156j 08/43 The Mental Monster

Chuck Welch
August 13, 2003 - 1943 / Bantam 145-156 / clark / larkin / nanovic / novel / pulp

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A ruthless master criminal with the horrifying power to read men’s minds becomes Doc’s greatest challenge — and he’ll need every ounce of his muscle and brain power to fight … and survive!

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  1. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    To say “It’s about a strange white bird” (Bantam Omnibus #8, p 8)would be to mislead, much like in this plot. But anyway, just ignore the overplayed “weirdness” and enjoy the show. The Mental Monster is either a comfortable, enjoyable lesser tale or a hyped-up, crappy bigger tale. I can’t decide, but the gist is that the wildly waving mysterious distractions get in the way of the meager adventure story. Should have been much more mental monster and much less sinister white birds.

    That said, here are some interesting moments. The man who brings the tale to Doc, supposedly an old associate of Renny, utters a philosophical profundity that could alter your opinions about Doc and crew, or at least provide a nifty aphorism: “You have had a few adventures in your life,” Doc Savage suggested. “I’ve made a few mistakes,” Bill Keeley admitted. “That’s what adventures are, aren’t they? Mistakes?” “That has always been my definition,” Doc agreed. (p 9) There is also a later moment of sociological psychophilosophy in the book debating and strangely advocating mob rule and mob justice, at least in the example of Hitler (p 81). On the Monk/Ham front, we have a great exchange: “You’ve been through the machine?” “I’ve been through that thing so often,” Monk says, “that I’ve got it confused.” Ham remembered to insult Monk. “The machine,” Ham said, “is baffled by that thing Monk calls a brain.” Monk sneered at him. “The only trouble is that my thoughts register in great big curves, like earthquakes. That proves I’m, a heavy thinker.” “Or that you’ve got a square wheel in there somewhere,” Ham said. (p 97)

    Plus, in this book is one of the better, if not the single best, examples of Doc’s reputation ever presented in the series:

    Joe looked angry, embarrassed. “What happened?” asked the shotgun wiper. “We knocked off a guy named Doc Saavge.” The other stared. “Don’t give me that trick gangster talk. What you mean, knocked off? You mean you killed him?” “Yes.” “And it was Doc Savage?” “Yes.” The man carefully folded his oil-stained rag. He frowned for some moments at his shotgun, which was lying across his knees, and then stood up and grasped the shotgun by the barrel and threw it as far as he could, out into the garden. He hurled the rag after the gun. Then he took a watch out of his pocket and looked at it. “Train to New York in twenty-eight minutes,” he said. “And I can get a job on a merchant ship and nobody will ever find me.” He walked down the road and none of them ever saw him again. (p 20)

    That is astounding! Amazing amount of awe and respect in that scene, especially since Doc was thought dead at the time. But this man knew better than to go anywhere near Doc Savage, dead or alive. It says everything about the fear the criminal world felt about Doc Savage.

    So, as always, even the lesser tales of the series have a lot to offer and are good to read.

    Thomas Fortenberry

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