Quest of the Spider (Doc Savage #68)
Lester Dent wrote the majority of the Doc Savage novels starting in 1930’s, long before the Internet, before telephones and TV reached everywhere. I am consistently impressed by the amount of technical and geographical research that Mr. Dent put into these pulp novels. From what I understand, he would work on a skill or trade, master it, then move on to another; and he traveled extensively, earning him entry into the Explorer’s Club.
In this novel, a voodoo master known only as “The Gray Spider” is taking over by force the large lumber companies of Louisiana. Big Eric, a friend of Ham’s from Harvard Law School, owns a lumber company that is next in line, and he and his (of course) lovely daughter Edna fly to New York City to enlist Doc’s aid. The plane is sabotaged on the way, but they survive and Doc and Ham head back to New Orleans with them, with the other four members of Doc’s band of merry men to follow.
The Gray Spider’s gang consists of hundreds of swamp dwellers, ‘descendants of criminals’. Gray Spider has been kidnapping lumber business owners, forcing them to sign over their business and selling off the assets. Ham, Big Eric and Edna are quickly captured once in New Orleans, and just as quickly released by Doc. Doc has Monk, Renny and Johnny try to infiltrate the swamp gang; Johnny dresses up like a voodoo witch doctor and heads into the swamp. All are eventually captured. Ham and Long Tom think they see Doc eaten by an alligator after a bomb exploded their car in the swamp, and Ham and Long Tom are also captured. But once again Doc rescues them, this time disguised in a gator suit (faked his own death, see). The Gray Spider is unmasked, and Savage prevails again.
My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.
- Written by: Lester Dent
- Villain: the Gray Spider
- Doc Gadget: serum that renders criminals inert, able to follow orders but not think
- Doc Feat: wears an alligator skin to fake his death and infiltrate the voodoo camp
- Exotic locale: the swamps near New Orleans
- By the numbers: originally published May, 1933; Bantam #68 published May 1972; Philip Jose Farmer #3, 4 or 5, dated June 1931