1935-01 The Mystic Mullah

Cover Date: January 1935
Volume 4 # 5
Copyright Date: November 16, 1934
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
WHMC: The collection contains ten folders for this story, f.237-246
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

Table of Contents

This story is so full of items that I split it into multiple essays with each dealing with a peculiar aspect of the story.

The Green Mist and the Mullah
The Mad Fakir, The Mad Mullah, and The Mystic Mullah
The Mystic Mullah and The Dain Curse
The Mullah and The Majii
Where was Tanan?

Here is an intriguing quote: Long ago, Doc Savage had assembled five men as his assistants, Now the question is just how long is “long ago”? “The Mystic Mullah” is the twenty-third story and not quite two years have passed since the first adventure. The implication here is that these guys have been doing something for many years now and not just since March 1933.

Check out the name of the Khan Nadir Shar. Here’s the definition from the on-line version of the 1913 Webster’s dictionary: Nadir: The lowest point; the time of greatest depression.

It is a suitable name for the scoundrel and symbolizes the Khan’s low position in the story as a villain and betrayer of the very people he is supposed to protect. Later in the story we learn that slavery is still practiced in Tanan. The Khan is not a very admirable ruler.

“The Mystic Mullah” also picks up a few tidbits from an earlier Doc Savage story, “The Thousand-Headed Man” which was published in July 1934. The green souls are comparable to the spitting cobras seen six months earlier. Both stories reference torture by putting burning coals on the victim’s chest. Doc Savage explains that the toxin uses venom from the ”neotropical rattlesnake.”

Western Historical Manuscript Collection
The next two paragraphs document items from the Lester Dent collection at the University of Missouri at Columbia. These are from two distinct documents.

March 30, 1934
Richard Sale writes Dent. Sale lists his address as 485 Pelham Road, New Rochelle, New York. Sale is applying for the job of Dent’s secretary/ghost writer. He mentions that a copy of Secret Agent X is coming that includes his story “Terror Train.” Sale notes he has sold several stories, but none have appeared in print as of yet. Sale notes that he read “The Monsters” in the current Doc Savage Magazine. One idea for a Doc Savage story he mentions is “The Serpent Empire” with the action taking place in Africa in the Congo. Source: WHMC Folder C3701_f4

The second item is dated “Circa 1934”
There is an undated fragment with the notation “4” on the top left corner. The name “SALE” is on the first line. This would relate to the period when Richard Sale worked for Lester Dent as his secretary. The fragment relates to “The Mystic Mullah” and has ten items filling the entire page with instructions on how to handle certain items. Lester Dent is not shy about giving direction or criticisms.

It is clear that Sale is ghosting a story for Dent. Item 9 includes an admonition by Dent not to use too many words that would confuse the “dope” readers. Source: WHMC Folder C3701_f4

Sale went on to establish himself as a writer and movie director.

March 10, 1993

Before there can be any story, there must be an outline.  Typically, these came out of a meeting with Henry Ralston, John Nanovic, and Lester Dent.  The final outline for this story consists of twelve typewritten pages.

The first item on the microfilm is a one-page overview titled “What is Behind the Story.” The title shown on the page is “The Mystic Mullah” and it is labeled as the 23rd Doc Savage story.

Following this is an eleven-page chapter outline of the story. There are nineteen chapters. Khan Shar and Jone Lynn arrive in New York courtesy of a British Navy destroyer. The plot is substantially the same until Chapter Sixteen. Oscar Gibson has allowed himself to be taken prisoner by the Mystic Mullah’s men. Unknown to them, Gibson has a radioactive substance that can be detected from a distance. Doc Savage uses a sensitive detector to locate the gang’s hideout.

The actual story draft begins a little differently. The notation “22nd Doc Savage” is penciled in on the top right along with “60,000 words”.  The story itself is mostly in complete agreement with the printed version. Jone Lynn’s name has evolved into Joan Lyndell.

The draft has Khan Shar’s tattoo on his hand rather than his forehead.

Hadim’s name is Khadim in the draft. His neck is broken in the street rather than outside Doc’s office.

The draft contains a comment from Monk that did not make the published version: “Jumping Juniper Berries!”

Ham insults Habeas Corpus. Monk retorts, “At least I didn’t steal him outa army supplies”.

Monk and Ham produce various cards. One is signed by the mayor, the other signed by the police chief, and yet another signed by the head of the United States Department of Justice. It is stated that Doc and his are honorary members of most of the world’s police forces, including secret police.

The final page of the manuscript contains a lead-in for the next story which is to be “The Always-Night Land” which was published as “The Land of Always-Night.” But it was not the next story to be printed. Instead, “Red Snow” followed “The Mystic Mullah” with “The Land of Always-Night” following it.

The Monk-Ham feud is again explained in the typical fashion but with a little more detail. It is revealed that the incriminating evidence implicating Ham was his bill-fold and private papers.

Dent’s address is written in on the second page of the story draft:

Lester Dent
101 W 55th St
New York City
Circle 7-6301