1940-11 The Awful Dynasty

Cover Date: November 1940
Volume 16  # 3
Copyright Date: Friday, October 18, 1940
Author: William G. Bogart
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length:  33,689 words
Cover by Emory Clarke
WHMC: The collection contains no information folders for this story.
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story. Pat Savage also appears.

Peril of the Pack by Samuel Taylor
Island Destiny by M. Farnsworth

Doc Savage Club
Editor’s Page
Letters From Readers

This story is from the November 1940 issue and is by William G. Bogart.  The writing in this story is better than some of the earlier stories by Bogart.  However much improved, it is still missing that vital spark that fires up the reader.  Of course that is more difficult to obtain with the meager word count coming in under 34,000 words.  

The gimmick is a lost pyramid with a hidden treasure.  The key is a parchment that reveals the location and how to find the treasure.

This story did not disappoint – it was every bit as weak as I expected it to be.  Perhaps if it had another fifteen or twenty thousand words more to fill out the body it would have been better.  The explanation for the mysterious scarab mystery is very weak and incomplete.  It does not explain the depictions in the story.  Neither does explain the scarab  mark burned onto a man’s hand.  I do not care much for Bogart’s stories, but he does not deserve all the blame.  This story is about two-thirds the length of a 1933 story.  Let me put it this way.  If Doc Savage was a strapping 225 pounds of muscle at the beginning of the series in 1933, this story would have put him at a measly 150 pounds barely seven years later.  There simply is no valid comparison between the two.

Examining the pulp magazine, the reader finds that pages 73-108 are filled with two short stories:

  • “Peril on the Pack” by Samuel Taylor
  • “Island Destiny” by M. Farnsworth.

It is just too bad that these type stories were not dropped thereby giving badly needed pages to the main story.  Street & Smith basically destroyed their own product by consistently making the stories shorter as the series headed toward a cliff.   Someone in the executive area would have had to make a decision to drop the filler and fill out the main story better.  Why were people buying the magazine?  Surely not to read the filler stories.

The story starts out on a passenger liner leaving Southampton.  While it is not named, this is likely the S. S. Queen Mary.  The ship leaves on Tuesday and arrived in New York City on Friday.  This is comparable to the actual transit time for an Atlantic crossing by the Queen Mary.

Some Egyptians arrive on the ship right before sailing carrying a mysterious copper cylinder that is about three feet long and three inches in diameter.  It has hieroglyphic markings and contains a parchment that has the location of a lost pyramid and its treasure.  Johnny ends up disappearing on the first night of the voyage.

A college student sees the cylinder and knows a little about the markings on it.  He states there is a curse associated with it.  The newspapers had latched onto Egyptian curses ever since Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922 and opened by Howard Carter.  The subsequent deaths of several individuals associated with the tomb added fuel to the fire. 

Howard Carter died on Marcy 2, 1939.  The newspapers reprinted all the old stories about Egyptian curses and detailed the deaths of those who died from the curse.  Numerous articles on the subject appeared in print throughout the year and may have been some inspiration for Bogart’s story.

Hollywood capitalized on this mania with the release of “The Mummy” in 1932.  The next mummy movie was “The Mummy’s Hand” which came out in 1940.

The story features some of the signature items seen in prior stories:

  • Doc Savage has flake-gold eyes.
  • The Hidalgo Trading Company appears in the story.
  • The pets Habeas Corpus and Chemistry appear in the story.
  • Pat Savage makes a brief appearance before Doc Savage banishes her from the story.
  • All five of Doc’s aids are in attendance.
  • Doc Savage uses his paralyzing nerve pinch.
  • Supermachine pistols with mercy bullets and explosive rounds appear.
  • Doc Savage follows a car by placing a radio transmitter on it.
  • Doc Savage uses a smoke grenade.
  • Doc Savage uses a lie detector to verify the truth of statements.
  • Two gangs are competing against each other for the prize.

There are some issues with Doc Savage’s performance.

Early in the story, Princess Amen-Amen shows up and claims to know where the missing Johnny is being held.  Doc Savage sends Monk and Ham away with the Princess to rescue Johnny.  But Doc never knows where they are going, and it ends up being a trap.

Doc Savage borrows a supermachine pistol and fires an explosive round at a fleeing car.  His shot falls short, and the car gets away.

Two of the criminals in the story mention a fellow named Lou.  He is apparently someone to be feared and not a person to easily accept excuses.  We finally learn who he is in chapter sixteen, “The Devil Called Lou.”  He is in fact, the Egyptian expert whom John Black went to see, Lucius Ethelbert Pettibone.  Readers learn that Black’s cousin is actually dead and that the note was switched by Pettibone’s men.  Just what the heck is happening here?  If Pettibone wanted the parchment, why did he give it back to John Black after he was consulted in New York City.  Would it have not been simpler to keep the parchment and kill John Black when he returned two hours later to retrieve it?  Pettigrew’s gang killed several people in the course of the story.

Strange Geography:
The story gives the treasure location. Johnny translates it from the ancient parchment: “Latitude approximately 29 degrees, 58 minutes and 51 seconds North. Longitude 31 degrees and 9 minutes East.” It is stated this is in the Libyan Desert. Fortunately, modern readers have Google Earth. A quick look there shows a very different location that is on the outskirts of Cairo. It is astounding that the ancient Egyptians were able to record location in latitude and longitude long before such a convention was adopted.

The Chickerelli expedition sets out for Egypt in a big Clipper seaplane.  John Black tricks the pilot into landing to save a fishing boat in distress.  Black and his men seize the plane and toss the expedition members overboard to swim for the fishing boat.  Doc Savage had foreseen this possibility and had told the coast guard to be on the alert for the distressed boat.  They arrive and save the expedition members.

Boeing 314 Clipper

The story ending is a bit like that of “Resurrection Day.”  In that story, Doc and his men dug a shaft beneath the tomb to get the treasure.  They have to repeat that labor here to get the treasure.

Real World Problems
This story was written in early 1940 during the early stages of World War II. By the time this story hit the newsstands, the situation was very different. Doc Savage and his men would have been flying into a war zone over the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa. This is similar to the fiasco with “The Flying Goblin” which was published in July 1940.

October 13, 1940