1941-03 The All-White Elf

Cover Date: March 1941
Volume 17 #1
Copyright Date: Friday, February 21, 1941
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition Omnibus # 1, August 1986
Sanctum Edition # 70
Story Length: 40,115 words
WHMC: The collection contains 8 folders for this story, f. 673-680.

Gimmick: A criminal gang has gained control of a machine that can broadcast blinding rays.  The machine blinds people and leaves them sick and disoriented.  The gang can move about during the machine’s operation thanks to a special metal suit that shields the wearer from any ill effects.  This idea appeared before in Fortress of Solitude as a device that paralyzed parts of the eye creating blackness rather than turning everything white.

Goal: The objective in this story is the theft of gold bullion being carried aboard an ocean liner.

Recurring Characters: Appearing in the story are Doc Savage, Monk Mayfair, Ham Brooks, Renny Renwick, and Johnny Littlejohn.  Both pets, Habeas Corpus and Chemistry are also present.  Long Tom Roberts is missing with no explanation of his location.

The Crime College: Doc’s crew heads for a refuge to regroup.  Monk is surprised to find two men he knew from a previous encounter.  They are two successful oyster fishermen named Alec and Joe.  The significant fact here is that Doc knew where the crime college graduates were while Monk did not.  There is possibly another untold adventure here.  Just who are Alec and Joe and do we know them as someone else?

The first character Dent introduces is a government employee named Arnold Haatz who lives in apartment 4F.  The name Haatz appears to be a variation of an old Germanic name, hetzer.  This name comes from the German word hetze for hunter or tracker.  Arnold Haatz shows himself to be just such a man.  The apartment number appears to be a joke based on military draft ratings as 4F is the lowest score and unfit for military service.

The unpopularity of Russia is mentioned in a sideways manner when it is disclosed that Ham told Monk’s date that he was a commissar.  This stems from the Winter War which started on November 30, 1939 when Russian troops invaded Finland.  The war ended on March 13, 1940.  

Hyoscyamus was used historically for its medical and hallucinatory properties. It is also poisonous.  The common name for the plant is henbane.

Doc explains that the suit the White Elf wears is made of a metal that burns.  A likely candidate for this metal is magnesium.  This metal also fits in with the samples Doc Savage obtains after the White Elf walks over gravel.  The metal in the suit had to be soft enough for the broken gravel to scrape off minute pieces.  Magnesium is a relatively soft metal, registering 1.0-2.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness.  Aluminum is similar in hardness as it registers 2.0-2.5 on the Mohs scale.

Decline:  There is no mention of the regular exercises Doc Savage takes daily.

The Dick Tracy daily comic strip introduced a blinding device in a 1946 story.  The item was called an “Atomic Light” and it created temporary blindness in those exposed to its high intensity light.  The story was reprinted in Dick Tracy #40.