Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Book Review: THE PURPLE WARS (2008, Altus Press)

Those who have read the epic "Purple Wars" series in the Operator 5 pulp magazine will know that it is filled with foot notes and references to The History of the Purple Wars by Harrison Stievers. This "history" was a brilliant tool used by Operator 5 author Emile C. Tepperman. The series make up 13 separate novels about a foreign invasion of the United States by a foreign power, the Purple Empire of Balkeria. Loosely modeled on Imperial Germany, the Purple Empire pillages and rapes its way through the US and Canada with Jimmy Christopher as the only one standing in the path of destruction.
Tom Johnson has channeled "Harrison Stievers" to write this small book. It's a summary of each of the Purple Invasion novels with commentary. Since the separate books of the series have been out of print for some time, this little book is an excellent guide to them. He even does the reader a service by indicating some of the lapses in the story arc. Hopefully, Vintage Library will start reprinting the Purple series as it has done with other Operator 5 novels.
History
is also richly illustrated with many of the lurid covers to the original pulps. I just wish Altus had been able to reproduce them in color, but I'm sure cost considerations came into play. The book even has some of the smaller character illustrations, although these tend to be less artistic. I suppose there was only so much an under-paid artist could churn out on a tight schdule for a dime magazine printed by letterpress.
One of my questions has always been whether or not Tepperman had a "game plan" when he started writing the series. It is the opinion of some pulp aficionados that he didn't have an over-all plan, but once the series was a big seller, he had to continue it. In the afterword to the book, Tom Johnson draws the same conclusion.
This is an excellent little book. Anyone interested in Operator 5 should purchase it. It can be ordered here.

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