by James Mullaney
Cover by Mark Maddox
Official Washington is in an uproar when late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s top secret safe is found — and then promptly goes missing. Rumor has it Hoover was infamous for collecting files on all the nation’s powerful movers and shakers. What damning information exists within the high-tech vault?
There’s usually only one man MIC calls for dire situations like this, but this time it’s not the Red Menace. It seems Dr. Thaddeus Wainwright designed the safe, years earlier, so only Hoover could open it. Now the billion-dollar blackmail question becomes: can whoever stole the safe spring the lock? When Wainwright says it’s a definite maybe, the whole world turns upside-down.
The race is on for the big black box holding America’s future. The Red Menace and Dr. Wainwright must outrun, outfight and outfox the Mob, a doom-saying environmentalist, every nation on earth desperate to watch the U.S. bleed, as well as an ancient enemy determined to bust the safe and a certain brilliant doctor’s world wide open.
Whoever crosses the finish line first is sure to have a red letter day.
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 kicks things off with Pogue and Dr. Wainwright in Libya teaching Col. Gaddafi (I think that’s how we spelled it back then, so I think it should have been done that way) for his role in what happened in the previous story. Then we get into things when a construction company unearths a safe that apparently was in the home of J. Edgar Hoover. The foreman was told to call the company owner if something is found, but instead calls the FBI first. But, before either they or the company owner show up, a group with ties to someone else takes it. We then get several groups scrambling for it, as they think it contains Hoover’s secret files that can be used for blackmail. The mob has it and is trying to open it. A mysterious man named Claudius Long has gotten one of the NASA engineers who worked on it to learn how to open it. And the daughter of a mob boss, who has come under the sway of an environmentalist nutjob, has stolen it. Thankfully, the safe is one that can’t be opened easily. It was designed by Dr. Wainwright! Everyone is scrambling not just to get the safe, but figure out how to open it. Who will succeed, especially when one of them tries to auction it off to the highest bidder? The character of Claudius Long is interesting, as is his associate Quint. We learn his connection to one of the main characters. I guess we now have a possible re-occuring villain. There is also the storyline with the Soviet colonels from the prior books. We didn’t see anything about them this time.