of the cold winters here in Canada. The shrubs and the houses cast moon shadows.

Dwellings became scattered, then abruptly ceased. Doc crossed a washboard of small black hills. Gullies gaped here and there, as if the skin of the earth had cracked. The road was narrow, graded only in spots. Bridges were crude spans of logs, earth-covered. Apparently the road saw little travel...

Small hills reared beyond the meadows. Suddenly the tops of these became weirdly white. It was as if an invisible hand had spilled thin snow upon them.

Then Doc discarded all caution, put on more speed. For he knew what the whiteness meant. A car was coming up the road behind him, and its headlights had bleached the hill.

The werewolf "brand" is a large rubber stamp design. The second bit is a reveal fail as there's no reason to use the rubber stamp in the cave. It's seen in earlier scenes in public places as a scary warning/signature, and even then there's no need for it:

From the same sack, which had held the metal flask, the fellow withdrew two fragments of rather floppy rubber. These were carved, rubber-stamp fashion. The carving was that of a wolf with strangely human features. These were obviously the stamps used to leave the weird werewolf marks.


"Now, I will give the hombres the same thing I gave Alex Savage!" growled the man.

From the same sack, which had held the metal flask, the fellow withdrew two fragments of rather floppy rubber. These were carved, rubber-stamp fashion. The carving was that of a wolf with strangely human features. These were obviously the stamps used to leave the weird werewolf marks.

Doc at this point of his career is a little green behind the ears where he's still casually tossing an insult or two Monk's way and crooking his finger at another person as only the worst boss does. Besides that he's ok and not over-the-top with his abilities, but this part where he walks and runs a loose tightrope twice carrying dead weight is a tough acceptance row to hoe:

She was tossed lightly across Doc's shoulders. Then the mighty bronze man seemed to leap outward, straight into the cauldron below the falls. However, his feet landed on the rope, and he came to a perfect balance. He glided along the hemp strands.

During any one of the dozen seconds which followed, Patricia would have died cheerfully. It was the most ghastly interval of her existence. She had admired the work of circus performers in the big top - trapeze and tight-wire artists who did amazing things. But she had never seen a feat which equaled this bronze man's seemingly unconcerned defiance of death...

Doc Savage crossed back over the chasm, running lightly on the rope.

Tiny was waiting there. She gazed into the chasm and shuddered.

"Wait!" she grunted uneasily. "Me take um chance - stay on this side."

The voluminous Tiny never was exactly sure what happened after that. The bronze hands pressed her head. She became helpless. Then she, also, was borne out over the thundering abyss.

Doc seemed to handle the squaw's weight as easily as he had managed Patricia's.

Pat's shown to be competent, sassy, smart, and a Savage to the core, but Dent throws this in because I guess someone has to ask the dumb question:

"What did Doc say when he shouted?"

"He said he had some of his anaesthetic gas in the ivory cube," Ham replied. "He said for us to hold our breaths, because the stuff would be released when the cube was opened."

"But why hold our breath?" Patricia queried, puzzled.

"The anaesthetic gas spreads with lightning swiftness," Ham explained. "In less than a minute it dissolves and becomes ineffective. We simply held our breaths until it was dissipated."

It's Pat:

Renny groaned thunderously. "A fine gesture of welcome! Say, Doc, don't this Alex Savage know you?"

"Not personally," Doc replied. "He is an uncle. I have never met either him or his daughter."


"An only child, I understand. Her name is Patricia. Age about eighteen."


[Pat's first words. Included because bewbs] "Boat Face! Haven't you got that rifle fixed yet?"


The girl stepped back from a window. She had a wealth of bronze hair - hair very closely akin in hue to that of Doc Savage. She had been watching the brush that circled like a wall.

She was tall; her form was molded along lines that left nothing to be desired. Her. features were as perfect as though a magazine-cover artist had designed them.

She wore high-laced boots, breeches, and a serviceable gray shirt.

A cartridge belt was draped about her waist. From it dangled a heavy Frontier Single Action six-shooter - freely admitted by those who know to be one of the most reliable guns ever made. In the crook of her right arm lay a very modern automatic big-game rifle.


Patricia, however, had taken him by surprise. Moreover, she was a young lady who combined good looks with a well-developed muscle. She not only kept the man from yelling an alarm, but she had his wind completely shut off.

The man kicked, struck backward. Not for nothing had Patricia taken fencing lessons in a finishing school. She evaded his blows easily. The man grabbed her attractive bronze hair and gave it a tremendous yank.


Patricia Savage had often wondered what her famous cousin looked like. She had read of some of his feats. She had heard tales of him. But she had never met Doc, and she had doubted his being the man he was said to be.

Watching Doc in action, Patricia concluded he was all he was rumored to be, and then some.


Patricia gasped with faint indignation. The fact that her father was a fairly wealthy man had not exactly spoiled her, but she was not accustomed to being told what to do in such short fashion.


"They were there," Doc assured her. "I'm sorry, Pat, but Boat Face seems to have been a crook."

Patricia nodded slowly. She felt an agreeable tingling. Doc Savage had called her "Pat." This seemed to indicate that he had accepted her as one of the gang. Patricia was pleased.

Symmetry Ahoy! Doc's father is killed just before the first Doc Savage novel and now it's Pat's father killed ten books later. And Alex Savage's cabin is his Fortress of Solitude:

 "The estate had no other communication with the outside world. During his sojourns there, Alex Savage had always made it a point not to be disturbed. The place was his refuge from business worries."

Brand Of The Werewolf contains the first instance of Monk using ventriloquism to make it seem like Stupid Pig can talk people words. Long Tom is a "Wizard of the juice!", a phrase you don't hear much outside of Mr. Olympia contests.


[In earlier books his hands were slightly less than a gallon] One man rode there. The outstanding thing about this fellow was his gigantic hands. Each of these was composed of more than a quart of bone and gristle, sheathed in hide that resembled rusted sheet iron. The man was very big - over six feet, and weighing fully two hundred and fifty pounds - but the size of his hands made the rest of him seem dwarfed.


Renny's funeral-going expression was the one he habitually wore when at peace with the world.


Renny, in fact, was considerably more than a millionaire in his own right. His skill as an engineer had made into a fortune. He had, in a sense, retired - retired to follow the trail of what he liked above all else, adventure. Peril and excitement were the spice of his life.

Ham. Checking in with Fops Magoo:

Ham was a man who entertained little liking for getting close to nature. He heartily disapproved of all rough going. This was not because he could not stand hardship Ham could take it. What Ham did dislike, though, was seeing his costly, well-tailored clothes torn off his back. Clothes were Ham's passion. He would forego anything - except possibly a fight - to remain sartorially perfect

His present garments were rapidly beckoning rags. His spirits were sinking accordingly. Ham had donned a nifty woodsman's outfit before starting on this hike. His Park Avenue tailor had told him it was the proper thing when he purchased it. Ham had known better at the time, but had failed to resist the well-tailored lines of the outfit.


Privately, Ham had no use for canoes. Years ago, one had ducked him when he was togged out in his immaculate clothes. They were tricky things, even when there was plenty of time to get into them.

Long Tom:

Long Tom's front teeth were of a large protruding variety. Two of these were missing. The missing teeth had the effect of giving his voice a rather comical, lisping quality. He sounded very much like an irate turkey gobbler.


[Two things Doc would never master. Understanding women and stand-up comedy] "You're tellin' me?' Renny grimaced. "But what's at the bottom of it?"

"I neglected to bring my crystal ball," Doc said dryly.


[Textbook example of "Revisionism"] DOC Savage had, for much of his life, walked in the shadow of peril and sudden death. Many men had sought to end his existence by violent means. To kill in defense of his own life, frequently seemed imperative. Yet Doc never did that.

The bronze man's enemies by no means went unscathed. They frequently perished - but always in traps of their own setting. Doc did not take life with his own hands.


[Doctor Who had Psychic Paper". Doc carried a massive Rolodex] "I want information about certain telegrams which may have come here tonight," Doc told him.

"That is against the rules!" the young man replied promptly.

Doc brought a wallet out. This held numerous cards. He selected one particular pasteboard from the collection in that wallet.

"Does this make it any different?" he asked, and exhibited the card.

The young man looked, then whistled softly. "I'll say it does!"

The card was signed by the highest official of the company, and informed all employees that Doc Savage was to receive every assistance possible, no matter of what nature, or what the possible consequences.


"I'll use your wires," Doc told the frizzle-haired operator. He had not changed expression, but he was a bit embarrassed. Hero worship got Doc's goat - when he was the subject of admiration.


The freckled, frizzle-haired young man stared at Doc in open-mouthed amazement. He had been listening to the wire talk. He had just heard some of the fastest and most perfect hand-sent Morse to which he had ever listened. It had been as rapid as if sent with a fast automatic key, a "bug." The freckled young man had not believed such a thing possible.


A prowling dog, sighting the bronze man, began to growl fiercely.

"Cut it out, old fellow," Doc called.

The calm friendliness of the mighty man's tone had a marked effect upon the dog. It exchanged tail-wagging for growling. Doc was forced to toss a rock near the dog to keep the suddenly friendly animal from following him. This was another example of the remarkable things his great voice could do.

Unexpectedly, Doc came upon Monk. The homely chemist was sprawled flat on the ground. The pig, Habeas Corpus, lay comfortably beside him.

"Hands up!" Monk growled. "Grab a cloud!" He had failed to recognize Doc.

"Bite him, pig!" Doc ordered dryly.

Habeas Corpus promptly stood up and bit furiously at Monk. Monk dodged. Much to the homely chemist's disgust, somebody had recently taught his pet pig the trick of biting the nearest human when told to do so. Monk was usually the victim of these nips. He suspected the dapper Ham had taught the pig the trick.


[Doc may have stopped being a murder machine but he still hadn't stopped being an insulting jerk at times. Words hurt too!] "What's up?" Monk demanded.

"Let's see how fast you are on those bow legs of yours!" Doc suggested.


[The original Manimal] The bronze man seemed to undergo a strange change. He became animal-like in his searching for the trail. He utilized not only his eyes, but his sense of smell as well. Much of the time, he traveled on all fours. Occasionally, when desiring to move swiftly, or to clear a tangle of brush which no man could have penetrated without infinite labor, he sprang upward and swung along, with the prodigious agility of a monkey, from one tree limb to another.


Doc was an expert at reading human character. He was watching her closely. As far as he could tell, her astonishment was genuine. Doc had a suspicion, however, that the man did not live who could read a young woman's mind unfailingly by looking at her pretty face.


[Crooking your finger is condescending] Crooking a finger at Monk, Doc said: "I've got a job for you"'


DOC Savage usually wore a vest of pliable leather under his outer clothing. This vest had numerous pockets, and these held ingenious devices - apparatus with which Doc Savage could cope with almost any emergency...

Doc's escape had been managed quite simply. He now wore the remarkable vest of many pockets which held his assortment of apparatus. This was lined with a metallic mail which would stop even a big-game rifle slug.


Doc had anticipated that the sedan would spring into motion. He had reasoned that by the time it reached the gate, it would be going too swiftly for the man there to spring aboard.

His logic was right - and wrong. The man at the gate was caught off guard. Moreover, he must have been a nervous individual. As the uproar burst forth, he gave one long leap - in the wrong direction! He was directly in the path of the car!

The sedan hit him, and bore him down as if he were a weed. For a moment after he disappeared, ugly crunchings and crackings came from under the machine. The sounds were those of monster jaws munching. When the unlucky man appeared again - behind the rear bumper - he was shapeless...

With the tips of sinewy, practiced fingers, Doc touched the various nerve centers in the broken body. His vast knowledge enabled him to alleviate pain in this fashion. Although even his surgical skill could not save this man's life, be might prolong the flow of information, such as it was.


"Take it." The operator passed the magazine over. "It's sure worth reading. It tells some of the things he and his five men have done. I tell you, Wilkie, a lot of the things are hard to believe. This fellow must be a superman!"


[Read this as two sentences] "What a man!" Wilkie ejaculated.


A ravishingly pretty dark-haired girl sat beside the elderly man. Her eyes were large and limpid, and her lips a most inviting rosebud. She looked very fresh and crisp, so impeccable, in fact, that it was obvious she had not been on the train long. Even the neatest of individuals soon show the effects of traveling.


[A foolish or contemptible person] "We'll get that gink!"


[Domestic abuse works both ways] Boat Face subsided uneasily. Boat Face was something rare in the brotherhood of red men - a henpecked husband. Most bucks make their squaws walk a chalk line, but not Boat Face. On occasion, the lethargic Tiny would shed her stoical air long enough to give Boat Face what metropolitan cops call a "good shellacking." The implement which Tiny used was the same as that employed by her paleface sisters, a rolling pin.


[If you speak English this poorly you're thinking and talking to yourself in your native tongue] "Nobody go from here to send telegram for Doc Savage," he chuckled. "Not right away soon, anyhow. Now, me go fix trap!"


[Learned by repeatedly beating her husband!] Tiny went into action. Stooping, she seemed to pick something off the floor and plant it forcibly on the man's chin. It was a beautiful haymaker.

The man stopped struggling as suddenly as if he had been shot through the brain.

"Me learn that practicing on Boat Face," Tiny muttered.

Brand Of The Werewolf can and should be given a rewrite. The ivory cube and treasure boat are nice elements, and Pat's first appearance delivered as an introduction to an ongoing character. The settings are sweet and Dent's ability to paint canvasses with words is on full display. What the book needs is more plot, less repetitive filler, no gas-vs-gas, more face-to-face action, a personality-strong lead henchman, and a guy in a werewolf costume who violently kills people instead of a deadly gas mystery. And don't make the identity of the evil mastermind a secret when there's only one choice and it's blatantly obvious like a flashing neon sign attached to an air-raid siren.

012 - The Man Who Shook The Earth:

"One by one the rich nitrate miners of Antofagasta, Chile, were being hideously crushed to death by falling boulders. Then the Man of Bronze saw the evil hand of The Mad Earth Shaker — and uncovered his terrifying plot to control the world!"

"I guess I pulled a boner, Doc"

The twelfth Doc Savage pulp (February, 1934) is mostly a very good story, due partly to its packing in many memorable lines and elements, and also because it doesn't lose its initial steam until the last third, and even then only for a short stint. Doc Savage books are not shy about filling space with scenes of walking around and describing in detail everything there is to be seen. Setting, mood, atmosphere, etc. are vital to creating vibrant mental images, but after a point it becomes literary padding. The prior issue, Brand Of The Werewolf, fills half its content with Doc crawling around, following trails, and interpreting tracking clues. The Man Who Shook The World heads in the other direction and that's good.

The big timeline event is Doc surgically correcting Johnny's bad eye. It's also the first time Ham coats his sword with a sedative, and Doc's magical door opening gadget is introduced. To address the valid question why Doc made a blind man see in book four (The Polar Treasure) without mentioning Johnny's problem, Lester Dent bends over backwards to explain:

The nerves of his eye, it seems, have been allowed to strengthen for years since his injury in the War, in order that the operation might be feasible.

"That the operation was not performed earlier was due to Doc Savage’s realization that to do so would result in permanent loss of vision in the eye. He has waited until the time was ripe."...

It was to return the use of that eye that Doc had tonight performed a great surgical operation. Some individuals wondered why Doc, with his tremendous ability of a surgeon, had not earlier operated on that eye.

The fact was that Doc had been waiting for years in order that certain delicate muscles and nerves might strengthen sufficiently to withstand the operation.

I'm not in the camp that believes Doc's five assistants exist to mess up and/or be taken hostage, but in this book they're not the best and brightest. Monk allowing Velvet to remain alone in Doc's offices for any reason is bad, and this blunder is too obvious:

The clatter of rapid fire outside promptly ceased. Then a lone shot sounded. A moment later there was a second shot. The last one was more distant.

"They can’t take it!" Renny thundered. "They’re beating it!"

All four men charged out in pursuit of their enemies. Three or four times, bullets snapped at them. In the murk and the blizzard, accurate shooting was impossible. The bullets did nothing but chip bricks and knock out windows in the storage and factory district.

Renny and the others put on speed, trying to catch the gun flashes. It was like chasing a will-o’-the-wisp. Their foes were diving into alleys, legging it up side streets. They faded away.

"Let’s get back to the warehouse," Renny said. "I don’t like this. That attack was a little too reckless. Maybe they’re up to some trick."

They returned to the warehouse-hangar. Entering, they came to a halt.

John Acre was gone!...

Doc spoke no word of condemnation. His aids, in their haste to mix in a fight, had committed an indiscretion in leaving John Acre alone; but there was no use in lecturing them now. They would not make the same mistake again.


[See above] "They got a phone call only a minute ago," said the hawk-faced man. "It was from some one who said you told him to call. According to the fellow who phoned, you and the girl had been attacked, and you wanted help."

This month's characters are all strongly conceived and executed, and it's incorporated into the book's opening:

THE man looked as tough as sin. But he was crying. He whimpered. He bubbled at the mouth like a child half crazed with horror and fear. He perspired, although the night was cold.

"Hear it?" he moaned.

A rumbling was coming out of the innards of the earth. The sidewalk vibrated feebly. There was steady, hollow uproar.

"It’s comin’!" the man whined. "Listen, Velvet! It’s gettin’ closer an’ closer—".

His ears were tufts of gristle. They looked as if they had been chewed upon in the past. A groove a quarter of an inch deep slanted across his face. It explained itself. Some one had once tried to cut his throat, but he had ducked. The knife that had made the groove had sheared off the end of his nose. His nostrils were two fuzz-rimmed holes opening straight out in his face.

The nasty criminal partnership of Biff and Velvet is nicely laid out:

Velvet laughed harshly. "Even if you ain’t been in New York before, Biff, you should have read of subways. Oh, that’s right, too. You can’t read."

"Biff" rolled his eyes, and they grew sullen, ugly. Crouching there, he seemed to become as dangerous and savage as a beast. He hated to be reminded that he could not read.

"Some day I’m goin’ to get fed up with you," he told Velvet fiercely.

Velvet laughed again. An animal-like ferocity had come into his tone, also. "Any time you feel lucky, cull!"

They glared at each other. It was Biff who first twitched his gaze aside.

"Never mind," he mumbled. "Let’s talk about Doc Savage."

 WITH a bestial savagery, the two had snarled at each other. Now, with the swiftness characteristic of animals, they dropped their belligerency. Shoulder to shoulder, they moved over into the gloomy lee of a parked truck.

The reveal of the evil mastermind is a bit of a cheat as he's a bit player in the proceedings, but until then you have no idea who it might be. I was suspecting it was Whistler Wheeler, ostensibly crushed under a boulder off-page as Doc himself didn't see it happen and a crushed body could be anybody wearing the same clothes. For the price of a nobody being the mastermind you get the nice change of not knowing right away who he is.

Velvet assuming Monk's the janitor is a fun scene. There's only two items for the BS File:

[Many physical activities make the bicep expand] Doc now removed his coat. He pulled out the left sleeve, so that the lining showed. It held a small pocket. From this Doc dumped a broken fragment of a thin-walled glass bulb. He had broken this by expanding his enormous biceps muscle.


[Do you realize how hard it is to hold your breathe for a minute? Couldn't the gas just as easily last for fifteen seconds?] After having been in the air for something less than a minute, the gas became harmless. Doc and his two friends had simply held their breaths during the time the stuff was dangerous.

There's one scene that sticks out as bizarre. Maybe this was how the world worked in 1934, but Doc's line about "'It happened that the Hindu needed killing,' Doc said slowly" is out of nowhere:

A brown arm was leveled at Whistler Wheeler. "That is the man!"

"What?" gulped Wheeler.

"You hired me!" accused the Hindu.

Whistler Wheeler’s rabbitlike face had first shown indignation. Now, as the portent of the Hindu’s accusation dawned on him, scarlet rage ignited like gasoline.

Whistler Wheeler was a man of short temper, given to near-maniacal rages. One of his tantrums came on him now. A moment before he had seemed a mild man, with a tiny habit of whistling. Now he was glowering, ferocious—in the grip of a killing rage.

His hand flashed for his hip pocket.

Doc Savage sprang forward—but even his great speed was not sufficient.

Whistler Wheeler was very fast on the draw. He got his gun out. It roared!

The Hindu stood perfectly rigid for several seconds. There was a round hole in the middle of his forehead. When he collapsed, it was as if a string holding him up had been cut.

"He was lyin’, the louse!" Whistler Wheeler snarled. "He must’ve thought Biff or Velvet would pay him for layin’ the blame where it didn’t belong."

Without the slightest hesitation, Whistler Wheeler surrendered his still-smoking gun to Doc Savage.

"I’m sorry," he muttered. "I go kinda crazy mad that way, sometimes."

In line with Doc saying the Hindu deserved a bullet in the head, his newly acquired non-killing code is still passive-aggressive where he's definitely killing but doing so on the razor's edge of directly/indirectly:

Doc Savage replied nothing. He seldom explained his peculiar code, his set policy of never taking human life with his own hands. Nor did he make a habit of mentioning an interesting fact—that his enemies had a way of coming to untimely ends in traps of their own setting, and that oftentimes Doc had warned them against the very fate which seized them.


"Why," said Long Tom, "to defeat this guy, Doc had merely to have the current shut off the high-line."

"I didn’t do that," Doc said.


"The high-line is carrying its usual load of current."


[Doc should refer to himself as Clark] "Doc Savage speaking," said the voice.


[God-esque] Sometimes those associated with him were inclined to wonder if this amazing man had not in some miraculous fashion attained that supreme goal of students—an infinite knowledge of all things.


[I always love this bit] Doc thanked the officer, then rolled the roadster to the Midas Club. He parked directly in front of the door. A large sign said the space along the curb was reserved. That meant it was intended exclusively for use of the gentlemen who had five million dollars in the bank.

A doorman came out, scowling blackly. His expression intimated that he intended to rout Doc in very brusque fashion. However, when he got a look at the bronze man and the roadster, he underwent a striking change. His scowl altered to the politest of smiles. He bowed so low that his gaudy uniform cap fell off. He caught it and flushed in embarrassment.

Instead of ordering Doc away, he almost broke a leg in his haste to open the roadster door and usher the two men from the car.


DOC fell silent. There was one subject about which he did not possess universal knowledge. Personally, he believed it was impossible to ever learn much about the topic. The subject of his deficiency was—women.

Doc did know enough about the fair sex to realize there was no use in arguing. She thought he was a liar, and that was that.


[Doc's still in young man insult mode] "Renny, you and Long Tom drop over by my garage and pile into one of the cars," Doc directed. "Then drive on up here to this shack Ham calls home."


THE Hindu got up at that instant and tried to run. He was in mid-air on his first jump, when steel bars seemed to enwrap his neck. He was jerked backward. He thought he saw a chance to hit the bronze giant who held him a terrific blow in the midriff. He did so.

"Ha’e!" moaned the Hindu, and wrung his aching fist. It had been like hitting a stone.


Retracing his steps, Doc found Tip Galligan exactly where he had left her. His slight nod denoted great approval; the young woman could take orders. Like other men, Doc disliked having his commands disobeyed.


[First use of knock-out goo] Ham was flourishing his sword cane. The blade no longer looked innocent—it was a bared, glittering thorn of steel. On the needlelike tip was a mysterious, sticky substance...

Ham made a pass at the nearest enemy. He made no effort to run the fellow through with his sword cane. Instead, he barely pricked the man.

The man Ham had pricked seemed to go to sleep on his feet. He fell over backward.

Ham’s sword cane was tipped with a drug which produced instant unconsciousness—a sleep which would last an hour or more.


New York City is rumored to have two or three clubs which require that the candidates for membership possess a bank roll of at least a million dollars. The Midas Club had raised the ante. To get on its roster, you had to have five million. In addition, you must have made the money yourself. If you had inherited the five million, you were out of luck.

Ham was reported to have the most sumptuous and luxurious suite in the Midas Club.


[In these early books especially Ham is childishly obnoxious and not funny] THE homely Monk was saying in a loud, astonished voice: "Well, I’m a son of a gun!"

"You’re worse than that," the dapper Ham informed him waspishly. "But I’m not going to lapse into profanity to explain just what you are."...

"My golly," Monk said in a tiny, shivery voice, "winter has sure come with a bang."

Ham gave Monk a black scowl.

"Any one could tell, you would be more at home in a tropical jungle!" he snapped.


[The cousin of Long Tom being a "wizard of the juice"] Monk was a magician of the test tubes.


[He's lost some height] Johnny was nearly six feet tall, and as thin as he could safely be.


"The old one-eyed Cyclops!" Monk grinned.

"He’s got both his eyes now, though," said Ham. "Bet he’s seeing double."


A moment later the receiver in Doc’s fist seemed about to fly to pieces under the impact of a great, roaring voice. It was as if a small lion had awakened in the receiver.


"If you were my daughter," Renny boomed, "I’d make you put on some decent clothes!"

"If I were your daughter, I’d take poison!" the girl retorted.

[How did Velvet know Renny's Indian name?] "No more out of you, big-fist!" he barked.

Long Tom:

Long Tom sat in the opposite corner. The unhealthy-looking electrical wizard seemed to be a man who would suffer greatly from the cold. The chill was not bothering him, however. Long Tom was keeping warm with his own rage. His usually pale face was ruddy.


[A first] Saying nothing, Doc approached the office door. An uncanny thing happened—the door opened at his approach.

There was no living thing near it. 

MONK hastily peered into the office. He was completely at a loss to understand the business of the door opening...

Doc walked toward the door into the inner chambers.

Monk’s hair threatened to stand on end at what happened. The solidly locked door—Monk was mortally certain it was locked—quickly opened itself as Doc came near. After the bronze man had passed through, the door closed...

With a sheepish grin on his homely face, Monk absently fitted the end of his little finger into the hole in his earlobe. Monk was highly intelligent in spite of his apish look. He was trying to figure out what made the doors open when Doc came near them. Doc had perfected many remarkable devices, but this was a new one. For all of Monk’s canniness, he was stumped...

They walked toward the door—and again Monk’s little eyes threatened to shoot out of their pits of gristle.

Doc had made no gesture. He had not touched his clothing. The door, however, had jumped wide open as they drew near.

"How do you do that, Doc?" Monk demanded.

"It’s trained," Doc said.

Monk snorted. He looked back as they went down the corridor. The door closed itself when they were a few feet distant. Monk snorted again. The thing had him baffled...

"As part of the experiment, I rigged up the device to open doors," he went on. "It consists simply of a bit of radiating substance in my pocket. The emanations travel through cloth, and even through metal. The receiver is a screen sensitive to the emanations in the same way that a photo-electric cell is sensitive to light.

"Whenever the emanation strikes the screen, it causes a relay to close. This actuates the electrical and mechanical device that opens the door."

"So that was how it was done," Monk grunted.


By now, snowflakes were spread like whitewash. Strangely, although snow literally poured against the windshield of the sedan, none of it stuck there. The glass was covered by a preparation perfected by the chemist, Monk. This concoction alone had made Monk a fortune.


The three men were paying no attention to the storm, however. Their attention was focused on a large black box which had a square window in the top. At first glance, this window might have been mistaken for a framed picture. Actually it was the scanning screen of a television receiver.

The picture on the screen was the interior of Doc’s sedan from which Long Tom and Renny had just been seized. Concealed in the sedan was an amazingly powerful and compact television projector.

This apparatus owed its remarkable efficiency to the fact that it did not utilize the old-fashioned mechanical scanning disk. Its heart was a cathode-ray tube which functioned in a fashion very similar to the retina of a human eye. A ponderous scientific treatise could be written on how the tube functioned. Doc had perfected the thing.

From his office, Doc could not only witness the kidnaping, but had heard Long Tom and Renny question the girl in gold, since the microphone also concealed in the sedan worked in conjunction with the televisor.


The bronze man, however, was not inhuman. He was susceptible to the stiffening effects of the cold, especially in his hands. So, before descending, he thrust his hands into his pockets. Each pocket held a small bag. These were filled with a chemical which gave off warmth.


[A non-Doc gadget which might as well be one] Within two hundred yards, John Acre realized he was being followed. Nothing so simple as a careless footstep or a crackling twig told him this. Whenever he went about at night, John Acre carried a bag of popcorn. He did not eat popcorn. He detested the stuff.

The popcorn, however, was very crisp. When spread upon the ground, it would crunch if stepped on. The crunch was not loud enough to excite the stepper, but it was sufficient to warn John Acre.

It was with this popcorn that John Acre learned he was being followed by some one.


A BRONZE flash, Doc whipped to a large chest, and threw it open. It held numerous cylinders. These were as thick as tomato cans, and perhaps two feet long. The coverings resembled cardboard. From each protruded a length of fuse.

Working rapidly, Doc passed an armload of these to each of his men...

"Get to the windows on all four sides of the building," he directed. "Light the fuse on these things, and toss them out."...

His five men lost no time finding windows on four sides of the skyscraper. They touched matches to the fuses. Then they flung them out into the cold winter air...

Renny’s apprehensions were needless. Some distance above the street, the first cylinder turned into a ball of grayish vapor. In swift succession the same thing happened to the others. Each composition container was consumed completely in a small flash of greenish flame...

"The planes and the rest of the hangar look all right," he said. "It’s just us and the sedan that’s green. Why is that?"

"It’s because you walked through the grayish fog, that came from those cylinders you threw out of the window," Doc explained. "The car was driven through the fog, too."

"Velvet and Biff also drove through it," Monk ejaculated.


"Invisible chalk," she exclaimed. "A compound which fluoresces when exposed to ultra-violet light!"

"Right," Doc told her. "Each of my men carries a tiny bit of it glued on his scalp, close to the hair roots."


"What I did was to create a high-frequency wave-beam projector, and put it in the plane," Doc said. "Tip trained it on the hill. It intersected the First Little White Brother’s projector-beam, and set up contractions and expansions in the rock underlying the pinnacle. It was not a task which required the voltage of a high-line."


John Acre made a snarling mouth under his hooked nose. His hand whipped inside his coat, and came out with a revolver. This weapon had been altered to what firearm experts call a belly-buster. The barrel had been cut off until there was hardly a barrel at all. Because of this, the slugs were as likely as not to strike sidewise.

Belly-buster guns are noted for the frightful wounds they inflict...

John Acre’s belly-buster spouted a plume of flame fully two feet long. Its roar was ear-splitting!

Considering his haste, the shot was remarkably accurate. A rectangular cavity appeared above the two fuzzy holes which were Biff’s nostrils. The slug from the belly-buster, untwirled by rifling, had struck sidewise. A major alteration took place in the shape of the top of Biff’s head.

There was not the slightest doubt but that Biff died instantly. But he came plunging on. One of his fists aimed a great wild blow. John Acre, leaping to one side, evaded it.

Biff hurled on, slammed into the wall, and slipped down to the floor. He did not move again.


A rather gaudy bunch of handkerchief protruded from the breast pocket of Biff’s coat. He picked this out. It proved to be tied around the hilt of a knife which had a blade more than a foot long. It was carried in a concealed holster in his coat lining. He could get it quickly by grabbing the handkerchief.


The door was very plain, and of heavy bronze. The bronze was what interested Velvet. It was the first time he had ever seen that metal look nearly as rich as gold.


This was apparently the outer room of a suite. There was an expensive rug on the floor. Chairs were big, and made for comfort. Near the two great windows stood a table, the top of which was completely inlaid and looked costly. At one side, near a door, stood a large locker. On the other side of the room was an enormous safe.


[Her dress was tight. (Audience) How tight was it?!] Tip perched on the edge of the rear seat cushion. Long Tom, watching in the rear-vision mirror, marveled that her tight gown permitted her to be seated at all...

The gunmen converged on the sedan. Long Tom and Renny were searched. Their captors seemed surprised when no weapons came to life. They did not search the girl in gold. They merely looked her over.

"She isn’t hiding anything under that gown," Velvet decided.


The room which held the television receiver was a vast one. In it stood scores of stands laden with scientific apparatus. There were machines as ponderous as trucks, but with mechanisms as fine as those of a watch. This was Doc Savage’s experimental laboratory.


DOC did not raise the roadster top. He seemed impervious to the bitter nip of the blizzard as he raced the car northward.

Monk and Ham sat beside the bronze man and shivered. They had donned overcoats. They turned the collars up around their ears. Their teeth clicked like a Spanish dancer’s castanets.

They did not suggest that Doc put up the roadster top. They knew why it was down. Doc preferred it thus, that he might more readily detect any danger which threatened.


The prisoners were now carried out and placed in the sedan. To get all seven in the rear seat, it was necessary to pack them sardine fashion.


[Doc maintains a ghetto holding cell for his lobotomy farm patients] The prisoners were left in a small room in a shabby section of the city. The windows of the room were barred, and there was a rear door which opened upon an obscure alley.

The captives would sleep for many hours yet. Long before they awakened, an ambulance would appear. Silent, grim attendants would load them aboard. They would be whisked away into the blizzard.


RENNY and the others exchanged little conversation during the walk back to Doc’s airplane hangar. Each time they opened their mouths, the bitter wind seemed like a frozen hand that grabbed the words and pushed them far back into their chests.


NEWSPAPERS, in widely separated parts of the globe differ somewhat from each other. They are printed in various languages. Some are made up largely of pictures. Others are read backward. Reporters for the New York papers telephone their news to the city desk; in Japan they quite often use carrier pigeons.


[Whistler Wheeler] The second man was short and fat. He had a face which resembled that of a rabbit, minus the long ears. He was whistling softly as they entered the room. The whistling appeared to be an unconscious habit.

He whistled almost continuously, except when talking or eating. His tunes were always pitched so low as to be inaudible at a distance of more than a few feet.


[In 2015 money that's $267.86 dollars a minute!] "I’m her brother! What do you know about Tip! Talk fast! This is costing me fifteen dollars a minute."


["I'll tell a man" is an arcane expression that barely Googles] "What did you do with the wax cylinders?" Doc asked Monk.

"They’re in the hotel safe."

"Is it a strong safe?"

"I’ll tell a man!"


[A prime example of talking around said thing without talking about said thing] "These all come from one particular country, Doc," Renny boomed grimly. "The country in question is a certain European one which is considered a possible instigator of a future war."...

Equally surprising was the fact that none were Chileans. Nor were they Yankees.

Dido stared more closely. He was sure that they all came from the same European country.

The Man Who Shook The Earth is dense with good Doc Savage material and rates relatively high on the best-of list based on its parts alone. Clean up the killing of the Hindu scene, involve Tip Galligan more, make the evil mastermind more relevant by more involvement and confusion with the real John Acre, and make the aides less bumbling. Even with that it's a nice book, but corrected it would be as good as it should be.

013 - Meteor Menace:

"Doc Savage and his fabulous crew journey to Tibet in pursuit of their most dangerous adversary, the evil genius Mo-Gwei. Battling against overwhelming odds, they try to stop him from conquering the world with a diabolical machine known as the Blue Meteor, a screaming blue visitor from space that turns men into raving animals!"

The thirteenth Doc Savage novel, dated March, 1934, reads like the script for a serial film with cheap sets, fast action, a cackling and crazed villain, and filming on the ranches and backlots of Hollywood. It has the makings of a silent film but isn't, and the evil Mo-Gwei and his flimsy Halloween mask is out of the mythical Snidely Whiplash school of bad-guyery. The Meteor Menace reads differently than your standard Doc Savage book so it may come across as odd, but on its own terms the story is a lot of fun.

The book's two big appeals are Doc as confused and reluctant fiancé, and a mysterious and dangerous menace that's surprisingly horrifying in action. On the lesser side the book's filled with Production Notes that do little for plot, burdened with stilted exposition assuming nobody's ever read a Doc Savage novel, and it would have been easier for Saturday Loo and John Mark Shrops to hire more men and buy better weapons to fight Mo-Gwei, but then we wouldn't have the delightful Hope and Crosby Road To... films either. Massive Doc taking tiny Rae Stanley's place in the coffin is a big suspension of disbelief and the weakest element of the entire enterprise, but on the other side the aimless running around isn't so aimless in a serial film kind of way. Maybe the best way to present this story is with hand puppets (with hand puppet stage) and comically bad voices.

The Blue Meteor is handled well as an agent of fear and destruction. It winds up being radioactive, because everything in the Doc world is thus, and the cure makes sense except that it doesn't and can't:

The sky, in answer to that rocket signal it seemed, had taken on a weird, faint blue color. This was not the blue of infinite stellar space, but more like the arc of an electric welding torch.

The fantastic radiance grew steadily brighter. Doc Savage brought an arm in front of his face, for the glitter was becoming blinding.

A whistling noise reached his ears. Very faint at first, it grew slowly louder. Beyond a doubt, the piping wail was accompanying the steadily intensifying blue glare.

There was a devilish quality in the whistling note. It seemed to cut at the eardrums with razor sharpness. It actually caused Doc's head to ache.


It came to Doc with certainty that he could not reach his friends in time. Long before he could even gain Monk's side, he would be down, overcome by the power of the meteor. And even should he accomplish the impossible and join them, there was, by Shrops's attestation, only enough of the antidote in the metal cylinder to save one man.

However, not until he went down a third time and could not arise, and unintelligible rumbling sounds came from his great lungs when he tried to make words, did he open the metal tube. He had waited nearly overlong. His fingers, possessed of a strange aimlessness, could hardly remove the cap.

The instant the cap was free of the cylinder, a fantastic blue aurora appeared at the mouth, a glow brighter even than the hell-blue in the northern heavens. The flare leaped upward like flame, played there a moment, then vanished.

Doc Savage seemed to lose all vestige of his remaining might and vitality. He sank as if stricken between the eyes with a sledge swung by a brawny arm.

He was on a steep slope at the moment - the region where the pursuit of Shrops and the yak had been so difficult. He collapsed, and there was no level spot to prevent his huge frame from rolling.

Over and over, he tumbled downward. Boulders were loosened, and bounced against other boulders, and all the rocks joined in a dancing procession down the declivity. Dust climbed up from the turmoil, and snow mingled with it in a gray swirl as drifts were disturbed. The giant bronze body of Doc Savage was lost to sight.


MEN poured over the mountaintop from the left. They were Mo-Gwei's followers, and they had been far to one side, so that they might escape the hideous effects of the blue meteor.

Despite the fact that none of them had been under the uncanny sky visitor, however, several individuals of weaker Constitution stumbled erratically and seemed a little insane. They had not avoided the spell entirely.


The thing was a tiny monoplane, too small to carry a man. To this was fitted a large, tubular device. The contraption, secured beneath the fuselage, was fitted with hinges. No doubt it opened wide, actuated by mechanism within, when in the air.

Opening, the cover exposed the substance which composed the blue meteor itself. A faint glow even penetrated the Container itself.

Doc as unwitting fiancé is cute but that's about it:

"Where's Doc?"

The entrancingly pretty girl pointed to a door down the corridor.

"My fiance has that room," she said.

Monk's bulging chest seemed all that kept his jaw from falling entirely off his face, so far down did surprise make it sag.

"Your - what?" he gulped.

"Doc Savage - my future husband!" Rae Stanley retorted sharply. "What ails you, anyway? You look as if you had just heard of our engagement, instead of knowing about it for more than a month."...

Rae Stanley went straight to Doc, lifted on tiptoe, and gave him a resounding and amorous kiss.

"Your friends wanted me to show them your room, darling," she said. "They are acting very strangely."

Wheezing., the young woman skipped outside. She drew the door shut behind her.

Doc's flake-gold pools of eyes rested upon his five men.

"Do me a favor," he requested.

"What kind of a favor?" Monk queried in a tiny voice.

"Haul off and sock me one," Doc directed. "This must be a dream, and I'm entirely ready to be awakened."


"Nope," said Ham. "The hussy!"

"She's Doc's fiance," Monk reminded.

The faintest suggestion of a red tinge showed under the bronze hue of Doc's neck. The bronze man's five aides stared at this faint flush in astonishment. They would hardly have been more amazed had the sun changed color.

To their recollection, Doc had never before shown embarrassment.

The Wit and Wisdom of Saturday Loo, Henchman Philosopher:

"The lowly dog who has never seen a lion is prone to make the mistake of biting one."

"It is a foolish bird which pecks the friendly cat."

"Even the lowest and most stupid of men have a brain which sometimes functions."

"A canary is safest from the cat while in its cage."

"It is indeed a wise squirrel who does not store all his nuts in one tree."

"It has been said that the Creator of the world and the things upon it, had an appetite and a barking noise left over, so he made the dog."


A few imaginative souls maintained that a great condor dropped from the sky and hit the earth with a terrific explosion, and that it magically became the figure of a giant man of bronze. But the Aymarans are a race addicted to concocting myths.


[This is not humanly possible, but please continue Lester] Doc Savage's hands had tendons nearly as thick as an ordinary man's fingers. One of these hands clamped upon Saturday Loo's gun wrist.


Doc nodded politely, but did not offer to take the hand which Shrops extended. In order that the gesture might not he construed as impolite, however, he made a pretense of wiping chemicals off his fingers.


[Then Doc's eyes asked for a salami sandwich on rye with hot mustard] Doc glanced at the homely Monk. On occasions in the past, the bronze man's aides had noted a weird quality about Doc's flake-gold eyes - a strange ability to convey orders with their glance. Just now, Doc's gaze suggested that Monk return the young lady to town, whether or not such was her wish.


"We may have seven or eight wives a piece," offered the bony Johnny. "A man can have more than one wife over here."

Every one but Monk looked very gloomy at this possibility. Monk grinned widely at the idea of several wives, however. The thought seemed to appeal to him.

"In case we have turned Brigham Youngs in our sleep," he snorted, "I only hope we picked as nifty lookers as Doc did."


"It's just Doc's way," Monk explained. "In some ways, the big fellow is beyond understanding. But what he does always turns out right. You can depend on that."

"That's not a clear explanation."

Monk mentally threw up his hands. "All right, all right," he chuckled. "I can't explain why Doc does things. He's too deep for me."

"He's wonderful, isn't he," the young woman said perversely.


"Let me handle this," he muttered. "I'm the fanciest liar in the gang."

They entered the room.

Rae Stanley looked up tearfully. "My father - "

"Perished several months ago," Monk told her.


Doc Savage's weird golden eyes apparently kept track of everything. Even in the heated combat, he saw the Tibetan's intention to kill the girl. The bronze man veered over, and his fist, drifting out with an eye-defying speed, seemed to caress the chin of the Tibetan. There was a distinctly audible crunch - and the man's jaw slewed around almost under an ear. He dropped.


With gusto, Doc gave further attention to the men squirming on the ground. He swooped upon each in succession, fists driving short, terrific punches.

In each case, he struck just hard enough to produce ten or fifteen minutes of unconsciousness, something his vast knowledge of surgery enabled him to do.


Renny heaved up from the floor with blinding speed. One huge fist hurled out and met Saturday Loo's head. Fist and head seemed almost of an equal size.

Saturday Loo was knocked backward the entire width of the cabin. The shock of hitting the wall expelled breath from his lungs, causing him to spout teeth, bits of pulped tongue and lips, and a spray of scarlet. He fell forward upon the floor.

In the future, Saturday Loo's ancestors would have to look closely and long to recognize him.


Whatever the mysterious blue meteor was, these men obviously feared it more than they dreaded the possibility of being, after death, sent back to earth in the form of rabbits, which, in some Tibetans, is their idea of going to hell.


ALL of Doc's men were experts at wrestling and jujutsu


THE road mounted numerous hills. From the tops of some of these it was possible to see the far-off hospital. Distance made the crowd there look like varicolored grains of sand.


[Skiagraphy: "the use of shading and the projection of shadows to show perspective in architectural or technical drawing."] The equipment ranged from endoscopes for scrutinizing the lungs, to complete skiagraphy apparatus for surveying the various parts of the body by X ray.


Doc Savage kept at his tying. Time after time, he encircled Renny with rope, for he had knowledge of the terrific strength which came with the suspension of mental power. Monk and Ham had been unnaturally powerful.

The Meteor Menace is more fun than it is meaningful, and its action surprisingly more engaging than it could have been, considering all the backlot hijinks that account for the book's appeal in the first place.

014 - The Monsters:

"The breeding ground was a walled castle completely covered over with a huge electrified net. Inside were the scum of the earth, gathered from the prisons of the world, transformed into invincible giants. Now they were ready to ravage the world — unless Doc Savage and his mighty crew could stop them."


"This is a job for that Doc Savage!"

The 14th Doc Savage book might be the most accomplished work up to that point based on the strengths of the menace and a galloping plot devoid of padding. The Monsters isn't movie material but a great episode or two of a television series. The Sanctum reprint was useful in delineating the story's major deficit revolving around the changing and unclear size of the monsters. Dated April, 1934 with a classic Baumhofer cover.

Reading often like a horror story The Monsters has real monsters and not just the illusion of them. Their initial scenes find them the size indicated on the cover. Street & Smith asked for revisions to make the creatures more "realistically" large to where you get "Holy cow!" Renny boomed. "Any one of 'em would make two ordinary men!", later followed by "Some of them had picked up boulders almost as large as washtubs to use as missiles, and these seemed as light as pebbles in their hands", so Lester Dent made a few changes as requested but didn't see it through. Then I ask why his editors didn't insist on consistency, and answer back being it wasn't worth the effort for a pulp adventure due to the printers. 

The book opens very strong with setting up Bruno Hen's "Steps Toward Disaster" and the payoff of his death. MacBride's abrupt demise is not what you expect and it's more shocking for it. The old house with forty foot walls and an electrified netting on top was a fantastic setting, scenes like the quicksand "rescue" and van explosion are impressive, and the death of the giants ending is freaking epic. You can take the book and almost scene-for-scene convert it to a television script. You'd have to correct its mistakes and shortcomings, but as a foundation it's solid.

First you have to choose a consistent size and strength for the monsters. You can't switch back and forth from elephant to horse size and have it make sense unless you have the monsters made in different sizes for different uses, with the largest being the dumbest, slowest, and most clumsy. The reveal of the monsters as chemically altered humans comes all the way in Chapter 19 of a 26 chapter book. Dent makes it obvious the first monsters are the circus pinheads as what else could it be after Bruno Hen gets his but good after asking for it? You can keep it a mystery to Doc until he finds out in the course of action but to deny the obvious to the reader is talking down to them when you don't have to.

If you don't show Doc having a long whispered conversation with Jean Morris in the pit, the part where she turns traitor might have worked as a plot twist against our boys. Hack ordering the monsters to not kill Doc & Friends on the lake isn't handled well when you have a conversation like this right after. Have the master villain order it for a valid reason:

"We've got the whole Savage gang," be said. "They're in the pit. We disarmed them. They're helpless."

"Then why in hell didn't you rub them out at once?" The master villain spoke these last words, there was no doubt of it. Utter arrogance crackled in the voice. The tones were hollowly froglike.

This made me laugh because there's no reason for the mastermind to be doing this and the image of him holding up a mailing tube to his mouth to speak is childish:

Doc Savage spoke. "The master mind seems to be speaking into a tube to disguise his voice.Using a gas pipe, or perhaps a cardboard mailing tube."

In a case of something leaning towards failure yet veering into success, the initial plan of the monsters storming a city wearing body armor and wreaking havoc wasn't selling it, but Dent smartly indicates a clever head fake to something more practical:

"Size is not of supreme importance these days, my friend. It is brains which count. Bombs and modern machine guns would make short work of our giants."

"Do not sound so disappointed," chuckled the hollow tones. "My plan is based on psychology. II you had read the newspapers to-day, you would understand. The size of our giants has been exaggerated. Our earlier newspaper advertisements helped."

"I don't get you."

"The imaginative American public actually thinks we have monster men a hundred feet high. We will make our little foray upon Milwaukee, first bombing the light plant so that the city will be in darkness. The giants will smash windows, and catch a few people and break their necks. In the darkness few will see the big fellows. After that, rumor will have the giants infinitely larger than they are."

Hack seemed to be digesting his chief's words. "You think we can scare them towns into coughing up five million apiece?"

"We can certainly try," chuckled the hollow voice...

[Nice touch with the monsters being happy with the change of plans] NOTHING WAS said for some moments. The giants made hootings and cluckings of a happy nature. The big fellows apparently had not relished attacking a city ready to receive them. The assault on Milwaukee was more appealing.

The book doesn't use the words but the chemical treatment targets the pituitary glands. William G. Bogart and Lester Dent went back to the pituitary giant well in 1939's World Fair Goblin. This month's female day-player, Jean Morris, is a lion tamer. In 1940's The Evil Gnome a lion tamer by the name of Lion Ellison is the female lead. Knowledge is power.

The Monsters:

[Very large monsters indeed] Over the whacking of the rifle and the breed's moaning there sounded a tremendous rending and tearing. The breed stared upward in ghastly terror.

Parts of the roof of his shack were being torn off. Stout boards split apart or snapped off. Rafters buckled under some cataclysmic force.

Still firing madly, Bruno retreated to the other side of the cabin.

With a final squawling of withdrawn nails, and a cracking of wood, a section of the roof came off. Something extended through the aperture.


"I saw one of the men get killed!" wailed a Trapper Lake citizen. "A giant just picked him up, took his head in both hands, and mashed it like you and me would bust an egg."


Several times, traffic policemen sprang into startled life as the car moaned past; but they subsided upon observing the occupant. The greenest rookie knew there was an imperative order out to extend to this man of bronze. every possible co-operation.


Doc Savage went to the gate. From the recesses of his clothing came an unbreakable tube. The powder this contained, he sprinkled upon the gate bars. Finger prints became visible.

Doc Savage made no effort to photograph them. He merely studied them, fixing the whorls indelibly in his mind. Months could elapse before the bronze man glimpsed like prints, yet he would still recall their configuration, to such retentiveness had he attuned his memory.


[What about the cannoli?] "Get your chemical bombs," Doc directed. "Better leave the pig."


A MOMENT later, Monk found himself running alone. The homely chemist had thought he was running fast, but Doc had left him behind so suddenly that it seemed to Monk that he had turned around and traveled backward.


Monk nodded as he waddled along. His legs were so bowed that his gait was grotesque; he seemed momentarily on the verge of taking to all fours.


[Assigned to make gas bombs it's more realistic to say Monk would need certain things in quantities his porta-lab doesn't hold. Better to say he needs to buy supplies in town] The homely Monk possessed a remarkably compact portable chemical laboratory which he always took upon expeditions of this sort.


Ham, like many orators, had a habit of making gestures when he spoke. He gestured now, although his words were whispered.

Long Tom:

[Hey, LT, Doc just saved your pasty-ass life. Don't "demand" anything.] "How'd you get here, Doc?" Long Tom demanded.


THE GUIDE'S Hotel, they discovered, set an excellent table. Strangely enough, it was the thinnest man in the party -- skeletonlike Johnny -- who was the heaviest consumer of food.

"I wonder where the stuff he eats goes to," pondered homely Monk when Johnny, having eaten prodigiously, arose from the table looking, if anything, thinner than before.


It was a peaceful scene. They settled for the night in pneumatic sleeping bags. All were tired; they soon dropped off to sleep.


[Photography in 1934 involved hand grenades] "I planted a camera in the treetops, upon first hearing them," Doc explained. "The things are almost in position now to have their pictures taken."

From the ground beside the electrical listening device Doc picked a metallic-looking object, slightly smaller than a baseball. He threw this in the direction of the beach.

The thing detonated with a flash that stabbed at their eyeballs like hot flame. It was powerful flashlight powder which would expose the plate of the camera. He had been able to plant the camera with shutter open, thanks to the murk of the night.


This was his first time in the air. From impressions gained in a life spent on the ground, he had supposed clouds were fairly solid things; but he was discovering they were really of a very wispy nature, with hardly more body than widely diffused cigarette smoke.


The bag yielded a banjo. The round body and the neckpiece of the musical instrument were in separate sections which clamped together. The banjo actually held an ingenious, silenced gun, which could be fired simply by plucking one of the banjo strings.


It had not occurred to the big woodsman that he might have difficulty in locating Doc Savage. Up in his woods country, one had merely to walk into town and inquire for an individual and some one would be able to point him out. Every one knew everybody else.

It occurred to Carl MacBride that he had better ask where Doc Savage resided.

"How do you find anybody in this town, partner?" he asked the taxi driver.

"Look in the phone hook is one way," was the reply.

"Maybe you know the feller I want to find -- his name is Doc Savage."

The taxi driver turned to eye his fare, and almost ran off the pavement. He straightened his machine out, then pointed ahead to the skyscraper which Carl MacBride had admired.

"Everybody knows that guy. He hangs out on the eighty-sixth floor of that building."


[Do you really think Doc sits by the phone and picks it up?] The telephone was a dial type. He was unfamiliar with the dial device, and had some trouble with it. Eventually, however, he got his number.

The voice which came to his ears was one so profoundly impressive that he knew instinctively that the speaker must be Doc Savage. The tones were deep, vibrant with controlled power. MacBride had never before heard a telephone receiver reproduce with such distinctness.


He slammed face down upon the floor. MacBride felt no pain from the impact, for he was dead.


Doc grasped the fat man's arm; it was very soft, as if he had clutched a partially deflated inner tube.


[Standard Doc Savage codes for Pere Teston isn't a bad guy] "Wonder if Pere Teston killed him," pale Long Tom muttered thoughtfully.

Doc did not reply.


[When a man not yet seen is accused over and over again of a crime, he's innocent] "Very well," he groaned. "It seems I had best help you fellows, greatly as I am frightened. I will never feel at ease until this devil, Pere Teston, is brought to justice."...

"He is the chief," the girl explained. "I did not see him. But his name was mentioned numerous times."


[Maybe not in adventure #14 but over the years Doc & Co. lost a bunch of their machine guns to bad guys. I'm surprised they didn't show up later to bite our heroes in the tush.] The weapons were not public property. Doc manufactured them himself; the only ones in existence were those in possession of his men.


Some enterprising city editors, unable to get pictures, had their artists draw giants. Exaggerated stories were flying around, so the artists drew their giants tossing houses around.


[How would one know you were remembering your location?] The bronze man had made careful note of the location of the spot at the time of their capture by the giants. He had done this unobtrusively, and it had passed without being observed.

The Monsters is one of the best Doc Savage adventures. With a few corrections it's ready for episode five of that Doc Savage TV show on the CW featuring attractive high school students with all the normal demographics covered and test marketed.


015 - The Mystery On The Snow:

"In one of his most important adventures, the Man of Bronze journeys north to Canada, and in her magnificent wilderness solves a billion-dollar riddle: Who or What has committed murder — and worse! — to possess the secret of the miracle called Benlanium?"


Long decades before Adamantium there was Benlanium, from the May, 1934 Doc Savage Canadian thriller The Mystery On The Snow. Named after Ben Lane by Ben Lane, Benlanium displaces manganese, and "By alloying it properly, you can produce a metal of unequalled lightness and strength, perfect for airplane construction." Adamantium was named after Adam Ant, who dressed like a pirate. The prize of the story is a mountain of Benlanium, and the mystery how no footprints appear in the snow at a big crime scene. It winds up being a standard blimp and "For ballast, they use a liquid chemical mixture which, when poured out, becomes a gas. The samples from your camp site showed presence of deposits, invisible to the eyes, made by such a gas. The blimp explains the mystery attacks." There's also a terror on the snow: "Those wounds—" he choked. "That story Kulden told—about something invisible devouring them. Those holes look like the teeth marks of some gigantic beast."


The Mystery On The Snow isn't a bad story but it was only half baked. There's no reason to have a blimp with a chemical ballast. There's nothing about no visible tracks at a crime scene that helps the bad guys in any way. It's first mentioned in Chapter 14. The mystery of the title is unnecessary, unimportant, and built up to mean something when it doesn't. The "teeth marks of some gigantic beast" is a false start and how the teeth marks are made is never explained:

Kulden uncovered his eyes. "Something came—something invisible."


"It attacked us!" Kulden’s voice suddenly rose to a scream. "Don’t believe me; I must be crazy! You couldn’t see it, and it tore open their throats, just like a beast!"

The man began to tremble. "I can hear their screams yet, and the blood from their throats—it spouted, it streamed on the snow. They fell down and died, every one of them."

"Except you," Doc reminded.

"I ran and hid in the snow," Kulden groaned. "I shot at the things. But you couldn’t see them. There was nothing to fire at. And it got me, I hid, and for some reason they didn’t come for me."


"Look how they were killed," he gulped.

Not a pleasant sight—this one to which Monk had called attention. The dead men were laid open in great rips. They were deep, those gashes. They cleft through bone, muscles, and internal organs.

Ben Lane suddenly began to tremble. The tremors shook him from head to foot.

"Those wounds—" he choked. "That story Kulden told—about something invisible devouring them. Those holes look like the teeth marks of some gigantic beast."

There's no reason for there to be a beast or to fake one. In itself it accomplishes nothing. It's written sled dogs and Habeas are afraid of something unnatural but there's no scary element that takes shape in any form so there's no reason for them to feel terror. Untrodden snow and a gigantic beast had to have existed in outline form but were never incorporated into the story correctly. The Mystery On The Snow is not final draft quality.

The mastermind is handled equally well. We first meet him behind a curtain with a hysterically comical disguised voice:

The unseen speaker’s mouselike, squeaking tones were such an excellent disguise that Mahal was not even sure whether the other was a man or not....

This information did not seem to set well with Stroam. Squeaking sounds of rage came from behind the curtain.

Lester Dent does this to open the door for a moment that the episode's female day-player might be the mastermind hiding in plain sight as a detective hired by Ben Lane. Is it worth that to have your lead bad guy squeak like a mouse? The mastermind operating out of disguise comes later than usual in a Doc Savage adventure, and it's fairly obvious who it is when you read this in his introduction:

With the pencil, the red-faced officer drew several circles, so that they made a caricature of a particularly awful-looking ogre. As an afterthought, he attached a spiked tail and a pair of horns. This last showed that Captain Stonefelt had formed an advance dislike for the individual he had in mind.

That personage was Doc Savage.

The big event in this fifteenth Doc Savage tale is Johnny's assigned a large word affectation that makes him an object of ridicule, and either intentionally or not it hinders his ability to participate as an equal member of the Doc Savage crew. How many times was he excluded from a story because the writer didn't feel like spending time staring at a thesaurus? How many scenes can you have trip over themselves with the comedy routine of Johnny intentionally spewing intellectual gibberish, then someone has to interpret what he's saying, and then it moves on because what he says doesn't add anything? Johnny does use small words, and after the first big word comedy bit he switches to them in order for the story to not trip over itself again. It was an unfortunate choice to take his big word fetish this far. Lines like these four work because the vocabulary isn't gibberish and the scenes continue without having to reference what was just said:

"You should lament," he said dryly. "The foot vestments cost you exactly nothing."...

"Sagacity usually motivates Doc’s operations," Johnny agreed...

"We are nearing the designated locale," said Johnny, who never used a small word where a larger one would do...

"The marauder was frustrated by the steel depository," said the big-worded Johnny.

With The Mystery On The Snow, the reader now has to deal with this:

"A mendacious assertion, manifestly," said verbose Johnny.

Bony Johnny fingered his magnifier-monocle. "The rogue exhibits a preposterous defiance, unless he possesses some unforeseen resource."

"He does act like he had an ace up his sleeve," thumped Renny.


"An ultranodulated terrain," he remarked.

"What?" queried Monk.

"He means that it’s a rough country, you hairy mistake," Ham advised.

Doc destroys his own planes, boats, and even his own HQ to fake his own death much too often. He does so here with his speediest plane, and instead he could have easily captured the saboteur and pulled the information he wanted by his normal methods. The situation wasn't so dire where this was his only option:

"That fellow Kulden doctored my plane so it would crash," the bronze man explained. "He didn’t know I was watching him do it. Taking off, I flew over the nearest hill, bailed out with a spare parachute, and let the plane crash in a river."

"But why?" Monk sputtered.

"To give me a chance to follow Kulden, in hope that he would lead me to Stroam.

The Monk & Ham frenemy hate-fest is over the top and if eliminated the story would lose some of its excess running time and also its lurches into nastiness. Three quarters in the story drags a bit in the snow and that too could stand for a trim. There's too much walking around and making scientific inquires and other preparations. "Describe exactly the contour of the region around your mountain of benlanium," he directed. Doc Savage stories don't need breathers. They should only have pauses with major scene and time shifts.

The story reads better than its problems dictate. Midnat D'Avis is a sassy Toronto private detective who likes to punch men in the nose. Ben Lane's acid-eaten face is something out of EC Comics:

Monk and Ham emitted twin gasps of horror. Shock induced by what they had seen caused both to sink back to the floor.

The man on the bunk also collapsed, as if the effort of lifting himself slightly had taken all of his strength.

They could no longer see each other. But, before the eyes of Doc Savage’s aides still swam the image of the man’s head.

The man had no face!

Monk shuddered, then closed his eyes as if to shut out the vision.

Much of the flesh was gone from the features of the man on the bunk—literally eaten away. On his forehead, bare bone actually showed. That any one could live in such a condition was surprising. That the unfortunate could speak with comparative levity was astounding...

"I must look like hell," the man on the bunk said weakly.

"What did it?" Ham asked.

"Acid," replied the weak voice. "They let it fall on my face, a drop at a time. It hurt—it hurt awfully. I almost passed out every time a drop fell."

It's as bad as that but not as bad as that, as Doc explains:

"You’re not in a serious condition," Doc told Ben Lane. "The acid had a burning effect, which was actually self-cauterizing."

From inside his pocket, Doc drew a tiny but complete first-aid kit. With this, he treated Ben Lane’s features.

"Don’t worry too much about how you look," he suggested. "You’ll be surprised how plastic surgery can fix that up." [He said in 1934]


[Well that's something new] Doc did not know it was Renny’s blood. A chemical analysis would have apprised him of that fact. When subjected to high-powered microscopes and analytical compounds, various life fluids have certain characteristics. In his retentive memory, Doc carried an exact knowledge of Renny’s corpuscular fluid, just as he knew the finger prints and foot prints of all his men.


[Doc's code for new lobotomy college recruits] "A shipment of guinea pigs is ready for you," he stated into the mouthpiece. "You will need three carrying cases. The guinea pigs can be picked up at the river place."


[Was this code for, you know...] "Is he a woman-hater?" the girl asked the handiest individual, who happened to be—not by chance, either—the homely Monk.


[I thought "Kicks" was current slang but here it is in 1934] Monk ignored the insult. "I notice you are wearing a new pair of kicks, too," he said.


[Monk, Doc, and now Renny can do this] Renny seated himself on the chest of the most cowardly-looking breed, and from his own pocket extracted a coin—a silver half dollar.

Before the eyes of his captive, Renny calmly pinched the coin between a thumb and forefinger, and folded it neatly. It was an exhibition of incredible strength; it impressed the breed. He began to tremble.

Long Tom:

"Renny seems to have become embroiled in a predicament," Johnny remarked.

"Predicament!" Long Tom abandoned his sour attitude. "That means trouble. Why didn’t you say so?"

Trouble was the one thing which would draw Long Tom away from his electrical experiments.


[Doc failed to mention the radiation will slowly and then quickly kill them all] "Right. The soles and the heels of those shoes contain a material kindred to radium, especially developed, which gives off strong, invisible emanations."

"For the love of mud!" Monk grunted. "Your mystery device here will locate anybody wearing a pair of those shoes?"

"That’s it. The emanations pass through most solids, in the fashion of X rays. The wearer of the shoes may be underground, or in a skyscraper. Simply by flying over the spot and pointing with the device, his whereabouts may be ascertained."


[This means Doc rents the space above on the 87th floor] "Oh!" the girl ejaculated. "I understand, now. Oui! He is enclosed by glass panels."

"Bulletproof glass," Monk elaborated. "Unless you walk along that aisle just so, the panels drop down from the ceiling. I told you Doc had traps in here. That’s just one of them."


The bronze man sank to the floor, and pulled off one high moccasin, then the other. These lined, not with the usual sheepskin or rabbit fur, but with what might have seemed to an experienced northerner, somewhat inefficient felt.

But that felt possessed special qualities.

Doc picked the lining bodily from each moccasin. He dived to the door, twisting the linings together as he did so. By the time he reached the heavy door, he had a rope of felt perhaps two feet in length.

With stiffened fingers, he calked the felt rope under the bottom of the door. Then, moistening a finger tip on his lips, he dampened one end of the felt twist...

First, their nostrils detected smoke scent, as of something burning. Then the end of the felt, where it had been moistened, began glowing redly. Finally, flame spurted out in a tiny tongue.

Instantly, there was a flash of such brilliance that their eyes ached for moments afterward. Concussions—a titanic slap of sound that seemed to smash air through their eardrums, accompanied the gush of white.

The door was rent apart, ax-hewn timbers splitting as if lightning-struck. A full half of the panel slapped across the cabin; the rest went outdoors...

Neither Kulden nor the others had the imagination to picture moccasins lined with a chemically-treated felt, which, when twisted together, made a high explosive akin to gun-cotton. They had relieved Doc of all fire-making implements—matches and the cigarette lighter which the bronze man always carried, although he never smoked.


NEW YORK is a city where many people have unusual occupations. There are, for example, individuals who make their living snipping at newspapers with a pair of scissors.

These persons operate news-clipping agencies. Pay them a fee, and they will deliver to you clippings concerning yourself from all over the world—providing you are important enough to have had your name appear in all those newspapers. Clippings can be had concerning others, as well.

Celebrities who like to keep scrapbooks patronize these clipping agencies.


Mahal was an oily specimen. He had a head like an almond, and many fine white teeth. He claimed to be an Oriental and, probably, he was. He also claimed to be a mystic. On that point, he was, beyond doubt, a liar. But he had made a little money out of the gullible with his fakery.


[I grew up on Long Island. It looks like a smudge of blood, not a map] In outline the stain was long and narrow. The outer end was cleft, lobster-claw fashion; at the other extremity it tapered. To untrained eyes it was merely a bloodstain of somewhat grotesque shape. It was assuredly no letter of the alphabet. But to the man of bronze, it conveyed meaning.

It bore the shape of Long Island.


Just a moment earlier, the young woman had been reflecting that she would give the bronze man a chilly reception when he did address her. She was unaccountably irked because he had practically ignored her. This feeling surprised her somewhat. In the past, whether or not young men gave her attention had been immaterial. Usually, she preferred that they take their deferences elsewhere.

But she found herself extraordinarily fascinated by this bronze man, and she resented his lack of interest. Being a young woman of pride, however, she did not admit to herself that this was the reason. She tried to tell herself that she didn’t like the handsome bronze giant.


"Anything we can do, Mr. Savage?" asked the officer who answered the call. The cop had recognized Doc’s unusual voice. He sounded extremely anxious to please. Evidently he knew something of Doc’s reputation. Probably he was also aware of an order posted in all precinct stations, signed by the police commissioner himself, directing that Doc Savage was to receive every cooperation, and no questions asked.


[Book title alert!] "I found a mystery on the snow," Doc told him. "A profound mystery."


[The early 1930s - the golden era of plastic surgery] Another thing demanding attention was the condition of Ben Lane’s features. The outcome there would be satisfactory, for plastic surgery, of which Doc was a master, would return to the metallurgist almost the perfect features that he had been given by nature.

The Mystery On The Snow is a good book suffering from the first draft blues, and is worth reading just for that mix.

016 - The King Maker:

"In the Kingdom of Calbia, the most far-flung plot of the century is already under way. The Man of Bronze and his daring companions join the revolutionary forces of Conte Cozonac but soon find themselves the intended victims of the most fearsome weapons the world has ever seen!"

“You,” Doc informed the young woman, “are what Americans call a brick.”

“I guess I'm not a brick, after all,” she breathed thickly. “I'm—scared. Awfully scared!”

The Baumhofer cover for June, 1934's The King Maker wins my vote for best visual composition. Lester Dent and Harold Davis teamed up for Doc's sixteenth adventure, and it's a good story that may not be in the Top Ten but it doesn't lack for much. Maybe I'm reading too many Doc Savage books these days but the tropes and clues were more obvious than usual, balanced out by the mysterious internecine mechanizations of the story that could go either way for longer than usual in a Doc Savage novel.

The story's glaring plot hole is that the compact heat-seeking airplane missile should turn around and blow up the plane that released it since it's the closest heat source. Since the bomb is a plane it should be taking off from a field, but then you can't have the book's ending of the bad guys bringing about their own destruction, which Doc arranges in his special passive-aggressive signature that allows him to sleep like a baby:

“Doc, you got me out of the room where the fire is! You did that deliberately, so that they could escape.”

“Something like that.”

“But why?”

“It looked like the simplest solution of this whole mess.”

Exposition Failure Of The Highest Order! They already know what this thing is:

Muta swore fluently, and said, “This matter is of vital importance. If Doc Savage has a defense against our weapon, we must know what it is.”

“An effective defense against the device might conceivably defeat our cause,” agreed the staff officer.

Long Tom put his lips close to Johnny's ear and breathed, “They're discussin' the contraption that causes the mysterious explosions—the mystery weapon that Baron Damitru Mendl invented.”

The introduction of secondary character Mr. Lacy and his premature death was a nice touch, and Doc sending his assistants off on overlapping secret missions worked well. The science explanation of the missile technology could have been done in fewer words, and if you didn't immediately know Botezul was Doc Savage, welcome to your first Doc Savage adventure!

Doc Savage books give you "tells" on who's naughty and nice. Renny likes the King (not guilty), The Count is an obese "lardy lug" (guilty), The Calbian army men seemed out of the loop about the missiles (not guilty), The Princess doesn't want Doc to be injured (not guilty), she cries when told Doc's dead (extra super not guilty), and Captain Henri Flancul is a sniveling turd in a position to gain more power (super guilty).

Doc Savage Tropes:

Doc Savage Trope #3. When you read one or both of these types of passages it means Monk/Ham/Renny/Long Tom/Johnny are soon to be over their heads and in need of rescue by Doc Savage. This happens nine out of nine-ish times:

What do you say we trail her—and grab the big guy?”

“Not a bad idea,” muttered Renny.

Johnny agreed. “Supereminent.”...

The fact that Doc had directed Muta to be seized was not mentioned. They were using their own judgment, something which they did frequently. They knew this was the course that Doc would want them to follow.

Doc Savage Trope #36. When an assistant decides not to jump into the wood chipper of danger headfirst it means he's going undercover and we'll see him again soon enough as a surprise:

Long Tom, the electric wizard, was not present. This was unusual, for Long Tom had never before deliberately passed up a chance to accompany Doc Savage.

“Think I'll stay behind in New York and work on my insect eliminating device,” Long Tom had declared, some hours before sailing time.

Long Tom's interest in this device, an apparatus which would be of inestimable value to farmers, although profound, had not before exceeded his love of adventure.

Among Monk and the others, there had been considerable discussion of Long Tom's changed attitude. Doc Savage had not joined in these discussions.


[Anesthetic gas has a green dot] Doc selected one which bore a green dot, and flipped it into the room. It burst with a sound not unlike that of a dropped bird egg.


Doc Savage said nothing, but he went to the library with his plump burden. Conte Cozonac was planted in a chair, his wrists positioned carefully on the arm rests. At Doc's touch, steel bands flashed up, encircling the wrists and locking there. Other bands, hidden in the legs of the chair, appeared and secured the portly man's ankles.

Nothing less than a steel-cutting torch would now free Conte Cozonac.


From the back pack which held the radio set, Long Tom produced a pair of headphones and another apparatus which, when assembled, bore likeness to nothing so much as a college cheerleader's megaphone. This latter was actually a highly sensitive microphone which, connected to the audio-amplifier in the radio receiver and certain supplementary coils and tubes, was set into the headphones.

With this contrivance Long Tom could pick up faint sounds over a long distance.

The two trailers dropped back nearly a hundred yards, and followed Muta by the aid of Long Tom's electrical “listener” alone. Even if they would inadvertently turn a pebble, Muta was unlikely to hear it.


[I never not love this] “I want to take him to a hospital. That is his only chance.”

The commander shrugged. “That'll have to be OK'd by my commanding officer.”

The cutter captain went to the radio cabin and communicated with his headquarters. Orders to coöperate fully with Doc Savage came crackling back with a rapidity that gave the officer rather a shock. He had heard of Doc Savage, of course, but he did not know the bronze man had such influence with the coast guard.


[Or this] The main operating room, scene of the most delicate work, was circular, with a glass ceiling, through which spectators would observe operations. Every surgeon who could find a free moment posted himself above this glass with a pair of strong binoculars, hoping to see Doc Savage's skilled fingers perform new miracles of surgery.


Many individuals bereft of their arms earn a livelihood on the vaudeville stage and with circuses, demonstrating how they have learned to shave, drive nails, and turn the pages of a book, using only their toes. Doc Savage could do all of these things, and was master of feats which few of these armless wonders could equal. For instance, he could take a string in the toes of one foot and, using that foot exclusively, tie a knot in the cord.


[Oddly worded] Ordinarily, feminine beauty left the bronze man untouched, for he had schooled his tastes carefully so that they did not run in that direction. But now he stared, and his strong lips, parting a little from amazement, showed even white teeth.


Princess Gusta fell to studying Doc Savage. Some men lose their personality when they are asleep, becoming somewhat flabby and dowdy looking. But not this bronze man. Motionless there on the floor, he was as striking a personage as he would have been if he were erect and moving about the room.


[I'm blowing the BS Whistle in every direction] Doc, springing back, scooped up fat Conte Cozonac, bounded to the stairs, and went upward. He carried Conte Cozonac's three hundred pounds under one arm, bending sidewise to balance the weight, and seeming not greatly hampered by the burden...

He retrieved his silk line with the grapple on the end and ran to the northern extremity of the block of buildings. The street there was dark. The cord was extremely strong, and Doc, still carrying Conte Cozonac, slipped down it to the sidewalk.


[Doc shooting a gun  gun saves the day] Carrying the hideous little dwarf, Doc charged forward. He held Muta's gun ready. The bronze man rarely employed firearms in personal combat, his reason being that he considered reliance on a gun bad policy...

The gun Doc had taken from Muta whacked an earsplitting thunder. The soldier's arm folded as if it had acquired an extra joint between wrist and elbow. The pistol slipped from between his fingers...

The subterranean chamber convulsed again as Doc's captured gun drove lead. The weapon was small in his mighty hand, almost hidden, and its muzzle flame was a maroon spark that jumped out of his fist.

The foremost of the two soldiers screamed, went weak in the knees, and quite pale. Doc's bullet had mangled the fellow's hand against the grip of the automatic. The rebel's pistol hit the floor at his feet, bounced, and spun like a top. The man, interested only in his agony, and goggling at his shattered hand, made no effort to secure the firearm.


[Doc carries one of his own machine guns] From an underarm holster, padded so that its presence was hardly noticeable, the bronze man drew one of his tiny superfiring pistols, the magazine charged with mercy bullets. He chose his time, and fired quickly through a window.

Long Tom:

“We are indulging in unproductive inaction,” insisted Johnny.

“Keep your hair on,” Long Tom rumbled.


["Electricity Shark" is new] Long Tom's work in the field of electricity had earned him something of a reputation, his name being mentioned in connection with such terms as “wizard of the juice” and “electricity shark.”


[He's hitting someone with a gun who is already unconscious] “You should have some flesh under the vest for a pad,” Long Tom snorted.

Leaning down, he cracked the staff officer over the head with the fellow's own gun to prolong unconsciousness.


[Renny fights Doc] Botezul, gigantic, darksome, had been concealed outside. He lunged, and his huge arms enveloped Renny.

The struggle was short—shorter than any fight in which Renny had ever before engaged. The big-fisted engineer discovered himself entirely helpless. He was flung to the floor. The cords were wrenched from his pocket and used to bind him. He was gagged with a sleeve plucked from his own Chinese blouse.


[One day Doc realized "Doc" was not his legal name and he changed the name plate to "Clark Savage, Jr.] The door bore a name outlined in very small letters of bronze. They read:



[Doc thought a Balkan Babooshka might understand Mayan?] “When she was present, I spoke a few words of the Mayan language into the radio. Close watching of her face convinced me she did not understand the language. Hence, she does not know that the words directed Long Tom, Johnny and Renny to trail her.”


[Big pockets indeed considering what must be Doc's shoe size. And ladies? He's single] With quick tugs, the bronze man removed the custom-made oxfords which shod his feet and drew off silk socks. His coat pockets were spacious enough to accommodate the footgear. Then he went forward.


He was a man of bubbles. His stomach was a bubble, his chest another smaller bubble swelling out of it. And his head was still another bubble. His skin was olive, but at the same time ruddy, as if it had been rouged. He had a pleasant mouth and pleasantly wrinkled eyes, and there was a certain amiable jauntiness in his slightly flashy attire. He looked like a soft, cheerful man of some three hundred pounds.


[Thankfully she didn't inject air into a vein] “If it will interest you, there was no drug in that needle when you used it upon me.”...

“Correct,” Doc assured her. “The hypo needle in its case came to my attention while untying you. Emptying it was merely a precaution on my part.”


Doc's Taxi has the license plate "S3" and his panel truck "S4".


[Equipment Case #4] From the hay, he withdrew one of his metal equipment cases. Renny looked for the identifying number on the case. He knew the numerals on most of them, and the contents each number signified. Number four, for instance, was gas bombs, and thirteen, fittingly enough, was the one which always held Doc's little supermachine pistols and ammunition drums—these were bad luck for any one.

I'll arbitrarily say The King Maker is the fourteenth best Doc Savage novel, based on nothing but a need to type something, guesstimate a number, and be confident that it might be true.

017 - The Thousand-Headed Man:

"With a mysterious black Chinaman, Doc Savage and his amazing crew journey to the jungles of Indo-China in a desperate gamble to destroy the infamous Thousand-headed Man."

I'm sure you felt the same way, but I was greatly disappointed the "Thousand-Headed Man" wasn't a person with 1,000 tiny human heads on his body, and they all talk, have names, and generally don't get along. Considered one of the top ten Doc Savage novels, I'd agree if the endless middle section was tightened up to a third of its length as it's a solid wall of B-Roll. That and less exposition exposed through interrogations. This is Doc Savage, not Dragnet. Plus fewer discussions on what the black keys might be and what the whole thing might be about. My memory's not that crappy. The beginning and ending are very good, with great characters and a cool lost city of assorted weirdness like gas-misting cobras, buildings covered to the inch with human body part designs, and cowardly natives in body suits covered with (basically) doll heads. 

Published in July of 1934, The Thousand-Headed Man isn't for you if you're against Asian stereotypes of the "No Tickee, No Washee" variety. If the word "inscrutable" is a trigger word it's too late because you just read it! Ha! I didn't mind as my list of "ist" and "ism" transgressions is the length of a black █████████████.

The first seven chapters are strong. The lead bad guy is Sen Gat, who cares more about his nails than life itself:

SEN GAT was a rangy black crow of a man, with the features of an Asiatic and a skin that was Nubian in its swarthiness. His hands were fantastic, jeweled rings ornamenting nearly every finger. The great thing, though, was his finger nails; possibly six inches long, they were carefully curled inside gold protectors which slipped, thimble-fashion, upon the ends of the fingers....

Doc now grasped Sen Gat and dragged him aside. The unusual finger nails held his attention for a moment. He knew their meaning. Orientals considered such finger nails the mark of a gentleman, they being visual proof that the owner had done no work for a long time...

As Sen Gat began opening the safe, it was manifest that he did not use his fingers a great deal. In fact, the long nails made the fingers clumsy to the point of uselessness. Maneuvering the dial, be employed the sides of his hand...

He leaped upon Sen Gat, grabbed the swarthy oriental by the throat, and they fought. Sen Gat was the stronger by I far, but he did not use his hands and that handicapped him.

Maples, suddenly realizing his foe was possessed with an awful fear of breaking his long finger nails, grabbed the gold nail protectors and twisted.

Sen Gat shrieked, and to prevent breakage of the nails allowed himself to be led toward the door...

He said no more, for Maples lunged suddenly and struck him in the face. Sen Gat toppled backward. Fear of snapping off his amazing finger nails seemed to keep him from using his hands to break his descent. He fell heavily...

Sen Gat minced backward, peering fearfully at his protected finger nails. His face mirrored an immense relief when he found none of them broken. They were a love he valued next to his life, those nails.

Once the story leaves London for the jungles of Indo-China, it takes a deep breath and moseys along until the Thousand-Headed Man tribe are shown in force, and that's way down the line. Sen Gat and his crew, lead by a bald thug version of Monk named Evall, become afterthoughts as they're helpless prisoners of the jungle cult. They get theirs, of course, but what starts as a Sen Gat affair ends up a Doc Vs. Primitive Weirdos fight - even better mainly for the absurdities on display. There's buildings covered with feet, teeth, arms, heads, and who knows what else you can't say in front of children. Monk soaks his undershirt with the antidote to the snake poison and everyone drinks it! From the shirt he's been wearing in a jungle for who knows how long. The best gadget of all time might be this:

He delved into the concealed pockets, and from one came what at first glance might have been mistaken for a toy rubber balloon, bronze-colored.

When inflated, however, the rubber object proved an article of careful workmanship, and some good painting. It was a respectable likeness of Doc's head and features.

An observation - in the Doc Savage world 50% of the adult population know how to fly a plane. I'm trying to recall if Lester Dent ever shared character's thoughts as sentences, or if everything had to be said out loud:

Ordinarily, Monk was not addicted to the habit of talking to himself, but now he did some vocal ruminating.

"We ain't out of this thing yet, by a lot," he told himself thoughtfully. "If we get held up, or that danged mystery thing overcomes us, somebody is liable to find these sticks."

The Thousand-Headed Man has one of the rare dead endings I actually like:

"Father wants me to tell you that we wish no share of that stuff from the pagoda of The Thousand-headed Man," she said.

"Nonsense!" Doc told her. "It'll be divided into two parts. One of those halves will be shared between yourself, your mother, your father, Maples and the other ex-prisoners. The second half will be turned over to a fund to build hospitals and schools in Indo-China."

The girl seemed stunned. "But what do you get out of it?"

"Believe it or not," Doc advised her, "we get some fun out of this sort of thing."

Because of its long middle of filler the book was a bit of a chore to wade through, but the strengths of the beginning and end are enough that it's better once you're finished reading it, and with some tinkering it would be a true Doc Savage classic.

The McGuffin:

The black stick was round, but roughly so, as if it had been molded by rolling between palms. The indentations of finger tips were even discernible in the sepia substance. The compound itself was vaguely like hard rubber, yet obviously not rubber. There was a greasy shine to it.

"This is one of them," Maples said softly, and replaced the oiled covering.

"One of the keys," Sen Gat said, stepping back slightly. "Three black keys to the secret of the Man With a Thousand Heads."

The Thousand-Headed Man:

In the light stood The Thousand-headed Man!

DOC SAVAGE wrenched to a stop. His career had been long, perilous, its course dotted with many things foreign to the experience of an ordinary individual - things hideous, unusual, eerie, even smacking of the supernatural. Yet nothing equaled this.

The Thousand-headed Man was a vision utterly grotesque. Doc Savage himself was a giant in size, yet this monstrosity before him was even larger - very much as Lucile Copeland had described him.

He had one large head, the same as a human being; but there were other heads; scores, hundreds. Some were the size of oranges; others ranged down to the proportions of walnuts. Three protruded from his forehead above his brows; others from his cheeks, his arms, the sides of his body. They were like awful warts.

The sole garment of The Thousand-headed Man was a loin cloth, and this flashed with scintillating splendor in the slab of sunlight, for it was composed of jewels - sapphires, rubies and pearls for the most part - interwoven with a mesh of yellow metal which was unmistakably gold.


Doc wrenched. There was a tearing sound, a convulsion among the heads which covered the man's body, and the hideous appendages came away.

The heads were not real! They were hideous little things carved out of wood and attached to a tight-fitting garment that resembled human skin...

[Seriously Doc? You thought they might be real tiny head?] Just to satisfy himself that none of the heads which covered the strange big men were genuine, Doc Savage wrenched another skin-tight garment off the victim.


COLLIDING WITH the bronze man's shoulder, the packet bounced. But the bronze man drove a hand up and caught it before it was out of reach - a catch that was executed with such blinding speed that those who saw it blinked unbelievingly, and quite a few failed to even glimpse it.


[Variation from his photographic memory skills] The bronze man stood there a moment. He had secured the license number of the car and repeated it under his breath a number of times to fix it in his memory. The number might or might not be useful.


The oriental shrieked, kicked, and struck with his fists. Doc held him a little tighter and the fellow ceased struggling, partially paralyzed by the unearthly strength in the bronze arms. Squeakings and moanings were the only sounds he could manage.


[Mr. Tarzan's attorney on Line One] The bronze man had adopted a mode of traveling which was possible only to one of his fabulous strength and agility. Twenty, thirty, and even forty feet above the ground his way lay. He ran to the end of a limb and launched outward into apace, caught the bough of an adjacent tree, and went on.

Several times, stout creepers spanning from one tree to another supplied him with a bridge. More often the shift was managed by a dizzy swing through space.


High up among the branches, Lucile Copeland was almost helpless; she clung to boughs with a sort of rigid terror.

Doc, planting her finally on his back, advised her to hang on. Seemingly hampered not at all by her weight, he plunged forward.

Several times Lucile Copeland gasped in horror as the giant bronze man launched across dizzy space Once she screamed.

After that, she shut her eyes tightly and did not look, except when Doc asked directions.


[Monk's gun show, Bro!] "Take your dukes off my bloke, o' I'll bust your face in!"

Monk flexed his arms. Some of the muscles which bulged up might conceivably have served as footballs, if detached. "Whenever you're ready, cull!" he growled.


One of Doc Savage's five aides occupied a chair in the corridor. He was the man with the incredibly huge fists. His knotted hands were resting on his knees, and they seemed almost as large as his head, which was not small. His face itself was unusual, being long and covered with an expression of unutterable gloom. The man looked as if he had just lost a very dear relative.


[What does this actually mean?] "I'll be superamalgamated!" he mumbled.


[In novel #17 Johnny's vocabulary is still readily understood] "Circumstantial evidence substantiates that assertion," agreed the bony Johnny, who had a horror of small words when he could think of big ones...

"Warlike personalities, if the profusion of firearms and ammunition is a substantial basis for conjecture," said bigworded Johnny...

The celestial purveyor of dubious delectables had migrated," Johnny imparted, returning to his large words...

[Note Monk's stupidity as this is a simple sentence] "We can conceivably apprehend the nefarious Sen Gat before he attains his destination," concluded big-worded Johnny, polishing his monocle magnifier thoughtfully.

Monk began, "Yeah," and fell silent.


A grin seamed Monk's simian features from ear to ear. He opened a hand and eyed the cylindrical metal object he had taken from the boxes in the corner. This was a tiny compressed-air repeating blowgun, one of countless strange devices which Doc Savage had perfected.

The slugs it fired were half an inch long and little thicker than needles. There was a supply of them in the case, coated with drugs which produced a variety of effects, from instant unconsciousness to hilarious intoxication. Monk had used the type which inflicted great physical discomfort. The tobacco smoke had concealed Monk's operations.


[Doc fails with a gadget? Wha? Between this and Doc forgetting for a moment that in England cars drive on the other side of the rode, Doc's not so super!] Doc twisted the knob, flung the grenade, throwing it violently so that it would land in front of the car. The trees made the throw difficult, and he barely got it under the branches.

But the grenade failed in its purpose. It opened a little tardily. And as the car windows were up - it was a sedan - the gas, a vapor producing unconsciousness, failed to penetrate the interior.


These inflammable slugs, like other things about the superfirer pistols, had been developed by Doc. In their noses they carried a thermite compound which, once it was ignited, would melt through almost all known metals - and it ignited on impact with a target.


The oriental took a wild chance. On his feet and running, he saw the space between the two buildings and it must have looked narrow, or perhaps the flashlight glare created an optical illusion which made it seem less wide than it was. The fellow tried to jump it.

His feet barely made the opposite coping. Momentum failed to carry him over. His arms gyrated; he doubled, trying to grasp the edge, but failed. Head first, he sank down into the black space between the buildings.

He screamed throughout the fall, and the shriek ended in a crunch not unlike that which might be made by the dropping of a package which contained a full bottle of some liquid.


The obtaining of information from unwilling subjects Doc Savage had long ago found to be vitally important, and he had, accordingly, mastered numerous ways of doing it - employing truth serums, hypnotism, and other systems. He knew much of the psychology of fear and how it could be applied to a man's brain to bring out facts, like a fire set to a jungle covert to frighten forth the game within.

Doc Savage performed upon Indigo's joints and nerve centers, bringing excruciating but harmless pain. The others stood around and talked, their manner, their words, indicating that Indigo's prospects of remaining among the living were slender.

Stupid Trilling:

This trilling sound was a characteristic exclusive to Doc Savage - a weird note which he unconsciously made in moments of mental excitement. It came when he had made some discovery of importance; sometimes it precoursed a plan of action. It could mean many things.

Just now, the trilling signified disgust.


[I'd buy one] The blue-bearded Indigo lunged forward. From his right hind dangled a unique weapon - a heavy steel machine tap tied to the end of a leather thong almost a yard in length. He swung the tap on the thong, underhanded, and let it go.


Even the hotel officials did not know Doc Savage was wanted. This was in accordance with the police policy of looking out for the feeling of others. If Doc Savage was apprehended and proved himself innocent, none other than the police would know of the affair.


Doc gazed at Lucile Copeland. The newspaper pictures had not done her justice. She had the competent sort of beauty that cameras do not catch - an attractiveness which came from fine skin texture and strength of feature.

018 - The Squeaking Goblin:

"The tale of a skeletal sharpshooter who used a strange squeaking weapon was told around backwoods campfires. To most it was just a legend, but for some it became a terrifying reality — especially those whose skulls were shattered by the deadly “disappearing bullets.” Doc Savage dodges flying death as he tracks the spectral killer who defies every law of nature!"

August, 1934's The Squeaking Goblin, the series' eighteenth, has the makings of a decent tv production if whittled down by almost half. The book contains a good core story stretched out equally with filler, repetition, and the idiocy of shaving Monk all over and squatting him in a legless man's begging cart while Johnny pretends to be kinfolk by the name of Fatty Irvin.. The Hatfield-McCoy shtick is both good and self-limiting, first as a gimmick and second with hill-billy dialogue like "Chelton jist skedaddled ‘thout makin’ a stab at untyin’ us," he said. "And that war’nt no way fur a Raymond to act."

Lester Dent does an admirable job delineating the feuding Snow and Raymond families and hill-billy life in the mountains of Kentucky with passages like this. The only problem is repetition:

The feud was in the mountains. Terror, death and violence was like a black blanket over the Kentucky Cumberlands.

The deserted cabins meant families had doubled up for safety. Women and children did not venture out. The men stirred abroad only for food, or to wage guerrilla warfare.

Snow stalked Raymond, and Raymond fought Snow with killing purpose, with nobody neutral. Most of the families in the mountains were related by blood or by marriage, or their sympathies were with one clan or the other, and those who wanted to walk the middle ground found themselves out of luck.

Dent has only X-amount of story for X-number of pages so there's much chatty conversation about the nature of the feud, wondering who the Goblin could be, and why the government doesn't step in. There's two scenes where someone about to spill the beans about the Squeaking Goblin getting killed just before the words come out. Oddly enough there's nothing they can say of value as the Squeaking Goblin is a mysterious single-person operation, so killing them instead of Doc Savage makes no sense. Production notes and recurring expository ruminations stuff the couch of The Squeaking Goblin.

Dent making Chelton Raymond a one-man show backfires when the book opens with Chelton on a yacht being shot at by the Squeaking Goblin. It's plain Chelton is at least the mastermind of the Squeaking Goblin plot when he fakes his death upon hearing the name of Frosta Raymond. That entire scene is a mess because he's the Goblin and there's nobody to pretend to shoot him, and the instantaneous decision to fake his own death precludes the coordinated actions below:

The Squeaking Goblin had not become visible on shore.

There came a squeak—short, hideous, very real.

Chelton Raymond stood up in the canoe, screaming. He had transferred his arms to his chest, where they were crossed, tightly clutching. Face contorted, eyes staring, he reeled, could not keep his balance, and toppled slowly.

A smear of crimson fluid had already covered the hands which were clenched against his chest.

I have no idea why Raymond would call in Doc Savage if he himself is the entire evil enterprise:

"I have radioed Savage for help," said Raymond. "I hope there will be no professional jealousy on the part of you or your men when he arrives."

The feud is rekindled after many years by notes and money tossed into people's shacks. The hill-billys are so simple they take what's written to them by an unknown source as proof of something? I guess so...

Security protocols were ignored:

Doc’s flake-gold eyes rested on the young woman. "How did you know I was at the Aquatania Hotel, instead of my New York office?"

Homely Monk, in a seat near by, started violently and exclaimed, "Gosh, Doc! I forgot to tell you!"

"Tell me what?" Doc asked.

"Some woman called the New York office and wanted to know where you were, and we told her."

"It was I who called," Frosta Raymond supplied.


[Well, that's grotesque!] Two things were striking about it: the bronze hue of the fine-textured skin, and the gigantic sinews which cabled the back and wrist, some of the ligaments being almost as large as the fingers themselves. The hand conveyed an expression of incredible strength.


[Doc hides the skills] Doc let "Jug" come within a double arm’s length, then advanced, doing so slowly, fists up in a clumsy, sluggish fighting position...

There was a loud report, like a tremendous handclap. Jug slowly lowered his paws, and a pained grimace overspread his features. He wavered, his knees buckled, and he came down heavily on all fours. Then he shook his head and reared up dizzily.


[Doc seeks out these commissions] The policeman seemed aware that Doc Savage held a commission, honorary but none the less very real, as a high officer on the State force. This commission was in line with the bronze man’s habit of acquiring such posts whenever it was possible, for it had the effect of making him one of the lawmen, and they, not looking upon him as an outsider, would coöperate to a much greater degree. The cops were only human.


Doc Savage watched for an instant, unperturbed, except that his eyes were like pools of fine flake-gold stirred by an angry, but tiny, gale.


[The parts in bold are not true but Doc is an overwhelmingly powerful presence without guile, ego, or impolite social skills] Fabulous as was his knowledge—there were few subjects upon which he could not hold his own with the most learned and specialized of living men—Doc Savage did not conduct himself on an intellectual level. He had a remarkable faculty of making himself seem one of whatever group in which he might find himself.

A famous teacher once said that the mark of an educated man is the ease with which he makes himself at home everywhere—with learned statesmen, with factory laborers. Doc had that mark.


He ran with long strides and did not skulk behind trees, a procedure that to one not knowing the bronze man’s capabilities would have seemed extremely reckless.

But Doc knew from long experience that he had a fifty-fifty chance of sighting any attacker and getting safely to cover, or countering with an attack of his own.


 A third man clambered out of the amphibian. He was a human granddaddy longlegs. It seemed that no man could be as thin as he, and live. His trousers whipped about his bony shanks as about wooden laths, and his coat hung as on a wire hangar. From his lapel dangled a monocle on a ribbon.


[This is not how humans converse] "An ultrapugnacious temperament nearly precipitated you into your Valhalla," he said.

"You mean I nearly got myself shot when I sailed into Jug Snow?" Monk grinned.

Long Tom:

LONG TOM was not "long".


Long Tom sucked at a front tooth again; it was a gold tooth.


The man getting out of the plane would weigh near two hundred and fifty pounds, and seemed bigger because he was not fat.


...a man whose name and accomplishments were mentioned with awe wherever knights of the test tubes gathered in conclave.


[Ham constantly unsheathing his sword cane for effect is "toughest guy on the internet" nonsense] Glowering at Monk, the carefully dressed man slipped his dark cane apart a few inches, showing the thin blade within it.


"Them thar level-land newspapers hain’t been a-hearin’ the half a’ it."


[Doc soon decided not to paint his planes to match his tan] A huge, dark plane had appeared. It flashed out to sea, the whine of air past its wings receding, then banked and came back. Besides being large, the aërial newcomer was streamlined until its every curve cried out of speed. It was an amphibian, tri-motored. It was painted a solid bronze color.


["Feuded" means killed] "Then, the other day, a family of our neighbors was feuded—man, his wife and their kid."


[You call it sweat, I call it added zest] IT was hot in the Kentucky Mountains. The man perspired as he worked. The perspiration really simplified the strange task he was performing, for it mingled with the blackberry juice, thinning it, making it run...

The fellow worked furtively, pausing now and then to listen, an attentive expression on his stupid face.


[Or, Doc could have had everyone approach the body slowly with weapons drawn] Renny, a great tower of a man, drew out in the lead in the race for Tabor Raymond. Long Tom and Tige trod his heels. The girl was close behind. Hence none noticed that Doc Savage was no longer with them...

But out of the brush beside the road slammed a great nemesis of bronze, a huge man of metal who moved with a speed that was hair-lifting to watch. One of his hands lashed out. The gun was knocked down—and it exploded. Bark leaped off a near-by tree, the only damage inflicted by the bullet.


[As always, this is absolute nonsense] Doc carried some of the balls in secret pockets in his clothing, where they could be broken by expanding muscles.


But it was more likely that most of those who saw the brilliant message knew the letters were outlined with electric bulbs, these mounted on a long, flexible frame towed by an autogyro. No doubt, a number of mountaineers had seen such messages before on their rare visits to Cincinnati, or even to New York and Chicago, where that method of advertising was much used.


[Best of Violence] The Goblin saw, and there was nothing to do but shoot Jug. The Goblin did that, the powder from the rifle muzzle blackening Jug’s forehead, and the soft-nose bullet opening a considerable cavity through his brain.

Jug died instantly...

Ill fortune attended the Goblin’s murder effort, for a swarm of Snow clansmen appeared over the nearest ridge, yelling, waving their guns. They saw what had happened. Halting, they opened a deliberate fire on the Goblin.

The sinister one in deerskins sought to flee, but traversed only a few yards before there was a hollow slapping of fast lead bullets into flesh.

The Goblin was knocked completely down, after which there was no movement. Yet the Snows continued to fire, their bullets kicking the body of their victim about slightly with each impact, and gradually battering it out of the shape of a human.

The handling of Chelton Raymond as The Squeaking Goblin was mishandled from the start but that can be corrected by him not being the person who gets Doc initially involved, making him the mastermind behind a crew who works with him, and faking his death as part of a plan once he knows Frosta Raymond is around to identify him. Otherwise remove the 43% of the book that's not needed, make it a short, real time experience, and what you'll get is a very good Doc Savage hill-billy feud adventure. Cue the dueling banjos!

019 - Fear Cay:

"It was all a great mystery. Who was this man called Dan Thunden who claimed he was one hundred and thirty years old? Did he really have the secret of the fountain of youth? What was this island called Fear Cay that spelled horror and death? What was the strange thing that turned men to bone? These were the mysteries that Doc Savage and his fearless crew had to solve at peril of their very lives."

“He should have been shot when he was born.”

The Silphium plant is featured in this month's Doc Savage, and being an ancient cure-all it allows Dan Thunden to stay young-ish and increasingly strong and fast at 131 years of age. It's also the ploy used in recent comic books to keep Doc young so it can be 2015 and Doc is modern and current like the kids who don't buy Doc Savage comic books would demand it if they picked one up by mistake thinking it was Doc Sampson. Dated September, 1934, Fear Cay is a nice story that moves along at a fair clip with interesting characters and accentuated scenes of violence. It has a few points against it but besides me who's counting?

I don't know how Dan Thunden managed to get off the island he was stranded on for an eternity, or how he didn't lose his sanity, or how he evaded the people-eating terrors since they were free to roam (despite what the book tries to say) and devoured a man on the sand. I was willing to accept a mythical plant could essentially stop the aging process, but not the bit below in bold:

The bronze man suspected that old Dan Thunden's longevity was due to perfect health—that, of course, the result of drinking silphium tea—and the fact that Thunden, an exile on the island, had been kept away from the distractions and dissipations of civilization which might undermine health.

Starting around Chapter 14 the exposition is laid on thick for those who might have been away during the first half of the book. That can be whittled down or changed to information gleaned through interrogation. The Sanctum reprint notes the same henchman dies twice. Besides that there's nothing wrong with what's a nice story told well.

Fear Cay is Pat's second appearance, and Doc doesn't mind having her along. She's useful and fearless. Lester Dent adds what reads like a sexual component to Doc and Pat's meeting, and if the second part isn't straight-up incestuous filth I'll eat my hat!

A young woman got out of the sedan...

Doc Savage ordinarily did not let his features register much expression, but now he was looking a little astounded..

Patricia Savage, tall, exquisitely moulded, had the same remarkable bronze hair as Doc Savage himself. They were cousins, and Doc had last seen her in western Canada, months before, when he and his five aides had gone through some perilous adventures in tracking down a gang who had slain Patricia's father.

Doc went forward eagerly which was something unusual for the bronze man. Ordinarily, he felt uncomfortable in the presence of young women, especially girls as entrancing as Patricia.

But Pat was an exception. Pat was something of a two-fisted scrapper herself, and almost as unique in her way as the big Doc was in his.

“I got tired of the woods,” Pat smiled. “Johnny and the others told me I could catch you here if I hurried.”

There was no gushing display of affection. She and Doc merely shook hands warmly...

PAT, plugging fresh shells into her big revolver as Doc came up, grinned widely.


“The yearning to hunt trouble must run in the Savage blood,” said Pat. “Gentlemen, I yearn for some action.”

“Here it is!” Doc rapped abruptly, and stepped heavily on the power brakes.

There's a henchman named "Leaking" who sweats all the time. The medical term is "Hyperhidrosis" and this is great: "Leaking saw Doc. The fellow's pores seemed literally to squirt water as terror struck him.". Dan Thunden is a memorable Doc Savage day-player somewhere between bad and good guy:

From the roof peak stretched a rope which was a yard in length and terminated around the neck of a man. The man's feet dangled off one of the two-by-fours a distance of a foot or so.

The hanging man had a white beard which came nearly to his belt, and it covered the front of his chest like the stiff front of a dress shirt. His hair was white and very long, snowy beard and hair lending him a most striking appearance. His face was darkly purple from the throttling effect of the rope....

“How old are you?” Johnny asked, using small words for once.

“One hundred and thirty-one yeahs old,” Dan Thunden said promptly...

Dan Thunden could not possibly possess the Herculean strength of the bronze giant, but the white-haired old fellow did move with an unearthly speed. Time after time, Doc seemed on the point of grasping Thunden, only to have the strange fellow get clear. They flashed to the ends of the room, two men of superhuman abilities...

“If you don't believe I'm a hundred and thirty-one yeahs old, look up the records on the skippah of the Sea Nymph a schoonah that sailed from New York in 1843!” he shouted.


THE next few seconds offered a study in abject helplessness and an exhibition of incalculable strength. The two seized men at first windmilled their arms, but the awful agony of the grip on their necks seemed to surge like deadening poison through their bodies, and they became limp.

Around Doc Savage's metallic fingers, and between them, the flesh of his victims all but oozed, so terrific was the pressure. The faces of the pair turned purple, eyes ogled and tongue stuck out stiffly.

Doc arose, and the two were limp as rags hanging from his great hands. They quivered a little and that was all.

The bronze man released them, and although neither was fully unconscious, they were too weak to do more than make croaking noises.


The driver swore, tried to fire again. There was a dull impact. None present were quite sure they saw Doc strike the blow. But the hackman's nose was suddenly a flat, scarlet stringing pulp and he was gagging to keep from swallowing dislodged teeth. He fell down on all fours, concerned exclusively with his own pain.


It was no spot for a race. The slayer missed his grip in his mad haste. He clawed the air furiously, but failed to recover, and his body tilted outward, arms windmilling.

At the beginning of his fall, he turned over so that he faced the street some forty floors below. The sight caused him to shriek long and horribly, and the sound grew rapidly fainter as his fall carried him away from Doc and the others.

On the street, pedestrians looked up, they ran away and made a place for the body to hit the sidewalk. The concrete cracked a little from the impact.


Doc was not where he had been when the blow descended, but a yard to one side. His fist lashed out; there was a wet smack. The man with the revolver threw up his arms and floundered hack, his lips a pulp and his teeth showing through splits where Doc's metallic knuckles had landed.


The knifeman let fall his blade, took two or three bobble-kneed steps, then put both hands over the spot where the top of his skull seemed to be torn off, and dived head-first to the sandy floor. He lay there, a red flood spilling out of the top of his head.


“That is all of the finger nails, Signor Thunden,” Santini said callously. “It seems that we will have to pull out an eye next. I will do it slowly, so that you can see with the other eye the knife as it cuts the muscles to free the orb from your head.”


Attached to the device was a great, razor-sharp cleaver, roughly fashioned from some iron part of a sailing ship. This was rigged so as to slash outward when pressure was placed upon the black stone.

It was this cleaver which had chopped Leaking in two halves.


Doc Savage selected a car which Santini or his followers would not be likely to recognize as they would if Doc used the streamlined machine. The machine he entered was a vehicle which resembled an ordinary delivery truck such as is used by small laundries or groceries.

Bulletproof glass and armor plate construction made this virtually a fast tank. The tires were filled with sponge rubber instead of air. The cab portion was fitted with comfortable seats which swiveled before concealed portholes, and there were racks holding supefiirer pistols, body armor, gas masks, grenades, canisters of gas and even a small field gun that could be carried by two strong men and which fired a two-inch shell.


[You don't want bad guys to get infections in their boo-boos] The flesh was torn slightly across his shoulders, but he was not greatly damaged—unless infection set in from the wounds, which was unlikely, since the mercy bullets carried their own antiseptic agent, and even the tracer chemicals were of a type which did not produce infection.


Out of Doc's clothing came a tiny metal device, the principal gadget on which was a small reservoir filled with a liquid the color of coagulated blood. Doc held the paper pad over this and flicked a lever, causing the apparatus to give off a vapor.

After a moment, Doc examined the pad. The vapor had caused it to change color slightly. Vague, but clearly readable, writing had appeared...

“The application of iodine vapor to bring out impressions left by a pencil point is not exactly new,” he said.


[The average male was 5' 9" in the 1930s. Doc started off 18 adventures ago at 6'. I blame his radiation fetish] The heads of the tallest individuals on the New York street did not top the bronze man's shoulders. He was a giant. Yet it was only the manner in which he towered above the throng that made him seem as huge as he really was, so symmetrically perfect was his great frame developed.


[Emphatic - Strongly expressive] His features were strikingly regular, unusually handsome in an emphatic, muscular way.


“It's twenty minutes after five,” Doc replied. “That gives us two hours and forty minutes before this Florida plane bearing Kel Avery arrives.”

At Doc's words, Ham surreptitiously eyed an expensive wrist watch which he wore. The time was exactly twenty after five, a fact which caused Ham to sheath and unsheath his sword cane thoughtfully, for he knew Doc carried no watch, and there was no clock in sight in the office. To Ham's recollection, they had not passed a clock within half an hour.

Doc's uncanny ability to judge the passage of time was something at which the dapper lawyer had never ceased to marvel.


Doc said nothing, but gave his attention instead to the traffic. He disliked talking about himself.


[Fops Magoo] Pat tapped Ham on the arm. “Lend me that snappy topcoat you're wearing.”

“Huh?” Ham was startled.

“It's cut like a ladies' garment. Come on, shed it!”

The homely Monk exploded stifled laughter and Ham, ears getting red, slid out of his snappily tailored topcoat and passed it to the bronze-haired young woman.


[Long been my point exactly] “Ain't we gonna do nothin' about this message?” Monk questioned, using a type of grammar that gave little hint that he was one of the most highly educated industrial chemists living.


[The coldest thing I've read in a Doc Savage book] “I never did like this Hutchinson octopus,” Monk muttered as they unloaded before the building which supported the penthouse. “He should have been shot when he was born.”

Long Tom:

[This invention is referred to  a few times in the series] Naw,” Long Tom shrugged. “I been busy working on my electrical invention to utilize sonic waves to kill insects and crop pests.”


Monk ran up and stared curiously at Johnny.

“Do you know any cuss words?” Johnny asked thickly.

“Hell, yes,” Monk said.

“Then cuss some for me,” Johnny mumbled, and fell forward on his face.


Hallet was a fat man with the manners of a bird. He was round and sleek and plump, but there was a mincing daintiness to his movements. His suit was sparrow-colored and added to his birdlike aspect, as did his sharp beak of a nose.


[This recurring motif gets old fast] “Man or woman?”

Hallet squirmed. “I am not positive.”

“Don't forget that window!” Doc said meaningly. “You should know whether you talked to a man or a woman over the telephone.”

“It was a shrill, unnatural voice,” Hallet gulped. “I couldn't tell. Honestly, I couldn't.”


Behind the driver strolled half a dozen other men. They were tough looking after the modern style, too fancy of dress, with a sleek, unnatural manner about them, the manner of men long accustomed to acting either very bad or very innocent. All held weapons...

The six men came inside gingerly, guns darting here and there so that they rather ridiculously resembled movie bad men, except for the killer expressions on their faces.


[If a mercy bullet can chip off rubber from a tire it will cause a lot of damage to human flesh] Monk lifted his machine pistol and it moaned. The bullets only flattened against the coupé glass. The homely chemist tried for the tires. He knocked off bits of rubber, but the tires did not go down.


[Helpers or kidnap kibble. You decide.] Doc Savage's five men were not puppets who did the bronze man's bidding. They were men of training, of sharp mentality, and had a habit of going ahead on their own initiative. Sometimes they made mistakes. More often, they did not.


The moneybags had the jowls of a bulldog, the eyes of a lizard and the body of a pelican, along with the pelican's neck. His head was utterly bald and an unpleasant white, as if the top of his skull were showing.


The killer glanced up. Discovering Doc almost upon him, he yelled a meaningless threat. Then he tried to increase his own pace.


[Monk translated because Kel Avery may have never graduated grade school] “Emphatically a negative answered to that,” said Johnny, who hated to use a little word where a big one would do.

“He means no,” Monk advised Kel Avery.


After that, there was a brief pause during which no one seemed to know what to do next, and it was obvious every one was thinking desperately.


[First clue about the man-eating ants] He listened, and the skin at his nape felt an absurd tendency to crawl in spite of his power of control, for the sound from in front of him was weird, a noise which resembled nothing so much as a great pan of frying fat. It was louder at moments, a crackling and popping such as is heard when an egg is broken into a skillet of hot grease.

Fear Cay is one of the better Doc Savage novels so give it a read.

020 - Death In Silver:

"An awesome legion of master criminals launch a devastating series of raids that set the entire east coast of America aflame. Skyscrapers explode, ocean liners disappear, key witnesses are kidnapped and brutally murdered as the holocaust rages. In a desperate race against time Doc Savage attempts to discover the true identity of the twisted brain who rules the silver-costumed marauders -- while the mysterious Ull and his army of hooded assassins move closer to their grim objective of world domination!"

Death In Silver is the twentieth Doc Savage novel, the third appearance of Pat Savage, and according to the Sanctum reprint the first time all five assistants don't appear in a Doc Savage adventure (to simplify the writing process). Coined in October, 1934, the bad guys wear silver masks and silver-colored coveralls with wires from melted coin silver woven into the fabric. There's no practical reason to melt down money and weave it into fabric, but a few years into the Great Depression this might have been either one of the most impressive or enraging things one could think of. The costumed Silver Death's-Heads might also have been to appeal to serial film audiences. Was there ever going to be a "scientific" reason for silver to be woven into costumes? Probably, but this is Doc Savage, where promises are just sweet nothings whispered in the dark in the back of a Chevy.

Death In Silver is brimming with action and moves along at a frantic pace, and it managers to be exciting underwater where movement is restricted to slow motion. Hand grenades from bad guys and exploding eggs from Doc get tossed around like rose petals, and in one great scene Doc moves around a house by blowing it up as he goes along. The "treasure" (Lester Dent's term) is a billion dollars ($17,788,787,878.78 in today's money), an insane sum in a series where a few million is usually good enough for a swell murder spree spanning three continents. Stock manipulation, referred to by Doc as "Stock Ballooning", created the treasure and also helped trigger the Great Depression readers were living through, so Death In Silver was deliberately mining the anger of the times.

Death In Silver is a very good Doc Savage adventure. The #1 henchman, Ull, is an accomplished scientist and inventor who presents challenges to Doc Savage that make him one of the top adversaries of the series. Lester Dent effectively zigs and then zags with who the mastermind might be. Harry "Rapid" Pace is set up to be the one if you read the clues, but as they add up and Doc openly floats the proposition you wonder if maybe he isn't the brains of the operation:

"Rapid Pace was out for a while right after we left," he declared. "He says he went to get some cigarettes."

"Have you seen him smoking?" Doc queried.

"No," Monk replied. "I asked him about that, and he said he had been too excited to smoke. Listen, Doc, I'm wondering."

"Wondering what?"

 A few piddling details detract and distract:

[The continuing insistence that men might be women serves no purpose] Pat started violently and whirled. The windows of her private office were adorned with drapes which hung to the floor. From behind one of these, a man had stepped. At least, Pat decided be was a man, since the voice was too coarse to come from a feminine source. The fellow was garbed in one of the weird silver regalias.


[Exposition Failure because Doc would know exactly what the job title entails. Doc should ask what specific tasks he's presently performing for Gardner] "Shut up or I'll crown you!" McCoy snapped. "Mr. Savage, I am a financial relations counsel."

"Just what does that mean?" Doc interposed.

"I give corporations and business concerns financial advice," explained McCoy. "Sometimes, I take charge of disputes between companies, serving as intermediary to get things settled amicably. For instance, take the currently discussed merger between Gardner's shipping company, and the steamship concern and shipyard owned by Paine L. Winthrop. Gardner called me in as consultant. I looked over the situation and advised the merger. Winthrop, however, opposed it. I was at Gardner's house to-night discussing the matter."


[Unless it's a clown car there were only five or six] Accounts of the number of robbers vary. Some spectators say there were twenty; others claim only five or six. The robbers escaped in a fast car and evaded police pursuit in the water-front section of the East River.


[Doesn't work because the watch is for identification in the city, not the secret HQ] The lookout challenged, snarling, "Get that rig off! I wanta see your face!"

Instead of complying with the command, the silver man held up an arm and exposed a wrist watch. The guard compared its reading with the expensive timepiece on his own wrist.

"Sure," he said. "Go ahead."


[Someone would have to stay behind to put the barrel back. Better if it was affixed to the manhole] "Stand back," Doc warned, and moved the barrel.

At first, it seemed there was solid concrete below, but a closer scrutiny revealed a circular manhole, its lines intended to be concealed by the mark the barrel bottom had made on the floor.


[Hair saved his life] The fireman had thick blond hair, and that had possibly preserved his life, for the blow he had received over the head, judging by the bruise, had been terrific.

Pat Savage moves to New York from Canada and opens a swanky beauty salon and gymnasium on Park Avenue, which on an ongoing basis is referred to as a soft con that bilks insecure rich people:

"This is the first time you have been here, Doc," she said. "I want to show you the gymnasium upstairs. It's a knockout. And I have over thirty beauty operators at work, all highly skilled. I already have all the fashion leaders on my list, waiting to have their youthful figures restored. How I am going to reduce some of those heavy-weights is a mystery to me, but they pay me in advance."

Pat is sassy but she doesn't accomplish much beyond being taken prisoner and being a sassy captive. Her "equal member assistant" status may apply in that Doc's aides are kidnapped a lot when they go out on their own, but in toto she leans towards bungling and realizing she's in over her head.


Doc advanced, passed through an open door, found worn wooden steps which led upward. But he did not mount immediately. Instead, he dipped a hand into a pocket and brought out what might have been mistaken for a handful of black clover seed. He strewed some of this on the floor of the outer office. Then he went up the stairs...

The entrancing young woman got to her feet. In doing so she stepped on one of the clover seeds. There was a loud report as it exploded. She jumped and glared at Doc.

"What are those things?" she snapped, and put a hand up to adjust her luxuriant brown hair.

"Just a precaution to warn if any one was following me," Doc told her.


That was as far as he got, because a popping noise interrupted him. He dropped the instrument and staggered back, gasping and blinking. He seemed to forget that he held a gun, and pawed at the eyeholes in his mask.

Pat lunged, seized his gun with both hands, wrenched and got it. She sprang back triumphantly. Because she helped Doc Savage occasionally, she was sometimes in danger, and she had taken precautions. This trick telephone was one of them.

It was not connected to anything; but the mouthpiece, when spoken into, ejected a tiny spray of tear gas. She had borrowed the device from Doc Savage, who had fashioned countless such trick contrivances.


[Explosions are more fun than anesthetic gas] Doc retreated, swabbing some of the make-up off his face with a sleeve. The stuff might get in his eyes in a hand-to-hand fight. He brought out a tiny, high-explosive grenade and lobbed it at the door.

Lightning seemed to strike inside the grimy building. Plaster fell off the walls; floor boards jumped up with a screeching of pulled nails. The door turned into a cloud of fragments...

Doc Savage did not advance in pursuit. He held respect for these foes. They were cunning. Just how cunning was evident when there came a second terrific concussion, which caused the old building to rock, sent window glass sheeting out and loosened more plaster.

They had left one of their own grenades behind, the time fuse set for a long interval. Had Doc followed them, he might very well have been killed.


"The chemical solution I just released from those tanks is my own invention," Doc told him. "It turns salt water black. The secret is now in the hands of the United States Government. It may come in handy should there be another war."


The stuff did not grind audibly under Doc's shoe soles, because they were of rubber - not ordinary rubber, but the soft sponge variety.


There was one boat on the river which was not making undue noise, however. It was a thin lance of a speed craft with motors which did not make sound proportionate to their great power, for they were scientifically muffled. With just a few alterations, that boat could well be a contender for the Harmsworth trophy. She was fast...

Clambering forward, Monk wrenched at a hatch and a mechanical tripod lifted a gun into view. The weapon fired shells no more than an inch in diameter, hut they were armor-piercing and high-explosive, slugs which could sink a destroyer if carefully placed.


The car was a slightly shabby laundry truck, with a noisy motor and a manner of jolting over cobbles in a manner which seemed most uncomfortable. The cab windows, being extraordinarily grimy, made it difficult for the driver to be observed.

The vehicle was deceptive. The noise was not actually in the motor, which was huge and powerful, but was created by a mechanical device. The cab and body were of armor steel, the windows thick and proof against anything less than a tank-rifle slug, and the machine could travel nearly a hundred miles an hour.


The headquarters was a strange aerie on the eighty-sixth floor of the most impressive skyscraper in uptown New York, and the bronze man spent much of his leisure there. Actually, Doc Savage allowed himself no leisure in the accepted sense, all of his time being spent in research, in experiments, in study. There was a fabulously equipped library and laboratory in the headquarters.


"We do not involve ourselves in anything the police can handle," Doc reminded


His face was regular, the lineaments having an unusual quality of handsomeness, hut in no sense possessing the somewhat effeminate prettiness often found in very handsome men.


The police lieutenant considered, then said, "I'll bet you fifty that the stool pigeons turn up something."

"The winner to contribute the fifty to the police Death Benefit Fund," Doc said.


"So you are Doc Savage," she added. "I have heard so much about you that I began to think you were a legend."


"I will take the silver suit," Doc said.

The police passed it over without objection. They knew this bronze man, with his scientific skill, his daring which sometimes seemed madness, could probably accomplish more against the menace of the Silver Death's-Heads than The entire metropolitan police.


Doc Savage started away, only to pause and do what for him was a rare thing. He reconsidered. Then he came back and took the expensive wrist watch from the arm of the dead man.


"I say," said Ham, who affected a pronounced Harvard accent whenever he thought of it. "Those Silver Death's-Head beggars have been acting again."


With a finger tip Ham removed a bit of the drug from the sword and applied it to the tongue of the unconscious fireman. The stuff, in small quantities, was a stimulant, but if administered in quantity, produced senselessness.


The bronze man stripped off the light alloy metal mail which he wore to protect his torso from bullets. He spread this over a cheap, overstuffed chair, making a mobile shield. Using this, Monk scuttled across the floor.

The mail jumped and whipped under the impact of lead, and flattened bullets fell from it to the floor. But Monk got the rapid-firer. He loosened a brief burst of fire - and outside, a man squawked in agony.


"The work of trinitrotoluene," he stated.

"Huh?" asked the officer.

"T.N.T.," Doc elaborated. "The famous World War explosive."



"Lorna?" Doc asked.

"Miss Zane to you!" she snapped.


Then a gun banged hollowly inside the house. Bullet impact kicked the taxi driver around so that he fell across the balcony rail, teetered a moment, then was carried over by momentum. There was a concrete sidewalk below and the driver struck that squarely on top of his head - which would have killed him, had the bullet not done so already.


"She is unless she succumbs from some of my beauty treatments," Pat advised. "I told her anything she wanted was free while she was with me. And did she take advantage of it! She started with my Special Egyptian Clay Pack Facial, and is going right down the list. Doc, do you know what I think?"

"Better put a guard over her," Doc suggested.

"Sure," Pat agreed. "Doc, I think she is setting her cap for you. She keeps wanting to know about you."

Doc said dryly, "Try to discourage her," and hung up.


IT was getting along toward dawn, and Father Knickerbocker, as New Yorkers like to dub their city as a whole, was for the most part asleep.


Moving very slowly so as not to invite a bullet, Ull tugged one sleeve back and looked at an expensive, heavily protected wrist watch.

"Seventeen minutes and eleven seconds after," said Ull.

One of the machine gunners eyed his own watch, laughed and said, "0. K. How did I do?"

"Very well," said Ull. "Remember, we all wear watches timed to the exact second, all set together, but not at the correct time. At the present moment we are all two minutes and fifteen seconds fast."

"Sure," said the other. "It beats a password."

Bonus Bottom Reader Section!: As to not knock too hard this winningly silly Doc Savage novel I'm leaving the biggest criticisms for last. Acknowledging it's genre literature for fifteen year olds literally and at heart, the idea of running around in silver masks and coveralls and not getting caught by the entirety of the NYC police force even once is a howl. The Silver Death's-Heads gang don't have special weapons that nullifies the arsenal of the NYPD and the place they "disappear" to is one spot by the waterfront. Masks and costumes are what you put on before a crime and take off immediately after.


021 - The Sea Magician:

"King John’s ghost was stalking The Wash, a vast marshy area in England, terrorizing and maiming the inhabitants. Then the mighty Man of Bronze investigated — and discovered the impossible. The Wash was producing real gold … from nowhere!"

November, 1934's The Sea Magician is a decent story that could be great if shortened by about twenty pages. The content is intimate and fast-paced as in the better later novels, so getting rid of filler would tighten it up immensely and prevent drifting of both mind and story. The book pulls off good character studies of Johnny, Ham, and a villain or two, and even in its extended format it gets to the point quickly.

The science of extracting gold from sea water goes back a long time and maybe someone will figure it out before Apple-Google creates Skynet and Terminators kill us all. Here's some sections on how the technology looked in 1934:

"The gold in its native state in the water is in colloidal suspension form," said the publicity man. "There is approximately ten million dollars worth of gold in a cubic mile of water. There are nearly three hundred million cubic miles of sea water on the earth. That gives us, as the total value of the gold in the sea—"


"You see, the island is perfect," said Giltstein. "Prevailing ocean currents bring water in between two arms of land, and after the gold is extracted, the water is permitted to flow out at the other end of the island, where the currents carry it away. That way, we do not treat the same water twice."


"In this tank," Giltstein announced, "the gold content of the sea water is ionized, or made electrically conductive. This is a very difficult process, since the gold in its native state in the water is in the form of a collodial suspension. Chlorine is pumped into this tank, which, as any chemist will tell you, joins with the sodium in the sea water and literally "kicks" the bromine out."

The Sea Magician does a few things out of the ordinary. The King John facade is jettisoned before Chapter III so that Scooby Doo nonsense is happily neutered. According to the Sanctum reprint this type of change was ordered by editors and Dent wasn't happy. Ham is given his own action sequence where he's blasting guns, picking locks, and being an efficient mercenary in what is for him a First Person Shooter adventure. Check out this act of cruelty on someone who's dead weight, and the action hero move in the second bit:

Ham tangled fingers in the hair of the last man to fall a victim to the mercy bullets and hauled him back into the room, where he would not be seen.


Ham was boxer enough to have evaded the blow. He did shift, but just enough to take the smash high up on his head, where it would not stun him.

But Ham’s actions after he had been hit were those of a man who had been knocked out. His arms flailed loosely; his eyes rolled. He slammed down heavily.

It was with great care that Ham managed to land on his left side, body bending so as to put his full weight on one coat pocket. In that pocket reposed the case which held the glass bulbs of anaesthetic gas. Ham knew if he hit hard enough, the case would be crushed.

He felt the container mash flat. He held his breath.

A moment later, men began to topple over. The gas had no color, no odor, hence they were without warning of its presence.

Monk has a good fight sequence, but doesn't he always? There's a good running gag where he counts out loud the number of bad guys he knocks out. When he finally succumbs to unconsciousness from kicks to the head he adds himself to the total: "'Thirteen!' he moaned, and went to sleep."

A major day-player's story is unknown by the usually omniscient Doc Savage, and it's not on Doc because her involvement is completely removed from Doc's radar. The second part is mysterious and fun to read:

I’m Wehman Mills," he mumbled, and got to his feet as rapidly as age-stiffened joints would permit. "My niece! She’s next door."

"Who?" Doc questioned.


It was the first the bronze man had heard of Elaine, but full explanations would have to wait.


Elaine stood in the street and punished an attractive lower lip with her teeth.

"Darn it!" she said angrily, and stamped a foot.

 THE YOUNG woman’s wrathful ejaculation was destined to have far-reaching consequences. Simply because she stamped her foot and exclaimed aloud, many men were to come under a pall of horrible danger, and some were to die.

Immediate action and results are a nice feature of the story. The ending is basically a death trap for the bad guys and an immediate surrender, but there's no feeling of being cheated because of the book's tone throughout:

"Come," Doc directed. "We had best get out of here."

The bronze man approached one tin wall, turned sidewise when he was close, and went through as easily as if the sheet metal had been paper. Johnny followed.


Without obvious haste, Johnny sloped to a window, smashed through with a shower of glass and galloped for the house corner.


Monk grasped the waggling chin, pushed it up so that the fellow’s mouth was closed; then, before the other knew what was going to happen, Monk struck once, as if he were seeking to drive a large nail with a single blow.

The best small creative choice was Dent following the narrative perspective of a random King John imitator for a few paragraphs just to see through new eyes:

The King John now picked up his broadsword, wiped mud off the point, examined the edge to make sure it was razor-sharp, then started forward. He moved in a crouching position, a posture which his mail armor made difficult, and he stopped frequently to rub his aching back and rest his muscles. But this method of travel was necessary, if his head was not to be seen above the rushes.


The first King John abruptly comprehended what had happened. His companions had set a trap to catch the mysterious individual who was following him. They must have sighted the fellow.

Dropping his electrical apparatus, the first King John joined in the chase. Fatigue was forgotten. He overhauled a mailed figure with a submachine gun.

Johnny is the story's featured assistant, listed as slightly under seven feet tall:

WILLIAM HARPER LITTLEJOHN was a very tall man, and he was also thinner than it seemed any human being could be and still live. His intimates frequently described him as looking like the advance agent for a famine.

When William Harper Littlejohn stood before gatherings of geologists and archaeologists, no one smiled at the fact that he resembled an empty suit of clothes standing erect, nor commented on the monocle with which he always fumbled but never stuffed in an eye. William Harper Littlejohn was conceded to know more about archaeology and geology than almost any living man.


Johnny never used a small word when he had time to think of a big one. He was a walking dictionary of words of more than three syllables, and when he was really going good, an ordinary man could not even understand him.


Johnny underwent a curious change. In engaging the plane and during the flight, he had scarcely spoken a sentence containing words small enough for the pilot to understand. But now he cocked his hat over an eye, tucked his monocle-magnifier where it would not be noticed, and began speaking a brand of English which would have shocked his learned colleagues of the Fellowhood of Scientists. Furthermore, his manner was certainly not that of an intellectual giant.


"I am an individual with a superpreponderance of terminology," Johnny said. "I am a verbarian, a glossographer, abundantly interested in the intricacies of allocution."

Doc's trilling has a purpose but it's silly when not really silly. I do like this explanation:

Doc Savage remained very quiet, but there came into being a weird, tiny sound. This note was so vague that it might easily have been mistaken for some vagary of the fitful breezes which stirred the fog. It was a trilling, one which might have been made by a wind through a cold, denuded forest; or it might have been the note of some exotic tropical songster.

This was the sound of Doc Savage, a tiny and unconscious thing which he often made in moments of stress. But such a quality of ventriloquism did the trilling possess that a close bystander, looking at the bronze man, could not have told from whence it came. The metallic lips did not move; there was no undulation of throat sinews. It was doubtful that Doc himself was aware just how the sound came into being.

Good background on Doc's relationship with newspapers:

The newspapermen were down there because Doc Savage never did things in the ordinary fashion. Almost any move he made was good for a headline. Furthermore, it was a fact that Doc Savage did not look with a permissive eye on newspaper publicity. He was that rare individual, a celebrity who did not care about seeing his name and picture in the newspaper. More particularly, he did not care about seeing his picture, because it gave his enemies a means of familiarizing themselves with his physical appearance.

The reluctance which Doc Savage displayed toward newspaper publicity had the effect of making the journalists more determined. Had Doc Savage hired a publicity agent and showed a desire for news space, the scribes would have ignored him to a degree; as it was, they fell over themselves to get a story about him.

The last line is excellent:

The proprietor crooked his rifle with an arm, looked up the stairs and called through his mustache, "Mademoiselle Elaine Mills!"


replied a faint feminine voice. "Que vou—vou—" She gave it up and demanded in English, "What do you want?"

Her last words had the rolling freedom of American speech.

Doc's vest in Nov. 1934:

Doc Savage wore a peculiar type of vest beneath his outer clothing. Its foundation was composed of light, bulletproof plates, lying scale fashion, and over the plates were pockets and numerous receptacles. Padding between these made the vest almost unnoticeable.

The contents of the vest pockets made up a remarkable assortment. There were delicate mechanical devices, strange scientific weapons, glass vials holding chemical concoctions calculated to accomplish the unusual.

Where the silencers are kept:

Ham drifted a hand to an armpit, where there was a holster so cleverly padded that its presence was hardly discernible. He withdrew one of Doc Savage’s compact machine pistols. Fitted in a pocket at the side of the holster was a canisterlike device—a silencer for use on the weapons.

The reveal of the Evil Boss is rarely in doubt but The Sea Magician fakes it well when he's first presented. Besides being locked up by himself and being the only day-player in a story where the chief's never seen or named but always talked about, here's some clues:

It sounded as if Henry Trump swore softly and in a highly surprised tone.


They turned up at just the wrong moment. How they managed to do that was very mysterious.


"Yes," gasped Elaine Mills. "We must find Henry Trump!"


"I could tell you were hunting me," he gasped.


[In another break from protocol the reveal of the obvious solution is tossed out before Doc can say it] "Shut up!" advised Benjamin Giltstein. "We still have a hole card which the bronze man does not know about."


Paquis agreed. "But he must not suspect. Therefore it is up to us to make a great pretense of hunting him."

Besides being too long for its own purposes there's not much wrong with The Sea Magician. I'd remove nonsense like this as Ham's just laid eyes on Elaine Mills and he's already jealous of another person he doesn't know. Jeez, Ham, it's a life-or-death situation. Keep it in your pants:

Ham tried to keep it from showing on his face, but he did not care for the fervor with which the attractive young woman spoke of Henry Trump. Trump seemed to have made a hit.

This is funny as it's tossed in as the only reason why Monk's not killed when they've been trying desperately to kill him up until that point:

"Take the ape alive!" some one yelled. "We’ve got to make him tell how much Doc Savage knows about us!"

022 - The Annihilist:

"The dread Annihilist was slaughtering the criminals of New York in wholesale lots. Hundreds of men were found mysteriously murdered, victims of the hideous pop-eyed death. The finger of suspicion pointed directly at one man, Doc Savage himself. Even as The Man of Bronze scrambled to solve the terrifying enigma, the invisible assassin began to play havoc with one of humanity’s most important secret defenses — Doc Savage’s legendary crime college."

December, 1934's The Annihilist features horrific deaths that end with criminal's eyes popping out of their heads, hanging by their roots:

The man who came through did not even hold his submachine gun. The weapon lay on the floor of the niche. The man was bent over, and he bent even more, seeming to contort himself in a titanic effort, his face becoming purple with the strain.

As they watched, his eyes came slowly out, like seeds from a purple grape, and it seemed certain they would fall to the floor, but they did not. Then he began to yell in pain.

The other two gunners were crying out too, threshing about, and making awful garglings. One got out of his niche and died on the floor; the other only got the door of his concealment - the wall panel - ajar, and was unable to get out. He convulsed his mortal existence away while curled up in the cramped confines.

Cold, unblinking cruelty is a major component of the story, both large:

But the fact remains that some mentalities gloat over torture; and to some of these, the sight of physical pain, the joy of inflicting it themselves, acts as a wine, making them drunk with a sort of Infernal ecstasy.

Leo's eyes became brighter, he breathed more rapidly, a grease of perspiration stood out on his forehead and he ceased to brush back the loose lock of black hair.

At first, he demanded of Sidney Lorrey the name of the physicians at Doc Savage's "college," putting the demands after each act of torture, but before long, he ceased doing that and went ahead in silence that was broken only by the awful sounds of the tortured man and the harsh grating of Leo's own breathing.

When the floor became slippery with crimson, Leo ordered bed coverings brought from another room, and Sidney Lorrey was rolled upon these. Lorrey was barely conscious now. Frightful things had been done to him, things that would mutilate him for life, and the other onlookers, hardened criminals, were becoming nauseated and turning away.

"He ain't gonna talk," one muttered. "why not put him out of his misery?"

Leo, purple-faced, hot-eyed and intent, seemed not to hear, for he was engaged in the process of whittling Lorrey's fingers down to the bone, one at a time, and showing Lorrey, with fiendish chuckles, the naked gray of the exposed bones.

And small:

Some one, leaning from a window directly above the alley door, held a heavy typewriter with both hands. There was enough light that the figures below showed as vague blurs against the snow, and the man let his typewriter drop carefully.

The typewriter carriage slid hack with a ziz-z-z of a noise as it started to fall, and this caused Sidney Lorrey to look up. He jumped, but not soon enough; the heavy office appliance struck his head. The typewriter bell rang loudly, then rang again as the machine hit the alley pavement. Sidney Lorrey fell atop the typewriter.


LEO swung over easily and kicked Sidney Lorrey's face lightly and rapidly until scarlet began to ooze. Lorrey moaned, tried to scream, but they stuffed old cloth into his mouth.

The Annihilist is a big, heavy adventure that considers Doc's Crime College in all its shades of existential glory and cranks up the ante with a device that kills criminals through radio waves with what might be a Top-40 station:

"That this Crime Annihilist's weapon is merely a machine emitting emanations similar to ultra-short radio waves," Doc said. "These emanations have an irritating effect on the so-called 'crime' gland, causing a sort of local poisoning which induces mental spasms and a peculiar muscular reaction which results in the protruding of the eyes."

Crime and Doc's treatment of it is postulated to be a glandular problem that can be corrected through both drugs and surgery:

Janko Sultman seemed not to hear. "Doc, Savage has discovered dot crime is, in a sense, a disease," he went on...

"Sure," Sultman smiled. "There are many glands in the human body. They secrete everything from perspiration to digestive juices. Many of them are in the human brain, and it is these last that are the least known."...

 "There is a small gland which governs operation of a certain section of der brain which controls a human being's behavior," said Sultman. "If dot gland is out of order, der patient loses his sense of right and wrong. In other words, he gets so he does not give a damn what happens or what he does. Doc Savage has discovered this."...

"Anyway, Doc Savage straightens up dot gland at his place in upstate New York, and dot is what makes honest men of the crooks. Of course, he severs certain nerves in their brains, too, which makes them forget their past."

The "treasure" of The Annihilist is clever:

"These surgeons know how to treat this 'crime' gland so as to make a criminal, as well as cure him," he stated. "It is that secret I want - the knowledge of how to make criminals."...

"You lack imagination," Boke chuckled. "It is my plan to seize bankers, industrial magnates, politicians, and administer them the drug which will make them criminals. They will not know what is being done. Later, myself or my agents will approach these men and enlist them in my unlawful enterprises. They will accept. Having access to thousands, even millions of dollars, they will, as criminals, appropriate those funds. I will make it my business to see that a share of the money gets into my hands."

The Annihilist is easily one of the best Doc Savage books but it's not without major plot faults revolving around the radio device itself and how it chooses its pop-eyed victims. The terror is introduced with deaths like these:

John Henry Cowlton, the Park Avenue playboy who had been the first victim, had been discovered to be a clever society jewel thief with many robberies and at least one murder on his record...

Everett Buckett, the Wall Street wolf who was the second victim, was a leader in an enormous stock-swindling gang, and at least two persons they bad swindled had been murdered to shut their mouths.

You have to be aggressively committing an act that stimulates the crime gland for the radio waves to effect you, so was the Wall Street wolf in the middle of a rapturous swindle when he died? Then it shows up more specifically in run-ins Doc has with two groups of bad guys, so it seems the device is something a person is carrying and aiming at its targets. The device is revealed to be an "intricate array of electrical apparatus" that takes Doc five minutes to destroy with a club. If it was stuck on a barge while Doc's enemies have their eyes popping out the same thing should be happening all over Manhattan with everyone with crime in their heart and agitation in their minds. The hows and whos of the device and its victimology is a mess that can be readily improved to something more consistent. Mention the device has a metered range and was parked in a truck outside of where it was being used. It's also shown Monk has a bit of an active criminal gland issue.

The reveal of the mastermind smacked of the arbitrary but the book did a good job keeping you guessing about the plot and everyone's place in it.

The evolution of the device and the reasons for its widened use are well done:

"Sidney Lorrey was - is - a scientist and surgeon interested in mental therapy as influenced by various infra-rays and light beams," the bronze man said. "I recall Robert Lorrey saying that Sidney was trying to perfect a treatment for the so-called 'crime' gland which would not require the use of drugs."

The bronze man indicated the intricate array of electrical apparatus. "Possibly Sidney Lorrey did not realize at first that his apparatus was killing criminals. It must have been set up in his barge laboratory and operating continuously on some piece of experimental tissue. Then, when Sidney saw the men die from its effects, he realized what it was."

"And realized what a weapon against crime he had," Ham added.


[Refer to what happened to him in the "Cruelty" section] "About two hours ago a man came to me for treatment. He was horribly beaten, cut and mutilated. I think he was slightly insane. He raved about being the Crime Annihilist who was going to kill a million criminals. He was quite mad. He said the Crime Annihilist was going to kill all of the crooks in the world."

The Crime College:

THE terrain below had become wilder, more rugged. A single road, a trail, barely discernible in the murky afternoon light, progressed through the timber, following creeks and tiny valleys for the most part. The road ended at a massive metal gate.

From the gate, a high, stout wire fence ran in a circle which enclosed many acres. This fence, woven, surmounted with barbed strands, was fully fifteen feet high.

From the air, it looked as if the fence enclosed only a small lake and a log building which might have been a hunting lodge. On one side of the lake, shoving its bald mass up to a considerable prominence, was a hill which seemed to be of solid, gray stone.

There was nothing else inside the fence - just the lodge, the lake and the bleak stone hill.

But back from the gate, perhaps a mile, surmounting a hill of its own, was a small, unpretentious cabin.


[That wasn't taught to them?] When criminals emerged from Doc Savage's unique university, they did not remember their pasts; for some strange reason they hated crime in any form, and they had been taught a trade wherewith to make an honest living...

Had the existence of this place become known, it would have been a newspaper story unparalleled. Doc Savage also knew it would excite many misguided reformers who would stir up government investigations, for the criminals had no choice about taking the treatment.

Doc Savage, in the final analysis, was a private individual, and such are not supposed to mete out their own brand of justice. The courts are for that. And Doc Savage had never sent a crook before an American court.


WHEN Doc Savage, Monk, Ham and Basenstein had flown over the area so strangely fenced off in the wilderness, there had been no sign of human life excepting the one man who had appeared at the log lodge near the gate.

There were fully two hundred men in sight now. They were all attired exactly alike in neat white uniforms, except for an individual here and there who was dressed in blue.

The men in white were arrayed in neat squads and were going through marches and physical-culture exercises, commanded by the men in blue. A few of the white garbed figures strolled about, obviously relaxing.

These men in white were former criminals, although their present appearance gave no indication of that fact. They were healthy, clear-eyed, and each was developing an excellent set of muscles. Not one of these men could remember any of his past life. Each could recall opening his eyes in a white room in this strange enclosure in the wilderness - that was all.


At numerous points, what looked like ordinary stretches of damp woodland loam slid back, uncovering neatly whitewashed concrete gun pits. The weapons these housed were not large, nor were they toys, either. The gun muzzles lifted and began to follow the planes. This was uncanny, because there was no hand guiding the weapons in the pits.

Aiming was done by a blue-clad man at a concealed station. He simply sighted at one of the planes through a telescope which was attached to slides and cogs, and when he had crossed hairs on the craft, he pressed a lever.

The guns began firing. The man in the remote fire-control station turned a lever and the white puffs of bursting shells - they opened too high at first - crawled down toward the plane, not aiming at it, but ahead.

Hardboiled Humbolt with the bad feet is a fun character. It's swell how he comes around to Doc's way of thinking and they share a laugh over circumventing the criminal justice system to create an ever-enlarging army of Doc Savage voodoo zombies. I thought at the end Doc would correct Humbolt's foot problems, but like I said, the book is elbow-deep into cruelty:

"Listen," he said. "I been intending to get around to you, only I've been too busy. I've beard a lot about you, and we know each other by sight. You may know I'm a tough cop. That's what the papers call me, damn 'em! I know you're the Man of Mystery, and I know people try to kill you and you do things to 'em and the law never hears about it I don't like it. From now on, when anybody takes a shot at you, you call a cop and he'll handle it. Do it like anybody else does."

"In other words, have the police fight my battles?" Doc asked.

"Call it what you want," Hardboiled scowled. "There'. laws to take care of crooks. And another thing: behave yourself and you won't have any battles to fight."...

"I think you do things outside the law!" Hardboiled roared. "That makes you subject to arrest. There are laws to punish criminals. And don't feed me that hokum about them not being punished in this day, because they are. Let the law take its course."...

Hardboiled put out his jaw. "I've heard that you set yourself up as judge, jury and penitentiary, all in one," he rapped. "Now that stuff don't go. You make one slip, and I'll clap your pants in the holdover so quick your head'll swim! If there's any one needs arresting in this town, that's my job. I do it. And I don't stand for anyhody meddling with my job."


Hardboiled himself was in the lower hallway, talking to newspaper men. He had taken off his canvas shoes and was rubbing his feet gently, grimacing as if the rubbing pained him rather pleasantly.


Hardboiled shook his head. "I didn't hear a thing."

Doc Savage extended a hand. "Thanks. If news of that place got out, it would mean all kinds of trouble."

"I got a few special friends." Hardboiled jerked his hand at the criminal-curing institution again. "Would you put 'em in there - when I catch 'em? Just as a favor?"

The bronze man rarely smiled, but he did so now. "With pleasure," he agreed.


The bronze man reached swiftly to a button, pressed it. The bell which that button rang was an imperative order to the telephone operator to trace the call.


Doc Savage leaned against a tree as if weary, and worked an arm against the coarse bark. Unnoticed, a button came off his sleeve and fell to the ground. A moment later he sat down, as if his strength had given out. His fingers picked up the button.

It was white, as if constructed of ordinary pearl, but close examination would have shown that it was of metal and the edge, instead of being merely rounded, was disked to a razor sharpness. A thin metal band protected this edge, and was easily broken off with the finger nails, leaving the razor edge exposed.

Two or three judicious slices cut almost through Doc's wrist bonds.


There was dynamite, nearly a cage of it, with a battery and wires attached; there was also a small phonograph, one of the type newly placed on the market which can be plugged into a light circuit and, by using a microphone attachment, employed to make records, which can then be played back numerous times.


Doc Savage let himself into the garage with its array of motor vehicles, which ranged from a large, innocent-looking moving van which was armored like a tank, to a shabby, ramshackle coupe' which might possibly make a hundred and fifty miles an hour on a straightaway but which looked like a twenty-dollar job off a second-hand lot.


[Mercy bullets are also magical because they barely penetrate skin but winter coats don't stop them from barely penetrating the skin underneath] Monk's superfirer emitted its bullfiddle moan. Three of the approaching men folded down magically. Startled, the rest flopped flat and were lost in the nodular masses of timbers, old machinery, piles of hawser and other appurtenances common to wharves.


Reaching the top, he traveled over rooftops until he found a skylight, below which an artist painted. The artist, surprised, made a long smear on his painting as a giant man of metal smashed the skylight and dropped lightly at his side. While the artist stared, open-mouthed, the bronze man walked out.

Coming to life, the artist yelled, "Hey, I'll give you a hundred dollars to pose for me!"


[Understanding your Doc Savage] "Have you any idea what caused the deaths?" Monk asked bluntly.

Doc Savage seemed to become inexplicably deaf and not to hear, a fact which caused Monk to grin widely, because he knew from past events that it was a good sign when Doc began keeping his own counsel.

Doc rarely expressed a theory which he could not prove absolutely, but if he had no theory and was completely mystified, he would say so. Hence Doc's assumed deafness conveyed to Monk that the bronze man did have an idea about the strange Boke.


There was a bullet hole through his Herculean torso. The slug, fortunately, had come from a rifle, and it had left a clean trail, entering his back at one side of the neck and angling down, doing something agonizing to a few bones, and coming out in the thick, magnificently developed pectoralis major muscle on the right side.


[Trilling. Everything and nothing] THE trilling sound, low and fantastic, was quite musical, yet it was so without adhering to any definite tune. Nor could the exact nature of the sound, the sonic embodiment of the thing itself, be described. It was something that defied nomenclature, something infinitely etheric, yet also very real, for it was at times quite loud, and again it sank into virtual inaudibility.


Renny occupied a penthouse overlooking Central Park. The building, one of the most flamboyant in the city, was one Renny had designed and the erection of which he had supervised, and his apartment was an incredible array of modernistic metals and glass. Mechanical gadgets were everywhere, and the wide, glass-covered terrace was a greenhouse of tropical shrubs.


Lizzie snarled, "Keep your hands off Sully!"

Renny turned around and took Lizzie's slim throat in both huge hands, then lifted Lizzie from the floor without apparent difficulty and squeezed a little, tentatively. Lizzie flailed his arms and made froglike noises.

"I haven't forgotten that you walked off callously and left your pal to cut Pat's throat," Renny boomed.

He squeezed again slowly, not relaxing the pressure even when Lizzie squirmed his wildest. Lizzie's face became splotchy, then purple, and his tongue stuck small and pink and straight through his teeth.

Robert Lorrey said nervously, "It is Doc Savage's policy never to take a human life."

"Sure," Renny said. "But mistakes will happen."


The bronze man answered that by moving to the bathroom. The tub was full of steaming water, and in this stood the pig, Habeas Corpus. Doc lifted the shoat out of the water, then pulled the plug and let the tub drain, after which he reached up and turned the shower head so that it pointed straight up.

The tub promptly lifted on some mechanical support and swiveled, exposing an expanse of masonry which was perforated with a slit large enough to permit the passage of a man. Metal ladder rungs led downward.

"Renny prepared this for a getaway," Doc explained. "It leads to a secret elevator in what is apparently a solid column of masonry. No one else in the building knows of it."

"Where does it come out?" Monk demanded.

"Nearly a block distant, in a private garage rented by Renny under an assumed name," the bronze man explained.


[This makes for a cute-fun visual but it also means Monk intended to hurt Ham with criminal malice] The instant Monk's ropes were loosened, he tore them off and heaved erect. His rusty hair bristled. He showed all of his teeth. And he charged Ham purposefully...

But Monk never touched Ham. The gorilla-like chemist came to a stop. He rocked back on his heels foolishly. Then he grabbed at his head.

"Ouch!" he squawled. "My head!"

A hideous thing was happening to Monk's eyes. They were slowly protruding. He groaned in agony, sank down on the floor and held his head with both hands.

Doc Savage seized Monk, spread him out on the floor. He got smelling salts from a medicine cabinet and hot black coffee which bubbled on the kitchen stove, and administered both to Monk.

The homely chemist sat up after a time, his eyes normal again. He looked about foolishly.

"That pop-eyed business!" he exploded. "It got hold of me! Hell! I ain't no crook!"...

Monk got up suddenly, glaring, fists clenched. Then he looked extremely pained, his eyes seemed about to pop, and he sat down and held his head.

"Damn the luck!" he groaned. "Whenever I think of giving that shyster what he's got conning, I get that goofy feeling."...

Monk scowled and picked up a convenient limb. The bough was as thick as his arm, but the homely chemist handled it as a schoolmaster would a switch. He started for Ham purposefully.

Then he pulled up, dropped the limb, looked dazed, and grasped his head. His eyes popped the merest trifle.

"Blazes!" he gulped and sat down heavily. "Ow-w-w! My head!"


"Hello, Pat," Doc Savage said.

Pat asked, "Well, who's trying to kill you now?"


"Want to help me?" Doc asked her.

"That," laughed Pat, "is equivalent to an invitation to be shot at, stabbed, drowned, beaten up and no telling what else. Sure, I'll help you. Who are we fighting?"


PAT Savage was carrying a larger hand bag, and she wrenched it open and drew out an enormous single-action six-shooter. It had been her father's gun, and she had practiced with the weapon until she had the proficiency of an old-time Western gun fighter.

She shot from the hip, not pulling the trigger, for there was no trigger on the gun, it being stripped down for fanning. She simply rocked the hammer back with a thumb and let it fall. The concussion as the antique went off was terrific...

"Mercy bullet," said Pat. "Doc made some up special for this cannon."


"Do you think there is any danger?" he asked Pat.

"Sure," Pat said unkindly. "We all have an excellent chance of being killed."

Basenstein put a wry twist on his lips that was meant for a smile. "You are quite a remarkable young woman."

"Fooey!" said Pat. "I wonder if Renny keeps anything to eat in this place."


Monk, who was usually prompt in carrying out the bronze man's suggestions, for once seemed not to hear. Monk, at times in the past, had been suspected of possessing bloodthirsty inclinations. He looked through the window, grimaced, but did not turn away.


The man with the automatic looked at the other occupant of the car - Ham. Major General Theodore Marley Brooks - it was with this name that Ham was formally designated - looked like a gentleman who might qualify as a perfume salesman or a male clerk in an exclusive feminine shop.


One of the dead man's arms was outflung, and the wrist was encircled by a shiny metal band which the policeman at first mistook for a wrist watch, only to learn, on closer inspection, that it held in place a round metal disk which bore an inscription that read:

Should anything happen to this man, notify Doc Savage.

"Hell's bells!" gulped the officer, and ran for a telephone...

 "There's a man dead here," said the policeman. "On his wrist is an identification tag asking that you be called if anything should happen to him."

"What is the number on the back of the tag?" Doc Savage asked.

The officer went over and examined the tag, finding a number he had overlooked the first time. Then he came back.

"Twenty-three," he said.


[Vanity Plate vanity, and bad camouflage] Furthermore, the license plate consisted simply of three letters and a number - DOC 1.


"About two hours ago a man came to me for treatment. He was horribly beaten, cut and mutilated. I think he was slightly insane. He raved about being the Crime Annihilist who was going to kill a million criminals. He was quite mad. He said the Crime Annihilist was going to kill all of the crooks in the world."


[This fluctuates along with the height of Doc's building] Two of the three rooms inside were enormous; with the smaller reception room and office, they took in the entire floor of the titanic structure.


[Notes tossed from an airplane would not be found by anyone on the ground] Monk came forward, leaned close and growled, "That mug Basenstein is at it again."

"What now?" Doc asked.

"He's writing notes," Monk advised. "Whenever we pass over a town, he drops one out."

"I had noticed that," Doc admitted.


[Lost Doctor tags. Call for reward] One of the dead man's arms was outfiung, and the wrist was encircled by a shiny metal band which the policeman at first mistook for a wrist watch, only to learn, on closer inspection, that it held in place a round metal disk which bore an inscription that read:

Should anything happen to this man, notify Doc Savage...

"Robert Lorrey wore this around his ankle," Hardboiled growled. "It is an identification disk with a number and an inscription requesting that Doc Savage be called."

The Annihilist. The title of this Doc Savage adventure. Available in print.

023 - The Mystic Mullah:

"It was an ageless thing that had existed since the beginning of time -- a monstrous green face that spoke sudden death. With its legions of ghostly, nebulous soul slaves, it had begun to terrorize the world. Even Doc Savage and his fantastic five were helpless against its awesome power, until...."

Having read this before and experiencing a number of times the floating green snakes in the 1975 Doc Savage film, January, 1935's The Mystic Mullah was a tough read for its entire first half which focused on the hocus pocus of floating tubular blobs of green poison and a nebulous Mystic Mullah that Monk and Ham think is a person when they should know it's a cheap visual effect. Usually the New York scenes are better written because they're first, the city requires less exposition, and it imposes few limitations to action, but here that advantage is crushed by moving from location A to B to C to D with not much happening beyond running around and fighting before moving on to the next scene. There's less plot building then doing stuff with cheesy floating mysteries and grand declarations on the powers of the Mystic Mullah.

The second half moves to a fictional Mongolia-type country and the story picks up steam by the simple virtue of no longer wallowing in the blob and Mullah gimmicks. The best scene in the book is a short section on how Joan Lyndell escapes a mob:

The spearhead of soldiers was shrinking, literally wearing itself away against the crowd. Watching, Monk and Ham saw one guard after another seize his chance and duck away into the throng.

Joan Lyndell called out angrily, but it had no effect. The guards continued to desert. There was a worried expression on the young woman's face now, and she carried her automatic pistol in plain view.

“These guards were trained by my father,” she said grimly. “I had hoped they would be faithful.”...

She rapped a sharp order. The guards who remained hesitated, then swung sharply to the left and dived into a narrow street. The throng of Tananese had not expected this, and angry shouts went up.

“Bet they had an ambush arranged ahead,” Monk offered...

THE escort swung into a trot. This side street was narrow, not pleasing to eye or nostril, and was populated largely by yaks, donkeys and dogs. There was a chill wind blowing down from the mountains which enwalled Tanan, and steely clouds in the distance suggested snow.

The floating green snakes are assigned lifelike qualities which they don't have, also a feature of 1937's The Derrick Devil and its jelly oil terror. This is the print version of the Doc Savage movie special effect:

Down the corridor, floating in the air, strange, fantastic things were approaching. They were like fat snakes, their color an unholy green, their diameter perhaps that of a human wrist, their length the span of an arm from hand to elbow. They whirled, contorted with a sort of dervish dance. They seemed to grow fatter, then thinner.

Most hideous of all was the fact that these flying serpentine things seemed unreal. They were ghostly, nebulous, without any real body or shape...

The green horrors reached him and Hadim struck with his knife, only to shriek out in fresh horror as the blade passed completely through the green atrocity and nothing happened. He struck again; then the serpentine things were upon him.

They brushed against his arms, his chest. One rolled like a hideous green tongue, caressing his face, lingering about his mouth, his nostrils, then rolling up over his eyes. Hadim fought them with his hands, shrieking again and again; he writhed down to get away from them, and squirmed on the floor.

Then the green things arose and drifted out through the holes which Hadim had beaten in the skyscraper window with his fists. They went slowly, as if satisfied with the work they had done. They had changed shape materially by now; one had been knocked to pieces and had resolved itself into half a dozen thin, green strings, so pale that the eye could easily see through them, distinguishing the frames of the window behind them.


The deckhand was flailing his arms and crying “Oh!” again and again, each time in a more horrible tone. The breath puff of each “Oh!” seemed to distort the hideous green worm of a thing that was rolling against his face, coiling around it, as if caressing it.

The deckhand struck at his own features and his hands, it was quite plain, passed completely through the nebulous green horror, with the result that the verdant thing was separated into two sections, each of which seemed to take on added life and slide over the man's nose.

The deckhand sucked in breath, and one of the green snakelike things crawled partially inside his mouth, then hastily out again. The deckhand shrieked more hoarsely and fell flat on his face, where his squirmings became rapidly less, and his head began to bend backward strangely, as if something invisible, some unseen master of strength, had gripped his neck.

Doc explains:

“If that green stuff touches you, it'll kill you!” Doc said grimy. “He was using two kinds. One only burned the skin and produced senselessness. The other was mixed with the venom of the neotropical rattlesnake.”


“Something like that,” Doc rapped. “Venom of the neotropical rattler centralizes its effects in the nervous system around the nape of the neck and causes a form of nerve destruction which makes it appear that the victim has a broken neck. This poison probably had additional ingredients which heightened its effects, causing a muscular constriction which actually snapped the vertebrae in most cases.”...

“But, holy cow, the way these things move!” he growled.

“Always launched so that a current of air will carry the green mist toward the victims,” Doc said, and himself moved to glance into the wall opening. “Probably the stuff is squirted from some kind of a pump gun. That would give the snakelike effect.”

The floating Mystic Mullah would be more practical as a projected image but Lester Dent decided to put a condom over a light bulb and add puppetry to the show:

The face hung suspended, like something disembodied, for the darkness was too thick to permit Monk and Ham to see the nature of the body to which it was attached. The effect was ghostly.


The unearthly green glow that was the face seemed to fade, becoming paler and paler until its outlines were lost to the eyes and only a vague luminance remained. That, too, went away, leaving only the blackness of the room.


Near the door, Renny tangled in an affair of wires, and fell back. He got up, growling, and turned his light on the contrivance.

“Blazes!” he gulped. “Here's how he stuck that green face around and made it disappear!”

The thing Renny had fallen over must have been blown across the room by the grenade blast. It was such a device as fake spiritualists and magicians sometimes use to make luminous heads appear in thin air—a telescoping tube of some length, to the end of which was fixed a thin-walled rubber balloon face which could be inflated by blowing through the tube; then, by suction, drawn back into the tube, and the telescoping affair collapsed. Manipulation of thin threads caused the appearance of lip motion.

This month's specific racism trait:

The Tananese were leaning over the cabin cruiser cockpit, shooting with the wildness characteristic of excited Orientals.

Monk & Ham in all their idiot glory:

“You and me, too,” said Ham. “But if we get in a jam, remember—it was your fool idea. I'm just going along to keep you from gumming up things.”

I'd take it as a favor if you'd go off and die,” Monk grumbled.

The fake Johnny was a nice touch. The Russian by way of Texas secret police big-wig Oscar Gibson and his commie dentures were also a plus:

Engraved on the bar was a peculiar design. It incorporated the hammer and sickle of the Soviet. There were a few engraved words of Russian. Doc read them and studied the design.

“Secret Police,” he said.

“Exactly,” said Oscar Gibson. “I am a member. More correctly I am one of the four highest ranking officers.”

“But you're English!” Monk exploded.

Unexplained is why the bad guys wrapped up dummies and carried them off instead of the real Monk & Ham, who were found soon enough by Doc. Always enjoyable are the wise sayings of inscrutable Asians:

“He is a fool who only drops thorns in the path of the tiger,” one brown man told the man who had fired at the motorcycle cop. “The tiger will come again by another route.”

“He is a greater fool who kills the cub of the tiger,” retorted the other. “The police of these white devil ghosts are a bad tiger.”...

“A faithful dog knows his master,” he said.

“And it is a wise dog which finds a new master when the old one can no longer care for him,” Doc replied...

“It is a wise turtle which grows a thick shell, and a smart tiger which sharpens its claws,” he imparted...

“The fox that is wise retires to his den when the dogs begin barking,” he said...

Monk tried his hand at the Oriental method of making replies. “He who tries to know all things only makes himself dizzy,” he stated...

“It is well,” murmured the Mystic Mullah. “But it is also an unwise farmer who destroys his entire crop because there are a few weeds. He would better pull the weeds.”


The strange movements of his hands were simply to draw their attention from his feet as he stepped on one heel with the toe of the other foot and strained. The heel of his shoe was dislodged so easily that it was evident it was equipped with some type of hinge. A yellowish powder spilled out, making a small mound on the floor.

Doc stepped back, turned half around, put his hands over his face and bent double.

There was a terrific, eye-hurting white light. A plop of sound accompanied it, not unlike the setting off of a photographer's flash light gun. The light burned for perhaps a full two seconds, dense white smoke pouring from the mound of powder. The light went out...

The chemical mixture was infinitely stronger than magnesium; it made a light so strong that it produced almost complete blindness for a few moments. The stuff was ignited by a small pellet of another chemical compound which burst into flame shortly after it was exposed to the air.


Doc and Renny charged forward. Their procedure might have seemed reckless, but not only did they wear the armor vests which protected their bodies, legs, and even a portion of their necks, but the oilskin hats which they wore were not conventional seamen's hats at all, but thin steel helmets as efficient as regulation army equipment.


Doc's tool bags had been bombs, exploded by remote radio control. They had been filled, not with deadly shrapnel, but with solidified particles of the same chemical which the dapper Ham employed to coat the tip of his sword cane. The stuff looked like a yellowish rock salt.


[BS] Doc Savage abandoned his investigation of the fat green body and swung to the nearest prisoner. He scooped the fellow up, got him across a shoulder; then got two more of the captives one under either arm.


[Trilling is all things and every thing to every one] HE was silent because of a sound. A sound that had come into existence so gradually that it had at first not been noticed. The sound was still vague, but it was real, so real that it possessed a quality of menace, of promised events.

It was a trilling. It traced a fantastic musical scale, rising and falling, but not repeating its notes or indicating in any way that it adhered to a definite tune. It was low, nearly impossible of description. It might have been the product of a chill wind through the fog, or the song of some exotic tropical bird. And it was entirely unnatural, awe-inspiring.


[Punmeister Doc Savage] “Now, how are we gonna get into that yacht club?” Renny asked. “We can't just barge in.”

“That,” Doc told him, “is exactly what we are going to—barge up.”


[It's Long Tom's turn to play interpreter for Johnny's pretentious word game] Johnny met them shortly, a thin lath of darker shadow in the damp fog and darkness. When he spoke, he used his big words.

“Conceivably, could these Orientals conjecture the hypothesis of our pervasion of this circumambiency?”

Renny looked more gloomy.

“Holy cow!” he grumbled, “Don't you ever speak English? Somebody translate that.”

Long Tom said sourly, “He means that he wonders if them brown guys could be wise that Doc Savage had us posted in the background at that old factory, so that we could trail them.”

“Rats!” said Renny. “Why didn't he say so? I don't think they are wise.”


Ham's shoes were small, almost feminine, and he put his feet down straight, without toeing in or out.


Monk squirmed to get away from the knife pricking his back. He could feel scarlet trickling down inside his undershirt. It felt like a string of flies crawling on his bare skin.


“His head is clear enough,” Doc said. “What is your name?”

“It might be Mohammed, or Little Boy Blue, or Columbus,” said the stranger. “But, of course, it's not.”

Renny blocked out a big fist, held it close to the man's head, and head and fist did not differ greatly in size.


Somewhere near, waves lapped with sounds like women sobbing...


“It would not be advisable,” said the Khan, speaking his English that was so perfect it was almost unpleasant.


One man, on whose shoulders Doc managed to land, went down; there was a muffled crunch, as a bone broke in some part of him.


Doc Savage riffled through the papers. One after the other, he spread them open on a table displaying in each instance a full-page advertisement...

THE advertisements were in bold black type. Each was worded the same, reading:


The sum of one thousand dollars will be paid for information leading to the whereabouts of a man whose skin is unnaturally white. This man will have the face of an Oriental. His skin will be almost as white as ordinary writing paper. Call this newspaper when you see such a man.


Doc Savage now led the way to his car, Renny following with the stranger. This was a different machine, but armor plated like the others. It, however, bore a license which had been issued to Doc under an assumed name. The machine got into motion quietly.


The soldiers still carried their short, fearful swords, wore quilted armor; and such guns as they had—and they had a few, for the Orient sired the invention of gunpowder—were unique relics, more cannon than rifle, requiring two men to carry them. They fired anything from a ball of copper pounded from the rich natural deposits in Tanan, to a fistful of pebbles, or, if a man were desperate, various oddly shaped Tananese coins.


Once it became bruited about that the Mystic Mullah had been the Khan, rage seized the Tananese, and they turned upon the Mullah's faithful. Those who had lost relatives to the so-called green soul slaves of the Mullah, were especially bitter, and lives were taken all through that day, the ensuing night, and, for that matter, throughout the months that followed.

Not much of The Mystic Mullah is memorable but the floating snakes are iconic if not more correctly of sentimental value. The chore of the first half was mitigated by the better second half, so as I write this I'm not as annoyed by the book as I was halfway in.



024 - The Red Snow:


"When the red snow descends, all in its path are destroyed, their bodies devoured by the scarlet rot. ARK, the monstrous-headed scholar of evil, sprays red death across a terrified nation and demands total surrender. Doc Savage is helpless as America reels under the crimson lash of deadly snow -- helpless because he stands accused of murder!"


I just finished the 1935 Doc Savage story "The Red Snow" and now I'm wondering if I've lost my taste for the novels. Probably just the lesser books, which I define as the ones where Doc isn't uber and the goings on aren't all Doc Savagey. I realize it got crazy to the other extreme where Doc's picking up an assistant under each arm and jumping from tree limb to tree limb like they're rag dolls, but high-achievement consistency is a darned good thing in a Doc Savage story.


I refer to the trade paperbacks for Will Murray's commentary, and for "The Red Snow" it appears this story came at a time when author Lester Dent experienced a nervous breakdown of some kind, requiring him to take a break and collect himself. The story was reworked a few times and used as training material for ghost writers. It shows. There's a lot of meandering from here to there and back again, mostly involving shrubbery, and Doc's as often doing regular guy things as he is being the inspiration for Superman and Batman. Making the requisite word count for submission might have been the motivating factor for the novel's wordiness. Only Ham and Monk are involved, which I will mostly now attribute to laziness, and Doc's treated with contempt by the police - which makes no sense to me at all. The Red Snow itself as science and terror are decent, along with the lead villain. The problem is mostly with the events stalling for time to the point of meaningless proximities of repetition.


Doc doesn't disguise himself in this one but that device generally hasn't aged well, and I'm not talking about political correctness. The bad guys here are supposedly Japanese (Dent loathed being direct on these things) but they disguise themselves with some good 'ol Al Jolson brand shoe polish. Yowza indeed. Even as a youth I rejected the pulp's efforts to have Doc disguised as people he could never be mistaken for, especially old women.

The pulps started with Doc at 6 feet tall (and that was treated like it was impressive) to something around 6' 7". Dent's efforts to describe Doc as proportional to the point of appearing normal yet every muscle was a massive steel cable must sound mutually exclusive, because it is, but I've seen a great example of a proximity of that up close and personal. In the mid to late 80s I worked at a fancy hotel gym in Washington, DC. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a member for a week. One of most charming and personable people I've ever met. I talked to him when we both weren't wearing shoes. He was six feet tall or a fraction less. He was no wider than I am. He wasn't displacing a lot of water like Lou Ferrigno, but when Arnold bent down to touch his toes his biceps were cantaloupes. Each body part was massive on its own terms. Most professional bodybuilders are short, so Arnold at 6' made him in a way taller.


While I'm name-dropping: Jean-Claude Van Damme had a perfect athletic yet muscular build. He was nice but extremely self-aware and he knew he was good looking. Tim Curry had a teenager's body and a massive, massive head. Very friendly and laughed a lot. Robert Downey Jr. came in but didn't do much. He looked like a frat kid, seemed very unhappy, and wore a baseball cap. Scott Simon from NPR - I would have taken a bullet for him. The single nicest celebrity I've ever spoken to. Whoever the Secretary of the Treasury was at the time showed me a dollar bill with her signature on it and we shared a friendly laugh about it. Don't even get me started on all the musicians I met working security all around the DC area. Good memories for sure.


025 - Land Of Always-Night:

"With the fate of America hanging in the balance, Doc Savage and his fearless crew battle a hideously white-faced man named Ool who kills merely with a touch of his finger. The only clue to his diabolical power is a mysterious pair of dark goggles which brings death to whomever possesses them. The trail leads to a fabulous lost super-civilization hidden deep in the bowels of the earth, where Doc Savage and his fabulous five face their supreme challenge."

March, 1935's Land Of Always-Night jumps down the same fantasy well as Murder Melody, November's title from the same year. The later was written by crazed doper Lawrence Donovan. Land Of Always-Night was co-written by Lester Dent and W. Ryerson Johnson. Both novels flailed and failed once they left the surface world for Subterranae in Murder Melody and "The Place Never Given A Name" in Land Of Always-Night, where science is well ahead of our own yet a belt buckle baffles their ruler:

Other devices baffled him in the brief moments he devoted to examination, and carried conviction that in many respects these strange cavern people were far ahead, scientifically, of the so-called civilizations on the outside of the globe.


Anos, the dictator, lunged and tried to pick up the machine gun, but the belt fastenings, being unfamiliar, baffled him, and instead, he lifted the dead thug up bodily, using the lifeless form as a shield.

Anos is a dictator because, according to the Sanctum reprint, Ryerson was a hardcore socialist and wanted the story to be more of a Bertolt Brechtian treatise on Good Worker Vs. Evil Boss. Dent nixed that but kept Anos as a dictator mostly in name only because a coup attempt only gets you demoted in this society. Screw up again and you get banished to Arkansas:

"That is fitting," the dictator replied slowly. "You have been noted in the past for your greed and treachery, and for your insane thirst to take over the government here. It was for attempting to take over the government that you were banished to the Stor, the working squadrons. When you tried to lead the Star in revolt, you were sent to the Land of the Lost."


Anos, the dictator, was taken prisoner, and along with him, various members of the ruling Nonverid, who had been with him. This had the effect of breaking the backbone of the entire defense. These cavern people were not a fighting race, and with their leadership shattered, were virtually helpless.

The story is good until Chapter 11. That's when everyone leaves NYC and heads towards and into the dark depths of the earth where architecture is minimal and mushrooms are the only food game in town. They also make for a netting that suffocates you just short of death. I know fans love these adventures but for me they die once you're at the mercy of writers making things up as they go along, and pacing slows both physically and in storytelling because you have to look around and marvel at all the weird things you need explained to you in the grinding details of magtastical fabrication.

There's no real threat to the outside world at large. The death dealing gimmick is just that and it wouldn't get an army of Ools anything but dead against anybone with a gun. Plus there's not enough Ools to begin with, and "Cold Light" isn't worth a penny if you have to wear big, stupid goggles to make it work. 3-D televisions? Hello?

The evil Ool is a great villain. The affectation of the snakey butterfly hand sadly isn't something more than fun to read, but for a while a scene like this made you wonder how ambitious and effective he might be:

Ool, you're smart enough to be president of these United States!"

Ool nodded. "I have thought of that. Perhaps I shall be."

Watches stared. "Well, for

"What," Ool questioned, "is to prevent me?"

"Sure," Watches muttered, a strange gleam coming into his bleak eyes. "You took me off my feet for a minute by being so casual."


IT is somewhat ridiculous to say that a human hand can resemble a butterfly. Yet this particular hand did attain that similarity. Probably it was the way it moved, hovered, moved again, with something about it that was remindful of a slow-motion picture being shown on a screen.


"Where is it?" he asked. His voice was utterly flat; it held the mechanical quality found in the speech of persons so deaf that they can hardly hear themselves talk.


Ool began to speak. His voice was like the intonation of a phonograph which possessed no qualities of tone whatever; his words were so flat that at times they were hardly understandable.


Ool smiled. It was the smile of a man not accustomed to showing emotion in that manner. The smile was slightly horrible.

The gang led by Watches Bowen is memorable in that there's more than the usual number of featured characters, and they're all written well. Ham-Hoch Piney, Honey Hannibal, Squirrel Dougan get separate chances to shine and do so fairly well. Watches Bowen and his watch fetish turns him silly to the point of being either a Dick Tracy or Batman bad guy:

[Funny visual] Watches looked at it, appeared to see it for the first time, seemed startled, and hastily returned it to its concealed sleeve pouch.


The gangster's hand dipped to his wide coat pocket. It whipped out clutching another leaded watch. There was a chain attached. It was the gangster's habit to use the weighted timepiece as a substitute for a blackjack. He swung the unique weapon at Monk's head.


The special gold watch Ham-hock referred to was a new addition to the mob chief's collection, one especially reserved for the annihilation of Doc Savage. Bowen had even indulged in a whim, and had engraved Doc Savage's name on the case.

He had not revealed wherein lay the deadly nature of the watch, boasting only that this watch would finish Savage off if the proper chance came...


THE timepiece which Watches Bowen brought out was the one which he had repeatedly assured members of his gang was a special gift destined for Doc Savage. The watch was unusually large. Bowen drew back an arm to throw it...

With a quick twist of thumb and forefinger, the mob chief turned the stem of the watch as if he were winding it. There started a faintly audible whir. His arm arched back, and he prepared to throw...

 Whoo-o-m! The watch was a small, violent grenade, and it let go. Steel fragments rained from above. There was a shrill roar, not of powder unleashed, but of something else -- something gray and smoking that boiled down in great sheets from rent pipes.

This passage is nice as it shows Monk's selfless loyalty to Doc and his friends in the 86th floor:

There was an interval of silence inside the booth, then the fake policeman spoke: "Hello . . . Doc Savage?"

Monk, the homely, loyal Monk, did a magnificent thing. It was not his fault that it was a useless thing.

It has been long accepted that. "greater love hath no man -- " Monk did the best he could to lay down his life for his brother.

There was only one way he could have managed it. With that automatic nosed into his hack, he could only yell, warn Doc Savage of the poison danger by the roar of his great voice -- and by the roar of the gangster's gun as it blared its lead through flesh and bone.

Monk opened his cavernous mouth to yell. It was not his fault that no sound came.

Before he could utter so much as a murmur, the barrel of a submachine gun crashed against his temple and felled him to the floor.

Johnny and his vocabulary. I'd change most of these sad comedy routines into the others taking what he says and moving on as if they know what he meant, working in the "translations" as part of normal conversations not intended to be simple translations. Usually Monk's the last to know what Johnny's saying, and it's a snobbish and weird affectation as much as Ham's fake Harvard accent is pretentious, but as it's his turn, here's Monk knowing all the big boy words:

"Your perambulations are imperspicuous," said big-worded Johnny.

"He means," said Monk, who could seldom resist interpreting Johnny's verbiage, "that we want to know what you were snooping around in here for?"


[Renny interprets  Johnny's words for Doc Savage? Really?!] Johnny, the big-worded archaeologist and geologist, fumbled his monocle and murmured, "I wonder if your chicane histrionics were consummative?"

"He means that he wonders if that was a successful act that you put on over the telephone, when you had one of us yell that you were dead," Renny rumbled.

Doc evidently intended to answer, but there was an interruption. The telephone rang. The bronze man got up and swung toward the instrument.

This is science magic that would have been better if it was a hologram:

Squirrel shoved forward and snatched out his own hand for the goggles. He had no more success than had Ham-hock. His hand seemed to pass through the goggles as though they were of no substance. His finger nails scraped futilely on the glass shelf. His face blanched. His rodent teeth started chattering.


A series of mirrors had been employed to cast a lifelike reflection of the goggles -- a trick magicians sometimes use to make an article seem where it is not.

Doc's blimp goes 200 mph?!:

LIKE a moonbeam caught up, congealed, and set adrift again, a cruising dirigible, a silver sliver against the bleak, sub-Arctic sky, droned over the Canadian northwest at a rate of speed highly unusual for such ships. The speed of the dirigible -- almost two hundred miles an hour -- was achieved through improved propulsion power and lessened wind resistance.

"Health Glass" gets a Google hit from an old newspaper, the section I made bold. As it does not block harmful UV rays but amplifies them I can see why it never went places.

FIVE men stood in the early morning sun which streamed through the "health glass" windows of Doc Savage's eighty-sixth floor headquarters.


"Health Glass" Windows H"! ES of the future will have windows whose panes are a new scientific product which may most appropriately be called "health glass." In appearance It Is not different from 'ordinary window glass, but In reality vastly different, because it will transmit more of the sunlight. Heretofore curative sun treatments have been given mostly out - of - doors.

I like this visual of waiting for Doc's anesthetic gas to lose potency:

DOC turned, walked over and hoisted a window. For a space of about forty seconds neither he nor his aides said anything, but simply stood and regarded each other.

Doc doesn't use a gun otherwise but there's this shortly into the story:

Doc Savage's finger tightened on the trigger of his weapon. The gun emitted a single ear-splitting hoot. It was a machine pistol with a tremendously fast rate of fire.

Doc put these actor's lives in jeopardy as I was expecting the bad guys to come in and Tommy Gun them to pieces:

"That probably explains it," Squirrel said, with the air of a mastermind. "Doc Savage told you when he was gonna be out of his place in the restaurant, figuring you would take a whirl at getting the goggles. Then he arranged some actors or somebody down there eating to look like himself and his men."

This is a big issue in the Doc Savage world. Should Doc be better than his aides in their own fields?

The bronze man conferred for a moment under his breath with Johnny on a question of geology. Although Doc, as a result of his exhaustive studies, his self-imposed mental, physical, and emotional discipline, had accumulated a store of knowledge greater in every case than that of his five aides, he nevertheless consulted frequently with them on questions involving their specialty.

He did this because he was a thorough man who preferred to check his reasonings. On the present geological question, Doc and Johnny came to quick agreement.

This was darn good for ten chapters. Then it stage-dived into Fantasy Land and the bad guys lost because of an exploding watch with Doc Savage's name etched in it. To find out more about what happens when time flies, read Land Of Always-Night, available wherever Vitameatavegamin is sold!

026 - The Spook Legion:

"The entire city of New York is swept up in a wave of terror, as an evil international conspiracy devises a crime so sinister that only Doc Savage and his five mighty cohorts can halt its fiendish plan. Led by a phantom master criminal with stupefying supernatural powers, the conspiracy sets trap after trap for Doc. Finally, in a fantastic underground empire, the fearless bronze giant and his courageous crew must fight for their lives against a diabolical enemy that cannot even be seen."

The Invisible Man, starring Claude Rains, hit cinemas in 1933 and The Spook Legion saw print in April of 1935. It's a fun and taut Doc Savage adventure with natural humor and action made that much more visual by the involvement of invisible men, made that way with goop, electricity, and great physical pain. While easily one of the series' best it by necessity overlooks the obvious Doc Savage solution of oily powder bombs to turn invisible thieves into visible spooks.

Playing editor eighty years after the fact, this scene appears but was never referenced again:

Doc Savage worked swiftly. He located an electric power line and hooked on to it with his cables, which were in turn connected to high-frequency spark coils. The latter, the bronze man had carried from an electrical supply house on lower Broadway.

From the coils, the copper cables were conducted to doors and windows of the house. There, the bronze man operated more painstakingly, employing a material which was as invisible as he himself, for he had removed clothing and grease paint.

When he had finished, he had strung over the doors and windows strands of the invisible metal fabric from which the loot bags had been woven. He went over all connections, making sure the insulated cables were connected to the invisible metal strands in the proper manner.

The ending was very good so if I didn't read the book I probably wouldn't have noticed the setup above was left to hang:

The locomotive jumped the rails, angled sidewise, hit the row of supports between the rails and knocked these over like straws until, because the posts were anchored more solidly at the bottom than at the top, the locomotive climbed up on its rear trucks and poked its snout out through the street, overturning two motor cars and vastly exciting policemen in the cordon about the vicinity...

It was even doubted in some quarters that the invisible men perished; but that doubt subsided in the course of two or three weeks, when the tunnel was finally pumped dry. The bodies, after being in the water that long, were not exactly invisible, but rather looked somewhat like large oceany jellyfish.

Ham and Monk, redefining friendship in what social scientists refer to as "The Psychotic Thirties":

Monk, rumbling angrily, sent out one huge hand and closed it about the dapper Ham's throat.

“You kicked Habeas Corpus!” he gritted. “I gotta notion to see how easy your head comes off!”

Ham made croakings past the fingers constricting his throat...

The two looked at each other with what seemed genuine, utter hate.

Doc has a box at the Metropolitan Opera House, passed down from his father:

THE structure that is the center of operatic America, the citadel which draws the crowned heads of the profession for their finest performances, is a building which outwardly resembles an enormous and very grimy warehouse. Viewed from the street, it offers nothing impressive other than its size, except on opera nights, when it takes on a dignity and an aura of glittering impressiveness.

Lester Dent adds a nice random touch having the henchmen come from a higher strata of the criminal classes:

well-dressed, intelligent-looking fellows who, nevertheless, conveyed the impression of being hard and unscrupulous... Any one could have donned suitable attire and mingled with the best society.

Doc Savage is less omniscient and omnipotent without diminishing his peak human abilities. He gets knocked out, has no idea how to handle the invisible men, and is for a while in the dark about the invisible man technology. A bit of that is tied to the conceit he can't come up with the easy solution of resolving invisibility with a clinging gas or powder.

The book reads well and quickly, with less to comment on than to enjoy on the page. The Spook Legion would make for an excellent TV adaptation if there was a Doc Savage series, especially the last scene where Doc becomes visible again and Ada Easeman's eyes pop out of her head to the sound of a truck horn and slide whistle. Since he's naked. It wasn't in the book but that's why fan fiction exists.


Ham put more weight on the accelerator. Monk grabbed door handles and cranked. It became apparent that the unusual car was fitted with two sets of glass. The second had concealed panels, which now came into view, were thicker and equipped with thin loophole slits reënforced with steel bullet deflectors.


Monk stopped the car in a deserted-looking spot, and the bronze man drew from the tool compartment an extra set of license plates for each of the States bounding New York. He selected a pair for New Jersey and substituted them for the tabs which the car already bore. Out of the tool compartment came a contrivance which resembled an ordinary hand sprayer.

“Those Jersey tags under your name?” Monk questioned.

“No,” Doc told him. “They were issued to a second-hand car which was run into the ocean after the new plates were removed.”

The bronze man now turned the sprayer on the car and began working the pump handle. This threw a cloud of almost colorless material over the machine. The stuff had a biting tang that set Monk and Ham coughing. The color of the car had been a somber black. Now it changed, becoming a rather light and cheap gray tint.

“Chemical bleach,” the bronze man explained. “Much quicker than repainting.”

The entire car had changed color when they again entered it and drove on.


The door of his office was barred with wire, and the corridor was filled with armed men. Doc withdrew to the floor below, where there was a secret door back of a fire cabinet which gave to a ladder leading up to the laboratory room.


Was there an address of sender given on the message?”

“There was.”

“What was it?”

“1440 Powder Road,” said Leo Bell, after consulting the message.

“There is no such address in Boston,” Doc Savage said, and hung up.

Leo blinked dazedly after the connection was broken, wondering how Doc Savage had known the address was a fake—and it was indeed false. Leo ascertained a moment later, upon consulting the street directory. There was no such number on Powder Road.


Doc Savage remained, limp and unstirring, where he had been felled. His features had slammed the floor heavily when he went down, and small crimson bubbles broke at his lips from time to time, showing that he still breathed.


[Peak Human Doc, not the Uber-Omniscient Doc] As if the shout had switched off the spell, Doc Savage lunged for the gun. Both arms were out, clutching. Then came a flash. Varicolored lights exploded in his eyeballs. He had been struck a terrific blow in the face...

Doc Savage leaped to stop them. Something he could not see got between his legs, and he tripped and went down. There was the agony of a second terrific smash on his head. Dazed for all of his fortitude, he rolled to one side...

In the direction which the fugitives had taken, an automobile engine began moaning. Doc Savage heaved up and made for the sound. So dazed was he by the blows that Monk and Ham kept up with him and even drew ahead, something they could not ordinarily have done.


[A process alien to Doc Savage] “How were you made invisible?” he demanded.

“I secured only a hazy idea of the process,” Doc Savage explained. “It has something to do with altering the electronic composition of the body, securing an atomic motific status which results in complete diaphaneity.”

“That,” said Ham, “does not mean a lot to me.”

“Nor a great deal more to me,” the bronze man—he was possessed of neither form nor hue now, as far as appearances went—admitted. “The process was extremely involved. Monk and I lost consciousness before we were very far along. I do not know what happened after we were senseless.”


THE bronze man had purloined a delivery truck—hardly theft, because the vehicle belonged to a bakery concern in which he had a large interest.


DOC SAVAGE studied the man, then knelt and kneaded some of the fellow's joints in a manner which produced great pain. Doc noted the results carefully. He shook his head.

“Physical pain does not terrify this man,” he said. “The fellow knows he can take only so much, then he will faint. Many criminals are that way.”

Monk scowled. “Let's try it, anyhow.”


Doc Savage rapped, “Get under cover!”

Monk eyed the bronze man. It was the first time he could recall having seen his chief sidestep a fight. Monk often suspected that Doc liked a scrap better than any of them, and that sort of excitement was the spice of life to himself and Ham.


Belying the danger of their position, the apish chemist wore a wide, somehow rather cherubic grin. The same grin he had been known to wear on certain other occasions when the chances of his living more than a few minutes had seemed negligible. Monk was a rare type of individual. He seemed unable to conceive of such a thing as danger.


A car came spinning along. Monk stood in the center of the road and cartwheeled his arms only to realize at the last instant that he could not be seen. A wild leap got him clear.

“Blazes!” he complained aloud. “This being invisible is going to have its drawbacks!”


[Monk punches an unconscious man to keep him out longer] “Swell,” Monk replied. “And I'm gonna fix this baby so that he'll sleep for a while.”

There was a robust whack, as if a fist had collided soundly with a jaw, as Monk made sure their prisoner would remain unconscious.


He eyed the address on the message and shook his head, because he knew, from past experience, that a telegram addressed to one man in a city as large as New York had very little chance of being delivered.

Leo carried the message back to the night manager.

“I have here a straight telegram addressed to Doc Savage in New York City,” he told the night manager. “I think we should get a better address.”

“Where have you been all your life?” demanded the manager.

“Huh?” Leo blinked.

“I thought everybody had heard of Doc Savage,” said the other.


The two employees in the telegraph office discussed the happening through the remainder of their tour of duty. It seemed as if something smacking of high adventure had touched them briefly, and they rather liked the manner in which it spiced their humdrum lives.


[Commercial air travel circa 1935] It was near New York that one of the passengers forward reached up and jerked open the window beside his seat. No doubt he wanted to thrust his head out and stare at the skyscrapers of Manhattan, which were coming into view ahead and below...

He sat there for some time. Then he reached under his coat, thrust a hand beneath the left armpit and brought out a stubby but deadly-looking revolver.


[Someone fires off three shots in a plane and nobody panics?] THE average American lives in a high-pressure world where things happen with rapidity. He is not inclined to become wildly excited about an occurrence which does not menace him directly.

These plane passengers were no exceptions. They merely looked around. Those farthest away stood up. Nobody screamed. Nobody yelled.


[The exclamation point begs to differ] “We're going down!” he said, and there was no trace of excitement in his remarkable voice.


FEDERATED PAYROLL was a product of the complexity of the modern business world. They took contracts from factories and large business establishments, whereby they agreed to handle payrolls—getting the money, taking it to their offices having their own accountants apportion it in small envelopes bearing the names of workmen. Then armored cars carried the envelopes to the respective places of employment, where armed attendants distributed the wages...

At each end of this room, high up, was an armor plate pillbox with machine gunners posted inside. Federated Payroll took few chances.


“Hold them here a while, until Doc Savage and the other one are taken,” said another unseen speaker. “Then we will see what reaction a particle of lead of a predetermined size, say .38 calibre, has on their mental processes. It ought to be an interesting study.”


Marikan wailed, “No, no! Not to me, don't do it! Let me join you! I can help! I am good chiropractor, and if you a pain in the back get, maybe I can—”

“It's a pain in the neck, you are!” Telegraph snorted. “Tie him, men.”


It was near the noon hour and they passed a group of chattering office girls, out for lunch.


Monk exploded, when the femininity was behind. “Is my face red!”

“Yes?” Doc prompted.

“Do you realize,” Monk asked, “that we're walking down the street without a thing on?”


“I have not seen Doc Savage for some time,” Ham replied—truthfully.


“Be fish or fowl, guy!” a voice suggested. “Either get them pants and shoes off, or put on some more clothes. You give me the creeps!”


[Drug stores had a section for theatrical supplies] He had equipped himself with trousers, a ragged topcoat and a hat, and had walked boldly into a drug store and gotten grease paint from the section devoted to the sale of theatrical supplies. The grease paint had outlined his features with passable distinctness.


“You said it,” declared another. “If we have to stay invisible, a fine chance we've got to enjoy the proceeds of this little scheme. I'm beginning to get a first-class idea of why nobody ever heard of a cheerful ghost.”

Definitely in the top ten of the series, The Spook Legion works both as great adventure fiction and internet Rule 34 fantasy fuel.

027 - The Secret In The Sky:

"A ball of fire streaks across the heavens leaving death and ruin in its wake — A machine of terror which cannot be halted — An amazing intelligence capable of rendering an entire continent barren… All America trembles as Doc Savage grapples with the most awesome challenge of his astonishing career!"

May, 1935's entry has the makings of a classic Doc Savage adventure but Lester Dent didn't get around to putting it together coherently and left a number of threads hanging while screwing the pooch on the master villain reveal as a last-second switcheroo on what he might have realized was an obvious setup.

The Secret In The Sky involves "alien" technology that Dent applies as terrestrial, and he makes a decent stab at making it advanced yet practical (if not just feasible-ish):

The ball must be in motion. The machinery was making a great uproar. Shouted orders could not be heard. The men were communicating by gestures. One man in particular watched a bank of electric thermometers which registered the outer temperature of the shell and warned of increasing friction heat generated by their passage through the air. This man made a sudden gesture when the needles crept too high, and the speed of the ball was evidently slowed.

Other men glued eyes to periscope devices which evidently permitted them to look outside. Two more worked frantically with radio direction finders, evidently keeping track of their position by spotting well-known broadcasting stations on the earth below.

It was superscientific travel in its superlative degree, and Doc Savage could only stare and marvel. He was getting a vague idea of how the ball was made to move. No doubt gravitational force was nullified on top, on one side, creating in effect a vacuum in the lines of force which sucked the ball along.

It was a vague theory, capable of many refutations according to known scientific data, but it was the best solution the bronze man could assemble until such time as he had an opportunity to inspect the power plant itself...

Here before his eyes he was seeing demonstrated the product of a fantastic scientific discovery, a discovery so advanced that even the bronze man, for all of his learning, was somewhat dazed.

If he correctly interpreted what he was seeing, the creator of this aërial device had discovered how to nullify that type of force generally designated as momentum, as well as various forms of attraction, gravitational and otherwise.

The opening scenes focusing on coast-to-coast travel in a little over two hours are effective, and the last third works well with two rival gangs moving against each other and the flying orbs taking center stage as fantastical machines. Monk is given proper diction and personality attributes that match his intelligence and street-smarts. Ham is a prick who rightly gets less page time. The big gold bullion heist scene was excellent, various characters are fleshed-out nicely, and affiliations are in the air for a good while. Except for Nock Spanner, brother of Willard Spanner:

Willard Kipring Parker Spanner called himself simply, “a guy who likes to fiddle around with microscopes.” It was said that he knew as much about disease germs, and methods of combating them, as any living man. He had won one Nobel prize. He was less than thirty years old. Scientists and physicians who knew him considered him a genius.

When Willard Spanner was found dead, many a scientist and physician actually shed tears, realizing what the world had lost.

Dent chooses one of the featured henchmen, Stunted, as the brains behind the technology and organization in the next to last sentence of the story. Only Willard Spanner had the implied ability to create the flying orb technology. His brother Nock had to be the evil mastermind, and he probably had his non-evil brother killed, but the rug was pulled out on that at closing time. Doc examined Willard's body and identified it as his. To then have Willard be alive and supply the ransom clue of Nock's middle name invalidates Doc's medical skills, which wasn't going to happen.

Stunted's lack of bloodlust is set up a number of times for a later scene where his adversary, the googly-eyed man, tells his pals Stunted will get bumped off first chance:

“The man with the crossing eyes was arranging with some of the others about murdering the one they call Stunted,” she said. “He's to be killed whenever they have a chance to make it look like you did it.”

“So they're going to kill Stunted,” Doc murmured.

A moment later, the bronze man was gone into the darkness.

From this it seems Doc will use the information to turn Stunted to the side of right and away from a level of criminality he didn't want to be a part of. Maybe by the end he'll even be engaged to pretty Lanca Jaxon because that's how the Doc Savage universe works. This path lead nowhere.

Small to mid-level quibbles: why steal Willard Spanner's clothes from the morgue? Whatever clues they held on the flying orb technology was never pursued. Why substitute other clothes with a label that leads Doc to Tulsa and the identity of the gang? A lot of work went into capturing Doc+5 to find out if they left any information for the police, but then when they're together the first order of business is killing them immediately.

The Comet Gang:

“Our affair of the flaming comets seems to be taking on the complexion of one of the most gigantic criminal rings of all time,” he said, the radio loud-speaker reproducing each word distinctly. “At least half a dozen crimes of importance can be attributed to the Comet Gang so far today, the largest being the fantastic robbery of bullion from a ship at a New York City pier, only a short time ago. In addition to this, a jewelry concern was rifled in Chicago, and banks robbed in various other cities. In each case, it is certain that the robbers were members of what is now being called the Comet Gang, and escaped in the fantastic ball vehicles, which scientists admit to be some new type of terrestrial ship capable of traveling at terrific speed, and of handling with remarkable facility.”


The buzzer whirred three times, with lengthy pauses between whirs, which allowed time for any one present to have answered. Then an automatic answering device, an ingenious arrangement of dictaphone voice recorder and phonographic speaker—a creation of Doc Savage's scientific skill—was cut in automatically. The phonograph record turned under the needle and sent words over the telephone wire.

“This is a mechanical robot speaking from Doc Savage's headquarters and advising you that Doc Savage is not present, but that any message you care to speak will be recorded on a dictaphone and will came to Doc Savage's attention later,” spoke the mechanical contrivance. “You may proceed with whatever you wish to say, if anything.”...

The mechanical device in Doc Savage's New York office ran on for some moments, and a stamp clock automatically recorded the exact time of the message on a paper roll; then the apparatus stopped and set itself for another call, should one come.


Floodlights fanned brilliance as Doc Savage dropped his big speed plane in for a landing. The night force of mechanics stood about and stared. Some one ran to a near-by flying school, and shortly afterward there was a stampede to the tarmac of aëronautical students in all states of partial dress. It was not often that a plane such as the bronze man was flying was seen.

The speed ship was tri-motored, and all three motors were streamlined into the wings until their presence was hardly apparent to the eye. The hull breasted down so that the plane could be landed on water, and the landing gear was retractable. The cabin was as bulletproof as was feasible, and inside were innumerable mechanical devices.


Doc Savage had no finger-printing outfit with him, but managed to improvise one by employing a mixture of ordinary pulverized pencil lead and burned cork on white surfaces in the kitchen regions.


The path turned. For a brief time, Doc Savage was concealed from the others, and during that interval he went through some rapid motions. A bottle came out of his clothing. It held a liquid which resembled rather thick, colorless syrup, and he sprinkled this over the path.

The bottle was out of sight when the others came in view. They walked through the sticky substance on the path without noting its presence. Doc said nothing. They went on...

Doc Savage dug a small flat flask out of his clothing. It was filled with greenish pellets hardly larger than common rice. He began shaking these out on the ground, and the moment they were exposed to the air they began turning into a rather bilious-looking vapor. This was swept away quickly by the wind.

But the strange vaporized pellets did one remarkable thing to the surrounding growth and the ground: They brought out tracks—tracks that showed with a distinct, sinister yellowish tint...

“A sticky chemical I let you walk through,” Doc explained. “This vapor causes a chemical reaction which makes your tracks visible.”


Doc Savage had managed to unscrew one half of the button from the other half; a threaded joint permitted this, although so skillfully done that no casual examination would have disclosed it. He carefully tilted the button and let the stuff in the hollow interior trickle on the handcuff links. He did this most painstakingly...

Doc Savage had taken four more buttons off his coat, carefully unscrewed them, and emptied the contents on the cuff links...

“Some powerful chemical of an acid nature,” the man growled. “That infernal bronze fellow must have had it hidden somewhere on him, and put it on the handcuff chains. It weakened them until he could break them.


Doc Savage moved with such suddenness that he seemed to explode. But it was a silent explosion, and he was little more than a noiseless bronze blur as he crossed to the nearest door.


[Doc's wallet is a foot thick] Doc Savage lunged to the side of the pilot.

“Follow that man down!” he rapped.

Such was the quality of compelling obedience in the bronze man's remarkable voice that the pilot obeyed without stopping to reason out why he should...

Doc advanced again and spoke grimly to the pilot, and that worthy, suddenly apprised of the bronze man's identity and shown a small card, hastened to send the plane toward the parachute.

The card Doc displayed was one directing all employees of the air line to put themselves at his service upon request, and had been issued partially because Doc Savage, a man of more wealth than any one dreamed, owned a goodly portion of the air-line stock.


[Doc isn't squeamish about going over someone's head, and he'll snitch if he has to] The publisher sounded less certain when he asked, “What are you going to do about it?”

“Tell the other newspapers what you are doing,” Doc advised. “The fact that you are going so far as to block efforts to find Spanner, if alive, for the sake of a story, should make interesting reading. I also have a Federal agent's commission. The Federal authorities will be interested in your refusal of information and coöperation to an agent. I may think of other measures. For instance, the majority stock in your sheet is owned by a chain of which I am a director.”

“You win,” said the newspaperman. “I'll send the notes over.”


Monk picked the short man up bodily, turned him over and dropped him on his head. He accomplished the motion with such speed that the short man was helpless. Stunted did not move after he fell on his head.

Monk blinked small eyes at his victim.

“Gosh,” he said. “I wonder if that hurt him?”


Monk came over and sat on the lean prisoner. Doc Savage removed his foot from the man's neck. Monk grabbed the fellow's ears and pulled them. He seemed fascinated by the rubbery manner in which they stretched out from the man's head.

“They'd make swell souvenirs,” Monk grunted.


Monk got up, grunting, “Maybe the duds had papers or something sewed in them, like they have in story books. Let's have a gander at 'em, as we lowbrows say.”


[Dr. Zachary Smith. At your service] “I didn't see that girl leave,” Monk whispered. “Maybe we can find her and ask questions.”

“And probably get shot,” Ham said pessimistically.


For Willard Spanner's body was found on a New York street—less than three hours after he had been seized in San Francisco! Seized in Frisco at noon; Eastern Standard Time. Dead in New York at ten minutes to three, Eastern Standard Time.


The gun wielder looked on benignly. He had one stark peculiarity. His eyes were blue. And something was wrong with them. They crossed at intervals, pupils turning in toward the nose. Then they straightened out. The owner seemed to do the straightening with visible effort.


“Sort of a coincidence,” said the attendant, and managed a sickly grin which typified a peculiarity of human behavior—the fact that persons who work regularly in close proximity to death are inclined to arm themselves with a wise-cracking veneer.


ALBEMARLE AVENUE was a twin groove through marsh mud on the outskirts of New York City. Frame Street seemed to be a sign, scabby and ancient, which stuck out of the salt grass. If there ever had been a Frame Street, it had long ago given up to the swamp.


Monk asked, “How did this dump come to be here?”

“Osage Indian,” Stunted leered through his smashed face. “Heap oil, catchum many dollars. Build um brick tepee. Then Osage, him turn around and croak. Tepee, him go pot.”


[The greatly preferred place to get shot is outdoors] “Walk!” the fellow snarled. “You guys make one move and I'll let you have it here, instead of outdoors.”


[Almost home... Huh, you want to rent my truck and my clothes? Sure!] “Exactly,” Doc answered. “I hired the truck from a fellow who chanced to pass, and his clothing as well. He was carrying some roofing material, and the nails came in handy. The make-up material I always carry on my person. It was largely dye and wax for the cheeks.”


ONE man was long and lean, and his body looked as if it were made of leather and sticks. He grinned at them, and his grin was hideous because he must have had false teeth and was not wearing them now. His clothing was fastidious. When he tried to beckon at them, it was evident that the thumb was missing from his right hand, making that grotesque, too.


The lean man dived for the door. He had difficulty getting it open against the force of the propeller slipstream, but finally succeeded and lunged through. The face was triumphant. But the expression changed quickly. A hand—it felt like the clamp of some metal-compressing machine—had grasped his ankle.

The man cursed shrilly. He hung down from the plane, smashed about by the terrific rush of air, only the grip on his ankle preventing him from falling clear. His body battered the hard plane fuselage. Then he was slowly hauled upward toward the plane door.


[1935] “Instantaneous tracing of telephone calls is successful in fiction,” Doc told him. “In actual practice, there are slips.”


DEAD bodies have a certain distinctive grotesqueness which indicated their condition, and these three were certainly dead. Bullets had finished one of them, knives the other two.


Five revolver bullets made the final stages of their climb exciting.

The Secret In The Sky has the makings of a much better story. Shorten the long scenes in the old house. Have more appearances of the flying orbs in early scenes and make their lift-offs more explosive and immediate. Work through why Spanner's clothing are important, don't substitute an easy clue like a label in clothes left in their place, make Nock the bad guy, acknowledge Willard invented the technology, and turn Stunted into a good guy as he was set up to be. Potential: A, Execution C+.

028 - The Roar Devil:

"The Roar Devil — he shook the earth. He stopped all sound. He had a vast organization of desperate criminals at his command. Now the good citizens of Powertown were terrorized. At any moment the Roar Devil might strike again. They sent for the only person whose cunning and skill could defeat him — the Man of Bronze."

June, 1935's The Roar Devil has the feel of a later book, around 1940, when Doc tends to be less Uber and more Peak Human with regular fellow attributes more hinted at than delivered. A few major things didn't pan out but its easily corrected shortcomings are mostly found in filler scenes with Monk, Ham & Renny being captured and held by the gang of the Roar Devil. These three don't move the story forward and interrupt better aspects of the book like the bad guy day-players and (especially) Retta Kenn, one of the best female characters in the Doc Savage canon. Johnny's the featured assistant and his contribution is more inclusive. Long Tom was given the adventure off for good behavior.

The Roar Devil is someone who creates living dead men and shakes the earth during total silence. The three fantastical parts of that turn out to be just one, which works better all around even if only for its simplicity. The living dead men are found in the book's opening section but its quickly dropped as a plot device and never explained, which it could and should have since it works seamlessly with the Roar Devil device. Lester Dent forgot to wrap that up.

Retta Keen is a reckless rich-kid private detective who knows how to fight and get under Doc's skin. You could call her a friendly adversarial protagonist. Check out how she gets Doc's panties in a bunch underneath his chain-mail shorts because she's a girl:

DOC SAVAGE went back into the cave, partially to make sure none of the unconscious men there came to their senses and tried to make a break, and partially to get away from Retta Kenn.

She was a very capable young woman. She had as much nerve as any member of the feminine sex he had ever encountered. Sometimes he believed she had too much nerve. At times she was braver than any one with good sense should be.

And she irritated him.

More on Retta, who if this was a television series would be a recurring character as she steals every scene she's in. When first seen she pretends to be deaf to 1) Be annoying, and 2) Trick a bad guy with a chemically coated pencil:

I am Retta Kenn, a young woman who has more money than sense. I get a kick out of excitement. So I work for V. Venable Mear, who has lots of exciting tunes chasing criminals and things like that.”

Her voice sounded as if she were thrilled—not in a cheerful way, as if she were enjoying herself, but as if she were getting an enormous kick out of things, and would do the same thing over again if she had the chance.


He did not finish, for the girl struck him suddenly and unexpectedly with his own automatic pistol, which she had taken from his pocket. She was tall, athletic, and there was nothing mincing about the way she swung the gun against his temple. The flat-faced man did not move after he fell.

There was a cheerful recklessness in the girl's manner as she held the fellow's wrist to ascertain that he was only senseless. She seemed to be enjoying herself hugely, as if it were only a game. She dragged the man over and dumped him into a thick brush clump.


“Imperspicuousity,” said Johnny.

“I went to school,” the girl snapped. “But they didn't have that word.”


DOC SAVAGE, at that particular moment, was being roundly criticized. This was, unusual. He had not been criticized for a long time, because, to most individuals, his methods were quite amazing and left nothing to be desired.

Retta Kenn seemed to see considerable wrong with the way he was doing things.

“You are going around in circles and not accomplishing anything!” the girl snapped.


“Well, if he was here, the Roar Devil would have him by now,” the young woman said cattily. “And you are the fellows who have half the crooks in the world scared of them. A fine bunch of flat tires you turned out to be!”


Doc Savage said nothing. He rolled up his trousers leg and began to bandage the slight wound which he had suffered in the chase. It had bled a little.

The girl came over, looking concerned, saw how slight the injury was, sniffed as if she wished it had been something of consequence, and backed away.

“Well!” she snapped. “Aren't you going to argue about D'Aughtell?”

“Your convictions are of no great concern to me,” the bronze man told her.

“I could cut your throat,” she said, and walked farther away.


The girl frowned at him.

“Much as I hate to admit it, you seem to know all, see all. May I compliment you?”

Second to the assistants' scenes away from Doc being superfluous filler, Doc relies too much on anesthetic gas as a panecea. It works well here when a group of bad guys say they'll surrender and Doc immediately closes the curtain with gas:

“Then I and my men will surrender to you,” he said. “We give up.”

Doc Savage reached in a pocket. He brought out a glass bulb larger than a pigeon egg. He smashed it on the floor. When the bulb broke, a liquid splattered, but evaporated almost instantaneously.

Doc Savage held his breath.

Those in the room—all of them—seemed to go asleep on their feet. They made considerable noise falling to the floor. The girl, near the door, tried to run, but did not get outside before she, too, collapsed.

It's used so often Dent writes "Doc Savage fished out one of the little glass bulbs which he used so conveniently". In the end Doc has his go-to taken from him in a move that doesn't happen in reality:

The man slammed headlong into Doc Savage. Doc struck him. The fellow was driven backward. But he was a big man and strong, and he had gotten a grip on the bronze man's coat. He kept the grip.

The coat came apart in the middle of the back and was torn completely off the bronze giant, except for the sleeves. The man who had been struck carried it with him as he tumbled away.

The Roar Devil uses a "singing voice" on the phone to disguise his own. Off the page there's no way to replicate this without inviting derisive laughter. See also: Doc's trilling. Near the end the Roar Devil is sing-songing to his men while wearing no disguise. He's not doing this because he knows Doc's hidden nearby - it's a plot device so Doc Doesn't recognize it and the reveal can come later.


“The pencil,” the girl said dryly. “It's covered with a chemical mixture you probably never heard of. It won't kill you, if that's any consolation.”

Zachies sighed loudly and fell flat on his face.


[Smoke and Mirrors] The buzzer whined again. The bronze man lowered the heat of an electric still, then walked to a large instrument panel and threw a switch. On the panel was a square of frosted glass.

The frosted glass lighted up not unlike a small motion picture screen, showing a view of the corridor in front of the elevators.

Doc Savage studied the screen, which merely showed the reflection of the corridor as carried by an arrangement of mirrors and tubes.


The bronze man had brought from the laboratory an apparatus similar in appearance to those employed in hospitals for the administration of anaesthetics. Now, before the gunman entirely regained consciousness, he fitted the face piece upon the fellow's features and tuned various valves on the supply tanks.

Renny had seen the procedure before, and knew what it meant.

“Truth serum,” he said.

“Administered in vaporized form,” Doc Savage agreed. “The stuff seems to be more dependable, if used in that manner.”


THE telephones in Doc Savage's office were connected to buzzers which had various tones. The one which sounded now was unusually shrill, something resembling the prolonged squeak of a mouse.


In the alley, the bronze man drew a silk cord, a grappling hook attached to the end, and tossed it upward after a moment of careful calculation. The grappling hook was collapsible, and covered with soft rubber, so that the noise it made scarcely reached their ears. It must have hung over the edge of the roof. Doc pulled, testing. It hung.


Doc Savage stood up and walked to the door. He was not exactly taking a chance. He wore a bulletproof coat under his clothing, and a pair of chain-mail shorts.

Some one might shoot him in the head, but they would have to do it accurately, because the bronze hair in view was not his own, but artificial hair on a thin but immensely strong metal skullcap. And he was keeping his eyes open.


“They gave me the usual searching,” Johnny said. “They even pried the heels loose from my shoes to see that there was nothing inside. They did not, however, remove the buttons from my coat. The top buttons and the bottom buttons, if crushed together, will burst into flame, giving off a gas that will make a man senseless if he breathes it. The gas is merged with the air and rendered harmless after a few seconds, so that you can escape it by holding your breath.”


“This device,” Doc indicated the boxes, “makes sonic waves on some infinitely short wave length. Those waves seem to have the quite peculiar property of—

“Stopping all sound!” Monk finished.

“No,” Doc told him, “that is hardly possible. The sonic waves simply paralyze the drum of the human ear until it is not susceptible to sound. The sonic waves, the air vibration, does something to the ear mechanism that renders it incapable of registering sound.”


Mear turned on Doc Savage suddenly.

“Can you talk?” he asked.

“On occasion,” Doc Savage admitted, without emotion.


[A perennial classic] Doc Savage looked at her closely. He had studied psychology most of his life. He knew all of the character traits of men and could spot the small things which tell whether a man is honest or not, whether he is friend or foe. He could tell an average criminal at a glance, and usually spotted the cleverest of men in a short time.

He could not with certainty tell the first thing about a woman, and he knew it.


Doc Savage leaned over and did several things to him. The things he did showed the man was genuinely unconscious. One faking senselessness would have reacted differently.


He did not add that much of his phenomenal success was due to that simple habit of preparing well in advance, against every conceivable emergency. He probably prepared for a hundred things that never happened for every one that did.


“Listen,” he gulped. “You stick by me, see? Tell the cops how it was. I got my pistol permit and my license as a special cop, like watchmen get. But this thing of poppin' off a mayor—I'll need all the front I can get. Suppose you put in for me, will you?”

“I will do everything to see that you get justice,” Doc Savage told him.


Johnny did not ordinarily speak this many sentences without at least one which could not be translated without a dictionary. Possibly that was because his big words were a form of showmanship, and he knew better than to try to impress Doc Savage.


“How about our irascible feminine colleague?” Johnny asked when he and the bronze man were apart.

“The girl?” Doc queried. “Let her sit it out.”

“You're a woman-hater, are you not?” Johnny chuckled.

The bronze man did not commit himself on that.


JOHNNY looked like a scholar. He was. He also looked like a man who, if given a hard shove, would fall apart. That was a wrong impression. He was as tough as walrus hide, and he knew all of the fighting tricks, either under the Queensbury or the dock-walloper rules.


Bawling irately, Monk charged after him. The apish chemist scooped up a chair, and as he came through the lighted door, threw it at the chandelier. The lights went out in a jangling of glass, a popping of bulbs and a sizzling of blue electric flame.

Straight into the room Monk charged. He seized the table, ran it across the floor and pinned at least three men against a wall. He gave the table a final shove, which must have all but cut the victims in two.

There was a man underfoot. Monk jumped up and down on him. Some one fired a gun. Monk had gotten a bottle off the table. He threw it at the gun flash, and was rewarded by an end-of-the world groan...

“That guy hit me in the place where I put all my food,” Monk growled. “I value that spot.”


The man would have weighed in excess of two hundred and fifty pounds, and yet somehow managed to seem gaunt. He had a long face which bore an expression of puritanical gloom. He looked at Doc Savage and seemed sad to the point of tears.


[Illogical statement that what felt like earthquakes could not be earthquakes because two engineers became living dead men] “We know there is something terrible going on. That it is no natural phenomenon, such as earthquakes, we know, because of what happened to our two engineers."


[Fire code violation] When he whipped back into the corridor—circling the protective barrier of glass in the proper direction—the gunman was not in sight. He had not gone down the stairway, for that was blocked by a metal gate which was kept locked. He must have taken an elevator.


“You met the Roar Devil?” Doc asked sharply.

“I did not,” Zachies denied. “He was only a voice over the telephone. A singing voice.”

“Singing voice?”

“Exactly, Mr. Savage. And I can assure you that the singing of words will completely disguise a voice. It did this one, at any rate.”


[Recurring joke] “Hah!” Monk breathed. “An idea!”

“Treat it gently,” Ham advised. “It's in a strange place.”


THE man looked ageless. Rather, he looked as if he had gotten old to a point where he no longer showed the years.


It is hard to read the faces of most fat men, except for the eyes.


IT looked like a little summer camp, very peaceful. There was a golf course of nine holes, with several men playing on it. The men were correctly dressed for the game; but they were playing terribly, slicing balls into the rough and missing swings entirely. Some of them were acting as caddies, but their attitudes were strange, because they swore terribly at players who accidentally drove balls into the rough.


Unexpectedly, Johnny spoke. His words were not English, but a queer, low, not unmusical guttural language.

V. Venable Mear eyed them. “I believe that was the Mayan dialect, was it not?”

He was right. Johnny, Monk, Ham and Renny nearly fell over. It was the first time in the so-called civilized world that they had ever encountered a man who even knew what the language was, although they were aware that there must be some.


The driver of the car, not knowing what it was all about and amazed by the apparition of a giant bronze man running beside his machine, completely forgot his handling of the wheel and ran into a telephone pole. The bumper of his car and part of the radiator caved in, and the windshield fell out, after which the motorist got out and began to swear.

The Roar Devil can be easily improved upon by expanding Doc's arsenal beyond anesthetic gas, having the Roar Devil disguise his voice in another way and later talking in a low voice to his men instead of sing-songing like it's a musical, explaining the living dead men, and either whittling down Monk/Ham/Renny's scenes or removing them completely. Doc, Retta Kenn, Johnny, the Roar Devil mysteries, and the various day-players are all you need for what could be a very serviceable Doc Savage adventure.

The two larger problems are why the living dead men were made in the first place and why would the Roar Devil blindly use super-explosives to find materials easily destroyed by explosives?

029 - The Quest Of Qui:

"It started when a Viking Dragon ship attacked a yacht in the waters outside New York. Next, “Ham” was stabbed with a 1,200 year-old Viking knife. Then Johnny was captured and frozen solid in a block of Arctic ice. Finally, even the mighty man of bronze himself — Doc Savage — is kidnapped and enslaved by the chilling menace. What is his plan this time? Can he save himself and his friends from almost certain destruction?"

If you're a fan of Johnny and his jaw-breaking vocabulary, July, 1935's Quest Of Qui is the book for you. Johnny's big words save his life when a flunky realizes he's a Doc Savage aid, and they almost get him killed by being pretentiously annoying. A large portion of the book revolves around him running around in the snow in his undergarments. Otherwise, The book is a quick and not so bad read once you utilize my guide on what you can skip when reading Doc Savage books. Generally they're Ham & Monk insults and arguments, any Stupid Ape and Dumb Pig reference, all trilling scenes, half of the run-and-fight scenes, and anything under Production Notes you might find fascinating because you're a nerd. Production Note verbiage exchanges plot and action for looking around and describing what you see like it's a police report.

Not that Quest Of Qui is that good of a book either. The big closed-door mysteries involving clocks and ancient Viking weapons come down to pygmies with no other explanations to sell it. The arctic pygmy race also get a pass for keeping slaves and putting them in chains - which makes little sense as they don't seem to work too hard, the chains are removed when they're not being "slaves", and the slaves have decent housing and social lives:

"You seem to have gotten quite a bit of information," Doc said.

"Oh, they're willing enough to talk. They're not bad fellows, in spite of that slave business.


"They keep me by thees places maybe ten year, oui," he shouted. "She not so bad as maybe yo' t'ink. They tak' off the chains when we 'ave not the work to do. She not worth get killed for to try to get away, lak' some do."


The other slaves were sociable souls, anxious to talk. They were surprisingly resigned to their lot, and did not seem unhappy. The descendants of the Vikings, in particular, were full of boyish good humor.


Doc was informed he had permission to bring his friends to the village, and that, if they behaved themselves, they would be allowed to fight.

After hostilities were over, and these enemies of Qui settled with, Doc was further advised that he would be given the great privilege of becoming a slave of the Qui.


[Contradicts above ] Most of the "slaves" had elected to remain, also, among them - this to Monk's chagrin - Ingra. Doc Savage had been the guiding medium in a mutual understanding between the men of Qui and their "slaves" before he left. He had, in fact, succeeded in carrying out a Lincolnesque role in that the servitors had been emancipated for the future. This arrangement had seemed eminently satisfactory to every one.

The treasure of the Qui winds up being average and a much of it isn't even valuable. Here's some Exposition Fail where Monk tells Renny something he already knows quite well, and Monk knows Renny knows this quite well:

"He's got it," Monk said with certainty.

"Yeah," Renny agreed. "But what he's got is only a theory as yet. He is not ready to prove it."

"Right," Monk finished. "He always acts like that when he's got a good idea, but not enough proof. He pretends he can't hear anybody who asks what his suspicions are."


[Huge but proportional and not muscle-bound] Doc Savage was a giant. One did not realize that until comparison with ordinary objects, for his muscles were evenly developed; he did not have the knotted shoulders of a wrestler or the overdeveloped legs of a runner. Rather, his whole great frame was swathed in sinews that were remindful of bundled wires.


Doc continued to examine the face with his sensitive finger tips. He was good at that, a relic of the weeks he had once spent m a school for the blind, eyes bandaged except for daily exercise periods.


[nice phrasing] Without saying where he was bound, or what he intended to do, Doc Savage struck out over the snow. He handled the snowshoes with the precise ease that comes of careful practice devoted solely to learning how to do a thing, coupled with the advice of experts.

Doc's skill in almost all lines, which seemed amazing, was in the last analysis simply explained - when he wanted to master a thing, he went to those who were already masters of the subject, and learned from them.


She was no clinging vine. She sent a fist at him. He parried it, caught her wrists. She jumped up and slammed both moccasined feet to his chest. But even a professional wrestler could hardly have downed him that way.

Doc laughed. He released her. The laugh was not because there was anything funny. It was to reassure the young woman.


Over his light, strong chain mail undershirt, Doc wore a vest which consisted almost entirely of pockets that held containers designed for flatness, so that they fitted into the pockets without special bulk.


[Really? I would think the opposite] MONK, like most extremely homely men, was ordinarily a peaceful, quiet, small-voiced soul.


"First time I heard you admit Ham had anything on the ball," Renny boomed.

"That overdressed little shyster ... !" Monk began belligerently, then colored and sighed. "I hope he's all right. If he's gotta die, I want the pleasure of killin' him."

"You'd be lost without him," Renny said.


The club where Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks - "Ham" - had his bachelor quarters was a building with one of the plainest fronts on Park Avenue. It was so exclusive that a great many Park Avenue residents did not themselves know that it existed.


[The littlest trivia question] Renny noted that there were twenty-four niches for canes, and twenty-four canes in the niches.

Ham & Monk Fail. Ham almost died and he's beaten and bloody lying on the ground. Monk immediately wants to kick him in the ribs:

Ham's garb just now would have been a disappointment, however. It consisted entirely of a gunnysack, none too clean. Two holes had been torn in the bottom for Ham's legs, and he filled the rest of the sack - it was not a very large on snugly indeed.

There was a cut on his shoulder. It was not serious, and had long since stopped bleeding.

They stood over him. He snored. It was a very loud, peaceful snore; it had to be to arise above the gale.

Monk frowned blackly and drew back a foot, preparatory to kicking the snoring, gunnysackclad Ham in the ribs.

Renny pushed the homely chemist off balance. "What's the idea?"

"I'll teach 'im to lay down and go to sleep when we're sweatin' blood tryin' to find 'im!" Monk gurgled. "I'll kick his innards all over that car!"


RENNY EXTRACTED a newspaper from a coat pocket which looked as if it had been especially tailored with sufficient capacity to hold his enormous fists.


JOHNNY'S YOUTH had been scholastic, but he had found time for athletics, and his specialty had been distance running...

Unlike most college athletes, Johnny was now in better condition than during his scholastic days; some freak in his make-up - Doc Savage had diagnosed it as an unusual glandular condition - had endowed him with muscles that were more like violin strings than those an ordinary man would have. The bony archaelogist's endurance was fabulous.


[Johnny, women got the right to vote in 1920. Time to calm down about that] "We will separate," the young woman said more slowly in the Viking tongue. "In that manner, maybe they will not catch us both."

Johnny resented the idea of a woman telling him what they should do.


Johnny, who had the peculiar ability to carry on a conversation in an almost perfectly normal voice while running at top speed, continued imparting what he had learned.


One piece of equipment which another would certainly not have neglected, Doc Savage did not carry. He took no gun. This was in keeping with a policy which he had long ago formulated, that of having nothing to do with firearms. For this he had a reason, the thorough conviction that one who comes to depend upon a gun is the more helpless then without the weapon.

Good things found:

THERE WAS no wind, and the authorities later decided this accounted for what occurred, for had there been a wind, many things would doubtlessly have been different.

Had there been a wind, a baffling mystery might never have come to the notice of the world, and to the attention of Doc Savage. A number of men might have gone on living. And a scheme of consummate horror would probably have been executed with success.


It was the kind of a grin put on by a man who has just been run over by a car and is too dazed to be sure how badly he is hurt.


Suddenly, horribly, Johnny was running in mid-air.

THERE IS in the human category of experiences nothing quite so shocking as to have solidness drop abruptly from underfoot.


[Nonsense or Nuts]"Nerts to you," said Peabody.

Should you read Quest Of Qui? NnnnnnnnnYyyyyyyyyye... I have no idea. You better have nothing else to do.

030 - Spook Hole:

"The Man of Bronze and his trustworthy friends track a one-armed man of mystery to the far reaches of South America — only to find their lives endangered when they discover the amazing secret that Hezemiah Law is guarding so carefully on Spook Hole."

Nancy Law looked at the giant bronze man. "You're a queer guy."

"You haven't started to find out the queer things about him," Pat told her dryly.

August, 1935 brought forth unto humanity Spook Hole, the story of how fecal smelling goop from the intestines of Sperm Whales is highly sought after as an ingredient in fancy perfumes. Working backwards from that it's also about two gangs fighting over said treasure, an attractive (surprise!) woman caught up in trouble because of a distant relative, a one-armed man who isn't, and Doc Savage's crew including Pat, who get involved because trouble-busting runs through their veins.

Spook Hole is a better story than it aspired to be. Strong characters, a few good one-liners from Pat, and interconnected storylines and agendas make the novel better than its initial pacing and lack of swinging for the fantastical-fiction fences normally dictate. Just when I thought the NYC doings were in need of scene change deodorant everyone rushes to Patagonia, first the store and then the region in South America. If you remove a secondary scene from the first act it would be neither noticed nor missed. Ixnay the pig and the story gets even better.

Hezemiah Law pretending to have one arm was an odd thing that deserved a better explanation than as part of a disguise. If you're getting involved in major action scenes you don't want to lose the use of an arm. Captain Wapp is one of the better Lester Dent short & fat bad guys:

CAPTAIN WAPP had to pass sidewise through more than one door on his ship. He was big. But he never had to stoop, even for the low bulkhead doors down near the bilge. The shortest man in his crew was taller by a head. His belt was a cotton rope that had once been white. Maybe he could not get a leather one large enough. The rope belt fastened with a gold snap and ring, set with diamonds which could not be classed as small.

He was cleaning his finger nails with a big clasp knife. When the door exploded open, he twisted the knife in his hand, holding it so that the hilt pointed at the door. The knife hilt was one of those deadly little novelty weapons, chambered for a .22-caliber cartridge.

Oliver Orman Braski and "Ropes" are two bad guys who work together out of a mutual respect of the other's intelligence. Ropes is set up as someone who might have humanity along with brains, but not really as he has no issues with killing if circumstances call for it. The last act of Spook Hole is more effective than usual in how the different groups interact with each other and internally. There's no run and shoot for its own sake and Long Tom is there as "Sass", the most obvious plant of all time!:

He was most uninviting to look at, this Sass. He did not have the height of an ordinary man, nor did he seem to have the muscular development of even an invalid.

His skin was yellowish, and his thin hair was entirely missing from a patch or two on his head, as if he were a victim of the mange. Two incredibly large and yellow gold teeth did not help his evil grin.


"Where's Long Tom?" Monk demanded. "Have you seen him?"

"I have not seen him," Doc replied.


"Long Tom would be the guy to do this," Monk remarked as he worked. "Wonder what happened to him in New York? He never did show up from that engagement he had in Washington."

Doc said, "Let us get going."


Doc turned the lantern affair on the damp ground. Where nothing visible had been before, small, glowing patches appeared. The spots were something over two inches across and glowed like pale phosphorous, or smears of the stuff off of radium watch dials.

It was noticeable that where Doc Savage and the other two stepped, they left the round, glowing marks. Close examination would have shown that the heels of their shoes were not leather, but of a porous fibre impregnated with some chemical compound.


[Reduced to being barely reliable] And if Ropes could not be frightened into speech, there were other expedients, for instance, a species of truth serum, similar to that tried often by police, but more refined, which Doc himself had developed, and which worked sometimes, although on some occasions it brought forth only a delirious jumble of statements, from which it was necessary to pick the truth largely by guesswork.


[Usually an explosive bullet tears down an entire side of a house] Doc and his three aides found shelter in a back door entry. The exit from this was locked, stout. It resisted their efforts to get through for more than a minute - the time it took Johnny to find explosive bullets which he substituted for the mercy slugs in his rapid-firer. These ripped open the door.


Doc Savage went to an apparently solid section of the paneled wall, did something to what seemed only a whorl in the wood, and a large cabinet opened.

This held the high-frequency buzzer which was making the noise, and numerous indicators, not unlike those used in large residences to show whether the front or back doorbell is ringing. One indicator was tripped. It bore a label.

Fire Escape Shaft


THE bronze man now left the eighty-sixth floor headquarters, but by a somewhat unusual route. He went into the laboratory room and approached a glass affair somewhat resembling an enormous goldfish bowl.

This held a number of extremely voracious-looking fish, finny specimens, several of which seemed composed mostly of teeth. There was a sign on the aquarium.



A peculiar thing about the bowl was that it appeared to be built up from the composition floor, the floor forming part of the bottom. Any one hunting a secret exit from the laboratory would not have given the thing a second glance.

Doc Savage touched a valve. Water level in the fish tank sank some six inches. Doc vaulted atop the rim and lifted a glass cover over a circular glass tube more than three feet in diameter which extended up in the middle, and due to the carefully designed optical illusion which had entered its construction, was almost impossible to detect when the tank was full.

Doc passed down the tube and into a metal shaft which had a ladder. The hole in the floor of the fish globe was concealed by a method known to most magicians, and involving the clever placing of mirrors.

The shaft gave admission to a tiny elevator, hardly accommodating more than one man. This sank soundlessly for many stories, stopping finally deep underground. Doc stepped into a narrow tunnel. He followed this some fifty yards.


DOC SAVAGE ran toward the light. The Illumination did not surprise him. It was the work of one of the small balls he had distributed so carefully. They were filled with a chemical which ignited and burned brightly when the thin-shelled container was broken - as it would break if stepped upon by a prowler.


[Doc-Man! na na na na na na na na Doc-Man!] He had left his flashlight behind. It was still on, pointed so that the beam was on him. He wore oilskins and a seaman's sou'wester. He ran madly, with great leaps, and did not look back as long as he was in the flashlight's glow, which was for some distance. He had seen an apparition.

THE apparition was huge and black, shiny from the rain, and it crouched over the prone figure of the one-armed man. The latter was not entirely prone; his head and shoulders were off the cobbles, for the fabulous black figure had him by the neck...

The watchman tried to get a look at the features of his assailant. He failed there, too. The huge one was shrouded completely in some black cloth, probably of silk, which seemed waterproof...

"Outside your cabin," groaned the sailor. "It was black. Never had much shape. I thought it was a pile of clothes or something from the laundry. When I came up, it grabbed me."


[Judge Doc sez "I am The Law"] He burned the scrap of paper. An ordinary detective would not have done that, for it was evidence admissible in a court. But Doc Savage never took his difficulties to a court of law, but rather, was judge and jury - and executor of sentence - all in himself.


[At least he didn't lie about the money] ON the outskirts of town, Doc Savage brought the machine to a stop. He scribbled on a bit of paper, and gave it to his passenger, along with a small sheaf of greenbacks.

"Deliver that in New York," he requested. "The money will pay your fare back. And keep out of sight."

"Sure," said the other.

After he had been left in the night, the man immediately sought the illumination of a street light and read the note. It was addressed to a person who seemed to be a physician in New York, and read simply:



"Will I deliver this!" the man chuckled. "Boy, will I!"

Within the hour, the fellow had been party to a murder plot, so he considered that he had gotten off easily indeed.

"The bronze guy is a sucker," he concluded.

He was a little premature in his conclusion. Doc Savage knew from experience that hardened crooks do reform voluntarily, but their numbers are in minority, so he had perfected a method of forced reform of his own.

There was a catch to that ten thousand dollars. The physician at the address in New York would take this man, by force if necessary, and it probably would be, and send him to a strange institution which the bronze man maintained in upstate New York.

At this place, trained surgeons would operate on the man's brain, causing a complete loss of memory of past events. Then the man would receive a course of training in the ways of honest citizenry, including a trade by which he could earn a good livelihood.

Upon discharge from the unique criminal-curing "college," the patient would have no memory of his past, and would have instilled into him a thorough abhorrence of crooks. In addition, he would receive a bank account of ten thousand dollars to facilitate his new start in life. This last was a late addition to the "course."


Any one watching the bronze man's features would have, for once, seen expression. Comprehension! Satisfaction!


"You wouldn't hold information out on us," Doc queried.

"Wouldn't I!" Pat laughed sarcastically. "For ten cents, a thin dime, I'd take my life preserver and jump into this and try to clean it up myself. It sounds very interesting, with whaling ships, mysterious one-armed men who aren't one-armed, Spook Holes and something worth a lot of money, and what not."


"If I was a gentleman, I might leave you until the last, baby," he said. "But I ain't no gentleman."

With dryness in her throat, Pat said, "Anybody could see that."


Johnny heaved up, gulping, "I'll be superamalgamated," and ran and searched where the knife and rock had come from.

"Uncomeatable eventuation," he murmured.

"We weren't all born with a dictionary in our mouths," Pat told him.


Hezemiah Law mumbled, "I am trying to keep Doc Savage from learning my secret."

"If I know anything about Doc, he's already solved your secret," Pat said grimly.


"We'll let her think we're Braski's men," the barrister whispered. "I think it'll make it easier for us to find out what this is all about."

"I don't think the idea is so hot," muttered Monk, whose policy was to disagree with Ham whenever possible.


Things happened with violent abruptness. Monk struck straight out with his left fist, hitting Ropes between the eyes and blinding him with pain.

The next instant, the burly Ropes draped his midriff over Monk's furry right fist.

Long Tom:

[LT is a one-trick pony with his bug zapper] "Long Tom" was Major Thomas J. Roberts, electrical wizard extraordinary, and another of Doc Savage's aides. Long Tom had not yet appeared for the simple reason that he had been delivering, that night, an informative lecture to a Congressional committee in Washington.

The committee was one interested in the eradication of insects injurious to farm crops, and Long Tom believed he had perfected a device, utilizing ultra-short electro-sonic waves, which would kill insects without harming other living organisms.


THE man had one arm. Hence, to load the revolver, he had to crouch and grip the barrel between his knees while he thumbed fresh cartridges into the cylinder...

 His mumbling was a mistake. A bare twenty feet away, the second skulker heard him. This man had two arms well filled with muscle, and his face was chiefly notable for the lack of space between the eyes, and an oversized jaw.


A man fell on them. Monk grabbed his throat, felt warm wetness flood his hands and let go. The man had been shot in the neck and was already dead.


[The clock alarm is called the "awakening effect"] Built into the instrument panel of the big speed ship was the equivalent of a common alarm clock, and the bronze man proceeded to employ the awakening effects of this at two-hour intervals, that he might check the course.


"What was his profession?"

"Ichthyology," the girl answered.

Monk glanced at Johnny. "Make little words out of that one," he requested.

"The man studied fishes," said Johnny.


[Doc inherited the offices from his father] When this extremely modern skyscraper had been erected, not many years before, Doc Savage had taken a considerable part in its design. As a matter of fact, the architectural drawings had been prepared by his colleague, Renny.

Numerous provisions for Doc Savage's special needs had been made, including a special elevator which operated at a speed that the building inspectors would have considered suicidal.


To each prospective addition to the gang, Captain Wapp made one statement. 'We are going up against Doc Savage."

Two out of every three of the prospects walked out of the cabin at that news, and left the Harpoon in great haste.


Wapp had one quality of a leader. He knew when to retreat.

"We bane licked!" he howled. "Run, you fellers."


"When Aye get back, Aye might not find nobody but Hezemiah Law alive, eh?" Captain Wapp said meaningly.

"I get you," said the man. "The others might have bullet trouble."


They used so much caution that it was boring, and they searched the dreary little cove from end to end.


[A concise, complete, and whimsical ending, and much better than a gag involving Monk and Ham's cretin hijinx] Proceeds from the sale of ambergris were to be divided four ways. A fourth to Hezemiah Law, and another fourth to Nancy Law. The remaining quarters went, one to the Patagonians, and the last to certain charities which were agreed upon.

That cleaned up the matter of Spook Hole.

Hezemiah Law produced the missing parts of the bronze man's plane, but Doc Savage and his aides did not leave immediately. Hezemiah Law, Doc discovered, possessed probably more knowledge than did any other living man concerning fish and their food, life and habits.

Doc spent some time on Spook Hole for the deliberate purpose of adding to his own store of knowledge what he could learn from Hezemiah Law.

Altogether, they had a pleasant vacation after the hectic matter of Captain Wapp.

Doc's introduction is so Batman I wonder if it's proto-Batman. Doc's license plate reads "Doc 3". Spook Hole is good because of the sum of its parts. Read enough Doc Savage books and you'll glean what I mean.

031 - The Majii:

"In New York, Rama Tura, chosen disciple of the Majii, leads Doc Savage into a sinister world of drugs and advanced hypnotism. Far away in Jondore, a revolt is brewing that will pit the Man of Bronze against his most devious opponent: the who cannot die."

"Vezzy lizzle. Vezzy mistiliffilulous"

[Recently learned this was written by J. Allan Dunn with an assist from Lester Dent]

The Sanctum reprint is worth looking over as it details various aspects of how Lester Dent's Doc Savage stories gestated. Dent was on his boat at the time working on stories while futzing around for treasure, and when he hit a creative snag he'd start the next one to come back later or begin work on a whole new one. The midway point of a story is stated as the usual stumbling block, which I recognize as when the adventures shift from more established cities and places to exotic, semi-fictional, or fully fantastical locations. The Majii, book #31, was published September, 1935.

The Majii is intimate, immediate, gritty, brutal, big, and grand, so it earns its length and generally slower pace of its relocation to Jondore, somewhere near Nepal and a British protectorate with no British presence on display. Dent assigns an Aladdin and the Lamp tie-in to the tomb of the Majii but it's only a name-drop. It's brought up and dropped immediately as the book ends. It's not a negative but it's odd to see it tossed in like that.

Violence is an "adult" feature and Dent sprinkles it in well without overstatement. Long Tom is shot, Doc gets tortured, Monk gets his as always, and Ham's injuries are always second fiddle to the degraded state of his fastidious attire:

The wounded and dying screamed and groveled on the car floor, and that seemed to remind the thick man of something, for he turned deliberately, saw that one of the uniformed foreigners alone had a chance of living, and shot the man in the head. Then he ran, with his companion, out of the subway.


"Another one of the raiders. Man, did he get it! One of the passenger's bodyguards swiped him with a knife, right across the lamps. Fixed 'em both."

"Put his eyes out?"

"You said it."...

The blade had all but separated his eyeballs as a sharp knife would a pair of apples. He was moaning and blubbering and it was quite certain he would never look upon the world again...

They might not have looked so sorry had they known this man who was blinded was the same one who had pursued the Ranee the night before and had so callously killed a taxi driver, simply because the poor fellow had known the Ranee was endeavoring to get to Doc Savage. He was a cold slayer and he had probably gotten less than he deserved.


The taxicab seized by Kadir Lingh and his bodyguard had been found in Brooklyn, deserted except for one brown man, probably a Jondorean, who had been sitting in the back seat, suffering the unavoidable after effects of a bullet through the brain.


He tried to run just as Doc reached him, and Doc put a fist back of his ear with a force that caused him to turn a handspring without using his hands. He lay very still after he fell.


A BROWN man rushed Monk with a knife, and the homely chemist, with no regard whatever for the fine points of fighting, all but kicked the fellow's jaw off...

Long Tom and Ham took a reckless chance, charged the third gunman. They would probably have been shot. But Monk threw the knife in a way which showed he had practiced the art, and put the blade in the gunman's chest, not far from the heart.

Hypnotism is responsible for a number of events in the story, and as with The Shadow radio program you have to grin and bear it when nobody has resistance or free will in the presence of a master hypnotist. The Majii earns itself grace points with "It is a drug in vapor form," Doc told him. "It affects the brain like—well, you have seen truth serum render a man incapable of thinking up lies. This stuff renders the brain incapable of resisting hypnotic suggestion" even just as a courtesy, but this great scene can't work unless verbal suggestion makes these things appear:

Suddenly, there appeared in the far side of the room an incredible thing, a monster of shapelessness, a fantastic ogre of a thing.

The Ranee, her two guards, stared at it. The light from the bedlamp hardly reached that far, and they could not make out the exact identity of the thing, except that it was a creature possessing eyes, and so large that it might have difficulty getting entirely into the room.

The basic plot is solid and the reveal of its Five Ws reasonable and fairly airtight. If The British were about in Jondore being oppressive you'd at least understand why such an elaborate scene was cooked up, but they're American allies so you can't paint them as fascists in 1935:

"The Majii is trying to stir Jondore into an uprising against the British," he said. "He has a fanatical hatred of the British. To buy arms and ammunition, he took the wealth of the Nizam. But he dared not sell the jewels in open market, because it would have come to the attention of the British, so he recut them, or ground off the previous cuttings, and sent his lieutenant, Rama Tura, abroad to dispose of them. They chose the fake jewel-making séances as the method."


[Nice visual] It was nearly nightfall when Doc Savage crossed the ornate modernistic lobby of the skyscraper which housed his New York headquarters and entered, through what appeared to be a section of wall panel, his private elevator.

The conveyance lifted him with terrific speed for a time, then stopped so abruptly that the bronze man continued upward a few inches, then dropped back to the floor.


From a cabinet he took a vest which consisted of a light, bulletproof chain mail, to which was attached rows of small pockets, these padded so that, once the vest was donned, its presence was hardly noticeable. The pockets held innumerable gadgets which, on occasion, served for some rather strange uses.


He had originated scientific procedures of his own, some of which had been adopted by police departments, but many of which were a bit too complicated for universal use.

Among other things, he had perfected a electro-spectroscopic analysis contrivance which, in the course of a very few seconds, would give him the chemical elements composing almost any given substance. This device further more had the advantage of being able to handle particles of microscopic smallness.


[The 86th floor. Adjust your CAD drawing accordingly] The bronze man now did something an observer would not have expected. He whipped down the corridor, around a corner, and put both palms against the solid wall.

He held them there for a count of ten, removed them for another ten count, and put them against the wall again.

A few feet away, the wall opened soundlessly. Its mechanism was a combination actuated from a thermostatic device buried in the wall plaster. Heat from the hands was enough to work the combination.

There was a hollow wall space beyond. It held much apparatus. At one point, a tiny red light glowed. Doc went to it, unhooked a telephone handset and plugged the cord into a jack below the light. He had tapped one of his telephone lines which was being used...

Satisfied, Doc put the brown man in a ventilated wall compartment where he would be unearthed by nothing less than a virtual wrecking of the place...

The bronze man left his headquarters this time by descending in the speed elevator to the basement level, and stepping into a passage which led some scores of yards to a metal door that admitted into the Broadway subway tunnel.


He was a man who by his appearance alone would stand out instantly in a multitude. Yet his clothing was quiet, showing not the slightest suspicion of showmanship.


[See? It's not hard to be considerate with an answer instead of pretending the other person doesn't exist] "What was it?" Monk asked. Monk had a small, childlike voice which sounded ridiculous for a being of such homely bulk.

"Rather not say yet," Doc told him. "In fact, it is doubtful if my explanation could be put clearly enough for you to exactly agree that the thing I think happened is possible."


His identity became known and several persons began to whisper excitedly and point him out. He carefully paid no attention to this. He had never become so blasé that public attention did not embarrass him. It was for this reason that he avoided the public eye whenever possible.


Doc Savage did a rare thing; he almost smiled.


Monk had a way with women, even if he did have the pulchritude of a gorilla. Perhaps it was his very homeliness.


The Nizam made a snarling sound, sprang forward, swung a fist, and knocked Monk down as beautifully as he had ever been knocked down in his life.

"She is the Ranee!" the Nizam gritted. "In Jondore, you would die a thousand deaths for laying a hand upon her!"

Ham looked at Monk on the floor and said, "He never did have any manners."

Monk got up. His neck was red. Hard tendons made four white lines down the back of each hairy fist.

And then—no one exactly saw it—the Nizam was flat on the floor and the noise of a blow was resounding from the walls, and Monk was over the fallen one, grasping him by the collar. Lifting the Nizam, Monk shook him as if trying to ascertain if his teeth would come out.

"This is the United States," Monk said grimly. "And when you sock a guy, you oughta be sure he stays socked."


Doc said grimly, "Monk, you threw that knife at the man's heart."

Monk took pains not to look at Doc. The homely chemist was well acquainted with the rule of Doc's that at no time was life to be taken if it could possibly be avoided.

Monk began, "Aw, I didn't—" Then he changed his mind, being fairly sure he was not an accomplished enough liar to fool Doc.

"Heck!" he grunted sheepishly. "I was excited."


"What did you do when you found the containers of the stuff and the apparatus for putting small amounts of it into the domed room?" Doc asked.

"Why," Monk said, "I just busted the jars and let the dope spill out on the floor."

"You undoubtedly killed them all," Doc said grimly.

"Uh-huh." Monk did not manage to sound very sorry. "You gotta admit it was kind of an accident, though."

Long Tom:

Long Tom had a rather quarrelsome voice.


"We did," Ham said slowly. "Jove! I hope nothing happened to that homely ape."

Long Tom grunted, "You two guys give me a pain. You put in your time trying to kill each other. And the minute one of you thinks the other is in a jam, you bust out in tears."


Long Tom squinted and pulled at an ear which was rather large and only slightly less transparent than a sheet of oiled silk. He said nothing.


"I am about to be killed," the woman said.

The taxi driver whom she addressed had been half asleep behind the wheel of his parked cab, but the text of the woman's speech was not conducive to further slumber. He sat up straight.


[Recurring shtick] Men were ahead of Doc, and there was a long thin Oriental rug on which they stood, and the bronze man yanked this. He did not spill them, but they were very busy for a few moments keeping their balance, and the bronze man got past them.


Doc Savage used chemicals to analyze the oil film. It was a potent toxic and an acid in solution—the acid to burn the skin and admit the poison into the system.


[Olde-timey research] AFTER the hour had passed, the bronze man knew much about the clothing. He knew where the cotton had been grown, what mills had woven the garments, what clothing concern had made them. But to find where they had been sold would take time and might conceivably be valueless.

In each garment, there was dust. Doc concentrated on that. There was more than one kind of dust. The ordinary street variety, Doc dismissed.

There was a peculiar whitish dust. He put it under a strong microscope, studied it, then consulted geologic charts. In the laboratory storeroom were thousands of tiny phials holding ores, rock samples, soils, clays. All were labeled. Doc consulted these also.


Ham searched around, found the bullet which had so nearly split Monk's skull, and patted the distorted bit of lead lovingly.

"My friend," he told the bullet. "You nearly did the world a great service."


Monk brought her ice water from the cooler. It was distilled water made in the laboratory—an enemy had once tried to poison Doc Savage and his aides by tapping the city water main which supplied the bronze man's headquarters.


Monk looked at the others. "I vote for fireworks."

Long Tom, who despite his somewhat fragile appearance, was as much of a fire-eater as the homely Monk, nodded vehemently. Ham shook his head, more as a policy of disagreeing with Monk than anything else.

The Majii is rightly considered a top-notch Doc Savage adventure. It helps if you're enamored with flash pot hocus pocus that terrifies and dazzles primitives and First World idiots. I see 1935 and think anything exotic must have played well with children and working class men.

032 - Dust Of Death:

"The tiny South American republics of Santa Amoza and Delezon were at war when a mysterious, hooded figure — known only as The Inca in Gray — appeared and began slaughtering citizens of both sides with a strange dust that brought instant, writhing death. Doc Savage and his mighty crew rush to the dense Amazonian forest in hopes of saving lives, but all they find when they arrive is a firing squad — ready to execute the Man of Bronze!"

[Standard Spoiler Alert Warning Here] Thanks to the Sanctum reprint I know Dust Of Death was ripped apart and stitched back together. I can see how you'd find this issue a total disaster, but I enjoyed enough of it to give it a pass as hitting deadline by making a mess slightly less so. Harold A. Davis wrote the first draft and Street & Smith editor John L. Nanovic sent it back for major revisions. From the reprint: "Nanovic felt the story was padded and full of idiosyncrasies, which Dent derisively dubbed 'godawfulisms'". This meant Davis made strange mistakes in personalized patterns. Page by page Dent made changes to the original and also moved around chapters. October, 1935's finished product is fairly readable even if the last third reverts to a routine Doc Savage procedural.

Dent's choice to make General Vigo the "Inca In Gray" was completely senseless. He could have picked Don Kurrell, Ace Jackson, or Count Hoffee - what difference does it make which secondary day-player got tapped at the mastermind? Making Vigo the one invalidated entire other sections - especially when he pretends to execute Long Tom and Doc Savage at separate times because he needs them to help him find the Inca In Gray! Which is himself, so either he has a split personality or this was a last minute decision that didn't even make the story better as a surprise ending. Then there's no way for him to be giving orders to his men while under the watch of Doc Savage for a large chunk of time, and why was fake death dust thrown at Doc, Long Tom, and Vigo in the jungle? If I knew beforehand I'm assuming this list could grow exponentially.

The major crime against zumanity of Dust Of Death was the introduction of Chemistry, Ham's mini-Monk ape. Davis wanted to call him "Test Tube". I guess dumb pig was such a hit they decided to give Ham his own stupid monkey. Here's his introduction, in Chapter 13 for bad luck:

He heard a crashing ahead.

"Monk," Ham opened his mouth to call, but closed it grimly. Jungle terror or no jungle terror, he intended to have some fun with Monk. He would devil the apish fellow, make him think he was being attacked.

Ham crowded on as noiselessly and as rapidly as possible. He peered ahead intently, and soon he was rewarded.

Through the trees he could see stooped massive figures moving along the ground, pushing creepers and jungle vegetation aside with long, hairy arms. The light was very indistinct; but that stooped, apelike stride was unmistakable.

Ham's smile spread. He picked up a rock, scuttled forward into a thicket in which the apish form had vanished, drew back his arm and hurled the rock. It smashed into the brush.

The rock smacked through the leaves. It hit something—undoubtedly flesh—with a thump that to Ham was a wholly satisfying sound.

Ham expected to hear a prompt howl from Monk. He was disappointed. There came a high shriek, a great crashing of brush. The noise came in Ham's direction, and Ham's eyes all but fell out. He looked at what came out of growth.

It was a monkey. But such a monkey.

It was larger than a chimpanzee, but smaller than a gorilla. It had no tail and its hair was rust colored.

Strangest of all was the astounding resemblance which the newcomer bore to Monk.

The strange anthropoid advanced toward Ham, making small mumbling sounds which were very like those Monk made on the occasion when he talked to himself.


Ham gave it up and fell to studying the creature. He was struck once more by the uncanny resemblance which this jungle dweller bore to the homely chemist, Monk.

At that point came an interruption. Accompanied by a faint noise of shuffling leaves and shifting weeds, the pig Habeas Corpus appeared. The shote caught sight of the anthropoid. Habeas promptly stopped. His big ears went like sails. He grunted rapidly. Plainly, Habeas did not think a great deal of Ham's new companion.

The feeling seemed to be mutual. The tailless simian seized a stick, rushed at Habeas, and gave the porker a resounding whack. Habeas fled, emitting a series of wild grunts.

That decided Ham. He sat down and laughed, laughed until tears came into his eyes. His predicament was completely forgotten in the glowing light of a great decision.

"I am going to keep that funny looking baboon as a pet," he declared. "Boy, will that burn Monk up. And will it give that pig, Habeas Corpus, something to do besides chew holes in my clothes whenever he can find them."

The tailless simian, having chased Habeas from the vicinity, came ambling back, carrying a stick over one shoulder, gun fashion. Ham struck an attitude, relaxed, scratched his head, then straightened.

"I christen thee Chemistry," he told the simian.

The remarkable looking anthropoid clucked happily as if the new name were perfectly agreeable.

Laughing to himself, Ham struck out again on Monk's trail.

On the positive side, Dust Of Death gives Long Tom a chance to shine as a real human person for the first three chapters, then a few more, and then as Doc's main sidekick. He's more personable and less a bitter little-man. The dog-fight scene with Doc in a beat up WWI "Jenny" is a classic of the series, and for once Doc's trilling is useful as an eccentric end note to a cool scene that's also a glitch once you've read the whole thing. Let's make believe Doc would allow himself to be marched up to a wall to be executed:

Outside the stockade, the pock-faced little man with the evil face mingled with the throng. He kept a hand tucked behind an ear, listening intently. He managed to pick up the ominous commands from within. General Vigo was giving the execution orders himself.

"Ready!" roared the general dictator of Delezon.



A volley of shot blazed out, frightening pigeons off the roofs of near-by buildings.

In the comparative silence that followed, a strange sound was heard. It was a trilling, small, eerie, fantastic, carrying from within the stockade in amazing fashion. It might have been the song of some exotic feathered thing of the jungle. The trilling was quite distinct at first, but it faded slowly, seeming to go away into nothingness until only the memory of its weird tremolo remained.

The rocket-powered dirigible seen in Land Of Always-Night is back, made faster with rocket tubes. All the scenes with the dirigible are very good:

Their lead made a great drumming and roaring on the dirigible. It was not, however, doing a great deal of damage. The control cabin was proof against anything less than a field gun shell. The gas bags, the dirigible's skin, of course, could not be made bullet-proof, due to the necessity for lightness. But puncturing the bags would do no great damage. For the gas cells were coated inside with a spongy substance which expanded and closed all but the largest of apertures.


He was going to crash them, ram them deliberately with his own plane. It was a desperate expedient, and probably the only one which would insure success under the circumstances.

At the last possible moment, the enemy pilot pitched clear of his plane. He was a cunning fellow. He held his body so that the very force of the air and his momentum caused him to hurtle downward under the dirigible.

The plane hit the gas bag squarely. It buried itself almost completely in the cellular structure of gas compartments and girders. The concussion was terrific. Flame burst from the plane, which had been turned into a missile. This fire, however, was almost instantly snuffed out, for the gas which furnished buoyancy to the airship was not only non-inflammable itself, but was effective as fire extinguishing vapor in smothering flames.

Doc knows Long Tom's cablegram is fake because...:

"Have you overlooked the five-letter code?" he asked.

Monk started, and a ludicrous expression crossed his homely face.

"Sure," he grunted, "every sentence should start with a five-letter word. That's the touch to make sure members of our gang really send the messages."

The scenes in New York with The Inca In Gray's men are tense and well written. Added points for their formidability and 1935-era cruelty:

A fist struck the elevator man callously under the jaw. He sagged, and one of the two passengers caught him under the arms. Holding him helpless, they hit him again and again, until his senses were thoroughly beaten out.

If you're an engineer or sumthin' you might hate the elevator in Doc's building that doesn't crash when its cables are cut because of a vacuum seal built into the bottom of the shaft. Me, I'm a dimwit, so while I knew it wasn't a thing just as a matter of stopping distance it didn't make me spittle with rage as it did others:

The wild cage flashed past the ground floor. And a startled yell came from the starter outside as he realized what was occurring.

Things happened. A giant hand seemed to reach out and grab the elevator, gently at first, then with more violence. Air, passing the sides of the cage, made an ear-splitting scream. The occupants of the elevator went down as if mashed by a giant invisible hand.

And the cage was unexpectedly still, although it seemed, due to the freakishness of the human organism, that it was now flying upward.

Monk lay very still. Ham had fallen half across him.

They both eyed Doc Savage. Their expressions showed what they wanted—explanations.

"The bottoms of these shafts are of special construction," Doc Savage said. "They are completely enclosed and fit tightly to the sides of the cage. The compression of the air formed a natural shock absorber."

Here's a great bit where Ham thinks he's going to die in the elevator but instead of freaking out he literally and figuratively brushes it off:

Ham, the dapper lawyer, said nothing, but brushed an imaginary speck of dust from his immaculate clothing as if he wanted to look his best when his crushed body was found after the elevator crashed to the bottom of the shaft, eighty-six floors below.

File under gadget:

Falling across the floor, this luminance disclosed the ingenious drill which the bronze man had fashioned from two belt buckles—his own and Long Tom's. A piece of wood, ripped from a bench, provided a handle. Long Tom's interminable conversation had been to cover the sound the drill was making as it cut around the lock.

Back to the lesser, Doc disguising himself on the fly as someone everyone else knows is a major suspension of disbelief and a cheap cheat of a bargain genre. This first part might have been explained away as a ploy later on where they knew Doc wasn't a real soldier but it wasn't clearly written. There's a bigger scene later where Doc disguises himself as President Carcetas and fools everyone the President's known for many years as he makes a grand speech, up until a bad guy points out his hair is powdered. That was a groaner: 

The rest of the soldiers now came out of the jungle. Among them was the tall, heavy-set individual whose shoulders drooped slightly. This man drew only one or two glances, those casual.

He looked exactly like the soldier who had lagged behind to loot the fallen ship.

Monk and Ham are tied to stakes and covered in honey on the orders of the Inca In Gray so they will die slowly and horribly by army ants. After a nibble or two they're taken out of the pit because the Inca, far away, decides he wants to see them die in person somewhere else. Groan. The death dust thing wound up being a bust as it was built up, then mostly abandoned until the end, then explained as a powder that kills you. The powder was no more effective than a knife or gun, and as a killing method it was dangerous for the assailant to administer anyway.

Dust Of Death is an interesting book with many good parts, some procedural drag, and a completely wrong mastermind reveal. Reading it knowing who General Vigo really is would make the experience better than not knowing so you can see where Dent dropped the ball in his re-do.

 033 - Murder Melody:

"Violent earthquakes call Doc Savage to Vancouver where he confronts the super-science menace of the flying Zoromen in Murder Melody."

Explosives are all you need to defeat a center-earth race of beings so advanced you think they can do anything in defiance of known laws of science and nature, except they kinda can but maybe not really but it's hard to say because everything is situational and most likely conceived by the mind of a raving psychopath - which oddly enough it was. Lawrence Donovan wrote this, and according to the Sanctum Press reprint Donovan was a hot mess. Street & Smith Doc Savage co-creator John Nanovic says of him "I think he was on dope. He'd go to the drugstore and have a raw hamburger, you know, for a sandwich!" Heavy drinking, coffee binges, unfiltered cigarettes, and most likely a melody of mental and personality defects made Lawrence not a dull boy.

November, 1935's Murder Melody is a split between fantasy and science fiction, much of it with redeeming qualities but problems abound. The page count can easily be cut down by not extending scenes for little gain. There's few set pieces but they linger... The death flute reveal of "auditory chemicals" must have come from a fever dream where Donovan drops acid with Hunter S. Thompson, in the future. Considering much of what goes on is made up on the run he could have just as easily had the flutes be a technology that attacks with sound sans floating chemicals. Why do they lose effectiveness once the flute stops playing? Who knows, Larry's in the corner gnawing on raw meat patties.

You have to credit Donovan for doing his research on the sciences of electricity and geology. He details the known and speculates on the possible with aplomb. On the plus side the story is visually exciting and events unfold on a grand scale. The Earth shakes, cliffs fall into the sea, boats bounce like bathtub toys - the budget's way too high to ever film it. Murder Melody would benefit from the weird goings-on being more concrete and less what's-going-on-here(?) and really-are-you-serious(?). It's fun in general but the long residencies in set pieces and repetition of gimmicks mute the effect. Doc's anesthetic pellets are the 6th Man. Doc's dumb trilling and the death flutes make similar sounds and it comes into play a few times. Why does Zoro need Doc Savage for anyway, and Doc disguises himself on the fly to be Cassalano, described thusly as "He was of average height, but so fat and pudgy he had the appearance of being short. His small eyes twinkled in a rotund face that had a double chin. His mouth was small, but smiling." Average height back then was 5'9". By 1935 Doc's radioactive-accessorized wardrobe might have grown him to 6'5". And my god Monk's a whiny little SOB who defaults to the dumb thing to say. You'd think by this point he'd be comfortable with the weird being possible. Any explosives would have done the trick but Donovan makes a big to-do about stealing "Trinitromite" because it goes super-boom-boom.

Doc himself is presented in the same way North Korea reported details of the glorious exploits of Dear Leader Kim Il-Sung, who bowled perfect 300 games and shot a 38 under par in his first round of golf. Doc can tell you where he is anywhere in the world by sniffing the air. He can slid down a rope and his bare hand burns with friction but leaves no damage. Like in a cartoon he can run down a tall wall and continue to run forward once he reaches the bottom. All praise Dear Doc Savage!

Donovan also fails when it comes to the underground dwellers and their society. Where they come from is never revealed. They just exist. Their politics is a contradictory and impotent utopian communism thing that works neither as politics nor literature: 

The Kingdom of Subterranae operated on a Tallying System. Each inhabitant of the inner land contributed his or her share to the general welfare and support of the nation. As in the upper world, a few sought to prey upon the production of others. Such ones were banished to the Land of Beyond more than a thousand miles away.

"There they are compelled to support themselves," said King Lumos. "They have their own minor solar system. Reservoirs irrigate their gardens. But they are denied all that is in the city of Manyon. They have been permitted to have three Uni-Ships."

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The lesser lumpenproletariat are sent to Siberia the Land Of Beyond. Why they're given spaceships of their own is a self-defeating mystery, and how is  law, peace, and banishment enforced if the good citizens of Manyon have neither soldiers nor police, and are out of shape from being so peaceful?:

"Have no fear," said the princess quickly. "That will not happen. My father did not tell you his greatest source of anxiety. We know there are many Zoro spies within the city. They are fomenting trouble. Some of our people are much frightened. We have always been at peace. So we have not been prepared to combat intrigue. Never have we needed what you call soldiers or police."

Some of the king's men were near exhaustion. They showed plainly their lack of training in violent pursuits. They were of a peaceful and sedentary people. Monk and Renny led the attack upon the broken fragments of the roof in the tunnel.

Donovan must have been trolling for useful idiots with this line, because everything you need to know about life you learn in kindergarten:

"Unlike your world, we have no state secrets," smiled King Lumos. "Our subjects are immediately informed of our problems."

"Such a system would be of incalculable advantage in the outer world," agreed Doc Savage. "Much senseless intrigue would be abolished if the peoples of all nations were similarly informed."

Doc saves the day and offers the Manyonianites (I made that up as it's never delineated) the greatest gift of all - serial lobotomies on a scale that would give Josef Mengele's corpse a woody. Note how the peaceful folk of Manyon turn to murderous maniacs:

In the inner room of the palace King Lumos reported a clamoring of his people for the execution of all those of the Land of Beyond.

"Among your subjects you have perhaps one of surgical skill," suggested Doc Savage. "From among those we have brought from the Land of Beyond we will select two for a demonstration. To your surgeon will be imparted the power to bring about a new form of banishment for the discontented and those of warped mind."

"Yes, Clark Savage, we have learned of your treatment of crooks in the upper world," said Princess Lanta. "We can inform our people we are carrying out an execution. The brains that are ill will die, and the rebellious ones will be banished to the Land of Forgetfulness. We need no longer maintain the Land of Beyond."

This line is plain wrong and somebody should have caught it. The "enemies" in question are the good lumpen of Manyon. The person saying this is a citizen Manyon. More correctly it would be "The enemies of Zoro, we/us/ourselves/I'm pointing at me, will perish":

"Then the Princess Lanta must become the queen of Zoro!" rapped a voice. "Otherwise, the city shall be invaded! All our enemies will perish! Give Princess Lanta to Zoro!"

Doc Savage, sexist pig:

"That is correct," agreed Princess Lanta. "Probably my father, King Lumos, will need to inform you of little. Your companions are astounded. They do not understand what we are able to command. This should not disturb them. After all, you control vast electrical force on the earth's surface. You have learned to apply it in many wonderful ways. Yet your most learned scientists have never been able to define exactly what electricity consists of."

Doc Savage nodded. He said nothing. Never before had he encountered a woman who could think so clearly.

Long Tom is usually an overcompensating Napoleon hot-head, but not this day:

Long Tom had been watching the island peak closely. He was an undersized man compared to Doc and the others, and his face had an unhealthy bilious cast. Usually slow of speech he was almost the equal of Doc himself in being sure before he spoke.

Doc Vs. Women explained again:

There was much more being uttered by her expressive eyes. The bronze man ignored this. Lanta was as lovely a woman as he had ever seen. It was no conceit on his part to believe he had made a great impression upon her.

But Doc Savage was not interested in making any conquest. Women had no part in his life. He didn't even pretend that he understood them.

The bronze man had devoted his life to aiding those who were oppressed, wherever they might be. His allegiance was to all the world. He helped the distressed. Their oppressors he punished, but with the idea of correcting their mistakes.

I've always enjoyed that Doc's so cool he gets his mail no matter what, just like Santa:

The letter had been addressed simply to "Clark Savage Jr., New York City." Such general address was sufficient. The postal authorities of the big city knew of only one such man. His regular address was the eighty-sixth floor of Manhattan's most impressive skyscraper.

What's that thing again called? Smog?...

At times, the mingling of mist and smoke is so opaque and dirty, it has been termed by the inhabitants a "smog." This smog obliterates every object at the distance of a few feet.

Does this image make sense to you?:

His compactly knitted figure seemed to have been poured into his garments.

The rest is Dear Leader Doc Savage being himself - and by that I mean awesome:

Doc seemed to bound from the plane as if he had been thrown from a catapult. As he alighted on his feet, his cabled muscles cushioned the impact. He slid along, but remained erect.


Doc snapped off the generator flashlight. For seconds he stood as motionless as a carved rock. The heaving of the ground did not disturb the bronze man's balance. His massively corded legs were immovable as pillars of granite.


The bronze man had been pondering deeply. Glancing down into the abysmal darkness of the canyon cleft, the magnificent bronze head nodded slowly. It was thus he confirmed some of his own conclusions when alone.


"I take it you mean the illustrious Doc Savage?" stated a cool, brittle voice. "Then you are three of his men."


"Doc Savage has the strange faculty of knowing all before he is told," said Cassalano. "I warn you. And by some remarkable intuition, you seem to believe Doc Savage will come to this place?"


Within a few seconds, he had discovered he was not on a ship near Vancouver. Not by many hundreds of miles. For the bronze man had that keen sense of knowing by feeling and smell, many parts of the world. At this moment, he judged he was not far from the Arctic Circle.


"How could you know that?" questioned Caulkins. "Everything seems the same to me. It's like we were in a big coffin."

"The wind is from the south," advised Doc. "It brings the odors of the salmon canneries at Old Astoria. The ship had scraped muddy bottom on tide flats. These are on the north shore. We are nearing the sloughs and marshes in the vicinity of the lumber cities of Longview and Kelso."


One bronze hand flashed out. Doc's fingers touched one of the ropes. To have gripped it tightly would have exerted strain enough to have torn an arm from its socket. The man of bronze performed an amazing feat. The palm of his hand acted as a brake along the slanting rope.

The hempen cord actually smoked for a few feet. Then Doc was swinging over the deck supported by the one hand. From below immediately floated the weird strains of the death flutes.


The man of bronze reached the street with what seemed tremendous bounds down the sheer wall of the palace tower. Lanta was being seized by the grasping hands of Zoro's emissaries.

If you can embrace the ridiculous and overlook its shortcomings, Murder Melody is a glorious mess. Chopped down, toned down, and corrected it would be one of the nuttier great fun rides of the series.

34 - The Fantastic Island:

"It looked just like any other deserted island. But hidden under its tropical sands was a monstrous slave empire, a vast underground network of death pits, giant carnivorous crabs and prehistoric beasts, ruled by the blood-crazed Count Ramadanoff. Blasting their way into this nightmare of horror, Doc Savage and "the fabulous five" embark on their most daring adventure."

So, thrown signet ring on a string and a magnifying glass door panel that makes iguanas look like dinosaurs, we meet again!

Written by W. Ryerson Johnson and Lester Dent, Dec. 1935's The Fantastic Island is "fantastic" mostly as in "imaginative or fanciful: remote from reality" and "Unrealistic; irrational", with some "extraordinarily good or attractive" tossed in for an effort so over the top it reaches down and pulls the rug out from under so you land on your tush and wonder what the hell was that. The writers threw literally everything at the story and it's as campy as it is brutal and evil. Aspects of it beg for parody, like the Count's "grand piano draped with costly sea otter furs and brightly illuminated by crystal spangled candelabras." As is it's easy to imagine him playing like Liberace - or even better if it was an organ he could break out baseball stadium classics. Check out the campiness:

"Yes. When I play, it is always a prelude of unpleasantness for somebody. Savages in the jungle are aroused to an animal frenzy through the beat of their own tom-toms. In similar fashion, I am impelled to unspeakable decisions when my fingers wander over the keys."

If the 1975 Doc Savage film was based on this it would star Vincent Price as Count Ramadanoff in an American International Pictures production, and he'd be winking at the camera.

In my memory the flying ring and magnifying glass window were the pinnacles of how Doc Savage books would write checks for a mystery in the opening chapters but then have no means to cash them at the end. I take that back for The Fantastic Island. It wouldn't surprise me if Dent insisted on these things just to be ridiculous in a story that's nothing but. My lord there's everything: volcanoes w/earthquakes, angry poisonous centipedes, man-eating iguanas, carnivorous crabs that Doc throws at bad guys to freak them out, sharks, little hogs that rip people to shreds like in that Hannibal Lector movie, slave pits that resemble hell, and a castle with traps everywhere!

The book's mistakes are ultimately meaningless because the ride is so insane, the action scenes are universally well done, and the characters nicely rendered. The plot was directly inspired by the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game, remade a number of times on film. Being a Doc Savage adventure it's about the Count needing Doc's expertise to find something of great value on a hellish volcanic prison island. The crew plus Pat and Stupid Pig make six and a pig.

Doc has a mechanical dummy he plants at the door of his hangar to get shot at by criminals. He's called "Robbie The Robot". Doc casually kills a shark with a knife. Doc's told to find the evil Count's nice-guy brother Boris at 33 Redbeach Road, Long Island, making me think he could have just as easily been Hitler's pacifist cousin Norman at Schulstrasse 4, die Hinterlands. Naming a town on Long Island wouldn't be too much to ask.

Here's the setup and punch line of the hole in the temple gag. It's so bad it has to be some kind of a a test for the reader:

"Savage, you're nuts!" Bergman jabbered. "It's as dangerous for you in here as it is for me! Sometimes a man drops dead with nobody near him, and what has killed him is a little hole in his temple about the size you could poke your thumb into."...

In the twilight murkiness of the room leaped a peculiar sound, a kind of fleshy crunch. Bergman's words died in his throat. His head flopped sidewise. His shoulders followed it with flowing motion. His head thumped hollowly against the floor. His body lay there in a twisted huddle.

Doc leaped from the desk, made a quick examination. His fingers encountered a bone-crushed depression in the left temple, a smooth, white wound, in its size and contour the same as a man's thumb would have made if jabbed into white lard.


"But it seemed so mysterious," Pat said. "So sinister."

"It was both," Doc Savage interpolated. "If you recall, the thumb-hole death struck only when the light was not strong enough to reveal the almost colorless cord. They threw the ring with great force. Both brothers were well muscled, you will recall. They must have practiced a great deal. Then they jerked the ring back with the cord."

The Count literally ruled with an iron fist. Points off for not knowing you never punch someone if you're wearing big honking rings on your finger:

The count's fists thudded on Doc with vicious short-arm jabs, delivered with the force of a pile-driver. His white hands that looked so soft, were not soft at all. On his short cut through the palace to intercept Doc, he had slipped his hands into gloves of basket-weave wire, as flexible as thin kid and knobbed on the knuckles with jagged slugs of lead.

"With my own hands, I will beat you to death!" the count raged. "Three of your men at one time my fists have beaten -- and now you!"


The fist drove down, struck solidly -- but not on Doc's head. Doc jerked clear, timing his movement so that the count could not pull his punch. The list swished air in Doc's face and rammed flagstone. Holes had been fashioned in the backs of the leaded gloves so the finger rings could push through and serve as additional punishment factors.

Who did this first - Robin Hood or Zorro?:

The count was on his feet and running forward by the time Doc and Pat had reached the stair landing, hung with the velvet drapes. The count looked very happy as he observed that the ruby-colored drapes had tangled themselves about the fugitives and must certainly trip them up.

But Doc and Pat were not tripped by the hangings. It was no accident that the drapes had become swathed about Doc's mounting figure. Doc was holding them in one metallic hand, carrying them upward with him.

Suddenly he stopped, faced around. "Hang onto my back," he said in Mayan to Pat. "And hold your breath."

Pat thrust arms about Doc's neck from behind. From high overhead, the brass hoops creaked on their rod and the ruby drapes became taut as a wind-bellied sail, as Doc. lifting his feet and gripping the drape like a rope, swung downward in a wide arc.

Down he swung on that plunging curve, passing high over the astonished face of the count and up, up, with Pat clinging tightly around his neck. At the very height of his swing, he was dangling at a fearful distance above the high-swung candelabra.

He let go his hold on the drape and hurtled forward and down, the wind a hard rush in his ears. His muscle-corded hand, outstretched, caught the candelabra, his momentum swinging it forward. Candles showered down, their flames whipping like tiny comets' tails.

Letting go of the candelabra, the man of bronze swooped through the air above that death stretch -- the thirty feet of flooring in front of the door charged with high-amperage electricity. Through the lofty door his body shot, down. He landed easily, taking the shock in a way that showed he had practiced jumping from great heights.


He said: "It was a stupid blunder of my slaves to chain you to the pits. It is only the Asiatic immigrant ships sailing to South America that I intercept for my pit laborers. Those, and occasional Ecuadorian fishermen, guano and moss hunters. When, upon rare occasions, a yacht comes this way its occupants are received as welcome guests."


Monk's small eyes blinked rapidly. "It ain't possible."

"Some mistake," Ham muttered. "No lights are indicated on the chart."

Pat pointed at them and said, "There they are," with inescapable feminine logic.


Ham leaned forward, his fingers clutched so tightly on an imaginary sword cane that the knuckles were white splotches on his skin. Monk crouched, his simian bulk frozen.


Even that did not move them. With new recruits continuously pressing in from behind, the crowd swelled closer. Curiosity was an emotion more rampant than fear.

Then something happened which did move them. They became all at once conscious of a man approaching. He neither spoke nor shoved, but there was such quiet mastery in his face and manner that, instinctively, they looked at him, and then with a kind of awe, pressed back to allow him free progress through the crowd.


[The proper emergency use for stimulants] Doc took one of the glasses and touched his lips to it. There were two reasons why he did not drink more. One reason was that he did not commonly indulge in stimulants of any kind, reserving them only for their proper emergency use. The other reason was that his acutely developed taste warned him of a foreign substance in the tea.


THE bronze man spent no time in reconnoitering. With Long Tom's life threatened, even seconds were important. He leaped from the car, traversed the short distance to the house in great bounds. He tried the door. It was locked. He used Renny's pet method, and one of his fists, propelled by prodigious arm and shoulder muscles, crashed through the solid oak panel.

Like closing vises, his hands caught the splintered wood and wrenched. He tore the door half down, then walked through the rest of it with forward-pressing force which shattered the entire door frame.


[So Doc never flexes his wrist otherwise?] Jans Bergman began bellowing for his men to quit their suicidal shooting. More than any of them, Bergman came near understanding what had happened. He had caught the flash of Doc's wrist watch an instant before the flash came. He had realized the bronze man had expanded wrist muscles so as to split the case and release the contents.


"You couldn't have gotten half of it! Savage has a thousand pockets. You could yank out his teeth, shave his head, and pull out his nails and he'd still have enough chemicals hidden on him to blow up a battleship."


Doc did not scorn the use of a gun, of course, when emergency put one in his hands. He used one now. Pushing out through the dripping birch leaves, he came upon Long Tom who, behind a meager rock shelter, was caught in a threatened cross-fire of submachine gun lead.

Examples of brutality found in the book:

The leaded whip handle descended again. This time the man slumped, a slack weight in the pit. He was dead before his body hit the bottom.

The overseer -- he was some unidentifiable Asiatic type -- bawled orders in harsh gibberish. Two guards shoved forward. One was a giant brown-skinned man; the other a paunchy Caucasian of indeterminate race. The brown man bent and commenced ripping the thongs from Ham's hands and feet. The other guard jumped heavily down, unlocked the iron cuff from the dead man's leg, and heaved the limp body out of the pit.

The guard on top grunted, and pushed Ham roughly over the edge. Ham fell sprawling. The guard in the pit was ready for him. He jangled the chain against the stake, grabbed Ham by the foot and slapped on the iron cuff, warm from the dead man's leg.

He picked up the dead man's shovel, thrust it into Ham's hands. The overseer above cracked down with the whip. A thick welt bloomed on Ham's cheek. He started digging.


"You are the foolhardy one, if you think you can outsmart Jans Bergman. Maybe you're wearing bulletproof clothes. Don't depend upon them. My machine-gun lead will push your face out the back of your skull."


Ramadanoff's finger was broken before he could clear it from the trigger. But the finger was the least of his troubles. He felt himself lifted and slammed.


One of the guards showed fight. He dodged the blow of the knout, flung in close against the plunging horse and reached up to pull the horseman from the saddle. The man in the saddle only laughed a raw ghoulish clacking, pulled a revolver from holster and shot the guard dead.

The horseman kept laughing and driving bullets into the guard's body, even after the fellow was slumped in a still, dead heap on the ground. After that, no one offered resistance.

Errors to be pointed out regardless: Something's wrong when Monk plays interpreter for Johnny's vocabulary mental disorder. Even worse when he does it for Doc like he doesn't understand big words. Here there's a steel door that comes down to replace the wood door Doc smashes to pieces. Why not just have a steel door instead of two doors with one as a backup that fits exactly into the space of the first? That's a lot of contractor work:

"Just a trick, Savage," he snarled. "I managed to press a button on my way out, sliding the steel door into place from within the wall. Did you think I had no more protection for my safety than the wooden door you broke down? You can stay in there and simmer in your own juice, as the Yankees say, or perish in your own gas.

This one's funny. I'm picturing Johnson wrote it not realizing Doc's anesthetic gas isn't poison and loses effectiveness after a minute. Dent edited in the line in bold but kept the rest as is! There's no reason for Doc to be acting like this:

Still holding his breath against the anesthetic vapor, Doc hurled himself across the room. He had one last hope -- the movable panel in the roll-top desk. There was not time to look for the control key which would open the panel. There was time only to crash it in. Swiftly, Doc felt out the boundaries of the stout oak with his sensitive fingers.

Then his fists drummed a mighty tattoo. Fists were not enough. His shoulders lunged. He braced himself against the wall and kicked. His hand drifted out and contacted a heavy chair, swung it in a wide arc. The chair splintered in a dozen places, and the panel remained unmoved.

Doc was trapped! Not from the gas, however. That would become harmless in a few seconds, as it mingled more completely with the air.

In New York Doc's captured and kept alive so he can be brought to the volcanic island and help the Count find his precious. In order to have the scene that follows where Doc once again cheats death, there's this exchange between bad guys:

"We've got to kill him," he said.

"Maybe you're right," the other muttered.

Read The Fantastic Island not as a glorious mess but the kitchen sink of Doc Savage novels. As a bleeding-image Technicolor horror-serial film with camp to spare it's genius. It's better than any Ed Wood production, that's for sure.

035 - Murder Mirage:

"A blizzard in July and a woman’s image is frozen in glass — how could these bizarre events possibly be connected? To find the answer and save the life of Ranyon Cartheris, the Man of Bronze and his dauntless allies journey to hot desert sands halfway round the world, where they are trapped — perhaps never to emerge — in the ancient underground tombs of Tasunan."

The story of radium as a toxic element was possibly still in flux when this Lawrence Donovan-ghosted Doc Savage adventure sat on newsstands in January of 1936. Murder Mirage's "Tasunite" is stronger and so deadly it vaporizes flesh into x-ray images, creating the nice cover image of the original pulp. In the present year such a substance would do a lot more damage than creating spontaneous etched-glass, but as a pulp conceit it works well. This is Donovan's best and most coherent Doc Savage, hinting that maybe his dealer was in jail and he switched from embalming fluid to a decent bourbon. There's still oddness and lesser aspects to it, but on the Donovan Scale this one is pretty good.

Murder Mirage works best as pieces of a ten-part serial. As a Doc Savage movie it would be more complicated than it needs to be, and as a pulp novel it's too long and dense with passages that read in a monotone of information:

WE are in the passage of the shadow death and at its end are the execution chamber, the storage chamber and the place from which the defense shadow death of the walls is operated. The tunnel we have passed leads downward. At a hundred feet below this one, it traverses under the gardens. Its exit is in the central square of the modern city of Tasunan. There are many other passages. Some reach remaining buildings of the ancient city."

As is the Donovan way the story is ambitious, expansive, technically challenging, and prohibitively expensive to produce. That it doesn't fold over into itself into a crepe of insanity is a major feat, but it has its problems from laziness to omission. An ancient and mostly dead culture made magical protective suits worn by bad guys (and some good guys) that protect not only the face and body from bullets (as if they were balls of sponge) but also the Tasunite only found in their city. The rampaging summer snowstorms and such are never explained.

Donovan withholds small pieces of information that are confusing when/until you read a few sentences down:

The apelike chemist heaved his squat body sidewise and upward. A heavy missile was flying through the air. It was a hammer with a blunt round head and weighing several pounds. The hammer was shooting straight toward the picture of the murdered woman in the plate glass.

Monk tried to catch the hammer. His effort failed. The weighty missile flew onward. Heavy glass splintered and shivered in razorlike strips to the pavement...

The murder shadow of the woman had escaped destruction. While Monk had failed in his attempt to catch the thrown hammer, his hand had deflected its course. The weighty iron had smashed through the plate glass of the window next to that in which the woman was pictured.

Chapter 12 ends with Doc & Co. hoping Monk & Ham weren't on a boat that sinks, then the next chapter opens with a reference to planes that is never explained. How did planes come into the picture?:

THE southern ship route should be clear of storms at this season," announced Renny. "At Bermuda, we may learn something. I have a hunch they would refuel at Bermuda."

"I had thought the same," stated Doc Savage. "We may hear some news there of the planes.

Donovan injects doses of his standard nutzoid action when Doc is always on the running board of his car no matter the danger or need. In the first bit it's not mentioned up front Doc is on the running board:

Monk was a skillful driver. The car, with its powerful supermotor, grazed the steel of the elevated railway columns. Monk seemed able to estimate to the fraction of an inch how much room he could allow. The steel brushed the bronze man’s clothes at times.


On Northern Boulevard, the highway forming the main artery of travel along the upper North Shore of Long Island, one driver seemed to be disregarding all the rules of safety. Persons who observed the flashing speed of the shadowy automobile in the dense fog gasped with profound amazement...

"Bet we’ve got those cops thinkin’ we’re some kind of a ghost!" chuckled Renny, at the wheel of the apparent phantom car. "They’ll probably swear they didn’t see us!"

"The report will be worse than that," suggested Long Tom. "They couldn’t miss seeing Doc outside."

The man of bronze was erect on the running board of the speeding sedan. The wet mist of the black fog slapped in his face. Drops of water slid off the smooth bronze hair, as if it were waterproof...

Doc and his companions were wearing curiously shaped goggles. The lenses of these were large. The affairs looked clumsy. These were equipped with small switches. From inside the goggles came a whirring, as if small generators were operating.

While the headlights of the car were off, there was light. But this was invisible to any person not wearing the bronze man’s especially contrived goggles.


[The passenger shoots through the intact windshield in front of his face. That's new] The other car was now only a few yards in the rear of Doc’s armored sedan. The glass of its windshield crashed. Almost instantly, a machine gun began a snarling song of death. The bronze man felt the jolt of two bullets tearing at his bulletproof vest. He swung inside with Johnny, who was in the rear-seat.


[Caller ID] THE telephone buzzed. Doc Savage swung over to the instrument. Johnny instantly made contact with an extension. It was a device of Dr. Savage’s which would allow an instantaneous check-back on the number calling.


From a small vial taken from an inner pocket, the bronze man sprinkled a grayish chemical powder. This covered the seat from side to side. Almost instantly, the plush of the cushions took on a curious yellow glow. This was the nap of the thick plush slowly coming back to place after having been compressed.

This informed Doc that two persons had occupied the small car.


This blinding gas was a new chemical. It was composed of various sulphides combined with liquefied selenium. It was the first time selenium had ever been successfully liquefied.


The furry, stubby thumbs of Monk were locked to the thumbs of Ham. They were attached by the torturing contrivances known to the police as thumbcuffs. These are employed sometimes in place of handcuffs in the cases of extremely dangerous criminals.

The cuffs are fashioned in the manner of handcuffs. But they are small and will lock two thumbs together. Inside each cuff are sharp saw-edged teeth. Any pull against the links tightens these teeth. They sink into the flesh. A prisoner would have to strip off all of the flesh from the bones to tear himself free. Then probably he would have to shave off a part of the bones.


The bronze man’s head suddenly took the square impact of a blow. The crashing collision with the base of his skull temporarily paralyzed his active senses. He exerted his will to remain on his feet.

For perhaps a half minute, the man of bronze was what is commonly known as "out on his feet." By exercising his amazing force of will over nerves and muscles, he might have continued active. But the bloody fight apparently was over.


Patricia Savage frowned at her giant cousin. She was one of the few persons who ever questioned Doc’s decisions. Mostly only women ever did that. Doc himself admitted he could not understand women. Moreover, he did not trouble himself about it.


[Doc trills a lot in this story] Doc Savage halted. From his body emanated the rare, exotic trilling...

[And what the hell does this mean?] Again the exotic trilling was emitted by the bronze man. Now it was a rare, tuneless running of the scale. It had the elusive cadence of falling water murmuring in some deep cave.


"It isn’t that kind of an assignment, Pat. It’s something that only one woman could do. You happen to be that woman."

"They all begin that way," said the young woman. "I shall prepare, of course, to be shot, burned at the stake, kidnapped or thrown into some deep, dark river. What is it? I’m practically dressed already."


The speaker was an authority on maps. For his name stood among the ten or dozen most eminent engineers in the world. The man’s fists were approximately of the size of his head. And his head was of leonine proportions.


[Over the top BS] Like others of Doc Savage’s group, the lawyer could speak in almost any of the known languages...

The edge of the flat roofs of the baked-clay buildings was nearly fifteen feet above them. Dernall felt himself projected into space. He was thrown upward as easily as a light stick of wood might have been tossed. He alighted with a slight crash on his hands and knees on the roof of the building...

He picked up the bony form, holding Dernall lightly across his shoulders. With gliding movement, he went swiftly across the roofs in the direction of the dirigible. Doc did not descend into the narrow lanes at any point. The body of Carson Dernall did not impede his progress in the slightest. Spaces of nearly twenty feet were covered in a bound.


The ebony face of Hadith floated through the cabin doorway. The outside wind stirred his kafieh. The blowing aside of the headcloth revealed a ghastly truth. Both of the Nubian’s ears had been sheared off close to his head. In their places were unhealed, hideous wounds.


[How to tell Carson was a bad guy] "This is Carson Dernall, aboard Doc Savage’s dirigible adrift in a storm at sea!" he announced, loudly. "Lady Sathyra Fotheran is with me! I have a message to be relayed to New York, if possible!"

For three or four minutes, he spoke with staccato sharpness. His words directed disposal of certain properties in event he failed to survive. Pat Savage shivered a little. Her attractive face showed the strain.

"He sounds like a man already dead and dictating his will," Pat murmured.

None could be sure Carson Dernall’s strange message had been received. Scrambled words howled in the loudspeaker. Perhaps some ship had really picked up the explorer’s belated arrangement of his personal affairs. If so, it would make a great story for the tabloids in Manhattan...

Renny’s hands experimented. The black tempest had passed almost as quickly as it had arisen.


[Look up what they do with their left hand] The Bedouins scooped up their food with their right hands.


[Renny's one-punch death punch] The impact of Renny’s fist was almost as loud as the exploding weapon.

The mobster’s kafieh flew off. When he hit the ground, his head rolled oddly as if his neck were only a rag. Seldom had Renny ever hit a man with all of his great strength. No mobster’s spine was ever made to resist such a blow. The mobster quivered and lay still.

Murder Mirage was a burden to get through because it lingered on details and layers that functioned more as asides than forward-moving plot. It didn't make reading it a richer experience as much as there being more words to read. It can be easily cut down by a fifth. George Pal wanted to adapt it into a winning Doc Savage film in 1975.

036 - Mystery Under The Sea:

"There was only one clue to the bloody enigma of TAZ-the illegible, dying scrawl of a horribly mutilated sailor. What was the message he had so desperately tried to deliver? Why had sizzling acid been forced into his mouth? What secret had the dead man unraveled about the flamboyant and brutal Captain Flamingo? Held captive aboard a tramp steamer, THE MAN OF BRONZE and his bold allies wrestle with the dread riddle of Taz."

Doc Savage novels revolving around bodies of water tend to be my least favorite as nautical terminology makes me sleepy while more time is spent describing than doing things. Cramped spaces make these books the literary cousins of TV show's "bottle episodes". Rarely does someone get from Pont A to B without an explanation usually reserved for Rube Goldberg devices. I'm more forgiving of stories that take place in Lands Out Of Time but they too spend much of their word count creating mental images of prehistoric creatures and fantastical foliage. At least nautical novels move in real time and conversation is normal. I care more about what Doc Savage does than where Doc Savage does these things. "Doc Savage Meets The Wizard Of Oz" is meaningless if little of note happens besides Doc meets The Wizard (in Technicolor!) and stuff happens.

Mystery Under The Sea, birthed in February of 1936, finds half its length taking place underwater at the speed of walking underwater. Everything shifts to slow motion and the underwater action is as exciting as it is slow. The idea of breathing underwater on your own in the remains of Atlantis Taz isn't enough to freak me out. A sequel of sorts came out in 1938 and is titled The Red Terrors. Aqua Commies ahoy!

According to the Sanctum reprint Atlantis was old hat by 1936. If I'm not mistaken (I'll never admit it) the rejected Shane Black script winds up in Atlantis with real life Atlanteans (as opposed to people from Atlanta). That's up there with having new characters added because Doc's not strong enough a personality on his own. A Doc Savage movie should be about Doc Savage and not a story about Atlantis and scenes that include Doc Savage characters. As a first film it should have nothing that overwhelms Doc Savage in context. This of course includes dinosaurs.

The brutality of the acid and knife attack on Twenty-Thousand-Leagues Verne (that's his name!) is one of the most gruesome things you'll read in a Doc Savage novel. Added points for that. Points off for having Heckle and Jeckle repeatedly argue over why sailors wear bell bottoms. One point off for including dumb pig. Add a point for using the word "Slumgullion" ("a cheap or insubstantial stew"). One point off for each "conversation" involving writing words in sand with a finger:

He leaned forward and scraped letters on the sandy portion of the floor with a huge forefinger.

"What brought me here?" he wrote.

Topping shook a negative. Then he parted the scanty hair on his head to exhibit a rather frightful bruise.

"I just regained my senses," he managed to scrape in the sand.

"Where are we?" Renny wrote.

Topping marked three letters.


Renny shook his head, smoothed out the patch of sand they were using as a slate, and wrote, "What is Taz?"

Did the word "Frenemy" existed in 1936?:

"We’re still what you might call ‘friendly enemies,’" the young woman explained. "We’re fighting a common enemy. After we polish him off, we’ll turn around and fight each other."

An example of the kind of writing I find boring while most Doc fans are staining themselves in joy:

It was a large room, and it was reached by passing through a solid stone wall, every bit of twenty feet in thickness.

At first glance, the most amazing thing about the room was the ceiling. This—there was not the slightest doubt of it—was composed of a single, titanic block of stone. It was, Doc Savage realized, probably the largest single block of stone ever employed in construction work. Certainly there were no historical records of a larger one. Strangest of all, this colossal slab seemed not to lie over the top of the room, lid-fashion, but was cut to fit inside the walls. What held it up could not be discerned.

In geometrical rows on the room’s floor stood what, at first glance, might have been mistaken for stone coffins; but they were shallower, narrower, somewhat longer. They were of some black stone so hard that it had managed to retain some of its original polish down through the ages. The lids fitted tightly, but had no visible fastenings. In number, these cases exceeded a hundred.

Doc's waiting room has a sporty ceiling:

The bronze man now moved the massive inlaid table into the center of the room and stood upon it, from which point he could reach the ceiling. This was decorated in modernistic fashion, with trim triangles and discs of shiny metals and colored glass. Under his manipulation, what had appeared to be an ordinary glass plate came away and proved itself a part of a motion picture camera, which was recessed into the ceiling.

This habit of Doc's is rude and I put it alongside trilling as things in need of deletion or adjustment. Just like trilling can be replaced with a "Hmmm" sound or just tossed, instead of making believe you don't exist when you ask him an important question he can reply with something like "I'll let you know as soon as I can". I did like that Ham and Monk looked at each other and shrugged:

"What’re you gonna do?" Monk asked.

He failed to get an answer, which did not completely surprise him. Doc Savage had a small habit, most aggravating at times, of completely neglecting to explain what he intended to do next. Now, was one of those occasions. He moved away soundlessly and was lost in the darkness.

Monk and Ham looked at each other, shrugged, crept out of the shipyard through the gate without being observed, and concealed themselves among discarded automobiles which littered a junk yard across the street.

Unforced errors ahoy! Ham knows Doc Savage well enough not to call him by his full name. "Doc!" works a lot better:

A newcomer had silently entered the office. A huge man of bronze.

"What are you two arguing about now?" he asked.

The two dissenters—Monk and Ham—jumped as if they had suddenly found their feet in cold water.

"Doc Savage!" Ham exclaimed.

"Gosh, Doc, you gimme a scare," Monk said, surprised

This is not how Monk speaks. Have Ham say it instead:

"We are in a very dangerous spot here, Miss Post," he said, levelly. "You are in as much danger as ourselves. Don’t you think it is the better part of common sense and safety to tell us what you know?"

"Phooey," said the young woman. "So now you try logic on me."

"I am only talking common sense," Monk assured her. "Those men are trying to kill all of us. We have no idea of what they are after, what is behind all of this, let alone why that gas didn’t get them."

"Listen," said Diamond Eve Post. "The less you know, the better I like it. We’re all—Captain Flamingo, Stanley Watchford Topping, myself, everybody—after Taz. You don’t know what Taz is. Swell!"

"The course you’re taking is not logical," Monk told her.

Renny's fists are famously quart-sized but are also commonly referred to as a gallon of hand:

The man was a giant. His size, however, faded to insignificance, once a glance was directed at his hands. These members were unnaturally large. Each fist was composed of only slightly less than a gallon of bone, gristle and leathery hide.

Monk and Ham are described thusly. Dent asserts Monk's pleasantness comes from his large mouth while Ham gets the backhand of "a not unhandsome face", second cousin to "She has a nice personality".

The pair who had been arguing, interrupted their dissension. They were as unlike as their voices. The one with the childlike voice, in the dim light of the reception room, might easily have been mistaken for a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound gorilla. He had practically no forehead, an incredibly homely face that was made pleasant by an overly large mouth, and arms which extended his furry hands to well below his knees. He was Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair.


The other was a lean-hipped man whose garments were the absolute ultimate in fashionable perfection. He had a not unhandsome face with a high forehead, keen eyes and the mobile mouth of an orator. He carried a slender black cane, which he had been waving in an effort to drive home his arguments. He was Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks.

Action Renny at his best:

Then Renny hit them. He weighed around two hundred and sixty pounds, all of it bone and gristle. He knew just about every rough-and-tumble fighting trick in the book, and his huge fists were about as effective as two concrete blocks.

Two men dropped before they even had a chance. A third got his guard up, both fists doubled in front of his face. Renny swung, not around the guarding fists, but at them, driving them back against the man’s jaw. The fellow dropped.

A great scene that defines what makes Doc Savage so distinctive:

Ham seemed to have reached the end of his rope. He spun, lifted his fist, took a step toward Monk. Only one step; then something strange happened. Ham’s mouth opened very wide. A queer expression overspread his face. His knees hinged, and he sat down on the floor.

"Poisoned by his own spleen," Monk said unkindly, thinking it was some kind of an act.

Ham sank flat on his face. An instant later, Renny fell. He went down like a felled tree.

"Blazes!" Monk gasped. Then he, too, began to look strange.

Doc Savage moved. With all of the tremendous speed of which his great trained sinews were capable, he flashed across the anteroom, into the library, on to the laboratory. There was almost an incredible frenzy in his movements. He reached a chemical case in the laboratory.

The case held bottles. Labels on these bore the strange symbols with which chemicals and chemical formulae are designated. Doc got out three bottles, drank from each in succession, holding the contents of all in his mouth, mixing them there, then swallowing.

The bronze man ran back into the reception room. There was still that strange frenzied speed in his movements.

Ham, Monk, Renny—all three were sprawled out on the floor. The pig, Habeas, was also down and not moving. Doc Savage stood, looked at them.

The bronze man’s trilling sound, eerie and fantastic to a greater degree than usual, filled all the anteroom, the library and the laboratory beyond. Its loudness was greater than usual, and it was a bit steadier, at first, but it began to subside very slowly, as if its source were being throttled, stifled.

And, as his trilling subsided, so did the figure of the giant bronze man. The bend of his knees, hardly perceptible at first, increased, and he folded, finally to topple forward, braced with his hands on the floor, and remain there for a time. By slow jerks, he let himself down.

He seemed to relax completely.

Nicely written science factoid:

IT is commonly recognized that the human eye requires a little time, brief though the interval may be, to recognize movement. Registration of an optical image is no instantaneous process. If it were not for this, many things would not be possible, among them the ordinary motion picture.

Doc Savage, through long, intense training, could possibly perceive a thing more quickly than the average person; but that was not what saved him now. He had spent a great deal of time acquiring the ability to move more quickly than the other man.

Captain Flamingo and his men were concealed about the deck. They had guns. It was necessary to aim the weapons after they saw Doc Savage. In the fraction of a second required for that, Doc flashed back out the door.

Spanky McSpankington Jr., report to HR immediately:

"She’s sure a sassy gal," Renny rumbled resentfully. "A good old-fashioned spanking would help her a lot."


Her long speech made Monk mad.

"For two cents, I’d put you across my knee," he growled.

"I love you when you get ranty," she told Monk.

A device I've always liked:

From within his clothing, Doc Savage produced his little telescopic device with interchangeable mirrors and lenses, which could become, alternately, periscope, telescope, and microscope. The girl had not removed this from his clothing during the period she had thought him unconscious—the period when she had brought Doc and his three aids aboard the steamer. Fitting the periscope mirrors on the device, Doc peered over the rail.

The end where Doc stays out on a boat for a month looking to find Taz's library is inconsiderate. Johnny and Long Tom must have gone nuts with worry that Doc's dead, and Doc's landlord at the Empire State Building might have rented the 86th floor to new tenants since he didn't show up by the 5th with a money order. And you know for damn sure they'll keep the security deposit! Mystery Under The Sea is ranked highly by many Doc Savage fans but it did little for me either in the action or story department. To Atlan-TAZ I said "bow-ring!" and slo-mo action "slothtastic!"

037 - The Metal Master:

"The Metal Master exists and will destroy the world! To stop him, the Man of Bronze and his daring friends launch a search for the source of his amazing power — and find themselves trapped on a sandy deserted island with the Metal Master himself!"

The Metal Master is an immensely enjoyable Doc Savage novel with a second half that manages to be engaging while also following Run & Fight protocols. Lester Dent keeps things interesting with the characters he's created for this March, 1936 adventure and there's a recurring joke added to the mystery of the Metal Master by periodically having someone claim with finality that it's some other person.

Doc's interactions with two competing gangs in New York is also handled well, and he's given a number of scenes alone doing typical Doc things not related to rescuing his assistants. Doc by himself is usually a highlight of any book (where he's not being introspective. See later years). The gadgets are excellent (see below) and the metal melting technology is awesome in action:

THE metal blob had a length of perhaps a dozen feel, and a width of half that. It appeared that a molten mixture of steel and brass had been dumped in the alley to harden.

But there were many queer aspects to the metal mass. For one thing, had molten metal been dumped there, the pavement around about would have shown some evidence of the terrific heat. There was none.

Yet it certainly looked as if the metal had been put there in a molten state. Little streams of it had run out at the sides, just as liquid metal would do. It had filled cracks in the alley pavement.

Most fantastic of all, pieces of wood stuck out of the mass, along with bits of cloth and leather. Doc Savage examined the leather.

Automobile cushions! Not the slightest doubt of it. This molten mass had been an automobile. He saw the tires, four of which had been on the wheels, and a spare. Fire. And the wooden wheel spokes were intact.


Monk continued to watch the plane. A weird thing was happening to it. It was behaving much like a child’s toy made of ice, which had been shoved suddenly into a hot oven.

The plane was melting!

Not the slightest doubt of it. The metal was simply turning to liquid and falling first in sheets, and the sheets scattering into drops. Within moments, the entire ship was little more than a literal rain of metal.


[The chain mail melting would more problematic if it really happened] Monk grasped his belt and held it where she could inspect it. The belt buckle was completely gone.

"Just melted" Monk said. "And there wasn’t no heat, either. Same way with the chain-mail undergarment I was wearing. It just melted. Some of it ran down my trouser legs. The rest is stuck about my waist. It’s hard now. Probably can’t get it off without a lot of work with a diamond-pointed cutter. I don’t think a cutting torch would remove it, without burning the heck out of me."


Things were happening to the schooner. Strange, fantastic things. The jib and staysail suddenly came loose. The metal stays to which they were fastened had simply become a little rivulet of liquid that ran down and splashed into the salty water.

Sails fell, as the metal pins in blocks melted. Gaffs came crashing down on deck. And the decks promptly fell to pieces under the impact. Men who had found themselves standing on solid deck planking were suddenly descending along with falling wood.

The boat was coming to pieces. Nothing else described it. She had been fastened, as a matter of fact, with a bronze alloy fastening, and these had all become liquid. Brass bars over skylights melted and became puddles that rolled like quicksilver down the glass.


[Dent keeps on explaining how it works but this is fine on its own] A box was revealed. Machinery filled the thing, apparatus that looked complicated. It was obviously electrical in nature, and there were vacuum tubes, coils, strange-looking systems of wires that might have been reflectors.

"There’s another one down the beach," said the man doing the explaining. "You see, to accomplish the liquefying of metal at a distance takes two sets of apparatus and a lot of power. You’d be surprised how much power. We’ve got a big motor-generator set in an old barge hidden among the sand dunes, and the cables run under the sand to this spot."

"Hi’ll be blasted!" murmured Tops’l.

"Each set of apparatus sends out a controlled field of combination electromagnetic and sonic nature," the man continued. "One of these fields will liquefy metal at close range, but at a distance it takes two. We focus the fields, and where they meet, any kind of metal will melt."

This bit is a giveaway lie because there's metals on the island that aren't melted, including handcuffs:

"From the way the men talked, I think so," groaned bald-headed Gettian. "There’s something about the island which causes all metal to become liquid. That is the way I escaped. They had handcuffs on me. The cuffs simply turned to liquid and ran off my wrists."...

"It’s gone!" he exploded. "A gun I managed to steal from the gang! A gun that escaped turning into liquid. I must have lost it!"

Punning Parker is so obviously a Doc Savage assistant I'm surprised I didn't know it before even cracking open Chapter 1. There might as well have been this Editor's Note, "Wink! Look what I'm doing with my one eye: Wuh-ink!:

As he drove rapidly in the direction of the water front, Renny wished fervently that he knew where to get in touch with "Long Tom."

Long Tom was Major Thomas J. Roberts, electrical wizard extraordinary, and another of Doc Savage’s aids. Long Tom was also engaged in investigation of the narcotic trade. Where he was, Renny did not know. Long Tom had been in Havana two weeks ago, then he had dropped out of sight.

Just that he automatically becomes the bad guy leader's new sidekick is a giveaway. Parker's puns are horrid and I hope Dent wasn't giving himself cleverness points as he thought them up:

"I’m sort of a billing worker," he said. "Not that I’m any dough-boy."

"What you’re doing won’t ever Hertz you,"

"It Hertz me to give advice,"

"What this fellow don’t know won’t Hertz us,"

"You might say we have planes for you,"

"Puns should be a pun-ishable offense,"

Tops’l Hertz is a character name along with Gorham Gage Gettian and Napoleon Murphy Decitez. Sadly, Nuncio Alfalfa Gesundheit and Bertha O'Twins were cut from the original draft.

Besides Punning Parker's identity the story is fairly tight. This part was odd because Doc's talking in Mayan as to not be understood and then Renny yells out Doc's name and talks in English:

Doc Savage spoke softly. He did not use English, but Mayan—the ancient version of the tongue. Practically no one in the civilized world outside of Doc Savage and his men spoke the language.

They used it to communicate when they did not wish to be understood by others. Moreover, it was a guttural tongue which lent itself excellently to furtive discussions. Anyone overhearing it might well think some one was having difficulty clearing his throat.

"Holy cow!" Renny exploded again from inside. Then he became furtive, and was at the door, demanding, "How in blazes did you get here, Doc? Where are we?"


He carried her to the rear of the laboratory room, to what resembled a solid wall. He put a palm to the wall, held it there, took it away, put it there again. He did this three times. A perfectly concealed panel opened. It had a lock that was actuated by a sensitive thermostatic combination concealed in the wall. Heat of the hand, applied in the proper combination, was enough to open the lock. It could be opened in no other manner.


In his mouth, the bronze man had been carrying a pair of flat, flexible capsules containing his odorless, colorless anaesthetic gas. He had simply broken the capsules.


Doc Savage went straight to the light bulb which had not lighted. He unscrewed it carefully, and wrapped it in a piece of paper.

"We do not want this to get broken," he said. "It is the only one we have at present."

Ham smiled widely. Ham had a sharp, aesthetic face, but it became quite handsome when he smiled.

"They are rather difficult to construct, eh?" he asked.

"Somewhat," Doc Savage admitted. "The wall of the bulb, which looks like frosted glass, is in reality a flexible material which serves as a diaphragm for the microphone which is concealed inside and connected to the terminals so that when the bulb is screwed into the socket, the microphone will be connected. It is rather difficult to construct the thing so that it will not distort the reception."


DOC SAVAGE’S big speed plane was also headed for Alligator Island. The big ship had three motors in streamlined mountings, and they were well silenced. The plane itself was several years advanced in design. The top speed of most so-called speed ships was the cruising speed of this craft. It could, in an emergency, carry enough fuel for a non-stop flight halfway around the world. It could alight on water or land.


"The pontoons are of cellular construction, the cells filled with a sponge substance similar to sponges themselves, but lighter," Doc replied. "The pontoons could be all but shot to pieces and still not lose their buoyancy."


"It wasn’t poison," the bronze man said. "It was merely a gas which produced great agony and, eventually, unconsciousness. Its odor, its effects, are almost exactly like mustard gas, with which most persons are familiar. But it does little more than cause a great deal of pain and eventual senselessness."


She had heard of Doc Savage. It was in her tone. Man of bronze, being of mystery, one who performed miracles: That was Doc Savage. Yet no one knew much about him. An aura of mystery hung about him. He shunned publicity. Yet he got plenty, because reporters have imaginations and he was a mystical, interesting figure. Because few facts about the bronze man were actually available, the legends springing up around and about him were often fantastic.


[Doc's unseen many friends] DOC SAVAGE’S profession was trouble. Other people’s troubles. He had friends, more friends than enemies by a large score. But there were plenty of enemies, and occasionally they tried to kill Doc Savage, figuring that was their only hope.


[Hard to believe and disgusting] It was a remarkable hand. The size did not seem especially striking until compared with surrounding objects, when it became evident that the hand was of no small size. The fingers were long. The skin had a surprisingly fine texture. But the unusual feature was the evidence that the hand possessed incredible strength. The sinews on the back were nearly as large as an ordinary man’s fingers.


[Before cell phones there were Doc Savage's eyes] They were strange, compelling eyes. Strangers on the street often looked at those eyes and were so gripped that they found themselves bumping into other pedestrians.


Doc Savage left her concealed in the secret compartment. She had wanted to know what he planned, but he had appeared not to hear the inquiry—a small and aggravating habit which he had when he did not wish to explain his future moves.


Men advanced carefully, guns ready, and Doc Savage was released. They did not take too much care with the fishhooks. They simply plucked them out.

Doc Savage said nothing, did not grimace, while they were getting the hooks out.

"Ain’t you human?" a man growled.

Doc Savage did not reply. It was, as a matter of fact, agony. All the howling and groaning in the world would not make the pain less. There was a psychological reason for his stoicism, too. The mental concentration involved in trying not to show pain aided in keeping his thoughts off the pain itself.


"What was in the box?" Ham asked. "You made a flying trip to the laboratory to get it and take it to the hotel. But what was in it?"

For a long moment, Doc Savage did not speak.

"The thing may not do its work, when the time comes," he said dryly. "So if you do not know what it is, you will not depend on it in a pinch. Depending on things is very bad, especially when they do not work."


They went up on their private elevator to the eighty-sixth floor of the skyscraper. Doc Savage did not enter his office immediately. Instead, he looked at a famous picture of a Madonna in a plain frame. It was the only bit of art in the plainly modernistic corridor.

The Madonna’s eyes were dark. Had they been bright—made so by a tiny light bulb connected to Doc’s complicated burglar alarm system—the bronze man would have used a great deal of caution about entering the place; if he entered at all, he probably would have used one of the secret entrances, which would have given him a chance of surprising any skulker.


[Is it live or is it Memorex Doc Savage?] The trilling had ceased its roaming of the scales. It had settled on one note, something it had never done before. And it was getting louder. Mounting and mounting. It became a cadence which attained deafening proportions. Monk found himself cramming fingers into his ears to keep out the paean. He felt that it must be carrying for miles, so loud had it become.

Then, outside, men began to shriek out in awful fear...

IT was the trilling sound," Doc Savage said, explaining the thing to Monk, Ham and the others. "I overheard an explanation one of those fellows made to Tops’l about how a wine glass can be broken by a certain musical note. He was correct. Well, inside that box, attached to the outer covering, which served as a sounding board, was a glass phial containing an acid. The trilling sound broke it. The acid caused the case to blow open and release the gas."


"Monk," Doc Savage said, "can you get hold of Ham?"

"If I do," said small-voiced "Monk," "I’ll pull his left arm off and club him to death with it!"

The important thing about this remark was that Monk, who was actually Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, world-renowned chemist and one of Doc Savage’s aids, was actually capable of pulling a man’s arm off and beating him to death with it.


[Google came up empty] "For an Eskimo nickel, I’d dump you in Chesapeake Bay, or whatever is below us!" Monk howled.


"Guard this man Gettian," the bronze man directed. "He may recover from the paralysis in the course of time, and if he does, watch him closely that he does not escape."

"When he recovers, I’ll induce another kind of paralysis!" Monk grinned, and blew on a hairy fist.


 It was useless for him to try to whisper. Renny’s whisper was like escaping steam.


The girl gave the feminine equivalent of a snort.


Occasionally, the Innocent participated in a high-class murder for hire. Her forward hatch was hacked and scarred, and the crew would tell you that fish were dressed there. Naturally, they couldn’t be expected to mention a human body or so that had been cut up on the hatch for the sharks.


The floor immediately below his headquarters had been without a tenant for a long time, because it was a risky location, so close to the bronze man of mystery. Too many things happened around Doc Savage that might prove dangerous to a neighbor.

Doc Savage paid rent on the floor, so that the building operators would not lose money.


"Tops’l said in his cablegram that Doc Savage’s man, Renny, would be ‘ge-e-e-eked!’ as he expressed it, as soon as we got hold of Doc Savage. I’m going to wire him we’ve got Savage. Then he’ll probably radio us to ge-e-e-ek! Savage, too."


"They’re going to fight!" she gasped. "Can’t you do anything to stop it?"

Doc Savage kept his attention on the flying. He had traced a line on the chart, and was following that down the Atlantic coast.

"Years ago, it became evident that the only thing that will stop Monk and Ham from quarreling is for one or the other to get killed," the bronze man said.


"Not every one realizes that the Atlantic coast of the United States, south of New York, is low, swampy land," the bronze man explained. "The coast is edged by a string of low islands, some only sand bars, but some covered with vegetation. This Alligator Island is one of these islands."


"You fool!" this man snarled. "You just shot the big chief!"

Tops’l Hertz had a split-second vision of what could happen now. The mastermind was gone. He, Tops’l Hertz, could step in and take charge, and the whole world would be his oyster—

At that point, the bullet went through his brain. The bullet fired by the man who wanted to avenge the murder of his chief. Or he thought it had been murder, when Tops’l had only wanted to be a good fellow and stop the flight of a bunch of cowards.


Some reached the mainland, but how many, it was never known, for they took great pains never to be heard from again.

The Metal Master shines through memorable bad guy characters and ongoing humor from the visualized sound effect of "ge-e-e-ek!" while drawing a finger across your throat, and "Waw-w-w-w-r-k" Gettian choked.". The array of gadgets are fantastic and there's subtle slapstick like:

The voice of the chief of the Metal Master crew also did some profane urging to stick inside. But before long, these two found themselves shouting alone. They followed their men.

If The Metal Master is not considered a top Doc Savage novel it's definitely one of the most under-rated.

038 - The Men Who Smiled No More:

"It started with a senseless murder. Then it spread -- all over New York men were becoming robot-like automatons without emotions. The Man of Bronze went into action. But even Doc Savage was stricken helpless before he solved the terrifying menace of The Death's Head Grin!"

Lawrence Donovan's April, 1936 contribution offers ambition and an excellent tone, but it also derails slowly in confusion on its own premise, and at times you might wonder if it's you or the book that's missing something. I enjoyed it but was glad when it ended. It closed with long plot exposition that was either brilliant or completely random and meaningless. Both work well enough. It's Doc Savage, not rocket surgery.

I consider Doc Savage comic books to be colorful toilet paper, novels of the modern era fan fiction, and pulps written by anyone other than Lester Dent requiring an asterisk for content that wasn't approved of or carried forward by Dent. Not that continuity or progression was on the menu, but at least you can look at his output as the official voice of Doc Savage. Also not that Dent's books were written in cultural stone. Faults and bad choices wink at you from the page. Lester Dent was a genius at cranking out decent if not great pulp fiction at speeds close to spontaneous improvising. It's mostly relative and in context, but as a TV series (don't even start on a film) the books they choose would have to ripped apart and put back together to be useable.

Starting with the positives, I enjoyed the whimsical name of the opening chapter; "Tony Quits Laughing", and I'm grateful there's no attractive female day-player for Monk and Ham to eye rape until she gets engaged to someone she meets during the adventure. While it lasted I liked thinking Donovan would be exploring amoral sociopathology as a major plot consideration. For most of the tale the bad guys are not seen and it adds nice touches of dread and horror. At one point three storylines are in play and all are exciting and interesting. As someone with a severe and shameful tropical fish tank fetish my heart quivered with joy that Doc is also a "tanker" not ashamed to be repeatedly "in the tank":

"First of all, you might sit down over here," directed Doc. "Are you interested in tropical fish? I have nearly a hundred varieties in this tank."

"For Heaven's sakes!" gasped Perrin. "I'm telling you I've been robbed of ten hundred carats in diamonds that aren't insured! I'm a ruined man! I'll never get any more work!"

"Yes, I understood all of that," said Doc, quietly. "You are working yourself into an extremely nervous state. If you will sit here and look at the fish, I would like to make a telephone call. I may be able to help you."

"I'll pay you anything—anything you ask!" moaned Perrin.

This technology was so ahead of its time it's still coming into its own in 2015:

"Because no two pairs of human eyes are the same," remarked Doc Savage, quietly. "Eye prints are better than finger prints, for identification. The police will use them some day. Each eye has its own formation of nerves and veins. These show very well in a camera I have used in various forms."

"Eye prints?" gasped John Scroggins. "Hain't never heard o' such!"

A highlight of Doc Savage is when he does and says odd or cryptic things for reasons left for later. They're small touches of creative eccentricity that hopefully pay off in full at some point. They do here even in the midst of the story's creative flights off the rails:

One of the dead man's arms was almost severed by the bullets. Renny gasped. Doc had removed the arm of the corpse. The man of bronze placed the arm in a special container in the monoplane.


He used up several minutes making a microscopic examination of the uncut diamonds. His flaky gold eyes were stirring whirlpools as he finished.

"Most remarkable," he murmured. "John Scroggins is a very deceptive individual. I shall have to seek an interview as soon as possible. Perhaps Harris Hooper Perrin also could tell much."


"You probably will have visitors, Renny," the bronze man announced. "If so, be on your guard. I would suggest you remain in the outer office. Tell them to make themselves at home in the library. They probably will say they want to wait for my return. Explain that I was called out and will return in a short time. If they desire to leave, let them go."

This long scene is very well written and a best-of for the pulp run:

Doc Savage merely smiled and said nothing.

THE pig, Habeas Corpus, was under a bench. He had made the trip back to Manhattan with Doc and Renny. His eyes were dull and cold. Usually they gleamed with vicious humor. He made no resistance when Doc seized him by an ear.

Then the attack began. There was no warning.

It crept upon him from inside his own nerve sources. And it was more difficult to detect than would have been the filling of the room with some odorless poison gas. The overpowering effect of carbon monoxide would not have been more deadly.

At the moment, Doc Savage was most concerned with devising methods of combating the plague of the dulled emotions. Only by this means, could he hope to discover and rescue Johnny, Long Tom and Renny. He was sure these three were under the spell of the undetermined enemy. He was equally positive they were alive.

Doc Savage abruptly discovered himself moving mechanically. He had begun the filling of test tubes. His hands kept at this task in automatic fashion. But suddenly, he had a curious feeling that he was only wasting time.

Why was he doing all of this?

The magnificent bronze head shook on his shoulders. The tendons of his corded neck tightened. Then he sat down and his hands left the tubes. For perhaps two minutes he sat still, staring at the chemicals in the test tubes.

What had he been doing? And why? Oh, yes, he must work fast to save three of his men. That was it.

But why should he save them?

Let them take care of themselves. What was it he had started to do? Habeas Corpus, the pig, grunted as if he were sick.

Why had he wanted the pig?

DOC SAVAGE sat there, staring at the test tubes. His companions, with their own marvelous knowledge in various lines, had been easily overcome. Now the intricate machinery that was the amazing brain of the bronze adventurer was beginning to show an attack on the emotions.

No other person was present. Some insidious poison was creeping along the world's most highly tuned nerves. The flaky gold eyes were becoming cold. Their usual whirlwind depths were becoming quiet.

The great laboratory was very still.

Doc Savage had been fortunate in never knowing the feeling of depression. Now his senses seemed to have congealed. His big hands reached toward the row of test tubes, then they halted in mid-air. The powerful wrists and forearms, like bundles of piano wires wrapped in velvety bronze skin, were strangely inert.

Then, perhaps unconsciously, Doc Savage began his daily exercises. One set of muscles was suddenly strained against another set. The amazing brain took up an involved calculus, mental mathematics requiring the extreme of deductive analysis.

His own hands went to the back of his neck at the base of his bronze-haired skull. The great thumbs dug into the smooth flesh. He pulled his head forward and down. To an observer, it would have appeared that he was attempting to extract his own spinal cord from its protective vertebrae.

From his toes to his scalp, Doc's muscles strained. Where other men had yielded to the power of the mechanical emotions, the bronze giant was grappling with it in his own manner. Again and again, he could begin to feel an arousing of memory and interest in his companions, only to lose it again.

For more than an hour he continued to be an appalling figure. In silence, he was fighting a mysterious invisible force. At times, he was on his feet, swaying like a drunken man. But his powerful fingers never left the back of his neck. The skin was rasped and torn. Blood oozed from his finger nails.

Before the bad, some general items: Monk owns an isolated cottage on Long Island in Shinnecock Hills next to a duck farmer who just by the sheerest of coinkydinces is a major player in the plot of The Men Who Smiled No More. Once again there's a disconnect between text, cover art, and internal art: "The bronze man's hair was only slightly darker than his skin. It lay upon his head like a smooth, metallic mask." Long Tom is described thusly: "The other man looked decidedly unhealthy. He was a pint-size man. It looked as if a violent blow would have killed him. Many had made the mistake of thinking so. For Long Tom, the electrical wizard, was tough enough for two or three average men in a fight." Instead of a utility vest, Doc's clothes are customized with many pockets: "A small vial of chemical came from one of Doc's innumerable pockets. His clothes were filled with small compartments."

What didn't work... The major shortfall is the story's driving plot device of a mental affliction that causes two happy people to become emotionally indifferent and spontaneously violent in service of the Freudian Ego. This is fairly awesome in itself and if carried forward throughout the book the sky's the limit on how great it could have been beyond monthly pulp fiction considerations. Sadly Donovan immediately downgrades the effected to simple automatons who follow orders as if hypnotized. I recognize the need to do this in the name of expedience but as walking random variables the men (and Pat!) who smiled no more (except Pat!) would have added greatly to the storytelling.

In context this bit is weird. Long Tom makes fun of Doc and there's no corpse as the man's unconscious:

"Why would Doc be looking for us?" he said, suddenly. "Is Doc somewhere out here? This is a funny place for him to be. He does get strange notions sometimes."

Long Tom was looking at the red-headed man on the ground. Before Renny could speak, Long Tom said, "I don't see any good reason to be lugging a dead man around. Nobody wants a corpse. He won't be of any use to any one."

Pat shouldn't be cheerful as a zomboid:

"I see a lot of funny, dead ships," announced Pat Savage in a cheerful tone. "It looks almost like some graveyard of the sea."

I'd cut this back to peak human since even the walking sausages who win the world's strongest man competitions don't walk around hoisting 600 pounds like they're packets of Sweet'N Low. Renny's pushing it too.

Doc Savage must have heard these words. But on this trip he was carrying six full sacks of the gritty substance. His mighty muscles conveyed the six hundred pounds as if they were of no importance. Even Renny sweated and strained to equal this feat.

Johnny's a one-note gag that's a permanent problem. With him you have no choice but to open with his pretentious scholarly gibberish and then verbally hit him on the head with a newspaper to get him to stop:

HERE seems to be the locale where the convolutions of the topography formulate a seriatim," drawled the voice of Johnny from the rear seat of the automobile.


The headlight beams knifed around a sharp curve. They picked out the bushes above a ditch. Johnny seemed instantly to forget his long words.

Read enough Doc Savage books and you know everyone takes turns being the only one of the aides who can interpret Johnny's dictionary flexing. When Monk does it you know something's wrong. It's nice that Johnny doesn't embarrass himself like that directly to Doc, but still. For the books it would be better to have Johnny talk in a way most smart people can follow. Nobody in the group repeats what he says in smaller words and the story keeps flowing. This part is nonsensical as a set-up and punch line. Renny's line indicates he knows what Johnny meant, and then Long Tom translates it for Renny as if he didn't understand it at all:

HERE seems to be the locale where the convolutions of the topography formulate a seriatim," drawled the voice of Johnny from the rear seat of the automobile.

"Holy cow!" boomed Renny. "I didn't hit it, did I?"

"Johnny means," said Long Tom, "we have arrived in the Shinnecock Hills. And Doc said for us to get off the highway and wait for him."

Below Doc is expertly inspected for weapons, only to later on, after praying directly to Deus Ex Machina, possess not only chemical weapons under his toe nails but flat metallic objects with levers on the side. I'll let you guess where he extracted these from:

Expert hands stripped away his clothing. Every conceivable pocket was explored. His shoes and hosiery were taken off. There was a mocking laugh as the bronze scalp seemed to be lifted.

This strange denuding of Doc's head was merely removal of the metal bullet-proof cap of bronze he sometimes wore. The knock-out blow he had received when captured, was below this cap. From inside this cap were taken nearly flat metallic objects. These were powerful chemical explosives.

Doc's mouth was pried open. False caps were taken from two teeth. Great care was taken in handling the small objects inside these teeth caps. Apparently, the captors of the bronze man were highly intelligent. They were well informed as to Doc's defensive fighting devices.

After a thorough search, only one garment was provided. This was like a pair of shorts. Otherwise, the bronze man was left a naked, awe-inspiring figure.


 One hand flicked down to his bare feet. He appeared to pull loose both of his great toe nails. These were false nails smoothly inserted over the others. It had been from under four such other false nails that the capsules of flash chemical had come.

 THE first capsules had been deftly thrust under the coils of the electric cable. The first person to move that cable had set them off. But the objects now in Doc's hand were not capsules.

They were flat metallic objects. Each had a little lever on the side.

Around the bronze giant, the bodies of the human robots were being perforated by the machine-gun fire. The Big Brain, master of these helpless men, was sparing none in his fiendish desire to annihilate Doc Savage and his outfit.

Doc set the two small levers. He waited perhaps two seconds. Then the two metallic objects shot up through the hatchway of the ship. One must have let go as it struck the spot where the machine gun was being operated.

The ancient deck of the old whaler appeared to divide. The old hulk shook as if it would fall apart. Doc himself was hurled from his feet. The force of the explosion had been upward. But all of the air seemed to be sucked from inside the old ship.

The John Scroggins character is a mess. It's bad enough Monk, Mr. Dese-Dems-Dose, is a genius industrial chemist. Now this toothless hillbilly who talks like this is also a chemical savant. Maybe chemistry and classless illiteracy are somehow linked: 

"He got so dang scared an' left here so fast, I'll bet he hain't stoppin' this side o' the Canadian border!"


"Reckon you had me fooled plenty, Doc Savage," he said. "Them thar di'mons you gimme wa'n't none of them we'd made. But how'd you know what was behind all of this foolery?"

Scroggins is a bad guy and maybe not also a bad guy? It's weak sauce but in this sequence Scroggins kills a man and Doc's cool with it:

"Reckon I told you there hain't no livin' man could ever beat Doc Savage!" whanged a nasal voice. "An' you got it comin' for all the dang meanness you done me an' other folks!"

Two brief explosions splattered their echoes upon the murky fog. A gurgling scream was drowned by the splashing of a body over the side of the wrecked old ship.

Pat Savage shivered and put one hand over her mouth.

"Retributive justice," stated Doc Savage. "John Scroggins is not the murderer you may think he is."

The gaunt man loomed before them. In his hands was the still-smoking double-barreled shotgun.

"I would now throw the gun into the bay, John Scroggins," advised Doc Savage. "The man who stole your secret of manufacturing synthetic diamonds and used the chemical formula for revenge and murder, has paid fully for his treachery."

John Scroggins obediently heaved the shotgun into the water. His one cocked eye jumped about rapidly.

Correcting the book would require a better handling of John Scroggins to make him more sympathetic to where the killing of his tormentor is the result of a sequence of events and makes sense, or at least don't have Doc give him a thumbs up to it. Make Scroggins less the angry toothless redneck and more tortured genius doing things against his will. The plot summary was as complicated as it was convenient. Monk owning a place next to Scroggins is a stretch. If you rip apart the story you can have Doc get a line on the mystery and then have Monk rent a place close by. It would take a bit of tweaking to make the behavior of the afflicted minds consistent. What would really be sweet is to have everyone afflicted like Smiling Tony and Simon Stevens in the opening chapters. Sociopaths you can't fully control would have been epic.

039 - The Seven Agate Devils:


"Murder on an international scale was being committed by a sinister mastermind. His method — an unusual, inescapable form of death. His trademark — a small statuette next to the corpse. The Man of Bronze and his fearless friends do battle with the thieving, murderous spawn from Hell — and become marked men themselves!"

[Update: I just read this was written by a Mr. Martin E. Baker with an assist from Lester Dent]


"The Seven Agate Devils" from May, 1936. It's not a horrible book but it's a general mess, with a payoff that must have made no sense as it was first written, and which could have been improved before publication but wasn't.


The Will Murray historical summation in #41 of the Sanctum reprints paints this novel and Lester Dent's efforts to utilize ghost writers as frustrating failures. Norma Dent remembers her husband's experience as "I heard him say, many a time, that it would have been easier for him to have written them in the first place." Murray writes of Dent's attempt to breed a pond of ghost writing fish, "As near as we can piece the story together, Lester was attempting to pile up Doc Savage novels while looking at other opportunities." I imagine Dent's relationship with pulp fiction was akin to Stan Lee's view on comic books - in that they were embarrassed to work in literature's gutters. I do know the pace of a book a month is insane in itself so when I call a Doc Savage novel bad it's not like I could ever write one in a month (or 47).


"The Seven Agate Devils" features Monk more than anyone but the novel isn't about him. He's just being beaten up and running around a lot being at best marginally effective. Here's proof to those so inclined to believe the aides serve little purpose beyond getting in trouble and requiring rescue. Only Ham and Monk are in this one so I award six Lazy Points. Ham and Monk are the default aides but they're also in a way the most poorly defined, and Ham's a putz who fondles and unsheathes his sword cane to the same effect as Barney Fife reaching into his breast pocket for the bullet he's allowed to carry for an emergency. Every month Monk sustains a few concussions, so by the end of this novel you'd think he'd be gone by the next one due to Dementia Puglilistica. Radiation also plays a major part of the story, as do many others. I don't see how Doc made it past 1938 because of radiation poisoning.


Doc Savage himself is an Ubermensch (a good thing) but there's times he's also just going along to see where the ride takes him, and he expresses Average Joe reactions. Doc's both five chess moves ahead and not much so in the same space. The narration and action contradict themselves.


Pro Tip #9: When a guest star named something like Slappy Pappy Joe or Wentworth Fuzzlebottom III gets killed abruptly off-screen (book version) towards the end of a novel it means he's the leader of the bad guys.


Have you noticed there's rarely anything truly glamorous in Doc Savage books? The Empire State Building and large aircraft are stated to be impressive but the Doc Savage world is highly utilitarian and the places Doc and Co. wind up in are mostly dirty old splinter and tetanus traps. Dent gives no attention to clothing beyond how they highlight a woman's features or quickly help define someone's personality. Ham is a fop, Monk is a circus clown, and Johnny is an undertaker. Renny and Long Tom wear whatever's clean. You'd think Dent would give more attention to Doc's clothing but he obviously didn't give an excrement.

Pro Tip #312: When a large sedan is barreling towards a man tied to a pole you can save said individual by kicking the car's front tire with both feet.


The pig and monkey are annoying on every level and whenever I read a Doc Savage fan's input on how they have to be in a Doc Savage movie I ball up my widdle fists and shake them not at the warped ceiling above me but the universe beyond it. I skip through any scene involving Arnold Ziffel or Dunstan.


Yeah, the ending. The setup of bodies being ripped apart and a small red agate statue of a devil found at the scene is one of the better if not self-defining gimmicks, but the payoff didn't even make sense within its own context. They screwed up the method of propulsion to where even I laughed, and I'm a science idiot!


I do give the story credit for drawing me in so I always felt like I was standing there taking it all in. I spent a lot of that time pondering the tale's choices, but at least I wasn't bored to distraction.

040 - Haunted Ocean:

"An awesome power haunts the sea, paralyzes New York City and brings the most powerful nations of the world to their knees. Deep in the frozen Arctic an astonishing army of naked men and the forces of international greed challenge the invincible Man of Bronze for the strange secret of the so-called Man of Peace!"

A fellow named Mark Carpenter at sums up this one perfectly:

"'Haunted Ocean' starts strong, but then collapses into a typically incoherent Donovan mess. The man simply could not write understandable action scenes. There are huge sections of this book where it's virtually impossible to tell what's going on. The situation isn't helped by Donovan's infuriating habit of crash-landing new characters into the story without the slightest bit of context or background (I challenge anyone to tell me who the hell Zarkov and Larrone were). But the story's biggest problem is that the nature of the "power of light" is never explained — the reader is never told just exactly what haunts the ocean!"

From June of 1936, Lawrence Donovan once again goes long on ambition and short on knowing what the hell he's doing. Haunted Ocean stalls early once this scene is nicely played out:

New York at eight o’clock in the morning was going about its customary business. In the eighty-sixth floor headquarters of Doc Savage could be heard the humming thunder of the active city.

So great and constant is this roar of traffic, its beat ceases to be recorded by the ears of the average New Yorkers. These waves of sound were rolling up when Hjalmar Landson staggered to his death in Doc Savage’s corridor.

Now another wave arose. More appalling perhaps than anything else that could happen. It was an abrupt wave of silence.

Comparative silence, but an absence of sound, nevertheless. For shouting voices, even screaming crowds in suddenly halted subway trains, on stopped elevated coaches, flowing from thousands of automobiles blocking the streets, hardly registered after the customary thunder of traffic had died.

New York had stopped. Stopped, paralyzed.

Congestion and panic in the subways were the worst. The trains had stopped. All lights went out. Thousands of workers were trapped in Stygian darkness. Perhaps thousands would have been killed here and on the elevated, where they were pouring from halted trains, had the third rails still been working.

Motormen and guards tried ineffectually to prevent the maddened crowds from seeking to escape along the tracks. The guards were overwhelmed. Crowds streamed toward the stairs leading to the streets.

Doc Savage and his companions looked from a window down into the canyon of the street far below.

"Looks like one of those slow motion pictures," observed Ham. "Look, Doc! Every automobile has stopped!"

Bewildered masses crowded into doorways. Their white faces were lifted toward the blue sky. Many seemed to believe this might be Judgment Day.

"The thing is complete," stated Doc. "Our lights are gone. All electrical current has been stopped."

After that there's a series of chapters where Doc gets himself into situations where power goes out and he's stuck in a powered vehicle. Then he's in a remote part of Norway where the people are a few steps above cavemen in how they react to any technology above fire and rifles, and on top of that they're post-primitive superstitious. But not really because a bunch of them man submarines and Knut Aage is the Norwegian simple fisherman equal of Doc Savage in his brains, aura, and honor. Action takes place in Norway that's impossible to follow as the scene descriptions switch from what might be either caves, rivers, fields, or ravines to a combination of all of them as a bigger maybe. Visualizing the action is difficult, but not as much as a place where ice moves on an open ledge and will crush people except right below said ledge there's a large body of water where submarines run free. Plus there's a bunch of Norwegians with their blood removed and replaced with a gas, except there's no reason to do that. The technology of the power mystery is revealed but not how it was deployed in the opening scenes.

Starting with the indifferent, Donovan says the riverfront warehouse is a series of hangars and not just the one big building. Moving up to the positive the technology is solar power utilizing the science magic of selenium, a vitamin supplement. Veering off into the scandalous, Doc revives a drowned lady by taking off most of his own clothes, ordering Monk to remove all her clothes, sending Monk off somewhere, and then doing something to the naked lady while he's mostly naked that revives her in five minutes:

Doc Savage was stripping off nearly all of his clothing.

"Get off her furs and the rest of her clothing," he ordered Monk. "We can save her without a fire."

Doc Savage might have added that only his great surgical skill could accomplish what might otherwise have been impossible. Monk’s awkward hands trembled, but he clicked his teeth grimly and went to work.

While Monk was preparing the girl, Doc did some exercises that restored his own circulation.

The red-headed girl lay on her face. Monk applied what he knew of first aid. This was having little effect.

"Monk, you will go to the first of the skin huts in the village," directed Doc. "You will find some are unoccupied. Take the driest skins and bring them back."

For Monk, this was a welcome mission.

Doc Savage had become the great surgeon. Monk had dropped his own outer furs. Within five minutes, Lora Krants gave a great sobbing breath.

A good line:

The girl was red-headed. The hair was naturally and vividly red. Her deep-brown eyes were sparkling with menace. Undoubtedly she was scared, but being red-headed, she intended doing something about it.

A nice Ham insult in a book where Ham & Monk are d-bags to each other:

She ceased speaking. The door was silently opening. At some other time, Monk would have enjoyed this immensely. The electroscope mechanism in the door had been operated by radio control.

The red-headed girl breathed quickly, but recovered herself.

"Go on in!" she directed. "All right, Barton! You can put away your gun! I can handle him!"

Doc Savage was standing in the door of the library. Neither his features nor his eyes expressed any surprise. But behind him loomed the sharp features of Ham, the lawyer. Ham let out a delighted yell.

"Now isn’t that somethin’!" he said, sarcastically. "Lady, where did you catch it?"

Interesting political consideration:

This was to be a pact that would include not disarmament of any nation, but the immediate super-armament of the six member nations against all others. Six governments had decided the time had come for them to take a stand for peace against the world.

In brief, they were planning such powerful navies, air fleets and armies as to make a war threat from others impossible. The six great nations had decided to become world police.


The engineer picked out the man who had spoken. One fist traveled in a wide arc. It was a haymaker that landed the man five yards away. Renny backed up to the truck.

The giant had no special rules about fighting. In less than half a minute he had piled six or seven men in a heap.

Self-nullifying punch line Johnny gets a funny reaction:

Now Johnny said, "In no other locale has there ever been such opalescent radiation, even in the summer. At that time, the continuous solar suspension above the horizon produces streams of light from all parts of the periphery which diffuses vertically over the hemisphere."

"Jolly well put, Mr. Littlejohn!" replied a ruddy-faced man with a drooping gray mustache. "If I were not feeling so fearfully peckish, I might appreciate the thought. By jove, it will go tough with these blighters when His Majesty’s navy arrives!"

The man was Sir Arthur Westcott, British member of the abducted war commission. He had not the slightest idea what Johnny had been talking about. But he had everlasting faith in the British navy.

Haunted Ocean fails big and often. It confounds the mind in so many ways. The Norwegian fishermen scenes and the evil lair action are difficult to visualize as Donovan is unable to express what he sees correctly on paper. There's no reason why Johnny should be part of a six nation delegation to determine if these countries should go full steam ahead on military expenditures. If anyone of the crew should do this as a story expedience it would be Ham, but Ham needs to argue with Monk so an archeologist is America's rep for a major military and political decision?

It's an amazing convenience that everything Monk and Doc need to fight the bad guys is available in the needed amounts on a submarine that has no reason to have these things:

Monk was engaged in mixing half a dozen chemicals in metal containers. The apelike chemist had seemed to forget their mission and all of its danger. For they had discovered a completely outfitted laboratory aboard the mystery craft of the peace power.

Also amazing was the ability to fabricate glass for this, and also lucky they didn't break on their own because they're two piece of thin glass strapped to the inside of Doc's knees:

And as Doc walked up the stairs, his knees rubbed slowly together.

The eyes sighting along the rifle barrels were all within a few yards. Kama’s men were enclosed in the cold, icy cavern.

The crushing of fragile glass could hardly have been heard. Some steam arose from the icy water in the cavern. The vapor slowly spreading along the stairs around Doc Savage might have been mistaken for that.

Bullet-proof garments literally repel bullets like they're rubber bands:

The bronze giant understood the words. They were an order to kill. Doc kept his hands uplifted.

From the rocks guns started snarling. Some were rifles that cracked viciously. Leaden shot and bullets hailed into the space.

Doc Savage held his head in a bowed position to protect his face. Lead pounded onto his bared bronze head. Bullets whammed into his magnificent torso.

But the bronze man’s pace was unaltered. He must have seemed to the simple, superstitious fishermen like a real devil, or a god of the sea. He was impervious to their bullets.

Doc’s body was sheathed in bullet-proof garments of finest chain mesh. This extended to his knees under his other clothing.

The bronze hair in view was on the outside of a skullcap of thin, but impenetrable metal alloy. The leaden bullets and fine shot flattened on this surface.

It was terrifying. This immense bronze giant walking toward them. One charge of shot blasted from an old-fashioned gun. All of it splattered squarely into Doc’s breast. Yet he neither faltered nor staggered.

Why did Doc have this ingredient in his pocket, of all places?:

Doc could only depend upon Monk’s knowledge of chemistry to bring the glass fish to the surface. Apparently Monk had been unable to apply the lifting gas. Doc Savage remembered an oversight.

The final chemical combination, the key to the production of the gas, was now in his own pocket. He had expected to be gone only a minute or two.

Monk was powerless to bring the glass fish from the bottom of the fjord.

Slow death by ice flow is nasty, but I'm thinking the ice would shear off the chains where they were attached to the wall the ice was crawling against, and how can this be happening when it's taking place on a ledge above a big open area? It defies all considerations:

The others were getting the picture. They would be crushed slowly. One by one they would go. First the ice would touch. Then its weight would begin pushing.

The prisoner would strain away in his manacles. The chains would hold him against the ice. His body would be pressed the fraction of an inch at a time between the wall and the glacier.

Don't ask me why the bad guys go on a suicide mission when they ram Doc's sub with their own, and why Monk brought Stupid Pig on a mission involving possible death. Keep the pets in NYC and use them sparingly as light entertainment. Putting them in danger all the time is animal abuse.

041 - The Black Spot:

"All the guests were dressed as gangsters, and their millionaire host was dead in the library with a black spot over his heart. Then the Black Spot struck again. And again. The Man of Bronze and his courageous crew leap into action against Jingles Sporado and his mob - but they soon suspect a peril far beyond that of normal gangsterism."

Lawrence Donovan once again goes long on ambition and comes up short on feasibility in July, 1936's The Black Spot. He's a decent writer who goes both for easy outs and unforced errors - and it comes across as laziness meeting an incomplete talent. The Black Spot is as equally a good reading experience as it is a bad one.

Donovan punts on first down in the resolution of his story's mystery premise of death by all the blood in a human body thickening and turning black. Doc's keen eyes detect microscopic lines in a perfectly formed black circle directly over the heart. It strikes in locked rooms guarded by rough men with guns. It can't be avoided or stopped! So how is it resolved? How's the science and mystery explained?:

So, when he came into possession of a new electro-chemical device, that we shall call the black spot, he set out to avenge his father’s death and his losses.

Show's over. Good night everyone. Drive safe! The laziness is breathtaking. It's annoying that Doc orders his men to sit on their hands and do nothing, to keep them safe without telling them why. At least have them do things removed from prime danger spots. As if they couldn't die at any moment on any past adventure.

Doc as Dear Leader (North Korea style) is cultishly entertaining. The first one didn't adequately take into account how much radiation and literary imperative had mutated Doc since the first issue:

ABOUT this time Doc Savage paused in the middle of his luxurious front office. Standing alone, he was an amazing figure of bronze. He was well above six feet in height. His weight scaled over two hundred pounds, but he was so symmetrically proportioned he resembled a carved statue.


Doc Savage’s own motors were as silent as engineering could make them. But his own acute ears detected the sudden hissing of two engines. None other could have heard them. Doc’s features broke into a slight smile of understanding.


So acute were the ears of the bronze man, the rasping of air through lungs came to him plainly, he could even identify persons he had known, from the different rhythm of their lungs.


Doc reared to his feet. Stripped of his upper garments, he was a magnificent figure. The torn cheek and welted head only made him a more terrifying object. He got to the telephone. He had hoped to reach his men, or at least warn the watchmen at the hangars.

On a better note I appreciate when Doc Savage books does Fan Service right. While Doc and his crew (except for Ham's drag king fetish) lack ego and guile it's nice to know who's who and what's what:

Red nodded. He had no reason especially to obey Doc’s suggestion. But nearly all persons discovered they wanted to do what the bronze man requested. Red was considerably under the spell of the golden giant.


Ham strode into the newspaper filing room. Monk lingered. He looked as if he didn’t know what to do with his hands. The big chemist looked around at the laden shelves of technical books. The reference woman looked at him pityingly. Very apparently, she considered this ugly, apelike man much out of place in such surroundings.

She would have regretted her pity, had she known that some of the chemical textbooks on her shelves had been written by Monk.

Of course everyone who's not a criminal will respond (positively) to Doc Savage. He's streets ahead of simple celebrity. In combination he's the smartest, richest, strongest, best looking, most accomplished person in the world. Even if you don't know who he is he draws attention like moths to a flame. You can safely say that whatever was going on in a room stopped when Doc Savage walked in.

Unforced error is unforced! Doc smiles and knocks the bomb into the pool, only to potentially blame the chauffeur if Jotther died:

Among other small devices, he held a polished, globule like a marble in one dark hand. The chauffeur noticed a little metal lever. Doc was watching him with a slight smile. The chauffeur gently lifted this little lever.

Doc’s hand moved with incredible speed. His flat palm struck the chauffeur’s knuckles. The blow knocked the marblelike globe into the air. It flew across the lawn and descended toward the artificial pond.

Immediately, it seemed as if a cyclone had descended in the middle of the Spade estate. Several tons of water lifted into the air. The small island with its Japanese shrubbery was buried by the terrific blast. The water scattered and fell like rain over the lawns.


Also, Captain Graves was still hunting Arthur Jotther. Doc Savage wondered grimly if Jotther would ever be found. If he had not escaped from the island in the pond, the chauffeur’s curiosity had been Jotther’s finish.

The whimsy on this one was nice, reminding me of a line from Law & Order: Criminal Intent, "He only shopped when he was drunk, and he only bought what made him laugh.":

"I’ll help you all I can, Mathers," replied Doc. "In return, if you escape death, you will donate a sum I designate to a children’s hospital in Manhattan."

"How much—I don’t care—how much?"

"It will be an odd amount figured to pennies," stated Doc.

Mr. Mathers stared at Doc. He closed his lips grimly.

This observation too had the whimsy:

The car Doc entered was jammed with shoppers. Half the persons in the car were clinging to straps. They held on with one hand and clutched inevitable newspapers and books in the other. New Yorkers are perhaps the world’s greatest readers in public.

Donovan goes to the well once too often with anesthetic gasses and voice imitations. When I get around to writing my own Doc Savage fan fiction he and half of Manhattan will explode after Doc accidentally bumps into the side of a desk:

But Doc was not wearing any false molars. He was removing only two, and these were simply cleverly screwed on caps. They came loose quickly. From inside each cap, Doc took two small glass pills—or they seemed to be that. He held one in each hand. Then he strolled soundlessly toward the connecting door.

The aperture under the door was an even inch of space.

Doc pushed his hands into the crack under the door. He drew in a long full breath. Then his thumbs and fingers pressed together. Between them, the small glass capsules were crushed.

The anaesthetic gas in these capsules acted so swiftly that Jingles was not given time to replace the phone. The mob leader was slipping to the floor. Silky Joe looked at him. He, too, seemed to go to sleep on his feet.


But Doc’s heels had come close together. The inner bones of his ankles touched each other. The train stopped. The doors were beginning to slide open. Doc’s ankles came firmly together. One rubbed against the other.

The man of bronze had inhaled deeply. He was not breathing now.

Getting back to good things, Donovan doesn't shy away from the morbidly fascinating:

Doc pulled the soggy body of the dead guard onto dry ground. From the bronze man’s clothes came the leather case. He set his flashlight so its pencil ray was concealed by thick water-edge bushes.

This was a strange operating room. But within five minutes Doc had laid bare the brain and heart of the dead man. He had made a highly skilled incision through the skull. The pencil light revealed in detail the tissue structure of the brain.


Jingles and Silky Joe walked out. They were convinced the great Doc Savage was dead.

As the door closed, Doc Savage moved slowly. From under each armpit came a small block of wood. The pulse in his wrists had indeed stopped. The wooden blocks had been clamped against the large artery of each arm. They had acted as tourniquets. The blood had stopped pumping from the heart into the arms during the moment Jingles and Silky Joe had been feeling for the pulse.

This scene was excellent:

A bullet plowed across Doc’s hand. Doc glanced down. The black, greasy surface of the river was a hundred feet below. The bronze giant tensed his muscles. He gave a tremendous backward leap, turning over in mid-air.

The giant figure shot toward the water. Doc saw the sunken pile too late to evade it. This was a submerged spike of timber. His body was falling directly toward it. When only a few feet above the sinister finger, Doc threw himself forward.

He did not miss the sunken pile altogether. The slimy timber struck his skull a glancing blow. Doc felt his weight carrying him to the bottom. His muscles seemed paralyzed. When he hit bottom, he attempted to shove weakly with his feet. Then his senses faded out.

Doc was unconscious when his body reached the surface. He was among the piling under the loft building. A trapdoor had been opened in the lower floor. Rough hands seized the man of bronze and pulled him from the water.

Logic died with this one since the Black Death killer was having no problems killing whomever he wanted whenever he wanted, and he was backed by Jingle's gang of seasoned thugs:

Doc realized fully from Jingle’s words, the cleverness of the brain behind the murders. The shrewd boss killer intended to wipe out all of Doc’s men at one time, to prevent any survivor discovering his identity or wreaking revenge.

Ham's sword cane with the anesthetic tip is not a real world item since a sword is a long knife and you can't control one like Zatoichi. Because Zatoichi isn't real and according to the Wold Newton death cult Doc Savage is. Ham tries to slightly jab and his sword gets stuck in a wall, so in flesh that would have stabbed him but good:

Ham jabbed his sword blade at a man in the darkness. The tip struck wood and stuck there. Ham was trying to wrench it free.

Pat's Susquehanna Hat Company:

Pat always became madder when she was called redheaded. Though she couldn’t breathe, she dug an elbow into the man’s ribs. They crashed against a door. This led to the basement stairs. It was unlocked and it swung open.

"Hi. I'm not home right now. But if you want to leave a message, just start talking at the sound of the tone." - Laurie Anderson:

UP on the eighty-sixth floor of New York’s most impressive skyscraper, a slight buzzing started.

A voice spoke mechanically.

"This is a robot speaking. You are advised Doc Savage is absent. But any message you care to deliver will be recorded on a dictaphone and will come to Doc Savage’s attention later. You may proceed with whatever you wish to say."

Nice use of powder:

Doc knew some heavy object had been dragged across the carpet. Probably it was a man’s body. The glowing trail led to the wall. But there was no door there, and no closet. Only a flat bookcase.

The powder Doc had distributed was a chemical formula of his own composition. This fluoresced with the slowly rising nap of the carpet where it had been recently disturbed.

Doc Savage denying Stepin Fetchit a paycheck:

"Yassah," said the cabby. "Ah knows de place. Follows Fust Avenue to de Queens Bridge? Yassah."

The battered taxi clattered and banged into Manhattan. Crossing a Harlem River bridge from the Bronx, it swung over toward the East River water front. Silky Joe did not give his final directions until they had entered a section where towering loft buildings and warehouses blocked the front.

First Avenue carried heavy traffic at this hour. Many private cars dodged in and out among the trucks and taxis. Nearly all were headed for the Queensboro Bridge. The sedan in which the changed Attorney Stevens was riding was not far behind the taxi driven by the huge Negro.

"This says you didn’t have any fare outside the Bronx today," said Silky Joe, extending a ten-spot. "And some of the boys may be wanting to hire you once in a while if you keep your nose clean. If you don’t, maybe nobody will be hiring you. Understand?"

"Yassah! Oh, yassah!" The driver rolled his eyes.

The Black Spot is another glorious mess from Lawrence Donovan. I tend to enjoy them even if every so often my eyes roll in my head like a slot machine.

042 - The Midas Man:

"Riches beyond the wealth of kings were within the evil grasp of The Midas Man. His very thoughts were worth criminal millions — no man could escape his evil device. But he hadn’t counted on the power for good of Doc Savage!"

"Lookit!" he bawled. "Old King Trouble himself!"

The word "midas" doesn't appear anywhere in this August, 1936 adventure, and nothing gets turned to gold. There is a mind-reading machine which transfers thoughts into the listener's head like they're his own, and that's neat even if it's underutilized if not dramatically hyped up enough in what winds up being a small story made more boring than it deserves to be. Upon reflection the story's not as much boring as it's padded with descriptive language that borders on surreal:

The fellow had not stirred and would not for at least an hour to come. Doc Savage picked him up and carried him to a niche in the wall which was concealed by vines. The niche proved to be perhaps about three feet in depth, the same in width and high enough for even Doc Savage to stand erect.

While the wall around the house was manifestly very old, this niche seemed to have been constructed more recently, within the past few weeks, judging from the appearance of the mortar. The rear was a wooden door—unlocked, fortunately...

The old house looked even larger than it had from a distance. The ramshackle aspect seemed to have increased somewhat. It could be noted, however, that the shingles were intact on the roof, and that, while the shutters were, in some cases, loose and even hanging by as little as a single hinge, the windows were all unbroken. Moreover, none of the siding was loose. As a matter of fact, the house was in good condition, except for paint and minor repairs.

Zzzzzzzzzzzz... The closing kerfuffle is pretty good, especially when Monk does what might be the most Monk thing ever:

A gun slammed so close to Doc Savage’s ear that he was almost deafened.

The jug [of Hydrocyanic acid] came to pieces in Hando Lancaster’s hands. Since he was holding the thing above his head at the moment, the contents deluged him, splashed over the floor.

Hando Lancaster screamed as only a man can scream when he knows he is going to die. He spun and fled. He did not, however, get far, before he went down, still shrieking—to have convulsions on the floor and eventually to die.

 DOC SAVAGE scooped up the flashlight and spun to confront Monk, who was holding a smoking revolver.

"Why didn’t you wait until the thing was thrown, when no one would have been killed?" Doc Savage demanded.

"Who do you think I am, Annie Oakley?" Monk snorted. "I was lucky to hit that jug when he was holding it still in his hand."

There's no reason for an electrified steel plate over the underground storage room, and Doc assuming three disguises in a row is too much of a good thing I rarely accept as valid. Explosive bullets and grenades are a major feature and that's always a plus. Stupid Ape & Dumb Pig are dragged along for animal abuse value.

The Midas Man can be a dull read but at least it has the basic elements and plot points of a decent adventure, so it wouldn't take much work to punch it up and make it less narcoleptic.


There was, of course, a simple explanation for the mechanism of the door’s lock. Unnoticed in the palm of one hand, the bronze man carried an electromagnet. The door handle itself was of nonmagnetic brass, concealed in which was a steel plunger, well oiled. A tiny spring kept this shoved in where it engaged the lock mechanism, blocking its operation. Under the influence of the electromagnet, the bolt was drawn out against the pressure of the weak spring, leaving the lock free to operate when the door handle was turned.


"Jove!" exploded Ham. "Johnny used some of that invisible chalk which is only brought out by ultra-violet light."

"The metal caps of his shoe laces hold some of the stuff," Doc Savage agreed. "He must have gotten the opportunity to pull the cap off a shoe lace and write this message."


[Good description of the Flea Run] Back into the laboratory, Doc raced, Ham at his heels. The bronze man opened a hidden panel, one which Ham had not touched in his passage to the hall. This one gave admission to a bullet-shaped cage, the interior of which was padded and equipped with straps for hanging on. The thing was not large...

Doc closed the hatches of the bullet-like car, and touched a lever. The results were astounding. There was a loud moan of compressed air and machinery. The car sank like a plummet. A few moments later, there was a violent wrench as the car changed its course. It was like a pea being shot through the barrel of a blowgun. The noise was ear-splitting. Conversation was impossible. Then the effects of braking mechanism could be felt. The car slowed. With a clank, it stopped, and Doc Savage opened the hatch. They stepped out.

A few seconds before, they had been on the top floor of the skyscraper, but their surroundings now were vastly different. It was a huge building of brick, of steel—Doc Savage’s water-front airplane hangar and boathouse.


Doc Savage took the binoculars for a moment. They were fully twice as long as the largest ordinary field glasses, and their magnifying power was a good deal more than twice as great. They had, in fact, the strength of a small celestial telescope.


"I have guessed who that man is!" said Sylvan Niles. She pulled in a long, shaky breath.

"We’ve been fooling with dynamite!" said Hando Lancaster.

"Worse than that!"


[Olde-Timey Research] To each brokerage office, he put the same request.

"Give me the names of your customers who have made killings on the stock exchange recently?"

His average of answers was not much more than fifty per cent. Some brokers declared they would not answer such a question without a court order, even after Doc Savage explained his identity. Others declared it would take time to assemble such a list. But about half had the information available, and were familiar enough with Doc Savage’s reputation to comply with his request.


[Doc was big on non-specific warnings that led to the deaths of many bad guys] Doc had an ironclad rule that no human life was to be taken by himself or his men on any occasion, whatever the provocation. Monk, the truth was, had his own idea of what should happen to gentlemen of Hando Lancaster’s ilk.


"Don’t you know any little ones?" He held up a hand with thumb and forefinger separated about half an inch. "Little ones about that long? Words, I mean."..

"There!" growled the man with the pliers. "That’s what I mean! No more of them words! Them jawbreakers! For every big word you use, we’re gonna pull one of your teeth. A tooth for each word we can’t understand! Savvy?"


The monocle was an elaborate one. The concave side of the frame was engraved with what, from a distance of a few feet, looked like ornamental scroll-work, but on closer examination this proved to be lettering:



"Johnny has all his monocles engraved that way, in case they get lost," Ham reminded. "Something has happened to him!"


[Weird] He scuttled out. His arms had a peculiar habitual movement when he walked, as if he were rolling himself along in a wheel chair.


"There’s a rumor that he don’t ever kill anybody," explained the other. "But he does somethin’ queer to ‘em. I know a guy that had a brother that this bronze guy got. My pal later met his own brother on the street. The poor guy didn’t even know him. He’d had somethin’ queer done to him."


[Wait'll they hear about Doc's Crime college!] Doc Savage neglected to explain to the police just what had put every one to sleep. The police knew nothing of the existence of his unusual gas. To tell them what had happened would have caused needless complications. Even Doc Savage’s influence would not have preserved him from questioning and, perhaps, criticism. He avoided possible difficulties by keeping still.


[That's new] This hangar was as much a secret as it was possible to keep it. Outer appearance of the building differed little from other water-front structures, being a huge edifice of grimy brick. It was erected on a pier. Across the front a sign said simply:



[More like A City Of Consequences] THE State of New Jersey has an unusual distribution of inhabitants. Directly across the Hudson River from New York City and a bit to the southwest, is Newark, a metropolis, a city of consequence.


He moved her head, holding her eyes open. The inactivity of her eyeballs during this operation proved that she was genuinely senseless.


[Doc never sends a stranger with a message] "You left me with Monk, young Alex Mandebran, and that pig, Habeas, in front of the Miners’ Building," she said. "We had only been there a few moments, when a man came along knocked on the car window and said he had a message from you. Monk opened the door. The man managed to keep the door open while other men ran up. They grabbed us."


"I am disappointed!" said the young woman. "It looks as if you went to the zoo for your assistants!"


"It operates on a perfectly sound principle," Doc Savage said, adjusting the knobs. "It is well known to scientists, and has been for some time, that tiny electrical currents are generated in the human brain. These currents are infinitesimal, only millionth parts of volts."...

More moments of waiting ensued. Johnny began to wear an air of intense concentration. Finally, his jaw began to sag.

"I’ll be superamalgamated!" he exploded.

"You are beginning to see how it works?" Doc Savage asked him.

"I certainly am!" Johnny replied. "I don’t hear anything or see anything. A series of thoughts just pass through my mind! I know darn well they’re not my thoughts, because I don’t know anything about the subjects with which they are concerned!"

The bronze man nodded. "The device on Hando Lancaster’s head is a supersensitive antenna," he said. "It picks up the electric field created by his thought waves. They are amplified and—through the transmitter antenna which you are wearing—implanted upon the nerves in the cells of your own brain."

"Simple!" said Johnny, dizzily.

"That is only the roughest kind of an explanation," Doc Savage assured him. "Actually, the process is highly involved, amazingly complicated. But that is substantially how it is done."

043 - Cold Death:

"Doc Savage meets his most merciless adversary — VAR, the faceless fiend whose strange voice announces a terrible mandate of destruction! VAR, who wields the deadly Cold Light, and dares hurl the ultimate challenge at Doc and his mighty crew — A fight to the death with the world at stake!"

"Hold ‘er, Ham!" he bellowed. "Dag-gone it, shyster! I’m comin’!"

If you want the short sentence plus question mark and exclamation point review of Laurence Donovan's  September, 1936 contribution to the Doc Savage catalog - - "What the holy hell what that?!" If this is really his best Doc Savage novel I fear the day I read his worst.

After two intriguing opening chapters, Cold Death becomes a hot mess of unfathomable, incoherent, illogical, nonsensical, fantastical, indecipherable, incomplete, random, and perplexing. If any of these words overlap it doesn't matter because the list begs to be longer. It's difficult to retain the core of the story as many things happen in isolation that add up to little besides something that's hard to reconcile. I have no idea if Cold Death is good or bad as it exemplifies Wolfgang Pauli's phrase "That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!", made flesh in Billy Madison:

"Mr. Madison, what you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response, were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

To get out of the way what Cold Death places in its plus column, it creates visual danger on a grand scale:

THE six-story block designated by Var instantly ceased to exist. In its place arose an intense blue cloud. This was seen by those at a distance as a gigantic pyramid with a pointed apex reaching toward the sky. The blueness of the sky seemed dim in comparison to the color of the geometrically formed blast of vapor.

From this leaping, single tongue, wreckage spewed over many surrounding blocks.

The island of Manhattan swayed. New York was given a brief demonstration of what it feels like to be caught in an earthquake.

Renny brings a tear to the eye of every Bro-Code Of Bronze member in this scene that might also qualify as Slash Fiction:

The bronze man moved closer. He was only about eight feet from the doorway. Renny moaned under the tape. He reared to his heels. He lunged forward, heaving his big body directly toward the concealed death plates.

In his loyalty to the bronze man, the giant engineer counted his own life a slight sacrifice. If he could only strike the hidden peril in such manner as to prevent Doc Savage being electrocuted, Renny felt it would be much more than worth the price.

Instinct developed in many situations of extreme danger, brought instant understanding to Doc. As Renny hurled himself toward the doorway, Doc’s own springy body left the floor.

The almost simultaneous action of the two men carried their leaping bodies clear of the floor. They were, for the moment, as agile and fast as two great apes of the jungle. Two bodies cannot remain suspended for more than the fraction of a second. Renny, knowing the truth, groaned deeply in mid-air. He had accomplished nothing. Doc would die along with him. The striking of their weight would make the fatal contact.

Chapter 1 is about a card slipped in Doc's pocket instructing him to call a number in NJ, and there's a nice flow to it as it ends with Doc hearing an explosion. Chapter 2 begins earlier at that Jersey residence with Scraggs lurking outside worrying about his situation, ending with the house blowing up. That too is nice. From there it's all plot points in a blender. Doc lands a passenger plane on Broadway in a nice visual. Some of Cold Death's cartoon absurdity is a bonus while also winding up in the other column, as when Monk is placed in a mechanical Iron Maiden that will stab him through the heart if he makes a sound. The bad guy sets it up like Monk is incapable of silence and will die soon enough:

Slowly, the metal arms of the robot moved inward. The pointed knives approached two slits in the armored breast. The movement was so slow as to be almost imperceptible.

Slowly, chillingly, even though the shining figure was but cold metal, the arms continued to bend. The points of the knives disappeared into the shell-like cavity of the robot’s chest. A minute, two minutes passed. Monk growled in his throat.

Both knives at last were buried to their hilts. The mechanism ceased to whirr.

"Just one little word will do it," murmured Wheeze. "One little whisper, or a sneeze—and the mike picks up the sound and starts the robot. We’re going to leave you with the convincer. After I’ve attended to some special business, we’ll come back. If you’ve kept that big yap of yours quiet that long, maybe you’ll be about ripe to loosen up with some conversation!"

Upon hearing the crooks talk about setting a trap for Ham, Monk loses his mind:

But the knife points were never destined to reach Monk’s heart. The first touch freed all the electrifying rage so long pent up in the big chemist’s huge body. His sudden bellow might have come from the snarling throat of some trapped jungle beast.

Monk drew gallons of air into his capacious lungs. His body swelled. The mammoth shoulders were bowed and braced. The long arms contracted and then expanded.

The slender rods of universal jointage necessary to operation of the robot’s arms were of strongest steel. But, after all, they were, by the requirements of space, very slim. Monk’s giant arms, driven by his released fury, were gigantic in their expansion.

"Hold ‘er, Ham!" he bellowed. "Dag-gone it, shyster! I’m comin’!"

He voiced the truth. The rods of slender steel were snapping. They made cracking sounds, as if a man’s finger joints had been bent backward. The ribbed fastenings of the metal man snapped asunder.

Flying a plane to save Ham in Washington DC Monk stays on point:

"Howlin’ calamities!" he barked. "I got here just in time! Hold ‘em, you dag-goned shyster! I’m comin’!"

Seeing Ham fighting on a roof on K Street, Monk crashes his speed plane into the house and catapults out ready to go:

 AFTER sighting the vividly yellow house, Monk pulled Doc’s small amphibian into a tight spiral.

Two maple trees grew beside the four-story house. They were spaced so near each other, their leafy branches seemed to be interlaced. Monk drew in one long breath, shifted the plane elevators and dived.

He clicked off the ignition as the trees, the house and the lawn leaped up to meet the hurtling plane. With wind screaming in the wires, the diving ship thrust between the trees. The silvery wings stripped off. The speed of the cabinet fuselage was slightly checked.

The next instant, Monk was being carried through the wall of the yellow house with the speed of a stone thrown from a catapult. The forward part of the cabin was crushed. Through this aperture, the body of Monk continued onward.

Monk’s rebound to his feet was fast. It was as if his ungainly body were made of rubber.

Ham later returns the favor of rabid revenge lust:

"The other room, Doc!" gasped Ham. "They’ve done something to Monk! If they’ve put him out, I’ll run them to the end of the world!"

Seven times the voice of Var comically declares "I am—Var!". That's what the story has to offer as memorable. The rest is a long list of head-scratchers large and small, and in no real order...

As is often the case Doc and his men are to kept alive at all costs but there's no plot reason for it except to not have them die. Doc is captured, knocked out in a car, and wakes up in a radio-controlled plane about to be plunged into the ocean. Why, I can't tell you, but he is saved by Scraggs so maybe he's not all evil.

Donovan as ghost writer futzes with the formula so Doc's Crime College only works on dumb people. Started but never developed is why men of brains with other professions are agreeing to act as thugs for Var:

THE whole battle had taken up less than two minutes. Doc’s pencil of light from his generator flash picked out eight men huddled on the floor. The bronze man gave several faces a brief study.

"The only way, brothers, we can help these men is to remove the temptation that drew them into this," Doc stated. "They’re men of brains. Surgical treatment would do them no good. Remove the power of Var and they’ll return to their professions."...

"We’ve got those men from the penthouse," the commissioner announced. "We’ve been checking. Not one has ever been mugged. We find they are doctors, professors and the like of that. Only two have any kind of records. We believe they have been international spies in Europe."

Doc nodded. This confirmed his quick analysis in the penthouse. None of these men had the kind of brains requiring the usual treatment for the reformation of crooks.

Var winds up being J. Afton Carberry, a millionaire who did all this because...? This is tossed in for some reason:

"Strange what angles a normally intelligent brain will take," Doc said, slowly. "Carberry had a rich man’s traditional respect for property rights. He owned that Manhattan block he blew up. He was one of the biggest stockholders in the railroad and he tried to blast the express. In trying to cover up his trail, he laid the broadest possible one for his own detection."

Long Tom builds an "Ex-Neutralizer" based on Doc's designs and it suppresses the Cold Light weapon. You'd think it would be a "Neutralizer" because it's neutralizing the Cold Light, so wouldn't the "Ex" part indicate it's neutralizing the neutralizer? He has it running and it's saving everyone's life when Doc walks in. For whatever reason, possibly murder-suicide, Long Tom does this:

Long Tom moved to flick off the ex-neutralizer switch. Doc seized Long Tom’s wrist.

"Leave it on," he directed. "Wait until the Cold Light stops. It would get all of us!"

Why was Monk freed by the police when they thought he was using the Cold Light machine as a weapon? Shouldn't the 86th floor be mostly destroyed by the Cold Light attacks? Why was Monk in the plane carrying the Cold Light weapon and why wasn't he tied up?

This meant and went nowhere. I'm assuming in the original outline there was a conspiracy involving women who were planted with these men in deep cover:

Then there was the girl in blue who had been seeking Scraggs at the wrecked Red Arrow plane. There had been a woman close to Var, as he had uttered his message after the first of his explosions.

Each of the suspects had a woman closely related to him or his activities.

The henchman has a machine gun in his hands but his legs are messed up so he's harmless:

Doc was starting toward the door of the lighted radio control room.

"Keep an eye on all of these men," he instructed. "You needn’t trouble about the one with the machine gun. He has serious trouble with his legs."

Laurence Donovan is against thoughts in quotes. All must be spoken:

Picking out a slightly higher, dry spot some two hundred yards to one side of the house, the thin figure became a motionless part of the deeper marsh shadows. His thin lips continued to emit whispered words.

"The great Doc Savage will be calling at eight o’clock, or old Jackson has guessed him wrong."...

"It won’t work out," he muttered suddenly through gritted teeth. "And Doc Savage saw me. I could feel him looking at the back of my head. I never really touched him, but somehow I believe he knew I was there."...

"The strange trick of circumstance sometimes will involve the most innocent," he murmured. "Doc Savage’s microscopic eyes never would overlook a detail like that."...

Ten seconds later, Vonier added, again to himself, "It’s almost unbelievable, but I’d bet my last dollar Doc Savage knows I’ve been waiting here in the hope of catching him. And he hasn’t even seemed to glance this way."


Monk took one of Doc’s own inventions, an electronic glass, or, rather, powerful binoculars created by Doc on the electronic principle. The lenses of this telescopic device not only brought distant scenes close to the eyes, but they also amplified them in the vision much the same as radio tones are amplified for the listener by the loud-speaker.


[This doesn't happens when Lester is behind the typewriter] Doc flipped a gas capsule and it fell at the feet of the foremost man. But the rush carried the men over the gas before it could become effective.


This building housed Doc Savage’s latest in planes, his dirigible and two types of submarines.


[Ghost writer's choice] In the basement’s gloom, Doc flashed the searching ray of his generator flashlight. His other hand held a stupefying capsule no larger than a small glass pill. He located the cold-air shaft leading from the dead furnace.


Doc’s amazing, many-sided brain


[BS] Then Doc pivoted. The ground was thirty feet below. He poised only an instant, then sprang outward. He alighted with the cushioned ease of a body set on coiled springs.


[Doc is in disguise] Any person would have supposed he was a flier. The veteran Red Arrow pilot was not even supposing. He knew well enough the man with the broken nose was a better flier than he would be if he lived a couple of centuries.


[How would Doc know this?] Doc’s swift analysis of their character led him to believe that several were far more intelligent than the average type of criminal.

The bronze man was confronted with the problem of being almost sure two or three had never before engaged in a crooked enterprise. It made their association with Var all the more puzzling.


"I can well believe all the adventures credited to him," murmured the explorer. "He looks like a bad one to get in anybody’s soup."


[That would be trilling] From the doorway came the weird, mellow warning of Doc Savage.

Long Tom:

Long Tom was a slight specimen of manhood. He looked frail compared to any other of Doc’s men. But he could make the average man very sick indeed in a fistic encounter.


He was not referring to the sepulchral tones coming from nowhere on the highway. Monk had heard another faint voice. It had sounded like a man’s hoarse cry for help. Where any one needed help, there might be a fight. Monk pushed forward hopefully.


[Monk's saying don't kill them with electricity so I can poison them instead] "Dag-gone it!" squeaked Monk. "Even if they was rats, y’ needn’t’ve murdered ‘em! I was wantin’ ‘em to try out a new kind of poison gas!"


"Holy cow! What a job!" growled Renny. "Look, Doc! It’s a canal, straight as if it was laid out with instruments and this was intended for a feed reservoir!"

Renny saw everything from an engineer’s point of view.


[There's no I Don't Trust You in "Team"] Renny grunted. He knew all about his own profession—engineering. But Long Tom’s gadgets always filled him with suspicion, until he saw them in operation.


[reference to another book by title alert! Woop!! Woop!!] Doc’s arms and legs were instantly numbed. His motor nerves refused to respond to the bidding of his brain. His keen sight was dimmed by a frost that seemed to rim his eyes. He felt himself falling forward.

"Cold Light," was Doc’s instant thought. Like the illumination created by the inhabitants of The Land of Always-Night. Only their light was cold and harmless. This was deadly, more like a bath in liquid air.


[Planes had fuses in 1936, usually in the basement] The mishap was sufficient to blow out a fuse. Gasps came from women passengers.

"Never mind," came the calm voice of the trim stewardess. "It’s only a fuse. The co-pilot will fix it."


Doc’s radio plane had totally dissolved, as if it had never been. From the lack of any tiny bit of falling wreckage, it was conceivable that the terrible, close-up force of the Cold Light explosion had disintegrated the ship into all of its component atoms.

The Sanctum reprint says the book was written, put aside, and dredged up later to be reworked via instructions from Street & Smith. The result is a sloppy piece of work that's as hard to read as it is to keep up with. I did my best to focus on the core story as there's dead alleys at every turn.

044 - The South Pole Terror:

"What was the fabulous treasure Velma Crale had discovered in the South Pole? And why was Cheaters Slagg willing to kill to keep her from talking? The Man of Bronze and his five aides give chase all the way to the bottom of the world -- and are nearly sunburned to death!"

October, 1936's Doc Savage adventure runs at a thrilling pace for most of its length before settling in for a short breather and ending with running around, shooting, tossing hand tools, and creating (with science!) a hole in the ozone layer to end hostilities once and for all. The cover features Twink Savage - The Smooth Boy Of Bronze, with a disturbingly flat chest and the musculature of Little Lord Fauntleroy.

The South Pole Terror offers many winning features, including gadgets galore, great cliffhanger chapter endings, Johnny's big word yappings getting no response from others, Doc using guns because he has no choice, a faked torture scene where a bad guy thinks his eye was cut out and his and ear sliced off, and a nice science weapon that's science fiction-feasible. If the snow scenes and ending were on par with the rest of the novel this would have been a classic. There's nothing terribly wrong with the story but the slow slog in the snow let the wind out of its sails when it should have kept on chugging to the finish line. This can be easily fixed using my Super Fan-Editing Formula © ™ ®.

I'd definitely change the early bit where Doc allows his 86th floor laboratory to be blown to kingdom come to fake his own death so whoever sent the package bomb will think he was dead. There was no present adventure that led him to this as a necessary tactic. It was simply here's a bomb so I'll destroy everything I have in my lab, endanger people on the street with debris from 86 floors high, and use a wax dummy of myself to pretend I've been decapitated so the world can think and report I'm dead. Then we'll see what happens. If Doc had a small bomb-proof room he used for experiments where something could blow up, I'd see letting this happen and maybe this would make the bomber think the device went off. How many times can Doc fake his own death before he's told in no uncertain terms he shouldn't do that any more?

Nice opening sentence:

DOC SAVAGE happened to be only one of a few million persons who heard about the mystery of the silver sloop almost at once. When it first came to Doc Savage’s notice, the mystery probably baffled the bronze man as much as it did any one.


There seemed to be nothing but fingerprints. Doc did not trouble to photograph these, but merely powdered them, and studied them at length—fixing the classification of the whorls in his trained memory so that, if he saw them later, he would remember them.

Remembering the fingerprints was not the difficult task it seemed, at first. It was merely a case of fixing mentally the code letters indicating the classification of the prints.


That Doc Savage had extensive interests other than the business of mixing in other persons’ troubles and righting wrongs and punishing evildoers, not many persons knew. The true extent of the bronze man’s holdings, no one but Doc himself knew.

They comprised transportation lines, air, water and land, industrial plants, and innumerable other enterprises. In none of these did Doc Savage actually appear as the owner, holding the controlling interest through dummies, the latter usually being actual persons in active charge of the interests themselves.


The bronze man seemed not to hear, a small, and sometimes aggravating, habit which he had when questions were put to him which he did not wish to answer.


He was Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, but he had heard the name so seldom he had forgotten what it sounded like.


He was a Houdini of the test tubes.


MONK’S laboratory was something of a marvel of its kind. It was more complete even than the one which had been destroyed by the explosion at Doc’s headquarters, as far as chemical equipment exclusively went. It was situated in a penthouse atop a financial skyscraper.


The bronze man carried with him a pistol which had been in the possession of one of the guards. He lifted the weapon. The fact that he never carried a firearm of his own was no indication that he was a tyro in the use of weapons. He had spent more hours practicing marksmanship than the average stenographer spends trying to perfect the use of a typewriter.

The pistol went off and the guard’s left leg buckled and he fell down howling. Renny came out and silenced the howling with one swing of an enormous fist...

Doc Savage, shooting slowly and accurately, emptied one after another of his guns. His shooting was remarkable. He inflicted no wounds which, with ordinary care, were dangerous. The guns were unfamiliar, and each was different. He missed only twice. That was because the sight alignment of two of the guns was off.


The top of his head was extraordinarily large.


"Renny!" he howled. "Read this, you big-fisted hunk of bone and gloom!"


RENNY and Johnny were standing on the promenade, beneath an awning. Both were in their shirt sleeves, and mopping perspiration. At least, Renny was. Bony Johnny never came much nearer perspiring than would a skeleton.


[This is in a hotel. Renny has major impulse-control issues] "Holy cow!" he said, much louder this time. Then he arose from the bed, and wearing an expression of a man going to a funeral, walked over to the door, and calmly knocked the stout wooden panel out with a single blow of one fist.


The telephone robot was one of the contraptions. It was put on the telephone wire when Doc Savage was not there. You called up, and a mechanical voice told you that the bronze man was not there, and that any message you cared to give would be recorded for Doc Savage’s attention when he returned.

This device was merely an adaptation of the dictaphone, phonograph and vacuum tube amplifier, all built as one instrument.


MONK and Ham were examining the men who had gone down, making sure each was senseless, and also extracting the tiny darts which Doc Savage had expelled with the pneumatic gun which resembled a cigarette case.

The darts were fashioned like hypodermic needles and cost almost five dollars apiece to have made. They were, therefore, worth saving.


The bronze man casually continued his retreat. He seemed to pay no particular attention to where he went, but he stepped heavily on certain parts of the reception room rug.

There was an abrupt swish of mechanism. Something seemed to flash in mid-air between the bronze man and the advancing mob.

Derek Flammen’s men stopped as if they had run into something invisible. They began to curse.

"There’s some kind of plate-glass wall dropped down!" a man squawled...

The ceiling of the reception room, which to the eye appeared to be an ordinary ceiling neatly ornamented with modernistic strips of metal, was actually quite a remarkable ceiling.

Past attempts on his life had moved Doc Savage to install the descending sheets of bulletproof glass, which could be dropped with great speed by the application of pressure on certain spots in the floor. Other sheets protected the center of the reception room from the library door. Doc now dropped these panels.


DUE to the perilous nature of the peculiar work which he was following, Doc Savage habitually made use of every conceivable precautionary measure. Otherwise, he would have long ago lost his life. This skyscraper headquarters was a mechanical labyrinth.

In it was every defensive measure which the man of bronze had been able to devise. In the high aërie, he was as safe from would-be killers as he was anywhere else on earth.

The place was a maze of hidden recesses, runways and concealed doors. The bronze man made gestures, indicating that Monk and Ham should position themselves close to him. They did so. The bronze man stooped, and his fists rapped sharply at different portions of the floor.


The elevators immediately became inactive, with one exception.

The exception was Doc Savage’s speed elevator. Power for this came from the bronze man’s private electrical system, with an automatic generating room deep in the basement.


The warehouse was equipped with a remarkable set of alarms. A marauder did not have to break into the place to set off the system. Any one merely lurking near by would actuate capacity-balanced relays and give notice. The system was connected to a wire which caused an electric sign on a building some blocks distant to illuminate.


[The clamps are new] The bronze man stripped open the zipper mouth of one of the belt pockets and drew out a device which he always carried—a thin, stout silken cord with a collapsible grapple affixed to one end. The grapple was padded with sponge rubber. He tossed it upward with an accuracy born of much practice, and it hooked the rail.

He climbed, managing the by-no-means-easy ascent of the thin cord through the medium of tiny sliding clamps of a frictional nature.


Renny lifted his hand. There was a hiss, and a stream of liquid came out of the tiny water gun, cylinder-shaped, which his hand concealed. The guard gasped and fell on his face.

"Holy cow!" grinned Renny. "Doc’s anaesthetic gas sure knocks ‘em cold!"


Doc Savage, however, delayed nearly twenty-four hours and went fishing. He had, it developed, a few fishhooks in his clothing, and the silk cord attached to his very useful grapple hook served as a line.


Velma Crale and Derek Flammen were lifted bodily and borne out of the room. It developed that the mob had a freight elevator waiting, with a frightened—and evidently crooked—hotel flunkey in charge. He took them down, then grasped a twenty-dollar bill greedily when it was passed to him.

"I won’t say nothing about this!" he gulped.

Cheaters Slagg, seizing an opportunity a moment later, calmly inserted a long knife into the hotel flunkey’s heart from behind.

"Not in this world, you won’t say nothing!" growled Slagg, holding the dying man’s mouth so that he could not make a sound.


[Oh Lester, your racism is showing] Next morning, it was in all of the newspapers. They put out extra editions in London. Paris and Berlin sheets had it on the front pages. In remote Japan, they brushed it in queer-looking characters on the public news boards.


[Oh Lester, must everything be about sex?] The silver sloop was approximately fifty feet long, and she was a fine hooker with teakwood decks, jib-headed sails with roller reefing gear and the rest of the newfangled gadgets. She was all mahogany and shiny metals inside. She was a honey. She made sailors grin from ear to ear and murmur in admiration when they boarded her.


[He-Woman? Oh Lester, your patriarchal heteronormative fascism stinks!] Velma Crale’s name went into the newspaper headlines with a bang. Velma Crale was famous already; she was the outstanding he-woman of the day. She had flown the Atlantic, the Pacific. She had brought legendary white Indians out of the Amazon wilds. She had received the keys to New York City and had dined with the president.


[Note in bold. The whole room is a gadget.] The eighty-sixth floor of one of New York’s most impressive midtown skyscrapers was the site of Doc Savage’s headquarters—his library, laboratory and trick reception room.


"And lose more money than Rockefeller ever saw?" she jeered. "Mrs. Crale didn’t raise no daughters that silly!"


[It's one thing to disguise your voice, but to do so with a telegraph?] The other operator had a slow, draggy fist, with a good many combinations. It sounded as if the fellow was purposefully trying to disguise his sending.


[This was o.k. as "the Environment" didn't officially exist until 1961] THEY did not drown. Doc Savage went below and started a pump forcing fuel out of a vent in the stern. This spread over the sea. It did not flatten the waves out, but it did stop them from breaking. It was the break of a wave that would do damage to the plane.


Doc, Monk and Ham got a plane on Long Island. It was a small amphibian, and Doc kept it in a farmer’s barn for just such an emergency as this. The plane had folding wings, so it could be gotten in and out of the barn quite easily.


[An odd thing] Doc said. "You haven’t many scruples, have you?"

"Depends on how you look at it. They won’t kill you. They’ll try, but you’ll get away. You can’t be killed."


[Taking Dumb Pig and Stupid Ape on adventures is animal abuse] Flames wrapped the plane like red tissue paper around a Christmas toy. Habeas Corpus and Chemistry popped out of the burning ship and swam.


The messenger boy entered a ramshackle building on Thirty-fourth Street and mounted stairs to a musty door bearing the legend: "Hidalgo Trading Co."...

The man who had brought the radiogram departed. He was an old fellow who did nothing but stay in the Hidalgo Trading Co. offices and perform a few simple jobs, of which this was a sample.


[More proof of  the extreme idiocy of the Ham & Monk "relationship"] "It looks," Monk said, referring to the ship, "like a coffin, pointed at the ends."

"You’re such a cheerful soul," Ham told him, "that somebody should knock your brains out."...

His pocket had a hole, and the coin went through. Ham picked it up, looked closely at the bit of deceptive money. Ham then picked up a monkey wrench, wrapped his scarf around the heavy end, calmly walked around in front of Monk, and knocked the homely chemist senseless.

"Heads," the dapper lawyer said to the dreaming Monk, "is what you’ll have when you wake up."


[Cute food dressed well tastes the best!] They saw absolutely no living creature during the first four days. On the fifth day they got three penguins. They ate them at once.


The young woman, now that she had lost her desire for a share of the Antarctic wealth, had become a very nice person.

The South Pole Terror has the makings of a great Doc Savage adventure if you re-do the bombing death ploy and don't lose storytelling steam approaching the ending, which lost a few goodwill credits by Doc telling his men to escape their imprisonment and run his way, and then they do so without any action on the page revealing how they managed it.

045 - Resurrection Day:

"The sweeping genius of the Man of Bronze reaches into the very secret of life itself. A stunned nation hears the announcement that one — and only one — long-dead human being will be brought back to life. Who will be chosen? Lincoln? Edison? Shakespeare? As the world rejoices and conjectures, the powers of Evil plan a final, insidious joke on all humanity!"

"It was not all beer and skittles for Doc Savage"

I think Wold Newton is a quaint mental cul-de-sac, but this story from November, 1936 should have opened with a preface from the "author" indicating Resurrection Day is a speculative piece of imaginative fiction about who in all of history is worthy to bring back from the dead to help us in the present day. The book spends a great deal of time on these considerations and it's a worthy topic of discussion. Saying that Doc Savage can positively bring back to life a mummy to good-as-new health crosses the line set up that Doc Savage could be a real person if everything was in place. It doesn't help that soon after being revived, after being mummified in ancient Egypt, the Pirate Pharaoh "Pey-deh-eh-ghan" (Pay Day) runs down the street like a champ. The story works better as conjecture than another day in the life of Doc and the Assistants Five.

It's a close call on if this is a good or bad story. It earns points for its magnitude and loses them by not seeming possible even in the Doc Savage world.  The novel opens on a faulty note with Doc having his building in Manhattan barricaded with barbed wire on all sides because he's decided to have "The People" decide who should be brought back to life, and he makes a radio announcement that everyone tunes into:

"We want help. We want suggestions. In short, we want to know who the people of the United States want brought back to life."...

"Who will do the world the most good, if brought back to life? These are the names of the committee of men and women who have been appointed to make the final decision. They will want your instructions. Mail, telephone, or telegraph them to the committee members."

The fictional "real life" Doc Savage would never do this - draw attention to himself by going on the radio and asking every Tom, Dick, and Harriet to throw names at him by the millions, basically doing nothing but creating static. The way the story should read is Doc sets out asking learned people who should be revived because he might be able to bring someone back alive under the right circumstances, and this gets leaked to the press and the response brings about what you see in the novel.

The evil genius is General Ino and his psychotic lawyer Proudman Shaster, and as a pair they're memorable. Ino is cold:

General Ino had killed the Japanese merchant prince's man-child, but the merchant prince didn't know that before the ransom was paid. Didn't know it yet, in fact. Years later, the general had thought he might work off some phony brat as the man-child. He had kept the baby clothes of the man-child and the bit of jewelry it had worn...

He had furnished the acid that had disposed of the last bit of epidermis of the Japanese merchant prince's man-child.

Shaster loses his sanity when presented the chance to chop off someone's heads:

Proudman Shaster wrung his hands. "I wish I could control myself! When I get in a tight place, it seems all I can think of is cutting their heads off!"...

It would not have taken a psychologist to realize that some queer, hideous quirk in Proudman Shaster's nature made him a madman when he was in a tense situation with a big sword or an ax in his hand. He had a mania for chopping off heads...

General Ino heaved a sigh. Sometimes, when Shaster had his head madness, he forgot to distinguish friend from foe.

General Ino has a verbal quirk as annoying as Johnny's big word affectation. Ino switches accents and it grows old fast:

"But, m 'sieu', some reason you 'ave give thees people why you not let zem pas', no?"

"This is the only reason we have to give 'em." The cop tapped his badge.

"Velly stlange," said the general, singsonging. "Velly stlange."

The cop watched him walk off, then scratched his head.

"Dang me," he grunted. "First he's a frog, then he's a laundryman!"

Pay Day is a bad guy Pharaoh with no special qualities to speak of, but he does want the treasures in his trap-infested tomb. His demise is poetic:

The strange man's picture had been in the papers because of the way he had died. He had been walking along the street, when he had heard a radio loud-speaker which stood in front of a music store. Instantly, he had dashed into the street, as if fleeing from the loud-speaker, and a car had run over him and killed him.

The speaker on the radio at the time had been the well-known American, Doc Savage, announcing the discovery of a treasure tomb in the Nubian Desert.

The only mention of a woman is a white man in drag as a black cook - also as believable as Pay Day. The violence quotient is high, which is good. Less good was walking through the tomb like it's a stage set and it cost a lot of money so we'd better take our time noticing the fine work done by the crew. As a recurring issue I find scenes taking place in wide open spaces tend to move long and slow. The ending in the tomb is filled with good action but even that goes on longer than needed as run-and-fight shouldn't overstay its contribution to the entirety. The big concept of Resurrection Day is better than its execution. The villains are above average and Monk & Ham more annoying than usual. Cleaned up and made even nuttier as an acknowledged work of speculative fiction this could be epic.


[BS Alert!] At times, this amazing man who looked so like solid metal had carried all three of them and the mummy man simultaneously, and that without apparent great effort, and at a pace that not many unburdened men could match.


[I'll let you know if I ever read that Ham gets mad when called "Ham"] "Doc Savage alone is bad enough," groaned Proudman Shaster. "But he also has five assistants. One of them I have personally seen in action. He is a lawyer named Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks, and those who are not afraid call him Ham. Not many people call him Ham."


Solomon, it seemed, was lying in state in the private museum of William Harper Littlejohn.


A number of movies, usually the horror type of pictures, had been made in which people or monsters have been brought to life, and Doc's aids had seen them - even erudite Johnny, who publicly declared movies below his dignity, but occasionally slipped out to see one.


"From my prolegomenon it is indubitable that there is no manifestation of any photographical - "

"Listen!" groaned Monk. "There's one guy here I can't understand - Pay Day. Why not let 'im have the field to himself?"


Orchid then used all six bullets from his revolver to splash the brains of Senator Funston thoroughly over the rug...

"I had to kill the damn senator," said Orchid.

"Knowing you, I'll bet you did - not," said General Ino.


Carson Alexander Olman did not answer it because his body lay on the floor beside the desk; his head was over cooking against a hot radiator. The head had left quite a crimson trail rolling across the carpet, and the sword which had parted it from the body lay beside the body. It was a big, two-handed sword of the sixteenth century, English.


Renny's toughness was more than supposition, as the men soon found out. He moved like greased lightning. His incredible fists whistled through the air, pummeled mobsters' heads with blows that echoed throughout the room.

One big fist took a man under the chin. The fellow rose straight up into the air, squirming like a fish that had come out of the water, caught on a hook, and who was trying to shake himself loose. Falling, he seemed to melt against the floor.


The airship's legitimate passengers - there were not many, for General Ino had booked most of the seats, or cabins, for his aids - were lined up and shot, and the bodies dropped into the sea from three miles up. Some of the crew were shot for a demonstration...

All of the crew were shot once the ship had landed in the Nubian Desert, days later.


DOC had an easy shot with one of the rifles he had just captured. Shaster, all his teeth showing, his eyes popping, set himself for a blow, and was motionless an instant.

The flame from the rifle muzzle seemed to leap almost to Shaster's knife hand. The shot crashed, thundered, died out and left only Shaster's scream of agony.


Monk, the chemist, said. "Well, here's my chance to try out my new finger print stuff."

He was carrying it with him - a small case containing what looked like a flat perfume atomizer. He pressed the bulb of this, and threw an almost invisible spray over the telephone, the backs of wooden chairs, the table and anywhere else that hands might have touched. Wherever the vapor settled, finger prints came out instantly.

The prints were as plain as if they had been painstakingly printed there.


Doc said, "Have you got your pocket laboratory with you?"

"I've got some key chemicals," Monk said. "I always carry 'em. Stuff you can make a lot of basic tests and combinations, and - "


[As in Doc's Reception Room on the 86th floor] Johnny answered that. "I had my place wired some time ago. For instance, there are certain spots under the rug over which tables ordinarily sit, or chairs. When the chairs or tables are moved, and the certain spots pressed it rings a bell in Doc's headquarters. I saw to the pressing."


Through it all, they kept their mouths closed and did not breathe. They knew, now, why Doc had told them to do that. The pellets held a chemical. Not oxygen. Some chemical mixture which supplied, for a few minutes, the effect which oxygen supplied upon the human system.


An announcer came on the air and said, "That was Doc Savage speaking."

He nearly scared his listeners out of their skins. The announcer had always been credited with a pleasant, excellent voice; but now, after that remarkable voice which had just finished speaking, he sounded like a crow dying.


It was supposed to be secret, but the corridors outside crawled with newspapermen. The janitors next morning were to cart out barrels of used photographic flashlight bulbs.


[A recurring bit in Doc Savage books involving poison] "You take it and put some under your finger nails," said General Ino, not answering the question directly. "When they catch you, if they do, you do something that looks perfectly natural. You gnaw your finger nails."

Orchid wet his lips and looked as if he didn't like the idea much. "I gnaw my finger nails, eh?"

"The stuff under them will make you unconscious for about a week," explained General Ino. "They can't question you, and by that time, we'll have things straightened out."


The car moved away, making sounds somewhat like a dog swimming hard.


"Get the fellows who are hurt out of sight," he directed. "Stick 'em in a closet or something. If any of you have got narcotics on you, give 'em a little to sort of ease their pain."


Detective agencies being tools to fight the criminals, Doc Savage had long ago subsidized a number, and on occasion, took a hand in training their operatives. Since the bronze man paid a part of the expenses, these private detective agencies were able to work cheaply enough to help many an ordinary fellow take care of some personal difficulty.

The private agencies, as a matter of fact, was Doc Savage's method of taking care of the innumerable calls which he received from persons who were in trivial jams. Little troubles which did not require the bronze man's developed skill were taken care of by the agencies which Doc had established.


Hawkers in the throngs on the street were already selling Solomon balloons, Solomon noisemakers, and handkerchiefs with Solomon's picture on them.

"Solomon ice cream!" they yelled. "As cold as Solomon's thousandth wife! Five cents!"

An enterprising burlesque press agent came out with the announcements that his entire troupe of beautiful girls was going to offer to marry Solomon.

"There's not a thousand of 'em," he stated, modestly, "but they're so pretty they make up for it!"


"So, you bonepile!" Long Tom sniffed; "For two bits, I'd hang you out in the wind and listen to you rattle!"

Big-fisted Renny put in, "Now, don't you two start Monk-and-Hamming it!"


[More than a little weird] Doc, for his final stage used no electricity at all. He used no tubes, bulbs nor elaborate apparatus.

The only device employed was a long hypodermic needle which he inserted into the heart, emptied it.

Next, be turned the resurrection patient over his knee and spanked him violently.


"Much obliged," he mumbled.

"For what?" Monk wanted to know.

"Well, I didn't get killed," gulped the driver.

"Stick around. It ain't over."

"That's just what I'm afraid of," said the taximan. "So long!"

He lit out running and never looked back.


[Exposition Failure. Tell Pay Day directly so it's not Exposition Failure] Johnny understood that, and asked the others, "Shall we tell him that Doc was suspicious when we came in here, and after he gave me the flashlight, he dropped way back, so that he was not even in the room when we were trapped?"

Long Tom snapped, "Sure, tell him! It'll puncture some of his conceit! Tell him how Doc used ventriloquism to make him think he was in the room, when as a matter of fact. Doc was right beside Pay Day. Tell him Doc got us out, and that we all were right on his trail and watching him when he went to get General Ino's mob and trapped them, too."

046 - The Vanisher:


"Twenty convicts vanished without a trace from maximum security cells, and top businessmen suddenly disappeared. The tabloids trumpeted the reign of a small, deformed man — or woman — spotted at the scenes. Strangely, Doc Savage was framed for the disappearances — and then the murders … But the Horrible Hunchback hadn’t counted on the wrath of the mighty Man of Bronze!"


I'd like to announce that I read a book! The Vanisher, by Kenneth Robeson, published in December of 1936. I've read all the Doc Savage books once and many of them twice (those later day deadline squeaking afterthoughts are a chore). I thought I remembered liking this one. It's surprisingly pretty crappy all the way around. As I recall it when Doc's not in the good graces of the authorities the stories usually aren't great, and when Doc's doing things not Ubermensch Doc Savage at all times that's also a bad sign, like the writer's adapted another character's story idea to Doc Savage. Not to give the plot away too much but it's about a person who makes things vanish. Nobody knows if it's a man or a woman. I know this because it's brought up several times. The stock eccentric characters are annoying instead of fun. The two gangs element is tossed aside as irrelevant and the glass floor aspect of the device gets dropped completely for convenience. The music box = yeah, whatever. A lot about The Vanisher goes through the motions. Mind you, this is still better than the later Doc as meta-perspective putz novels, but Lester Dent must have had his attention divided when he cranked out The Vanisher.



047 - Land Of Long JuJu:

"The ruthless power of The Shimba threatened to overthrow the good and gentle ruler of an African kingdom-and destroy forever the line of succession. Until the mighty Man Of Bronze smashed the jungle menace and solved its terrible secret!"

The Sanctum reprint's attempt to figure out ghost writer Lawrence Donovan's efforts with this novel centers on "Donovan was a notorious drunk". Donovan researched his material at great length but elements of Land Of Long JuJu were adapted from an original version taking place in South America for use in Africa. I don't hold against it the use of "Voodoo" instead of the more accurate "Vodun", or that JuJu and Vodun are distinct practices. It's Doc Savage - not National Geographic. Africa has piranha so that's not wrong. The problems of the January, 1937 adventure deal more with length and heavy-handed conveniences.

In the plus column the opening with the six runners was good and the two suicide-messengers even better. Just as entertaining was Doc flying a rickety plane to destroy almost the entirety of the bad guy's air force and neutralize their pilots. It's a split decision on the effectiveness of Donovan's choice to have this read like a Mad Libs of researched names of peoples and things in Africa. As often as he set scenes he make you feel lost in them.

It's one of the book's mistakes/conveniences that an African medicine man understands Mayan. This is evidence the original manuscript was set in The Americas. A suicide bomber attacks Doc's jet-blimp when there's no motivation for the pilot to sacrifice his life: "Doc now understood the object of the invading army of mixed nationalities. They were adventurers seeking treasure rather than conquest.". Doc bringing hundreds of infra-red goggles for the warriors is hard to believe, but the absolute worst is Doc passing himself off as the ancient, 300 pound African ruler:

The vast, corpulent figure of the Kokoland ruler was dissolving. From his feet to his flowing white hair, King Udu seemed on fire. He was glowing with a weird, blue flame. The blaze seemed to crackle and consume his flesh...

Not only was King Udu a blue pillar of fire, his flesh was apparently being rapidly consumed. Great rolls of fat were peeling off. Because of this, the many chains were clanking to the ground...

More than a hundred pounds of flesh rolled from the figure of old King Udu. Then the king was standing erect. From his still melting body issued the most fantastic sound the Masai had ever heard...

Doc’s figure still glowed with blue fire. This light was no more than a mixture of luminol and sodium hydroxide in water, with potassium ferrocyanide and hydrogen peroxide added. It was nothing but the cold glowing of a firefly.

Other chemicals had been released from the gross rolls of fat. They had severed the chains. And packed in the extra weight it had required to make up for King Udu, were many other chemicals.

The reveal of the evil white Shimba involves a new character who races in from stage left for this denouement:

Count Cardoti fell forward, hands still clawing at the point of a spear. The weapon had come whistling from the jungle behind him. It had struck him squarely between the shoulders and pierced his heart.

Pat Savage covered her face. The man of bronze whipped toward the dead man, eyes searching the bush. Another man stepped forth. He was remarkably like the count in appearance. He spoke clearly.

"I did that because he tried to double-cross me! He would have left me behind, and he would have told you I was the only one who played Shimba! He was my brother! When he was absent I took his place here! My brother had Prince Zaban assassinated!"...

"As brothers of the blood, we plotted to steal King Udu’s kingdom and brought the invaders!" cried the other Shimba. "Count Cardoti intended to replace King Udu! Now as brothers of the blood we die!"

The man cast himself forward. A short, stabbing spear in his hand was forced through his body. The Cardoti brothers, in whose vein had run the hot blood of the Spanish, or perhaps Portuguese, were dead.

And... scene. Here's how all the major players conveniently end up in Africa:

 "I instructed you to go home," stated Doc Savage. "You not only have stowed away, but you have taken the liberty to bring others."

"Yes—yes—I brought them—but when you know, you can’t do anything but take us with you!" stammered Pat.

"I can still reverse our direction," stated Doc. "We would lose only a little time."

"No—no—please, Doc!" exclaimed Pat. "This is Señorita Moncarid, and this is—"

"The man representing himself to be William Smith of 4404 Crooked Neck Road, Long Island," interrupted the man of bronze. "But known to King Udu of Kokoland as Logo."

What passes for wise, advanced, and "good and gentle" includes heads on sticks as decorations:

On one side of King Udu’s couch of skins were weird, smiling heads. Hundreds of these were stuck upon teakwood pegs driven into walls of palmetto thatch. They were the skulls of enemies slain by King Udu’s head-hunting tribes.

These tribal trophies must remain close to the throne, if Udu was to continue his domination of all his blood-thirsty chiefs.

Beyond the couch loomed a contrasting apparatus. This was no less than one of the most modern of radios. Beside this was a glass square.

The wise and advanced King Udu had even attempted to have television installed. This had never worked as it should.

It's claimed this book is the most racist but Asians get worse treatment in the series. I felt Donovan was making an effort to capture what he thought was realistic based on materials available in the mid-1930s. Either way I loved this line:

The hideous loops of the chiefs ears seemed to dance. In one loop was a can of condensed milk. The other loop contained no less than a can of condensed beef.

The second half of this overly long story takes place in Africa and it's effectively one long action scene with sidebars into other action. Sustained tension is good when done with craft, but Lawrence Donovan isn't a great writer so you get a concentrated dose of whatever the hell he's doing, and that can be, like what you'll read below about the spreading spider tracks on Doc's old bulletproof glass, annoying.


Monk’s foot did something to the thick rug of the big reception room. The messenger heard nothing. The door by which he had entered was no longer in evidence. He was looking at a smooth, unbroken wall...

A smoothly moving panel had made a false wall over the door.

Doc Savage had found it convenient at times to prevent some of his many visitors from finding their way out too quickly.


Ham attempted to cut his rattan bindings with a keen blade which sprang from the inside of a signet ring on his right hand.


"We have had visitors," he announced quietly.

The bronze man had glanced at one of the wall panels. This panel contained several dials. A red needle was slowly vibrating.

This informed Doc that one of several secret entrances had been disturbed.


DOC SAVAGE did not reply. He had produced a small cylinder. A pressure of a button set a generator buzzing. The man of bronze moved with apparent aimlessness across the laboratory.

But when Doc halted, one foot was pressing a spring concealed under the edge of a table. He pointed the gleaming cylinder at the big safe. The tumblers of the lock slid back noiselessly.

The ponderous door swung open.

The block of polished teakwood reposed inside. Count Cardoti had been staring at the opening of the safe. He associated the unlocking with the buzzing cylinder in Doc’s hand.

The cylinder had no connection with the apparent magic. It was a ruse sometimes employed by the bronze man when he desired to open the safe in the presence of visitors.


[The Wing!] Doc Savage’s men had christened this new aircraft the Wing. It was neither airplane nor dirigible. But it was sustained by a new type of noncombustible gas of the greatest lifting capacity.

No propellers were visible on the smooth wing. Within the wing itself were tubes, or what might have appeared to be wind tunnels.

These tubes overcame the constant danger of propellers being snapped off at high speed.

"What is the motive force?" questioned Count Cardoti, as Doc’s helpers were lashing many boxes aboard.

The erudite Johnny explained. Doc’s newest ship was propelled by a new compound explosive of his own devising. This was composed of oil and air carried under high pressure into a forward combustion chamber.

Here the oil and air combined and burned with intense heat. The result, as in the cylinder of a Diesel engine, was to produce a mixture of nitrogen of the air with water vapor and carbon dioxide at high temperature. Expanding gas and heat created great pressure. This caused gases to pass through the tubes with enormous velocity.

The Wing had proved capable of a speed of more than five hundred miles an hour.

DOC SAVAGE’S helpers had made everything ready. The Wing was divided into many compartments. Its controls were much the same as those of a dirigible, except the Wing could climb, bank and dive with the mobility of the fastest plane...

Because of its sustaining gas, the Wing could be held almost stationary....

The Wing was merged with the milky brightness of the tropical, star-studded sky. Its greatest advantage was its lack of vibration or motor impact. At cruising speed, the compound mixture was only a hissing through the tubes, which could not have been picked up by airplane detectors.


Now Doc Savage was employing powerful binoculars of four dimensional lenses. These not only brought distant objects closer, they made them stand out in stereoscopic detail.


At this moment machine gun bullets had begun hammering the Wing, like rain on a tin roof. They had about as much effect upon its bulletproof composition. The crystal alloy glass of its observation windows did not show so much as the trace of a spider crack.

This new composition had been perfected by Monk, directed by Doc. The old bulletproof glass with its spreading spider tracks had been annoying.


[The trilling adventures of Doc Savage] Doc Savage whipped from the telephone. The trill of danger was emanating from the bronze man.


[The sad after-the-fact excuse for Bama's Prince Namor Doc Savage] The man with the knife threw the weapon. The keen, heavy blade became a flash of light in the sun. Its point was directed at Doc’s skull. The knife hurler was accurate. The blade struck and parted Doc’s smooth bronze hair neatly.

There was a terrible, metallic clank, as if the heavy knife had split the bone of the bronze man’s skull. The Africans, for the moment, must have been incapable of movement. Certainly they had expected to see the man of bronze topple to the pavement of the alley...

Doc seemed to lift off the whole top of his head. This was a close-fitting, bullet-proof metallic cap. Over it was hair exactly the same color as the bronze underneath.


"Will Mr. Savage permit you to join this expedition?"

"Not if he can find some excuse to keep me at home," smiled Pat. "Doc seems to think I ought to be put in a glass case and kept for exhibition purposes."


[Why does Renny carry liquid uppers in a syringe?] The runner’s head dropped. Renny quickly produced a small hypodermic syringe. In a few seconds, the man opened his eyes. Whispered speech came to his lips through bloody foam.


Renny’s right hand flipped upward. His thumb nail had flicked the lever on the small globe. The object became a mere flash of light flying through the air...

The air itself seemed to explode. The hurtling object had not reached the island of the Long Juju shrine. It had burst in mid-air. It was a diminutive grenade containing what was perhaps the world’s highest-powered explosive.

The shrine of the Long Juju, with the Papa Loi , the old women beside the boiling pot, and the island itself seemed to dissolve.


[Funny sarcasm at having no idea what they're talking about] "Indubitably," observed Johnny, who was addicted to long words. "I judged the dead men to be omophagous Ulotrichans. They are likely to demonstrate they can be as poisonous as the Proterogluphya."

"Howlin’ calamities!" squeaked Monk. "They couldn’t possibly be that bad!"


[Ham the lawyer accepts this as real without speaking personally to Pat, and the address is a deserted warehouse, so that's on the level] "It seems Pat must be all right," he said in a relieved voice. "She is with this Señorita Moncarid. The señorita had called her hotel. She left an address if any one called inquiring for Pat. It’s on the upper East Side."

HAM and Monk drove rapidly to the East Side address. They surveyed the gloomy warehouse and loft building.

"Betcha the whole thing’s a trap!" complained Monk. "Maybe we oughtta call up Doc!"

Ham vetoed wasting any time. Descending from the car, he walked toward the partly open door of the deserted warehouse.

Ham is a horrible man:

"You never looked more natural!" rasped the disgusted and half naked Ham. "I hope you see your own face in that hole and it scares you to death!"...

"Maybe you’d do better teachin’ ‘em to swing through the trees," suggested Ham. "That’s more in your line."...

"If I can only live to remember what you looked like when they made you a general," grinned Ham. "We don’t need any guns, ape. All you’ve gotta do is show yourself to the attacking army."


THE tall figure was the last of the six runners. On the shoulders of this single man rested the burden of the message that had been carried by six...

The thin nostrils now were twitching. The runner’s keen olfactory sense told him he was not far from his goal. The odor was that of meat being cooked as only an inglesi would want it. All white men were inglesi, or Englishmen.


The carriers were eating. Their meal was a delicacy with them. It consisted of elephant feet baked for two days in a hot pit.


That smile was his last. It was a sardonic grin. Possibly it should have warned the men who had seized him.

The man holding the strange block fumbled his fingers along one edge. This man was almost completely obliterated. The block exploded with a terrific impact. The blast ripped open a small crater in the sidewalk.

 THE traffic policeman’s revolver exploded in the grip of a hand that probably was already dead.


[The huge safe is in the reception room, not the lab. Or is there another safe?] Count Cardoti had spoken correctly. Huge glass retorts and scores of small glass containers had been shattered.

Two dead men lay in front of the huge safe. The door of the safe had been deeply gouged with steel instruments. But the invaders had not succeeded in gaining an entrance.


[Were these brought over from Africa, and if so, why?] The canoes were fantastic. Queer figures of native gods and fetishes were carved on the tall prows. The keels were the hollowed trunks of single trees. Above these were bound thinner sides, secured by tough bark fibre.


[Is this assuming Noah's Ark and the Flood were factual?] "It’s the world as it was before the flood of Noah," announced the learned Johnny. "It seems the deluge never reached the heights of the Kilimanjaro."


Perhaps no white man would have appreciated this Kokonese dish. For it was no less than a great pie containing baked white ants. The flavor might have been a little off for a Caucasian palate.

There are worse Doc Savage books than Land Of Long JuJu (The Devil's Playground comes to mind), and this story can be cleaned up and corrected into something worth lending to a friend, but there's no way Doc turns himself into the morbidly obese King Udu in the jungles of deepest Africa and moves around in action scenes. Not to sound like Ed Gein, but it would have been better (and just as plausible) to have Doc carve out the King's innards and wear him like a onesie!

048 - The Derrick Devil:

"A mysterious jellylike creature is terrorizing the Indian Dome Oil Field! The Man of Bronze and his five fantastic aides descend upon Oklahoma to do battle with dastardly Tomahawk Tant — and uncover the infernal secret of the weird monster from the depths of the earth."

"We found his clothes. There’s no reason why he should walk off naked"

It's too bad this direct inspiration for The Blob (I have no idea if this is true) loses its way and falls short on its promises and potential because The Derrick Devil has much to recommend it. It's a great story until the halfwayish mark when the plot becomes confusing and not that interesting as members of two gangs kidnap, kill, and chase everyone around. Mistakes and missed opportunities pop up while the monster build-up vs. reveal reminds one of when Dean Kamen's "next" invention, The Segway, was teased as tech's leapfrog into the 23rd century. The Brit who bought the company died when he drove his off a cliff, but that's unrelated to this February, 1937 adventure.

There's a lot of good material about Doc, including this bit that's a favorite as it explains and implies a lot:

DOC SAVAGE’S father, in training him from childhood for his unique career, had taken into account the fact that he would many times have to fight empty-handed against odds. For years, even as a small child, he had been put through a daily rough-and-tumble brawl with larger opponents, several of them, with the penalty for inefficiency a severe lacing.

The men Doc had been pitted against in these practice bouts had been paid a bonus for any blows they could land. Naturally, they had waded in.

Doc in disguise on the plane is great, the submarine under the houseboat is great, the kid flying a kite with an aerial camera is great, and the Reservoir Hill and Vida Carlaw relationship could have been great.

The Sanctum reprint says the original story was sent back for reworking and various chapters were moved around, characters removed, and plot points expunged. In the process, holes leaked and chances to make the lesser parts as strong as the greater parts were not seized. The Derrick Devil deserves an overhaul. The sentient red blobs are scarier than the floating green snake blobs of The Mystic Mullah (Jan, 1935) because they're eating live human flesh (!):

THE thing going into the oil well casing had substantial reality to it, that was certain. It was not transparent, like a jelly. It flowed as some jellies will melt and flow when dropped on a hot stove. It was going into the sixteen-inch casing.

Color of the flowing mass was red.


The instant the light was upon the horror flowing under the door, the thing stopped. There was a brief pause. Gradually, the semiliquid red mass began to retract itself under the door...

His blinding speed was not enough. For the red mass was suddenly gone back under the door. Faster, almost, than the eye could perceive, it went.


"It’s simple—and horrible," said the girl. "Our wildcat oil well in the Indian Dome Field drilled into a nest of strange monsters over a mile underground. These monsters are something like—well—like—"

"Amoebas," Johnny suggested.


"Amoebas, one of the most primary forms of life, literally a mass of protoplasm without eyes, ears or skeletal framework," Johnny replied. "They secure and digest their food simply by flowing around it and covering it and absorbing the nutriment from the substance thus attacked."


Squirming, writhing, hideously translucent and ocherous in the light, was one of the fantastic monsters which had first been observed around the Sands-Carlaw-Hill wildcat oil well.

The thing was going into the tank. Swelling and spreading and creeping, it seemed to have no arms, legs, eyes, mouth, nose, nor anything else that an ordinary living creature is supposed to have. It was just—red, semi-transparent stuff, utterly hideous, and living! Back into the tank, it oozed, as if afraid of the light.

That's terrifying but the reveal is the direct inspiration (I have no idea if this is true) for the carpet monster in The Creeping Terror:

Over in one corner lay several strange-looking objects.

Soft, porous slabs of sponge rubber! Stout little balloons of rubber filled with some liquid, probably water. Sheets of crêpe rubber. To some of these sheets were attached slender lengths of bamboo; to all of them were attached strings.

Red, every one of the things! The hideous salmon tint of the "monsters" from the depths of the earth!

Johnny goes undercover as throwaway character Snook Loggard when he's close to the body type of Tomahawk Tant. It seems like a last-minute switch by Dent. Shouldn't Long Tom be Snook?:

It was too dark to tell much about them, only that the man was tall and skinny, except for his middle, which was big around, making him like a snake that had swallowed an egg. A nice snake, of course.

Reservoir Hill and Vida Carlaw are partners in an oil well operation in Tulsa and they seem to like each other. Hill is also the legendary outlaw Tomahawk Tant. In the easiest deduction of all time, since the story goes out of its way to say nobody knows what he looks like, it can only be Hill. Dent tries to save it for the end but a few chapters earlier a second-gang member bargains with a Tant man by offering:

"I can take you to Vida Carlaw!"

"Well, damn me!" howled the Tant outlaw. "Won’t Tant be tickled to see her! He thinks she’s dead! He’s been madder’n a skinned cat over it!"

The Hill/Tant timeline is wrong as how can Carlaw and Hill be partners for five years if Chapter 2 contains:

An old pipecap served as an ash tray, and a newspaper was folded so that black headlines showed. The headlines said:



Nobody suspects Hill is Tant. Chapter 5 has this scene:

The street was full of noisy cars carrying people to work and newsboys calling morning editions. One newsboy came along the street, howling a headline.

"Oklahoma outlaw escapes!" the boy squawled. "Tomahawk Tant evades airplanes and posses!"

None of this is taking place so the parts of the puzzle didn't get worked out in the final draft. In this scene Doc stops fighting too abruptly and it doesn't work:

"Get the bronze guy alive, if you can!" a voice howled.

"The chief will want to talk to ‘im!"

Instantly upon hearing that, Doc Savage stopped fighting.

The men rushed in, and seized Doc Savage, all of them that could lay hands upon him. Some one brought a gunny sack, and they dragged this over the bronze man’s head, then tied it.


THE plane was of the most modern type, which meant, of course, that it did not have the old-fashioned line of wicker seats down each side. Instead, there was a succession of boxlike compartments which could be made up into upper and lower berths. These compartments gave comparative privacy.


WINDOWS of Doc Savage’s skyscraper headquarters were of unusual type. The glass, perfected by the bronze man himself, was of a new variety which permitted occupants of the office to look out with ease, but which prevented any one outside looking in. The special glass admitted a rather diffused light.


Before he started for the door, Monk felt in a trousers pocket to make sure a certain coin was still there. Ostensibly, this coin was a half dollar; actually it was made of a radioactive metal which worked upon a hidden relay and electroscope combination which opened and closed the door. The device opened the door as Monk neared it.


By that time, Doc’s plane had traversed a slice of Pennsylvania which would have surprised even an airspeed expert. The ship was a small one, consisting of a cockpit for two, radio equipment and a tiny fuselage and wing assembly—the rest of it was motor. Almost two thousand horse power!


"The valve controls for a tank of gas in the real," Doc explained. "The gas, when released in the air, is invisible, but causes a chemical reaction with the air which makes it noninflammable. In other words, a plane flying into this vapor will stop, because the air gas mixture sucked into its motor became nonexplosive."


The glass containers had a certain vibrating point; and a sound of that frequency would start them vibrating in sympathy, with the result that they shattered themselves when a certain strength of sympathetic vibration was reached.

It was the same method by which the famous singer, Caruso, was able to break wine glasses, except that in this case it had been Doc’s trilling sound, lifted to great volume, which had done the job.


A NEWCOMER had seized the wiry fellow. The appearance of this new arrival was striking. He might have been sculptured out of hard bronze. The contour of his features, his mobile and muscular mouth, his ample forehead, his lean cheeks denoted a power of character beyond the ordinary...

He did not have the pachyderm shape which usually marks very strong men.


Vida Carlaw demanded, "Just who are you anyway?"

The bronze giant looked at the strikingly pretty woman, without being visibly impressed.

"Clark Savage, Jr.," he said. "Sometimes called Doc Savage."...

Besides all this, Vida Carlaw was an exquisite young lady who was accustomed to having members of the opposite sex show marked admiration when they were in her neighborhood. She was accustomed to taking their breath away. But this fellow appeared no more moved than if he were looking at a tree...

Vida Carlaw mused that she had really never seen a more handsome man than this one...

Vida Carlaw decided she liked the bronze’s man’s voice, just as well as his looks. That voice properly belonged to an opera singer.


"I’ve met strong hombres in my time!" he muttered. "But this is the first time I ever ran into a human bear trap!"


"Listen," he said, "this is Clark Savage, Jr."

"Is that supposed to mean something to me?" the broker asked.

"Doc Savage."

The broker must have choked slightly. "That’s different!"


[Usually a Monk thing, Doc punches unconscious men into deeper unconsciousness] Doc Savage went around and whacked each of the six men on the jaw to make sure he would remain unconscious for some time.


In truth, this was one of the reasons Doc seldom wore a hat. People became accustomed to seeing him without a hat, and when he donned one, it worked so great a change in his appearance that it was almost a disguise in itself.


An hedonistic tympanum of concinnity," said "Johnny."

The girl looked stunned. "Johnny really knows little words," Monk explained, "but he saves ‘em for birthdays!"


Johnny did not arrive in Tulsa with them. He had dropped out of sight. The others did not know where. But they suspected Johnny had remained behind to keep an eye on the prisoners in the hospital. They were not sure about this. It was just a guess.


[He translates himself in the same breath] Johnny, when he was ungagged and untied, gulped, "I’ll be superamalgamated. Is my physiognomy rubescent! In other words, is my face red!"


Monk made a face. This usually helped his thinking.


GETTING information out of reluctant subjects was a frequent need with Doc Savage. He had developed various methods. They began mildly and became more scientific.

The first treatment worked with their captives. It consisted of putting Monk in a room with them and shutting the door. Monk was not through explaining in detail what he was going to do to them when they started talking.


Monk said, admiringly, "For once, you can say, ‘Supermalagorgeous,’ or, ‘I’ll be superamalgamated,’ and I won’t feel like chokin’ you!"


It was too dark to tell much about them, only that the man was tall and skinny, except for his middle, which was big around, making him like a snake that had swallowed an egg. A nice snake, of course.


THE male clothing—hat, shirt, coat, trousers, socks, heavy oil field shoes—lay exactly in a position they would occupy if the former wearer had lain down on his back and his body had become nonexistent.

The shirt was inside the coat, with the shirt sleeves down inside the coat sleeves in a natural manner. The socks were even inside the shoes.


Alonzo Cugg had big eyes with a permanent scare deep in them, and a way of holding his hands as if ready to sprint. No one knew of any reason why he had ever been scared of any one or why he should be. He seemed about one hundred and thirty pounds of skin over wires, and was about two shades lighter than a khaki shirt.


"Listen, sweetie pie," said the black-gloved man. "I’m the little airplane girl’s friend. I like your type. You’ve got me all up in the air—"

"Then stay there!" suggested the hostess, and walked to her seat in the rear of the plane.


[The most simple telling of it] Doc Savage’s headquarters consisted of three rooms. One, the reception room, was small, and furnished with little more than a huge safe, some comfortable chairs, and a fabulous-looking inlaid table. The other two rooms were immense.

One room was a library of scientific tomes, almost unequaled in the world for completeness, and the other was a laboratory which was the envy of the few great scientists who had seen it.


[Not fancy = Open earlier for those who might need that] THE See-Well Optical Co. was not an elaborate establishment, which probably accounted for the proprietor having opened his doors an hour earlier than was customary for such firms.


The trailing method was not Doc’s invention. Monk, Ham and Johnny each got a taxi, and they took turns, one on the trail, while the other got ahead. By switching about casually, they made it almost impossible for the man in the taxi to learn he was being trailed.


The bronze man indicated the strange-looking mark which Monk had made following his message.

"Ancient Mayan," the bronze man explained.

"Eh? A shunt may what?" The officer hadn’t got it.

"A hieroglyphic in prehistoric Mayan," Doc Savage elaborated.

"I’ll take your word for it. What’s it mean?"


[The Yoots would have no idea what this means] A newsboy was crying a paper at the Tulsa airport.


[Because Hill is Tant] "You’re crazy!" he howled. "They couldn’t have been Tant’s men!"

Every one looked at Reservoir Hill. The old man glared, then apparently realized his howled statement had sounded queer, and looked confused.

"What I mean is that this dang gollywobbler, Andershott, couldn’t tell the truth if he wanted to!" he yelled. "He’s a natural-born liar. He’s lying now for some reason!"

The Derrick Devil's positives greatly outweigh the negatives no matter how bad they are. The middle section should be shortened to minimize scenes that focus on the confusion of who is in what outlaw group - The Tant men and the second gang who's led by the other obvious choice on who that could be. A clear differentiation of the two bad guy gangs is in order. Since Hill/Tant left everything to Vida in his will he should have expressed some kind of friendly affection to her at the end, and if he were to die protecting her the story would be that much better and he would earn this line from Vida: "As Reservoir Hill—he was always—a swell guy!"

The digestive-juice blob menace should trade in its sentient boost of horror for a resolution that's better than sponges and balloons. You can get as much mileage from the after effects of acid on the human body as creating visuals that wind up being cheats.

049 - The Mental Wizard:

"The massive creature -- a mile from head to toe! -- sleeps in the steaming jungle. Is the behemoth real, or has the golden enchantress "Z" conquered the magnificent Man of Bronze with the hypnotic power of her superhuman mind? Doc Savage meets his mental match when he uncovers the strange lost kingdom of the deadly Amazon."

"Why can’t you speak like ordinary white people, Johnny?"

March, 1937's doings were threatened by George Pal as the follow-up to his 1975 Doc Savage film, which ended with "Doc Savage in Klantic Kountry, Koming Soon!" It was more like "Next: Doc Savage in Klantic Country" but who's counting. For the first half of the book I can see why The Mental Wizard would be chosen as it's fairly epic with its gritty deaths, colorful characters, and playful mind control hijinks. Even at its best I don't see how it makes creative sense to send Doc back to the same South American jungle sets used in The Man Of Bronze. In 1976 Bruce Jenner defined modern muscle and special effects were still in-camera, so maybe repeating the last film with a new twist wouldn't be noticed either. I wouldn't be surprised if the floating green snakes of that first film were painted in by hand.

What's great about the first half is nearly forgotten as the action shifts to the Amazon jungle. Plot checks are written but mostly bounced and the magical elements of the opening are shunted aside. "Z" doesn't use her powers and "Amber" O'Neel exists off-page. It's like Lester Dent wrote the New York scenes, put it away for a goodly while, then came back to it for a rush deadline completion - a shame because while it lasts it's a great book.

The mile-long "Klantic" pyramid is fun but Dent has Monk think it's a real being instead of an ancient stone statue rotting in the jungles for centuries. I didn't know Monk was that stupid. If he was willed to see it I don't remember reading that. Planes magically disappearing is another tease that falls apart as they're disassembled and hidden with an impossible speed and marked lack of heavy equipment needed to do the job. Exposition on gadgets during the closing battle sequence was comprehensive to say the least. I pictured a blackboard and pointer being rolled out for the job. Pig and Ape are on hand to be tripped over and magically not killed while Ham is an absolute douchebag with the social skills of a spoiled child. If this counts for humor, 1937 was a nasty time to be alive:

"Blazes!" he gulped. "So she was making me scared! Boy, I was right at the point where I was afraid to look for my shadow!"

"Your shadow," Ham said shakily, "would scare anybody almost any time!"...

"Me, too," Monk agreed. "I’m sweated out until I got no more moisture left than a dried apple."

"A dried prune would be more like it," Ham had vitality enough to add...

"All right," Johnny said. "But tell me more about it. Will it make any man have mental powers beyond your own?"

"Any man," said the girl. "Providing, of course, that the brain is not diseased, or the person an idiot."

"That lets Monk out," Ham decided aloud. "He’ll never be helped."

Find the major, simple error in this line:

Renny, using binoculars, said, "Monk and his pet ape would sure be at home down there."


Long ago, Doc had refined a device which was coming more and more into use in prisons and police stations. The apparatus consisted simply of a contrivance which registered, through the alteration in a magnetic field, the nearness of any iron or steel.


[Radiation, the lead paint of asbestos] "Remember, before we left New York on that cruise ship, each of you turned in his supermachine pistol at headquarters to have a new grip applied?" Doc asked...

"That grip was made of a composition containing a radioactive substance," Doc told him. "The original purpose was to make it easier to locate these deadly weapons if they were stolen. You know that we have detectors which can locate radioactive materials at great distances."


[Doc is possibly halfway human] She shook her head. "I mean, will they like me without my consciously and cold-bloodedly making them?"

Doc studied her beauty. "I do not see how they could help it."

Renny, who had been glancing over one shoulder from time to time, said, "Maybe that girl is halfway human, after all."

Long Tom had also been watching. He chuckled.

"Maybe Doc is, too," he said.


[Doc's referring to failed Crime College operations (*wink)] Doc Savage said, "How would you two like to die?"

They almost didn’t answer that, either; then one said, "It is well known that you never kill a man."

"Not a physical death," Doc replied calmly. "A mental one. How would you like it? A simple thing which can be done to your necks so that you will become idiots and forever remain so?"

Doc was bluffing. The operation he mentioned was possible, but it was work for an equipped operating room and plenty of time.


DOC SAVAGE had a rule. He had several rules, but this one was invariable. It was necessary for the efficient functioning of his little organization. It was essential in order that his work of fighting evil and aiding the oppressed might continue.

He never permitted himself to think of falling in love. It would only give his enemies—and they numbered legions—a means of striking at him indirectly. The life which he led was too perilous for any woman to share.

The fact that he adhered to the rule had given Doc the reputation of being lacking in certain human qualities. His aids, while not ladies’ men—excepting Monk and Ham—were decidedly human, and they had waited a long time for Doc to show signs of falling in love with some one.

They invariably watched the advent of an especially pretty and intelligent girl with hopeful—or anxious, depending on the girl—expectation.


[A bit much] The last man of the four was built with big bones and a lot of gristle, but his fists were what stood out. Incredible hands! Doubled, they made fists the equal of many a man’s head in size. This man also wore a gloomy look on his long face. He was sourness itself.


[The meaning of Renny in a good mood] The big-fisted engineer did some thinking, and a slightly cheerful look came over his long, puritannical face. That was a bad sign, because Renny somewhat contrarily registered gloom when he was happiest, and when he looked even moderately cheerful, it was time for ordinary peace-lovers to take to storm cellars.


Monk squeaked, "You’re the doggonedest combination of absolute genius and
abysmal ignorance that I ever saw!"


"Huh? Well—huh! I’ll be superflabbergasted, as Johnny might say! "


"Did they all join us willingly?" Doc asked.

"Sure," Monk said promptly, then took the first opportunity to get a pair of skinned knuckles out of sight.

"A few words from a purveyor of the Holy word helped," said the missionary.


"They just missed being grease spots," explained Monk, who was a bit callous at times.


"The Señor Doc Savage is on that steamer," the man said. "What you see is a reception to welcome and honor him. The president is here, the minister of war, and many others."

"So the day has come when they honor a doctor," Hutton remarked.


[Exposition error of explaining something they know all too well] "He would have laid an egg," agreed big-fisted Renny. "Ham was so cocky he got careless. He should have known that gas which Doc released by breaking the container in his pocket is odorless and colorless, but will render a man unconscious until at least a minute has elapsed, or until it has time to be rendered harmless by mixture with the air."


The brown man looked surprised, and said, "Is it possible you have not heard of this Doc Savage? Every one señor, knows him. Even the devils in hell."


A THOUSAND other people were screaming within a hundred yards, so one more scream—David Hutton’s—did not make much difference. A squad of army airplanes roared overhead. They were flying in a formation that made the letter DOC.


"White man," Doc elaborated. "He came close to the natives when they were closing in on this fellow, addressed them in their native tongue, and promised them outboard motors."


He went slack, all of a sudden, as if some one had cut the wire that supplied him with juice. Only a dead man could fall thus.


[Degenerate gambler pro-tip] Colombians of his type were inveterate gamblers, and they like to bet on jumping bean races. This look-out happened to know that if a jumping bean was soaked in a certain solution prior to the race, the worm inside could be made more frenzied in its efforts, and since the movement of the worm made the bean jump, the bean became a better racer.


Not for nothing had Doc spent years perfecting his use of foreign languages. His Spanish was perfect. It even had the language shadings of a low-class Colombian, a vernacular as distinctly its own kind as the "dem," "dose" and "dat" of the Bowery bum.


Doc Savage opened the door and looked at the girl. She was still tied, and there were still no snakes.

He shut the door hastily.


[Slash fiction starter kit] "Watch her," he directed his aids. "And do not get nearer than thirty or so feet from her. That may not be a sufficient distance. There has not been time to make sure. But if you find yourself getting ideas, get farther away from her."

"What kind of ideas?" Long Tom asked.

"Queer ones," Doc told him.

Ham said dryly, "Monk will be in a predicament. That’s the only kind of ideas he has."


[Part I: This tells me the two are not nice people] "How many men have they, altogether?"

"About two hundred," one of the prisoners estimated. "And it seems that the rest of the population will probably swing to their side. The present rulers are two persons, a father and his daughter, known as the custodians of the secret of Klantic."


[Part II: How it's explained] "Oh, some of the Americans here told me," she explained. "The same thing has happened to my father and myself. They’re simply tired of us. Everybody gets tired of anything. They’ll get rid of us, and later on, they’ll wish they hadn’t done anything about it."


"I am a peace-loving man, with a nature usually as gentle as that of a lamb." He grabbed his dungeon bar and shook it. "But sometimes I have a lion in me! Let me out of here!"


[I like toast, I like toast, I like toast] The fellow kept the utterly scared look on his face after he became senseless. The paralysis which Doc inflicted by expert pressure sometimes did that. The victims kept the same expressions on their faces. Sometimes they kept the same thought in their mind throughout, too.

It's a shame The Mental Wizard peters out the way it does because Z's interactions with Doc are nice and the first half is, for Doc Savage, impressively rendered. Take what works in the first and add it to the second half for a much better product. Have Monk freak out at the mile long man as a pyramid in the middle of the jungle and not a real creature. Remove the bit with the fake giant panther tracks implied to be the pet of the giant man. Incorporate Amber back into the plot and also the mental tricks of the gold-haired people. This one's definitely worth fixing.

050 - The Terror In The Navy:

"A bizarre dictator unleashes a deadly force against the United States Navy: the mightiest vessels in the U.S. armada are sunk; warplanes are pulled from the clouds; even Doc Savage's impenetrable sky fortress is ripped from the stratosphere! And the brash, strutting BRAUN demands one hundred million dollars in ransom from a nation in chaos. Only the Man of Bronze dares challenge the crushing power of this phantom force!"

April, 1937's The Terror In The Navy is a very good story with a few glaring shortcomings that almost sink it. Wordplay zing! Can it be repaired? Captain Blackstone Toy didn't have to be a bad guy, or at least not at the end. His brother was murdered by these animals and he almost died himself when his plane went down. The Lieber Von Zidney head-fake would have worked without lines like this:

It sounded like Lieber Von Zidney’s voice.

"What about the prisoners?" the guard shouted.

"We’ll take them, too," said the muffled voice which sounded like Von Zidney’s.

"And what about the rest of the men—the ones in the next block—"

"Never mind!" shouted the Von Zidney voice. "They’ll attack Doc Savage’s crowd from the rear!"

Just write it as "Lieber Von Zidney’s voice", "said Von Zidney's muffled voice", and "shouted Von Zidney". August Atlanta Braun's entire involvement is an anchor on the tale (zing!). Being a Joe Average who's angry at the Navy he's not going to be able to organize this many people to dedicate their lives to making ships and planes appear to be pulled to their doom by an unknown force. If Braun was made the lead agent of an effort by that unnamed foreign government (wink!), spies serving that nation would be feasible or at least more easily dismissed under the legal statute of Suspension Of Disbelief.

Here's what harder to fix or at least worse to begin with. August Atlanta Braun invented a machine the year before that nullifies force fields and the Navy didn't buy it. Being dishonorably discharged from that same Navy probably didn't help, but he was selling a defense for something that didn't exist at the time, and he knew when and where the enemy would strike next. Braun was kicked out of the Navy and only Navy stuff was attacked. Even the guy cleaning toilets on a destroyer could tell you it's either Col. Mustard in the Conservatory with a Lead Pipe or A. A. Braun. Have Braun attempt to sell the machine some time after the ships start going down. Have an unfolding event happen near where he's showing the machine to Navy officials for the first time and have him race out and avert a disaster in front of them. Have him be released from the Army (not the Navy) for something less than a dishonorable discharge.

Ham and Monk's hate-fest is annoying. Dumb ape and stupid pig must go. Ham pretends to be a man named Shade as if Shade's buddies have no idea what he looks like (standard failure) and he ties up Chemistry nearby as if dumb ape should be on a dangerous assignment: "'I found Chemistry tied to a bush out where nobody could be expected to find him,' Pat explained."

All this aside, and I think it can be readily repaired, The Terror In The Navy is a fun story with a lot of good things in it. In this case I'll even forgive Lester Dent's occasional attempt to have Doc subtly freak out at the sight of a pretty lady as if he keeps a nuclear device in his bronze codpiece and visible excitement might wipe out sixty city blocks:

Doc Savage walked to the window, not because he wanted to see the window, but because he wanted to get away from the disturbing presence of the young woman...

DOC SAVAGE looked at the hand on his arm, and reflected that he had never seen a more perfectly shaped feminine extremity...

"Continue, please." Doc was aware of some of the young woman’s exquisite curves, and of the warm grip she was keeping on his arm...

Doc Savage reached out and almost patted the young woman’s small, marvelously built hand, almost took it in his own bronze fingers. Then some solidity of thought returned, and he drew in a breath and stepped away, so that the shapely hand slipped from his sleeve.


Doc Savage, since he could hardly loosen India Allison’s frightened embrace with anything less than violence, resigned himself to having an extremely attractive young woman hanging onto one arm. He had, for once, some expression on his bronze features. It was not a comfortable expression.

Assuming this is playfulness on Dent's part at the expense of Doc, he also makes Pat spontaneously fun. In my re-reading of Doc Savage books I'm finding Pat to be more over-her-head than useful. On the whole is she really an asset? The first bit starts with a nice description of Doc:

The giant bronze man standing before her smiled faintly, which was a rare thing for him to do. Some persons had known him for years and had never seen him smile. Not that he went around looking gloomy. His amazingly regular features, almost classic in their firm handsomeness, simply had no expression at all, most of the time.

He stood near the door, and it looked doubtful if he could pass through it without ducking. Yet, when he stepped away from the door, he seemed to shrink in stature, due to the remarkable symmetry of his development. There had to be something around to which his size might be compared before his full Herculean stature was apparent.

His hair was straight, a slightly darker bronze than that of Pat Savage, and his eyes were gold, also, but of a different nature. The bronze man’s orbs were like pools of flake metal, always stirred by some invisible force. They seemed also to possess a weird, compelling power.

The sinews in his neck were like hausers, the thews in the backs of his hands like round files.

"Doc Savage!" Pat exclaimed cheerfully. "You’re smiling! You’re actually becoming human!"


Pat, golden eyes alight, every slender inch of her alive and vibrant and on the trail of excitement, came in. She saw Doc Savage and stopped.

"Oh!" she said. "The big bronze day of reckoning again!"


Pat put out a nice-looking jaw. "I’m going along!"

"Do you ever get tired of persistently trying to get yourself killed?" Doc asked wearily.

"No!" Pat said. "Neither do you!"


Pat looked indignant.

Renny whispered to Pat, "I guess she got you told!"

Pat gritted, "If people keep on abusing me, I’m going to collect myself some heads!"

The comically visual WTF exasperation on this made me laugh:

"This is Johnny, one of Doc Savage’s men," said one of Johnny’s captors. "We thought we’d bring him to you, Fuzzy."

The snaky, hairy man shut off the radio, then yelled at the top of his voice, "What in the hell is this you’re telling me?"

Other fun lines:

A lean man with more than his share of nose met them at the door.

"The whole dang navy is what a prissy guy would call ‘in a dither,’"

Renny escorted Pat to the rear, looking very gloomy, as he did when he was tickled at something.

What happened next was something that Renny put into his autobiography.

A good Frick & Frack line:

Ham and Monk sat outside in the boat, insulting each other enthusiastically in whispers.

This detective kit thing is good:

From inside his clothing came a tiny atomizer device with which he blew fine spray over the doorknob. This promptly became crusted with a brownish deposit.

Doc went to the picture of Lieutenant Bowen Toy. He sent a spray from the tiny atomizer over parts of the picture. The brown deposit appeared again, not in a smooth film, but in scattered patches.

The brown deposit was simply oily film left by human hands, as acted upon by chemical reagents from the atomizer. An infinitesimal oily deposit is left by the touch of almost any human hand.

The nature and consistency of the film naturally changes with time. The oil vaporizes, dries up. The less the oily film had vaporized, the more intense the brown deposit. Thus, Doc could judge accurately how long since hands had touched an object.

Doc's office now sports one-way glass, Renny's fists today are a half-gallon each, a "pigboat" is slang for a submarine, and Sportoculars are a thing. Long Tom is a wealthy miser. The laughing gas ploy was sweet and Doc & Monk invent a gas that freezes people into unconsciousness for about two minutes. Gadgets and gimmicks-wise this novel gets it right.

This is exactly how Doc should be seen in such events:

The men who sat around the table were, to all intents and purposes, the United States navy and a good part of the United States government. There were senators and congressmen present, members of a naval appropriations committee.

Doc Savage, escorted in by a page, recognized them all and bowed slightly. He did not smile or glad-hand any one, but yet he managed to convey a feeling of good fellowship. He seemed to emanate a completely likeable personality, without making any undue effort to do so.

Doc's peak human and Dent does a great job showing how Doc experiences pain and trauma. The second section is Doc Savage action at its best:

Then some one hit Doc over the head with a rifle. The blow was unexpected, something that could not be avoided. Doc sank, recoiled, made no sound to show that he was hurt, or where he’d crouched. His head sang and for a little while it seemed blacker than before, and sounds were faint.


Doc hauled the lever. Efficient machinery clicked, and the plane was suddenly plunging down toward the sea. The bronze man let it dive for some distance, so as to get clear of the dirigible underbody. Then he came back on the stick.

Both wings tore off!

There was nothing particularly violent about its happening. Simply a squeal of pins sheared through, and the wings, which were of the modern detachable type, came away from the fittings and fluttered away like big leaves in a wind overhead.

Doc did not look at the sea, or at the loose wings. He heaved up in the cockpit. The cushion was a seat type parachute. But a moment was required to swing it out. He did not buckle on the harness, but depended on the cabled strength in his hands to hang on. He plucked the ripcord.

The parachute opened with a pop! and a ripple—the ripple being torn strips of ‘chute fabric. For the silken lobe had been ripped by a knife!

DOC let go the harness. There was nothing else left to do. Not enough of the parachute remained to break his fall.

He turned slowly as he fell and fought at his coat. The sea had been nearly a mile and a half below at the start of his fall. It was much nearer now.

It is possible for a man falling free in the air to control himself by kicking, by thrusting out his arms, by flipping them about violently. Doc kept himself falling feet downward. At the same time, he removed his coat.

He was wearing, under his coat, a flat parachute of unusual light and strong chemical-product fabrikoid, a filmy stuff infinitely stronger and lighter than the best of silk. This fabrikoid had been perfected by the chemical genius, the apish Monk.

The parachute of fabrikoid came near opening too late. Doc hit the water with more force than he relished; it was barely possible that an individual whose physical strength was less might have died from the shock.

The bronze man went very deep, and when he had gained the top, he spouted some water and lay still on the surface, not entirely knocked out, but also not enthusiastic about immediate activity.

The Hindenburg crashed on May 6, 1937. The Terror In The Navy came out some time the month before. The first part makes me wonder if this is really possible in such a craft (keep in mind I'm an idiot), and the description of its crash is somber, terrifying, and prescient:

BATTLESHIPS are popularly supposed to be the most expensive war machine put together by modern man, but the Zephyr had cost more than any battleship afloat. Not all of the millions charged against her cost sheet had gone into actual materials and labor in her construction. She was the product of years of experimenting, and experimenting with dirigibles is expensive.

The Zephyr was longer than a battleship, and she was the attempt of the United States of America to show the rest of the world that lighter-than-air craft are practical.

If the Zephyr crashed any time within the next year or two, aviation as centered upon lighter-than-air craft would receive a setback from which it was just possible it might not recover.

The Zephyr was all metal. There was not a stitch of fabric in her. She was so strong that the makers claimed she could fall a mile and not be damaged so badly that she could not fly. There was a catch to that, of course. A ship as light for her size as the Zephyr could not fall very fast.

The Zephyr had accommodations equal to those aboard a liner. She could carry enough poison-gas bombs to kill every man, woman and child in any city in the world, and she could fly so high and so silently that there was only a chance in a thousand of enemy war planes finding her.

She carried enough machine guns to whip a flotilla of fighting planes, and thousands of machine-gun bullets through her vitals would not bring her to the ground, because she was made like a honeycomb, with countless cells. The only way she could be vanquished was by being blown apart by a bomb, and blowing her apart would not be easy, because she could fly as fast as some war planes.


Then something happened up above. The giant dirigible Zephyr began a steady, awful dive toward the sea—all the camouflaged hundreds of feet of her, the most modern air machine devised by man.

The plane slanted toward Doc. He changed position rapidly on the surface, at the same time digging inside his clothing, seeking a certain pocket in the remarkable vest which he wore—a vest with many pockets holding the innumerable gadgets which he frequently found occasion to use.

There was a pocket in the vest for smoke bombs, but they were gone, the pocket split open by the force of his fall. The man of bronze dived, stroked to the left madly.

The bomb explosion came again. Worse, if possible. He did not come to the surface again immediately. Instead, he slipped out of his outer clothing, and left it in the water. Soaked as it was, it would not rise to the surface immediately, and it might be mistaken for his body.

The ruse worked. Savage swam far away, and showed himself on top only momentarily for air, keeping the rest of the time well beneath the surface.

Of course, from the plane, they could see a surprising depth beneath the surface. But they had expected the bomb to kill Doc, and seeing his clothing, thought it had, so they dropped no more bombs. Then the dirigible came arching down and distracted their attention before they discovered the bronze man.

The Zephyr was going to crash!

 DOC saw it hit. The manner of its crash was uncanny. It was going almost full speed, all motors roaring, when it hit. The Zephyr was strong, but not strong enough for that. The nose caved—caved back full a two hundred feet, as if the water were a solid wall. The backbone of the air giant broke in a dozen places.

Big, invisible hands might as well have taken it and mashed it between them. Hands a mile across the palms, perhaps.

Fix the glaring errors and The Terror In The Navy is a great Doc Savage story.