2 thoughts on “Five Fathoms Dead

  1. Here’s a shocker: Five Fathoms Dead is a submarine mystery. Well, should say a piracy adventure that involves subs on almost an afterthought. But then, this is one of those later kind of experimental Doc Savage novels which only involved Doc as an afterthought. It is one of those stories told almost exclusively through a third party character, this time an intrepid lady reporter. The first 2/3 of the book are hers, until Doc “unmasks” himself and you realize he is the evil leader of the pirate gang the reporter has been following. Then he assumes control and POV of the story and it picks up quite a bit and actually becomes a very intense nailbiter. The gist of the book Doc himself sums up when he explains to the reporter: “It takes a thief to catch a thief.” (p 173) Unfortunately, like I said, it is too late and only at the very end of the book when Doc “appears” and the action explodes. Doc should be the central character in the Doc Savage books.
    There are a few choice moments. There is a line of description that is rather awesome, one of the best in the entire series, which comes about as close to Lovecraftian as anything Dent ever penned: The sun left, and drew after it a monster of blackness that took the sea and held it in its warm belly. (Omnibus 7, p 124).
    There is a brutal scene when the pirate leader Whitey orders a captured sub to dive, after he has left the entire crew of US sailors outside atop the sub in the middle of the ocean with a terrible storm brewing. It is unexpected and everyone suddenly realizes he has drowned the men: They heard the screams. They were not very loud. They were like kittens mewing, terrified kittens in a sack that had been dropped into a creek. The mewings did not last long, for the sub sank as the sack would have sank. (p 133) Afterwards, in a scene of amazing psychology, the leader Whitey comes on the intercom and cheerfully congratulates them all on a job well done. The event is traumatizing even to the hardened crew of thugs and they grow extremely uneasy, frightened of their cold, cruel leader Whitey: They were hardened men; they had also the advantage of knowing before hand what was to happen, since it had been planned, discussed, rehearsed for days; but their had been something in the speech– deliberate, unmoved, cold– that had stunned them. Whitey’s voice and words had been completely natural, hence entirely abnormal. The man should have had emotion. Elation or fear or horror. There should have been horror, but there had been none, and it had been sickening, because this man was their leader, and nobody likes to follow an abnormal leader, not even an abnormal genius, nor an abnormally courageous man, for abnormality of any kind is too close to insanity to be comfortable. (p 133)
    Ouch. That cuts a little too close to home. Pretty strong words, eh, Dr. Savage? Kind of eerie when you think about a nearly perfect, emotionless machine of a man who is a genius that wages unceasing war against crime, using any and all methods available to him. The abnormality of genius, of courage…too close to insanity. Whew!
    Thomas Fortenberry

  2. I was going to be cagey in my review of this odd Doc adventure but, unfortunately, Thomas has let the cat out of the bag by ruining what was, for me, a terrific twist 2/3rds of the way through this adventure. This was the first time Doc really got me, and I did not see the tiwst coming. Thus I did not want to ruin the surprise for others. Well, Thomas did. Oh well. It’s still an unconvential Doc with a good mystery. Nice off-speed adventure.

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