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Doc Savage, Satan’s Spine and Spectre!

Posted by on December 17, 2015

This is probably my end-of-the-year blog post…and it comprises a book and movie review.


Although I enjoy the Doc Savage novels featuring super-villains with their infernal machines, I have an abiding fondness for the “weird mystery” plot with gangsters and other criminal types as the main antagonists.


Several of my favorite Doc Savage novels are in that vein such as The Lost Oasis, Fear Cay, Quest of Qui, Land of Always-Night, Murder Melody and  The Red Skull. Will Murray’s The Secret of Satan’s Spine joins that list of favorites.


Set during World War II, a cash-strapped Monk Mayfair decides to take a consulting job with the British government. He’s not happy about it and he’s even less so when  blonde bombshell Davy Lee asks for his help in dispossessing some unsavory types from her father’s ranch in Louisiana.

Monk, being Monk, decides the blonde is a more attractive option than a sea voyage to England through German U-Boat infested waters. Unfortunately, Davy is kidnapped, sending him off on a futile rescue mission whereupon he’s kidnapped himself.

When Doc and Ham come into the situation, they reach the conclusion that someone doesn’t want Monk to sail to England—at least not on a small liner named the Northern Star.

Not surprisingly, Doc, Monk and Ham get aboard the Northern Star and find themselves locked in a battle of wits, fists and guns with a vicious gangster who calls himself Diamond. Add to that, a strange sculpture that looks like a black hand with the fingers making devil horns as well as a crystal with that the attributes of invisibility.

Diamond and his gang of gunmen hijack the ship and set a course for a little island in the Bermuda Triangle known as Satan’s Cay—which is only a way-station for their final destination…a place called Satan’s Spine…and from there, the book gets even weirder and more entertaining.

The relentless pacing and growing sense of dread as the Northern Star sails ever closer to Satan’s Spine makes this book the classic page-turner.

Full of blazing action, mystery and even a vividly described howling hurricane, The Secret of Satan’s Spine is my favorite book (so far)  in The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage series.

Will Murray has set himself the unenviable task of topping this one—but if anyone can do it…he can!


Spectre, the fourth entry in the rebooted James Bond franchise, falls flat compared to the previous three films.

Although I appreciated the homages to the original series–scenes and touches reminiscent of Thunderball, Dr. No and From Russia With Love–the screenwriters hang the success of the story on an unconvincing and flimsy contrivance.

Apparently, the SPECTRE  organization has been the evil guiding force behind everything Bond has dealt with since Casino Royale...not only that, Ernst Stavro Blofeld turns out to be Bond’s kinda-sorta brother…when Bond’s parents died, he was taken in by a kindly man whose biological son was so consumed by jealousy, he killed his dad and then dedicated the rest of his life to making Bond’s life miserable.


Presumably, he even created SPECTRE  just so he could get in last licks…an adolescent “Dad Always Liked You Best!” resentment taken to a fanatical degree.

Smothers Brothers - Mom Always Liked You Best 1965

Unfortunately Blofeld recast with the same basic motivations as Tommy Smothers doesn’t work…nor does the forced familial connection, which as others have pointed out, is basically the same denounement as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil.


Combined with an unmemorable theme song by Sam Smith and an uncomfortable title sequence full of giant, slithering octopus tentacles, Spectre is the weakest of the Daniel Craig Bonds…certainly not a bad movie in of itself, but trying to combine the enhanced realism of the Bourne series with the fantasy touches of 1960s Bond movies isn’t a successful mix.