Friday, May 24, 2019

Forgotten Books: Terror Wears No Shoes -- Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent)

Getting back to reading all the Doc Savage novels I haven’t already read, I recently tackled TERROR WEARS NO SHOES, originally published in the May/June 1948 issue of the magazine DOC SAVAGE, SCIENCE DETECTIVE and reprinted in the final Doc Savage omnibus published by Bantam in 1990, as well as by Nostalgia Ventures in 2008. Like most of Lester Dent’s Doc Savage novels after World War II, this is a hardboiled espionage yarn that discards most of the familiar trappings from earlier in the series and could have worked just about as well with characters other than Doc, Monk, Ham, and Long Tom. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.

This one could almost be called DOC SAVAGE MEETS THE DRAGON LADY, as Doc finds himself in Shanghai tangling with a mysterious but beautiful female crime lord. He’s in disguise, searching for his aide Long Tom Roberts who disappeared while investigating a deadly plot by the Soviets, who are the villains in many of these novels late in the series. Monk and Ham are on hand, too, but mainly to get captured by the bad guys and serve as hostages. The young woman who holds the key to everything may be a criminal, but she’s not all bad and winds up working with Doc to stop a terrible threat steaming toward the United States on an ocean liner.

Dent springs a late surprise that had me slapping my forehead and saying, “D’oh!” because I should have seen it coming but absolutely didn’t. By this time in the series, his terse writing style is polished diamond-hard and is a joy to read. While the early books with their sweeping plots and swashbuckling sense of adventure will always be my favorites, I’ve come to appreciate these little gems from late in the series, as well. I had a great time reading this one. (By the way, the title has absolutely nothing to do with the story, as far as I could tell.)


Todd Mason said...

And the cover of the issue is still one of the most berserkly inept to ever be committed by a competent draftsperson. But, then, given that title, which the writer presumably ignored immediately upon assignment, I have sympathy with the perplex the illustrator found himself in. (Herself? Themself?)

James Reasoner said...

The cover is by somebody named Swenson (no first name given in the FMI) and is apparently their only cover. All the other credits are interior illos in ASTOUNDING. I agree, it's pretty bad.

thingmaker said...

I still haven't read all of these, more prosaic Doc Savage adventures. There are a few that are nearly intolerable, wherein Doc is plagued with self doubt and barely competent. Was it Farmer or someone else who came up with the idea that Doc was suffering, for years with the aftereffects of a head injury that nearly killed him in one of the novels? I can't recall which one but I know I read that one and it comes around the point that the style was changed. Farmer's take on Doc and Tarzan (exclusive of his mad attempt to draw every fictional character since Moses into a family tree) is equal parts wonderful and annoying.