The Destroyer takes on religion, racism, and Jell-O Urinalism in his newest adventure

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Destroyer 151 Bully Pulpit Warren Murphy Dick Sapir Remo Williams

The Destroyer #151: Bully Pulpit by Warren Murphy and RJ Carter
Published by: Destroyer Books
Cover Price: $8.99 ($2.99 on Kindle)

I love adventure "pulp" novels.  Series like THE DESTROYER feel like the adult versions of THE HARDY BOY CASEFILES books I grew up on.  I was surprised when Amazon tried to bring the genre back to life with THE DEAD MAN series a few years ago.  Sadly, these books didn't get all that much traction, but I did think they were worthwhile descendants of series like THE DESTROYER.   That said, THE DESTROYER is still the king to me,  151 books in the main series over the last 45 years. 

THE DESTROYER series debuted way back in 1971, written by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir.  A Newark police officer named Remo Williams is framed for a crime and put on death row, only to be recruited onto a covert government operation called CURE.  He's trained by a curmudgeonly Korean named Chiun in the ways of Sinanju, a fictional martial art/lifestyle that is at the heart of the series.  Sadly, Warren Murphy passed away last year, but if this book is any indication, THE DESTROYER is in good hands.

Before I review BULLY PULPIT, two things:

1) RJ Carter happens to be a good friend of mine. This doesn't have any real impact on how I approach a review, but I do think it's important for any readers to know about any potential biases the reviewer might have.

2) THE DESTROYER is not politically correct.  It is an action movie in book form, and joyfully carries with it violence and sexuality.  Sometimes it might even seem borderline sexist with how it treats women. Some of the characters and plot points might seem far-fetched.  This type of book might not be for everyone.  But if you're willing to just strap in and enjoy yourself, you are in for an awesome ride.

In BULLY PULPIT, a church leader named Walker is trying to bring about the end times.  He does this by tricking terrorist groups to setting off bombs at very specific times.  The idea is that these precisely timed attacks will create a pattern that will magnify, causing earthquakes and leading to a tipping point where the Earth destroys itself. 

Despite THE DESTROYER series being around for 45 years, BULLY PULPIT is easily accessible for new readers.   Everything you need to know about Remo, Chiun, and CURE are given in quick, light doses.  You never feel bogged down by exposition or history.  Everything is in the service of moving the story forward, not overwhelming the reader.  That said, it's clear the writer has a lot of love and respect for the series. Past cases are mentioned and used in a pretty clever way.  BULLY PULPIT manages to make something new, while still building on everything that came before.  I actually would compare it to THE FORCE AWAKENS in some ways.

The writing here was great.  The action is described really well, and you feel like you are watching an action movie.  The descriptions in particular were real vivid:

Jacob wheeled and sprinted down the alley, wheezing as every fiber of his being struggled for survival.  He'd gone about twenty paces when the bullet cut through his lower spine and burst out his gut.  His legs lost all the signals from the rest of his central nervous system, and inertia face-planted him into the pavement with all the mercy gravity could muster, which was none.  The cartilage of his nose popped like a balloon filled with raspberry jelly.

Carter also coined the phrase "Jell-O urinalism" to describe a journalist who was on a crusade to find a story that wasn't there.  I loved that Carter admitted in the text that it was "a term that meant nothing and yet communicated everything."  I actually emailed the author as soon as I read that because I thought it was pretty damn clever.

I also thought the characters were especially deep for this kind of story.  Reverend Walker in particular felt like a character you could relate to.  Actually, he might have been a little too relatable, because in the end, I wasn't sure it quite made sense that he would be so willing to destroy the Earth, no matter how well his reasons were laid out.  He just seemed liked too decent a guy.  Granted, he was manipulated by outside events, which seemed to be a big theme in this book. 

I loved the insight into how Sinanju changes people.  Remo and Chiun are both suffering from illness because of the impact Walker's plan is having on the world.  We even get some insight on the strange diet that Remo and Chiun have to eat.  It all goes a long way to showing the sacrifices they are making towards building a bigger world.  And I thought the love/hate relationship between Remo and Chiun also worked towards giving depth to the characters and book.

The character of Avital Fuchs was a great addition to the series.  She's an Israeli spy who ends up getting caught up in Remo's orbit.  Remo sees that she can help him, but he's also very concerned about anyone else understanding Walker's plan and trying to replicate it themselves.  This creates a lot of great moments of tension in BULLY PULPIT that Carter is able to work for maximum mileage. 

It's always tricky to make a hero capable of falling out of a plane with limited consequences feel like he is ever in danger.  But it is done very well here with huge stakes on the table.  I haven't read too many books where the bad guy's goal is world destruction in a religious Revelation sense.  But it actually worked really well here.  It especially helped that Walker was such an interesting character.  You never see him as a cliché or stereotype.

While I did enjoy BULLY PULPIT a lot, I did have a few small issues.  One major thing is that it felt like they were trying to get a little too much in at once.  Religion, Islamic terrorism, a rogue journalist, undercover Israeli spies, Russians, and the Tunguska explosion all play a big part in this story.  Not to mention an intriguing expansion on some ideas set forth by Nikola Tesla.  For the most part, I think everything comes together real well, but for such a short book, it just felt like a little too much at once at times.

I also thought that there was a few things that were repeated too many times.  At least four times in the book, we are told that Remo's arms seem to go right into his hands with no sign of any tapering for a wrist.  It was a neat detail the first time, but it keeps coming up over and over again.

The end of the book may have been just a little too tidy.  Remo changes the timing of one of the explosions which throws the whole sequence out of sync.  But, I will say that is pretty much on par for the genre.  It seems like a petty gripe since it actually worked really well in the sense of the story.  And I loved the follow up scene where Walker and Remo finally meet face to face.  It is a brilliant scene and redeemed any concerns I might have about the end of the book. 

And then the very end of the book!  It takes a lot of balls to pull off that ending that well.  I don't want to spoil it, but you probably won't see it coming.  Which makes it even better because the themes of the book ensure that it makes perfect sense.  But it's still a huge shock, and I was not expecting that at all.

One thing I was really curious about is in the beginning of the book, Remo is dealing with some riots after a police officer is acquitted of shooting a young black man.  There is a suggestion that some of the protesters were being brought in by someone uninvolved in order to cause unrest.  I am wondering if this is part of a bigger story and will be dealt with at another time.  I did think this was a really intriguing storyline, so I hope it is not forgotten.

Personally, I thought BULLY PULPIT was a great way to keep THE DESTROYER going.  RJ Carter didn't make any huge changes to the status quo, but there was enough fresh here to make it appeal to new readers and ensure that the series is still relevant today.  Definitely give it a shot.  No one will ever call THE DESTROYER great literature, but that doesn't take away from my enjoyment at all.  Actually, with my tastes, that goes a long way towards making me love it even more.

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0