X’s for Eyes & The Golden Man

This is the unveiling of a new feature: the Low-Res Scan.

As should be obvious, these are not reviews, not even notes, just brief commentary

Low Res Scan: X’s for Eyes, Laird Barron, 2015 and The Golden Man, Kenneth Robeson, 1941.

X’s for Eyes will be the eighth Laird Barron work I’ve read, and I’m still not in the Laird Barron fan club.Xs for Eyes

This short novel is published by Bizarro Pulp Press. Truth in advertising. This is bizarre, but not in a memorable way. I reviewed its first half which appeared as “We Smoke the Northern Lights” in The Gods of H. P. Lovecraft.

It’s been over two months since I read it, and the second half has faded from memory. I remember Spetsnaz mercs, a butler who was a Nazi commando, some transdismensional travel, and not much else. Fun while I read it, even brought a smile to my face, but memorable only in incident like a lot of pulp.

One annoying bit: a character pulls a Glock pistol out. Only in an alternate 1956 does that get to happen.

One character, killed off early, can be driven to rage by telling him “You’re no Doc Savage!” More evidence of the pulp inspirations for this tale.

And, speaking of Doc Savage, I came across this interesting bit at the end of The Golden Man, published in the April 1941 issue of Doc Savage Magazine:

The golden man lay still, breathing deeply. “My name,” he said, “is Paul Hest. I am chief of intelligence for” — he looked up slyly — let’s call it an unnamed nation, not the United States. We learned that an American liner, the Virginia Dare, bringing refugees from Europe, was to be torpedoed. The torpedoing was to be done by the U-boat of another nation, disguised as a submarine belonging to my country. The idea was to build up ill feeling in the United States against my country.”The Golden Man

A false flag operation conducted by Britain and an American liner provocatively named for the first English child born in the New World. Clearly, Lester Dent, the usual author behind the house name Kenneth Robeson, was sticking to non-intervention even in 1941.

World War One in Fantastic Fiction: The Polar Treasure

polar treasure

The Polar Treasure, Kenneth Robeson, 1933.

“The story goes back more than fifteen years,” he said. “It was during the World War. My wife, my infant daughter, and myself sailed from Africa on the liner Oceanic. We were bound for England.

“But an enemy sea raider chased the liner northward. The U-Boat could not overhaul us, but it pursued our craft for days. Indeed, the Oceanic sailed far within the Arctic ice pack before escaping.

” … A shell from the enemy raider had destroyed our wireless. We could not advise the outside world of our difficulty.”

And so we get the set up for The Polar Treasure, the fourth Doc Savage adventure.

The speaker is Victor Vail, blind and a master concert violinist. Shortly after the Oceanic is trapped, its crew mutinies. They divide into two murderous gangs and, unbeknownst to Vail, a treasure map, visible only under x-rays, is tattooed on his back.

A violent Doc Savage (he hasn’t totally adopted his no killing creed yet) adventure follows, ranging from New York City to the Arctic ice pack.

Note, by 1933, the Great War is already the “World War”.

Vail’s account was good enough to keep the plot going, but I suspect writer Lester Dent was drawing from half memories of the war from his youth. Continue reading

World War One in Fantastic Fiction: The Devil Genghis

Fortress of Solitude Devil Genghis

The Devil Genghis, by Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson, 1938.

The Devil Genghis is a novel in the long running Doc Savage pulp magazine series that ran from March 1933 to July 1947.

Doc Savage, aka Clark Savage, Jr., and his five aides, all of them with military rank going back to the Great War, go “from one end of the world to the other, looking for excitement and adventure, striving to help those who needed help, punishing those who deserved it” as stated in the very first installment of the series, The Man of Bronze.

While Doc’s “Fantastic Five” all fought in the Great War, direct references to the war are rare in the series. We hear about how the nicknames of Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett “Monk” Mayfair and Brigadier General Theodore Marley “Ham” Brooks go back to practical jokes they played on each other during the war. Major Thomas J. “Long Tom” Roberts got his nickname, at least in one version, after repelling an enemy attack by loading an old “Long Tom” cannon in a French village square with broken bottles and cutlery. Continue reading

The Doc Savage Binge

I haven’t bothered to look up a lot of other people’s reviews of Doc Savage novels. However, I have liked the ones I’ve seen over at Brian Lindsey’s Groovy Age of Horror, so I’ll link to them. Be warned, though. All those scans of Italian fumetti earn the adult content warning for the site.

These aren’t my reviews of Doc Savage novels, just impressions. Plenty of spoilers are ahead.

Cold DeathCold Death was not a good return to Doc after eight years. The superscience weapon of VAR, the villain, was not really explained even by pulp standards. Some combo of a mysterious element and a ray. Or so I remember and I couldn’t be bothered to check that memory.

And we never leave New York City. I was relieved that this was authored by Lawrence Donovan. If a Dent-penned Savage novel was so disappointing, I would have been worried. Great James Bama cover. Continue reading