Nations arming for international conflict engage in a behind-the-scenes mineral war that threatens to disrupt the natural balance of the universe. The Man of Bronze rises to the titanic peak of his strength and wit to uncover the secret of the cavern with the living fire!
5 thoughts on “The Living Fire Menace”
This isn’t one of the best Docs. Harold Davis is no Lester Dent. Thin plotting, weak characterization, and a lame MacGuffin. Even the Bantam blurb is uninspired.
Ooooh, weird, impossible science! I’m not sure how the pretty girl is evil at the beginning and is a poor victim at the end. I would also like to see a picture of the criminally insane Dr Torgle. His description just seems a stretch, his feet pointing backwards. Medium enjoyment.
I enjoyed this one. I like Doc as over the top as he can get. The mystery turns out to be a real one and ore has interesting properties. I like the electrified gangsters running around raising mayhem. This is not a Doc to make you think but it makes for a few fun hours of reading.
The Living Fire Menace is one of the more fantastic books in the series. It also degenerates midway through into almost zany weirdness with the twisted-up, flat-headed Dr. Torkle, the living fire death, super rocks, plus the massive magentic fire-sphere floating in the Pit of Horrors, and, of course, deep underworld caverns full of hordes of cherry-red electrically charged madmen. But the ending resurrects it towards the reality of a normal Doc, wherein the fantastic is explained by science and the criminal motives are revealed to be a worldwide smuggling operation of armaments and resources. Seems to have been a fairly good concept ineptly handled.
The fantastic elements of the story not only involve the hook, the living fire menace, but Doc and company too. Here Doc has 2-way televisors in every car and plane; films his reception room 24/7, and employs projectors of “invisible rays” so that no one can see him. Renny is said to be stunned by Doc’s invention of an insta-matic camera that shoots out developed pictures a la a later polaroid. Doc is physically really super here: He can run through desert and an entire town following cars full of crooks back to their secret headquarters; He can repeatedly escape highpowered electrocution and death by simply wearing rubber shoes; He also has superhuman strength, able to wrench off their feet and whip around an entire line of hand-holding villains in the air.
The aids have their good moments though. Long Tom shows his true genius by figuring out the entire secret behind the plot on the fly while saving Johnny’s life on page 39 (Bantam), which just to be sure Doc verifies in the end. Monk is also shown to be no fool, because when he and Ham are bamboozled by some crooks pretending to be innocently playing cards he notes the amount of ashes in ashtrays to the amount of smoke in the room, the underlying scent of a woman’s perfume, compared to the number of men smoking, and calls them on their bluff. Monk unleashes hell on them and tears the place apart. Monk, earlier said to possess a titannic chest and here said to have huge fists and ape-like strength, gets to bust open a door with his fist like Renny. Now that’s just fun!
[c 2004 Thomas Fortenberry]
I read this book when it first came out when I was in college and I really couldn’t remember much of it and for years afterward I couldn’t make heads nor tails of the cover. Then I reread it about a year ago and found it to be a pretty good book with a real sense of danger for Doc and his men in the end. Doc himself even says that he came really close on this one. And by the end I figured out which scene the cover comes from. As a writer myself, I instantly recognized that a good going-over a second time could have smoothed out some of the rough edges with this book. Dent did this with The King Maker and probably with Dust of Death. Still, this isn’t a bad book. (As for the pulp cover, doesn’t Doc have a mustache?)