Author. A major figure in American pulp fiction, he pioneered in developing the superhero as a popular character. Dent was the principal writer of the classic "Doc Savage" adventure series, which first appeared as a monthly magazine from 1933 to 1949. He wrote all but 20 of these 181 novel-length tales. Most were credited to the publisher's house name, Kenneth Robeson. Lester Bernard Dent was born in La Plata, Missouri, and spent much of his childhood in Wyoming, where his father was a rancher. He trained as a telegraph operator and worked in that field in Missouri and Oklahoma before selling his first pulp story, "Pirate Cay", in 1929. In January 1931 he arrived in New York City with a contract offer from Dell Publishing to write exclusively for their magazines, but within a year the company ran into financial difficulties and Dent began freelancing for other pulps such as Ten Detective Aces, Crime Busters, and All Detective. The turning point came with his story "The Sinister Ray" (1932), which featured a "scientific detective" who used gadgets of his own invention to solve crimes. Publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic at Street & Smith Publications were planning a new magazine series along similar lines and immediately hired Dent to write it. Ralston came up with the name and premise of "Doc Savage" but it was Dent who fleshed out the character, added a supporting cast and minted the series' mythology. The first issue of "Doc Savage", with the tale "The Man of Bronze", appeared in March 1933 and it was soon one of the top-selling pulp magazines in the market. Dent would average one "Doc Savage" novel a month for the next 16 years, at times employing ghost writers to meet the demand but subjecting their work to scrupulous revision. The hero, the mysteriously wealthy Dr. Clark Savage, Jr. was trained from childhood to fight evil and possessed almost superhuman strength and ability. He was a fearless explorer, a brilliant scientist, inventor and surgeon, and an expert in the martial arts. With the motto "Let me do right to all, and wrong no man", Doc and his five assistants tirelessly scoured the globe for villains out to wreak havoc on mankind; he never did away with his foes, no matter how evil. At the end Doc often retreated to his "Fortress of Solitude" in the Arctic to recover and gain more knowledge. The imagination Dent brought to his basic theme is exemplified by the unheard-of gadgetry used by the hero and his nemeses. Among the things he predicted in the 1930s were nuclear weapons, Flying Wings, night vision goggles, the breaking of the sound barrier and its accompanying sonic boom, light automatic weapons, and answering machines. One literary scholar noted, "As a prognosticator, Dent's record beat that of Jules Verne". The author was almost as colorful as his character. At 6'2" and 250 pounds, he cut a rugged figure which he humorously offset with a very prim mustache. Financial success from his writing enabled him to indulge a restless curiosity and taste for adventure. He prospected for gold in Mexico, climbed mountains in the Alps, earned a pilot's license, became certified as an electrician and plumber, studied architecture, and traveled extensively enough to win membership in the Explorer's Club. In the late 1930s he and his wife Nora lived aboard their yacht "The Albatross" in the Caribbean, where he went diving for sunken treasure. He fed details of these experiences into his fiction to make it more believable to readers. In 1940 he settled permanently in his hometown of La Plata. After World War II, competition from television and comic books began to kill off the pulps and "Doc Savage" was finally cancelled in 1949. Dent, who had ambitions of becoming "a real writer", published six hardcover mystery novels but faltered in his efforts to crash the more respectable "slick" publications; his output and sales fell dramatically. When he finally sold a story to the Saturday Evening Post in 1958, after 30 years of rejections from that magazine, he felt as if he had realized a life's ambition. He died of a heart attack soon afterwards, at the age of 54, and just missed seeing a revival of his fortunes. In 1964 Bantam Books began reissuing all the "Doc Savage" tales as paperback novels, introducing them to a new generation of fans. Historians have traced Dent's key influence on a number fictional superheroes, from Superman and Batman to Indiana Jones and The Rocketeer. And while Dent has not become a cult figure like fellow pulp authors H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, there is still a strong nostalgia-based demand for his work. Quality trade paperback reprints of the "Doc Savage" novels began appearing in 2006.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards