Invisible, secret, deadly, the masked empire wielded its dread power of darkness throughout the nation. Havoc and ruin followed the terror-torn thousands who fled the country to escape the Thirteenth Darkness. America, faced with certain disaster, placed her chance of survival in one man’s capable hands—and prayed that the warrior gods might smile once more upon the miracle man of her Secret Service—Operator 5, Jimmy Christopher!
Operator 5 is a new pulp series for me. “The Masked Invasion” is the first one that I have read. My intent is to read them in order. This first issue of Operator 5 was originally published in April 1, 1934 and was written by Frederick Davis.
The novel starts with man-made blackouts that are getting longer and more significant. Ships are being high jacked and then loaded with pirates heading to the US. Z-7 assigns Jimmy Christopher, Secret Agent #5, to stop whatever is happening. As the agent starts the assignment, operator major characters beyond Jimmy and Z-7 are introduced including: John Christopher, his father; Nan Christopher, his sister; and Tim Donovan, his teenaged helper. During the novel, his aliases of Carlton Victor, the high-profiled photographer, and Huntley Walsh, a well-dressed, apparently high-society type, are also introduced.
The blackouts are caused by the Negative Ray which apparently eradicates electricity. The “scientific explanation” for its working is somewhat laughable and shows that Curtis Steele/Frederick Davis was no physicist. Indeed without electrical impulses, the human body would cease to work. Oh well, it was 80 years ago… so we will forgive the author and proceed as though this nullification of electricity as stated is possible.
The scheme is to use the ray to weaken America. Then people from around the world will all enter America on the same day and take over the country, making preexisting Americans their slaves. A side event appears to be looting when electricity has been removed. Loo Kang is the leader and super villain in this story, but he reports to an unknown Masked Master who controls the Kingdom of Darkness.
A good start to the series! I enjoyed it, and would certainly recommend this story to a pulp fan.
However, one of the questions in my mind as I start reading Operator 5 concerns the ability of those invading the US to conquer it, given its two-ocean isolation from most of the world. Clearly the mechanism in this tale is insufficient to master a county the size of the US with its immense population. So, we will have to see if the mechanism is improved in future invasions. While Jimmy Christopher might have had difficulty doing all that he does in this novel, the US would have been able to repulse the invasion even if we stipulate that the weapon would work as stated.