The Czar of Fear

DOC SAVAGE IS ACCUSED OF MURDER! The bronze giant battles police, thugs, and a macabre foe in a spectacular struggle to save a city from total desolation. The Arch Enemy of Evil pits his tremendous resources against the grisly and mysterious Green Bell — the sinister hooded figure whose deadly genius threatens to destroy Doc and drive thousands of innocent people mad!


10 thoughts on “The Czar of Fear

  1. This was the 2nd Doc I ever read and is still one of my favorites. One of the best “human” Doc tales. The first and BEST use of the “Doc-accused-of-murder” plot device stories.

  2. Personally I like the Docs that end up in some exotic foreign locale, and this one doesn’t have that. But I thought this was a very “rich” story, with lots of great elements. Renny, Monk, and Long Tom see lots of action, Ham and Johnny less so, but atleast they still have worthwhile parts in the story. There is a funny mistake… in a scene with Renny, reading a newspaper, he is described as wearing glasses with a thick left lense. We see Doc utilizing just about all of his abilities in this story; incredible strength (breaking handcuffs after tearing through the roof of a cop car and acrobatically flipping over the top of a railroad trestle), philanthropist (he single-handedly finances an entire poverty stricken city through the entire book), motivational speaker (with one short speech, he singlehandedly lifts the entire population of the city out of hopeless despair), scientist (he uses gadgets galore), surgeon (he initiates the cure of several people who have been driven insane by the Green Bell’s insidious device) and Doc is almost continuosly on the move either escaping from the cops or fighting the Green Bell’s gang of crooks. He is throwing his voice left and right, hypnotizing with his eyes, trilling like there is no tommorrow, and is just the full, deep, focused and capable Doc… i.e. the real doc. The writing is really smooth, with vivid scenes and characterizations, and rarely, if ever, slows in pace. ****4 out of 5 stars.

  3. This is one of the few of the very early Doc adventures where the action stays closer to home . . . that is Doc and his boys do not travel overseas to a fantastic or exotic location and do not discover any lost civilizations, artifacts or treasure. Despite that, this is still a very lively adventure underscored with a gritty realism and a sense of real meance. The one problem I had was with the name of the major villian – I mean, the green BELL???? This guy can call himself anything he wants, the green phantom, the green overlord (heck even the green goblin was still up for grabs back then) to inspire fear and terror in the people of Prosper City, and he chooses to call himself . . . the green BELL???
    Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh. After all the name does have a certain RING to it! Hardy har har! I can understand how it would ap-PEAL to any prospective villian! Yuk, yuk, yuk! All kidding aside, “Czar” is another winner among the early Docs, full of suspense and well-plotted by Dent, if not quite a grade A story. It suffers from much the same problem in the ending that I mentioned in my post on “Quest of the Spider”.

  4. The Czar of Fear is easily one of the top 5 docs to me. Doc is in perfect form, displaying incredible physical and menal prowess and great compassion. All of his aides, except Johnny, get meaty bits (yeah, Gen. Brooks was off-stage most of the time, but for a good reason, and the dapper lawyer still makes his presence felt). The plot was fast-moving and powerful and very relevant to the times. The supporting cast members are memorable, especially Aunt Nora. She stands out in the memory much better than some of standard beautiful heroines.
    Best of all, the Green Bell, ridiculous name or not, is one of the best super-villains. He’s smart, ruthless, diabolical, shrewd at business, skilled at science, and a great actor. I mean any number of pulp villains have had death machines, but how many could arrange a key diversion with a bullet in the toaster. That takes unholy genius!!
    Todd, you’re wrong about Dent picking the least likely suspect, although I must confess I did not see how Doc worked out the Green Bell’s ID until the fifth time I read the book. (Okay, I’m not as smart as Doc. I wish!!!!)
    Possible spoiler follows so don’t read on if you haven’t read the Czar of Fear, please stop.
    Only three people had the chance to arrange the ambush at the Hidalgo Warehouse because they
    were the only ones outside of Doc’s gang who knew they were going there on such short notice. The Bell had the opportunity while gathering his stuff to make a quick phone call and set up the ambush. Doc’s “yellow” trick at the end provided the proof that, as Doc said, the Green Bell had to be someone sticking close to the group. (And Todd, if you argue that the Green Bell knew about the warehouse in advance, I would say that much knowledge about Doc meant he would never sent Judborn Tugg within a million miles of Doc. Remember, this was early in Doc’s career when the warehouse had not acquired such a ripe reputation).

  5. This is one of the very best James Bama covers of the Doc Savage series. I’m always stunned when I see it. It captures the essence of Doc Savage being a “good guy” up against a bunch of bad guys . . . and obviously itching for a fight. The final scene where Doc . . . well, you know what happens to him in the cave (or as he is exiting it) is unparalleled in all of the Doc adventures.

  6. “The Czar of Fear” is definitely the best of Dent’s “hooded mastermind” stories, a plot device he used often (“Quest of the Spider”, “Death in Silver”, “The Seven Agate Devils”, etc.). Since it was written early in the series, Dent is still having fun creating Doc’s world, so the book is filled with vivid details and wonderful gadgets: the world’s first closed-circuit TV, ultraviolet chalk, dye absorbed through touch, the villain’s sonic “insanity” box. An absolute delight!
    As for the Green Bell, I think he ranks up there with John Sunlight as one of Doc’s best foes. I specifically loved the tolling bell over the radio he uses to terrify the populace of Prosper City. A superbly creepy touch. Sure, his identity wasn’t hard to guess, but that’s the only flaw in an otherwise ingenious story.
    I put “Czar” in my top ten.

  7. The first time I read this story, I was a little disappointed and, dare I say, bored. I was pretty young at the time (14 or 15) and it’s possible that I had become somewhat spoiled by the slam-bang Doc adventures I had read up until that point. Not that this tale is without it’s share of action, just action on a different level from previous stories.
    Today, having finished the book again some 20-odd years later, I have a new-found respect for the story. The way Dent brings across the hopelessness that the majority of the citizens of Prosper City feel is quite simply excellent story-telling. We get to see the compassionate side of Doc as he financially floats the entire town for some time, feeds the hungry citizens who can’t afford to buy groceries, organizes labor solutions for the bankrupt factories in the city, and tirelessly continues his search for the sinister master-mind, all the while eluding capture by the police as he is suspected in 3 different murders. Overall just excellent writing and a newly found-favorite of mine with a gratifying conclusion.

  8. Dear Sirs: I wish to add to the above comments that the Green Bell-“Czar of Fear”-was based on actual events in the Detroit area during the Depression. An organization similar to the SS known as the Black Legion was operating in the states of Illinois and Indiana thereabouts. Supposedly they were defending white Southern workers who emigrated North to find jobs in car factories. What they were actually doing was keeping the labor force from unionizing. The Black Legion used black uniforms similar to the white ones of the KKK. They were prinipally a terrorist group so that Kenneth Robesons'(Lester Dent) writings had a factual basis….just putting in my two cents worth. Thank you,
    Raymond Frye

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