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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Secret of Satan's Spine

When a vivacious blonde convinces Monk Mayfair to skip an important sea voyage to London, and instead run off to her Louisiana plantation, Ham Brooks is very suspicious.
After Doc Savage enters the picture, things start popping. As in fists and guns. Finding themselves on a steamship bound for the Caribbean, Doc, Ham, and a reluctant Monk become embroiled in wartime intrigue surrounding the question of who is desperately trying to keep them off the Northern Star, and why?
From New York City to the Bahama Banks, Doc Savage and his mighty men follow the trail, making new allies along the way, until they plunge into a hurricane of horror only some will survive....

The Secret of Satan’s Spine (Doc Savage Adventure)
By Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent & Will Murray)
“The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage”
Altus Press
ISBN #978-1618272164
Price $24.95
374 Pages
Rating 5-Stars

Blonde bombshell Davey Lee intercepts Monk and Ham at a restaurant, pretending to be stricken with the homely chemist. As usual, Monk falls for her wiles, while Ham figures it’s some kind of plant. After all, Monk is scheduled to depart on the Northern Star steamship for London in a few days to work on an important project for the British war effort. But Monk agrees to accompany the girl to Louisiana instead. However, at the station she appears to be abducted, and this leads to a battle royal with a group of gangsters.

Finding a clue left by the girl, Doc, Monk, and Ham board the Northern Star, where most of the adventure takes place aboard ship. Here they discover several old friends they knew from a previous adventure, plus a big black sailor named Jury Goines sometimes helps out. The mysterious gang is also on board, but in disguise. Doc and his team are trying to find out what they are up to.

The case comes to a wild climax when the gangsters, acting as pirates, take over the ship, kill many of the sailors, and then ground the vessel near Queer Cay. Here the gangsters lead a team of sailors to Satan’s Spine for unknown reasons while a hurricane fast approaches. Doc follows, hoping to rescue the seamen, but might end up needing rescued.

I first discovered Doc Savage in 1964 while serving with the Army in France, finding THE THOUSAND-HEADED MAN in the Stars & Stripes Book Store. At that time Will Murray was probably eleven years old. It’s interesting that I’m still reading the Doc Savage novels, Steve Holland still poses as the Man of Bronze on the covers, and the novels read as well today as they did 51 years ago. This one definitely lived up to “the wild adventures” of Doc Savage, and was a page-turner from the very start. Although we don’t see the mysterious blonde again after her abduction, we do learn what became of her when Doc relates the tale to his men. I admit I was a little confused about the date this story took place. At one point we’re told Doc discovered a certain gadget “last month,” and the note gives us DEATH HAD YELLOW EYES, February 1944, which should make this March 1944. But then Monk makes this statement: “Like the infantry took Normandy Beach.” The infantry took Normandy Beach on June 6, 1944. So I can’t place the exact time, except German U-boats were still active in the Atlantic, and WWII had not ended yet, so we’re in 1944 or ’45, for sure. If a date was actually given, I must have missed it. Regardless, this is a topnotch adventure, and I highly recommend it to adventure lovers, and Doc Savage readers specifically.

Tom Johnson


  1. "Chapter XVII: Storm Warning

    THE NORTHERN STAR steamed south without incident over the following day, pulling into Nassau on New Providence Island around seven in the evening. It was still light, the season being mid-summer, in the month of August."

    Will Murray uses the submission dates of the original stories rather than the publication dates. You'll find those submission dates in "The Duende Doc Savage Index" (Duende No. 2, Winter 1976-77), reprinted in the print editions of "Writings in Bronze" Volume 1 (20 Jul 2011). Alas, it's not in the e-book edition due to tables not being supported in that format.

    Canonically, "The Secret of Satan's Spine" takes place between "The Ten-Ton Snakes" (submitted 28 Aug 1944 as "Jungle Strange" & published Apr 1945) and "Cargo Unknown" (submitted 26 Sep 1944 as "30 Fathoms to Hell" & published Apr 1945).

    The climactic hurricane appears to correspond to Hurricane Four of the 1944 Atlantic Hurricane Season:

  2. Thanks, I must have passed right over the date. Will also dropped me a note with the info. Appreciate the help on the dating.