I had a lot of time on my hands to fill while recovering from my recent hernia surgery. I watched several films (and blogged about them here), lots of old TV shows, read a bunch of comics and a couple of paperback mysteries. A few days ago, I was in the mood for something fairly light that I could through pretty quickly. I immediately went to the Doc Savage shelf in the man cave and selected the book pictured above.
THE POLAR TREASURE was originally published in June, 1933 making it eighty-two years old this month. It was the fourth Lester Dent penned Doc Savage pulp adventure to be published and it was the fourth of the original pulps to be reprinted by Bantam in the 1960s. The Bantam reprints don't always line up with the originals in terms of publication dates but here's a case where number four is really number four.
It's a fast paced adventure thriller in which Doc and his men race to the arctic to recover a fortune in gold and jewels supposedly hidden in the bowels of a grounded ocean liner. The first clue to the treasure is a map tattooed on the back of Victor Vail, a blind violinist (and where else but the pulps would you find a set-up like that?). The map is only visible when exposed to X-ray radiation (!). Two rival gangs of pirates want Vail and his map. The first part of the book takes place in New York City as Doc and his men rescue Vail, then get captured, escape, rescue, escape...you get the picture.
Doc hires the captain and crew of the Helldiver, a submarine specially rigged for traveling under the ice. They set out for the arctic only to find numerous twists and turns awaiting them. Doc quickly gets separated from his men and much of the story focuses on Doc's solo adventure. There are the murderous pirate bands to deal with, an aerial dogfight, marauding Eskimos (of course, Doc speaks their language) and oh yeah, a fight to the death between Doc and a polar bear. Doc slays the beast with his bare hands, a feat which establishes Doc's bad-ass credentials once and for all.
You can tell that Dent was still working out the various elements of the Doc Savage mythos at this stage of the game. Doc and his men do indeed kill many of their opponents in this story. There is no word whatsoever of mercy bullets, although Doc's lobotomy treatments for wrong-doers is mentioned.
I remember reading THE POLAR TREASURE for the first time back when I was in high school in the '70s. I read it on a bus trip on the way to a weekend at a Christian-oriented camp in the Texas hill country. I also brought along for the trip a stack of Jack Kirby's DEMON comics. It's a wonder I didn't get thrown off of the bus!
THE POLAR TREASURE is pure pulp bliss. It's got wild story elements, a breathless pace, plenty of action, cool vehicles, tons of bad guys and a beautiful damsel in distress. They don't write 'em like this anymore.