Thursday, March 30, 2017

Six Scarlet Scorpions: A PAT SAVAGE Adventure by Will Murray

Though Pat Savage has played minor roles—and at least one major role—in Will Murray’s WILD Adventures of Doc Savage, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book with her in the lead. Unlike Cousin Doc, Pat has no special mental or physical training, and possesses few of the scientific gadgets Doc employs.

But those minuses turned out to be a plus. Freed from Doc's ultra-heroic trappings, Pat Savage is a different type of hero. She’s more vulnerable, more fallible, more relatable, and a lot less uptight about showing her emotions—and her sense of humor. At the same time, she has a special quality of her own. As described in Chapter 1, “There was something electric in the way she moved, as if she might shed sparks at any moment. It was not merely the vitality of youth, but a quality that might never depart her.”

And though Pat has enough personality to carry the book on her own, she doesn’t have to, because her co-pilot for this adventure is Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, the apish chemist otherwise known as “Monk.”

For Monk, too, this tale is a bit of a departure. We’re not only treated to a glimpse of his past, as he revisits his home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, but he displays a different side in his interactions with Pat. In Doc’s adventures, he’s either trading barbs with his rival/pal Ham, or teamed up with Doc himself, who is all but allergic to his humor. With Pat, we see a different type of rivalry, and a different type of camaraderie. Pat gives Monk as much guff as he dishes out, but without Ham’s acidity.

Pat and Monk are in Oklahoma because Pat has an itch to get rich, and Monk, who once worked as a roustabout, suggests leasing options on potential oil fields. As you’d expect, they soon find themselves up to their necks in bad guys and wanted for a laundry list of crimes—including murder.

Pat, armed with her grandfather’s old Colt Peacemaker, takes the lead in the investigation, partly because she insists this is her own mystery to solve, and partly because she’s able to move about in disguise, while the too-conspicuous Monk is forced to stay out of sight. "You," Pat tells him, "stand out like a wart on a banana."

The plot itself is quite Doc-like, and it ought to be, seeing that’s it’s based on the outline of an unwritten story left behind by Lester Dent. I was privileged to have a look at that outline, and it features an unemployed Tulsa oil-field worker named O’Shea. While following the basic structure of Dent’s plan, Will Murray vastly expanded the scope and added fantastic elements, while smoothly sliding Pat and Monk into O’Shea’s role as hero.

The mysterious head villain, Chief Standing Scorpion, is Will’s invention, as are the gang of Tommy Gun-toting Osage Indians who do his dirty work. The same goes for many of the supporting characters with very Dent-sounding names: Jim Dandy, Tall Turkey, Grabber Daly and “Thunder” Cloud.

The result is a bullet-ridden romp through Oklahoma and the oil business, with Monk—between shots and scrapes—playing tour guide. Pat Savage emerges from Doc’s shadow, proving herself more than equal to the challenge and worthy of more adventures on her own. Here’s hoping we get them!

Like the many WILD Adventures of Doc Savage, Six Scarlet Scorpions is available direct from Altus Press.


George said...

I'm going to have to order this! When does Will Murray sleep? He seems to publish a book a month!

Evan Lewis said...

My guess is that he found some sort of cloning device in Lester Dent's effects, and is now able to write 72 hours a day.