For a while post-war Doc Savage was retitled Doc Savage Science Detective. We’re not there yet, but by and large, Doc comes off as a regular pulp gumshoe in this month’s trio.
TERROR TAKES 7 is a fairly straight mystery, enlivened by Lester Dent’s flair for writing a memorable hook. A woman named Paula Argus presents Doc with a flintlock rifle and a pair of buckskin leggings. They were mailed to her uncle, an orchid enthusiast, and threw him into a panic: can Doc figure out why?
Doc, however, is embroiled in research on an aerospace problem and sends Monk. When Monk and Paula go to her uncle’s place, Monk discovers uncle dead in his penthouse orchid greenhouse, even though in best locked-room fashion there’s no way the killer could have slipped out. The police show up and finding Monk there, seize him as the killer. Ivans, an ambitious, hardcase prosecutor, sees a big case that can advance his career so he’s unimpressed when Doc shows up with his honorary police commission. Doc figures out how the murderer did it, frees Monk, then they’re off after the bad guys, with Ivans in pursuit. It turns out six other people have received pieces of a frontiersman’s costume and they’re all much alarmed by it.
The motive behind it is quite mundane: the seven were government contractors in WW II and joined forces to defraud Uncle Sam. A photo shows them together with the eighth man, cosplaying as one of his ancestors; a blackmailer mailed pieces of his costume to the seven, along with demands they pay up or he exposes their crimes. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is entertaining.
Pat gets a role in this: she knows Paula and with most of Doc’s team out of town, he turns to her for help. We also see the last appearance of the Hidalgo Trading Company, Doc’s secret hangar for special cars, planes and boats.
THE THING THAT PURSUED starts out with aviator Lew Page trying to contact someone named Newsome. “The small man,” a runt working for the bad guys, suggests Lew drop that idea. When it’s obvious he won’t, the small man’s girlfriend mickeys his drink. Later, Lew spots an insubstantial creature of light following his plane and crashes trying to escape it. My guess at this point was either drug-induced hallucinations or he’d drunk something to attract a super-weapon a la The Goblins.
Lew’s brother Ned arrives at the hospital where Ned’s being treated and discovers he’s had a complete mental collapse (he dies later). Ned’s dream girl, Sethena (“Seth”) calls Doc Savage despite Ned’s apparently jealous protests. Doc is intrigued and comes out without any of his team (like King Joe Cay he plays a lone had); for the rest of the book, he’s investigating alongside Seth instead. Regrettably she isn’t one of Dent’s capable women like Toni Lash, just a standard Girl Friday type. Doc himself comes off as a standard pulp PI here, to the point I wonder if this wasn’t some other project Dent wrote but couldn’t sell.
The one really noteworthy feature is the pursuing horror, a Nazi weapon that doesn’t actually do anything (Ned’s death was due to poison) German scientists developed the ray as an aircraft killer but all it does is create a hologram type effect, scary if you see it but otherwise harmless (this was based on real pilot sightings of what would later be labeled UFOs). The bad guys got hold of it, and plan to sell it to crooks as a real superweapon. Doc, of course, puts a stop to that.
TROUBLE ON PARADE is another with an opening that looks wilder and weirder than the story itself. After a paean to human accomplishment (“radio, vitamin pills, crooners, war, airplanes”) we cut to a passenger plane heading to Nova Scotia. When the pilot spots a man swimming in the sea, twenty miles from land, he parks the seaplane near the dude and offers to transplant him to the mainland. The dude, a big, muscular man with a ginormous red beard, threatens to shoot the airplane if it doesn’t fly off; the pilot complies.
Doc’s in town on business, but the business soon involves the red-bearded swimmer, “Disappointed” Smith, a muscleman who loves to quote poetry. It also involves sharp-tongued sisters Mix and Jane Walden, who warn Doc he should really head back to New York. Or at least head somewhere that isn’t Nova Scotia. Doc of course does nothing of the sort and begins snooping, again without any of his crew. Eventually he learns that nearby Parade Island (hence the title) is running a hotel for wanted men to hide out in. With the help of the Waldens and Smith, Doc saves the day, then takes Mix to dinner (like Jiu San and Satan Black this treats Doc dating as a routine thing).
Doc here could easily be a returning WW II veteran rather than the Man of Bronze. When he uses his glass capsules of anesthetic gas at the climax, it’s so old-school and so out of character for the war years that it threw me. More typical for this period, Doc bungles it: the gas has been badly mixed so it’s less effective. Overall Parade was enjoyable, but the scheme was disappointingly mundane.
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