Friday, January 01, 2010

Forgotten Books: THE BLUE STREAK AND DR. MEDUSA -- Art Elder

This is another of the books I inherited from my cousins, and it was a huge favorite of mine. I read it many times, and it was a nostalgic thrill to return to it once again. Each illustration brought with it a fine shock of recognition, and though I didn't remember much about the story, I did remember a good deal about the Blue Streak himself. He's a semi-Super Hero. He's lots stronger than an ordinary man, more agile, faster, with better eyesight. He can jump at least 18 feet straight up, as he proves at one point in the story. And he dresses funny. But he's not invulnerable. He wears a bulletproof vest.

Dr. Medusa is the mad scientist in a role just perfect for Lionel Atwill in a Republic serial. ("I am mad but I have the most brilliant mind in the whole world.") He has a plot worthy of a Republic villain, too. For unspecified reasons, he kills people and creates statues from their bodies, using a process of calcification. He's also accumulating huge sums of money from his victims, which, for other unspecified reasons, he uses to ceate a large underground kingdom, where he and his henchpersons will live as soon as it's finished. Only one person can stop him, and we all know who that is.

One of Medusa's intended victims is Bess Marigold. Her uncle hires the Blue Streak to protect her, but she's a spirited young woman and doesn't want to be protected. This leads to complications involving large caverns, underground rivers, whirlpools, encounters with Medusa's goons, murders, and even a bit of light romance.

All of this thrilled me when I was a kid, and I didn't notice the writing style, which is of the Hardy Boys school, or the problems with the story. I just enjoyed the adventures.

Now I wonder about the Blue Streak. Unlike a lot of Whitman books, this one doesn't seem based on a comic book, radio, or movie character. It's really a great deal like a Republic serial, but I don't know of one based on this character. It's also obviously set up for a sequel, though if there is one, I don't know of it. I don't know who Art Elder is, either, but I owe him big-time for the pleasure he brought me so many years ago. And now, too, for that matter.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Crider,

Came across your mention of THE BLUE STREAK AND DR. MEDUSA while trying to find information about the character. (I catalogued my copy on Librarything.) I didn't have any luck, either, but I did notice that -- unlike my other old Whitman books -- the title page doesn't state that the story is based on a comic strip or movie star. Perhaps that means he was an original character?

I can see why the book thrilled you when you were a boy. I'm 57, read it for the first time last week, and I had a blast. (Just finished RED RYDER AND THE ADVENTURE AT CHIMNEY ROCK, by the way.)

A. Nichols

Bill Crider said...

It would be interesting to get the answers to all my questions about this book, but I guess I never will. I'm almost sure the Blue Streak must have been an original character, but he's very much like a comic strip guy. I'd love to know the story behind this book.

Marissa said...

I came across your post about THE BLUE STREAK AND DR. MEDUSA while searching for books by Art Elder. I need to do some more research and get myself a copy to compare writing styles, but I think this is an original character written by Rutherford G. Montgomery using one of his many pen names. He also wrote under the names of A.A. Avery, Al Avery, E.P. Marshall, and Everitt Proctor. He wrote about 100 children's books, mostly animal and aviation related, but did on occasion try other topics. This would be the first Super Hero book I've heard about by him, and I'm excited to find out if it is in fact by him.

Bill Crider said...

Very interesting. If you find out anything, let us know!

Darrah Chavey said...

According to "Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, Volume 1", by Reginald, Menville, & Burgess (p. 166), "Art Elder" was not a pseudonym. They list his true name as "Arthur A. Elder (1900?-1956)", which would almost certainly make him the person listed in the obituaries of the "Herald Statesman", March 2, 1956, of whom they write: "ARTHUR A. ELDER, fifty-six, director of the International Ladies Garment Workers Institute and director of the Educational Committee AFL-CIO, and former head of the Workers Educational Service of the University of Michigan, at New York Citv."
You can see the actual obituary (under "Other Deaths") here.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks, Darrah. One more addition to the small amount of info on this book.

Anonymous said...

Art Elder is indeed a pseudonym for Rutherford G. Montgomery. If you look at some of his other works, the writing style will be obviously similar. Montgomery's books varied in sophistication and substance enormously. His love and knowledge of nature are apparent in most of his books - including the Blue Streak. Most of his books are set in the Mountain states - and he lived in Colorado and other Rocky Mountain states for much of his life. As noted, while the book seems to have been created as a potential serial starter, it had no follow-ons. This is somewhat surprising since this book went through several printings and is actually - as far as I can tell from available data - one of Montgomery's 5 biggest sellers under any of his pseudonyms. It is also his only book under the name of Art Elder.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks very much for that information. It's things like this that make me love the Internet.