Laurence Donovan

May 16, 1979 by

Laurence Donovan

Laurence L. Donovan (July 1885–March 11, 1948) was an American pulp fiction writer who wrote nine Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson, a pen name that was used by other writers of the same publishing house. However, there are nine Doc Savage novels dully credited to Donovan, published between November 1935 and July 1937.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in July 1885, he worked as a press feeder in Covington, Kentucky before becoming a newspaperman. Donovan later became a copyreader and journalist for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin and the Vancouver Sun, as well as city editor for the Spokane Chronicle. During the latter 20s, he began contributing to myriad pulp magazines ranging from the dignified Argosy to the bizarre Zeppelin Stories. Prior to that, he appears to have toiled in Hollywood. Family legend has it that Donovan was offered the chance to script the 1925 silent screen version of Ben Hur, but went off on one of his infamous drinking binges, blowing the chance forever. That same year, his vignette, “The Old Copy Desk”, was published in The Saturday Evening Post.

Donovan broke into pulps in 1929 via the story “Brick Sacrifices” written for Street & Smith’s Sport Story Magazine. By 1933, he was writing for Street & Smith editor John L. Nanovic, contributing short stories to the back pages of The Shadow, Doc Savage, Nick Carter, Pete Rice and others, sometimes under the house name of Walter Wayne. In the pages of Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine, Clues and Western Story Magazine, he employed the bylines “Patrick Everett” and “Patrick Lawrence”—both cobbled together from the names of his two sons. Donovan wrote virtually the entire first issue of Street & Smith’s Movie Action, converting to novelettes such then-current film scripts as Tumbling Tumbleweeds, The Crime of Dr. Crespi, Bodyguard, Powder-Smoke Range, The Last Days of Pompeii, Drake the Pirate and Moonlight on the Prairie under his own name.

In 1935, Nanovic asked him to write Doc Savage novels under the house name of “Kenneth Robeson”, alternating with originating author, Lester Dent. After producing nine Doc Savage novels, Donovan drew on his nautical background to create Captain John Fury for Street & Smith’s The Skipper under the house name “Wallace Brooker”, after which he also launched The Whisperer, writing as “Clifford Goodrich”. When those magazines folded in the aftermath of the Recession of 1937–38, Donovan continued both characters in the back pages of The Shadow and Doc Savage, and began ghosting the adventures of Pete Rice in Wild West Weekly as “Austin Gridley”. His “Boxcar” Reilly character began appearing in Crime Busters in 1937, as did postal inspectors Joe Bimbo and Howdy Hawks, whom he had originated for The Feds. After a liquor-induced falling out with John Nanovic in 1938, Donovan moved over to the rival Thrilling Publications, where he began ghosting the adventures of The Phantom Detective under the house name of “Robert Wallace”. There he created The Phantom’s teenage sidekick, Chip Dorlan. Donovan ultimately ghosted most of the Thrilling heroes, including G-man Dan Fowler in G-Men Detective, playboy Dewidd Darknell in The Masked Detective and blind district attorney Anthony Quinn in The Black Bat. One of his 1942 Black Bat novels, “The Murder Prophet, was a rewrite of “The Crime Prophet”, an unpublished Whisperer novel.

Concrete information on Donovan’s life is scanty. He claimed to have been born in County Cork, Ireland, but although his parents were Irish U. S. records do not support this assertion. Although he invariably spelled his first name as “Laurence”, it might have been “Lawrence” at birth. Mysteriously, The Shadow author Walter B. Gibson remembered that Donovan changed his name from something like “Donegal”. Laurence Donovan married Ruth Johnson in 1924. They were living in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1927, when their son, Laurence Junior, was born. Another son, Patrick, came along a year later, while the family was living in Spokane, Washington. The family moved often, residing in Flushing, New York; Southampton, Long Island; and Old Greenwich, Connecticut before relocating to Florida, where they lived in St. Augustine and later, Fort Pierce. Donovan deserted Ruth in the late 1930s, subsequently divorced her. A reported earlier marriage produced a third son, name unknown. A seasoned sailor, Donovan may have belonged to the Merchant Marines in his younger days.

His other pen names included “Don Lewis”, “Don Lawrence” and “Larry Dunn”, by which Donovan concealed his identity in the lurid Spicy Detective Stories and sister magazines like Spicy Western Stories. His John P. “Pa” Howdy stories ran in Detective Fiction Weekly and Clues in the 1930s, and in G-Men Detective a decade later. Joe Bunt appeared in Popular Detective, as did Wildcat Martin, who also ran in Exciting Detective. Strangely, three of his Doc Savage novels were “adapted” as early Superman comic book stories. Donovan is also believed to have written for radio.

Donovan died in seclusion in Manhattan, New York on Thursday, March 11, 1948. His last known published story was “Redheads Kill Easy” for Popular Publications’ New Detective, February 1952. It was a final “Pa” Howdy story.

Doc Savage, Vol. VI, No. 3, Murder Melody (Nov 1935) The sky over the Northwest is filled with strange floating men playing a weird melody of death.
Doc Savage, Vol. VI, No. 5, Murder Mirage (Jan 1936) A blizzard in July and a dead woman etched in glass lead Doc and crew to Saharan tombs guarded by Bedouins.
Doc Savage, Vol. VII, No. 2, The Men Who Smiled No More (Apr 1936) Even Doc Savage is stricken helpless by the terrifying menace of The Death’s Head Grin.
Doc Savage, Vol. VII, No. 4, The Haunted Ocean (Jun 1936) An awesome power haunts the sea, paralyzes New York City and brings the most powerful nations of the world to their knees.
Doc Savage, Vol. VII, No. 5, The Black Spot (Jul 1936) All the guests were dressed as gangsters but their millionaire host was dead in the library with a black spot over his heart.
Doc Savage, Vol. VIII, No. 1, Cold Death (Sep 1936) Doc Savage meets Var, who wields an unstoppable destructive ray: the deadly Cold Light.
Doc Savage, Vol. VIII, No. 5, Land of Long Juju (Jan 1937) The ruthless power of The Shimba threatened to overthrow the good and gentle ruler of an African kingdom.
Doc Savage, Vol. IX, No. 3, Mad Eyes (May 1937) In the space of twenty-four hours, the menace of the slithering madness struck in all its fury!
Doc Savage, Vol. IX, No. 5, He Could Stop the World (Jul 1937) The world was imperiled by a terrifying, malevolent force that had the power to change men’s minds.

— Text from Wikipedia on Feb 4, 2018

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Philip José Farmer

May 16, 1970 by

Philip José Farmer

Philip José Farmer (January 26, 1918 – February 25, 2009) was an American author known for his science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. He has often written about the pulp heroes Tarzan and Doc Savage, or pastiches thereof: In his novel The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes team up. Farmer’s Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban series portrays analogues of Tarzan and Doc Savage. It consists of A Feast Unknown (1969), Lord of the Trees (1970) and The Mad Goblin (1970). Farmer has also written two mock biographies of both characters, Tarzan Alive (1972) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973), which adopt the premise that the two were based on real people fictionalized by their original chroniclers, and connect them genealogically with a large number of other well-known fictional characters in a schema now known as the “Wold Newton family.” Further, Farmer wrote both an authorized Doc Savage novel, Escape from Loki — Wikipedia & the official Philip José Farmer website.

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Alan Hathway

May 16, 1970 by

Alan Hathway

Alan Hathway

Will Murray in his collection Writings in Bronze wrote, “Alan Hathway had only been writing pulp fiction for five years, and all of that short stories; so Street & Smith, remembering the method of training given Laurence Donovan prior to his writing of the earlier Whisperer, decided to apprentice him on Doc Savage first. If he could handle Doc Savage, he could handle The Whisperer, they may have reasoned. If not, Lester Dent could salvage the Doc novels and a new Whisperer writer could be found elsewhere. Hathway’s introduction into the series worked in Lester Dent’s favor, as well. Hathway stepped in just as Harold Davis was stepping out…”

Hathway’s most notable work was in journalism. His career included stints in Chicago and New York, but his tenure at Newsday helped turned the small newspaper into a Pulitzer prize winning concern. Hathway was a close friend of Doc Savage author Harold Davis and stepped into Davis’s position when Davis left Newsday.

Alan Brown Hathway (1906–April 15, 1977) wrote four Doc Savage novels:

The Devil’s Playground
The Headless Men
The Mindless Monsters
The Rustling Death

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W. Ryerson Johnson

May 16, 1970 by

W. Ryerson Johnson

Walter Ryerson Johnson, 1920

Walter Ryerson Johnson, 1920


W. Ryerson Johnson (October 19, 1901 – May 24, 1995) is credited with authoring three Doc Savage novels: Land of Always-Night, The Fantastic Island, and The Motion Menace. For the last novel, Johnson supplied the idea for the story, but the novel was written by Lester Dent.

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Will Murray

May 16, 1970 by

Will Murray

willmurray2010

The latest “Kenneth Robeson,” Will Murray has written 20 Doc Savage novels using a variety of pulp-era outlines and text finished with a great deal of original writing. Murray started as fan who became one of the earlier researchers into the Doc Savage publishing history. He served as a consultant to both Bantam and Sanctum for their reprints of the novels. An accomplished writer, Murray took over the series as an author in 1991. He now writes and publishes Doc Savage for Altus Press.

Murray’s Doc Savage novels to date:

184 – 1991 – Python Isle
185 – 1992 – White Eyes
186 – 1992 – The Frightened Fish
187 – 1992 – The Jade Ogre
188 – 1993 – Flight into Fear
189 – 1993 – The Whistling Wraith
190 – 1993 – The Forgotten Realm
191 – 2011 – The Desert Demons
192 – 2011 – Horror in Gold
193 – 2012 – The Infernal Buddha
194 – 2012 – Death’s Dark Domain
195 – 2013 – Skull Island
196 – 2013 – The Miracle Menace
197 – 2013 – Phantom Lagoon
198 – 2014 – The War Makers
199 – 2014 – The Ice Genius
200 – 2015 – The Sinister Shadow
201 – 2015 – The Secret of Satan’s Spine
202 – 2016 – Glare of the Gorgon
203 – 2017 – Empire of Doom

Will Murray also published Six Scarlet Scorpions, a Pat Savage novel. The novel was reviewed by Catherine Lavallée-Welch.

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William G. Bogart

May 16, 1970 by

William G. Bogart

William Gibson Bogart, 1925 at age 22

William Gibson Bogart, 1925 at age 22 -- image found by Tom Barnett

William G. Bogart ghosted fourteen Doc Savage novels. He’s also known among Doc fandom for The Crazy Indian, a short novel originally written as Doc Savage adventure; however, when Bogart lost his spot as a Robeson, he rewrote this story as a stand-alone novel about a group called The Adventurers. Essentially, Bogart only changed the names, although in at least one spot a character is called “Monk.” Oops.

Tom Johnson’s Fading Shadows press reprinted The Crazy Indian in Action Adventure Stories # 17, but that issue is now out of print, according to the Fading Shadows web site.

Bogart was a prolific writer of short stories for the pulps. Many were used as backup stories to fill out issues of Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Avenger. A quick search on the Advanced Book Exchange turns up these magazine entries for Bogart, which is by no means complete, but gives you an idea of the sort of places his work showed up:

-Backup stories in these issues of The Shadow: March 15, 1937; November 1, 1940; January 1945; February 1944; and November 1944.
-Stories in the Canadian edition of Detective Story Magazine: April 1943; February 1944; and June 1944.
-A story in the June 10, 1943, issue of Short Stories magazine.

Dave Kalb’s great site, The Avenger Archives, offered all the backup stories that ran in each issue of The Avenger. Included are the two stories by Bogart that ran in that magazine: “Killer ‘Round The Bend,” which appeared in the October 1939 issue, and “Skeleton In Our Closet,” which appeared in the February 1940 issue.

Like many pulpsters, Bogart tried to build a writing career outside of the pulp magazines. He wrote a number of mystery novels, most featuring a private eye named Johnny Saxon. It is for Johnny Saxon that fans of hard-boiled writing remember Bogart, but even in that arena, he is a minor figure. Here is at least a partial listing of his novels:

Hell On Friday (the description I found for this one makes it sound interesting to pulp fans: “Johnny Saxon, the protagonist of this scarce hard-boiled novel, is a former pulp writer turned detective, and much of the murder mystery revolves in and around the world of pulp magazine publishing”)
Johnny Saxon (for which I found this description: “private investigator and former mystery writer Johnny Saxon is hired to help a woman regain her memory, only to discover that the woman herself is probably the next target of a killer”)
Murder Is Forgetful, Murder Man, The Queen City Murder Case, and Singapore (a movie tie-in of the film starring Ava Gardner and Fred MacMurray)

I also located on ABE a novel by William Bogart titled Sands Street, but I’m not sure that it is by the same William Bogart. However, it was published by the same New York company that released Hell on Friday— Jonathan Swift — so there’s reason to suppose that the book was indeed written by the same man. Hell on Friday was published in hardback in 1941. Sands Street was published in hardback in 1942. A seller on ABE described Sands Street in this rather terse fashion: “The meeting place of the men who follow the sea and the women who follow the men.”

William Bogart’s Doc Savage novels:

World’s Fair Goblin (co-written with Lester Dent)
Hex
The Angry Ghost (co-written with Dent)
The Spotted Men
The Flying Goblin
Tunnel Terror
The Awful Dynasty (co-written with Dent)
Bequest of Evil (co-written with Dent)
The Magic Forest
Fire and Ice (co-written with Dent)
Death in Little Houses
The Disappearing Lady
Target for Death
The Death Lady

— A mini-biography by Duane Spurlock

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