Richard Foster’s secret identity is Kendall Foster Crossen. Ok, it’s not that much of a secret, it’s all over the internet. He’s been outed! I’ll tell you who he’s not though and that’s "Richard Foster author” on Google because that guy is a total square.
The year is 1959. The looming threat of nuclear war is an everyday worry. In New York City they have random air raid warnings wherein everyone has to take cover in practice for the big bomb. Seconds before the air raid alarm goes off, we get to meet the small group of main characters; super star ad agency man Bob Randall, tough streetwise longshoreman Johnny, a mousy accountant, a secretary, a pickpocket, and a call girl. What is this obsession with the ad agencies in this era? I really don’t get it.
Down into the subway tunnels they go. Everyone is of the mind that it’s just another drill, but ad agency wizz/part time air raid warden Randall takes it seriously. The ground shakes as a bomb hits. Then another and another. Randall realizes it’s his time to shine and starts bossing people around with his air raid training. Also, he just happened to recently do an ad for the city about the preparations in the subway for bomb threats, so he is beyond prepared to take the lead. He’s rock solid in the know-how department, has unbiased moral prowess out the yin yang, doesn’t frighten easily, he’s a hopeful dreamer with aptitude to make it all come together. If you’re ever in a tight spot when the bombs drop, don’t YOU want Bob Randall on your side? Paid for by the Bob Randall for fall-out leader committee 1959.
Ok Bob Randall for the white-collar readers. But who’s going to represent us blue collar shlubs? That would be Johnny Larson. He’s macho but cool. I imagine him as the leader of a greaser gang who has to keep reminding the lesser men to, “cool it.” Yeah, his old lady died when the bomb dropped but it’s been minutes since that’s happened, it’s old news.
Randall and Johnny team up to take the lead and coach the frightened flock on survival. The author has a lot to say about character, who you really are-it has nothing to do with your job, and how to be a decent productive member of society. He really goes to hate town on business world upper management. Some digs at cops. Some digs on religion. But it’s not preachy. In fact, the Randall character is pretty open to people who have different beliefs than him. He doesn’t need a church, but other people do, we should build one. I’m giving him a lot of shit here but he’s totally levelheaded. He doesn’t take the lead, balls swinging like a men’s adventure hero. I mean, he has some moments where he has to throw some hands and he may or may not have a submachine gun and mow down some crazies but he’s not a superman. Crazies being people from other groups who are starving and trying to steal food. But once again just to be fair, Randall even asks, is there no way we can talk to these people to join our group and share our food before shooting them down?
The minor main characters are quickly relegated to the side. Their parts diminish as the book goes. Except of course the ladies who hook up with our two manly heroes. There is a lady physicist who lackadaisically helps. At the beginning she is almost raped by two guys though so I can see why her heart isn’t in it.
We got gang warfare, shootouts, nuclear fallout, survival, giant rats, stack of dead bodies, hopelessness, orgies, new religions/cults, fist fights, philosophy, and a big ol’ mirror to take a good look at yourself.
It was a pretty fun read. Not cartoonish but not bleakly realistic. Preachy but not a blowhard Facebook post by a first-year college student. Very practical. At times it read like a parable which was a bit annoying, but it also had cops that lose their shit and join forces with mafia hitmen so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
Fawcett Gold Medal 1959
Review by: Nick Anderson