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Entertainment > Escape with Silly Books.

Escape with Silly Books.

My sister’s husband is in the hospital with a collapsed lung, and while he’s on the mend, she’s concerned about his low spirits because this is the second big health thing he’s had to deal with lately. Me, I’m stressed over money. So I’m trying to distract myself with Doc Savage books in the evening. I have a complete set of all the pulp novels from my brother.

I like them because they’re easy reading and the hero is unusual — very pro-gun-control, takes every effort to preserve human life, and is extremely well-educated. And I find out all sorts of things about the 1930s, like when helicopters were developed, and fluorescent lights, etc. The author wrote in a lot of gadgets and inventions for Doc. He made his own answering machine and night-vision goggles, had a car with solid sponge-rubber tires (so villains couldn’t shoot at the tires and deflate them), had a fleet of vehicles he’d designed, including a submarine, a dirigible, and all sorts of planes and cars.

Most of these books were written before WWII, so the characters are always referring to the Great War. Hitler actually is a character in one of the later books, and Doc uncharacteristically is in an emotional rage throughout the story because he hates Hitler so much. Normally, he’s serene, ultra-cool, controlled, polite. Not here. Also losing her cool in that story was his female cousin, Pat Savage, and at the end of the book she gets the opportunity to kick Hitler in the groin.

One I just finished reading takes place all in NYC, where Doc lives. (His headquarters are understood to be on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building — but the building is never actually named. That floor would actually be the observation deck.)

Apparently, it was difficult to get a license for a handgun in NYC in the early 30s. Doc speaks about this, when he discovers that a man he’s negotiating with has gone and purchased an illegal weapon. What does Doc do? He turns him in to the police.

I read that a new movie is being made, with Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” as Doc Savage. I hope he’s a good one. Ron Ely (Tarzan) played the role in an old version.

posted on July 11, 2016 2:24 PM ()


It was a typo. I meant to say trained chickens. Although, really, how could one tell? It's not like they did tricks. Sat up and begged, or anything.
comment by tealstar on Sept 6, 2016 1:39 PM ()
I was born in l929 and remember being distressed when I was a little girl
because the behind the ears hair do looked awful on me. A watermelon was a quarter and an extra big one was 50 cents. Grapette was my favorite drink and it was a nickel. A Charm Curl permanent wave kit was
twenty five cents and an ice cream cone 5 cents per dip.
comment by elderjane on July 16, 2016 3:42 AM ()
How slowly prices went up in the past. No -- actually, food might be a good indicator of how the economy is right then and there. But when I think of gas prices, the intervening years just seem an accelerating line like a rocket. I remember 5 cent candy bars, and they made some that were even 2 and 3 cents, for kids.
reply by drmaus on Sept 5, 2016 7:59 PM ()
I remember a pie at the day-old bakery was 25 cents. You could get cool in Chicago scorching summer heat by grabbing ice shards off the back of an ice truck. There were street entertainers with trainer chickens (they said). Small crowds would gather. Scary stuff to do was to sneak into the rear courtyard of the local medical school, the College of Chiropractors, and stare into the basement windows where the cadavers were. There were Saturday serials at the local movie houses. I remember Spider Man. Charles Starrett was my cowboy hero. There was Flash Gordon and the theme music was Lizst's Les Preludes. I loved classical music the minute I heard it.
comment by tealstar on July 15, 2016 5:51 AM ()
Didn't see this before! What are trainer chickens!
reply by drmaus on Sept 5, 2016 7:53 PM ()
By the mid 1930s we were pass the iceman bring a huge block of ice to put in our fridge and instead had the prototype of today's refrigerator but not as big or fancy--we lived in the 'modern' Bronx in NYC! Our kitchen table was just off the pantry--cupboards and shelves everywhere.
I really don't remember prices except my brother and I got an allowance--25 cents a week. I do remember the doctor making house calls for my brother who had asthma.
I mostly remember from the outside that our house and everything in it was like the Norman Rockwell pictures on the front of the Saturday Evening Post magazine. I do remember the daily News paper was 2 cents an issue, until WW2 milk was delivered to our door, bubble gum was a penny and I saw "Gone With The Wind" meeting Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh!!
comment by greatmartin on July 13, 2016 9:48 AM ()
reply by drmaus on July 15, 2016 4:16 AM ()
"sorts of things about the 1930s"--what else do you want to know about that time? I was there!!!
comment by greatmartin on July 11, 2016 2:44 PM ()
Hey, I will take you at your word -- I'd like to know some basic household memories, like how much refrigeration did your family use, or what sort of refrigerator or pantry did you have; can you remember the prices of any food items when you were a child, how much kids got paid to cut lawns or do odd jobs. How often did the doctor make a house call, too.
reply by drmaus on July 12, 2016 11:15 AM ()
I much prefer to read a book about the 1940s that was written in the 1940s (for example) because the author isn't looking back and trying to recreate the attitudes of that day and describe technology (did they even have that word then?) from hindsight. I never trust modern authors to not filter everything through today's lens.
comment by troutbend on July 11, 2016 2:40 PM ()
You're right, no one remembers the past well enough to really make it authentic later. And people write so differently now that you can immediately feel the modernity.
reply by drmaus on July 12, 2016 11:18 AM ()

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