1933-11 The Czar of Fear

Cover Date: November 1933
Volume 2 # 3
Copyright Date: October 20, 1933
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition # 22, March 1968
Sanctum Edition # 17
Story Length: 53,800 words
WHMC: The collection contains nine folders for this story, f.104-112.
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

In 1932, the Norris–LaGuardia Act made yellow-dog contracts which forbade workers from joining unions as a condition of employment unenforceable. Prior to this measure employers used this hiring clause to stifle worker unionization.

Dent may have been thinking about the striking workers at the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in Manchester, New Hampshire when he started writing this story. Trouble started there in May of 1933 when the company announced it would cut wages and increase the required working hours effective July 1, 1933. Workers rejected these measures and elected to go on strike. The strike was prevented when the company announced a wage increase after negotions.

The Brattleboro Reformer, Thursday, March 16, 1933

This was not the first time such an incident had occurred at the Amoskeag plant. Back in 1922, the company attempted a similar tactic when it announced that wages were being cut twenty percent and the work week increased from 48 to 54 hours per week. The ensuing strike was a disaster for both the workers and the mill operator.

The insanity machine used by the Green Bell is perhaps an early example of transcranial magnetic stimulation. Weak magnetic fields are used in a manner to stimulate brain activity. One risk associated with this procedure is the risk of a seizure.

This story features the first mention of the Hidalgo Trading Company which is actually Doc’s waterfront aircraft hanger on the Hudson River. Prior adventures make no mention of the facility so it may be newly built. It is also possible that the structure was damaged in an earlier unknown story or was simply undergoing renovations.

At one point in the story, a car is described as being a “phaeton.” This term is derived from a particular body style that originated with horse drawn carriages.

Lester Dent mentions lynching in this story. Kindly Aunt Nora explains the reason the Green Bells have not harmed her is because the citizenry would become so outraged and lynch them.

Many modern readers may wonder at this statement and assume that lynching was something limited to the south and applied only to blacks. That would not be a correct assumption. In fact, in the same month that this story appears, a mob in San Jose, California broke into the local jail and lynched two suspected kidnappers. The two men had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a local man, Brooke Hart. Upon questioning, they confessed and implicated one another in an attempt to shift blame. The recovery of Hart’s body inflamed the local populace to a murderous degree. Thousands of local citizens storm the jail and summarily hanged the two men. California governor James Rolf gave tacit approval of the actions.

The idea of lynching may seem antiquated to modern readers, but it was a real and tangible threat of the time these stories were written.

When Jugborn Tugg meets with Doc Savage Reference is made to a lodge emblem on a watch chain. Initially, I assumed this was something akin to a masonic emblem. However, it has occurred to me that the hooded figures in this story could have been an allusion to the Ku Klux Klan. There is plenty of mention of the Klan in newspapers of the region during this time. The story refers to Tugg’s lodge emblems. These may have been symbols of other organizations, but it should be noted that the Klan did indeed have lodges and emblems.

If we go back and examine the cover of the pulp magazine, it appears that the Green Bell depicted on the cover is giving a German Nazi style hand salute. The oddity is that he is using his left hand instead of the right.  This could have been an editorial decision to be similar but not exactly the same. It certainly is an odd gesture.

Doc travels through the tree-tops like Tarzan.

Doc uses sign language. He is probably using American Sign Language (ASL).

The wrist-watch television is the same as that seen in “Pirate of the Pacific.”