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Doc Savage

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Art work ©2013 by DeVito ArtWorks, LLC and Joe DeVito. All rights reserved.

Skull Island by Will Murray reviewed at SFSignal.com

My review of Skull Island, the new Doc Savage novel by Will Murray, was posted recently at the Hugo-award-winning SFSignal.com.
An excerpt:

REVIEW SUMMARY: Pulp legends collide as Doc Savage encounters King Kong shortly after World War I, augmenting the history of Doc Savage.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Called upon to take care of King Kong’s body after his fall from the Empire State Building, Doc Savage recounts to his aides the story of his first meeting with Kong, shortly after World War I when he and his father were searching the southern seas for Doc’s grandfather.

PROS: Adds to the origins and background of Doc Savage and features a younger, still maturing, more complex Doc; and it has Kong! And DeVito art of Kong!
CONS: Would have enjoyed seeing more of Kong; and more DeVito art of Kong!
BOTTOM LINE: Near the 80th anniversary of both King Kong and Doc Savage, this novel is a well-paced look at a younger Doc Savage, uncertain of his future, uncomfortable in his relationship with his father, and searching for a grandfather he barely knows. This “origin” story provides a more complex Doc Savage than other novels, and can be enjoyed by Savage zealots (guilty!) and neophytes alike. Kong’s portrayal is true to DeVito’s Kong: King of Skull Island, and more Kong is the main thing I would ask of this novel.

[For newbies: check out A Doc Savage Primer and this list of all of the Doc Savage novels]


In 1933, King Kong escaped his captors and climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, where warplanes repeatedly attacked him and ultimately toppled him to his death on the ground below.

In the same time period, Doc Savage was making his name, traveling the world with his five aides, battling evil and doing good. His headquarters was in a high floor of a never-named office building, which could have been the Empire State Building.

This review could have been titled When Two Pulp Legends Collide, but I wasn’t sure if readers would think the title referred to Doc Savage and King Kong or Will Murray and Joe DeVito. Murray is the most recent incarnation of Kenneth Robeson, the “house name” for the authors of Doc Savage starting with Lester Dent. He penned the last seven books of the Bantam series of Doc Savage novels in the early 90s and has most recently resuscitated Doc Savage with his “Wild Adventures of Doc Savage” series. Joe DeVito has illustrated many books and magazine covers in the worlds of science fiction, fantasy and pop culture, and is the creator ofKONG: King of Skull Island.

Together they have created not only a legend-meets-legend novel, but added more to the origin story and canon of Doc Savage, enough of a departure from the original Doc Savage series that instead of the normal “Kenneth Robeson” by-line, Murray’s name is on the cover.

Art work ©2013 by DeVito ArtWorks, LLC and Joe DeVito. All rights reserved.

Art work ©2013 by DeVito ArtWorks, LLC and Joe DeVito. All rights reserved.

The novel is a post-World War I story wrapped around events just after Kong falls from the Empire State Building. Doc is tasked by officials with the disposal of Kong’s body, during which time he reveals to his aides (three of the five Monk, Ham and Renny, as was the norm with many of the later Doc Savage novels) that he has known King Kong before.

The main story is told in three parts:

  • Doc and his father, Clark, Sr., as they sail the seas in search of Doc’s grandfather, the legendary Stormalong Savage;
  • finding and exploring Skull Island; and
  • Doc and the others encountering King Kong.

The “origin” facts alone (including the existence of Stormalong Savage) veer sharply from those set forth in the Philip Jose’ Farmer “Wold-Newton Universe” (which strives to link many fictional characters in a lineage started when a radioactive meteor landed in Wold Newton, England and caused mutations that affected a large cross-section of many fictional universes). If interested, see the Doc Savage Wold-Newton chronology here. There has been some interesting (and some less-than-interesting) banter in the various Doc Savage and Wold Newton Universe forums on which version of Doc is correct or should be considered “canon” (isn’t this like arguing which fiction is more…non-fiction?) Both are great world building, and, c’mon, there’s been so many Marvel and DC Universe’s that only uber-geeks can keep track (or want to). If push came to shove, I’ll listen to Murray, who has written as Kenneth Robeson and represents Lester Dent’s (the original Kenneth Robeson) heirs. Farmer also contributed to the Doc Savage world by writing Escape from Loki, (the original Doc Savage “origins” novel showing Doc in World War I, meeting his five aides for the first time) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, a fictional biography of a fictional character.

And now, back to our story…

Read the entire review here.

Art work ©2013 by DeVito ArtWorks, LLC and Joe DeVito. All rights reserved.

Art work ©2013 by DeVito ArtWorks, LLC and Joe DeVito. All rights reserved.

Farmer, Burroughs and Doc - Making Connections

Farmer, Burroughs and Doc – Making Connections

Thanks to JD at SFSignal, I am now reading Gods of Opar, an ARC of the soon to be published trilogy of Philip Jose Farmers two Opar books (Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar), plus the conclusion to the trilogy, The Song of Kwasin, written by Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey (I believe Mr. Carey finished this story based on notes in the PJFarmer archives). Originally written to be a series of “ten or twelve volumes” (so says a letter from PJF) of historical fantasy based in Opar, an ancient world first visited in fiction by Tarzan.

This book and Farmer connects the dots with two of my long term obsessions: Doc Savage and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Farmer should be a familiar author based on his two most widely read series: the Riverboat series (To Your Scattered Bodies Go (a most excellent name for a novel, BTW) won the Hugo in 1972) and the World of Tiers series. But Farmer also had a fascination and participation with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Doc Savage.

Doc Savage is the long running pulp series (my primer on SFSignal can provide you background) which Will Murray has recently revived. Farmer wrote two books in the Doc Savage canon: Escape from Loki (which depicts Doc and his five men as an origination story in World War I) and the psuedo-biography Doc Savage: His Apocolyptic Life.

Edgar Rice Burroughs is the creator of Tarzan and John Carter, the subject of my current SFSignal Primers (written here and video here).

Farmer connects Doc Savage and Tarzan in many of his stories, and in his Wold Newton universe (which postulates that a meteorite that landed in England affected certain people in the universe by giving them extraordinary abilities).

The Gods of Opar stories bring this connection full circle. Opar is first mentioned in Burrough’s second Tarzan book, Return of Tarzan, and is the setting of three others in the series. Farmer expands this region by building the history, setting Hadon in the year 10,000 BC and putting a time-traveler character from one of his other novels as a tinkerer and trouble maker.

A full review of the trillogy will be on SFSignal when reading is complete.


Death in Silver by Kenneth Robeson

Paine L. Winthrop, President of Seaven Seas ship building company, isdeathinsilver murdered, his officedestroyed by a launchedmissile. Monk and Ham are in Monk’s lab in the same building, and goto investigate. They areultimatelytaken captive by the Silver Death’s Head gang (so namedbecause of their silver costumes). the gang apparently responsible for Winthrop’s murder.

The Silver Death’s Heads gang launches a crime spree in New York City, including the murder ofWinthrop, robbingarmoredcars, banks. etc.. They net over $1 million, but there is alarger conspiracy at work; multiple shipping companies are being acquired under mysteriouscircumstances, accidents befalling their leaders, and stock transactions worth over a billion.

Doc enters first to save Ham and Monk, then to stop the Silver Death Heads gang, as they try to get him out of their way.

This is the first adventure in the re-read where only Monk and Ham (with a brief appearance by Pat) joinDoc. Renny is off working on the dam project in South Africa, which is a large part of the novel Python Isle by Will Murray.

This also makes the first adventure in the re-read where the action stays in NYC (and the NY Harbor).

There is a reappearance (from #4 The Polar Treasure and #10 The Phantom City) and apparent sinking ofthe Helldiver submarine.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books ishere.

  • Written by: Lester Dent
  • Villain: the mysterious Master in Silver, leader of the Silver Death Heads; his scientist named Ull;
  • Doc Gadget: underwater radio, underwater diving apparatus; adjustments to the sub Helldiver to make it squirt black ink underwater;
  • Doc Feat: lots of underwater swimming for long lengths of time.;
  • Exotic locale: none, except for the New York harbor (and under it) and, of course, NYC.
  • By the numbers: originally published October 1934; Bantam #26 (July 1968); Philip Jose Farmer dated July 1934

A New Doc Savage novel

After eighteen years, the publication of a new Doc Savage novel is finally on the horizon. The Desert Demons, written by Lester Dent and Will Murray writing as Kenneth Robeson, makes its debut in July.desertdemons_cvr

I was privileged to read and review an advanced copy of this novel, thanks to the author. By excellent coincidence, that read happened in between reading Paul Malmont’s fact/fiction novels The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, and The Amazing, The Astounding and The Unknown. These novels depict the life of Lester and Norma Dent, among others, as adventureres, emroiled in tales which resemble their own fiction.

I’ve posted my review of this new Doc Savage on SFSignal.com. An excerpt is below, and I thank Will Murray for trusting me with an advanced copy to review:

Patience. That is a shared characteristic of Doc Savage fans. A forty-two year wait was endured between the 1949 publishing of Up From Earth’s Center (republished by Bantam in 1990) and the 1991 books by Philip Jose Farmer and the next Kenneth Robeson, Will Murray. Seven books were written by Murray, from the notes of Lester Dent, the co-creator of Doc Savage, and published in 1991-93. Then, nothing, except a battle by Will and others to have more Docs published. (more…)


Review of Radio Archives “The Adventures of Doc Savage” at SFSignal.com

Continuing my series documenting a time wasting obsession with Doc doccdhiresSavage at SFSignal.com, today’s entry features a review of Radio Archives 8 CD collection of radio theater. The collection has two Doc Savage stories, Fear Cay and The Thousand Headed Man, as performed by the Variety Arts Radio Theater.

Readers may want to view the previous post Who is Doc Savage? (A Doc Savage Primer).

My Doc Savage book list can be found here.

We are also planning:

  • an interview with Doc cover artist Joe DeVito
  • an review of the new Docs, as soon as they are available.

Doc Savage primer on SFSignal

My not so secret obsession with Doc Savage comes fully out of the closet cover(where I keep the books!) with the “Who is Doc Savage? (A Doc Savage Primer)” on SFSignal.com. I’ve read most of the stories as a kid, and am in the midst of a re-read of the series.

The article discusses:

  • The Publications
  • Doc and his team
  • The History and Influence
  • Favorite Doc Stories (a selection of a few from the 180+)
  • Future Doc Stories (planned new novels by Will Murray from the notes of original author Lester Dent)
  • For Further Reading (links to informative sites)

We are also planning:

  • a review of the audio CD’s “The Adventures of Doc Savage”
  • an interview with Doc cover artist Joe DeVito
  • an review of the new Docs, as soon as they are available.

Python Isle by Kenneth Robeson (Will Murray)

This is the first of the Doc Savage novels penned by Will Murray under the docsavagepythonisleKenneth Robeson moniker. From a Doc chronological perspective, it is usually placed after Death in Silver (which is referred to in the story).

Diamond smuglers King Hancock and Blackbird Hinton, in their ship the Mighty in the Indian Ocean, see a plane heading toward them. They shoot it down, think it is the authorities, but it ends up being piloted by Tom Franklin, lost over the Indian Ocean several years ago, with a passenger, Queen Lha, who speaks no English. Their plane is patched in damaged places with pure gold, peaking the smugglers interest. Franklin will only say that they are looking for Doc Savage.

Franklin manages to escape, gets to shore in South Africa, and finds that Renny, one of Doc’s aides, is finishing an engineering project there. Realizing that Franklin is close to having Doc Savage in the mix, Blackbird Hinton phones Bull Pizano in NYC to stop Doc from getting the telegram. Bull is a large strong man, and takes out Monk easily (much to Monk’s chagrin) and manages to capture Ham. Doc, just back from the Fortress of Solitude, frees his men, finds out that Renny is now captive, and hops aboard the Zepplin Aeromunde (from The Lost Oasis) to head to South Africa. Bull and gang are aboard as well, and think they have dumped Doc, Monk and Ham into the ocean. But, upon landing, they free Renny, get Franklin and the Queen and hear her story. She is a descendant of Solomon, from the Kingdom of Ophir and speaks ancient Hebrew (which Doc understands a bit)…and now lives on Python Isle. The smugglers are after the treasure of Ophir (hence the gold), and all race to Python Isle. They do have pythons there, and yes, Doc does fight with some of them, but here the spoilers end.

There are obvious differences between Lester Dent and Will Murray’s writing style, and I found the change refreshing. Mr. Murray added more humor to the Monk and Ham exchanges, more competition amongst the men, and more description of everything, including Doc. I’m looking forward to more of his books in my re-read, and to his new Doc novels.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by:Will Murray
  • Villain: Bull Pizano, Blackbird Hinton, King Hancock and Taxus on Python Isle
  • Doc Gadget: dust that he shoots out the windows of the hotel which allows him to follow the car that took Queen Lha
  • Doc Feat: fighting a shark off Python Isle; fighting with Bull, who bests Monk; making the pythons sleep;
  • Exotic locale: South Africa, Python Isle and, of course, NYC.
  • By the numbers: originally published October 1991; would be Bantam #184 if numbers had kept going; Philip Jose Farmer dated July 1934 (same date as Death in Silver)

The Squeaking Goblin (Doc Savage #35)

This is the 18th story in Street and Smiths original publishing order.cover1

Doc goes to Maine, at the request of Chelton Raymond. He finds not only an assassin whose bullets vanish and who moves so well through the woods that even Doc cannot track him….but also an old fashioned family feud, between the Snows and the Raymonds. The assassin wears a skeletal mask, and his custom rifle makes a squeaking sound when fired. The Snows and Raymonds have a legend of such a shooter from long ago in their history. Upon his arrival, the Snows attack Doc and his men, thinking they are there to help the Raymonds. Doc encounters the Squeaking Goblin, but cannot capture him. Doc, his men and some of the Raymonds are captured by the Snows and taken to an island; Chelton Raymond escapes, but he is apparently shot, and falls in the water (Doc does not find his body). Doc finds evidence of a mysterious book about a “Black Raymond” in Chelton Raymond’s safe on his boat, but the book is stolen before he can read it.

Doc follows the Snows back to Kentucky, where the Raymond and Snow feud has escalated, and the Squeaking Goblin is there as well. He sends Ham off to investigate or find another copy of the book, while he narrows down the suspect list, and tries to stop the feud while avoiding being killed.

The identity of the Squeaking Goblin was easy to deduce in this story, but other than that it was well written, with a slightly different type of locale and criminal motive than previous ones.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent
  • Villain: the Squeaking Goblin
  • Doc Gadget: skywriting lamps (not his invention, but pretty sweet); creates a bulletproof shield for himself out of the plane windows
  • Doc Feat: again swims and runs while carrying a fair damsel; also does a good job finding and avoiding chemically poisoned spider webs;
  • Exotic locale: Maine, the backwoods of Kentucky and, of course, NYC.
  • By the numbers: originally published August 1934; Bantam #35 published April 1969; Philip Jose Farmer dated June 1934

The King Maker (Doc Savage #80)

This is the 16th story in Street and Smiths original publishing order and the first one not written entirely by Lester Dent (Harold A. Davis is co-author).cover

This finishes a sprint of sorts, reading 5 Docs in the last 30 days, so that I can get to the Radio Archives version of the Adventures of Doc Savage (which feature the 17th and 19th books in the series) and review it for SF Signal.

In this story, Doc finally gets to become King. Two warring factions, the current rulers of Calbia (led by the King Dal Le Galbin, his, of course, beautiful daughter the Princess Gusta LeGalbin, and the head of their armies, Captain Flancul) vs. the rebels, led by Conte Conzonac, who fancies himself the King Maker, try to convince Doc to be on their side. The “King Maker” offers Doc the throne if he helps overthrow the current tyrants. A weapon (the current of a scud missile with eyes, pretty scary for 1934) that appears to be in the hands of the royalty pushes Doc’s decision to head to Calbia, to attempt to stop the bloodshed and see who is really behind the development of this weapon.

The trip to Calbia is full of intrigue. First, Long Tom decides not to make the journey to work on a project, an unheard of even (he later shows up, having been secretly instructed by Doc to fly ahead of the team). The team is discovered on a Calbian boat, named as traitors to the crown, and set off in a launch. One of the heat-seeking scud-like missiles finds them, but, of course, they were already out of the launch, waiting to be picked up by Long Tom.

The part of the story in Calbia is marked by Doc and his gang remembering war; part of their origin story is that they all met during WWI. Doc also uses the unique strategy (unique at least so far in these stories) of telling the five men different tasks, but not sharing those tasks in case they are captured while at war. This departure made me wonder if this was Harold Davis voice; they are other differences (Doc at one point tells the Princess she is a “brick”, a large departure from his past personality).

A precursor for the WWII involved stories to come, this was also enjoyable by the science that was explained as the basis for the heat seeking and guide missiles, quite science fiction at the time.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Lester Dent and Harold A. Davis
  • Villain: Muta, Conte Conzonac, the King and Princess of Calbia, Captain Flancul…everyone looks like a villain at first.
  • Doc Gadget: a heat emitter in the form of a box with six cooking stoves lit in it, to draw away the heat seeking missles.
  • Doc Feat: taking out Renny again, this time disguised as a Calbian mountain man;
  • Exotic locale: the Kingdom of Calbia (in the Balkans), the Mediterranean Sea and, of course, NYC.
  • By the numbers: originally published June 1934; Bantam #80 published February 1975; Philip Jose Farmer dated July 1931

The Mystery on the Snow (Doc Savage #69)

This is the 15th story in Street and Smiths original publishing order.cover2

A sleazy mystic named Mahal is checking up on Doc, but doesn’t know that Doc has found him out and is having him followed and bugged by Renny. Renny overhears a conversation with Mahal and Stroam, Mahal’s boss, about trying to stop a man named Ben Lane from getting to Doc for help. Seems that Mr. Lane has discovered something in far Northern Canada that Stroam wants for himself (as always, the identity of Stroam is not revealed until the final pages, but in this instance it was a bit of a surprise). Of course there is a beautiful w0man involved: Midnat D’Avis, a private investigator from Canada hired by Ben Lane. Stroam and Mahal capture Renny, and then Long Tom and Johnny when they come to find Renny. Midnat is taken as well. Doc tracks them with cool shoes that he just had all of his men wear.

One of the enjoyable parts of Lester Dent’s writing is the factual history and science that he integrates into most of the stories, such as this passage where Doc is describing how the shoes work to Monk: (more…)

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