November, 1933 - The Czar of Fear
The ninth adventure of Doc Savage takes us to the exotic backwoods of New Jersey -- or is it Pennsylvania? Either way, if this volume doesn't take Doc and the Fabulous Five to a far flung locale, it does tell a pretty good tale of corruption and greed in a small mining and manufacturing town.
It seems that someone is terrorizing the town of Prosper City. They have closed down all the mines and mills and factories and have pretty much killed the economy of the town. Everyone is afraid. Afraid of the Green Bell; the Czar of Fear. He and his gang wear black hooded robes with eerie green bells on the fronts. They use intimidation and murder to keep the town in line, but their ultimate motive is a mystery
The mills are afraid to open, for fear of being burned to the ground. The men are afraid to go to work because of a hideous insanity that seems to strike those that go against the wishes of the Green Bell.
A few brave folks manage to escape the town (at great personal cost) and find Doc in New York City. They enlist his help to bring down the Czar of Fear.
There are a few firsts in this tale. Doc hypnotizes a thug to get some answers. One fellow freaks out just from looking into Doc's eyes. Doc uses his trilling conciously. He had not done that before. Up to this point the trilling has been a subconcious reaction.
The biggest first is the introduction of the Hidalgo Trading Company. Doc uses this warehouse for many purposes. Here, they grab a seaplane to upstate New York to get to Prosper City ahead of the bad guys.
This is a good story with some nice action and a few choice twists.
One interesting passage mentions that the Green Bell had made millions from short sales of stock during "The Great Depression." Even in early 1933 people were using the term and thinking of it in the past.
There were also a few interesting mix-ups of character names. In my Bantam paperback page 85 attributes a quote to Renny but mentions him wearing magnifier eyeglasses. That would be Johnny. On page 130 Doc mentions to Ham that Long Tom is hiding out, but then attributes the next quote to Long Tom. A line that is clearly Hams'. With the speed these books were written, I suppose mistakes are inevitable. Unless the mistakes are just in the Bantam editions...
I enjoyed The Czar of Fear and am now about 5% done with the novels. I read my Bantam Paperback March 1968 first edition copy and give this one an 8 out of 10.
The Bantam cover is by James Bama and the pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer.