An Introduction to Red Alert – Dr. Strangelove by Peter Bryant
written by Chris Enss
World affairs in 1958 were in a constant state of flux. The USS Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine crossed under the North Pole in the first undersea journey, the first nuclear submarine to the Soviet Union successfully launched the Sputnik 3 satellite, and Fidel Castro was coming to power in Cuba and aligning himself with Russia. Among the books released that year which reflected the uncertain world conditions was Red Alert. The stirring, fictional novel about the first two hours of World War III, provided fascinating insight about the United States Strategic Air Command. Written by Welsh author Peter Bryant (a pseudonym for Peter Bryan George) while serving in the Royal Air Force as a British intelligence agent, Red Alert dealt with the apocalyptic threat of nuclear war and the almost ridiculous ease with which it can be triggered.
Red Alert was released in England under the title Two Hours to Doom in the fall of 1958. Director Stanley Kubrick was so taken by Bryant’s work he optioned the material which would ultimately become the classic, black comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Love the Bomb. The plot involved an American Air Force general, Commander of a base in Texas, who was going mad. Using an ingenious, complicated, and quite irrevocable scheme, he sends his B-52 bombers to attack Russia. The President of the United States, unable to recall the aircraft, is forced to cooperate with the Soviet Premier in a bizarre attempt to save the world.
Peter Bryant helped adapt Red Alert for the screen along with Kubrick and screenwriter Terry Southern. The three men were nominated for an Academy Award for their work on Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Love the Bomb. The film, starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, and Sterling Hayden, received four Oscar nomination in 1965 including one for Best Picture.
In addition to Red Alert, Bryant penned several other novels for the London based publishing company T.V. Boardman. Among his bestselling titles were Come Blonde, Came Murder, Pattern of Death, The Final Steal, and The Big H.
Peter Bryant committed suicide on June 1, 1966. Bryant had been suffering with painful stomach ulcers for several months prior to taking his own life. Police were called to his home in St. Leonards, England, where they found the author had died of a head wound and a discharged single barreled shot gun was between his knees. His wife found him slumped in a chair in his study. Bryant had been working on another suspense novel at the time of his death.
Bryant was forty-one-years old when he died. Red Alert remains his most popular work.