To anyone who doesn't know what I'm writing about, this should give you enough background information to bring you up to speed.
PART ONE - A QUICK BRIEFING ON DOC SAVAGE.
Years ago, a Doc Savage fan wrote this summary:
And who, you may ask yourself, is Doc Savage? You already know him. You've seen him carved up and diluted as Superman, Batman, James Bond and even Mr. Spock. (That nerve pinch deal that Spock would do? Doc utilized it over 30 years before Star Trek came on the scene) Doc had nerves of steel, and more gadgets than Batman or Bond rolled together – not to mention all of the cool cars, planes, boats, subs and dirigibles. Doc built the Fortress of Solitude way before Superman came to Earth. And while Doc was completely human, he was advertised as "The Man of Tomorrow" and as a "Superman".
On February 17th, 1933, Doc Savage Magazine hit the newsstands of a depression-era America, and transported its readers – for one thin dime, no less – to far off places of exotica and adventure. The first adventure, "The Man of Bronze", introduced us to a hero that was raised to be the ultimate crime fighter and humanitarian. Doc was first and foremost a surgeon, but he excelled in all sciences. He was the ultimate physical specimen – two hours of training every day – and a master of disguise and mimicry. He stood well over six foot, and his skin was tanned to a bronze sheen from adventuring. His eyes were like pools of flaked-gold with a hypnotic quality, and he had a group of five friends that helped him with his adventuring, along with his cousin Patricia Savage – a woman as beautiful and stunning as Doc is striking. Doc Savage Magazine lasted 16 glorious years to 1949, where it ended its run with the other Street & Smith pulps like The Shadow. Comic books and paperbacks helped to finish off the bloody pulps, and you might think that would have wrapped it up for an old hero. But in 1964, Bantam books began to reprint the Doc stories in paperback, which introduced a whole new generation to the adventures of the Man of Bronze. You may remember the stunning covers amongst the other books on the rack – a giant of a man in a perennially ripped shirt with a buzz-cut widow's peak for hair. The covers were often in a monotone color scheme, and the implied power of the man was evident in a glance. These images were painted by the great realist James Bama, who is known for his Western art these days. And while his version of Doc is vastly different from the images that graced the pulp covers (much to the ire of many pulp readers familiar with the "old" Doc), it remains to be the quintessential image of Doc – so much so that it lasted long after Bama stopped painting the covers, and until Bantam printed the last batch of Doc tales in 1990 – completing all 181 original stories, plus one "lost" story – which has never been done before in publishing history. (At the peak of Doc's paperback popularity, a movie was made with Ron Ely starring as Doc. While I liked Ely as Doc, the movie was too campy and bombed) Bantam didn't even "update" the stories to a modern setting – they left them quite wisely in the 30s and 40s where they were created.
A sample of how intriguing the stories are can be seen from quotes out of Philip Jose Farmer's Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (Doubleday & Company Inc., 1973):
"The skyscraper, groaning, leans, and blocks of masonry leave it to sail across Manhattan. The dirgible mooring mast on top falls off while the citizens run screaming into the streets."
"Large ribbons of flame crash across the heavens. These are tied in with the man kidnapped in San Francisco and found dead in New York City three hours later." (This was in 1939, when air travel was much slower.)
"The world is faced with the possibility of the dead being brought back to life, and an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh is loose on the streets."
"A terrible weapon turns men into smoke. No man is safe."
"An island blows up and sinks, taking with it the last of the dinosaurs."
"In New York City, anyone who tries violence on another dies mysteriously, his eyes popping out. A mass evacuation seems imminent. Who dares to be angry?"
"Snowflakes the color of blood materialize and fall hissing on people, and these become dust."
"The Gulf Stream will be diverted, and Europe will freeze."
"A dying green man gasps that he's been a prisoner on the moon."
"A dagger two hundred feet high hangs in the heavens."
"'A rose-red city, half as old as time,' rears out of the Arabian wastelands."
As I mentioned earlier, Philip Jose Farmer wrote two pseudo-biographical books in the 1970's. One was called Doc Savage - His Apocalyptic Life, and the other was Tarzan Alive. Both books operated under the premise that Doc Savage and Tarzan had been real, live people, and the stories written about them merely biographical. (This isn't surprising. According to a survey commissioned by UKTV Gold in 2008, many British believe Sherlock Holmes himself is an actual historical character, with 58% of teens thinking that he really did live at 221B Baker Street. [source: Wikipedia])
In the case of Doc Savage, Lester Dent and others (under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson) have been Doc's "biographers."
Dent's final Doc Savage story, "Up From Earth's Center" was a very unique novel for several reasons.
The blurb on the back cover summarizes the story: 'Deep in the earth beneath Maine are strange beings, looking exactly like Homo sapiens, but they have frightening psychic powers. Either they are extraterrestrials, or they are the demons of Hell itself.' The chief 'demon' in this case was an individual named Wail, who claimed to be from a Dante-like Hell deep below some caves in Maine.
Doc and a couple of his associates descended into these caves, and Doc briefly passed from our world into Wail's. As a result, Doc Savage did something unheard of in any of the previous adventures – he screamed in terror at what he was witnessing!
Eventually Doc captured Wail, and he was placed into the local jail. But as Doc and others looked on, Wail simply vanished – inexplicably, impossibly. Again, this was something that had never happened in any of the previous stories.
Farmer hypothesized a possible final outcome to Doc Savage's apocalyptic life, wherein he and his associates launched one final battle against Wail, literally storming the gates of Hell.
This story was never written, but it did inspire me to try a different hypothesis.
PART TWO - WHO AM I, AND WHY DID I DO THIS?
I was born in 1955, and started writing when I was in my teens, although nothing was ever worth publishing. Later, with a friend, I wrote a book good enough to copyright. However, during that time, I became a Christian, and my attitude towards the violent content of that story changed. The book never was published, although a copy of the manuscript still resides somewhere in the Library of Congress.
In the years following, I still had the urge to write, and I had plenty of ideas, but I couldn't find a way to be a Christian and write fiction – it simply wasn't done. Then God opened the doors with Christian authors like Frank Peretti, Randy Alcorn, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, and proved to me that it could be done.
But what to write?
Again, God opened the doors by showing me Farmer's hypothetical climax to Doc Savage's life.
And, as I said before, I envisioned things differently from Farmer's vision.
In many stories (and some television series), the main characters never age, never change, and never grow. If the stories are popular, the reader will enjoy each adventure without having to see their character learn from past mistakes, or hurt from past injuries.
Oddly enough, Doc Savage started off this way. He was always intended to be the hero – he was the larger-than-life, infallible, unable-to-do-wrong 'Man of Bronze'. No action was wasted, every action was perfection. To some he was almost godlike.
But it didn't stay that way.
As the stories progressed, the reader saw things about Doc Savage that were disturbing. Despite the fact that he tried living up to the expectations of the world around him, he couldn't do it. He was – gasp! – just a man. He expressed irrational anger. He forgot things. He reacted without thinking. In other words, he was shown to be fallible in a world that wouldn’t accept fallibility. Less than the best wasn't good enough for the world. And, in the process of this striving to perfection, Doc Savage headed headfirst towards a burnout.
Losing this final case with Wail was the final straw for him. Rather than (as Farmer suggested) mustering his troops for a final Battle Royal against Wail and the forces of Hell itself, I pictured him as an angry old man who'd gotten sand kicked in his face by the bully, and he was darn well gonna mop up the floor with him. Rational thought had no place here; he was driven by selfish pride. Believing his own hype, I pictured him keeping his plans secret from his associates, and heading straight into the caves of Maine – alone and unarmed.
It was a dumb move.
Proverbs 16:18 says that "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Well, Doc Savage was heading for the biggest fall of his life.
In my story, unbeknownst to Doc, he had been watched. One of his enemies had been far more patient that he was, and had been waiting for him to make a mistake. And he walked right into their trap. The great Man of Bronze was knocked out and placed into a hibernation chamber, which put him into suspended animation. Then he was transported to a secret location in Oregon. Fifty years later, an accident caused the hibernation chamber to malfunction and release him. Considering how he had been before he went under, this was even more of a shock to him. In other words, he would've been a basket case by that time.
Most of us are aware of people who are so stubborn that it takes a two-by-four hitting us in the side of the head just to get our attention. The Bible is full of those people – Peter, Jonah, Moses, just for examples. But when God gets our attention, it's to make us receptive to what He has to tell us.
Wandering around in unfamiliar territory – on the other side of the United States, fifty years from everything he knew and remembered – he wandered into a downtown Rescue Mission in Portland, Oregon to get something to eat. And, taking a moment to rest, he stayed to listen to the sermon.
But this time, God had made him ready to hear what He wanted him to hear.
And Doc Savage became a Christian.
That was my hypothesis. One chapter was written and posted to my web site, just to see if anyone might possibly be interested.
BOY they were interested! They wanted more! But ... I didn't have more. I didn't even have a plotline!
So, with a lot of prayer, I started writing. A few chapters at a time, written, edited, and put onto the website. Then a few more, and on and on until it was complete. Along the way, things changed – characters began growing, and the story took on a life of its own. In other words, God was writing things, and I was just the ten fingers at the word processor.
BRONZE REFINED AS SILVER was a hit. The reactions were more than I could've imagined.
It took four years to finish the story, as I put it piece-by-piece onto my website.
When it was completed, I put it onto a small, emerging website containing all sorts of odd documents available for the Palm OS platform. That site was called Memoware (www.memoware.com).
That was the first story. By that time, my wife Karen was working alongside me, and we had an idea for a second story.
The second story, MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD, almost never got completed. Friends from church who meant well tried pulling us away from writing, telling us it wasn't 'of God'. And I was nervous about putting together a story to be released complete (as compared to the post-a-few-chapters-at-a-time method use in BRONZE REFINED AS SILVER). There was even a time when I had to put the story aside because it was causing division in my marriage. But I – we – returned to it, and completed the second story.
And the third story.
And the fourth story.
I'd like to say it got subsequently easier, but it didn't. Each story posed its own challenges, and there was a lot of prayer and tears involved.
After the fifth story, my wife Karen separated from our collaboration in order to concentrate on other ministries, but she's always there if I need her.
Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."
I was in adversity, and God brought Barry.
Through the years, I've had a lot of people interested in the stories - as you can read in the Reader Comments - some more than others. From Pennsylvania, Barry Ottey has kept in close touch with me, providing his expertise and his input for some time. Despite the fact that we've never seen each other face-to-face, he's been a good Christian friend and a help through many a writer's block. While I was writing #6, Bronze New World, he presented me with an idea of his own for the Bronze Saga series, #7, Bronze-Tempered Steel.
God willing, I'll keep writing as long as He gives me (and others) the talent to do so.
PART THREE - THE CLARK SAVAGE INSTITUTE AND BEYOND
At the end of Bronze Refined As Silver, God had me write something very ... prophetic.
In Monk's own words: "Doc, we wanted ya to be the first t' hear. Me, Renny, and Johnny are gonna work the land the College is on. First we're gonna let Johnny and his archaeology students give it the once-over to see if there's anythin' there worth holdin' onto -- who knows what still might be buried 'round there. Then we're gonna erase it from the face of the earth, and turn it over to our master engineer, here. He's gonna put up somethin' a bit more worthwhile -- a private school that'll teach it like it is, and show 'em how to do it right. We're gonna call it the Savage Institute -- if that's okay with you, that is."
It was. The Savage Institute was renamed the Clark Savage Institute for clarity, and was - fictionally - built over the next few stories. Somewhere during that time - in the real world - Barry suggested to me the idea of creating an internet website where all of the stories - and other things - could be made available to you, the readers.
In 2009, the product of that suggestion was created - the official Clark Savage Institute website.
May God bless it as He has all these stories.
Sometimes, you never know what God has in mind until you get there.
That's the opening line from Bronze Refined as Silver. Even to this date, I don't remember exactly how that line came about. So I give the credit, as usual, to God.
In 2007 I assembled the various essays from my website The Doormat and put them into a single document on Memoware. The response has been both amazing and humbling.
In 2010, I wrote my first non-Bronze Saga novel, As Iron Sharpens Iron. Published as an eBook on Amazon.com and Lulu.com, sales have been few and far between. But I'm patient.
In 2011, I decided to write one last Bronze Saga novel, to wrap up some of the loose ends created in Bronze Golem, before turning my talents in the direction of continuing the Irons Alliance series began in As Iron Sharpens Iron.
What does the future hold? Only God knows.
Looking back on things, is it any wonder why I'm moved to tears when I see what God has done?
I'm reminded of the scripture at the end of Ephesians – "Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us."
I've read the emails, and I've even
met my fans (I don't think I'll ever get used to the fact that I have 'fans').
I see the lives touched in some way by these stories, and I stand in awe. God
has been VERY good, and I'm certain that He will keep me writing until He takes
me home. And after He has, these stories will continue. They will be our legacy,
and will be a witness to the glory of God long after we're gone.
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