Monday, May 28, 2012

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #32



October 1935 - Dust of Death

Dust of Death is another Harold A. Davis novel (revised by Lester Dent) and like The King Maker, it is another story of a country in turmoil, or in this case two South American republics at war. Those countries are the ficticious Delezon and Santa Amoza.

The tale begins with a mysterious telegram from South America that is signed by Long Tom, but Doc realizes that it is clearly a fake designed to keep him from heading to South America. This, of course, causes Doc to leave immeadiatley. Ham and Monk accompany Doc in the Stratospheric Dirigible which flies at over 300 mph. 

Trouble follows and the heroic trio have to jump out of the airship before it crashes. Along the way they meet up with death by firing squad, death by army ants, and death by dust of death. None of these methods take.

I will say it straight out. Dust of Death is a fine Doc Savage novel save one story point. Chemistry. Someone decided that the pig wasn't enough and that they needed to step up the funny animal quotient in Doc Savage Magazine, so they gave Ham a pet monkey. Ham names him Chemistry and the ape is a spitting image of Monk Mayfair down to the red hair on its arms.

Outside of the simian shenanagans, this is an OK Doc book with political unrest again taking center stage. When a series of mysterious killings makes its way to Manhattan, Doc gets involved and tracks the Inca in Gray all the way to the small South American republics of Delezon and Santa Amoza.

There are some nice moments and twists, and of course "the girl", but she isn't really a femme fatale in this tale. Senorita Anita Carcetas is more the damsel in distress. Also featured is mercenary pilot, Ace Jackson along with some vicious army ants. But in the end it all comes down to the monkey, and the monkey pushes the series even more to the juvenile side of things, and that is not where I like it. Even as a kid, the monkey and pig bothered me because it took time away from the action.

Highlights include the stratospheric airship (I want me one of those!), pilot Ace Jackson, pygmies that speak Mayan, and the sinister Dust of Death.

This is a decent tale, the villainy is enjoyable, and the story is mostly about maintaining war for the benefit of oil companies and munitions manufacturers. I guess that has been on people's minds for centuries.

The pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer and the Bantam paperback cover by James Bama is particularly nice. I'd give Dust of Death an 8 out of 10, but I have to deduct a point for Chemistry, so it gets a 7 out of 10.

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