1938-10 Fortress of Solitude

Cover Date: October 1938
Volume 12 # 2
Copyright Date: September 16, 1938
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length: 40,950 words
WHMC: The collection contains six folders for this story, f.529-524
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

Fortress of Solitude by Kenneth Robeson
Logs of Death by Wallace Brooker
Mortgaged Treasure by Norman A. Daniels

From Our Readers
Doc Savage Award
Free Doc Savage Picture
Doc Savage Club

The Crime College: The scope of Doc’s detective agency seems to have expanded. It is a worldwide agency comprised solely of men processed through Doc’s Crime College.

Eugene Sandow: There is a reference to Sandow in this story. Just who was this person? Frederick Müller was a Prussian born strong man who was famous for his strength and advocacy of physical culture. He died in 1925 after enjoying a long career as a professional strongman under the name of Eugene Sandow.

It is interesting to note Sandow’s recommendations on using isometric exercises. This may be the source of that part of Doc’s exercise routine. Here are some interesting quotes from his book, “Strength and How to Obtain It” by Eugene Sandow.

He is gentle, and only uses his powers against his fellow men when called upon to do so in the defense of the oppressed and helpless.”

Sandow also instructs in the technique of isometric exercise where one set of muscle strains against another. Sandow was the author of many other popular works on physical culture near the turn of the last century.

Energy Weapons: Beam weapons become so commonplace by now that one is used for revenge in Fortress of Solitude. Interestingly enough, it appears to be the same weapon we encountered in “The Metal Master”. The description of the device John Sunlight used to exact his revenge on Serge Manoff is remarkably similar.

It looks like Doc Savage has been a busy man. The Metal Master’s ray only worked on metal. Doc has experimented along these lines and found a ray that dissolves human flesh!

Cannibalism: Another aspect of the Crime College treatment appears. Doc Savage offers to perform surgery on everyone. There is a two-fold purpose in this offer. First it would destroy their memories of the horrible events they have undergone. There is a strong suggestion of cannibalism during the period they are marooned in the icebound ship. Secondly, and more importantly for Doc, they would not remember anything about the Fortress of Solitude.

Dent was not without a sense of humor. At one point in Fortress of Solitude Baron Karl compares John Sunlight to Titan. In Greek mythology, the Titans were the precursors to the Gods of Olympus. There were six male gods known as “titans” and six female gods known as “titanides” or “titanesses.” Dent introduces two stalwart females who answer to the names of Giantia and Titania.  This pair is likely based on the Van Droysen sisters who toured with the circus for many years.

In fact, it seems a certainty that Dent had recently been privy to a book on mythology based on Baron Karl’s other backhanded compliments regarding John Sunlight’s dubious character.

Also mentioned are “Erinyes” and the “Eumenides” which both refer to the Furies of Greek and Roman mythology.

“Friar Rush” is a small magical creature from German folklore akin to a leprechaun.

The “playboy prince’s” ugly bodyguards are jokingly named Adonis and Beauty. Adonis, who comes from Greek mythology, was famed for his beauty. Frankenstein and Dracula are both proto-mythological creations.

Doc Savage explains that he used his artic laboratory to store the various death machines recovered over the years. At the end of the story, John Sunlight disappears along with twenty of the infernal machines. Looking over the list of prior stories, it seems that the count of twenty is on the high side for the known adventures and death machines. Obviously, readers do not know the entire story. Two devices used in the story, the disintegrator and the blinding ray, are devices that Doc Savage has developed rather than something captured from an adversary. Neither of these devices has appeared in previously published stories in their present form.

Examining prior adventures for an answer, the weapon used in “The Metal Master” would be a good basis for the disintegrator seen in “Fortress of Solitude.” However, as a weapon, the disintegrator was vastly inferior to the device seen in “The Metal Master’ as it had only a short range while that original weapon worked at a much greater distance. A device that paralyzed a person’s hearing was introduced in “The Roar Devil.” This could be the basis for the blinding ray used in “Fortress of Solitude.” The insanity machine seen in “The Devil Genghis” could be explained as an enhanced version of the machine used in “The Czar of Fear.”