by James Mullaney
Cover by Mark Maddox
There’s more than meets the eye when inmates riot in a West Coast maximum security prison. What could transform men into wild beasts? Turns out the dead prisoners are guinea pigs in a larger scheme, and Washington sends in the only two men who can deal with the sinister plot.
Patrick “Podge” Becket and Dr. Thaddeus Wainwright trace a trail of bodies to a California cult whose demented leader welcomes all who seek truth. But enlightenment costs — mainly in the form of cold, hard cash into the bank account of failed writer and self-proclaimed High Star Admiral R. Gunn Hallifax.
Hallifax’s tall tales of out-of-this-world enemies have the gullible lining up in droves to join his church. His disciples become an earthly army for their leader’s terrestrial aims. There’s nothing otherworldly about murder and mayhem. It’s up to the Red Menace and Dr. Wainwright to discover what the cult has to do with a down-on-its-luck perfume company, a Russian hit squad, a sexy Hollywood superstar, and a threat to all America.
No matter what the stars say about it, all the Earth-bound players quickly learn even in the Golden State blood runs Red. Just like everywhere else.
WHO IS THE RED MENACE? Throughout the 1950s, this was the number one question from Moscow to Beijing and in every communist palace and malaria-ridden backwater in between. The mysterious masked figure was a shadow and a whisper. For the Kremlin and its fellow travelers, he was a damnable monkey wrench tossed into the gears of the not-so-glorious worldwide revolution. Wherever Reds schemed, the Menace was there to set things right. Then, 1960 came and the whisper grew silent.
Twelve years later, Podge Becket, computer tycoon and security expert, thinks he’s hung up his mask and cape for good. Aided by his partner, inventor and physician Dr. Thaddeus Wainwright, the Red Menace is dragged back into the hero game. But it’s a whole new world out there ...
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So who is The Red Menace? Well, he is Patrick "Podge" Becket, now a computer tycoon and security expert. We are told his company, Becket International, is IBM's main rival in the computer industry. Back in the 1950s, he decided to fight back against communism and its agents, creating the costumed persona of The Red Menace. His outfit of cape, hooded mask (described as like an executioner's hood) and gauntlets are made from a special dye that looks red close up, but black further away. He also has a special gun and other devices. However, in 1960, he stopped. Most likely he realized as he was getting older, he wouldn't be able to continue and live. Now in 1972, he reluctanely comes back in action. He is aided by Dr. Thaddeus Wainwright, doctor and inventive genius, who you will soon realize has a mysterious background. He gaves Becket a syrum that helps him physically, but it doesn't make him superhuman. His special devices come from Wainwright. The Red Menace works with (Patrick emphasises this) an agency known as MIC (Manpower and Intelligence Command), now headed by Simon Kirk, the son of the man who headed it in the 50s. These three are the only consistant characters in the series. This one takes us to Hollywood. The Red Menace decides to break into a high security prison in California and take care of a certain life sentence prisoner, and discovers a new menace to America. Part of the prison, all the inmates go crazy, killing anyone. We soon learn were it came from. A down-on-his-luck perfumer is in the Pacific looking for a love potion to sell, but it has a deadly side affect. Which he sadly discovers. But he had also recently sold a controling interest in his firm to a certain High Star Admiral R. Gunn Halifax. A failed comic book writer turned rising cult leader, he is clearly based on a certain former pulp sf author turned cult leader. Halifax is having his people "test" this substance around the country, including that prison. And he has a plan in mind. Also in the mix is a failing Hollywood star named Cassandra Vox. I wonder if she's based on a specific actress? And those Red Army colonels from the last novel appear again, and things are setup for their return in a future novel. So I enjoyed all three. There is a level of humor and satire that, in my opinion, raises them above most such series. The Destroyer series at time had an element of humor and satire, and I recalled this was certainly the case in the "New Destroyer" volumes Mullaney was involved in, which is why I liked them. As noted, you can get the next 2 in ebook format, but I want them in printed form. And two more are promised. Hopefully we'll get the rest soon, and that Mullaney will give us more.