021 09/36 Cold Death

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Doc Savage meets his most merciless adversary — VAR, the faceless fiend whose strange voice announces a terrible mandate of destruction! VAR, who wields the deadly Cold Light, and dares hurl the ultimate challenge at Doc and his mighty crew — A fight to the death with the world at stake!


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  1. Barry Ellis

    Either Donovan was a purposely obtuse author or Bantam butchered the editing of this story when it reissued it. Like ‘Mad Eyes’, some plot elements seem to be misplaced. But, ALSO like ‘Mad Eyes’, I love the “dark” flavor of the story as a change of pace.

  2. Andrew Salmon

    One of the best Bantam covers but not one of the best stories. Not that it’s bad. Var is a great villain and the Cold Light is very cool (sorry). And the opening seen with the stranger slipping the cryptic note into Doc’s pocket is one of the better Doc moments.
    And the book does feature one of the best last couple of lines in the series. Like I said, not a bad Doc at all. Definitely slightly above average.

  3. Todd Pence

    “Cold Death” is a novel that has some well-done scenes and a number of cool ideas, but the novel as a whole comes across as flawed. Which is pretty much typical of a Donovan novel. There are memorable characters here, including the main villian and his super-weapon. Of course, as in just about any non-Dent Doc book, there are going to be a few scenes that seriously challenge the reader’s suspension of disbelief. One of the worst occurs near the end of chap. 10. Monk, flying above in a plane, spots from the air the house where he knows Ham is being held prisoner. He then comes to Ham’s rescue by CRASHING THE PLANE INTO THE HOUSE! Catapulted from the wrecked cockpit, Monk comes to his feet none the worse for wear and ready to fight! I mean, COME ON!
    And while the conclusion of the story is satisfyingly spectacular in the tradition of the best Docs, a few unanswered questions remain. For instance, did they ever explain how Var was able to create the effect of his voice? If they did, I missed it. Maybe he was a ventriloquist as skilled as Doc or Monk.
    According to the credits, Laurence Donovan is one of two ghostwriters (along with Hathaway) who never had a novel revised by Dent. I wonder if there was something in his contract which stipulated this? This one sure could have used some rewriting.

  4. When I was 16 I read this book and had the suspicion that it was either written from a Dent outline or ghosted altogether. I had found it “choppy” and in some places implausible. But, for a sixteen year-old, Cold Death was a good read for the winter afternoon. I wouldn’t rank it high on any list and I thought the Bantam cover was really mediocre–the blue light looks just like ordinary clouds, even though Bama captures the train really well. The pulp cover is really great; one of the best Doc covers ever.

  5. Mark Carpenter

    Although it’s true that “Cold Death” is probably the least awful of the eight novels Donovan ghosted for the Doc series, I still wouldn’t recommend it. The author never could duplicate the confident rhythm and flow of Dent’s dialogue and action sequences. And as in most Donovan stories, the nature of the villain’s invincible weapon is never fully explained. (In this case, the power of the Cold Light is attributed to “a powerful and unknown undersea element.” Yeah, right.)
    But worst of all, the identity and motives of the main villain in “Cold Death” are completely illogical. What does this guy hope to accomplish by blowing everything up? Dent’s villains always had a goal that folded perfectly into the story. Var seems to be a villain simply because the plot needed one.

    Lame book. Think I’ll spend the weekend rereading “The Lost Oasis.”

  6. Steve Hartle

    …Cold Death…well sorry guys I liked it…

  7. Michael Bloom

    Man, this one was hard to read. It took me two weeks to get through it. And only because I told myself I would do it.

    As a 15 year old I read MURDER MELODY by the same ghost writer (at the time I wondered, ‘geez, what happened to Kenneth Robeson? He lost his way here.) As another comment mentioned hard to tell if Donovan’s simply bad here, or bad editing by Bantam made it worse… the best thing about it is the Bama cover.

  8. Rich_Mo

    Cold Death – yeah, this was interesting to me primarily
    because it was the first non-Lester Dent Doc Savage that I’ve read.  Lawrence Donovan rattles off an action packed
    if somewhat convoluted yarn here. I have to confess his non-adherence to plot
    points he had previously established in the story messed with me a bit though. There
    were a handful of semi-confusing details and odd pointers I could quibble about,
    but maybe it’s just best to write these rough spots off as being anathema to
    quickly written pulp stories. On the subject of the Cold Light weapon employed
    here, even though it did do some significant damage – I was a little bored with
    it. I much prefer the Doc stories where the menaces start with seemingly
    weird/supernatural overtones – only to be exposed as some new cutting edge
    scientific device. There was an interesting reference to an earlier Doc story –
    The Land of Always-Night where Doc & crew had previously encountered a
    similar illuminating force. Too, the character of Charles Vonier is mentioned
    as someone who is familiar with this Cold Light (one of only six people in New
    York, the other 5 being Doc and his aides, presumably from the Always-Night
    adventure.)  That showed some continuity
    home work, which I liked.  Also, on the
    plus side, I thought the aides were handled well in this story. Monk was fun,
    going so far as to tear up an iron maiden- like robot while trapped inside – and
    inadvertently eating “gum drops” which turn out to be a chemical explosive
    component to the Cold Light ray. Long Tom gets a lot to do in regard to working
    up a machine to neutralize the ray, though the initial idea for the device is
    proposed by Doc. Renny takes a bullet to the shoulder but still wades  into a 
    pretty excellent fight at Doc’s Hildalgo warehouse towards the end. The
    final fate of VAR reminded me a bit of the climax to Will Murray’s recent Horror
    In Gold. There were a fair amount of good Dent-inspired character references by
    Donovan I thought.   I like it when Doc refers to his aides as
    “brothers.”…  But, overall this story was
    pretty grim and humorless which I think to me was one of the biggest indicators
    that Les Dent wasn’t at the helm here. 
    Donovan sure likes his plane crashes too – I think there were 4 of them
    in this story. The cover had a sweet Walter Baumhofer painting– of Doc squaring
    off against a machine gun wielding Wheeze McGovern… (I read the Nostalgia
    Ventures edition.) Think I’ll wait a bit and then read The South Pole Terror
    which is also in this volume. Thanks brothers!

  9. Rich_Mo

    Cold Death – yeah, this was interesting to me primarily
    because it was the first non-Lester Dent Doc Savage that I’ve read.  Lawrence Donovan rattles off an action packed
    if somewhat convoluted yarn here. I have to confess his non-adherence to plot
    points he had previously established in the story messed with me a bit though. There
    were a handful of semi-confusing details and odd pointers I could quibble about,
    but maybe it’s just best to write these rough spots off as being anathema to
    quickly written pulp stories. On the subject of the Cold Light weapon employed
    here, even though it did do some significant damage – I was a little bored with
    it. I much prefer the Doc stories where the menaces start with seemingly
    weird/supernatural overtones – only to be exposed as some new cutting edge
    scientific device. There was an interesting reference to an earlier Doc story –
    The Land of Always-Night where Doc & crew had previously encountered a
    similar illuminating force. Too, the character of Charles Vonier is mentioned
    as someone who is familiar with this Cold Light (one of only six people in New
    York, the other 5 being Doc and his aides, presumably from the Always-Night
    adventure.)  That showed some continuity
    home work, which I liked.  Also, on the
    plus side, I thought the aides were handled well in this story. Monk was fun,
    going so far as to tear up an iron maiden- like robot while trapped inside – and
    inadvertently eating “gum drops” which turn out to be a chemical explosive
    component to the Cold Light ray. Long Tom gets a lot to do in regard to working
    up a machine to neutralize the ray, though the initial idea for the device is
    proposed by Doc. Renny takes a bullet to the shoulder but still wades  into a 
    pretty excellent fight at Doc’s Hildalgo warehouse towards the end. The
    final fate of VAR reminded me a bit of the climax to Will Murray’s recent Horror
    In Gold. There were a fair amount of good Dent-inspired character references by
    Donovan I thought.   I like it when Doc refers to his aides as
    “brothers.”…  But, overall this story was
    pretty grim and humorless which I think to me was one of the biggest indicators
    that Les Dent wasn’t at the helm here. 
    Donovan sure likes his plane crashes too – I think there were 4 of them
    in this story. The cover had a sweet Walter Baumhofer painting– of Doc squaring
    off against a machine gun wielding Wheeze McGovern… (I read the Nostalgia
    Ventures edition.) Think I’ll wait a bit and then read The South Pole Terror
    which is also in this volume. Thanks brothers!

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