101a 06/44 The Pharaoh’s Ghost

Chuck Welch
June 9, 2004 - 1944 / Bantam 097-108 / larkin / moran / novel / pulp / stein

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In the mysterious land of the sphinx, Doc Savage and his crew confront a sinister foe — who uses a pharaoh’s curse and machine guns to carry out his evil will. Doc trails the malevolent genius to his remote hideout, just as his friends are scheduled for sacrifice to bloodthirsty gods!

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  1. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    The Pharaoh’s Ghost is rather unique: It is a later-day international thriller Doc that is also a throwback to the early sensational adventure Docs with lost worlds and wild death inventions. The title itself is also part of the magic, as it both evokes the ancient curse of a pharaoh (which is in fact the supernatural mystery) and pertains to a modern madman with pretensions to becoming a new pharaoh-like conqueror of the Middle East. In this book Dent also employs his amazing ability to turn out a different, captivating tale told from a totally different direction on exactly the same subject. That is, you might recognize part of the plot as being virtually identical to the nail-biting suspense of Danger Lies East. But if that book was an all out Doc-as-spy, then this is Doc-straddling-the-fence-as-spy-and-nemesis-of-bizarre-evil-plots-and-weird-evil-doers. This book is a bridge of sorts between old and new Doc. It has something for everyone. A wild mystery, plus an unknown “ogre of the Middle East” out to screw the world.

    I can’t really discuss the weird side of things without giving it all away, so I’ll just mention some highlights instead. They are brought into the mystery because Johnny has gone missing in Egypt, tracking tales of a pharaoh’s ghost. There are some fabulous scenes with Doc undercover and the whole crew operating in Cairo. They are turning the city upsidedown to find Johnny. All the gang (but Renny) are involved and, except for Monk, are fairly fluent in Arabic and really show some skills in different ways. Well, that is except for one major boner that Ham and Long Tom pull. It is a rare moment, perhaps utterly unique, that pits them against Doc. But Doc’s a big boy and just rolls with it without so much as a complaint. It’s amazing.

    Long Tom kicks some A in this book. In one scene, a guy tries to stab him with poisoned fingernails and Long Tom breaks his fingers and then “…knocked the screech and one of Hamamah’s teeth back down his throat. Hamamah gagged; and they fought.” (Bantam p 4) Of course it is also mentioned in this book that despite his appearance all the other members of the crew fear him when he’s angry. Later, it is revealed that Long Tom hates camels and they hate him. Every camel he has ever seen has vomited on him, and these camels do as well. One does it twice in a row. (pp 75-76) Poor Long Tom.

    Two last notes of interest: One, Doc’s airplane in this adventure is said to be an experimental flying wing he invented, but doesn’t like very well and on which he is still working out the bugs. Two, Johnny is said to have come to Cairo on his way home from a post-war mission in the Soviet Union. He was there as geologist helping the Soviets develop and exploit their oil fields in order to jumpstart their economy (to recover from the on-going devastation of WWII and give them the supplies necessary to finally win it). This really shows how much changed following the war, because at this time the USSR was still our good ally against Germany. It says that Johnny’s mission was a success and “…the Soviet was quite satisfied, as satisfied as the Axis was disturbed.” (p 14)

    Thomas Fortenberry

  2. Paul Cook says:

    I really enjoyed The Pharoah’s Ghost even though Doc pretty much just tags along until he finally figures things out. The “menace” of the yellow-spot-on-the-forehead is quite clever and harked back to some of the “menaces” of the early 1933-1935 classics. I can really recommend this book. Nice cover, too.

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