So rather than my usual batch of Doc Savage novels, this month I went with THE REVISED COMPLETE CHRONOLOGY OF BRONZE by Rick Lai. In the tradition of countless Sherlockian fans, Lai sets out to identify the when of every Doc Savage story, and speculate about “lost” adventures that Doc and his crew occasionally allude to.
I was curious about this, partly because I think the order of publication or the order in which Dent wrote them (not the same, as Will Murray has pointed out) works fine for me. But Lai points out that if we go with the assumption Doc’s a real person, this doesn’t work. Some stories, for example, take well over a month due to travel times or time spent in durance vile. A few occur immediately after each other, such as The Speaking Stone following Pirate Isle.
Plus Lai wants to include more than Dent and his ghost-writers. The chronology also includes the Doc Savage radio plays Lester Dent wrote and Will Murray’s more recent additions to the saga, plus, god help us Escape From Loki. Lai is a big fan of Farmer’s Wold Newton mythos so it’s not surprising he keeps Farmer’s novel in the chronology. To his credit, though, he doesn’t agree with Farmer’s own timeline, which, for example, rejects World’s Fair Goblin as a fiction written by Dent to tie in with the 1939 World’s Fair. Lai keeps all the canon as canon.
What’s particularly interesting, for the most part, is Lai’s efforts to identify the various European dictators, South American wars and playboy princes who provided the basis for the characters in the Doc Savage novels. At times, though, it gets a little forced, like when he has to explain away Doc capturing Hitler in Violent Night.
There are some interesting extras too, such as a list of Doc’s published books, and a comparison between Doc and the Shadow (who at one point put at least some criminals into an isolated island prison rather than just gunning them down).
I also find I’ll have to revise some of my perceptions of the series. There’s more continuity and references to past adventure than I’ve credited in previous posts. And contrary to my post on Doc’s crime college, several stories besides The Annihilist assert that Doc can turn people from bad to good separately from erasing their memories (he does it with corrupt businessmen in both The Sea Angel and Dagger in the Sky).
Like most chronologies of this sort, it’s a dry read, and definitely for anyone who isn’t seriously interested in the topic. But if you are …
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