Monday, January 26, 2009

Master of the Broken Men: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Jungle Jeopardy
I have to give Fred Davis one credit: he knows how to start a good adventure novel. Since the Operator 5 magazines were competing for rack space with countless other hero pulps, he knew his own writings had to grab the reader instantly. Thus, the first chapter of his Operator 5 novels were designed to snatch the attention of the prospective buyer and make them part with a well-earned dime. Since this was the depth of the Great Depression, those dimes were in short supply.
Master of the Broken Men begins with a formal dance in Washington DC sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution, one of the most blue-blood organizations in the USA at the time. Jimmy Christopher slides up to the vice president of the United States, presents his credentials (he reports only to the president at this stage of the series), and warns him about a plot.
No sooner than he's made his entrance than the dance hall is attacked by a mob of knife wielding maniacs. No, this isn't a local branch of The Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League, but a tribe of jungle savages, complete with war paint. Operator 5 has the VP whisked to safety, while he whips out his trusty belt sword and hacks it out with the invaders. The tribesmen manage to kidnap a steel magnate and his daughter before disappearing.
And now we get into one territory which few 1930's pulp fans ever want to discuss: racism. The marauding jungle fighters are constantly referred to as "blacks" in this chapter. The description of them doesn't exactly win the author any image awards from the NAACP:

"The band of blacks stood motionless, their eyes glinting at the crowd of people who retreated in fright. Their broad nostrils quivered as though they relished the salty odor of the blood on the floor and hungered for more, as though they were seeking the scent of a new victim."

I'm pointing this out because it's not talked about enough. You can argue "Oh, the times..." all you want and harp on about how things are different now, but exactly what are we celebrating?

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