Warren Murphy: Rain of Terror

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    Rain of Terror
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Chicken Little was Right! Well, maybe the sky wasn't falling-but something was falling from the sky. Something that stunned America's scientists, stupefied America's security forces, and sent the new U.S. President miles underground to dodge the hellish hailstorm of unidentified falling objects. What was this infernal armada of UFO's? And who could stop it as it shattered one city after another? The only answer in America's arsenal was Remo and Chiun-as they shot into action against a mad dictator who stopped at nothing and a smart computer than knew all the answers..including the secret of how to outwit the wise and wily Chiun and destroy the indestructible Destroyer.

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Destroyer 75: Rain of Terror

By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Introduction

"For an attic on Garfield Avenue and bologna sandwiches on cheap white bread and Pathmark gin and rolling inner tubes across backyard pools ... when all the world made sense and even dreams had right sizes."

That was Dick Sapir being nostalgic in a Destroyer dedication a couple or three dozen books back. And why not a little nostalgia? We had written a book that nobody would buy for eight years and then we were "overnight" successes. Nostalg away, Dick. You earned it.

And now Destroyer Number 75.

Seventy-five books in seventeen years. Almost five million published words. And still at it, still trying to get it right.

Five million words. Maybe you'll understand better how many that is if you remember that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about five per cent that many about Sherlock Holmes before he got tired of him and tried to kill him off.

Five million words. As many memories. As many laughs. This wasn't one of them: "Before tackling a novel you ought to try writing short stories." That was the first agent we sent the Destroyer manuscript to.

And the second agent. This genius, after cashing our check for reading fees, suggested we end the book by killing off the hero, Remo Williams. "You wrote this like a series book," he told us, "and nobody publishes series books."

Nothing's more stupid than the conventional wisdom, so we sat on the sidelines and waited and eight years later, in 1971, got published-thanks to Dick's father, the dentist, and a publishing secretary with papier-mache teeth-and after our series had sold its first million copies, Sapir sent both agents a telegram-ten years later now-and said, "Go to hell." He never forgot; he never forgave.

Five million words. About one argument every million words.

One screamer. In Destroyer 5, Dr. Quake, Sapir kills Chiun, the old Oriental assassin around whom the series revolves.

"Can't do this," Murphy says. "Can't kill Chiun."

"It's a great scene," Sapir says. "Why can't I kill him?"

"Because everybody will stop reading the books and we'll have to go back to work at the car wash."

"Well, if you're going to nitpick everything I try to do . . ." Sapir says.

Chiun survived. So did the books. In America. Then in Europe. Eventually all over the world. Twelve languages. Twenty-five million copies.

Five million words.

A telegram arrives. It reads: "Murphy, you're done. Partnership is over. Contact my lawyer. Richard Sapir." An hour later, another telegram. "Dear Warren. Ignore previous telegram. Some dastard has stolen my Western Union credit card and is offending all the people I hold most dear. Your friend, Dick."

It was never brought up again. Never knew what it was about.

Five million words.

Sometimes it's good not to think too much about what you're doing and just go ahead and do it.

If we knew that what we were writing was a satire on the whole men's adventure genre, maybe we would have started taking ourselves seriously.

And then maybe we would have missed out on seizing that radio station the day Dick bought the bad gin and we got away with doing fifteen minutes of Radio Free Hoboken until they got the door open and threw us out.

Maybe if we had known we were promulgating one of the most enduring myths in all pop fiction-the brash young Westerner trained in the secret arts by a wily aged Oriental-maybe it would not have been so much fun. Maybe we couldn't have kept boa constrictors in that ratty hotel room in Jersey City or thrown pizza dough at the opera singer.

Five million words and maybe if we had thought they were important, maybe we wouldn't have overturned the boat and had to swim for it. Maybe Dick would remember where and when he totalled Murphy's new car before delivering it back with two flat tires, a ripped-off door and a red presentation ribbon on the hood.

Maybe we never would have had that football game in the hotel hallway in Atlantic City.

Maybe we wouldn't have liked each other.

But it was a long time ago and we didn't know any better and dreams still had right sizes.

Five million words. Seventy-five books. Not as good as we wanted, because nothing ever is, but a lot better than those early covers would lead you to believe.

Sapir went off on a separate career and wrote a handful of wonderful, enduring books, like The Far Arena, The Body, Quest, masterworks of myth that belatedly started to get him the critical attention something called The Destroyer series never could.

But he never gave up The Destroyer, and in many of these books are a lot of people he met and liked and a lot more he met and hated and things he appreciated and things that annoyed him, including, often, his partner.

Five million words and now book number 75. And not so much fun anymore.

Richard Ben Sapir died in January 1987, in the sunny afternoon of his life, in full control of his wonderful talent; in the warm surrounds of his loving family and friends. A lot of words have been written about him since then, some look-Ma-I'm-writing encomiums from people whose warm words would have been appreciated more while he was living.

But he never needed anybody else's words and he still doesn't, even in a valedictory. In a big piece of almost five million words he wrote his own.

Asked once how he could equate his career as a serious novelist with his other career doing The Destroyer, Dick Sapir said: "The Destroyer is what it is. It is good. And that's enough. There are not many good things in this world and Warren and I are part of one."

Amen, brother. We keep trying.

-Warren Murphy

Chapter 1

Captain Claiborne Grimm was not at his command post when the Sonalert started beeping.

Although he was missile warning and control officer at the PAVE PAWS radar tower at the far end of Georgia's Robbins Air Force Base, national security did not preclude a trip to the john. And there was nothing in Air Force regs about bringing along a book to pass the time.

There was a lot of time to pass in the ten-story PAVE PAWS complex. Especially at three o'clock in the morning with an unheeding moon silvering the wedge-shaped blue building. The entire structure was run by computer. From the Modcomp system steering the phased array of 2,677 radiating elements that were shielded behind the building's eastern face to the twin CDC Cyber 174 data processors, there was little need for human beings at the console screens.

One of four identical sites scattered throughout the United States, the PAVE PAWS radar system's primary task was to detect the launching of submarine-based ballistic missiles. It was the last line of detection in the event of global war. Conventional wisdom had it that World War III would begin with massive land-based launches targeted at opposing land-based launch sites. NORAD's Spacetrack satellite system was responsible for detecting those first-strike launchings. If anyone survived to give orders for a second strike, America's submarine fleet would presumably still be intact to discharge that mission. By that time, Captain Grimm reasoned, the PAVE PAWS network designed to detect enemy submarine launchings would be so many floating particles-and never mind the Pentagon's crap about survivable mission-critical circuits.

So when the alarm beeped, warning of a possible submarine launch, Captain Grimm turned the page of his book. He was at a really good part. The blond with the big knockers was about to go down on the hero. Besides, the system had probably just picked up another satellite decaying out of orbit. But because he was a trained Air Force officer, Grimm kept an ear cocked for the status officer to hit the reset button, indicating a nonthreat situation.

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