In this case, the person seeking Doc's help is beautiful blond adventuress Hornetta Hale, who is rescued from an island in the Caribbean where she's been stranded by the villains. Knowing that Doc has his own private submarine, she wants to hire it, but she won't explain why. This would be too much of a mystery for the Man of Bronze to ignore, even if the bad guys hadn't come in and practically destroyed his headquarters and the Hidalgo Trading Company warehouse where he keeps his planes, autogyro, and submersible. With help from his loyal aides, the bickering Monk and Ham, and the unwanted interference of his gorgeous cousin Pat Savage, Doc sets out to track down Hornetta Hale, whose trail which leads to tropical islands, yet another beautiful blonde, a race of sinister mermen who live under the sea, and an evil plot that could change the course of history for the entire world.
As usual, Murray's prose perfectly captures the style of Lester Dent, the original author of the Doc Savage series. His books are longer and the plots more complex than was common in the pulp era, but there's nothing wrong with that. PHANTOM LAGOON speeds along to a climax that's particularly satisfying. I didn't know how Murray was going to resolve everything, but as it turns out, he couldn't have done any better. It's a perfect Doc Savage ending.
I got 'way behind on this series. I've read all three of the books that came out in 2013, but there are still several earlier volumes I need to get to. That's good in a way, because every time I read one, I feel like I'm sitting on my parents' front porch again with a Bantam paperback I picked up off the spinner rack at Lester's Pharmacy or Motts' Five-and-Ten. These days, that feeling is worth a whole lot to me.
You can click on the image below to buy PHANTOM LAGOON at Amazon.
Study hall was an actual class you signed up for in those days, and I always took it. Not that I used it to study or work on assignments except very, very rarely. No, I took study hall because it was 50 minutes in the middle of each day that I could use to read whatever paperback or library book I was reading. I was a fast reader, too. I could get through half of a 128-page Gold Medal paperback in that time and then finish it off at home that evening.
Of course, when you stop and think about it, considering the way things turned out, I actually was studying for my future profession. I just didn't know it at the time. I was just having a great time reading.
And at least once a month, the book I'd be reading was the latest Doc Savage reprint from Bantam. I knew the day the new releases arrived at the store where I bought most of them, and that was always my first stop after school on those days. I have vivid memories of sitting in that old army barracks and galloping through the adventures of Doc, Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny.
Well (and there actually is a point to this reminiscing), reading THE MIRACLE MENACE, the latest Doc Savage novel by Will Murray writing under the Kenneth Robeson house-name, made me feel exactly like I was sitting in study hall again after all these years. It's that perfect a recreation of the original series. If you read the trade paperback, as I did, you can see that even the page layout is just like those old Bantam paperbacks.
When I first read the plot description of this one, I thought it sounded very Dent-like (Lester Dent being the author of the original Doc Savage novels published in the pulp magazine of the same name). Weird things are going on around the small town of La Plata, Missouri, which just happens to have been the hometown of Lester Dent, by the way. A deserted Victorian mansion sitting by itself in the middle of some thick woods has the odd habit of disappearing into thin air and then reappearing again. A murderous midget is on a killing spree. A group of traveling evangelists is in town, but they're not your average preachers. There's a rumor going around that Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America his own self, is not only still alive but is in Missouri, of all places. A stage magician named Gulliver Greene and his assistant Spook Davis are in the middle of this mess, and so are Doc Savage and his aides.
For much of the book, it appears that the two main storylines, the disappearing mansion and the mystery of Columbus, are unrelated, but I don't think it's giving away too much to reveal that eventually everything that's going on ties together. Once it does, the story races along with almost non-stop action. Murray throws in a number of plot twists, too, almost right up until the final page, and he does it all in prose that's a pitch-perfect pastiche of Lester Dent's style. The book even serves as a sequel of sorts to one of the original novels and features the return of a character from that yarn.
I had a grand time reading THE MIRACLE MENACE. If you're a long-time Doc Savage fan like me, you won't want to miss it. Highly recommended.
PulpFest 2013 got underway on Thursday evening with a full slate of programming starting at 8 PM. Now, in just a few short minutes, the PulpFest 2013 dealers’ room will be open to all. Upon entry to the Hyatt’s spacious exhibition hall, collectors will be greeted by more than 100 tables filled with pulps, books, original artwork, vintage comics, and other collectibles. And the feeding frenzy will begin!
There’s still plenty of time to join in on the fun. The dealers’ room will be open until 5 PM today and from 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturday. Sunday will be a bit shorter, from 9 AM to 2 PM. Friday’s programming schedule includes three author readings in the afternoon. The evening presentations will begin at 7:30 PM with a panel discussion of Philip José Farmer’s contributions to the Doc Savage mythos. Another panel will examine Doc Savage and the pulp heroes of 1933, while pulp art historian David Saunders will look at the life and work of artist Walter M. Baumhofer. Ending tonight’s programming will be a showing of chapters 6 – 10 of The Spider’s Web, Columbia Pictures’ classic chapter play based on the adventures of Norvell W. Page’s vigilante hero.
We’ll have more exciting programming for you on Saturday, including an auction of more than 100 lots of collectibles. You can learn more about all of our great presentations by visiting the Programming page of our website.
Admission to the show is $15 per day or $35 for all three days, allowing entry to all convention activities. Children under 15 accompanied by a parent are free. The general public is welcome to attend.
The cover art above is by Walter M. Baumhofer for the March 1933 issue of Doc Savage Magazine.
PulpFest 2013 will begin tomorrow, July 25th. Dealer set-up will take place from 4 PM to 11 PM. Early registration will start at 6 PM outside the Regency Ballroom on the third floor of the Hyatt Regency. Information will be available upon your arrival at the hotel.
To all of you who will be attending PulpFest, we look forward to seeing you. Please have a safe journey to Columbus.
Barry Traylor, Ed Hulse, Jack Cullers, and Mike Chomko–your PulpFest Organizing Committee.
Doc and Ham are hurrying to PulpFest in Walter Baumhofer’s front cover to the April 1935 Doc Savage Magazine, originally thought to illustrate “The Spook Legion.” The image is from the pulpcovers.com website.
Who was the “King of the Pulps?” Some say it was H. Bedford Jones, while others claim the title for Frederick Faust, better known as Max Brand. But to the young readers who devoured the pulp magazines and “delighted in his four-color depictions of action and adventure,” the one and only “King of the Pulps” was Walter M. Baumhofer.
When an injury at age fourteen left him unable to perform manual labor, Baumhofer began to intently study art. A scholarship allowed him to attend the prestigious Pratt Institute where he was able to study under Dean Cornwell and H. Winfield Scott. While still a student, he began his art career drawing pen and ink story illustrations for Adventure Magazine. By 1926, he was contributing covers to Clayton Publications and, soon thereafter, to Harold Hersey’s line of pulps. Street & Smith signed him to a contract in 1932 to paint a cover each week for their pulps. Around the same time, he was sought out by Popular Publications to provide cover art for their line of magazines, and so began his reign as the “King of the Pulps.”
Baumhofer labored for the pulp market for just over a decade, painting about 550 covers for a wide variety of titles including Ace High, Adventure, Detective Tales, Dime Mystery Magazine, Doc Savage, Fire Fighters, Gangland Stories, The Spider, Spy Stories, Western Story Magazine, and others. He moved into the slick market and advertising art in the late thirties, contributing work to American Weekly, Collier’s, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Redbook, Women’s Day, and other magazines. In later years, his paintings graced the covers of Argosy, Outdoor Life, and Sports Afield and his portrait, landscape, and Western art were exhibited in fine art galleries nationwide.
At 9:30 PM on Friday, July 26th, David Saunders will present a biographical profile of Walter Baumhofer’s life story as well as the artist’s fascinating family history. He will exhibit never-before-seen visual documents from the personal world of this pulp art master. Walter was a close friend of the presenter’s father, Norman Saunders, and as such David was personally acquainted with the artist for over thirty years. Baumhofer was a sensationally colorful character and David Saunders looks forward to sharing many amusing anecdotes and incidents that will help to promote a greater awareness of this legendary artist.
American Art Archives. Walter Baumhofer (1904-1987).
Gunnison, John P. (2007). Walter M. Baumhofer: Pulp Art Masters. Silver Spring, MD: Adventure House.
Saunders, David (2009). Walter Baumhofer: Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists.
Walter M. Baumhofer contributed the front cover art to the August 15, 1935 Adventure, depicted above.
Eighty years ago, following the astounding success of The Shadow Magazine, the pulp industry created a tremendous splash in publishing by releasing a wave of single-character magazines. The Phantom Detective, Nick Carter, Doc Savage, The Lone Eagle, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Spider, and Pete Rice Magazine all debuted in 1933, despite the economic hardships wrought by The Great Depression.
The Shadow Magazine was introduced to readers by Street & Smith Publishing in early 1931. Employing the talents of author Walter B. Gibson, the magazine proved an instant hit. Planned as a quarterly, this first “hero” pulp became a monthly after just two issues. A year later, The Shadow Magazine became a semi-monthly, appearing twice each month until early 1943.
By 1932, Street & Smith was planning other single-character pulps, hoping to emulate the high-flying Shadow Magazine. Other publishing houses also noticed the strong sales experienced by Gibson’s “Dark Avenger.” As Henry Steeger of Popular Publications stated: “At this point in pulp history, individual titles became very popular, so we decided to try out a few . . .” And so began what we now call, “The Hero Pulp Explosion of 1933.”
On Friday, July 26th at 8:30 PM in the Fairfield Room of the Hyatt Regency Columbus, Ed Hulse, editor and publisher of Blood ‘n’ Thunder, and a panel of pulp historians will take a look at Doc Savage and the Pulp Heroes of 1933. Joining Ed will be Nick Carr, one of the elders of the pulp community, who actually read The Spider and other pulps fresh off the newsstand, and has written countless articles about pulp heroes both known and little known; Don Hutchison, who also had the opportunity to buy pulps at a news agency and has likewise written many articles on the history of the pulps as well as the Stoker Award nominee, The Great Pulp Heroes (a “must-read” book for fans of the hero pulps); a child of the sixties when he first discovered “The Man of Bronze” and now today’s “Kenneth Robeson,” Will Murray, yet another author of numerous books and articles concerning the pulps; and Garyn Roberts, professor of English and popular culture studies and unabashed pulp fan and editor of some of the best collections from the pulps including The Compleat Adventures of the Moon Man, The Magical Mysteries of Don Diavolo, and other titles will join Ed to discuss the causes and effects of the “Hero Pulp Explosion of 1933.”
Once again, Walter Baumhofer’s masterful cover to the first issue of Doc Savage Magazine, illustrating “The Man of Bronze.”
Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention within a convention. FarmerCon began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Grand Master of Science Fiction Philip José Farmer. Originally a gathering of Farmer fans figuratively, and literally, right outside Phil’s back door, FarmerCon offered presentations, dinners, and even picnics at the author’s house.
After the passing of Phil and Bette Farmer in 2009, it was decided to take FarmerCon on the road to broaden its horizons. By holding the convention alongside events like PulpFest, Farmer fans get a variety of programming and a room full of pulp and book dealers to enjoy. This year, PulpFest is once again pleased to welcome FarmerCon VIII to the Hyatt Regency Columbus.
As it has every year since 2011, FarmerCon will provide some of PulpFest’s evening programming. On Friday, July 26th, at 7:30 PM, our FarmerCon friends turn their attention toward the Grand Master‘s work related to Doc Savage with a panel entitled His Apocalyptic Life, Escape from Loki, and The Mad Goblin.
The earliest of the three works, The Mad Goblin, was first published in 1970, paired with The Lord of the Trees as half of an Ace Double. Both novels were sequels to an earlier work, A Feast Unknown, that introduced Lord Grandrith, a thinly disguised Tarzan, and a “man of bronze” known as Doc Caliban. In Feast, Grandrith and Caliban learn that a powerful secret society known as The Nine has manipulated their lives. The two heroes go to war against their tormentors: The Mad Goblin tells the story from the point of view of Doc Caliban, while The Lord of the Trees presents Lord Grandrith’s version.
Although he published over fifty novels and 100 short stories during his career, Philip José Farmer may be remembered best for his Wold Newton Family. According to the author, the radiation from a meteorite that landed near the village of Wold Newton caused mutations in the villagers’ descendants, making them smarter, stronger, and more driven than most. Including among the offspring was Lord Greystoke, Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Fu Manchu, and Dr. James Clarke Wildman, Jr., best known as Doc Savage. Much of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, first published by Doubleday in 1973, is devoted to this idea.
The last of Farmer’s works of bronze was Escape from Loki, published by Bantam Books in 1991. Shot down behind enemy lines during World War I, sixteen-year-old Clark Savage, Jr. finds himself in a German baron’s notorious escape-proof prison. Here Doc and his future aids come together to match wits and derring-do against the sinister baron, who Doc believes is intent on wielding a weapon of mass destruction that could very well mean the end of freedom and victory for the Kaiser.
Moderator Art Sippo, author of Sun Koh: Heir of Atlantis, a 2010 Pulp Factory Award nominee for Best Pulp Novel, and his panelists will dissect and analyze the Grand Master‘s contributions to the Doc Savage mythos. Joining Art will be Christopher Paul Carey, the co-author with Philip José Farmer of Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa, and the author of Exiles of Kho, a prelude to the Khokarsa series; Rick Lai, well known for his articles expanding on Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe concepts, recently collected into four volumes by Altus Press; Win Scott Eckert, the co-author with Philip José Farmer of The Evil in Pemberley House, and the author of its forthcoming sequel, The Scarlet Jaguar, featuring Doc Wildman’s daughter Pat; and John Allen Small, an award-winning journalist, columnist, and fiction writer whose work includes “The Bright Heart of Eternity,” a tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs and Philip José Farmer, and “Into Time’s Abyss,” anthologized in The Worlds Of Philip José Farmer 2: Of Dust And Souls.
Meteor House will be premiering a new, expanded edition of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life at PulpFest 2013. Featuring dust jacket art by Joe DeVito (pictured above) and essays by Win Scott Eckert, John Allen Small, Keith Howell, Rick Lai, Art Sippo, Christopher Paul Carey, and current Doc Savage writer Will Murray, it will be available as a deluxe hardcover. Altus Press will be publishing the softcover edition. It will be available at PulpFest through Mike Chomko, Books.
Beginning with the premier of Standard Magazines’ The Phantom Detective at the start of the year and Nick Carter and Doc Savage from Street & Smith in February, on through to the fall when Popular Publications released G-8 and His Battle Aces and The Spider, 1933 was the “year of the hero pulp.” And let’s not forget that The Lone Eagle and Pete Rice likewise debuted that year.
But 1933 was not just the year of the hero pulp. On March 2 of that same year, RKO Radio Pictures premiered “the eighth wonder of the world,” King Kong, at New York’s Radio City Music Hall and the Roxy. In just four days, the film earned nearly $90,000, a substantial sum in those dark Depression days.
To celebrate the 80th anniversaries of “The Man of Bronze” and King Kong, Will Murray, author of The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage, paired the two characters in his novel, Skull Island. On Saturday, July 27th, at 2 PM, PulpFest 2013 will host a special New Fictioneers reading of Mr. Murray’s bestselling novel by Radio Archives’ reader Roger Price.
During his lengthy career as an entertainer, Roger has performed on television, radio and the live stage. At one time or another, he has worked as a stand-up comic, hosted a late night movie series as a character called “The Baron,” worked as a morning radio personality, hosted and emceed numerous live events, served as an entertainment news anchor and even as a ring announcer for professional wrestling. Comic book and pop culture fans know Roger as the creator, director and “voice” of Mid-Ohio-Con, one of the largest and longest running shows of it’s kind.
Through Radio Archives, Roger Price can be heard reading various short stories on Strange Detective Mysteries #1, Captain Satan #1, Captain Zero #1 and other audiobooks. Roger also works with a wide variety of clients as an announcer and voice actor, specializing in character/cartoon voices and dialects.
Following the reading, both Will Murray and Roger Price will be available for questions and conversation.
“Classic Hollywood: 80th Birthday Toast to King Kong. Los Angeles Times (February 17, 2012).
“King Kong Turns 80: 10 Things to Know About the Groundbreaking Film.” Mental_Floss (2012).
The poster above, from the American theatrical release of RKO Radio Pictures’ King Kong, is from Heritage Auctions’ Vintage Movie Poster Signature Auction held in late November 2012. The original poster was produced by the Morgan Litho. Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. The artist is not known.