Greetings from The Raven!

Jul. 16, 2020

Operator 5 #1 The Masked Invasion by Fredrick C Douglas writing as Curtis Steele

First appearing in 1934, Operator 5 was Jimmy Christopher, a young member of the Secret Service often known as the most valuable agent in the United States. Christopher is strangely known to be Operator 5, yet maintains a secret identity as Carlton Victor, photographer to the rich and famous. The character is complete with a studio, an apartment, and even a butler named Crowe!

Recurring characters include Operator 5’s dad, former agent John Christopher, his twin sister Nan, sidekick kid Tim Donavan, Nan’s boyfriend Nick, Jimmy’s girlfriend Diane Elliot, his boss Z-7 and others.

Most of the stories involve the United States being attacked on the home front by various foreign armies, sometimes with devastating results.

The Masked Invasion was published in April 1934

There are periods of absolute darkness plaguing the country. Where that darkness falls, all power shuts down. There is no electricity. Cars, trains, and even planes have their motors go instantly dead. But silently cars of white masked men leave chaos in their wake.

Operator 5 has traced a man connected with the scarlet masked master of the darkness at a high level. He has been given fair warning: “Wise men flourish. Fools Perish!”

It takes time to get into the flow of the narrative, but it can be an enjoyable read. It has the usual overblow action of a pulp, the larger-than-life characters, the science-gone-mad, and the hidden villain. I thought they really did well on that last account.

I will never like Operator 5 as well as I do other pulp heroes, but this isn’t a bad read. I’ll give it four stars.

Quoth the Raven…

Jul. 16, 2020

Operator 5 #2 The Invisible Empire by Fredrick C Davis writing as Curtis Steel

First appearing in 1934, Operator 5 was Jimmy Christopher, a young member of the Secret Service often known as the most valuable agent in the United States. Christopher is strangely known to be Operator 5, yet maintains a secret identity as Carlton Victor, photographer to the rich and famous. The character is complete with studio, apartment, and even a butler named Crowe!

Recurring characters include Operator 5’s dad, former agent John Christopher, his twin sister Nan, sidekick kid Tim Donavan, Nan’s boyfriend Nick, Jimmy’s girlfriend Diane Elliot, his boss Z-7 and others.

Most of the stories involve the United States being attacked on the home front by various foreign armies, sometimes with A results.

The Invisible Empire was published in May 1934

Planes are falling from the sky with gashes that look like claw marks. A piolet is found frozen solid at the controls of a plane that he apparently landed! A man and his boat vanish, the boat showing up one place and the frozen body of the man over a hundred miles away!

What kind of power lurks in the clouds? Why can none of the United States’ planes or anti-aircraft batteries come close to returning the death from the sky?

Jimmy Christopher hears whispers about Atlantis. But this one isn’t a lost island in the Atlantic. It is something in the sky, something almost beyond imagination. And something in the control of the Yellow Empire, currently at war with the US.

This second adventure I think is better than the first. The Atlantis is just the kind of war machine I would expect the pulps to come up with. The hidden villain isn’t as hidden, but the writing is better.

I give it four and ½ stars.

Quoth the Raven…

Jul. 16, 2020

Operator 5 #3 The Yellow Scourge by Fredrick C Douglas writing as Curtis Steele

First appearing in 1934, Operator 5 was Jimmy Christopher, a young member of the Secret Service often known as the most valuable agent in the United States. Christopher is strangely known to be Operator 5, yet maintains a secret identity as Carlton Victor, photographer to the rich and famous. The character is complete with a studio, an apartment, and even a butler named Crowe!

Recurring characters include Operator 5’s dad, former agent John Christopher, his twin sister Nan, sidekick kid Tim Donavan, Nan’s boyfriend Nick, Jimmy’s girlfriend Diane Elliot, his boss Z-7 and others.

Most of the stories involve the United States being attacked on the home front by various foreign armies, sometimes with devastating results.

The Yellow Scourge was published in June 1934

During a joint naval maneuver, a Yellow Empire ship was sunk by airplanes with American markings. A special submarine is stolen and being used by the Yellow Empire, who are declaring war on the US again. The stolen submarine is cutting-edge, able to be used as a submersible aircraft carrier!

Lovely and deadly foreign spy Kara Vizna is in charge of many of the operations of this invasion. A master of disguise, Visna could be anyone. She could even be Diane Elliot, the girl introduced as Operator 5’s love interest!

The story is good, but not great. It will keep your attention, but it is doubtful that it will thrill you. That’s possibly because we just went from a menace in the air in the last book to a menace in the water in this one, and not much else.

I’ll give it three stars.

Quoth the Raven…

Jun. 30, 2020

The Spider #33: Legions of Madness by Norvell Page writing as Grant Stockbridge

 

The Spider is Richard Wentworth, a wealthy criminologist. Backed up by his manservant Ram Singh, his old war pal Jackson, and his fiancé Nita van Slone, Wentworth takes on crime at the street level.

The Spider has no scruples about killing. The criminals who cross the Spider die and their foreheads are marked with a scarlet spider.

The Spider is wanted by the police, and his friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick suspects Wentworth. Hardly surprising, as everyone seems to know the Spider’s secret. In fact, the Spider’s secret identity is pulpdom’s worst kept secret. Almost every issue has the bad guys using Nita against the Spider, well aware that Wentworth and the Spider is the same person.

Proving it is another thing altogether…

Legions of Madness was originally published in the Spider Magazine, June 1936

Richard Wentworth and Nita are preparing to sail for Europe on a short vacation. However. Prior to sailing, a sinister Frenchman named Jules

LeFevre appears in Wentworth’s rooms demanding that he does, indeed sail! He even brings him a paid ticket on the Normandie, the very ship Wentworth intends to board!

A scuffle ensues and LeFevre retreats. Nita arrives and Wentworth and Nita go out for the evening. When they return Ram Singh, Jackson, and old Jenkyns have all been beaten severely and nailed to the wall! Far from spurring Wentworth to take his free ticket and sail away, the Spider is determined to bring LeFevre to justice.

The Frenchman appears to be behind Insanity, Inc. They demand $100,000 from businessmen. If the money is not paid, a member of their families will be given a drug that drives them insane. They become murderous, striking out at anyone close with brutal efficiency.

I have two things against this story.

1)     It is stated that there is a factory owner back of LeFevre who wants his competition destroyed. The Spider is said to recognize the voice. We are never given the details directly or even indirectly as far as I can tell with multiple re-reads.

2)    It is not as good as The Mad Horde, The Spider #8, which also dealt with using insanity (in the form of hydrophobia) as a weapon. Thus it is a rehash that did not resell.

I will give it three stars.

Quoth the Raven…

Jun. 30, 2020

The Way They Were Volume 2 The Pulp Era by Jeff Deisher

Essays on pulp heroes…

To address the elephant in the room, it is a better deal to buy Jeff’s original big volume, and it is an extraordinarily beautiful book. Just saying. This volume and the other two have the advantage of being easier to manage when you sit down to read. Possibly a selling point for some of you. They are very readable.

The essays in this book deal mostly with Doc Savage, The Avenger, Hugo Danner, and Korak, Son of Tarzan. There is also a lot of others that tie into these in a shared universe.

I would have loved to see the Shadow and the Spider as chapters in this book, but you cannot have everything, unfortunately.

I did find some misinformation. It is noted twice in this book that Tarzan killed and ate Kulonga, the native that killed Kala, his ape mother. If you read chapter 9 of Tarzan of the Apes you’ll find he was going to eat the man but it repulsed him and he did not commit cannibalism. Burroughs was quite clear on that.

Overall, the book will keep the interest of any pulp aficionado worth his collection. The many ways to connect heroes from different stories into one massive shared universe is a labor of love with Jeff joining others such as Philip Jose Farmer in defining the parameters of that overlap.

I give you four stars, Jeff. Thank you for your efforts.

Quoth the Raven…