1940-05 The Boss of Terror

Cover Date: May 1940
Volume 15 # 3
Copyright Date: Friday, April 19, 1940
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition #85
Sanctum Edition #82
Story Length: 32,241 words
Cover by Emory Clarke
WHMC: The collection contains seven folders for this story, f.650-656
Recurring Characters. Renny and Johnny are absent from this story.

The Death Dive (Bill Barnes) by George L. Eaton
Ghost of Neighbor Island (Captain Fury) by Wallace Booker
Editor’s Page
Letters From Readers
Doc Savage Club
Airplanes and Mining
Fog Fighters
New Optical Device for Flyers

The Editor’s Page spends some time promoting the next issue, “The Awful Egg.”  The cover will feature Monk Mayfair in response to reader requests for pictures of Doc’s aids.  The plan is for all the other aids to appear on future covers.

The crime in this story is extortion aimed at men named Smith. Targeting men named Smith was chosen as it added confusion to the mystery.

The mysterious gadget in this story is a storage container that can condense incredible amounts of electricity. One group wants the device for its industrial applications and is trying to steal it from Oxalate Smith. It turns out the device will only store static electricity which has no commercial value.

Lester Dent pulls a big joke with Oxalate Smith’s name. Consumption of foods rich in oxalates can cause kidney stones. Early on in the story, Doc Savage subdues Oxalate Smith and forces him to ingest a substance while he was rendered unconscious. The substance was mildly radioactive which allowed Smith’s movements to be traced to some degree. The ingested material worked by forming a lump in his stomach that was too big to pass. In essence, Doc Savage created something akin to a kidney stone in Oxalate Smith’s stomach.

The device Doc Savage used to track Oxalate Smith was a Leyden jar. This is a form of condenser which is basically a very simple version of Oxalate Smith’s accumulator.

The use of the term condenser has been replaced with the word capacitor in modern technical terms.
A fake cablegram is sent informing Doc Savage that Long Tom is in Venezuela. Doc discloses that they all use a special code when sending messages.

The flea run is mentioned but it is referred to as “go-devil” or “angel wagon.”

No more bigger-than-life Doc. He is scared.

“He clamped his lips, advanced on the cases. He was scared. He knew that he was closer to death now than possibly at any time in his rather hair-raising career. There was death in each one of those boxes; it was disaster of a concentrated kind that could kill scores at once, unless he was mistaken. And a single false move on his part would release it.”