Monday, April 25, 2011

Let's Kill Ames

Of the 181 Doc Savage novels printed in Doc Savage magazine from 1933 to 1949, all but five were written in the third person. For some reason, a new editor requested that primary Doc writer Lester Dent write the May-June 1947 issue of Doc Savage in first person singular. Four others followed. I reviewed one of those five, No Light to Die By, last year. During the long weekend I read another first person Doc, Let's Kill Ames.
The titular Ames is a beautiful con-artist, Miss Travice Ames. She's down on her luck as the story begins, having been locked out of her hotel room minus her possessions and having just had her car repossessed. When she stumbles onto an extortion plot involving three wealthy men, she decides to see if she can play all sides against one another and come out with a hefty chunk of cash. But things turn deadly and she makes a call to the office of Doc Savage, thinking that she'll be able to con the Man of Bronze as she has so many other men. Big mistake.
What struck me about this one is that Dent took the opportunity of being able to write outside the standard Doc formula (which he invented more or less) and make this a character study of a woman gone wrong. Ames is smart and brave, but almost completely amoral. When the short novel was over, I still wanted to know more about the character. Doc shows up and does the stuff that Doc does, but this is Ames' show all the way.
I halfway expected Miss Ames to do what so many other bad girls have done in the Doc Savage stories and fall for the Man of Bronze and give up her evil ways. But no. Ames is impressed by Doc, then frustrated that she can't control him with her looks, but when the story ends, she's still a con artist, albeit one who won't ever tangle with Doc Savage again. In some ways it was refreshing to see a female criminal who didn't turn out to have a heart of gold.
Anyway, I've got three first person Doc Savage stories to go. Been kind of spacing them out. All five of these anomalies were collected in the 1988 Doc Savage Omnibus #5, but if you don't want to track that down, Let's Kill Ames is about to be reprinted in Sanctum Books excellent Doc Savage reprint series. Issue 47 should be out this month and it contains Let's Kill Ames and two other short Doc novels, these two more typical third person stories.

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