A Guilty Pleasure – Doc Savage Stories

I thought I had written about this before, but apparently, searching my archives, I haven’t. Today’s the day I guess.

It is no secret that I have a voracious appetite for reading. It started young, when I was in High School, and was heavily Science Fiction oriented. It was escape from some reality, and I doubled down.

My introduction to Doc Savage came much earlier than that though In grade school, my dad gave me one of the paperback reprints for Christmas. I read it, but since i hadn’t developed a passion for the printed word at that point, I really just read it and put it down.

Fast forward until I got my first e-reader. I was googling around looking for things that were free (i.e. in the public domain) to load up on it, and I found a link to the 162 Doc Savage novels. Not sure where I found it, but I grabbed it, and loaded them up (later, I learnt that they were not in the public domain, but copyrighted, and owned by Conde Nast publishing. However they just sit on the rights and don’t make them available for purchase. Boo.)

I whipped through them quickly, enjoying the tales immensely. They were quick reads, they were written to attract the attention of a 15 year old boy, and unlike the comics and superhero stories, there was nothing magical.

Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, was trained from a young age to have near super human abilities. From strength to eyesight, hearing, and acute senses, he was like everyone, but “better“. Add to that an encyclopedic knowledge base, amazing science and technology skills, and his true avocation, medicine and surgery, he was an idol every 15 year old boy could aspire to attain.

Surrounded by his five associates who were at the top of their professions, from Monk the chemist, Ham the lawyer, Renny the engineer, Long Tom the electrical wizard, and Johnny, the archeologist/geologist, the team would travel the world, helping the helpless, and halting the machinations of bad guys everywhere.

The stories are set in the 1930’s, and headquartered in New York, at the site of the offices in the highest sky scraper, and the warehouse of the Hidalgo Trading Company. However, the adventures take them all over the world, debunking the mysterious, and displaying a scientific curiosity over the natural world.

The guilty pleasure arrises in how much I enjoy the tales. Yes, they are trapped in the past, and our technology today eclipses what the author (Lester Dent, writing under the pen name “Kenneth Robeson”) could imagine. That is irrelevant.

While I am reading the stories, I am transported to a simpler time of propeller planes, radios, and the mystique of the Man of Bronze. For those couple of hours it takes to read the story, I am a boy of 15, with the imagination and wonder to consider the future. It transports me back in time, and to my youth.

Hence the enjoyment I find in the tales.

Reading about the perpetual bickering between Ham and Monk that makes you believe they are mortal enemies. Slipping into the adventure, the tight places they wriggle out of, the unmasking of the mystery, and ultimately the solution to the conundrum. All in about 90 – 100 pages.

Every boy needs to dream of his fortress of solitude.

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