085 05/40 The Boss of Terror

Chuck Welch
May 17, 2000 - 1940 / Bantam 085-096 / boris / clark / nanovic / novel / pulp

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Men by the name of Smith were being knocked off all over town. And they were all killed by lightning — lightening that entered a room without leaving any marks, on a day when there was no lightning. As the Man of Bronze penetrated ever closer to the heart of this mystery, he was scared. For he knew he was closer to death than possibly at any other time in his hair-raising career.

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  1. scott Kimball says:

    I thought this book was terrible. The only things I really liked about it are 1) the cover… I love Boris’s art. I wish he had the chance to do more Doc covers. I like him as much as Bama… each gives their own unique quality to Doc… and the second thing I liked about this book was a description of a fat guy getting struck by the mysterious lightning that seems to come out of nowhere. Morbid maybe, but it was the best scene of this loser of a story. (no offense to fat people, or to those who have been struck by lightning) It would be interesting to hear other comments on this story, because opinions seem to be so different on a lot of the Doc stories. Did anybody love THE BOSS OF TERROR?

  2. I would rate it as average, Scott. I liked the way Doc saved Long Tom. I thought the opening sequence with Monk & Ham was one of their funniest scenes. As I recall (I haven’t reread this one in a while) there was a lot of doublecrossing going on.

  3. Andrew Salmon says:

    Not Doc’s finest hour to be sure. A killer obsessed with killing people named Smith? That’s as dull as the name Smith (no offense to those named Smith). And a lame electricity mystery. Yawn. Next!

  4. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    This is definitely one of the weaker Docs. Here we have what I call the small-time mystery: a local setting, revolving around extortion basically, the ye olde businessmen at risk plot. Not the average Doc globe-trotting and earth-shattering adventure.

    That said, I have an interesting take on this book: I believe it is one of the precursors of The Avenger series, which, in fact, Lester Dent helped create and one of the ghostwriters of Doc actually wrote. Here’s my thoughts: The Avenger often dealt with these smalltime type of crimes, especially the local businessmen crimes variety. Benson was greatly affected by one (his origin) and The Avenger series began on such a note. The Boss of Terror opens with Doc and gang taking out a gigantic chauffeur for a wealthy man. Monk and Ham have a lot of trouble fighting him and are actually scared of the behemoth, who can really fight. sound familiar yet? The driver, unnamed, is so large that Doc takes his place without anyone noticing. The chauffeur drives for one of the Smiths of the John Smith Club attacked in this book, John “Radiator” Smith. Is it hard to go from a massive driver of a Smith to a massive chauffeur named Smith? Smitty anyone? And the electrical murder device was also in an Avenger novel, I believe, or is so similar it shoulda/coulda been.

    Anyway, I was wondering if this book could be one of the creative elements that went into The Avenger. Seems to parallel in a few ways.

    Thomas Fortenberry

  5. Mark Carpenter says:

    I enjoyed this one a lot more than I thought I would. True, the plot is nothing to write home about, but Dent includes some wonderful details about Doc’s crime- fighting methods that I’ve never seen in any other story: the code words he and his aids include in every authentic communication, the special-soled shoes they wear to identify each other, Doc’s miniature Geiger counters. Fun stuff that seems to be unique to “The Boss of Terror.” Not too bad for a 1940 Dent adventure.

  6. douglas rhine says:

    Ok Doc
    But the worse bantam cover ever.

  7. I agree with the majority of you folk — this novel sucked! I don’t know what it was about 1940 for Dent, but most of the Docs from this year really fell below standard. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have yet to read a 1940 yarn in which Doc performs a super-stunt. The stories from the following years 41-42, show him as a superman, but not 40. And, Thomas, you are quite right, this one could have been an Avenger tale ( for that matter, THE SPOTTED MEN, another 1940 Doc, could have, too )– somehow Doc deserved better than merely a “local” menace. And the terrible Vallejo cover…! Smacks, somehow, of Conan overdosing on steroids. One of my bottom-5 Docs.

  8. Actually, Thomas, while I agree with the bulk of your observations above, The Avenger series was well under way by the time Boss Of Terror was published.  The Avenger made his debut in September of 1939. A much more interesting speculation, I believe, is that Richard Benson’s origin was “borrowed” for Batman. The Caped Crusader made his bow in Detective Comics for May, 1939, but with no given origin. It wasn’t until after The Avenger debuted that Batman was given an origin, in Detective Comics for November, ’39… In both cases, our respective heroes were the victims of crime and became implacable crime-fighters as a result. I may be wrong here, but it is an interesting thought… And, hey, while we’re on the subject, hands up those who believe, like me, that Doc was the inspiration for Superman? In earlier incarnations of the Man Of Steel ( sorta like Man Of Bronze, eh?! ), creator Jerry Seigel pictured him in trousers and torn singlet — in fact, unbeilievably like Doc. And both had the first name of Clark… and a Fortess Of Solitude ( in the Arctic!)… Need I add more?

  9. James Joyce says:

    Well researched site – will look to incorporate some of your ideas into my site. Thanks!

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