November 20, 2013

Not-Quite-Secret War: OPERATOR 5 and the Purple Invasion

One of the advantages of being a part-time proofreader for Radio Archives is that I am allowed to check out characters I have had some casual interest in, but never quite had the opportunity to find stories. One of the those characters was Jimmy Christopher, aka Operator # 5, who was a mix of James Bond, Jack Bauer, and all sorts of other tough-guys fighting menaces who were invading our country.

Given the perilous feeling of 1930's America - struggling with economic strife at home, cautiously watching tyranny spread across Europe - it is no wonder that Operator # 5 would turn to telling stories about the "Purple Invasion" - a multi-issue epic featuring America under siege. (Hey, if the Spider could do it, who couldn't). The first two chapters - Death's Ragged Army and Patriot's Death Battalion - are now available as eBooks  and quite frankly, they're darn good reads.

Although you would be forgiven to think these might be mere potboilers, there's a great casual quality to the storytelling that belies most of its pulps. Emile C. Tepperman (writing under the moniker "Curtis Steele") drops us in the middle of matters - when Death's Ragged Army begins, America has already been invaded by the Empire. As we progress through Patriot's Death Battalion, we find that Jimmy Christopher is becoming much more of a leader than a high-action government agent....although let's face it, you won't be disappointed if you're looking for hard-hitting, fast paced action.

As many of you know, I've preached quite a-plenty about the power of pulp literature, but there's Operator # 5 that strikes a harsh chord. Perhaps (at least, in my perspective) it's the fact that many people are feeling conquered already - companies somehow getting free reign to treat their employees like cattle. Job seekers provided very ample unsolicited advice which essentially blames them for their own joblessness. People who actually take the philosophy of Ayn Rand seriously.

(OK, now this is getting a little too personal. Give me a moment....)

My point? Pulp writing like this, ideally, should be a quaint reminder of how things were - tinted with the whiff of nostalgia, and a knowing sense that things will never be like that ever again. One of the things that makes reading Operator # 5 26 and 27 so powerful is that, in their own way, they remind us that some feelings never change....they're merely fought by different heroes.

Get these eBooks - they're relatively inexpensive (about $3 - 4 for PDF/Nook/Kindle files), and are a great piece of pop culture history. They're also darn good reads.

(NOTE - still continuing to read each novel when I can; it builds to a really steady pace. And if you're not willing to shell out for the ebooks via Amazon or Radio Archives, check out Altus Press' Operator 5: The History of the Purple Wars)

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