105a 11/42 They Died Twice

Chuck Welch
November 22, 2002 - 1942 / Bantam 097-108 / clark / larkin / nanovic / novel / pulp

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Doc is lured into a strange memory machine and learns that his father had committed a crime. To right that wrong, Doc must divulge his best-kept secret — but it lands Doc and his crew in a lost valley as captives of an ancient tribe of savages … and the sacrificial rites have begun!

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  1. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    They Died Twice should be a very important book. It should be vital to the canon because of many reasons: A) It directly involves Doc’s father, his old associates, his legacy, and the origin of Doc Savage’s wealth and mission; B) It is one of the few books to take place in the secret Mayan Valley of the Vanished; C) Likewise it involves the principle Mayan players, King Chaac and his Doc-loving daughter Princess Monja, and introduces an entire new Mayan hierachy and culutral depth; D) It involves most of Doc’s team of associates. Very sadly, it does not deliver.

    They Died Twice is a rather strange bird. It has all the feathers it needs to soar, but for some reason it cannot fly. For instance, it starts off very powerfully, with one of the most stressful, nailbiting moments in Renny’s life. Renny vanishes for a week. He reappears trembling, looking cadaverous after having lost 30 pounds in just 7 days, and is a nervous wreck hiding a dark secret he refuses to share even with his partners in crime fighting. I hope you’re waiting for the amazing delivery on this stark promise of danger. I still am.

    Which is the problem with They Died Twice (an aside: why is this named They Died Twice? The title seems to have no connection whatsoever with the story). They Died Twice introduces a whole lot of promising subplots and mysteries, (like why is Doc suddenly disowned by the ancient Mayan tribe and he and his men now marked for death?) and yet fails to deliver on any of them.

    I think part of the problem is the length (I am also trying valiantly to find an excuse). This is one of the short Doc adventures and it suffers accordingly. Maybe the problem is that this is more of an outline that the fully fleshed book. Maybe that is why so many things fall flat and don’t deliver. Even the ending is a rushed nothingness that ends, literally, like a flying airplane slamming into the side of a mountain.

    This book has immense potential. It just doesn’t live up to it. Nevertheless, solely because of the storyline elements involved here, it has to remain a solid piece of the Doc Savage canon.

    Thomas Fortenberry

  2. One of the things I love about this site – and there are many – is the intelligent and well-thought-out responses of the Doc fans. Thomas’s review hits the nail right on the head for me. What ought to have been an important entry in the canon falls remarkably flat. At this stage, I suspect, Dent was beginning to veer away from the Doc-as-superman deliniation of the Man of Bronze, and moving towards the rendition that would remain in place until the end of 1948. Already we are seeing a more vulnerable, less confident Doc. As for the title, I strongly suspect that at this stage, the editors at Street & Smith were requesting titles that reflected the growing popularity of the ‘ hard-boiled ‘ thriller genre; this is evident not only by the titles of later Doc novels, but by the general run of SHADOW titles throughout the mid-40s as well. This said, however, They Died Twice is not too bad a read ( let’s face it – any Doc is good Doc, right?) While I would have liked to see more development of the Mayan theme, I still found this one quite diverting, and the very unusual situation of The Bronze Man and his aides having a bounty on their heads by a people who ought to have been their friends was well worth the price of admission for me.

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