Doc Savage’s Super-Villains: Land of Always Night and The Spook Legion (#SFWA)

In his book on Doc Savage, Robert Cotter points out that unlike the Shadow, who was largely New York-based, Doc’s adventures were on a global scale. Reading the latest two in the series shows that his villains were a cut above too. Not that the Shadow didn’t have his share of super-criminals (chiefly Shiwah Khan and the Voodoo Master), but Doc’s tended to be a shade more super.
Land of Always-Night (by Ryerson Johnson with help from series writer Lester Dent, Cotter says) opens once again with someone trying to reach Doc for help and getting intercepted. Only this time it’s a petty hood trying to sell out his boss for money. And the interceptor is Ool, a strange figure with mother-of-pearl skin and a hand that moves like a “venomous white butterfly” and kills when it touches. We later learn Ool is strong enough to shrug off Doc’s punches and smart enough to escape Doc’s anesthetic grenades.
Ool’s partner is wealthy gang-boss “Watches” Bowen which is unusual for the series. Dent’s mobsters are usually street rats and thugs but Bowen enjoy the high life, wearing expensive watches (including some with gimmicks, such as a pocket watch with the insides replaces with lead for a sap) and sampling Napoleon brandy. He and Ool plan to visit the latter’s Arctic cavern civilization and steal the McGuffin which they expect to make millions with.
The pitch-dark cavern world helps make this one of the series’ best lost race stories, and certainly the weirdest (except maybe Murder Melody—we’ll see when I get to that). Unusually, nobody but Ool speaks English, and even Doc and Johnny can’t speak his people’s language.
The Spook Legion starts off with a couple of mysterious incidents—an apparently invisible man writes a telegram, a gangster pumps bullets into an apparently empty airplane seat (the lack of air security is really startling now). I found myself wondering if I’d correctly remembered the premise or if it wouldn’t turn out the invisibility was all a fraud (like some past books).
Nope. The Spook Legion (though they never actually use the name) are indeed invisible and before long Doc’s trying to stop a phantom crime wave. The book takes the premise and runs with it—no startling twists or surprises, but almost realistic in dealing with an invisible enemy. At various points, for instance, people try counter-tactics such as splashing them with ink, using smoke bombs (so they can’t see either) or just firing randomly (surprisingly, Doc never tries using his infra-red technology on them), but generally it shows what an advantage invisibility can be.
Covers to both books by James Bama, all rights with current holders.


Filed under Doc Savage, Reading

7 responses to “Doc Savage’s Super-Villains: Land of Always Night and The Spook Legion (#SFWA)

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