Cover Date: November 1942
Volume 20 # 3
Copyright Date: Friday, October 9, 1942
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length: 34,300 words
Cover by Emory Clarke
WHMC: The collection contains six folders for this story, f.781-786
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.
Table of Contents
They Died Twice by Kenneth Robeson
The Skipper’s Commandos by Wallace Brooker
Death’s Little Doll by Alan Hathway
Doc Savage Club
– The Code of Doc Savage
– The Other Fellow
– Most Beautiful Valley in the World
– Books That Speak
Letters From Readers
– American Ideals
– Mother and Aunt Read It
– Certificate of Honor
– Better Than Before
– Twice a Month
This consists of a long promotion of the next story, “The Devil’s Black Rock.” The editor notes that the magazine newsstand date will now be a week earlier than past issues. (The magazine is moving from the second Friday of the month to the first Friday. This change is due to war-time supply conditions.) The writeup ends with a one-page comment on “The Died Twice.”
This story features Doc’s third and final visit with the Mayans although not his last visit to Hidalgo. The Valley of the Vanished is filled with mysteries. Only during the third trip to the valley did Doc learn of the “high” Mayans living in the valley. What the actual facts are relating to Doc’s heritage remains part of that mystery.
While doing some research on certain terms used in “The Dagger in the Sky” I came across an interesting book titled “Discoveries and Adventures in Central America” by Thomas Gann which was published in 1928. After examining the text, it is clear that Lester Dent used this very same book as background material to provide a local flavor for both “The Dagger in the Sky” (December 1939) and “They Died Twice” (November 1942).
Lester Dent also snipped some descriptive material from another book on Central America. Red Tiger: Adventures in Yucatan and Mexico by Phillips Russell was published in 1929.The book is a travelogue and has some passages describing zapote nuts. Dent used this descriptive material in his story.
The idea that Secret Stevens is entitled to gold from the Valley of the Vanished is a little astonishing. The deal for the gold was a portion to the Mayans placed in trust, a portion to the government of Hidalgo, and the rest for the use of Doc Savage in doing good deeds. Never was it mentioned that the money would be used for personal advancement. That would be a violation of the agreement. Even if the circumstances crafted by Albert Jones were true, Secret Stevens would never be entitled to any of the Mayan wealth. Indeed, in “The Man of Bronze,” it is explained that Hubert Robertson accompanied Clark Savage, Sr. on the expedition where he found the Valley of the Vanished. Nothing was ever mentioned about Robertson or his heirs being entitled to a share of the Mayan gold.
Religion: Albert Jones, in They Died Twice enthusiastically explains the idea of using his “memory machine” to retrieve the teachings of Christ.
Ethnicity: King Chaac’s statement here adds to this mystery. Two times the elderly ruler uses the term “son” when referring to Doc. It turns out this word is tossed around quite a bit in the story. During Doc’s fake memory experiment, his father naturally uses the word “son”. Secret Stevens also uses “son” several times. However, Savage, Sr. and King Chaac both refer to Doc as “my son”. The elderly ruler distinctly marks out the relationship between Doc and the Mayans and the relationship between Doc and himself. Clearly the two are different. A familial relationship would explain this statement.
Pat Savage gets a mention as part of the series background, but she does not appear in the story.
Doc uses his detective agency to search for the missing Renny. This is the same organization seen in earlier stories that employs graduates of the Crime College.
The Crime College is mentioned in the story but never used. All the bad guys end up dead at the story’s conclusion.
Albert Jones and Secret Stevens reveal themselves to be part of the gang at the end.
The story’s wrap-up makes it clear that Doc Savage was never fooled by the machine. Doc explains at the end that this supposed incident happened after he was born. Hence, it would be impossible for him to have an inherited memory of such an event. The story moves quickly from New York to Hidalgo once Doc submits to the memory machine. There was never any opportunity for him to research any records relating to his father’s travels. Clearly, Doc Savage was in full possession of the history of those events pertaining to his father’s travels in Central America.
Readers should also remember that Doc Savage obtained a list of the drugs that Albert Jones had been buying. Undoubtedly this list included those in the cocktail given to subjects before the entered the Memory Machine. The knowledge of the specific drugs in use may have been enough for Doc Savage to mentally offset the effects. Alternatively, he could have taken some counter-agents prior to entering the machine and the fact was simply not reported in the story.
The magazine advertised back issues at fifteen cents each or two for twenty-five cents. Issues available are the run from January 1941 through July 1942.
This is not the final incarnation of this story. In the July 1957 issued of Adventure Comics #238 a similar story is featured. “The Secret Past of Superboy’s Father” is credited to Otto Binder who incidentally began his writing career in the pulps.