Monday, January 27, 2014

W.B.’s Book Report - Doc Savage: Skull Island

Fans marked the 80th anniversaries of two iconic characters in 2013: Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, and King Kong. Longtime Doc historian and modern author Will Murray celebrated the occasion by composing a rousing prequel that merges the best of both myths into a fairly seamless whole.

The early chapters and epilogue of Doc Savage: Skull Island are set in the hours and days right after Kong plummeted to his death from the Empire State Building, where up on the top floor Clark Savage Jr. had established his offices and laboratories with a stalwart band of five fellow adventurers. His friends tell the story of the mysterious great ape that was just felled by Navy warplanes and are astonished when their bronze-skinned leader says softly and sadly, “I know this creature.”

“Long ago, he saved my life,” intoned the metallic man.

Ham Brooks and Monk Mayfair lost all power of speech.

“And I returned the favor in kind,” said Doc Savage.

Doc and his men take on the grim task of removing the body and preparing it for return to Skull Island, the wild land that time forgot where Kong had ruled for many years. Once that task is underway, Doc sits down with his friends to tell a story that begins shortly after the Great War ended and they went their separate ways, and 19-year-old Clark Savage Jr. is summoned by his seafaring father. Clark Savage Sr. has received a clue to the whereabouts of his own father, Stormalong Savage, who has been missing for some years.

Murray’s story logically fills in the clues to Doc’s past left by Lester Dent/Kenneth Robeson through the years and places Kong square in the middle of the Savage mythology. At 412 pages in print, it’s three times longer and more wide-ranging than any of the classic Doc Savage pulp novels, but the story deserves the more epic treatment.

As someone who also has thoroughly enjoyed Doc over the years (to the point where I’ve created my own series of pulp adventures) and considers the 1933 King Kong film as one of the all-time triumphs of adventure fantasy, I had a ball with Murray’s loving treatment, and I unhesitatingly recommend Doc Savage: Skull Island. It may well be a good entry point for yet another generation to discover Doc and his band all over again.

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