1940-03 The Spotted Men

Cover Date: March 1940
Volume 15 #1 (Issue #85)
Copyright Date: February 16, 1940
Author: William G. Bogart
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition #87 March 1977
Sanctum Edition #
Story Length:  words 36,950
WHMC: The collection contains one folder for this story, f. 461.
Recurring Characters: Doc, Monk, Ham, and Renny have active parts in the story.  Pat Savage is included.  Long Tom and Johnny are at Doc’s Headquarters and are only mentioned at the end of the story.

Reading and analyzing “The Spotted Men” evolved into an exceedingly interesting operation. I had long been curious about another pulp story that used a steel mill and the furnaces as a major part of the story. “The Milltown Massacres” appeared in the February 1937 issue of The Spider. After finishing the “The Spotted Men,” I turned my attention to this particular story about The Spider. It did not disappoint.

Both stories center on steel mills and the actual furnaces where the molten steel is poured. Workers begin to go berserk and kill randomly. The trouble rises to the level of an epidemic and people are worried that the malady is contagious.

The goal in both stories is to drive the price of company stock down so that it can be bought cheaply. The ultimate goal is control of the steel company.

In “The Milltown Massacres” the masterminds are Mayor Gaylord and Dr. MacLeod. The latter is also the person who created the mad men by use of drugs and hypnosis. In “The Spotted Men” the insane condition was caused by a drug in the salt pills. The mastermind here is Walter Mason.

At the story’s climax, a major villain is killed by falling into molten steel. In “The Milltown Massacres” this person is the Russian Gregory Bayer who was the gang leader. In “The Spotted Men” this person was Walter Mason.

In case anyone thinks this is simply happenstance, there are a few more clues to examine. Early on in each story there is a steel worker who goes insane.

  • In “The Milltown Massacre” Harry Silvestro is a big steel worker. He has a wife and four children. He works in Number Three Open Hearth Shop. After going insane, he hurls a coworker into a “bucket of molten steel.”
  • In “The Spotted Men” Johnson is a big steel worker. He has a wife and four children. He works in Number Five Open Hearth Shop. After going insane, he hurls a coworker into a “mammoth caldron of molten steel”

Coincidences may occur many places in life. This is not one of those places.

“The Spotted Men” was written by William G. Bogart. He had been heavily criticized by both John Nanovic and Lester Dent for his substandard work on “The Angry Ghost.” Dent was slow to respond to the outline Bogart sent for “The Spotted Men” after Dent’s blistering comments. Dent later wrote that it had fell out of the letter and he had not seen it. The lack of response from Dent must surely have added to Bogart’s anxiety. This would be especially true in that Bogart left Street & Smith in December 1938. Bogart was looking for some help and he found it in the chronicles of The Spider.

The only item in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection is a fifteen-page outline for this story.  The outline is titled “The Death Formula.”  Two alternate titles appear of page two: “The Mad Spots” and “The Mad Red Spots.”  The correspondence discussed below is from the collection.

The first mention of “The Spotted Men” appears in a letter dated April 13, 1938, from William  Bogart to Lester Dent. It is only a single line in which Bogart notes he is getting background data for the “steel plot idea.”

November 6, 1938 – William Bogart writes Dent and mentions showing Nanovic three basic plot ideas for Doc Savage. Nanovic found only one of them acceptable. Bogart mentions using the “mill town” background per Nanovic’s suggestion.

June 12, 1939 – Lester Dent writes Bogart regarding his work on “The Angry Ghost.” Dent is very unhappy with the work product. He notes that he spent as much time revising the story as he would have if he had written it. Dent writes that “The next story will have to show a very, very great improvement” or he will terminate their business arrangement.

June 20, 1939 – William G. Bogart writes Dent with some comments on his current Doc Savage story. Remarks indicate this is “The Spotted Men.” Bogart notes that he has bought an Encyclopedia Brittanica set as a plotting tool. He is busy ironing out the “steel formula” plot before starting on the story. He adds that the type of steel suggested by Street & Smith has very limited uses and that he is going to write about a different type of steel. Bogart also suggests that the villain be a family member rather than an outsider. Bogart notes that he will write three chapters and then send them to Dent for feedback. Bogart comments on the story and states that control of the steel mill is the ultimate objective.

June 27, 1939 – William G. Bogart writes Dent about the plot for “The Spotted Men.” The idea of the T.3 steel formula is mentioned. Walter Mason is the villain. Source: 

July 24, 1939 – Lester Dent writes to William G. Bogart from the Hollywood Plaza Hotel. Dent goes into a considerable discussion and guidance on the story Bogart is working on, “The Spotted Men.” He offers a lot of encouragement to Bogart.

August 2, 1939 – William G. Bogart writes Dent, sending him a revised outline based on Dent’s comments. Bogart notes that Nanovic has squashed the idea of Pat Savage having invented some hair styling machine that is the object sought by the gangsters.