1935-07 Quest of Qui

Cover Date: July 1935
Volume 5 # 5
Copyright Date: June 21, 1935
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
WHMC: The collection contains eight folders for this story, f.287-294
Recurring Characters. Long Tom is out of the country and does not participate in this story.

The Quest of Qui by Kenneth Robeson
Jungle Devil by Jean Francis Webb
The Doc Savage Method of Self-Development
Death Stalks the Bottom By Earl Griffin
The Air Phantom by Grant Lane

Doc Savage Club
To Keep Up
Viking Ships
Seal Hunting
Reindeer as a Utility
From Our Members

“Quest of Qui” is a bit of rewrite of “The Phantom City.”  The story begins with a criminal gang and a beautiful captive.  There is a remote location with a lost race and a treasure.

Long Tom is not around for this adventure, being on a job in South America.

Lea Aster was Monk’s beautiful secretary who first appeared in “The Red Skull.”  While she is not named in this story, it is clear that she is still around.

Johnny’s supermachine pistol is loaded with these bullets. “The Germans are reported to have developed a gas which, when sucked into the cylinders of gasoline engines, will stop combustion, and so bring them to a halt.”
Source: Modern Mechanix, “New Weapons of the Next War,” November 1931

An expensive sporting goods retailer located on Madison Avenue is mentioned in the story.  This is undoubtedly the firm of Abercrombie & Fitch which was located on the corner of Madison Avenue and 45th Street.

Lester Dent’s inspiration for this story may have come from one of several newspaper articles.  In the year leading up to the story, Vikings were very much in the news:

  • Digging Out the Pirate Who Made His Own Wife “Walk the Plank” –The Salt Lake Tribune, Sunday March 5, 1933
  • Vikings Relics Exhibited by Museum in New YorkThe Ogden Standard Examiner, Sunday, February 11, 1934
  • Viking Ships Dug Up – Harrisburg Telegraph, Saturday, August 4, 1934
  • Adventures of the Vikings in America – Harrisburg Telegraph, Saturday, August 4, 1934
  • Viking Treasure Found on Isle in Baltic SeaAsheville Citizen Times, Saturday, December 8, 1934

During the time Dent was living in New York City, the American Museum on Natural History in New York City hosted a Viking exhibit.  Not to be overlooked in the feature on Viking Ships that was printed in the same issue.  This was likely based on some article that editor John Nanovic came across and may have been discussed in the planning sessions held between Lester Dent, John Nanovic, and Henry Ralston.

The inspiration for the small statured people, the Qui, may have originated with the 1932 discovery of a small mummy in 1932. In October of that year, two prospectors showed up with a tiny mummy they claimed to have found in small room they discovered while blasting a gold seam in the San Pedro Mountains of Wyoming.  Interest in this may have been further fueled by a Shoshone legend of the Nimerigar.  This was a race of small and aggressive people who also practiced cannibalism.

Dent’s story of Vikings in North America is not as farfetched as it might sound.  Archeological ruins of a Viking settlement have been found in northern Newfoundland.

The events in Chapter Seven, “Wind and Terror” are bizarre.  The scenes with the phosphorescent liquid and the strange indentations are never explained in the story.  The indentations, which appeared to have claws on one end, appear to be an attempt to create the illusion of a monster of some kind.

In the story, one of the criminal gang members, Carleth, agrees to help Doc Savage as he was sickened by the murder of the manager at Ham’s building.  The story conveniently ignores the murder of the seaman when the gang seized the Sea Scream.

Doc Savage’s private hanger at the Hidalgo Trading Company is attacked with gasoline and dynamite.  This forces Doc to use one of Carleth’s planes for the northern expedition.

Carleth’s plane is described as being a fast plane and nearly as fast as those Doc possesses.  Carleth later reveals the planes were bought for a circumnavigation of the earth and cost $200,000 each.

Ham is kidnapped and is eventually located wearing only a dirty gunnysack.  This idea is later repeated in “The Speaking Stone” published in June 1942.  This is again used in “The Running Skeletons” published in June 1943 but Ham is accompanied by Renny,  Long Tom, and Johnny were similarly attired.

Ham expresses a desire to hire Carleth’s valet, Peabody.  It turns out Peabody is actually the gang leader and strongly resents Ham’s attitude.  Ham suffers some physical abuse for his prior remarks.

Johnny’s supermachine pistol is loaded with these bullets. “The Germans are reported to have developed a gas which, when sucked into the cylinders of gasoline engines, will stop combustion, and so bring them to a halt. “
Source: Modern Mechanix, “New Weapons of the Next War,” November 1931

Renny is named with the following suffixes attached to his name: “M. S., C. E., D. S. C., C. M. H.”  These would be Master of Science, Civil Engineer, Distinguished Service Cross, and Congressional Medal of Honor.

Readers are introduced to Ingra, who is a slave of the Qui.  Johnny, who is usually unimpressed by feminine charms, finds her very appealing.  She is described as “husky” with curves in all the right places.

Just how small are the Qui? At one point in the story they are described as having an average weight on about twenty percent of Doc Savage’s own weight.  Assuming Doc Savage weighs 250 pounds this would put the average weight of the little men at around fifty pounds.  The story uses the term “dwarf” once and “midgets” twice.  The rest of the time they are simply called the “small men.”  The Qui are described as being about the same size as African pygmies but stouter.  Based on the knife throwing scenes in the book, they must be considerable smaller as they were able to hide in small places. Eventually Doc Savage surmises their small stature is caused by heavily mineralized water that stunts their growth.