Cover Date: June 1935
Volume 5 # 2
Copyright Date: Friday, August 16, 1935
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
WHMC: The collection contains eight folders for this story, f.279-286
Recurring Characters. Long Tom is out of the country and does not participate in this story.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Roar Devil by Kenneth Robeson
Sea Vengeance by Milton Burns
The Bullet Breed by Walter Wayne
The Death Jewel by Rand Allison
Doc Savage Club
Speaking in Whistles
Prospectors vs. Geophysicists
Doctoring the Eskimo
Dropping the Pilot
From Our Members
This story is attributed to Lester Dent but it has a strange flavor to it. The story is full of colorful character names such as Stupe Davin, Dove Zachies, and V. Venable Mear. Some of the names sound like puns such as Retta Kenn or “Rita can” and Flagler D’Aughtell or Flager do-tell.” April Fifth is certainly unusual.
The identity of the villain is hidden until the end. What is unusual is that the story lacks a strong straw-boss who takes direction from the mastermind. It would not be a surprise to find that this story was originally subcontracted out by Dent who subsequently reworked it into the published version.
This story was published during the bigger-than-life phase of the series. It reads more like one of the war-time science detective stories. The anesthetic bombs are used too many times.
A couple of things in the story don’t make sense when you sit down and think about it. The passage where V. Venable Mear picks up on Doc’s men speaking the Mayan language doesn’t add up. Mear only knows the commonly spoken dialect in Yucatan and doesn’t really understand what is being said. So, what made him ask if they were speaking Mayan which was a dead language as far as the modern world was concerned?
- Why does Doc Savage feel the need to arm himself with Johnny’s gun when Retta Kenn appears at his office?
- Why was Doc using a coat instead of his equipment vest?
- Why give the watchman a name? That is not the usual practice for minor characters.
- Renny uses his machine pistol which is charged with anesthetic gas bullets.
- Doc uses a vapor form of truth serum.
- Retta Kenn takes a page from The Shadow where Harry Vincent frequently uses a radio transmitter-receiver kept in the trunk of his auto.
- One of the gangsters mentions a poem by Robert Burns. The poem is “For a’ That and a’ That” and was first published in 1775.
- The men who are mentally turned off are much like those from earlier stories where Doc injected a drug.
- Doc uses a gas that is absorbed through the skin.
- Fake blood is used twice. The first attempt is made using red ink. The second uses red dye in olive oil.
- The criminals are mixing up their own TNT.
- Johnny and Doc get gassed with what is probably laughing gas.
- The idea of killing insects with sound rays comes up.
Notorious gangster Dutch Schultz would be a good inspiration for Dove Zachies. Schultz surrendered to Federal authorities on a tax evasion charge in late November 1934. The newspapers accused Schultz of being a scared man who was afraid of both the G-men and his rival gangsters. Newspapers describe the gangster as “whimpering” and begging to be put in jail for protection. Dove Zachies is portrayed as a tough guy but ends as a scared coward by the story’s climax. Schultz also seemed to have a magic touch regarding his court cases in the early thirties. Other newspaper accounts refer to bribes and disappearing evidence factoring into favorable court results.
The story provides no hard evidence to the exact location of the Powertown Drainage Basin Project. The project is enormous in scope and comprised on one major dam and at two smaller ones. The project serves both as a power supply and a water reservoir for New York City.
According to the Intermission article by Will Murry, this story locale is around the Schoharie Reservoir. Interestingly, this is only a short distance from the site of Dutch Schultz’ lost treasure near Phoenicia.
On March 8, 1934, German scientist, Dr. Paul Lueg filed an application with the US Patent Office for a “Process of Silencing Sound Oscillations.” His invention was based on the concept of using the wave properties of sound to create anti-waves that would cancel out the noise. Lueg was granted patent number 2043416 in June 1936 for his idea. This area of study is now called active noise control.
There is an area in Mexico known as the “Zone of Silence.” It is pretty interesting from a pulp fiction point of view and apparently has become very popular with the UFO folks. The Wikipedia article claims Mexican aviator Francisco Sarabia experienced a radio malfunction while flying over this area in the 1939 while attempting to set a new speed record between New York City and Mexico City.
The concept of a “Zone of Silence” was nothing new at the time this story was written. Newspaper accounts during World War 1 noted the phenomena associated with the firing of large artillery guns.