Doc Savage again: The Lost Oasis and The Sargasso Ogre

Continuing my in-sequence reading of the Doc Savage pulp series … following on the enjoyable Red Skull, we get the very good THE LOST OASIS. This opens with a passenger aboard an ocean liner docking in New York offering $1 million for help finding Doc Savage. Doc, of course, is interested enough to sneak onto the liner and check for a trap. What he finds instead is a beautiful refugee, two sinister Arabs (one of them Arab-American) and a mysterious “fluttering death” that rips people’s throats out. Oh, and a fortune in diamonds the refugee and her friends are carrying with them.
The investigation eventually encompasses a lost airship, and an airship trip to the title hell-hole, a secret mountain valley surrounded by snakes and carnivorous plants.
This one is a great deal of fun, and boasts one of the stronger women so far in Lady Nelia. Not that she’s Modesty Blaise or anything, but she’s capable of leading the original escape from the oasis, saves Doc’s life at one point and accepts his lack of interest in her.
It’s also the first book to use a mystery method of death, as opposed to a superscientific method such as the Smoke of Eternity in Land of Terror. Lester Dent (the writer of most of the books) would reuse the idea of a baffling method of death in several later books.
This is also the first book to give Doc’s aide Johnny the trait of offering to bet as long as he knows he’s got a sure thing. At this point Johnny was the least distinctive of the crew, but this shtick didn’t last as long as the fondness for big words he developed later.
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THE SARGASSO OGRE follows directly from The Lost Oasis: stopping in Egypt to send the slave diamond-miners home, Doc decides to book an ocean liner back to New York. Unfortunately, that conflicts with the plans of Bruze, a pirate captain who’s marked that liner for his next victim. Efforts to stop Doc and his team boarding fail (surprise!) but Bruze’s crew are professionals: Despite Doc’s presence on board, the plot to disable the vessel goes off flawlessly and it soon drifts into … the Sargasso Sea.
For those who don’t know, the Sargasso Sea was a myth,a spot in the Atlantic where a vast mass of sargassum weed would twine around boats and, coupled with the dead water, leave them trapped forever. Even by the 1930s, this was getting implausible but given Doc’s suggestion the location shifts gradually, maybe not totally outrageous—this was, after all, only a few years after the first Transatlantic flight and a long way before mapping the world by satellite.
The Sargasso is a great setting (which James Bama’s cover captures well [all rights belong to current owner]), a world of tangled weed and matted derelicts and wrecks where modern-day pirates ally with the descendants of past victims. Doc and his friends are completely cut-off from all their usual equipment (though Doc, of course, carries a small arsenal on his person) making it that much tougher. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
This is the first novel not to give a detailed explanation of Doc at the start of the book—apparently Dent felt the Egyptian criminals panicking at learning who they’re dealing with was intro enough. It also reveals that Doc’s skills include a familiarity with current Paris fashions. Despite that goofy detail, I think Dent has really found his stride.

4 Comments

Filed under Doc Savage, Reading

4 responses to “Doc Savage again: The Lost Oasis and The Sargasso Ogre

  1. Pingback: Introducing … | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Doc Savage: The fearful czar of the Phantom City | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Doc Savage, Ghostbuster! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Golden Ogres and Flaming Falcons: Doc Savage Again (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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