The history of the thriller is populated by striking supervillains—Doctor Nikola, Professor Moriarity, Fantomas, and perhaps the most diabolical of all, Doctor Fu Manchu. They seized the popular imagination as much as their relentless protagonists, Sherlock Holmes and Sir Dennis Nayland Smith, among others.
Of course, they were widely imitated. If all the clones and variations of Fu Manchu were laid end to end, they would reach clear to China, and perhaps back!
A variation on these evil geniuses was the Mad Scientist. And no fictional scientist was madder than the man who called himself Doctor Death.
As he once boasted, “I am the greatest scientist the world has ever known. Compared to me Einstein is a pigmy in intellect. I say this, not in the spirit of ego, but as a statement of fact. And I, peer of all scientists, am about to destroy all other men of science—all scientific inventions.”
Move over, Al Capone. Doctor Death is the new Public Enemy Number One. Boris Karloff would have made a great Doctor Death.
The creation of a newspaperman and pulp writer named Harold Ward writing under the obscure pen name of Zorro, Doctor Death was the star of his own bizarre pulp magazine back in 1935. He was equal parts Doctor Frankenstein and Albert Einstein, with a dash of Fu Manchu and a dram of wormwood. In reality, a Yale psychologist with the improbable name of Rance Mandarin, Doctor Death was a scientist who wandered over to the dark side, consorting with demons, elementals, zombies, disinterred mummies, other unclean denizens of Hell.
His supreme goal in life was to crush civilization. Apparently, Mandarin practiced a strange brand of necromancy because he believed that the Almighty had commanded him to force modern man to abandon automation, quit the factories, cease inventing, and revert to a pre-industrial state. In the depths of the great Depression of the 1930s, this may have struck the American reading public as the height of horror.
A frightened nation responded to this challenge by organizing the Secret Twelve, a band of the top U. S. civil and business leaders, whose number included the President of the United States and the nation’s top gang leader! It was quite a group.
The heroic head of that organization was the remarkable Jimmy Holm, a millionaire criminologist and occultist who joined New York’s Finest as a detective. Working under Inspector John Ricks, and sometimes allied with Mandarin’s mysterious assistant, the exotic Nina Fererra, Holm—perhaps an America cousin of the redoubtable Sherlock—battled Doctor Death from Manhattan to Egypt and into the very bowels of Hell itself.
The series is one of the rare unabashedly supernatural series the pulps ever produced. There are no safe answers or facile explanations here. When Jimmy Holm confronts the undead minions of Doctor Death, the mummies and zombies are the real deal. The explanation for that is very simple: Harold Ward was a frequent contributor to the legendary Weird Tales magazine…and that’s why Doctor Death is a classic of its type.
RadioArchives.com is resurrecting this wild and wonderful series by presenting Doctor Death’s first fatal foray into reversing mankind’s fortunes, 12 Must Die, in a audiobook voiced by the talented Joey D'Auria. If Doctor Death meets with your approval, we will resurrect him yet again….