Red Rape is that rare sleazy pulp novel that actually lives up to its lurid cover illustration and alarmist subtitle (IT CAN HAPPEN HERE!) within the first two pages. It was a canny choice on the part of the publisher to use the popular - and in this case suggestive - civil defense rallying cry for the book's jacket slogan because it no doubt appealed to the patriotic and prurient interests of the anti-Communist pervs who purchased the book back in 1960. Indeed, the prolific author Connie Sellers* (who is a man) seems to have taken the subtitle as something of an editorial mandate and produced an "anything goes" Soviet invasion fantasy that eclipses anything in John Milius's wildest RED DAWN wet dreams.
The testosterone-bursting speculative adventure begins – literally – with a Russian gang rape and submachine gun fire from the capitalist hero and rescuer of women, Danny Fare. Sellers' immediately exposes the reader to the grim near-future realities of an America under the occupation of the "Reds" or, as they are frequently referred to, "Ivans." The protagonist (Fare) spirits the damsel-in-distress, Fran Wilson, from the scene of her defilement to safety, but not before finding time to disfigure his own treasonous wife, Marta, for sleeping with an "Ivan." Fare brands Marta's pretty face – the tradition of the new American resistance – with the same knife blade that he has just used to kill her Soviet sugar daddy (for good measure, he slits the Russian's throat while the thug is in mid boot-knocking coitus with Marta).
Sellers, who like his novel's hero, is a Korean War veteran, throws out plenty of conservative red meat to his target audience to explain just how the dastardly "Ivans" took over our lazy country (America "collapsed under softness and indifference") and – no surprise – he lays much of the blame at the feet of dilettante intellectuals. As Danny Fare ruminates on his wife's whereabouts before he finds her in flagrante delicto in his abandoned home, he has the following thoughts:
The house was quiet, and Danny wondered where his wife was. Surely not teaching literature to her college class, as she'd thought. Not meeting with her egghead friends for long, involved discussions of vague philosophy and nebulous political science. That's what she had expected – life as usual, with merely a little change in government. Actually, that would be a blessing, she said. Now human beings could forget the insanity and waste of the arms race and get on with important intellectual progress... All her learned philosophy about the innate brotherhood of man, the people-are-the-same-everywhere tenets hadn't held up when faced with the stark blacks and whites of survival. He hadn't been able to convince his wife that communists weren't people...Of course, given her "liberal" leanings, Mrs. Fare did not choose to join her husband in the guerilla exodus to the hills of California. This is something Mr. Fare bitterly reminds his bound and gagged wife of while he prepares to brand her face with a fire-heated knife:
I asked you to come with me when I left for the mountains, Marta. You said the Reds would be reasonable, that intellectuals of all races were the same, that life would go on with only a few minor changes... Maybe now you believe my 'morbid tales' of Korea, but it doesn't matter. Remember the 'grubby mistake' you said the UN made there? You had quick words for everything, my dear wife. You called me a juvenile individualist for taking my 'silly little guns' into the mountains... You even did your civic duty and told the police I'd gone. Did they thank you? Was that the first move you made to get listed as 'cooperative'?
But the Soviets didn't conquer America simply by leveraging the intellectual appeasement of university professors. No, they also had to use their atomic bombs. The whole tragic back-story of the Red enslavement is laid out in the book thusly:
Eighteen days, the war had lasted – kicked off by the sneak strikes, the fearsome pinpointing of American missile sites, the widespread sabotage at SAC bases; then the waves of supersonic bombers. Too few, too late, the U.S. got off retaliation missiles, flung courageous jets against the bombers, but there'd been little defense against the fleet of subs that rose to flatten coastal cities with rockets. Eighteen days, with the Comintern not giving a damn about peasants dying in Moscow, nor for the burned corpses in Kiev, Smolensk and Vladivostok. No more than the master in Peiping mourned the charred thousands that perished in Chinese cities. Mass slaughter didn't hurt the Red powers; life was cheap, and replacement technicians were safe in underground shelters. Their production was scattered, difficult to damage severely. It was different in congested Detroit, in the holocausts that been New York and Chicago. For the first time since North and South bled each other, Americans found out what war was really like.With the nuclear war and invasion over, the "benevolent occupation" soon settled into a routine (enabled by cooperative American officials) of show trials, forced labor and sex slavery ("...a former luxury hotel staffed with fat-bellied commissars and favored sentries. Its rooms held slave prostitutes forced to serve the Comintern's brave and rutting soldiers..."). Los Angeles became the site of "State Occupation Headquarters" where strategy against the Fare-led mountain guerilla resistance is plotted by the evil Russian military men, Major Boris Bosiloff, Colonel Skora and General Kalenov, the Supreme Commander of California.
Meanwhile, in the mountains, the tribes of resistance fighters are working on supporting their own scientists who are laboring in caves on a "gadget" (a kind of low-budget Manhattan Project) that is so powerful it will turn the Red Tide all the way back to Moscow. They also stage occasional raids into the city to make an example out of the craven collaborators like Mayor Carson at City Hall ("They left him with his intestines dripping out of his slashed belly, left him screaming his black soul away into the listening night.").
Of course, since Red Rape is first and foremost a sleazy novel (our copy smells like half-century-old Pall Malls and Michelob), it contains a large number of unlikely sexual passages (exceedingly tame by 21st century standards). The excuses for the rampant post-invasion promiscuity are contained in these tortured paragraphs that read like Mickey Spillane channeling Alfred Kinsey:
Maybe the old rules didn't apply anymore; perhaps there was no one-woman for one-man setup in these days of hide and kill. Maybe there was, but the former man-made regulations about sex and monogamy had fallen of their own weight.
In between the calculated intervals of sex and violence, Sellers devotes a couple of paragraphs to describing how the two-year-old occupation is not without its bureaucratic annoyances (and circumventions) among the Soviet officers forced to oversee things in the new colony:
'Try one of these cigars,' the Major said. 'I managed to keep a supply away from the Home Requisition Detachment.'
Fran lowered the gun and hooked strong fingers into Marta's hair. She slammed the woman's head down against the table top, once, twice – dull thumps that sprayed a thin shower of red each time... A metal-on-flesh sound rang through the room. Marta slid out of the chair. Fran hit her again with the gun butt, crushing the throat; once more – driving the gun down quickly with all her strength. Marta died quickly with a shattered skull.It is ironic that a book that blames the "eggheads" for the Soviet invasion would use characters also described as "eggheads" (Dr. Mathers who taught physics at San Jose State before the invasion and Mr. Shapiro, formerly an electronics expert at Firestone) to build and execute the device that will ultimately defeat the Commies. But then the liberal arts intellectuals in Sellers' Red Rape universe talk in platitudes and favor disarmament while the "good" eggheads build an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) weapon that blows Soviet jets out of the sky in the novel's stirring finale.
But what will unfold in this hopeful new fictional landscape? Will things be different now that the resistance appears to be winning with the help of the secret weapon? The hero Danny Fare sums up the chances by stating:
Maybe this time the same mistakes won't be made – the easy, lazy mistakes that allowed soft living and dependence upon gadgets to outweigh principles...Red Rape ends with Fare re-embracing monogamy with Fran, the woman he rescued from the Soviet goons in the first pages of the novel (and the woman who dispatched his wife with a rifle butt). All is now right with the Republic. And the previous sinful indiscretions can presumably be blamed on the Ivans and their "egghead" appeasers. Let the military tribunals begin!
* If you were wondering about the background of the creative mind that conjured up Red Rape, look no further. CONELRAD was delighted (and admittedly surprised) to find a wealth of information on Connie Sellers in Contemporary Authors Online (Gale, 2003) and in the biography that accompanies his papers collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. It is also a measure of Sellers' later success in publishing that the Washington Post and the Washington Times printed obituaries on the occasion of his death at age 69 on February 2, 1992 (no, the newspapers didn't mention Red Rape).
Con Leslie Sellers, Jr. was born March 1, 1922 in Shubuta, Mississippi, the son of a handyman (Connie Leslie Sellers) and homemaker Vivian May (Menasco) Sellers. He spent 16 years in the military beginning in 1940 and along the way he married Mary Frances Raineri (on June 16, 1943) and the couple had two children, Leonard L. and Shannon E.
Sellers saw combat during his time in the service and earned a number of medals including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In a tough, cynical voice that one might mistake for the protagonist from Red Rape, Sellers explained his motivation to become a writer to Contemporary Authors: "After general discharge from the army for alcoholism, I was thirty-five years old with a wife and two sons, dead broke and in debt. With some ten years of army PR behind me, writing seemed my only out. I went to school (Monterey Peninsula College: 1957-1958) under the GI bill, mostly to learn how to think like a civilian."
The author also readily confessed to Contemporary Authors his capitalistic streak: "Am I 'commercial'? Damned right; I leave art to the artists – who usually sell insurance or pump gas for a living."
Sellers started his long climb to respectability and riches (he was earning $100,000 advances when he spoke with Contemporary Authors) in the seedy cellar of the pulps and men's magazines. See below for a selected inventory of Sellers' pulp work.
Before his professional, free market work, Sellers' writing experience was as a combat correspondent during the Korean War and as an editor of army newspapers and press releases. He also wrote military-influenced short stories and poems while still in the service that presumably went unpublished.
In the Sixties Sellers wrote a series of moderately successful Korean War adventure novels under the name "Robert Crane." In 1970 he wrote the movie tie-in book for the Cliff Robertson - Michael Caine film TOO LATE THE HERO. In 1978, as "Lee Raintree," Sellers wrote the best selling tie-in novel for the television series Dallas.
In the Contemporary Authors interview, Sellers remarked that finding his agent, Jane Rotrosen Berkey, was the critical turning point in his career. According to the biography that accompanies his official papers, Sellers authored "more than 230 novels under 94 names, both female and male..."
When Sellers wasn't cranking out books at a breathtaking pace, he managed boxers (he was a lightweight boxing champion in the army), raised and trained horses on his Oregon ranch (he and his family moved to the state in 1961) and taught writing classes at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, Oregon. The Contemporary Authors profile reported Sellers' political affiliation as "Hard-nosed independent" and his religion as Protestant.
Con L. Sellers, Jr. died of complications from an intestinal aneurysm on February 2, 1992.
THE CON SELLERS PULP LIBRARY (A random and incomplete selection)
As Con or Connie Sellers:
Red Rape (Healdline Books / World News, Incorporated, Los Angeles, 1960)
Animal Broad (Novel Books, Inc. Chicago, 1960)
Pleasure House (Novel Books, Inc. Chicago, 1960)
Private World (Newsstand Library, Inc., Chicago, 1959)
Vagabond Lover (Novel Books, Inc. Chicago, 1961)
Wench! (Novel Books, Inc. Chicago, 19??)
Willing Women (Novel Books, Inc. Chicago, 1960)
Carnal Diary by Ann Vail (as told to Con Sellers) (Novel Books, Inc. Chicago, 1962)
Carnal Orgy by Marcia (as told to Connie Sellers) (1962)
The Sensualists by Linda (as told to Connie Sellers) (1964)
As Rick Arana / Rick Weitz:
A Case of Lust (Candid Reader, San Diego,1968)
Ever Ready Girl (1975)
Alley Cat (Casanova Publishing, 1967) (As Rick Weitz)
Orgy Island (1968)
SOURCES FOR SELLERS' BIOGRAPHY:
Contemporary Authors Online (Gale, 2003)
Washington Post, Con Sellers Obituary, February 4, 1992
Washington Times, Con Sellers Obituary, February 4, 1992
University of Southern Mississippi-McCain Library and Archives, Special Collections, Sellers, (Con L.) Papers, Biographical / Historical Sketch
Special Thanks To:
Smithy at VintageSleaze for the image portrait of Con Sellers and the scan of the book cover for Carnal Diary.
Steve Lewis of Mystery File Blog for research assistance.
Copyright 1960; Published by Headline Books / World News Incorporated, Los Angeles
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CATEGORY: Soviet America
RELATED TITLES: AMERIKA: THE TRIUMPH OF THE AMERICAN SPIRIT
PRAYERS FOR THE ASSASSIN
PURGATORY OF THE CONQUERED
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