Another decent but slightly ho-hum Doc Savage novel, which is unusual as the early books are generally pretty reliable when it comes to being fun, thrill-a-minute page-turners. The Doc Savage pulp magazine was published monthly, which meant main author Lester Dent and the occasional substitute (all writing under the house name "Kenneth Robeson"), had to churn out a dozen exciting, exotic adventure stories a year. Considering this punishing schedule, the sheer amount of good, fun reads produced is pretty impressive. But it also meant that the odd duff story cropped up here and there. Measured by the standards of the series as whole, Brand of the Werewolf rates as merely routine. Not bad, surely, but lacking the spectacle and imaginative menace that characterizes most of the early novels.
The Bantam reprint cover is terrific, but unfortunately promises more than the story delivers. Yes, Virginia, there is no werewolf. Not a real one as promised by the cover illustration, at any rate. I say this not to spoil things for potential readers, but to save them from the crushing disappointment felt by many a young reader back in the 70s who eagerly forked over their hard-earned cash once they got an eyeful of the cover and ended up bitter over false advertising.
The plot this time out:
Seeking to avenge his brother’s murder, Doc Savage and his daring crew become involved in a desperate hunt for the lost treasure of the pirate, Henry Morgan. Stalking them every inch of the way is the archfiend, El Rabanos, and his strange ally, the werewolf’s paw!
This story (published in January, 1934) starts out pretty well, with Doc and his five aides on a train en route to Canada for a much-needed vacation (perhaps the only time they do so in the entire 181 book series). The villains aren't particularly interesting this time out (there's no mysterious deadly gadget being deployed here, for one thing) and the novel is short of action by normal series' standards.
The book is notable mainly for the introduction of Doc's striking and statuesque cousin Patricia Savage, who would appear another 40 or so times throughout the series. Pat is not seen at her best and bravest here, but of course she's been through a particularly rough time of it, what with her father's murder and all. When next we see her, however, she's ready and raring to go, having got a taste for the action-packed lifestyle Doc and his pals lead. From then on, she tries to elbow her way in to whatever violent, blood-curdling mystery they happen to be investigating, despite Doc's attempts to keep her out of harm's way. She's a fun, memorable character, and, as described by Dent, almost as physically striking as Doc himself.
Dent's writing is a little smoother than in some of his first stories, but his descriptive powers aren't in full evidence yet, and Brand lacks the colorful, globe-trotting high adventure and memorable action of the best Doc Savage novels. Still a fun enough read, and recommended to pulp fans.
My rating: C
Welcome to the Armchair...
Look out the window. It’s a dark, cold, rainy day. Too nasty to go outside.
Better stay inside, read a good book.
There’s a bookcase over to your left. Run your fingers over the spines. Books of all shapes, sizes and genres; hardbacks, paperbacks. Take your time browsing through the titles. No rush. Find something that feels just right.
Now turn around. Over in the corner is a beat-up, black leather armchair. The leather is faded and cracked in places, the cushions battered. This chair has seen better days. But boy, does it look inviting...
Next to the chair is a standing lamp and a small table. Plenty of room for a nice cup of tea, a plate of cookies, whatever’s your poison.
So switch on the light, settle down with your book, open to page one, put your feet up, and let the author whisk you away to another world.
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