I had my eye on this book on Amazon for ages before I decided to take a chance on it. I’m a bit skittish, having bought small press and self-published books before that turned out to be utter crap…heck, I recently bought a very popular YA adventure novel by a writer whose books sell millions of copies and it was one of the worst written tomes I’ve cracked open in years.
So, yeah. Skittish.
But I finally bought Warren Stockholm’s The Sting of The Scorpion, allegedly the first issue of Scorpion Magazine, though this was published in 2006 and there’s still no sign of a second issue. But things happen, and it is the product of a small press.
The Scorpion is a pulp hero in the tradition of The Shadow, but even more in the tradition of The Spider (both of whom I wrote about here). He’s dark and deadly and armed and dangerous, clad in a black-veiled fedora and a black leather trench coat, brutally taking the fight to the criminals that plague his city, Steeltown.
While the hero is fashioned from a very readily recognizable pulp archetype, Stockholm does some interesting things with The Scorpion and the world he inhabits.
For one thing, the tale takes place in an alternate history in which Germany won the second world war and occupied America for sixty years. America has only recently booted their wretched asses out and is rebuilding itself. The milieu is an intriguing amalgam of the thirties and the late twentieth century, as if the culture sort of froze in place under Nazi rule, but technology moved forward.
As for the hero, in classic pulp fashion, The Scorpion by day is a wealthy paragon, living in the tallest building in the city, assisted by a mysterious Asian woman, dedicated to his mission against evil…but he’s not just a hero with a dark past, he’s a hero with a really dark past. And he’s not really human, in some very interesting and dangerous ways. Richard Wentworth dressed as The Spider to scare criminals into thinking he was a monster; Kurt Reinhardt becomes The Scorpion because he is a monster.
Reinhardt is a compelling protagonist, the action frequent and brutal, the city a violent and noirish place, and the plot interesting. Not only that, but Stockholm can actually write very well (though this is possibly the worst copy-edited book I’ve ever read all the way through). I do have to warn readers of delicate tastes away, however, because this is a very grim and blood-splashed work.
I enjoyed the hell out of this story. I wish there was a Scorpion Magazine #2, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Unlike some other attempts at modern pulp I’ve read (or tried to read), this one’s going on the shelf with my Doc Savages, Shadows, and, of course, that other arachnid, The Spider.