THE MAN OF BRONZE by Kenneth Robeson
In my early teens, I grew up reading Doc Savage novels. I discovered them when I was in 7th grade, a very impressionable time for a boy. I didn’t know what “pulps” were back then, but I totally grooved on the action and adventure.
That would have been in 1969 or 1970, the heyday of the Bantam reprints. I went to the story and man, they were everywhere. At first I saw that fierce face and I figured that Doc Savage was an evil guy, a villain that the rest of the world was trying to bring down. Kind of like Fu Manchu.
I picked up my first Doc, The Sea Angel, and it sounded like Monk Mayfair was a bad guy. Really weird experience for me. Then I got into the book, read it in a day, and was dying for more. Luckily The Sea Angel was the 49th reprint in the series, so I had plenty to catch up on.
However, the first book, The Man of Bronze, remained elusive for years. I chased after them through book stores, drug stores, and swap shops and couldn’t find it. Thankfully, my parents finally let me order a few books directly from Bantam (an unheard of thing at the time because nobody ordered BOOKS through the mail in my house).
I sat down and read that novel from cover to cover and was blown away. All the little snippets of how Doc and his aides went on their first adventure after Doc’s father’s murder fell into place. I even took my brothers to the Doc Savage movie in 1975. We all sat at the drive-in and took it all in. It wasn’t Doc, but I liked Ron Ely enough from his Tarzan years to be mostly forgiving. After all, nothing could live up to my imagination.
The books are getting excellent reprintings from Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum books and you can buy them on Amazon. The first one is paired up with The Land of Terror, which was the second Doc book chronologically, but the eighth published by Bantam Books and the fourteenth published by Sanctum. It gets confusing and you need a scorecard to keep up.
I read this book again because I wanted to review it. Years, a lot of them, had passed since I’d last read it, and I wondered how it would stand up. I ended up reading the novel in two nights, three sittings, and was once more swept away into the exciting world of Doc Savage.
I love how Lester Dent (the real author, not the Kenneth Robeson pseudonym) keeps the pacing up. I turned pages effortlessly again, and even though I’d read the story a couple times before, and again in the comics adaptations, I was enthralled.
The characterization is scant for the most part, but there’s enough there to anchor you as a reader and keep you motivated to read. But the charm is the action, unrelenting, and the twists and turns as the author ropes in a lot of what was then unknown territory of the world. In short, the novel remains a grand adventure, much like Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter or Tarzan novels. If you don’t allow reality to stand in your way, if you can remember the time was 1933, not 2012, you’ll probably have a blast with this one.