Walter Karig (1898–1956) was a prolific author, who served as a U.S. naval captain. Karig authored a number of military history works on Allied naval operations during World War II. Karig wrote scripts for the television series Victory at Sea. Besides his works on naval history, Karig was a novelist, publishing under his own name. He also worked as a journalist.
For the Stratemeyer Syndicate, Karig wrote volumes in the Perry Pierce series (2–4), Doris Force series (3–4), and Nancy Drew series (8–10). Oddly 2 of the three Nancy Drew books had Helen Corning in them and Bess and George out of them.[clarification needed] Karig revealed to catalogers at the Library of Congress that he was the true author of three Nancy Drew volumes. The catalogers assumed he wrote all of the books under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, and this admission angered the publisher. Each work from the Stratemeyer Syndicate was the work of ghostwriter, and the publisher had no desire to reveal the true authorship of volumes in the various series. Consequently, Karig received letters from the publisher's attorney, threatening legal action – if he persisted in claiming authorship.
Among Karig's many novels is Zotz! (1947), a satirical story dealing with an archaeologist and linguist, Dr. John Jones. After deciphering an inscription on an ancient disk, Jones is imbued with deadly powers. For Jones can merely point at an animal or human, and they faint. If he utters the word "Zotz" while pointing his finger, the person or animal will die. Because the novel is set during World War II, there is a patriotic flavor to it. Also, much of the plot revolves around Jones' efforts to obtain an appointment to see President Franklin Roosevelt, with the hope that he can convince the President that the Allies can use his supernatural abilities to help the war effort. Karig has written himself into the novel as a beleaguered naval officer working at a U.S. Navy public information office, where dozens of people parade by his desk daily all trying to obtain appointments to meet with the "highest authority" in the United States government. Although Karig's novel is set the then present, he manages to point out that humans have not changed much in millennia. Technology may have improved, but humans still have a strong desire to destroy and to kill. Thus Karig manages to blend a satire on wartime Washington D.C. bureaucracy with ethical questions related to the advent of the nuclear war.
The novel's name „Zotz!“ was inspired by Karig's meeting with a member of the Zotz family:
Some years back I met a man whose last name was Zotz. The strange name was from Austria or Bavaria where his ancestors came from. Immediately after hearing this name, it seemed a magic spell had been cast. I felt ‘Zotz!’ possesses magic power, and thus the title of my novel was born. The meaning of this strange name was a mystery even the bearer could not solve. I tried to find more information on this. One noted family of the name was from Peoria, Illinois, one member of which, Alois Zotz, went on to found the 'Deutsche Zeitung' Newspaper in America. When I finally learned that 'Zotz' was the name of a Mayan bat god, I thought the proposed title of the book was perfect.
— Five Letters to Earl Brewster.
After Karig's death, director William Castle released a movie version of Zotz! in 1962. The cast includes (among others) actors Tom Poston, Jim Backus, Margaret Dumont, Cecil Kellaway, and Louis Nye. Despite the presence of these fine character actors, the movie deviates from Karig's authorial intents, and it becomes a vehicle for clever special effects – but little more.
Nancy Drew (as Carolyn Keene)
Doris Force (as Julia K. Duncan)
3. Doris Force at Raven Rock, 1931
4. Doris Force at Barry Manor, 1931
Perry Pierce (as Clinton W. Locke)
2. Who Opened the Safe?, 1931
3. Who Hid the Key?, 1932
4. Who Took the Papers?, 1934
1. Zotz!, 1947
- Walter Karig: Five Letters to Earl Brewster. Naples 1969, p. 61.
- Walter Karig at the Internet Movie Database
- Page on Nancy Drew series and Karig's involvement in writing for the series
- Photograph of Walter Karig at the Truman Presidential Library
- Page describing Library of Congress catalogers' confusion over authorship of Nancy Drew novels and Walter Karig's involvement
- Review of Zotz! movie at the New York Times (Very bottom of the page.)
- Listing in Worldcat.org of Karig's books and links to libraries that have copies of them
- Walter Karig at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database