Doc Savage Audiobook
The Jade Ogreby Will Murray, Based on a Concept by Lester Dent
Liner Notes by Will Murray
When I started writing The Jade Ogre back in the Summer of 1991, I didn't consciously set out to pen the longest Doc Savage novel ever published. It just turned out that way.
Let me tell you the tale behind the tale….
When Bantam Books asked me to continue the long-running Doc Savage series, I knew I wanted to base them on the uncompleted works of the late Lester Dent, originator of the Man of Bronze. My first Doc, Python Isle, was written from an unused outline dating to 1934. My second, White Eyes, originated with an unfinished story opening, also from '34.
As I moved forward with the series, I started looking at Lester's files for material not conceived for Doc, but adaptable to the series. Early in his career, Dent had created a hulking hero he called Curt Flagg, a private investigator of the Sam Spade knock 'em and shoot 'em up hardboiled detective school popular at that time. This series appeared in a magazine called Scotland Yard in 1931, which had its own radio spin-off show. Lester did a couple of scripts for that program too.
I could detect some of the energy and ideas for Doc Savage percolating in the Curt Flagg stories. He was no ordinary P. I. Flagg took on pirates, Zeppelin highjackers and wicked master criminals, supported by a growing band of savvy operatives. He was Doc Savage before Doc Savage.
Scotland Yard soon fell victim to the Great Depression. When the magazine was cancelled, one complete Curt Flagg story and an unused outline were orphaned. It was the outline that interested me. It told the tale of how Flagg and some of his assistants booked passage on a San Francisco to Hong King ocean liner to hunt down Quon, the Jade Ogre—one of the most malevolent master criminals in the world.
By transforming Curt Flagg to Doc Savage, changing his lovely blonde assistant, Dita Vardi, to Patricia Savage, and inserting some of Doc's men into the mix, I believed I had a template for a great Doc Savage story.
There was only one problem: The outline was structured for a 35,00 word novella. I had to turn it into a Doc Savage novel of at least twice that length!
Undaunted, I set out to try. In order to stretch out the action, I painted a portrait of a moody atmospheric San Francisco, and took my time building up the early chapters as Doc Savage enters the picture arriving in a 1935-era passenger airliner. I did extensive research in order to get the period details right for the peril-fraught Pacific Ocean crossing. While Lester Dent had not fully developed the menace that was the jade-masked Quon in his outline, he did reuse the character in another unpublished story, and this I ransacked for my interpretation of the evil creature.
Several chapters in, I felt I was succeeding in my goal.
The truth was, I succeed too well. By pacing the narrative the way that I did, I found the storyline just stretched and stretched and stretched.
I don't recall The Jade Ogre's exact length, but I believe it came in at about 125,000 words—more than twice the length of the longest of Lester Dent's original Docs. In short, I had backed into writing a globe-spanning epic.
Under the pressure of deadlines, I turned the manuscript in as written, but in the back of my mind, I was haunted by the thought that I should have scaled it down to a faster-paced narrative.
When Tom Brown of RadioArchives.com told me wanted to turn it into an audiobook, I warned him that it might run too long, and suggested we edit it for running time. But Tom wanted to do it unabridged. I was skeptical. After Michael McConnohie recorded it, Michael and producer Roger Rittner told me how well it worked as radio—which after all is the medium an audiobook emulates in many ways.
Here's what Michael said on The Book Cave podcast:
"The action in Jade Ogre, which is a much longer work than Python Isle, is not relentless, but it is in the perfect rhythm to pick up the story and move it along. The writing is just right. The words are spare, but not bare, and when it needs to breathe, it does. This thing moves along. It is just an absolutely beautiful ride."
"The Jade Ogre makes a wonderful listening experience," Roger added. "Will has packed a cast of colorful characters, plus mystery, intrigue, action, adventure, and a bit of mysticism into an epic tale. And not a single chapter drags. Despite its length, The Jade Ogre races right along, with just the right timing of slower passages that let the listener catch his or her breath. And Michael is superb as the voice of every character in the book. It's an epic adventure to be savored."
I was flabbergasted. For twenty years I believed that The Jade Ogre was the one time I took a story too far. It was wonderfully gratifying to hear that it held up so well. And when I listened to Chapter 1 of the production, I was hooked. The story really came to life. I realized that instead of a big, bulky unadapatable book, I had written a true epic worthy of being dramatized by talents like Michael and Roger.
I credit three people with this miracle—Michael, Roger, and last but not least, Lester Dent, who wrote engaging narratives which would have made great radio. I stand on their shoulders.
So there you have it. The Jade Ogre will carry you the listener from the fog-shrouded streets of the Chinatown of 1935 San Francisco to the crumbling ruins of Cambodia as the armless and ruthless Jade Ogre attempts to blackmail the world with his lethal Jade Fever. This is a quest, a running gangster war and a fearful excursion into the heart of darkness that is Asia—or the Asia Americans imagined in the 1930s.
Think Dr. Fu Manchu meets China Seas. You won't be disappointed.
(left) is the author of over 50 novels in popular series ranging from "The Destroyer" to "Mars Attacks". Collaborating posthumously with the legendary Lester Dent, he has written to date nine Doc Savage novels, with "Desert Demons" now available from Altus Press and "Horror in Gold" coming soon. For National Public Radio, Murray adapted "The Thousand-Headed Man" for "The Adventures of Doc Savage" in 1985, and recently edited "Doc Savage: The Lost Radio Scripts of Lester Dent" for Moonstone Books. He is versed in all things pulp.
As an audio drama producer, Roger Rittner (right) has written, produced, and directed specials and multi-part series for National Public Radio, including the drama series "Darkness", the mystery/macabre series "Midnight", "The Adventures of Doc Savage", and the musical special "Charlie Sent Me!" Other radio projects have been heard on stations KMPC, KFI, and KGBS in Los Angeles. Roger created and directed The Variety Arts Radio Theatre, live recreations of classic radio drama, for 10 years at the Variety Arts Center in Los Angeles.
Narrator Michael McConnohie began reading at a very early age and developed a lifelong relationship with the written and spoken word. As an actor, he has appeared in soap operas, cartoons, prime-time TV, and on the and stage. His audiobook narrations range from true crime to history, biography, science, self-help and poetry. He is an Earphones award winner for fiction.