1940-04 The Evil Gnome

Cover Date: April 1940
Volume 15 #1 (Issue #86)
Copyright Date: Friday, March 15, 1940
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition # 82, May 1976
Sanctum Edition # 12
Story Length: 35,727 words
Cover by Emory Clarke
WHMC: The collection contains eight folder for this story, f. 642-649
Original title: The Man Nobody Could See
Recurring Characters: Doc, Monk, Ham, Renny. Long Tom is in England working on a submarine detector.

The Evil Gnome by Kenneth Robeson
The Dragon’s Treasure by George L. Eaton
Editor’s Page
The Doc Savage Award
Doc Savage Club
Uncle Sam’s Warships
Where Columbus Sailed
Science Goes Ahead
Letters From Readers

The Editor’s Page has a writeup on Kenneth Robeson wanting to go bear hunting in northern Alaska. The exposition goes on to mention Robeson’s colorful past adventures hunting, sailing around in his own boat, treasure hunting, and spending time in Hollywood.

The writer goes own to describe a misadventure on Robeson’s boat that he fortunately did not attend. The incident is mentioned as having occurred some years ago. The boat is described as reaching a Block Island which is between Montauk Point on Long Island and New London, Connecticut. Robeson’s boat was becalmed for three days.

Much of this story takes place in Missouri. Lester Dent included many of the locations with which he was familiar: Kansas City, Kirksville, Jefferson City, and Waverly. Waverly is east of Kansas City and sits on the Missouri River. The state highway intersects US highway 65 at Waverly and heads directly to Carrollton. This was the home of Norma Dent’s parents. Lester and Norma probably drove this route many times during the time they lived in Kansas City.

Lester Dent also includes a two-paragraph glowing description of the benefits of his home area.

Almost entirely overlooked is northern Missouri, particularly the section around Kirksville. And what does this district excel in? Why, it’s probably the most placid and lowest-priced part of the United States in which to reside; possibly it is the most economical in the world, for it is certainly lower-priced than France before the second great war, when France was highly touted for its low-cost living.

If a man wanted an utterly peaceful spot in which to seclude himself for leisure and cogitation, he could hardly do better than the section around Kirksville, Missouri. The town itself is slightly collegiate because of a State Teachers’ College and an osteopathy college, but otherwise it is benevolently rural. The big night is Saturday, when the farmers all come to town. And the farmer is the most important article around there; everyone else lives off him.

Lester Dent also seems to know the sheriff of Adair County well as he was mentioned in this story as being a “conscientious man.” The Sheriff, Arthur Floyd, was elected in 1936. He served one four-year term.

The gimmick in this story is an anesthetic gas that is so perfect as to as to undetectable in those upon whom it is used. The recipient simply stops functioning and then resumes at that same point as he was first anesthetized.

An anesthetic gas with similar properties appeared in the Fu Manch stories by Sax Rohmer. The 1932 story, “The Mask of Fu Manchu” goes into some detail on this product. Dr. Fu Manchu explains the anesthetic to young Shawn Greville who has just recovered from having the gas used on him.

“I should like you to inform our mutual friend Dr. Petrie, whom I esteem, that Western science is on the wrong track, and that the perfect anesthetic is found in Mimosa pudica.”

Lester Dent also mentions the Voyagers Hotel in Kirksville. While there is no such named establishment in Kirksville, there happens to have been a well respected hotel in town named the Travelers Hotel. Seems to me that a voyager is a traveler and vice-versa.

The Crime College: The police apprehend Doc’s prisoners and thus destroying the men’s chance at rehabilitation. This is in sharp contrast to the assistance they were lending in the previous issue. There must be a new commissioner.

We learned that Bill Larner who is introduced in this story was a particularly vicious criminal. However, he was successfully treated and became a useful citizen.

The Hidalgo Trading Company warehouse-hanger makes an appearance. Of note is the submarine there.
She saw a small yacht; she stared in astonishment at a peculiar-looking submarine which was equipped with a protective framework of big steel sledlike runners. A submarine for going under the polar ice, she realized suddenly.”

What is most interesting is the specific description used for the under-ice runners. They are described as “sledlike.” This same word is also used in “The Phantom City,” and “Death in Silver.”

Lion Ellison is a circus performer who specializes in handling lions and tigers. She is a bit of a retread of Jean Morris who appeared in “The Monsters” and was also a lion tamer.

Lion Ellison is also described as a finker: she was an experienced finker, which meant a circus performer.

The page at American Circus Lingo does not have this word.  It does have “Fink” which refers to something that is broken.  There is also another word “kinker” which is used to refer to a performer.  The pulp magazine uses the term “finker” but it seems likely that this is an error and the correct wording should be “kinker.”

Monk and Ham find a “stawstrack” hideout. This used in the June 1939 story “The Flaming Falcons.”