Thursday, December 4, 2008

Purple Aces by Robert J. Hogan

Purple Aces by Robert J. Hogan
Copyright 1933
Berkley X1746, May 1970

“G-8 and His Battle Aces” was an aviation pulp hero and from 1933 to 1944, he was featured in his own magazine. There were over 100 adventures that the WWI ace carried out, and his German enemies threw everything at him, in the air and on land. To keep his identity a secret, America’s flying spy was given the code name G-8. Along with his two wingmen, Nippy Weston and Bull Martin, many of the stories dove into the realm of science fiction, with evil German scientists working on the Kaiser’s orders to develop wicked ways to gain an edge during the Great War. In 1970, Berkley started reprinting these pulp adventures in paperback and I remember grabbing them off the drugstore rack.

In “Purple Aces,” captured American pilots are being converted into zombie-like flying warriors for the enemy. Induced by a chemical, it starts with them receiving a purple “ace of spades” birthmark on their forehead and quickly spreads the hideous color over the entire face. In turn, a demonic force controls the minds of the “reborn” pilots and they are programmed to execute suicide missions against American fliers. G-8 and his men are sent to uncover the source of this menace. Being an all-American hero, G-8 wastes no time engaging in dogfights and slipping behind enemy lines to get answers. Solving the mystery, which takes him through the halls of an ancient castle, G-8 meets again the mad Herr Doktor Krueger (a frequent enemy in many G-8 adventures) and a
mind controlling genius scientist called Zwantag. Their final diabolical plan is in motion, time is running out, and both evil men must be stopped.

This is pulp at its best. It’s a highly adventurous tale, but what makes it stand out is that it is also a complete horror story. Hogan was a master of creating a mysterious lurking atmosphere, that takes the reader into lead-filled skies, dark dungeon enemy hideouts, and rat infested swamps. In fact the scenes in the swamp are some of the best I’ve read in any pulp story.
Enhanced by mesmerizing dialogue and amazing air battles, “Purple Aces” is an adventure novel that can appeal to all ages. (Though like most of these stories, geared to the male reader) Whenever I read these pulp stories of yesteryear, I envision the early readers in the 30s and how in awe they must have been to be the first to escape in the adventure and the terror each story took them on.

Robert J. Hogan was an exceptional pulp writer and I forgot how much I enjoyed his tales until I recently revisited them. His pulp stories are full of mystery, adventure and horror; and if Berkley didn’t reissue them, I
would probably never had discovered Hogan’s work. I believe eight “G-8 and His Battle Aces” novels were published in 1970/71, and the first three have covers by Jim Steranko.

1. The Bat Staffel
2. Purple Aces
3. Ace of the White Death
4. Bombs from the Murder Wolves
5. Vultures of the White Death
6. Flight from the Grave
7. Fangs of the Sky Leopard
8. The Mark of the Vultures

They are like a time capsule, from an era that seems to be fading away...

The exploits of
“G-8 and His Battle Aces” are still being reissued. You can find them at Adventure House, along with Robert J. Hogan's other pulps, "Mysterious Wu Fang" and "The Secret 6."


Prof. Hex said...

When I was a kid I saw the Shadow and Doc Savage pulp reprints in used bookstores but I never saw G-8 and I still don't. I wonder where they are hiding them. Off to Adventure House or ebay I guess.

David Cranmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Cranmer said...

I just love these type of old pulps.

Scott D. Parker said...

Boy, this story is right up my alley. Even your review evoked fantastic and dreadful images. I can't help but wonder if the DC Comics hero Enemy Act wasn't partially inspired by G-8. I have already linked to Adventure House. I think I may have to order one today...

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Not sure if I'll ever get to read this but boy, what a cover1

Mark Louis Baumgart said...

You forgot to mention that like the comics, and unlike most other pulp heroes, G-8 also had a continuing cast of super-villains, like Herr Kreuger, who must of popped up in, at least, twenty or so of G-8's novels, or Herr Stahlmaske. Most pulp heroes had a one and done policy for their villains, but not G-8, and that's what made some of his books so much fun. And the villians could be totally bizarre, like one novel had zombie pilots! I'm a convert by golly!!!