2 thoughts on “The Black, Black Witch

  1. I’ve written some interesting thoughts about this book elsewhere over the years in the newsgroup. I’ll leave them there and just comment that this is a war years tale that simply fails to measure up. It kind of straddles the fence between the later gritty wartime tales and the earlier more msyterious, fabulous tales, and hence misses the heart of both. Here we have Doc and Monk dropped into occuppied France on a mission that goes south quick (real surprise). Hunted and captured by Nazis you think it is headed one way and then somehow we end up in a spooky ancient castle with witchy women, a dungeon, some European folklore like that of the wandering Peterpence, and apparently the secret behind the incredible future-telling ability of Nostradamus. So we get the mishmash of styles and directions that is almost a trainwreck.
    There are some interesting details found within, though, as with any Doc Savage book. (By the way, what other series can boast that even in the crappiest books of the set there are some major, fascinating moments? Doc’s just good that way.) First, there are some very lengthy author footnotes in this short book, which show some of the depth of Dent’s research and interest. Even in passing, he is an encyclopedia. Along these lines, there are also some very fascinating digressions made about Medieval France, literature and scholarship, and Nostradamus. Second, there is that great moment of Monk psychology (even discussed by Farmer in his Apocalyptic study) when he dreams of a blonde witch chasing him on motorcycle. He of course turns around and begins to chase her. Monk’s truly one of a kind amongst humanity. Monk also exhibits mastery over German in this book, able to stun Nazi soldiers with his flawless accent. Finally, there is an unique moment in the careers of Doc and gang. In one moment of desperation, while captured behind enemy lines, Doc sends out a radio SOS on Allied frequencies. He urges the listening posts to record his message and then play it in NYC to his headquarters, so the rest of his aids will learn of their dilemma. Then he records a message in Mayan, which Dent of course notes is the long lost language spoken only by Doc and crew. Wouldn’t this make it the only known recording? And since it was broadcast over Allied radio during wartime, wouldn’t they have recording and studied the hell out of this mysterious, unknown language? Especially given the fact that codes and codebreaking was all the rage, and we were already secretly using a Native American language in codetalk. Mayan might in fact be related. Anyway, just a curious and perhaps historic moment in the series.
    Thomas Fortenberry

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