Posters for memorable movies

You may have seen or participated in the Facebook meme where someone calls on you to post posters for 10 movies that made an impression on you. I was tagged by a friend, so I figured I’d replicate my list for the blog.

Captain Blood (1935) was the movie that sparked my interest in old films. Based on the Rafael Sabatini novel (which is even better) it has doctor Errol Flynn falsely convicted for an uprising against James II, transported to the brutal life of a plantation worker in the Caribbean, then leading a breakout to become a pirate captain.It’s a glorious swashbuckler that established Flynn as a star. I’ll never forget watching it on the big screen in college and hearing a gasp sweep through the audience when we got a closeup of him smiling into the camera.

I caught Crack in the World (1965) during college vacation. Years later I remembered it as an apocalyptic film, a disaster movie on a global scale. Rewatching in my twenties, I discovered it was drawing-room SF, or more precisely board room SF: the end of the world (a botched attempt at tapping Earth’s core as a power source starts ripping the planet in two) appears second-hand, as Dana Andrews and his worried colleagues sit around a conference table watching stock footage of ruined cities. The romantic triangle (Andrews/younger wife Janette Scott/colleague Kieron Moore) is given at least as much screen time as any actual world saving. So the film taught me that my memories aren’t always accurate, which is why I always try to watch movies for my film books, if I can.

Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) shows how society’s perception of old movies can be just as misguided. John Wayne’s name embodies military heroism and right-wing “pro-American” attitudes in movies (I’ve known people who think Wayne himself embodies military heroism even though he opted to stay in Hollywood rather than enlist). Here, Wayne is certainly heroic as a career Marine but the movie portrays him as a dumb lug completely unfitted for civilian life; John Agar, who’s going to serve for the duration of the war, then return home and get out of uniform, is unambiguously the type of man America needs, not career soldiers. It’s a great movie (except the ever-talentless Agar) but if it was made today, people would be shrieking about how it disrespected the troops.

I saw Ball of Fire (1941) in college and it launched me on a lifelong crush of Barbara Stanwyck (I watched it again recently and it holds up well). She’s tough, no-nonsense, flirtatious, beautiful and probably won’t be any less so even after she falls in love with Gary Cooper (or whoever). She wasn’t my first movie crush, but she’s one of the top ones.

I walked out of 1977’s Star Wars in a daze, as did everyone I saw it with (a large group — we’d all heard it was something special). From the moment the Imperial destroyer appears on screen and keeps appearing (it was so. damn. big) there’s not a moment when I felt bored or uninterested. Great special effects, a fun pulp story, a classic villain with James Earl Jones’ voice, what’s not to love? I certainly kept loving it the seven or eight times (maybe more) I saw it in the theater over the next few months. And the last time I watched it, it was still awesome. And no, it will never be A New Hope to me.

The remaining five next week.

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Stretching Characters Until They Break: Exit Stage Left

When I heard that EXIT STAGE LEFT: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan) would reinvent Snagglepuss as a gay playwright in the 1950s, I thought that sounded doable. Hanna-Barbera’s Snagglepuss was a flamboyant, eccentric, theatrical character; being gay wasn’t that big a stretch. Russell already stretched the premise of The Flintstones for their comic book, and I liked that one, so why wouldn’t this one work.

It didn’t, at least not for me. Russell’s Flintstones, while not as sitcommy as the original, still played for satirical laughs. Exit Stage Left is serious, and rather glum.

Snagglepuss was a Hanna-Barbera character from their 1960s TV wave, noted most for his phraseology, such as “Exit, stage left!” (or right, or center) when it came time to amscray. Here he’s a celebrated Southern playwright facing pressure from the government for writing dramas that cast a critical eye on American society — why is he playing into Communist hands by saying America isn’t perfect? In his first encounter with the Unamerican Activities Committee, he stares them down and makes them look like idiots, but the heat is still on. Which is not a good thing, as despite marriage, he’s a closeted gay anthropomorphic big cat. So is his former lover Huckleberry Hound, a rising author who visits New York and discovers what it’s like to be openly out in a place like Stonewall. In between Snagglepuss coping with crises in his latest production, and a Cuban boyfriend who wants to go home and participate in Castro’s revolution, Huck falls in love with Quick Draw McGraw, a closeted cop. Yes, no way sleeping with a cop back when gay was still illegal could turn out bad? Spoiler: it turns out bad.

As a story, it’s well-executed (Russell shares his thoughts on the book at Vox). But it’s so damn serious (what else could it be given the premise) that seeing a bunch of comical cartoon characters cast in downbeat drama felt very off. Nor were any of them particularly like their characters in the ‘toons. Snagglepuss is thoughtful, brooding, literate. Huck is just kind of there. Dimwitted, loudmouthed Quickdraw is insecure and shy. Peter Pottamus, a globetrotting, time-traveling explorer, is the stage manager on Snagglepuss’s latest project. It’s that last one that particularly bugged me; there’s a point to reinventing Snagglepuss and Huck, but putting Peter backstage is just name dropping (that might have worked if I liked the story better though). Ditto Augie Doggie in a supporting role.

As someone who uses a fair number of old characters in various stories, from Conan (by another name) to John Galt (ditto) to Sherlock Holmes, it’s a useful reminded that there are limits to what can be done before the names become basically meaningless; they’re not the characters they’re supposed to be (as I observed with A Study in Honor) which makes using them counter-productive. Of course that point is going to be subjective. Millennials who’ve never seen the old Hanna-Barbera stuff might have a higher tolerance for Exit Stage Left than me, who remembers them well. But it’s still worth keeping in mind.

#SFWApro. Cover by Mike Feehan.

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Assorted links, mostly about Republicans

“What their research has found is that younger white evangelicals who remain white evangelicals do not differ very much from older white evangelicals in their political/cultural views. That might mean that most younger white evangelicals remain politically indistinguishable from older white evangelicals, but that may only be because any younger white evangelicals who do not will thereby cease to be “evangelicals.” — Slacktivist.

According to the QAnon conspiracy, Jeff Sessions should be rounding up the Democratic pedophile Satanists for Trump by now. True believers struggle to grasp it ain’t happening. Slacktivist looks at religious-right conspiracy claims bureaucrats are hiding the cure for cancer.

Oklahoma’s new governor, Kevin Stitt, thinks requiring childhood vaccinations violates freedom.

A social networking site for the alt.right splits on whether the organizers or the posters are secret social justice warriors.

By his own statement, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s #1 goal from 2008-12 was to make Obama a one-term president. After last week’s election he’s suddenly discovered that partisan politics is bad.

A history of Jerome Corsi, a lying liar who lies.

Florida Panhandle Rep. Matt Gaetz encourages Republicans to get tough and stop the Florida vote counts while Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis are still ahead.

Following the election, some members of the Federalist Society decide it’s time to be anti-Trump. Much like Roy Edroso at the link, I’m unimpressed until they actually do something seriously opposing Trump — if they just wring their hands, it’s merely CYA to protect their reps should Trump go down.

The Breitbart website wants you to be afraid, very afraid!

A high school class celebrates with a Nazi salute. And Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith praises someone by saying if he invited her to a lynching, she’d show up. A Kansas Republican tells a black woman attending a planning meeting to remember he’s part of the master race.

Trump has bared reporter Jim Acosta from the White House based on a doctored video. CNN is suing.

A former classmate of white nationalist Faith Goldy tries to figure her out.

Tucker Carlson reported an attack where antifa protesters broke down his door. An attorney says Carlson lies.

Over on the Democratic side, Charles Pierce argues the Dems should keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker (some Dems disagree).

The FBI stats on hate crimes are wildly inaccurate.

An incel rant on how women forgive handsome men for farting, but not incels. I’m totally convinced.

Climate change guarantees that this year’s hurricanes and wildfires are what we can expect going forward.

The public supports teachers’ demands for higher pay and more school funding. But they don’t want to pay more taxes to make it happen.

Incels believe that women judge beta males who fart (” I can tell by his unattractive face that he’s a psychopath who’s out for blood and craves children.”) much harsher than alpha males (“they discreetly smell his fart to figure out what food he ate so they can get an estimate of what his semen tastes like.”). No, it’s not a parody, though it is as absurd as their other beliefs about women’s sex lives.

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Another disappointing week of reading. Hmm, could it be me?

Actually I don’t think it is. Certainly not in the case of DARK NIGHTS METAL: Dark Knights Rising, a TPB tying into the Metal crossover event. The premise isn’t bad, that several Batman from dystopian parallel worlds have gained the powers of another Justice Leaguer: Red Death stole Flash’s speed force, Dawnbreaker received the power ring that went to Hal Jordan (“With darkest black/I choke the light/No brightest day/Escapes my sight!”) and so on. If they’d summed up their origins in a couple of panels that would have worked; instead, they get one origin issue each. As there’s really no difference other than which hero Psycho Batman is taking power from, it gets tedious fast.

CHEW: Flambe by Jon Layman and Rob Guillory is a good deal better but it’s a disappointment compared to previous volumes (Taster’s Choice, International Flavor and Just Desserts). As everyone freaks out about mysterious flaming letters in the sky, Tony and is cyborg partner go about their usual FDA work, though it sure is funny how dangerous it’s getting — it’s like their boss wants to get them killed or something (spoiler: he does)! The execution feels like Layman’s just tossing off shticks and comic bits rather than telling a story, and using Poyo the Wonder Chicken to resolve one crisis felt more like a cheat than they probably meant it to.

As my friend Ross has often observed you could probably pick any year in the 20th century and declare it The Year Everything Changed. Elisabeth Asbrink’s 1947: Where Now Begins shows this year did have several turning points include India becoming independent and promptly splitting into two nations, the beginning of the Cold War and the struggle to brand the Nazi mass murder of the Jews as some new word “genocide.” Then again, Asbrink feels the need to pad things out with past and future events in several places, and a long memoir of her family history (which does not hinge on 1947) mid-book. Plus her very literary style isn’t the sort of thing I want in a history book.

The best of the week was undoubtedly SEX, MURDER AND THE UNWRITTEN LAW: Courting Judicial Mayhem Texas Style by Bill Neal. The author looks at a half-dozen Texas murder cases where the killer invoked the “unwritten law” that a man’s honor entitled him to execute his wife’s rapist or lover (though Texas written law allowed for this until late in the 20th century). Neal covers several cases, including one where a woman whacked the man who seduced and abandoned her, showing that juries were perfectly willing to overlook the finer points of the law (shooting was only acceptable if you caught the guy actually in bed with your wife (which is why Harry Thaw claiming unwritten law when he shot a man over a five-year-old rape was a real stretch, legally) to ensure the husband’s right to defend his property — er, the sanctity of marriage. The biggest single case, however, really doesn’t fit the subject: while Cullen Davis’ attempt to murder his wife (he got their daughter instead) is a wildly colorful legal story, Neal really strains to class it with the rest of the incident.

As I felt disappointed in this week’s books, rather than any of the covers I’ll use this Jack Kirby cover for illustration. Details like the tossed-off cars and the rooftops make me appreciate what a good craftsman Kirby was (though in my experience the insides never lived up to the covers [here’s a synopsis if you’re curious]).

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

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A prophet and a showman: movies viewed

A PROPHET (2009) is a French-Italiam film in which an Arab (Tahar Rahim) stuck in prison for six years becomes the gofer for a Corsican kingpin who values his skills (his first task is to kill another prisoner) but still treats him like shit. Slowly, though, the protagonist begins to learn the system and, as he gets more responsibility, build a network of his own, leading to an inevitable confrontation. This is a good, absorbing crime drama, though not quite what I was in the mood for when I watched it. “I like porn set in castles better.”

MATINEE (1993) is a film I absolutely love, and firmly believed I had on DVD, so when I realized I didn’t, I ordered it. John Goodman plays producer Laurence Woolsey (based on William Castle, a hack movie maker but a genius at promotion), who’s premiering his new movie Mant! (“Half man — half ant — all terror! Filmed in Atomovision!) in Key West in 1962  in hopes of attracting a national distributor. Everyone in town is freaking out over the Russians having missiles in Cuba that could blow them to kingdom come, but Woolsey figures that’s just the thing to get his movie more attention. Meanwhile local teens including military brat Gene Loomis, nervous buddy Omri Katz, an anti-war Lisa Jakub (“You’ll puke up your internal organs!”), and sexually experienced Sherry Harris all work out their own dramas. The adult cast includes Cathy Moriarty as Woolsey’s star actor, Robert Picardo as a theater owner, Jesse White as a distributor and Kevin McCarthy as Mant‘s “General Ankrum” (referring to veteran SF movie actor Morris Ankrum, a joke I made myself in Atoms for Peace). “I feel I should warn you that the story of Mant! is based on scientific fact.”

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Not a surreal week, just disorganized

But I’m using a surrealist art work (by Giorgio DiChirico, on exhibit at MOMA) as an illustration anyway. What can I say, I love his work.

A big part of the disorganization was that TYG’s schedule has been crazy since last Friday. That inevitably affects my schedule — extra time spent with dogs, most obviously — and just as inevitably her stress bleeds over a little. Another part was that we had several days of drenching rain this week, which left me feeling on edge. And next week I have my every-ten-years colonoscopy, so I’m currently on a diet to ensure my colon is clean. Cereal has to be low fiber, bread has to be white, etc., etc. It’s nothing that awful, but it feels like I’m being starved. And worrying the colonoscopy might Find Something is unsettling too. Oh, and I made the mistake of buying white bread at the store, and it’s just as bland as I remember. Today I’m making Australian damper bread from one of my cookbooks instead.

Plus I lost a chunk of time Tuesday to my dental visit, and squeezing several errands into the same trip (part of the schedule disruptions). But my teeth, at least, are in good shape.

And while I’d been thinking Leaf was wrapped up for the year, it turns out we’ll be running until early/mid December. So that took about nine hours out of the week I’d planned to work on other things. When planning for next year, I really need to plan my time based on Leaf being a steady gig. It won’t be but it’ll be easier to fill the time during the periods Leaf dries up than have to cut out other stuff when Leaf sticks around.

Fiction wise, I got through several thousand more words on the last draft of Southern Discomfort and about halfway through the final draft of No One Can Slay Her. Not as much as I’d hoped; due to the schedule craziness, I wound up writing my Leafs much slower than usual. I also began flipping through Writer’s Market‘s 2018-19 edition for agents I can submit Southern Discomfort too when it’s done. Again, not quite as much.

I did another blog post on Atomic Junkshop in my ongoing series on what comic books are like in the DC and Marvel universe. This time I try to explain how if Earth-Two’s superheroes were comic book characters on Earth-One, nobody ever noticed that Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman looked exactly like the heroes in those old comic-book stories.

On the feral cat front, I had a minor scare Wednesday night when I heard some sort of snarling kerfuffle outside, peered through the back windows and thought I saw Wisp either being chased or chasing something (presumably another cat, but I couldn’t be sure) off the deck. Thursday morning we put out some food for her but she didn’t eat it, so naturally I started to worry … but then she turned up, dry as a bone and apparently uninjured. I’m guessing she wound up somewhere she could shelter from the rain and didn’t want to come for the food until it stopped.

I’ll close this post out with another deChirico. #SFWApro, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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I love books about bread

When I picked up 100 Great Breads from the library sale table, it became the ninth bread book I own.

The first time I baked bread, I used a recipe from Recipes For a Small Planet, an early vegetarian cookbook. I was very, very serious about it. Checked the kneading time down to the minute. The water on which I sprinkled the yeast was exactly the right temperature. It seemed so unbelievably complex, I didn’t want to take a chance.

That was close to forty years ago. I’m a lot more relaxed now. I know hot water from the tap will do for the yeast. And I stop kneading when the bread feels right. That’s part of the fun of baking bread; it’s much easier with practice but it’s never something I can do without thinking (and when I do, something bad happens, like forgetting to mix in salt.).

I acquired more bread recipes when I added a couple more vegetarian cookbooks. The first actual bread book I owned (a gift from my sister) was Beard on Bread by the chef James Beard. It covers a wide range of recipes, including a couple of basic white breads, potato breads, fruit breads, salt-rising bread (made that once. Not quite worth the effort), whole wheat and rye breads.

I could certainly have stopped there. I’ve been baking for myself most of my life, and I don’t bake bread every single week; it’s not like I’d grow bored if I just used Beard’s book. Really I’m still baking for myself, because TYG isn’t a bread person. And several of my general cookbooks include bread recipes. But I kept finding books that had enough different recipes (there’s invariably a lot of overlap) to be worth buying. Hollywood’s book above hooked me with a recipe for Stilton-Bacon Bread. I love Stilton cheese and I like veggie bacon, so that was a snap. I also made the book’s recipe for Irish soda bread; odd, more like a biscuit than other recipes I’ve tried, but a very nice, light biscuit. So what’s not to like?

That said, most of my books are actually inherited from my grandparents, my mum or TYG (one of her old roommates left an excellent bread book behind). I usually work through them all over the course of a year, looking for recipes for each in turn. Finding time is sometimes tricky, but the results are always good, unless I screw up. Trust me, lack of salt is a baaaad thing.

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Characters stripped of everything

Way back in 2011, I wrote that the real test of a hero is that they have courage and heart, not just strength or super-powers. Even if they’re stripped of their powers, they fight on. A post on Fred Clark’s slacktivist blog (I don’t have the specific link but it was part of his discussion of the Left Behind books) makes the same point more generally, discussing stories where the protagonist is falsely accused or framed: “Who are you really, once your status and prestige are stripped away? Are you still a kind and decent person, or are those merely luxuries dependent on the power and safety afforded to you by society? It’s a powerful device for revealing character.” (which he thinks the books blow).

It’s a compelling question because it’s relevant to real life. Many people go through life buoyed by privilege in one way or another. George W. Bush was a legacy admission to Yale and the deputy governor of Texas arranged for Bush to go into the National Guard, where he was unlikely to be sent to ‘nam (said politician does not claim Bush asked for the favor, but says it was family friends). Donald Trump is rich primarily because his father was rich. Even people who don’t really get a boost in life can gain satisfaction from their status: doing a man’s job, being head of the family. Beautiful, charming people may take pride in being able to win over any romantic partner they want. Smart people may enjoy being smarter than anyone else. Fashionistas may define themselves by their cool, cutting edge traits. Actors may delight in stardom.

Take all that away — they’re framed, swindled of their money, their beauty is gone, their expertise discredited, their super powers or their fame fade— and they have to redefine themselves, at best. At worst, they have to fight for survival against their enemy or try to continue being a cop/prosecutor/spy/force for good despite being on the run or stripped of their powers. It’s a concept adaptable to many different settings and genres.

The Main Event has entrepreneur Barbara Streisand swindled out of her wealth. She has to use her one remaining asset, a contract on retired boxer Ryan O’Neal, to force him back into the ring to raise money. Private Benjamin has spoilt, pampered Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) lose her husband on their wedding night (he died during sex), so she joins the Army and goes from pampered to pummeled.

In comics, heroes stripped of their power is a common plot ploy. Superman’s lost his multiple times, but he never hesitates to protect people. In Action #484, the Wizard magically erases the Earth-Two Superman’s memory of who he is. He’s just plain Clark Kent, but with no memory that he has to play meek and mild he becomes as dynamic a crusading reporter as Superman’s a crusading hero (it’s a really good story).

Or consider 1975’s Three Days of the Condor. Robert Redford’s entire CIA research unit is wiped out. He doesn’t know who’s responsible, suspects someone in the agency so he can’t trust anyone. Can he survive long enough to find the truth?

I use this myself in Impossible Takes a Little Longer: the mystery villain frames KC for murder, forcing her to go on the run. She still has her powers but everyone she loves turns against her. Can she win? In this case, she breaks apart mid-book, but comes back stronger.

#SFWApro. Cover by José Garcia-Lopez, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Sherlock Holmes: “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact”

I’m not sure how many quotes off this mug I can mine for posts; the one at the bottom about footprints doesn’t seem to lend itself to writing. But “there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact” applies to writing, science, politics, life.

It’s hard not to accept an “obvious” fact that everyone knows is true. It’s easy to resist facts that contradict that obvious truth or to embrace someone who insists that in spite of all evidence, the “obvious” fact you want to believe (white people are naturally superior! A woman’s place is in the home!) is true. Even science can get mangled. The Victorian scientists Cynthia Russett describes in Sexual Science thought their analysis of why women were the weaker, dumber sex was totally objective. Spoiler: it wasn’t; they were blinded by taking women’s inferiority as a given.

In writing, the “obvious fact” can trip us up in multiple ways. For example, our perception of how people behave. Suppose a writer assumes that any female character really wants marriage and a family more than anything, so her career is just an unimportant stop-gap until The One comes along. That’s going to lead to some implausible female characterization. Or if a writer believes a woman who has sex before marriage is a slut, and his writing reflects that judgment. Or that every senior citizen just sits and watches TV all day. Or believes the countless stereotypes about disabled people.

Another way the obvious can trip us up is if we assume that the obvious, formula resolution to a story is the only one possible. Or the only one your audience will accept; I’ve read multiple accounts over the years of writers being told some variation of “Well, I’m not a sexist/homophobe myself, but lots of the audience will put down the book if you show your female lead is happy without a man/one of your lead characters is gay.” Or that you can’t do X because nobody’s done X before. An article in Romance Writers of America’s newsletter some years back pointed out that Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander broke a shit-ton of rules. Time-travel romance before that was a subgenre. Protagonist is already married when she falls for the male lead. Said lead is a younger man, much less experienced sexually. Yet it was a smash hit.

For another example, consider TEMPER by Nicky Drayden. A fantasy set in an alt.Africa untouched by Europe (apparently India has staked out a foothold), the premise is that twin births are the norm, with the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Cardinal Virtues divided up between each set of twins (though not exactly matching Western Christianity’s version. Doubt is one of the sins, for instance, and vainglory and temper substitute for pride and wrath). Society looks down on “lesser” twins with the larger number of vices; Auben, a rarity with six out of seven and one virtue, has to deal with that on top of being a poor inner city kid.

Unfortunately that’s the least of Auben’s problems. It turns out the imbalance between him and his sibling Kasim is caused by/causes them to become avatars of Icy Blue and Grace, the Lucifer/God analogs. Kasim doesn’t find being pushed to be really, really good much fun; Auben finds himself driven to shapeshift into a beast and kill.

This is familiar stuff in some ways (although the setting makes it feel different) but none of it plays out the way I expected. And given how long I’ve been reading, I’m hard to surprise. This ranges from how Drayden handles the good/evil dynamic to the disgruntled scientists with their own agenda; secularists in a religious culture, they’re PO’d to have hard evidence Grace and Icy Blue are real.

Of course it’s possible to be original and completely awful — I’ve seen that a few times — but that wasn’t an issue here. Outside of one confusing scene (I kept waiting for the explanation, but it didn’t come) this was first-rate.

#SFWApro. Mug design by the Philosopher’s Guild, cover illustration by Thea Harvey, all rights remain with current holders.

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Doc Savage wants some action: Hell Below and the Goblins

Starting with The Fiery Menace, “you’re too valuable on the home front” became the excuse for not having Doc and his team in uniform. 1943’s HELL BELOW and THE GOBLINS both build their openings around that idea.

Hell Below opens with Doc and Monk trying to convince the brass to let them see some action. The brass point out that Doc and his team get shot at a lot more than the average soldier, but that doesn’t deter them (Bobb Cotter points out that as Doc’s still operating on a no-kill policy, having to use real bullets would surely be a problem). This attracts the attention of grizzled Western businessman Too-Too Thomas who is trying to enlist the Navy in some sort of project. He proposes to Doc that as they’re both being frustrated by military red tape, they join forces and steal a bomb-laden Navy seaplane for his project (which he refuses to explain). Doc, of course, is not on board with this idea.

It’s a great opening that develops into a competent but much less great WW II adventure. Two prominent Nazis (based, Cotter says, on Goering and Goebbels) are fleeing the dying Reich (mid-1943 seems surprisingly early for that) by submarine for a new home in Mexico. One plans to build the Fourth Reich, the other just wants to retire in luxury. They’ve seized Too-Too’s Mexican ranch, a place so isolated in the desert they can live and scheme unopposed.

Further complicating things is Schwartz, a Nazi submarine captain out to drag the traitors back to Germany for trial. There’s a lot more detail on running a submarine than we usually get, which I suspect reflects the wartime era.  Surprisingly, Schwartz gets to go back to Germany at the end of the adventure. Even though he’s offered up as a good German acting out of loyalty to his country, he’s capable and obviously dangerous — not the sort who usually lives to fight another day in pulp adventures.

Even more surprising, the Nazis make a couple of references to Doc as the embodiment of the master race ideal and he doesn’t argue with them. That’s hardly a comparison Dent could have wanted, so why bring it up if not to refute it? And it could be refuted; Doc, after all, is the product of scientific training, not Aryan genes (even if Philip José Farmer later credited him with an inherited mutation).

Pat gets a part in the adventure and even makes a significant contribution, putting a chemical in an airplane gas tank that allows Doc to track it.

The Goblins is noteworthy because it turned out I didn’t have the double-novel paperback containing it and Secret of the Su (which will be covered next month). It opens with telegraph operator Parker O’Donnell finding grinning green dwarf in his bedroom, only to have it disappear. We then jump into the opening of what feels more like a lighthearted mystery than a Doc Savage novel. Gorgeous attorney Martha Colby visits Parker and informs him he’s received an inheritance from his father. Part of the condition is that he accept Martha as his legal guardian. Parker’s 25, but Dad took precautions against Parker inheriting his impulsiveness and occasional bad judgment. Martha’s first assignment is to take Parker to dad’s old partner, Tom Brock, for a good stiff talking-to.

In between all this, Parker is watching Doc’s latest battle with the military brass, carried on by telegraph (Doc’s in the area on a defense project). As his telegraph skills have stuck him on the home front, he’s sympathetic to Doc. Then people start trying to kidnap or kill Parker and Martha. Doc gets involved. So do more of the green goblins, which a local college-educated Native American (who still comes off as a stereotype) suggests are a spirit creature. Certainly they seem supernatural, able to burn men to a crisp with a touch. Lester Dent’s story does a remarkably good job hiding that they’re just a variation of the flying bodies in The Man Who Fell Up. A much nastier variation as they’re specifically attracted to human flesh. They’re an invention by Tom Brock, who’s protecting Parker from the Nazi villains. Unusually the Nazis aren’t after the invention, they’re after valuable tin deposits on the land Parker inherited. More precisely, they’re determined to keep Parker from learning about the deposits so the US government can’t make use of them.

Normally Dent leaves it to the last minute to show that the supernatural element has a mundane explanation. Here, Ham has the sense to figure it out mid-book: Native American spirits wouldn’t have hired a bunch of tough gunmen to work for them. Ergo, mundane.

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