by James Mullaney
Cover by Mark Maddox
Something fishy is going on at famous Franklin Morrow’s Restaurants. Why is the most successful chain of eateries in the U.S. suddenly catering to the murder and mayhem crowd, and who exactly is the mysterious man in the ten-gallon hat with an all-you-can eat appetite for death and destruction?
All signs point to something big and bad being served up soon, but the CIA, FBI and Pentagon are all out to lunch, leaving only one of America’s intelligence agencies to chew around the edges of a vast and horrifying terror plot.
When one body too many surfaces, MIC Director Simon Kirk has finally had a bellyful of bad bistro news and decides that someone is in need of some just desserts. And, of course, who else but Podge Becket and the brilliant Dr. Thaddeus Wainwright would be dispatched to act as the ultimate antacid?
As always, how does America spell relief? R-E-D M-E-N-A-C-E!
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. As usual, we have Pogue and Wainwright taking care of things from the previous novel, in this case, a factory in Tijuana that Long was involved in, avoiding getting killed by heat-seeking missiles. In D.C., Simon Kirk stumbles onto our next big case when a college friend dies in his arms. Literally. From one sniper shot. From this, Pogue and Wainwright are on the case that leads them to the assassin, Wild Bill Branch, and the man who hired him. And what does it have to do with Franklin Morrow’s Restaurants, which are based on one with orange roofs. I found Wild Bill an interesting foe to deal with, as well as “Reed”, whom he calls in to help him. There is a girl involved. You can see her on the cover. But for once she is not involved with the bad guys. Sadly, the Soviet colonels don’t appear, nor does Long and his henchman. I really didn’t want to see Long too soon. I’d rather he be an occasional villain for them to deal with, whereas the colonels should be a building threat for them until we get a resolution.