The first hero I wanted to grow up to be was Tarzan. Ron Ely played the ape-man back in the 1960s series, and I watched every week. I also wanted to be Jonny Quest, but I didn't have to grow up to be him. But I had to grow up to be Tarzan. For years after the television show, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’s original books, read those, and daydreamed about jungle adventures.
Then, in sixth grade, I discovered the Bantam reprint editions of Doc Savage and found a new hero to go adventuring with. Most of those Doc Savage adventures were set in the 1930s in New York and all around the globe. All I knew at the time was southern Oklahoma. With so many books out, I ended up looking for several missing volumes the rest of my teenage years. And I kept reading them as new reprints came out.
Unfortunately, I outgrew Doc Savage to a degree once I started college. I understood that those books had been pulps many years ago, and that wasn’t the kind of writing that was being accepted at the time. I was interested in becoming a writer, which I have. Plus, I wasn’t as innocent in college as I had been when I was in sixth grade. So I moved on to Mike Hammer and Robert B. Parker. I thought it was a good tradeoff because the action remained paramount in the storytelling.
My 11-year-old tends to have the same taste in cartoons, superheroes, fantasy novels, and reading matter as I do. I blame me, because I read to him and continue to do so to this day. However, I never tried reading a Doc Savage novel to him because the world was too different from what he knows. For example, people didn't have cell phones in those days, and television was a new thing.
Then I found Tim Byrd’s first novel, Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom. The book captures the essence of a Doc Savage adventure from the cover featuring the hero with bronze skin, the body of an Olympic athlete, and a ripped shirt to show it all off. Not only that, the cover showcases a scene set in the jungle. I ordered it instantly.
I’d intended to read the book to my son, but the day it came in, I sat down with it and read it from cover to cover. It felt a little strange to me because the characters are so clearly Doc Savage and his crew. This isn’t a take on this kind of adventure as much as it is a pastiche and update of the original hero. A second generation, if you will.
I have to admit I felt a little protective of Doc Savage while reading this novel. Especially when the action moved to the 86th floor of the tallest building in New York City. I had to remember that this was an homage to the character.
The pace of the book is blisteringly quick, and the short chapters make the adventure speed by even faster. I enjoyed Doc Wilde’s relationship with his children, Brian and Wren, as well as his relationship with his parents. (However, I must note that it felt really weird finding out the original Doc married Pat, who was his cousin in the original books.)
Byrd also throws in a villain that seems to be straight out of a H. P. Lovecraft story – only twisted really weirdly and with a lot of humor. Of course, the fate of the world is still on the line.
I loved the book, with reservations regarding the source material, but it’s absolutely fantastic to read and return to those childhood days. Even better, I found that it’s great to give to your son. I shoved the copy in his backpack so he could start reading it at school. It wasn’t long before he started coming home and talking to me about the events in the story. Since he’s seen my Doc Savage books around the house, he’s more curious about them than ever. So I think Tim Byrd has opened the door to even more books I can share with my son.