Study hall was an actual class you signed up for in those days, and I always took it. Not that I used it to study or work on assignments except very, very rarely. No, I took study hall because it was 50 minutes in the middle of each day that I could use to read whatever paperback or library book I was reading. I was a fast reader, too. I could get through half of a 128-page Gold Medal paperback in that time and then finish it off at home that evening.
Of course, when you stop and think about it, considering the way things turned out, I actually was studying for my future profession. I just didn't know it at the time. I was just having a great time reading.
And at least once a month, the book I'd be reading was the latest Doc Savage reprint from Bantam. I knew the day the new releases arrived at the store where I bought most of them, and that was always my first stop after school on those days. I have vivid memories of sitting in that old army barracks and galloping through the adventures of Doc, Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny.
Well (and there actually is a point to this reminiscing), reading THE MIRACLE MENACE, the latest Doc Savage novel by Will Murray writing under the Kenneth Robeson house-name, made me feel exactly like I was sitting in study hall again after all these years. It's that perfect a recreation of the original series. If you read the trade paperback, as I did, you can see that even the page layout is just like those old Bantam paperbacks.
When I first read the plot description of this one, I thought it sounded very Dent-like (Lester Dent being the author of the original Doc Savage novels published in the pulp magazine of the same name). Weird things are going on around the small town of La Plata, Missouri, which just happens to have been the hometown of Lester Dent, by the way. A deserted Victorian mansion sitting by itself in the middle of some thick woods has the odd habit of disappearing into thin air and then reappearing again. A murderous midget is on a killing spree. A group of traveling evangelists is in town, but they're not your average preachers. There's a rumor going around that Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of America his own self, is not only still alive but is in Missouri, of all places. A stage magician named Gulliver Greene and his assistant Spook Davis are in the middle of this mess, and so are Doc Savage and his aides.
For much of the book, it appears that the two main storylines, the disappearing mansion and the mystery of Columbus, are unrelated, but I don't think it's giving away too much to reveal that eventually everything that's going on ties together. Once it does, the story races along with almost non-stop action. Murray throws in a number of plot twists, too, almost right up until the final page, and he does it all in prose that's a pitch-perfect pastiche of Lester Dent's style. The book even serves as a sequel of sorts to one of the original novels and features the return of a character from that yarn.
I had a grand time reading THE MIRACLE MENACE. If you're a long-time Doc Savage fan like me, you won't want to miss it. Highly recommended.