Doc Savage again: The Too-Wise Owl in the Magic Forest (#SFWApro)

I figured by now Doc Savage Magazine would have caught up with Pearl Harbor but no, March and April 1942 still show no signs of the U.S. at war.

THE TOO-WISE OWL starts when a disgruntled delivery boy drops off an owl at Doc’s HQ. The owl is pretty disgruntled at this too, as witness it grabs a gun in its talons, shoots out the window, and flies away (this ignores, of course, that the windows are bulletproof). Monk and Ham go looking for the owl and find him sitting with Jasper, a tween who seems incapable of saying a word without giving its full dictionary definition, and knows even bigger words than Johnny Littlejohn (whose reaction to being out-polysyllabicized is a hoot). Plus of course we have various factions and a pretty girl chasing around after the owl and insisting they’re the injured party in all this.

As Doc says, it’s actually a fairly simple McGuffin hunt, but the owl makes it look as if it’s a lot stranger than that. It turns out that one of the factions, wealthy Jonathan Shair, has developed a miracle treatment, “vitamin M” (for mental) that enhances intelligence. Some of the recipients, unfortunately, are crooked, and use their new intelligence for evil (Shair ultimately realizes M’s inability to impart wisdom is a serious weakness in his dream of uplifting humanity). Their big goal is to get the vitamin M supply and Shair’s supply of its opposite, a chemical that induces stupidity.

Overall it’s a minor story, but fun. However Dent throws in a very awkward bit of added pathos: a murder victim early in the story turns out to be Oliver Brooks, the half-brother we never knew Ham had. Ham is knocked for a loop to learn his brother’s dead, but I couldn’t share his reaction — it might as well have been a stranger for all the emotional impact it has.

William Bogart’s THE MAGIC FOREST is a much weaker story. It starts out with Renny boarding a plane; unfortunately the crew and passengers are crooks, plotting to ambush Renny’s companion, so the big engineer winds up caught too. The two men are drugged and taken to “the magic forest” which appears to be a pine forest in Alaska. And someone keeps leaving tiny wooden totem poles around.

Doc, of course, steps in to investigate. Unfortunately after the lively opening things just plod along. It turns out The Magic Forest is just the name of a boat. Its owner is out to get revenge on the swindlers who ruined him by kidnapping them until he gets his money back (like The Sea Angel, but much less interesting). The totem poles are simply something the guy carves for his own amusement. Like Too-Wise Owl the plot is much less zany than the trappings, but unlike the earlier book this is boring.

Both covers by Emery Clark, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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