076 07/36 The Black Spot

Chuck Welch
July 9, 1996 - 1936 / Bantam 073-084 / baumhofer / donovan / nanovic / novel / pfeiffer / pulp

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All the guests were dressed as gangsters but their millionaire host was dead in the library with a black spot over his heart. Then the black spot struck again. And again. The Man of Bronze and his courageous crew leap into action against Jingles Sporado and his mob but they soon suspect a peril greater than any they have ever confronted.

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  1. Andrew Salmon says:

    This one had me hooked right up to the last page. Great action! Great pacing! A few questionable character moves but Renny rescues Doc and the others! The only problem with this one is the abrupt ending. The “mystery of the black spot” stay just that, a mystery. Can a Doc have an ending where the mystery is not explained? Yes. This one does!! Weird.

  2. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    Well, it is no secret that this ghostwriter is the one I like the least (just think He Could Stop the Entire World From Reading Doc Savage). That said, there is something very cool about Donovan’s books: He absolutely loved to play with gadgets and the whole outlandish super-science mystery moving at the speed of light plotline of a Doc Savage adventure. He simply seems to love the “magic” of it all and goes to town, full tilt, without any brakes. The story races like a runaway train and just crashes through logic and realistic barriers without batting an eye. Simply breathtaking and pure unadulterated fun!

    The Black Spot, though naturally flawed in many ways, lives up very well to the whole Doc mythos. It has more gadgets per minute than most adventures, from grenades (one of my all time favorite scenes with his minigrenades is here, when a butler searching him finds one and switches the lever out of curiousity. Doc instantly bats the grenade away and it blows hell out of a small pond in a mansion’s yard) and gases, to blacklight writing to shimmering footprint powder to Doc’s metal skullcap to the quickest changing costumes and disguises ever. In these tales anyone can immitate (flawlessly) anyone else. Renny can do Doc or a photographer and vice versa, and Doc can do a butler or a gangster while the villian can do Doc or any of the other aids so perfectly that it fools the other aids instantly. Who could do a flawless Doc and get away with it? Amazing stuff.

    There are some nice moments of really capturing Doc’s presence, genius, massive size, strength and endurance — like him getting nearly killed in a car wreck, in which the roof pins him down when another car lands on top and crushes it flat onto Doc who is trapped between dash, steering wheel, and roof, then it catches fire and he is being burned alive, so he does what any normal hulk would do, puts his back into it and just lifts the car and roof off himself, rebending the metal through brute force and walks away. (Bantam p 111) Oh lord! Doc is just superhuman.

    We also get the full gang of five plus Pat in action with Doc, though in this one Doc literally snubs them all and keeps them housebound at either the skyscraper or warehouse for virtually the entire book. When they do appear it is as shortlived kidnapping fodder. But, hey, they just aren’t Doc now are they? Doc is trying to protect them while he takes all the risks, and in one great exchange with his cousin he is warning her of how deadly and dangerous it is and she says, “I’m aware of that, Doc, and i think it’s fun.” (p 104) Pat’s a hell of a gal. Some great descriptions of her in here: she opens the tale and is described as looking like a goddess with gold dust rubbed into her hair. (p 9) But she kicks the heck out of people, and in one fight is hitting and headbutting a guy and then tackles him and rolls down a flight of stairs with him! (p 13) She kicks A better than most he-men.

    Anyway, there is way too much stuff to cover in this tale. Just dozens of little gems and wild events jumping off every single page. a real hoot of a Doc, though it doesn’t resolve itself so well at the end. Like Andrew noted above, this is one of the few Savage adventures that ever ends with the mystery device still a mystery. But, in an interesting aside kind of like a John Sunlight problem, the money and brains behind this death device and its origin ultimately lie with Doc. Doc and his associated labs and projects just devised too much technology for some of it not to be abused from time to time. And when it was misused, it was always tragic.

    Thomas Fortenberry

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