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Quartz, Doctor. Doctor Quartz was created by Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey (Nick Carter (I), Crewe (II), Night Wind) and appeared in twenty-six stories between 1891 and 1927, beginning with “3,000 Miles by Freight; or, The Mystery of a Piano Box” (The Nick Carter Library #13, 31 October 1891).
Doctor Quartz is an Evil Surgeon and is the archenemy of Nick Carter (I). Quartz is a vivisectionist. Unfortunately, his preferred area of expertise and experimentation is on living humans, preferably beautiful women. Doctor Quartz greatly wants to dissect Nick Carter, as he is the finest physical specimen Quartz had ever encountered, but Quartz’s first and greatest love, in experimental subjects, is beautiful women. In one story Quartz sums up his obsession: “She was beautiful. I like beautiful girls. I like to cut them up. It is my passion.” Quartz is suave, has a magnetic personality, and is skilled at hypnotism, all of which help lure victims to him. Quartz is also insane and enjoys committing more outré forms of murder besides vivisection. Quartz genteelly revels in the deaths he causes. In his first appearance Quartz uses a train boxcar as his sitting room, and surrounding the central table is a ring of embalmed corpses playing bridge. In another story his dining room is wallpapered with butterflies, pinned there while still alive, and human eyeballs. Quartz has at his disposal a variety of exotic tricks which he uses for murders and to help himself. In one story he escapes from Dannemora state prison by means of the “East Indian rope trick.”
Just as Nick Carter has a school in which he trains detectives, so does Doctor Quartz have a crime school. In his school Quartz teaches willing students–street urchins, for the most part–how to commit murder using obscure methods such as untraceable poisons and deadly gases. Doctor Quartz likes to use beautiful women as his assistants in crime. One of these assistants, Zanoni the Woman Wizard, is Quartz's ward and a willing participant in his crimes. Zanoni has committed “every known crime twice over,” including the murder of her own sister, although when she meets Nick she falls in love with him and reforms. Some of Quartz’s other assistants include Gaston Dupont, a portly French Lupin, Doctor Crystal, a Dr. Quartz-like vivisectionist in training, and the deadly El Sombre, “the Shadow.” On one occasion Doctor Quartz brings together thirteen old enemies of Carter and leads them all against Carter.
Quartz has a great deal of respect for Carter and loves the game of dueling with him. Both of them use the imagery of a chess game in the fight against each other. Carter believes that Quartz would never kill him, “because in doing so he would deprive himself of one of the greatest pleasures he knows,” and events prove Carter to be right. But Quartz is willing to mutilate and kill those closest to Carter. Quartz always sends Carter letters telling him what Quartz intends to do. Quartz’s letters to Carter are his one weakness; he loves to boast and to give hints to Carter about what he is going to do. Quartz has a sense of honor and always plays by the rules of the game.
* I'm including the Doctor Quartz stories in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because they are historically important, because Quartz is an archetype, and because the stories are fun to read. Doctor Quartz is one of the first great supervillains in the dime novels and the pulps, and was influential on later writers and characters. He was the first great Evil Surgeon character, and his influence can be seen as late as the 1980s, with Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter. Quartz was the first great recurring dime novel or pulp villain, someone who was killed off and then brought back again repeatedly because the author was having so much fun writing the stories about him and because he was so popular with the readers. And the Doctor Quartz stories are generally a lot of fun, crosses between Silence of the Lambs-style serial murderer fiction and dime novel detective adventures. Quartz is exceptionally well-characterized for the dime novels, and Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey went out of his way to show that Quartz was the equal of Nick Carter (I), making their clashes much more tense than most bouts between dime novel heroes and their archenemies. Highly recommended.
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