3 thoughts on “No Light to Die By

  1. Chiefly interesting in that it was (as far as I know) the first Doc story told in first person, and a number of others followed. The coincidence that starts it off is rather contrived, and the whole situation a little odd, but it has its moments. The narrator is not a really great fellow and his reactions and ruminations on Doc are sort of interesting. They sometimes make Doc seem more sympathetic, while at other times make him seem far more arrogant.

  2. I originally read this in its pulp/digest form in 1968. By then I had read about 50 Doc novels and knew who Doc was, I knew about the Great Depression and WWII. I did notice how Dent’s writing style became more “chatty” and conversational as the Doc novels worked their way through the 1940s and this novel is the one book where Dent’s latter-day style really shines. The story is told by an “innocent” bystander, Sammy Wales, who witnesses Doc’s attempt to deal with a weapon that “deadens” light around an object. Nice idea. Weird execution. Clearly Dent wanted to stretch his wings a bit. But Doc really isn’t the Doc we all know and love and the prose is a bit too coy, too cute to be gripping. Alas. This is a novel only for the die-hard loyalist.

  3. As mentioned above, the main thing of interest in this book is the (at the time) unique first-person narrative and the rather interesting narrator, Sammy Wales. He is a go-getter who stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Doc and gang during many parts of this book.He is a common-man hero of sorts, and gives that perspective to a Doc adventure. His relating this tale is also unique to the entire series, because while this is of course a first-person experiment, this book is presented as the only book in the entire series written by an eye-witness of one of the adventures and against the explicit objections of Doc Savage himself. To this end, the book begins with a statement by Kenneth Robeson, a cablegrammed debate between the author (Wales), Robeson, Doc Savage, and Monk mayfair, and then a disclaimer by Doc Savage. That makes this a fairly important book, in its weird way.
    That said, the adventure never really takes flight. The main reason is that the “weird” device that is catalyst for the mystery is never fully realized or developed. It is — despite its “light” nature — an in-the-dark dud. A further problem, which all of these later Docs have to one degree or another, is space. The book is short and so the story is rather forced and truncated.
    But I found the narrator here lightyears beyond the narrator of the second novel in the Bantam omnibus (The Monkey Suit). That character, Henry Jones, is an intentionally abraisive and annoying character who succeeds all too well in making you just hate his guts. I guess that’s a tribute to Dent for carrying it off, but a reader really hates to hate a protagonist — but in his case you can’t help it. Here at least the Sammy Wales character has some innate charm.

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