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Literature / The Destroyer

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Remo roundhouse kicks while Chiun flicks his finger.

The Destroyer is a series of action/adventure novels with elements of black comedy. It's about a bizarre pair of supermen who stride the earth righting wrongs and making a living by killing people who really need to be dead. The main characters are Dr. Harold "Emperor" Smith, Old Master Assassin Chiun, and his protege Mighty Whitey Remo Williams.

The first novel was written in 1963, but was not published until 1971. The series was originally written by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy, but the new series is written by Warren Murphy and Jim Mullaney. The first series is officially 145 books long, then the authors retitled the series the 'New Destroyer' and switched publishers. The second series lasted for four books before returning to the original title and numbering, with books 150, 151 and 152 having been released as of January 2018. The older books in this Action-Adventure/Martial Arts series tend to not be found in bookstores but are easy enough to find online in large lots by auction or one at a time from book warehousers, and often contain cigarette advertisements actually bound right into the middle of the books.

It was adapted into the campy 1985 film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (Remo: Unarmed and Dangerous outside the USA), starring Fred Ward as Remo and Joel Grey in Yellowface as Chiun.


  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: FRIEND and Mr. Gordons.
  • "Angry Black Man" Stereotype: Butler of 12-"Slave Safari" is seeking revenge on the descendents of the families who enslaved his ancestors.
    • Incidentally, this is Chiun's opinion of all black people. His opinions of white people are far less flattering.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Happens almost any time Remo encounters a girl who believes that the government is doing this figuratively to a minority group and ardently pleads with him to do it physically to them.
  • Artistic License Paleontology: The first chapter of book 16 ("Oil Slick") depicts cavemen and dinosaurs living together. Oops!
  • Author Avatar: Chiun and Remo.
  • Batman Cold Open: the second chapter of nearly every novel introduces Remo dealing with low-level criminals. In addition, the second chapter always starts out with "His name was Remo, and..."
  • BFS: The Sword of Sinanju was this at one time.
  • Butt-Monkey: Usually Remo.
  • Canon Discontinuity. Much of the books published at the end of Gold Eagle's contract are Canon Discontinuity.
  • Carnival of Killers: The Last Alchemist had an interesting variation of this. The Dragon as part of his backstory, participated in an open contract on a crimelord. After he killed the target, he was given a job as the personal assassin of the Big Bad who had placed the contract simply to find a suitable person for the position. The trope appeared in a few other books in the series as well.
  • Catchphrase: "That's the biz, sweetheart." Also, if you're good enough to kill Remo, "I am created Shiva the Destroyer; Death, the shatterer of worlds! The dead night tiger made whole by the master of Sinanju. WHO IS THIS DOGMEAT THAT CHALLENGES ME?!" may be the last thing you ever hear.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Knowing Sinanju allows you to perform a wide variety of feats.
  • Church of Happyology: In 065 - Lost Yesterday. Remo squares off against Poweressence, a cult founded by a sci-fi author that gains followers through "Free Character Tests".
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: FRIEND and a few people.
  • Crapsack World: Mostly tilts toward this, due to the people Remo deals with.
  • Death of a Child: Babies have their necks snapped. Third world children are run over. When Sinanju is poor, the villagers return the babies to the sea. However, Remo finds that he Wouldn't Hurt a Child due to his training in Sinanju, even when said child is pointing a gun at him.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Well, Remo certainly kicked his Expy in the face and got away with it.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Chiun, and by extension Remo. They consider them toys for children, not proper weapons for assassins. Considering the abilities Sinjanu mastery has given them, they're right.
  • Easy Amnesia: Remo has a bullet graze his temple in 008 - Summit Chase, leading to multiple Amnesia Tropes:
    • Criminal Amnesiac / Amnesiac Liar: Remo kills professional killer PJ Kenny at the beginning of the book and takes his identity. Maggie helpfully provides him with the cover story he gave her after he lost his memory and he decides he really is a professional killer. Which, of course, he is, albeit for the good guys.
  • Elite Agents Above the Law: CURE is a top secret agency of the U.S. government which carries out assassinations and answers directly to the President. It consists of three people: its operatives Remo Williams and Chiun and the head of the agency, Harold Smith.
  • Expy: Many Expies from Vox News to the aforementioned Dream Thing. Many of these expies are Strawmen, especially under the authorship of Will Murray and Jim Mullaney.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: Sinanju, based in and named after the village of the same name.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Averted because CURE isn't an acronym. However, also played straight with some of the various organizations that Remo goes after.
  • The Greatest Style: Sinanju is a Charles Atlas Superpower Secret Art, a Supernatural Martial Art and a Fantastic Fighting Style. It even grants New Powers as the Plot Demands. It's the "sun source" of all other martial arts - in other words, all other martial arts are based on it, and it is better than any of them.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: Largely averted. When Remo and Chiun stalk, they usually just wear dark loose-fitting clothing and apply blacking to their faces. When actual ninja show up in the books, they're usually in civilian garb, although once or twice, they're seen on night missions in "black linen".
  • I Know Kung-Faux: Sinanju
  • Instant Seduction: One of the skills learned by Remo through Sinanju
  • Jewish Mother: Chiun.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Most people who meet Remo die, either because they're the villains, they get in the way of the villains, or Dr. Smith orders Remo to kill them to hide the existence of CURE.
    • And, should CURE ever disband, Smith via suicide pill and Remo via Chiun. Presumably, death wouldn't improve Chiun's ability to keep a secret.
  • Long-Running Book Series: Hundreds of books...
  • Master Computer: The Folcroft Four and FRIEND.
  • Master of Your Domain: Part of Sinanju is supreme self-awareness, allowing one to do such things as regulate body temperature so as to be comfortable in short sleeves in subzero weather.
  • Mentor Archetype: Initially, Chiun existed entirely to impart Sinanju to Remo, and then to disappear from the scene. As it is, he has become a father figure to Remo, and often steps in when Remo is in above his head.
  • Mind Rape: What Remo eventually does to Jeremiah Purcell after he killed Remo's wife. He is left completely mentally broken and only slightly conscious for the majority of the later books.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Chiun is bigoted against (in descending order of vitriol) the Chinese; anyone who isn't Asian; any Asians who aren't Korean or Chinese; any Koreans who aren't from the village of Sinanju; any Sinanju villagers who aren't Chiun.
  • Morning Sickness: In 032 - Killer Chromosones, villain Sheila Feinberg knows she's successfully been impregnated after she starts throwing up her food. Seven days after beginning attempts at conception. She's later shown to be completely wrong with the nausea being the result of her body rejecting her modifications.
  • Mr. Alt Disney: Briefly recurring villain Uncle Sam Beasley.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Sinanju can be used for pretty much anything, if it needs to.
  • Old Master: Chiun.
  • Once per Episode: Chapter two almost always begins with, "His name was Remo." The exception is the first book in the series.
  • Only One Name: Chiun, FRIEND (although Chiun's name is really Nuihc).
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragon Bones, although this book is part of the Canon Discontinuity.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Two books cover the history of the vampire myth and its corruption.
    • 029 - The Final Death covers one iteration which are similar to Chinese jiangshi.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Book #131.
  • Parody Names: Series does this often. Also frequently No Celebrities Were Harmed.
  • Playing with Fire: The villain in Firing Line has this power. So does the recurring villain The Dutchman. The fact he has this ability along with being trained in Sinanju and being very Ax-Crazy makes him very scary.
  • Please Shoot the Messenger: If CURE disbands, Remo will be the one delivering his own kill-order to Chiun.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Remo and Chiun again. Chiun is the result of years of oriental arrogance. Remo is just a pig.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Chiun spends much of his spare time watching soap operas, which he considers the only significant thing United States has ever contributed to art.
  • Professional Killer: Remo and Chiun. The House of Sinanju is a line of assassins dating back to ancient times. There are a number of other "houses" of assassins that Remo and Chiun encounter, generally influenced in the distance past by training by a master of Sinanju. Said houses are almost always destroyed by the end of the book.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Nuich.
  • Ring-Ring-CRUNCH!: This happens to phones wherever Remo and Chiun stay.
  • Rogues Gallery: While most villains ended up dead at the end of the novel, Remo does have a few recurring villains: Nuihc, The Dutchman, Mr. Gordons, FRIEND, Uncle Sam Beasley, The Master (no, not that one), Elizu Roote, and Kali, to name the vast majority of them.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: Nuihc. Well, really Chiun.
  • Secret Art: Sinanju. Only two people in the world know it.
    • Although there are a large number of "houses" of assassins that Remo and Chiun encounter who possess some aspect of Sinanju, either from observation or from being trained by a past Sinanju master. These assassins are always superhumanly capable, but utterly inferior to Remo and Chiun.
  • Sex God: In one of the books it's noted that Remo can use his knowledge of Sinanju to bring any woman to orgasm by touching her pressure points in a specific order. While it's great for his partner, Remo's sex life has become mechanical and boring.
  • Shout-Out: In 008 - Summit Chase, Remo walks through a room of hired killers and asks one how Mack Bolan is doing.
  • Speed Sex: Part of the aspect of being a Sex God is that Remo often finds the women orgasming to unconsciousness before he gets anywhere with them.
  • The Spymaster: Dr. Smith, and later Mark Howard.
  • Straw Character: In every flavor. No one is safe!
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Sinanju is supposedly completely mundane, and only based on enhancing the body's capabilities through rigorous diet and exercise. However, in the course of the books, it shown to be able to do things such as getting the exact place on a call number, transmuting materials, and neutralizing poisons.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Three books feature a Neo-Nazi organization called "Four" due to their desire for eventually building a Fourth Reich.
  • Too Fast to Stop: Remo takes himself out this way in one of the early books, delivering a strike which requires precise timing. His target faints in shock and the lack of resistance causes Remo to dislocate his shoulder. Occasionally, he'll note the extreme control and precise timing needed to practice the art without injuring the wielder, it seldom comes up after the first incident.
  • Torture Always Works: When Remo or Chiun put people into extreme pain, whether through nerve bundles or broken bones, the information is almost always correct. When Remo asks nicely for information, he always gets lies. This is helped by the fact that Remo and Chiun are both Living Lie Detectors which helps with the torture.
  • Twin Switch: Kojing and Kojong, twin sons of a previous Master of Sinanju; their mother feared their father would kill one of them to prevent this trope, so she hid one before he found out they were twins. They subsequently switched places every day of their lives, both learning Sinanju; when their father died, Kojong left the village and swore never to use his art for profit. Kojong wound up settling in Arizona, and became Remo's ancestor.
  • Withholding the Cure: In 016 - Oil Slick, it's implied that the oil companies routinely suppress research into fuel alternatives by killing off scientists.
  • Yellow Face:
    • Both in the theatrical film and the TV pilot. Really, considering both were produced in the the 1980s and after The Karate Kid became a smash hit with Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi, the producers simply should have known better.
    • In-universe, when Chiun writes a movie about his life, he claims he wants Paul Newman to play the part of Chiun with some makeup to "fix his funny-looking eyes".
  • You Move Like a Pregnant Yak

Alternative Title(s): Destroyer