Python Isle by Lester Dent
August 5, 2009 - dent
On June 11, 1996 Bob Bookman posted the original outline to a novel proposed for the Doc Savage series. The outline was first published in Pulp Vault magazine #10 May 1992. According to Bob, it was discovered by Will Murray on a visit to Mrs. Lester (Norma) Dent’s home, and was to be the 21st Doc story but was never written by Dent.
It’s left up to fans of Doc Savage to compare this outline to Will Murray’s Python Isle.
WHAT IS BACK OF YARN:
Centuries ago, King Solomon maintained a colony in the land of Ophir, source of his treasure. But the colony was put to flight by savage tribes, and set out to sea in boats. Their navigators had been killed by the savages, and the boats could only keep together as they were driven southward into the Indian Ocean by storms. Eventually they reached an island in a locality where storms are almost continuous. These monsoons prevented them again leaving the isle. They kept the Ophir treasure in their boats intact.
The colonists still live there, with Queen Lha on the throne. Opposed to Lha is Taxus, sorcerer and unscrupulous villain who is hungry for power. Taxus has a knowledge of hypnotism and the arts of magic, handed down by generations of sorcerer ancestors, and he uses these to cast spells over those who oppose him. He can hypnotize an enemy, aided by a drug made from native herbs, putting that person in sort of a trance known as Taxus’ invisible wrath.
Tom Franklin, flier trying a non-stop from Australia to Cape Town, was blown off his course in the storms and landed on the isle, which is known as Python Isle because of the number of snakes of that species.
Franklin, to maneuver his own escape, told Queen Lha of Doc Savage, who could smash Taxus, and with the girl, got away in his plane. Franklin’s idea is not to get Doc, but to enlist aid of unscrupulous men and come back for the Solomon wealth. Franklin takes with him from the Isle a papyrus script history of the Ophir colony by way of proof that the isle does exist.
Tom Franklin and Queen Lha, both in the costumes of Solomon days, are flying over the Pacific near South Africa. Their gasoline supply is low. They sight a small tramp steamer on the sea below, circle it, and to their surprise, are fired upon.
The ship is skippered by Blackbird Hinton, diamond smuggler and crook, who thinks the plane holds officers of the law after him. He shoots the plane down, and sends a small boat out to pick up the occupants. Prince Albert , Blackbird’s henchman, has charge of the boat.
Franklin stages a fake fight and manages to hide his papyrus roll under a thwart. This is to keep from Blackbird the secret of Python Isle and its treasure. The papyrus is in a bamboo tube.
Blackbird, questioning Franklin, finds him ignorant of all worldly events since 1927. The girl does not speak English, except to speak in some language in which one name, Doc Savage, is recognizable.
Mention of Doc worries Blackbird. Prince Albert is infatuated with the girl.
That night, Franklin creeps to the radio room with the girl and attempts to send a radio message to Doc Savage asking for help. They are discovered by Blackbird, who sets upon them, and they retreat to the boat where Franklin hid his papyrus roll.
Franklin gets his roll and escapes in a launch, but the girl is left behind, a prisoner of Blackbird.
Franklin, pursued by Blackbird and his crew, reaches the South African coast. He has the idea he can enlist Doc Savage’s aid and double-cross Doc when the Solomon treasure is taken from the Python Isle, so he inquires around about how to get a message to Doc Savage. He is directed to Renny, who is supervising a hydro-electric construction project nearby.
Before Renny can talk to Franklin, they are set upon by Blackbird’s men. Renny has the papyrus roll in his possession for awhile, but it is taken from him by Blackbird’s men. Blackbird’s crew also makes off with both Franklin and the bamboo tube which contained the parchment.
Blackbird is worries for fear the message sent earlier, before Franklin escaped the boat, was received, and he goes to the Cape Town radio station, which would logically have picked it up, and forces the operator to show his files. Sure enough, the message did get through and was relayed on to Doc Savage in New York.
Renny, however, had pulled a trick on Blackbird, having emptied the bamboo tube of its parchment contents and substituted blank wrapping paper. He is examining the meaningless (to him) symbols on the parchment when he is set upon by Prince Albert, who, more canny than Blackbird, has been watching over the affair. There is a fight in which Prince Albert is bested temporarily. But Prince Albert manages to lead Renny into a trap at the radio station, in which Renny is seized by Blackbird and his gang.
Blackbird then gets in touch with a crook he knows in New York, Bull Pizano by name, and directs Bull to keep the radio message from Doc if possible.
Bull Pizano, in NY, moves to stop the message from reaching Doc. This is possible, because Doc is at the moment away at his Fortress of Solitude. Monk is at the NY headquarters of Doc Savage, and has the message. Bull Pizano has him decoyed outside and seized. But Monk has cannily not taken the message with him. Bull Pizano cannot find it.
Thinking Ham, another of Doc’s men, may have the message, Bull Pizano forces Monk to call Ham and make an appointment, the idea being that Ham is to be seized as he goes to the appointment. But Monk, who is using a French type phone, cannily wedges a match under the receiver hook so that the words he yells after hanging up reach Ham. The words are a warning, although Bull Pizano does not recognize them as such. Ham rushed out, intent on aiding Monk, but was trapped as he left Doc’s skyscraper headquarters-his car being forced into a big van before he can do anything about it.
Doc comes back from his Fortress of Solitude and finds his safe has been blown-Bull Pizano’s work hunting for the radiogram. The thieves are still at work, and Doc trails them to their hideout. There is a fight, the Pizano gang escaping, but not before Doc has gotten sight of a large van which holds one of his cars-the one Ham used. This informs Doc that something must have happened to Monk and Ham.
Doc’s cars are fitted with a cylinder which, at the touch of a concealed lever, releases a thin stream of vapor which is heavier than air, settles to the ground and remains there for some hours. Doc uses a fluoroscopic hood which renders this vapor visible as a sparking cloud, and trails the van-the vapor is being released by the car in the van, Ham having had a chance to get to the lever.
Thus, Doc trails the gang, and manages to rescue Monk and Ham.
They get the radiogram-there is only blank paper inside. But both Monk and Ham know its contents. It does not make much sense, being merely an appeal for help from a man named Franklin on a ship off the South African coast.
A radiogram comes from South Africa, from Renny’s associates on the hydroelectric project, advising that Renny had been seized at the radio station there.
Doc does some sleuthing and learns that Bull Pizano and his gang have disappeared, apparently scared out by Doc’s presence in N.Y.
Doc determines on the quickest route to South Africa to aid Renny-taking passage with Monk and Ham on a Zeppelin which is making one of its periodic Atlantic passages.
Pizano is on the Zeppelin, it develops, with a number of his men, and fighting follows. Doc and his party, outnumbered, are forced-apparently-into a motor gondola, which is cut loose into the sea. Doc, Monk and Ham have apparently died.
Pizano commandeers the Zeppelin, forces it to sail well down the African coast, quits the craft and joins Blackbird, his old associate. Blackbird is enraged because the radio message was not apprehended, but news of Doc’s death pacifies him and he agrees to cut Pizano in on the treasure. Blackbird has the golden ornaments worn by Queen Lha and Franklin, as well as certain parts of Franklin’s plane, which are repaired with gold plate, as proof that there is a treasure. They haven’t found the papyrus; Renny won t tell where it is. They decide to kill Renny. But Doc, Monk and Ham-they were not dead, Doc having deceived Pizano into thinking that they were in the gondola which plunged into the sea-appear and rescue Renny. Renny gets the papyrus from where he hid it.
Doc is working on the cabalistic writing of the papyrus when Franklin staggers in, with a story of having escaped from Blackbird. He says he knows where the girl is held Not taking time to hear Franklin’s full story-Franklin faints from exhaustion a moment after he reaches Doc-the bronze man hurries to get the girl. But he encounters a trap, thwarts it, and does rescue the girl. Back at his hotel, he finds Renny, Monk, Ham and Franklin have been taken by Blackbird’s men during his absence. There is a note saying they will be released if Doc will turn over the papyrus roll and the girl.
From the papyrus and the girl’s story-Doc with his fabulous learning knows a little of the lost language-the story of the Python Isle, the villainous Taxus and the treasure comes out. Doc accepts the offer of Blackbird to trade the girl and the papyrus for his men. But the bronze man has equipped the girl with weapons, and trailed her, so that when Blackbird attempts to kill Doc’s men instead of releasing them as he had promised, Doc is on hand to thwart the murders and free the prisoners. Blackbird, Prince Albert and Pizano, with some of their men, strike out in a large plane for the Python Isle, the location of which they have, Franklin admits, forced him to divulge.
Doc, in another plane with Renny, Monk, Ham, Franklin and Queen Lha, nears Python Isle. They have trouble with the monsoon storms which makes ships steer clear of the vicinity, but get through and land. Doc sets the plane down on a valley before a city that looks as if it might have existed in Solomon’s day. The people are strangely garbed. There is no sign of Blackbird’s party or their plane, which has had time to arrive ahead of Doc. Taxus, the sorcerer, has taken over power during Queen Lha’s absence, claiming she was dead, and his followers now seize Doc’s party. Queen Lha, having come back from the dead, is now an evil person, Taxus claims, and Doc and his men are her servants.
The populace seems on the side of Taxus, and it is agreed to give Doc and his men the trial by the python pit which consists of a gladiatorial affair of making them fight enormous snakes. It is equivalent to a sentence of grisly death. As they are led into the city, Doc observes some who are under the strange spell of Taxus’ hypnotic and drug art, and the bronze man treats one of these, an old woman. Hagai by name, working what seems a miraculous cure. This is by way of refuting Taxus yarn that he is evil spirit, a devil from the outer regions.
But Doc is tossed, with Monk, Renny and Ham, in an ingenious torture pit into which sand filters steadily so that they cannot sleep, or even breathe in comfort. Here, they are to await death by the python pit. Queen Lha and Franklin are incarcerated elsewhere in the palace, as befitting individuals of more standing than Doc and his party.
Someone opens the sand grill and the fine particles threaten to suffocate them at once. They sight Blackbird’s features-he is on Python Isle and it was he who opened the grill. Not satisfied with waiting for the python pit, Blackbird wants Doc out of the way at once.
That night, Franklin gets in touch with Queen Lha, and they try to escape, only to be seized outside the palace by Blackbird and his men. Blackbird, against Prince Albert’s objections, orders one of his men to take the girl out to sea in the plane and drop her. Prince Albert balks at this so forcibly that they are forced to seize him and hold him. With Taxus, in whose cause he has enlisted himself, Blackbird cooks up a scheme whereby the people will be told that Doc caused the Queen to vanish.
Doc has darts fastened to the bottom of a foot with adhesive tape, and he uses these to make one of the pit guards nauseated; then he tells the fellow he will be made well if he releases them. The terrified guard does so.
Doc overheard Prince Albert objecting strenuously to the girl’s fate, and that tipped him so that he was able to head off the flier who was to drop her into the sea. He rescues the girl.
Then Doc takes off in the Blackbird plane and deliberately drops it into the sea, escaping by a long swim and shark battle under water so that Blackbird will now think the girl and the pilot dead and know his plane is gone.
Doc and his party drain the gasoline from their own plane and conceal it. The girl is placed in a hiding place, with Renny left behind to watch over her. Doc, Monk and Ham now go in search of Franklin the girl having told them where he is held. But Franklin is not at the spot. Doc’s party is discovered by Taxus’ warriors; there is a fight, and near its climax, Franklin puts in an appearance, saying he has escaped on his own hook, and leads them out through secret doors.
Doc finds and talks to the old woman Hagai, who has been spreading the story of the miraculous cure Doc worked on her. This has given the populace something to think about; Doc may be stronger magic than Taxus. Friends of Queen Lha are with Hagai and they listen to Doc explain that Taxus is a fakir. Taxus and his men, with Blackbird and Prince Albert, appear and break up the meeting. Doc, retreating, learns that Renny and the girl vanished from the hiding place, taken away by Blackbird s crowd, it appears. A ship appears.
The ship is Blackbird’s vessel, which has come under forced draft. It is to be used to remove the Solomon gold.
Doc and his party attempt to remove the treasure first, but are surprised and seized.
Doc and his men receive trial in the python pit, Blackbird s gang using the cover of the ceremonies to make away with the gold. By using a chemical vapor, Doc stupefies the pythons. His seeming power over the serpents arouses those of the populace who are on the side of Queen Lha, and they rout the followers of Taxus.
Blackbird, Taxus, Prince Albert, Pizano and gang have seized Queen Lha and boarded the ship and are putting out of the harbor. Doc boards his plane in an attempt to head them off, but the craft is not a fighting ship and his tanks are punctured. He is forced down on a reef. In attempting to get close enough to him to kill him, Blackbird’s ship goes on the rocks, is broken up and sinks. Prince Albert, a debonair fellow after his way, is the last to drown. The plane is safe. Doc reaches shore. Queen Lha is safe, it develops, because Prince Albert had turned her loose prior to the sailing of the ship.
Lester Dent wrote an outline to a novel proposed for the Doc Savage series. The outline was to be the 21st Doc story but was never written by Dent. It`s left up to fans of Doc Savage to compare this outline to Will Murray’s Python Isle.