THE DAY THEY H-BOMBED LOS ANGELES
THE COMING OF THE ZOMBIES
The action of the book is set in motion immediately when several of the main characters find refuge from the titular H-bomb (and several more) in a public fallout shelter. The following is a summary of the key players:
Tom Watkins is a self-described "all American" guy who roots for the Rams and the Dodgers. Watkins, a former Marine sergeant and a current sales manager who works for a company that manufactures power pumps, emerges as the hero of the novel.
The early scenes inside the fallout shelter are among the most entertaining passages in the book because of the contrasts between occupants. Interspersed between Tom Watkins' gung ho, take-charge shelter organizing and his patriotic admiration for civil defense ("CD had done a good job," he says approvingly of the stocking of the shelter) are the diva-ish pronouncements of Rena Stark. Rena, who it must be noted predates the TV character of Ginger Grant, by at least a year*, is a truly inspired literary invention. She stands out from the other, more traditional sci-fi pulp novel archetypal players that populate Mr. Williams' book.
Rena's clueless self-centered comments and haughty declarations are a delight to read, so herewith are a few examples:
When the star is confident that she has been “recognized,” by the commoners in the shelter, she asks "Did you see my picture CAUGHT IN THE RAIN? It ran for six months at the Pantages."
Rena's antics are so fun and over-the-top that they may cause the contemporary reader to ponder what it might be like to get stuck in a FEMA trailer with Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts.
Later, when the action moves outside of the shelter and into a barricaded doctor's lab / warehouse, we meet several more characters that propel the story forward including Dr. Homer Smith, Cissie's employer, and his colleague Dr. Randall Murk, a specialist in marine biology. These two scientists and the G-man, Kissell, reveal that the United States government nuked Los Angeles deliberately because of an insidious molecule present in the harbor waters of the city.
In an effort to reduce the panic around the world and conceal the true purpose of the attack, the President of the United States gets word out over the airwaves that the Los Angeles bombing was not an enemy action, but rather a "mistake" and that the persons responsible would be dealt with harshly.
It is soon learned that what the government had hoped to eradicate with H-bombs has taken a new form in a race of super-evolving, howling zombies! At one point the character of Eph, a Tennessee mountain man who joins the human resistance confesses, "I don’t seem to grasp the zombie thing." Eph, who has no trouble believing the worst about the "Commies," does not seem to realize that zombies seldom have much of a backstory; they usually just appear with the flimsiest of excuses.
In this case, the cause is the dreaded "protein molecules" most likely mutated by atomic tests in the Pacific that have washed up from the sea. We are told that the molecule "goes mad" when it finds its way into a human's bloodstream. In the film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD the presumed cause of the re-animation of the deceased is radiation in the earth's atmosphere from an exploded Venus probe. Whatever the outlandish cause, a good rule of thumb with zombies is to not expect too much rationality and simply go with the premise.
Discussion of the logic, behavior and even nicknames of the undead contribute to some of the novel’s most ridiculous lines:
On zombies ignoring their own mass slaughter when they attempt to overtake the humans’ hideout: "The attack was pressed home with the complete disregard for safety that was characteristic of the zombies."
Thankfully, the book does provide the reader with some closure on the "movie star," Rena Stark. "As time had passed, some of the glamour had rubbed off of her and she had become almost human." For a story set in Los Angeles, this is perhaps the most dramatic, transformational character resolution that could possible be offered. We’ll end here but not before letting you know that Williams destroys Los Angeles all over again in The Second Atlantis (Ace Books F-335, 1965).
* According to IMdB, the original pilot episode of the Sherwood Schwartz-created series Gilligan’s Island, "Marooned" written by Austin Kalish and Elroy Schwartz and featuring Kit Smythe as Ginger Grant, aired on October 16, 1962.
Tina Louise, of course, embodied the soon-to-be iconic role of the shipwrecked actress (celebrated in the show’s theme song as the "the movie star") when the series kicked off its first season with the broadcast of its partially re-cast second pilot episode "Two on a Raft" on September 26, 1964 on CBS.
ROBERT MOORE WILLIAMS BIOGRAPHY
The prolific author Robert Moore Williams published more than 150 novels and short stories under his given name as well as a variety of pseudonyms including John S. Browning, H.H. Harmon, Robert Moore, Russell Storm and E.K. Jarvis.
Williams was born on June 19, 1907 in Farmington, Missouri and earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He had a full-time writing career from 1937 through 1972 and cut his teeth on such publications as Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, Astounding, Thrilling Wonder and Startling.
In 1955 Williams cranked out The Chaos Fighters, the first of 30 novels he would write over the next 15 years. These novels include the "Jongor" and "Zanthar" series. His most unusual book, however, is one that is labeled as fiction, but is actually an autobiography: Love is Forever - We Are for Tonight (Curtis 06101, 1970). In this short, 141-page work Williams presents a description of his childhood and then discusses his experimentation with hallucinogenic gasses, Dianetics and 1950s-era communes.
Williams married Margaret Jelley in 1938 and they had one child. The couple divorced in 1958. According to the Social Security Death Index, Williams died in May of 1977 in Dateland, Arizona.
Source for biography (except where noted): Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002
THE DAY THEY H-BOMBED LOS ANGELES
By Robert Moore Williams
Copyright 1961 by Robert Moore Williams; Published by Ace Books, New York
[ 1 | COMMENTS | Jun 30, 09 | 6:55 pm ]
CATEGORY: Pulp Fiction
TECHNORATI TAGS:ATOMIC CULTURE
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