103a 04/44 The Whisker of Hercules

Chuck Welch
April 2, 2004 - 1944 / Bantam 097-108 / larkin / moran / novel / pulp / stein

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A superhuman god springs from mythology to terrorize and destroy. Those who cross its malevolent path also discover a quick way to die. Doc Savage and his crew set out to stop this ancient evil, and just as Doc closes in — he’s face to face with a silver-haired Adonis!

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  1. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    The Whisker of Hercules is by no means the best Doc. But it is a good read, especially for one of the later books. It isn’t a Doc-as-nervous-nelly spy novel, but more like the originals. it features a strong, almost superhuman Doc in a domestic rush to stop a crimewave with a fantastic new “Hercules” aspect. This is a biochem type threat, involving a substance that actually speeds up the user’s metabolism and makes them physiologically extreme in all aspects, which they call being like “Hercules.” There are some great scenes featuring these “Hercules” feats of wonder (think men flying 30 feet in the air and cars being wrapped around trees) and they blow even a pghysical marvel like Doc out of the water.

    Some nice moments: Renny takes out a door with his fist and it is like using a 16-pound sledge hammer. In another scene when a Hercules-crook manhandles him, Renny is injured with a dislocated arm and massive handprint bruises on his arm. But when Doc resets the arm right afterwards, Renny never utters a word or cries out, he just begins sweating. These men are tough as nails. Likewise in toughness is Monk. He corners a man while searching for a missing girl and say, “Do you know me?” “No, sir.” “Take a close look at me and decide what you see.” The other was growing puzzled. “I don’t know you.” “Maybe not,” Monk said, “but you should recognize in me a fellow who is liable to take an arm off you and slap yopu with it if you don’t trot that girl right out.” Ahhh, you have to love that homely ape. He can scare a man from across a busy stret. Later when Monk is shot pointblank in the stomach with a shotgun, Ham gets frantic. After Monk is known to have survived and is complaining about having a ruptured spleen, Ham starts ribbing him instantly about always keeping his spleen emptied on Ham, so it couldn’t be serious. Even later it says they always fight in bad situations to let of steam and relax. It’s how they handle the extreme adventures. That’s the boys back in great form. Elsewhere, Doc dodges a thrown knife so fast it appears to go through his body. This is Doc and gang operating like they used to in the golden years.

    Also about Doc, in this book he has returned to his “nemesis of evil” self and reputation. Several times in the book villians are terrified by the mere mention of his name. One crook at the beginning gets violently ill to his stomach when he hears Doc’s name mentioned. Later (Bantam p 60) comes the strongest possible statement of Doc’s power as criminals flee a scene by crawling underwater along the muddy bottom of a lake when he arrives on shore: But the fear of Doc Savage was greater than any other fear, and they lined out and got going.

    WOW! So, though this is a 1944 war years book, we’re reading the original heroic and vibrant Doc Savage. A lot of fun and a welcome reprieve from those faltering years of doubt.

    Thomas Fortenberry

  2. Paul Cook says:

    The Whisker of Hercules, as Thomas Fortenberry suggests, is a good, if not great, latter-day Doc Savage novel. I found it fast-paced and quite gripping and Doc really does shine in this one. Dent never lost sight of the importance of “weird science” in the Doc Savage novels and this book retains a lot of that Doc Savage magic that keeps those of us who are fans reading years and years after the Bantam series came out.

  3. Richard Cording says:

    This is one Doc adventure that I’m really waiting to find. As I’ve mentioned before on other posts, over here in New Zealand it was virtually unknown to obtain Doc Savage in new editions; second-hand bookstores, or other Savage fans, were the best hope of getting the novels. One story idea I wish Street and Smith had commissioned, and that was a cross-over novel featuring both Doc Savage AND The Avenger. Street and Smith owned both characters and “Kenneth Robeson” was the author for both. In true pulp fashion, both the Man Of Bronze and his aides could be induced to see Justice Inc as being involved somehow in the evil plot they were investigating. Can you imagine Monk coming up against Smitty, or both he and Ham squabbling over petite Nellie Gray? Or Doc and Richard Benson going one-on-one? I’ve always speculated on who would come out on top in a physical encounter with each other; admittedly, Doc would most probably be the physically stronger of the two, but both are equally adept in unarmed combat and both have a comprehensive knowledge of nerve-holds and the like. But in the skilled hands of a writer like Lester Dent, a tale of this type would have been a tremendously fun read…

  4. rgdmalaysia says:

    This is a pretty good Doc. I like the villain’s weapon (SPOILER super speed) espc. the scene where Monk takes it and how the effect is described. Perhaps the best of the later Docs.

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