Wednesday, August 11, 2010

RETURN FROM CORMORAL (1949) by Lester Dent

This next-to-last Doc Savage novel by Lester Dent (under the house name Kenneth Robeson) has Doc and his side-kicks trying to help a scientist who's been stranded on a deserted island for the better part of six months. Macbeth Williams, the scientist, has just returned from his South Pacific sojurn with a research team. A cargo ship just happened to discover them. They'd been stranded on the Cormoral island when the foundation which bankrolled the expedition when bust.
And Williams is starting to worry about his sanity. Since returning to civilization he's developed an ability to predict the future. Since he's also the heir to a vast fortune, someone may be trying to get him committed to an insane asylum. Enter Doc and company.
The novel has a harder edge than most of the earlier Doc Savage series books. Since the pulp hero format was on the wane, Dent was was getting more hard-boiled in his approach.
For instance, this scene involving a telegraph operator :

THE telegraph office was a narrow recess in a building on Flagler Street not far from Biscayne Boulevard, and remained open all night, presided over by a round-faced man named Gridley. Gridley was a contradiction to the idea that all fat people are jolly; he had an evil temper, a sharp tongue and bad manners, qualifications which had resulted in his being shunted to this undesirable all-night job. His assets were several years seniority, a willingness to put up with low pay, although there was a qualification to this, and a brother-in-law who was district commercial agent for the company.

I'm in the process of reading the Doc Savage novels in reverse order. At some point I'll find out where they went from Super Science to Mean Streets.

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