Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #35

Doc 1936.01
January 1936 - Murder Mirage

Murder Mirage is one of the longer Doc Savage novels - 153 pages. The opening of this excellent novel by Laurence Donovan is classic pulp. It is the night of July 4th in Manhattan. The wind turns cold and snow begins to fall. The National Weather service calls it, "An all time mark in freakish weather." They are stymied and Doc and his team are watching with a careful eye. There is a full crew in this story - Doc, Renny, Long Tom, Johnny, Monk, Ham, and Pat Savage.

After a chase, a woman is subjected to a bizarre flash of light and then she is gone - vanished or vaporized. However, in the large plate glass window of  a music store, her dying form is frozen forever in time in the glass. The pulp cover illustrates Doc removing the image for safe keeping.

The story follows a villainous crew of Bedouins and gangsters from New York to the Middle East. The racism in this novel is more that many of the others and targets the middle easterner with some nasty stereotypes that haven't necessarily disappeared from popular fiction even today.

Murder Mirage utilizes yet another airship - a needle of a thing with no gondola hanging below. This one is streamlined for speed. (Doc must have warehouses full of airships - there have been at least 3 destoyed - one only a few issues earlier) This airship makes the transatlantic flight to the Syrian back-country in the Middle East. There the crew faces grave peril and emerges victorious.

Some things that stuck out to me - the word weasel is used in two paragraphs out of three; first in this quote - "The furtive youth that had been holding his hand under his coat was getting away with the speed of a weasel." Later, "The hammer-throwing weasel put on a burst of speed."

There are several uses of the word, "ferengi" which is described to mean foreigner in Arabic. Certainly the Star Trek writers knew this...

Here is a fun sentence - "The black fog of the morning in New York could not be compared to the pall that swiftly shrouded the silver sliver."

It is also revealed that Doc and Monk have devised a synthetic lifting gas that is "nonflammable and had greater lifting power than either helium or hydrogen." Well, no wonder Doc loved his airships.

I'll give Laurence Donovan's Murder Mirage an 8.5 out of 10 for the great opening and an exciting finish. The Pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer and the Bantam Paperback (#71) is a wonderfully moody piece by Fred Pfeifer.

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