You can download and read it from my website: http://dynamiclethargyfilms.ca/stories/the-89th-key/
The 89th Key – A Doc Savage Adventure
A strangely familiar sound brings death rather than reassurance. The quiet contemplation of a charity concert is broken by the sudden violent kidnapping of Warren Evans, a prominent businessman. Doc Savage and his men have only hours to rescue him.
Read the HTML version: http://dynamiclethargyfilms.ca/stories/the-89th-key/the-89th-key-html-version/
ePub version download page: http://dynamiclethargyfilms.ca/stories/the-89th-key/the-89th-key-epub-version/
MOBI version download page: http://dynamiclethargyfilms.ca/stories/the-89th-key/the-89th-key-mobi-version/
PDF version download page: http://dynamiclethargyfilms.ca/stories/the-89th-key/the-89th-key-pdf-version/
The Story Behind the Story
When I was in high school I wanted to write a novel. I played around with some ideas, but they never went anywhere. At the time I read a lot of Doc Savage books and was quite familiar with the characters. I decided that it would be easier for me to write a book if I wrote it as a Doc Savage story.
So, during the summer between high school and university I started on my own Doc Savage adventure story. That was in 1972 if you must know. I called it “The Smiling Corpse”. I managed to write a bit more than one chapter; about 2,200 words altogether. At that point I gave up because I felt that I just wasn’t ready.
Over the last few years I have developed my writing somewhat and written some longer stories. I have 3 or 4 novella length stories that I got stuck on. A couple months ago I decided that maybe I had reached the point where I could probably write my own Doc Savage adventure, so I did. I’d used “The Smiling Corpse” title for a different project, so I developed a new plot and title: “The 89th Key”.
In part, my objective was to fulfill a long ago ambition, but I also thought it would be good practice for my own writing. I think I did learn a lot from the experience.
I wrote an outline and then started the first draft. I completed the first draft two weeks after I started on the outline. I did a couple more drafts and had the final version done a month later. In the rewrites I fixed grammar, wording and some plot inconsistencies. I didn’t make any major changes to the story.
I felt the story turned out pretty good. While I’ve read quite a few Doc Savage books, my knowledge of the characters and settings falls well short of encyclopaedic. Connoisseurs of Doc Savage may be disappointed.
The book was shorter than I would have liked. It came in at 25,700 words, which makes it a novella. During the original run of Doc Savage, the average length was 38,500 words, but this varied quite a bit. “The Land of Terror” at 56,000 words was the longest. “Fire and Ice” at 25,200 words was the shortest. So, while my story is on the short end of the range, it isn’t the shortest.
While I intended to undertake the project as a writing exercise, I did want to share it with other people. That is a bit of a problem. I looked into what the legal status of a book like this is, and if I could make it available.
In Canada, where I live, the copyright of a book lasts for 50 years after the death of the author. Other countries have that set at 70 years. Lester Dent, who wrote most of the Doc Savage adventures passed away in 1959, which would make the ones he wrote in the public domain in Canada. However, another consideration is that the name Doc Savage is a trademark. Currently, the publisher Condé Nast owns that trademark. I assume this would include integral elements of the stories, such as the other characters.
Another consideration is the growth in “Fan Fiction.” Many people write their own stories based on characters and make them available. There are many Harry Potter fan written stories for example. I found some discussions of the legal status of fan fiction that I think is relevant.
Strictly speaking, fan fiction would be considered a copyright violation. However, some authors and publishers tolerate and sometimes encourage fan fiction. This is because fan fiction can help market the books they sell. This is purely at the discretion of the authors or publishers. I found some Doc Savage fan fiction on the Internet, which suggests to me that it is tolerated by the publisher.
From what I read about what is acceptable in fan fiction the main consideration is that you can’t sell it. I am hadn’t intended to sell it anyway, so I don’t mind this restriction. Another consideration is how widely available the book is. Generally speaking, most fan fiction gets very little distribution. I don’t expect that this book will be widely read.
Of course, should the owners of the Doc Savage trademark ask me to remove my book from the Internet, I would quite willingly comply. Although, I do think it is to their advantage to allow it to be available.
Since my intention was to have this be a writing exercise, I wouldn’t be too upset if I couldn’t share it with others.
While I am happy how this book turned out, I would like to write a book that I can sell. In earlier blog posts I talked about an idea I call “The Disruptors” which I could do in the same way as this book.
I think the most important lesson I learned when I wrote “The 89th Key” was how important it is to develop your characters. This book is very focussed on the plot, but when you have very distinct characters like in the Doc Savage stories, the writing becomes much easier. The characters give life to the story. Otherwise, you just push them around like a bunch of toy soldiers.