062 04/38 The Pirate’s Ghost

Chuck Welch
April 9, 1998 - 1938 / bama / Bantam 061-072 / clark / nanovic / novel / pulp

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At his supersensational best, the Man of Bronze finesses an international band of modern day pirates in possession of the master invention by the Mad Genius of Death Valley!

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  1. Chuck Welch says:

    This is the second Doc in a row to feature a guest character opening the novel for a couple of chapters. I get the feeling Dent was bored a bit with the characters. Maybe he was just evolving the “Robeson” style.

    DOc seemed a bit odd this novel. He lectures on religion and the afterlife. Doc looks over Sagebrush and we get his thoughts on the cowboy. A bit of foreshadowing to the future Doc?

    An odd note: I sometimes forget about the society that Doc and the crew inhabited. I had a sudden odd feeling when Doc dressed as a black porter. He speech, mannerisms, and the villian calling him “Rastus.” Dent referring to the character as “the darky” felt even more odd. This novel was reprinted in July 1971 and Bantam didn’t drop a description. Would they today?

  2. Andrew Salmon says:

    This is a mediocre Doc at best. Although there is no shortage of action, the plot does not impress and the title is more than a little misleading. This one doesn’t rate high on my list. Yawn.

  3. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    I agree with all said above about this tale. I had a hard time getting into this story, especially since The Pirate’s Ghost focuses on Sagebrush Smith in Death Valley. But at least an attempt was made to link the title in and one begins to sense that the author is yet again toying with the readers, playing with expectations, and giving us that famous dry-wit irony that inhabits so much of the series.

    As a whole though the story and characters are not great. You have to suffer through a lot to get a little, which is, now that I think about, a perfect desert analogy for the Death Valley locale.

    There is, however, one very powerful scene which is, I believe, utterly unique in the entire series. It addresses a question I had pondered for years but thought was not in any books of the series — what would happen if Doc’s equipment vest were shot or damaged in a fight? We know Doc wears a bulletproof vest that also doubles as his equipment vest. It is often described as having numerous pockets containing all his various gadgets. I always wondered what would happen if the vest were hit and one of the devices was damaged, such as a gas or smoke bomb, a vial of acid, or worse one of his powerful grenades accidentally went off. The damage could be catastrophic. I believe this is the only time this event occurs: He never got to do that. A man appeared at the other end of the corridor with a flashlight and a rifle. The light jumped against the bronze man, and the rifle crashed almost instantly. Doc reeled, went down. “Got ‘im!” the man wit hthe rifle bellowed. he was an optimist. His bullet had hit the bronze man in the chest, smashed the contents of two pockets in the vest, and flattened against the alloy metal mesh which underlay the vest and made it bulletproof. (Bantam p 129)

    Now, nothing happened in this scene except the contents being pulverized by the rifle and the usual pain in the ribs from the shock. But this is still the only time in the series I have ever read of this specific damage occurring. I thought that an exceptional and thrilling moment. It is interesting to find that Dent, as usual, had thought of and presented such a scene first. You just can’t ever catch up with the guy.

    Thomas Fortenberry

  4. Todd Pence says:

    Another top-notch Doc adventure, with one of the cooler Bantam Bama cover paintings. One drawback to this novel is the extremely weak argument Doc gives in favor of life after death on pages 64-65 of the Bantam edition. Doc essentially says that because the belief in life after death has persisted throughout virtually every culture throughout the mythology and religion of all recorded history, it therefore follows that there must actually be a life after death. I’m disappointed in someone with such a supposedly superior intellect as Doc as not seeing through the basic flaws in this argument. Another sign that Doc is not inalliable. Other than that one weak spot, a very excellent Doc novel.

  5. Heather says:

    Just a comment from someone who hasn’t read the book yet. After reading Mr. Pence’s comment I find myself forced to disagree on one small point. A belief in life after death, or heaven & hell is not a sign of flaw on Docs part but rather a sign of an open mind and important for a charecter like him to do what he is suppossed to.

  6. Mark Carpenter says:

    Although this one isn’t high on anyone’s list, I still enjoyed it. The theology discussion was very unusual for a Doc story and the plot was a real break from Dent’s typical formula. I also loved the whole bit about the 50 dimes. This wasn’t “Meteor Menace”, bit it was a fun way to spend a winter afternoon.

  7. Scott Kimball says:

    I really enjoyed this one, though I can agree with many of the criticisms above, especially about Doc’s comments on religion, which were a bit odd and out of character. 

    It seemed to me that Dent really had a lot of fun writing this story…and while it wasn’t the best Doc ever, it was a very enjoyable read. 

  8. I just had a quick peek at the relevent pages in this novel and you guys are right – Doc’s theological views are indeed rather a surprise! I can’t recall the bronze man ever expressing himself on this subject in any of the other yarns I’ve read. Mind you, while the Argument From Common Consent ( as this argument is known to philosophers ) may not be a particularly good one in a majority of cases, what Doc says is still worth considering – it may not be proof of a life after death, but the fact that this belief has been very pervasive throughout human history ( Neanderthal Man, for instance, buried his dead with artifacts, suggesting the post-mortem existence of the dead person ) at least bears some investigation, even if only as an interesting socialogical phenomenon. It makes you wonder, though – did Dent insert these views because this is what HE himself believed? Or merely because he wanted to present Doc in yet another intellectual light? Remember, Doc had been trained from childhood in a large number of disciplines – science, medicine etc. It follows that he most probably was trained in philosophy as well. Any shortfall in Doc’s argument, therefore, could be put down to the fact that Dent may not have been adept at this kind of reasoning himself, but merely wanted an intellectual-sounding argument for Doc to express as high-lighting this side of his all-round genius.I don’t know.

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