Review: A stunning tour de force of Savageology
Rick Lai’s The Revised Complete Chronology of Bronze arrived, a timeline of pulp hero Doc Savage's adventures, and I read it in a day, in one sitting. That’s not because it’s light reading, but because it’s so compelling.
Generously acknowledging the research of other chronologists, including the late Philip José Farmer's Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Lai sets a new bar in scholarship, and it’s a high bar indeed. He meticulously, and yet quite understandably, lays out his methodology, and describes why and how if differs from methodologies employed by prior chronologies. He also includes the radio adventures where appropriate (recently collected by Moonstone Books as Doc Savage: The Lost Radio Scripts of Lester Dent), as well as the continuation novels by Farmer (Escape from Loki) and Will Murray (such as Python Isle, Flight Into Fear, etc.).
When reconciling conflicting or contradictory information, Lai relies on well-reasoned and erudite theories and research. Lai not only provides the definitive (in my view) timeline of Doc’s supersagas, he also includes several informative and entertaining appendices covering Apocryphal Adventures (such as Farmer’s “After King Kong Fell” and Ironcastle and my own collaboration with Farmer, The Evil in Pemberley House; Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer; and Jean-Marc Lofficier’s translation of Guy d’Armen’s Doc Ardan: City of Gold and Lepers), and so on; this section also includes fascinating essays regarding Doc’s possible interactions with characters such as Fu Manchu and The Shadow), the literary works of Clark Savage, Jr., and easy-to-read checklists.
The cover art by Keith Wilson is a beauty (the back cover art is quite amusing) and the folks at Altus Press have put together a nice, clean package. I’ll be referring to Rick's Chronology of Bronze time and again, both as a Doc Savage fan and as a pulp adventure writer, as it has immediately attained the status of my primary reference work in this area.