166m 03/46 Terror and the Lonely Widow

Chuck Welch
March 9, 2006 - 1946 / Bantam 157-168 / clark / degrouchy / larkin / needs / novel / pulp

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Doc and crew are en route to the South Sea Islands where an evil mastermind plans to start WWIII by selling an atomic bomb to the highest bidder — but Doc’s search is cut short when the madman hijacks their plane!

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  1. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    Well, this is one of the later-day Docs, so you know what to expect in the post-war spy days going in. It also uses a title ploy virtually identical to Trouble on Parade (in which Parade was an island, and here the Lonely Widow is the name of a lost craft), so we’re in familiar territory. However, this book is still a bit different from any I had read before.

    For one it has Doc pitted pretty bitterly against the government, even as he is working with them. They’ve (naturally) called him in to save the day at the last possible minute with nothing to go on and no help, and then try and impede or outright destroy him throughout. So he isn’t pleased with the situation at all. In fact at one point (Bantam Omnibus 10, p 348) when Ham suggests they ask for some extra fed help, Doc yells, “That’s out! Definitely out!” and a moment later explains, “We never work for anybody.” Damn. Doc puts the government in its place. There is also a telling scene where a local cop says he is ashamed at the heavyhanded secrecy of the US government (p 352), which is equally relevant today.

    When things quickly turn bad (no, in a Doc adventure?) you also throw in some police who absolutely hate his ass and want him in prison. So there’s some harsh antagonism here between Doc and co and law enforcement, as well as an honest portrayal of local law pitted against overpowered federal law enforcement and not liking it one bit. This is of course the more human, more nervous, angry, and doubtful Doc, but his superhuman prowess and reputation are still in existence here. There are some very nice descriptions of Doc and also the impression he makes on strangers and his own crew in this novel. Also in one spot it is noted his aids think he is a “freak” who “survived” his upbringing. (p 342)

    Here’s something that isn’t a spoiler (as it is the novel opener and revealed on page 3) but should get your attention: Doc is a sniper trying to kill a guy! Even mentions his great skill with the weapon, and most strange of all is this passage, when he goes to put it up: He places the rifle in the case with care. it was his favorite rifle. (p 341) Doc has a favorite gun now? Wow, times really have changed. At any rate, he’s trying to scare the he