167m 03/42 The Too-Wise Owl

Chuck Welch
March 9, 2002 - 1942 / Bantam 157-168 / clark / larkin / nanovic / novel / pulp

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Doc is lured to the criminal hideout of an evil genius and an experiment with the incredible Vitamin M — a nutrient that can make a man incredibly smart — or terminally stupid!

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  1. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    The Too-Wise Owl is too wise for its own good.

    This is one of the most convoluted Docs I’ve ever read. I don’t mean that in a good way, as in a super complex, hefty story to aid the adventure. Nope, just plain old convoluted goofy crap that whirls and whirls around the rim of the toilet as it overflows.

    No, really, I liked it. I like any Doc, so I won’t down this one too much. But it just didn’t get it going. It kept spinning but not taking off. Put it this way: there is a too-wise owl that can understand people and a smartassed little kid (described as a Katzenjammer kid) who even gets Johnny’s goat by using a dictionary’s worth of words, then a series of people framed for murders and tricked into crimes while trying to capture the mysterious owl. It is a seething cauldron of witty reparte, alas without the wit.

    Let’s hit the highlights shall we? In this one, Doc is said to outright own the entire Empire State Building. That’s a nice piece of real estate. However, despite the fact that in other adventures it is stated that they now have bulletproof glass as headquarters (you’d think it were a no-brainer after the crimson-fingered death lukring on a nearby skyscraper nearly shot him in book one), in this one after being delivered an owl shoots out the reception room window with a gun and flies away. Hmm, hooked yet? Well there is some hope. Great descriptions of Doc. One he is said to look the part of a great man, not just be one. (Bantam Omni 10, p 223) Also, he is later said to always be the focal point of any group he is in, even when silent. (p 267) Doc rules. Two, Doc’s wraith-like movements are captured well here in a snow storm at night when he scared the bejeezus out of the gang when he returns from scouting. (p 263) In one scene, when Renny and Monk accidentally attack each other when the lights go out, Renny is shown to be the giant he really is in a nice offhand way. It says Monk hits him first and “…so Renny knocks him down, not knowing it was Monk.” (p 269) How big and strong do you have to be to not only survive an unexpected Monk first-blow, but then knock the big ape down without even breaking a sweat? Go, Renny! In another scene, when they set up a fake murder in order to capture a would-be assassin, Ham is shown as absolutely merciless as he keeps on telling the guy details of how he’ll be electrocuted until the guy breaks (p 265). The description of the guy breaking down is so raw: A man crying is not pleasant. There is something about it that is like watching a dog kill a cat. Interesting, but a little sickening. (p 264)

    Yeouch. Kind of the book summed up.

    There’s one last but very major moment in the book I want to mention. Doc is shot and almost killed. He runs out after a criminal and the guy whirls ands shoots him suddenly four times. Doc is totally surprised and unprepared. He is shot once in the face: Doc Savage fell down. He was shot! It was one of the few times in his life he had been shot. … This bullet cut open the left side of his face and nicked something solid enough to send him reeling into the snow. (p 269) It stuns him so much he doesn’t get up for a while. Then when his aids finally catch up and he gets up, he is stumbling around dazed and even gets into the rear of a car to try and follow the escaped criminal. His head doesn’t clear until after they are on the trail of the would-be murderer. As they drive him the wound is mentioned serveral times: Doc Savage took a handkerchief away from the side of his face, and the color on it was not pleasant. (p 270) Doc Savage touched a bandage which Lola Huttig had applied to his face during the ride into town. The wound True’s bullet had made was hurting. (p 276) Yikes! This is one of the most serious shootings Doc ever suffered in the books. And right to his face! I wonder if it scarred afterwards? Maybe he corrected it with his own surgical skills, which is an amazing thing to ponder. Doc doing cosmetic surgery on his own face in a mirror. Whew!

    Anyway, though the book is somewhat muddled, the individual scenes are good.

    Thomas Fortenberry

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