Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Savage Doctor--Doc Savage

Decades before the action film subordinated filmic structure and pacing to thrills (the "thirty-nine bumps" that became standard for the Bond films, and which in turn set the standard), pulp writers did the same thing for print fiction, as Lester Dent demonstrates in his Doc Savage novels.

And I must say that the approach has its charms here. In contrast with the more measured pace of so much other earlier fiction, the briskness of old pulp writing holds up surprisingly well, even by the standards of today's action films--and still more, by the standard of today's novels. I won't deny the roughness of the approach, reflecting not just the pace of the story, but the pace at which it was written in those paid-by-the-word days. In line with the priority on pace and thrills logic is casually tossed out the window, while the writing is more tell than show, slight on details and even where minimalist, far from crisp and lean given its tendency to repeat the same few details over and over again. There can hardly be much suspense when the author harps on the hero's invincibility every chance he gets, and we learn very early on that there will always be a hokey out.

Yet the tale, helped by that spareness with description, is so brisk and there is such a spirit of fun that I didn't really care how little sense it made, and if none of the cliffhangers left me wondering if the heroes would make it through this one, I still read to find out how they made it, and even though I was sure the answer would be ridiculous (and was usually right), I felt fairly forgiving. In the process Dent crams into fifty thousand words as much in the way of plot twists, action and adventure as Clive Cussler (whose Dirk Pitt owes a very great deal to Savage) does into books three times' that size, and few use such space nearly so well as Cussler--one reason why, even after having a lot less interest in most contemporary popular fiction of the kind than I used to, I still find myself enjoying these sorts of brief, punchy, vigorous tales.

Doc Savage and Dirk Pitt
About That Doc Savage Movie
My Posts on Solo: A Star Wars Story
Now on Google Books . . . (Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
Some of What I've Been Up to Lately (NYRSF, SSRN, Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
Just Out . . . The End of Science Fiction?
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
My Posts on the Dirk Pitt Series
Dirk Pitt, an American James Bond?

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