Friday, September 10, 2010

Forgotten Books: Operator 5 by Frederick C. Davis

The other day Laurie Powers talked about pulps on eBay (that’s HERE) and said she spotted a complete run of Operator 5 being offered for $2,475. That didn’t sound too bad at the time, but on checking I discovered the mag only lasted 48 issues. So even if I had the bucks (which I surely don’t) I wouldn’t be bidding. But Laurie’s post brought old Jimmy Christopher, aka Secret Service Operator #5, back into my consciousness, and that’s always a good thing.

While all the major pulp heroes are in some way different from one another, Operator 5 has always seemed more different than the rest. While Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Spider spent most of their time chasing after criminal masterminds, civil servant Jimmy Christopher was busy defending America.

In a way, there were two Operator 5s. The character as introduced by creator Frederick C. Davis was basically a spy. He handled threats that make James Bond’s seem tame by comparison, but he was still a spy, and each book ended with America back to business as usual. Davis wrote the first 20 novels in the series, all under the house name Curtis Steele, before handing the chore off to the wild and woolly Emile C. Tepperman.

After a brief warm-up, Tepperman cranked up a threat so dire that it took Jimmy Christopher and thousands of other patriots 13 whole issues to dig their way out. In this saga, called “The Purple Invasion,” America is conquered by a distinctly Germanic European power and Operator 5 becomes a freedom fighter, traveling the length and breadth of the country to lead the resistance movement.

As Tepperman left the series, the Purple Empire was in retreat, but new writer Wayne Rogers gave Operator 5 no rest. Hard on the heels of the Purple guys came an invasion by the Yellow Empire, and Jimmy was up to his neck in trouble again.

My introduction to the series came with these three paperbacks, published in 1974 by Freeway Press. They present the first three pulp novels, all by Davis, and all from 1934. These early tales have a bright-eyed, gee-whiz, Doc Smithy sort of charm. Jimmy Christopher is the All-American Boy grown up, and is ably abetted by his kid sidekick Tim, sister Nan, father John and true love Diane, All-Americans all.

In The Masked Invasion, a guy called the Red Master unleashes a cosmic ray weapon on the U.S.  The Invisible Empire finds an air-borne super-fortress blasting away at New York City from the sky. And The Yellow Scourge brings the first invasion by the Yellow Empire, the guys who return with a vengeance after Jimmy finally puts the Purples on the run. These books are all great fun. 

Links to more Forgotten Books have been posted once again by Patti Abbott.  

The pulp covers shown here are borrowed from the fantastic website Galactic Central.


Todd Mason said...

Patti's back, and the links have got her!

I'll have to go look up Wayne Rogers the pulp writer...I have a nagging sense that I might've read he was related to the younger Wayne Rogers, the actor who never really had to work again after the fortune accrued from producing the drive-in staple THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, but who nonetheless graced the good years of M*A*S*H and went on to the interesting CITY OF ANGELS...

Deka Black said...

And this brings another good thing: Must continue reading The Spider novels i have.

In a way, Operator 5 seems the grandad of Nick Fury, now i think

Charles Gramlich said...

I've read parts of the Purple invasion. Seems like. It must have been a good long time ago, maybe back in the drinking days so that's why I don't remember it that well.

Evan Lewis said...

That would be pretty weird if Wayne was related to Wayne.

Since Nick Fury was descended from James Bond, it's probably fair to say he bears the Operator 5 influence too. But while Jimmy Christopher fought many foes with fantastic weapons, the only gadget I recall was a sword belt. He'd whip the thing out and it would be instantly erect.

Laurie Powers said...

Glad to have been your creative muse for this week's FFB.

Richard R. said...

Evan, I'm not gonna touch that last line in your comment... ha! I think at one time you said Op 5 was your favorite of the pulp super good guys (Shadow, Spider, Savage, etc.) and I can see why in this post. Great stuff.

Scott Cupp said...

I have most of the Purple Invasion and more Operator 5 novels. They are truly wonderful and nearly as bloodhtirsty as the Spider. Thanks for listing these on the FFB.

Oscar Case said...

Too bad he won't be around when the next revolution comes on, if there is one. We'll need a smart, tough guy to run things.