Introduction On Racism Epigraphs A History of the Pulps A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
Operator #5. Operator #5 was created by “Curtis Steele,” the pseudonym of Frederick C. Davis (Donald O’Keefe Adams, Bill Brent, Duke Buckland, Carter Cole, Dennis Dayle, Murray Gifford, Cyrus Hatch, Mark Hazzard, Jingling Kid, Guy Kerry, Paul Kirk, Show-Me McGee, Moon Man, Radigan, Ravenwood, Secrets, Inc., Peter Trapp II, Peter van Dyk), and appeared in Operator #5 #1-48 (1934-1939). Operator #5 was one of the greatest of all adventure pulps.
James "Jimmy" Christopher is Secret Service Operator #5. His job is to guard the United States and to fight against the enemies who would bring the United States down. And there are many such enemies–the Operator #5 stories are all about invasions, from within or without. The United States is constantly in peril, and often it is only Jimmy Christopher who can stop it. The invaders use any number of tactics and weapons: destruction of the food supply, theft of the gold reserves, "green death mists," rockets, the "flaming death," the atomic bomb, etc. The “Purple Empire” stories are about an invasion of America by the dictator Rudolph I of "Balkaria" and his armies. Jimmy Christopher helps lead the resistance, and America triumphs, but only after Canada and Mexico are left under "vandal rule" and much of the U.S. is reduced to rubble. Worse still is the “Yellow Vulture” sequence, in which an invasion from Japan led by the Yellow Vulture, a.k.a. the Japanese warlord and Yellow Peril Moto Taronago, threatens to crush what is left of the United States. Operator #5 was canceled with the Yellow Vulture not yet defeated. Taken as a whole the Operator #5 stories constitute the greatest epic of the pulp age, on a scale few other pulps attempted.
Jimmy Christopher, lean and hard, is in his early twenties, with a strong, clean-cut face and bright blue eyes. The only distinguishing mark on his body is a scar on his right hand in the shape of a "spread winged American eagle. Its wings seemed to flex, as though straining to take flight, as the young man's fingers moved." Christopher is adroit with knife and gun, and in a fight. He has a few secret weapons: a skull ring which has the number five engraved on it and which has an explosive tip; a gold skull ornament which holds within it a reservoir of the poison gas diphenolchlorasine; and a rapier hidden within his belt.
Christopher is assisted by a number of people. Tim Donovan is a young shoeshine boy who saves Christopher’s life. In return Christopher informally adopts Donovan, making him Christopher's assistant, and when Donovan grows up he enters the Service just like his adoptive father. Diana Elliot (later "Elliott") is a reporter for the Amalgamated Press who is Christopher’s girlfriend (and frequently the Woman Who Must Be Rescued figure). Like Donovan, Elliot later becomes an agent for the Secret Service. The head of the Service is Z-7, a grim, stocky man. He is Christopher’s boss and friend until he is killed, when Christopher replaces him as the head of the Service. Christopher’s father, John Christopher, is a former Secret Service Operator who had been effective as Operator Q-6, but he had taken a bullet near the heart which forced him to retire and kept him from active duty. (He still manages to help his son on occasion, dying in action in some novels but returning without explanation in later books) Christopher’s twin sister Nan is also of assistance. Of the most use to Christopher, however, are the Hidden Hundred, a group of 100 men who had been members of the Secret Service until a stupid Secretary of State had dismissed them. The Hundred continue to fight for America, however, and Jimmy Christopher is their head.
* I'm including Operator #5 in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because of his archetypal status and because the stories are so, so much fun. To repeat myself: Operator #5 was one of the greatest of all the adventure pulps, and taken as a whole the Operator #5 stories constitute the greatest epic of the pulps. These two statements apply to all pulps everywhere, and are undeniable facts. Operator #5 is the archetypal adventurer-cum-secret government operative of the pulps. And Operator #5 has something of the divine lunacy of The Spider (see Spider (II))--which is high praise indeed coming from Yr. Humble Correspondent. Essentially, Operator #5 was everything great about High Pulp adventure stories, and was carried out on a scale and with a continuity that nobody else even began to approach. Highly recommended.
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