First published in February 1935, Red Snow is a good, solid Doc outing, distinguished chiefly by the truly hair-raising menace of the title. Author Lester Dent's descriptions of the effects of the "red snow," as it mysteriously appears in various locations, bringing with it agonizing, burning death, remain vivid and chilling today. Even Doc, with all his skills and forethought, quickly gains a healthy, fearful respect for the weapon.
This novel marks the fairly rare case where Doc is actually on hand when the villains first start to deploy their evil scheme. Doc happens to be in Florida wrapping up some scientific research, accompanied by his perpetually-squabbling aides Monk and Ham, when the suspicious actions of a pair of fruit peddlers near his hotel draw him into the mystery. From there on out, it's one chase, fight, capture and near-death escape after another in this fast-paced adventure, as Doc races to prevent an attack on American soil by an unnamed foreign power.
While the Florida locale isn't as exotic or memorable as is usually found in these early era tales, Red Snow remains diverting reading, thanks to a non-stop parade of action scenes and intrigue. Just one example from early in the novel, as Doc escapes from a sudden shotgun attack, which clearly demonstrates Dent's mastery at describing headlong, violent action:
"Doc was hanging from the windowsill by his hands. There was not much room to swing back up. It would take a moment. Dropping to the ground would be even more foolish, for there was no shelter.
But there was another window below, with a window box holding flowering plants on the sill. Doc dropped.
The window box broke under his weight, fell free, spilling rich black dirt and plants. But it held the giant bronze man for an instant, long enough for him to bundle his arms about his face and dive through the glass panes into the hotel room. He landed ungracefully in a shower of glass.
Shotgun slugs clouted at what remained of the window sill. With a loud ripping, lead came completely through the thin wall of the hotel. It was a frame building, lightly constructed, and the automatic shotguns seemed to be charged with two or three large lead slugs to the cartridge.The guns were making thunder in the street.
Doc Savage came to his feet, ran to the door, found it locked, and rammed it with a shoulder. The cheap wood panel fell off its hinges and let him through to his right. Outside, the shotguns still whooped."
Top class stuff. It's this kind of writing which made the best Doc Savage pulps so compulsively readable, even when the plots or villains are not so inspired, or the final revelation behind the mystery is a letdown - not the case here. While the man behind the menace in Red Snow, the "flutelike voiced" Ark, is only moderately interesting, the plot is nicely worked out and Doc, Monk, Ham and even Monk's pet pig, Habeus Corpus, are on good form here, doling out rough justice to some pretty nasty bad guys.
My Rating: B
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.
Be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed below, to be informed of new postings!
My Reader's Block
Tipping My Fedora
At the Scene of the Crime
Complete Disregard for Spoilers
The Passing Tramp
In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel
The Charlie Chan Family Home
The Agatha Christie Official Website
The Stone House (The Gladys Mitchell Official Site)