Why Not? Pat Savage Stars in Six Scarlet Scorpions

Feb 18, 2018 by

Why Not? Pat Savage Stars in Six Scarlet Scorpions

A review of Six Scarlet Scorpions by Catherine Lavallée-Welch.

Appearing in 39 adventures of Doc Savage, Patricia Savage is Doc’s younger cousin, and arguably his sixth, unofficial, aide. She made her first appearance in Brand of the Werewolf, the eleventh story published in pulp format. Since that first taste of adventure, she relentlessly tried to convince Doc to let her tag along, much to his dismay and continuous rebuff. Doc may have thought his lifestyle to be too dangerous for a woman, yet Pat always proved herself up to the task.

So it was about time for Pat Savage to star in her own adventure¹. This is thanks to Will Murray, whose 21st novel set in the Doc Savage universe is Six Scarlet Scorpions. In Bronze Gazette #77, Murray said that spinning Pat Savage into her own series was never on his radar screen, but one day a fan’s Facebook comment suggesting the idea had him ask “Why not?” Murray said the time was right, readers wanted it, and he was open to it.

That’s why there’s a Pat Savage novel, but how did it turn out?

The story, taking place in the summer of 1938, starts with a plane crash in Oklahoma. Pat Savage, accompanied by Monk Mayfair, is racing a known speculator for an oil field lease. While she’s making a good living with her New York City beauty establishment, Pat is looking to make a small fortune for herself. Monk told her about the opportunities in oil, and she became interested after trying her luck looking for sunken treasure and harvesting alligator hides in Venezuela. While in Tulsa to process paperwork, Pat and Monk come upon a very anemic man, who looks like he’s been completely drained of blood and is asking for their help. How could the young woman resist the adventure?

The novel of course doesn’t lack in action and perilous situations, with the requisite amount of captures, escapes, false accusations, disguises, and a heinous, mysterious, sometimes lethal weapon that tattoos a person’s face. The whole state of Oklahoma is covered from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to Osage country and the Ozark Mountains. The villain is one Standing Scorpion, who appears to be Native American.

The style is very pulpish, of course. The dialogue is perfectly clipped while using a lot of ‘30s expressions and idioms. There is a lot of details about the oil industry, oil speculation, the telegraph service, and local wildlife. (You’ll even learn what to do if charged by a buffalo.)

Native Americans are indeed a big part of the story and are major protagonists. The vocabulary used to name and describe them refers to derogatory or dismissive descriptors used in the pulp era. This made me a bit uneasy and I kept wondering about the appropriateness of the vocabulary used. Are modern pulp writings, or specifically this author’s, meant to be ‘30s-’40s pulp novels as they were then and there, or are they simply written in the style? As a history major and librarian, I certainly understand the concepts of historical context and primary documents. I also know that Murray worked from a Dent outline. However, how do you balance the authenticity of the pulp era fiction written in a contemporary work for what is, I hope, a more progressive society?

As usual with Will Murray’s novels, as they are longer that the original pulp stories, the author can permit himself a bit more of character development. We learn about Pat starting out in New York City, how her limited opportunities as a young woman lead to her decision to open a beauty salon, her boat named “Patricia”, etc. We mostly learn though about her beloved gun, her grandfather’s triggerless Frontier Single Action Army six-shooter.

Bizarrely, we learn more about Monk’s youth in Oklahoma, his rig work as an oil field roustabout all across the state, his old school rival, a childhood nickname, and how he financed his university studies back East. We even get an interesting tidbit about lawyer and Doc aide Ham Brooks’ courtroom style in his brief appearance in the story.

We do have a fuller view of Pat’s temperament and character: she’s competent, smart, brave, creative, and wants to take charge; she’s a “modern cowgirl of the Calamity Jane variety.” She certainly doesn’t want to have her cousin barging in on her mystery. However, it would have been interesting to learn more about her motivations and the difficulties she faces as a young woman in the time period.

In some aspects, Pat functions very differently from Doc Savage. Pat and Monk communicate a lot and discuss their next moves in the adventure. The lead is often taken by Pat, but other times by Monk. Contrast this with Doc who typically plans on his own, directs his aides’ actions, and generally has a deaf ear to questions.

Nobody gets the deaf ear by Doc more than each story’s damsel in distress. Again, contrary to her cousin, Pat talks to the featured young woman, and takes her situation, if not her safety, into consideration when making decisions.

A quick word about the art cover by Joe DeVito, action-filled and showcasing Pat brandishing her beloved six-shooter: she’s wearing an outfit similar to the regular Doc iconography (khaki shirt and jodhpurs), although in the book, she mostly wear dresses and skirts. Compared to some recent comic book covers, DeVito’s art shows you don’t need to show cleavage, or tops shred to pieces, to illustrate a heroine. To do anything else reduces the female character to an object and undermines said character.

Six Scarlet Scorpions is a very enjoyable read and it’s a treat to have Pat Savage as a heroine. One hopes for another novel, or better yet a series, putting the spotlight on Pat.

¹ Not counting the infamous 90s adult fanfic story of dubious taste that used “bronze globes” far too many times.

(This review originally appeared in the Bronze Gazette.)

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Aug 8, 2017 by

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See the latest comments on the novels and HTC articles…

On the novels…

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  • Ty Smith on The Mystery on the SnowJust re-read this after nearly 40 years in a Nostalgia Ventures/Sanctum edition and enjoyed it very much. Yes, hard to...
  • rgdmalaysia on 029 01/40 The Other WorldOf the Doc in a prehistoric world stories, The Other World is the best. If just for the scene where...
  • rgdmalaysia on The Other WorldOf the Doc in a prehistoric world stories, The Other World is the best. If just for the scene where...
  • rgdmalaysia on 103a 04/44 The Whisker of HerculesThis is a pretty good Doc. I like the villain's weapon (SPOILER super speed) espc. the scene where Monk takes...
  • rgdmalaysia on The Whisker of HerculesThis is a pretty good Doc. I like the villain's weapon (SPOILER super speed) espc. the scene where Monk takes...
  • rgdmalaysia on 007 04/34 The MonstersI've read all of the original Doc Savage adventures and this is hands down my favorite. It is the template...
  • rgdmalaysia on The MonstersI've read all of the original Doc Savage adventures and this is hands down my favorite. It is the template...
  • rgdmalaysia on 014 12/35 The Fantastic IslandI seem to be in the minority but I like this story very much because there's a lot going on...
  • rgdmalaysia on The Fantastic IslandI seem to be in the minority but I like this story very much because there's a lot going on...
  • rgdmalaysia on 031 12/34 The AnnihilistOne of the grimmest Docs - The torture scene is almost too much to bear. I like it - Gritty...
  • rgdmalaysia on The AnnihilistOne of the grimmest Docs - The torture scene is almost too much to bear. I like it - Gritty...
  • rgdmalaysia on 011 09/34 Fear CayDefinitely one of my favorite Doc stories - Dan Thunden is a great villain, good use of the five plus...
  • rgdmalaysia on Fear CayDefinitely one of my favorite Doc stories - Dan Thunden is a great villain, good use of the five plus...
  • Gordy Skorseth on 149h 12/46 The Disappearing LadyThis is a straightforward mystery story, involving murder, greed, blackmail and vengeance. It is a pretty good story but if...


On the articles…

Want a quick list of links to all the novels in publication order?

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All Novels Listed by Publication Order

Aug 8, 2017 by

All Novels Listed by Publication Order

Links to all the novels in publication order:

The Original Pulps

Bantam Number – Original Publication Date – Title

Post Pulp Novels

Number – Original Publication Date – Title

Phillip Jose Farmer

Will Murray

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Will Murray Doc Savage Novels

May 22, 2017 by

Will Murray Doc Savage Novels

The current list of Doc Savage novels written by Will Murray:

184 – 1991 – Python Isle
185 – 1992 – White Eyes
186 – 1992 – The Frightened Fish
187 – 1992 – The Jade Ogre
188 – 1993 – Flight into Fear
189 – 1993 – The Whistling Wraith
190 – 1993 – The Forgotten Realm
191 – 2011 – The Desert Demons
192 – 2011 – Horror in Gold
193 – 2012 – The Infernal Buddha
194 – 2012 – Death’s Dark Domain
195 – 2013 – Skull Island
196 – 2013 – The Miracle Menace
197 – 2013 – Phantom Lagoon
198 – 2014 – The War Makers
199 – 2014 – The Ice Genius
200 – 2015 – The Sinister Shadow
201 – 2015 – The Secret of Satan’s Spine
202 – 2016 – Glare of the Gorgon
203 – 2017 – Empire of Doom

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Pat Savage Stars in Solo (Almost) Novel

Oct 16, 2016 by

Pat Savage Stars in Solo (Almost) Novel

patsavageWill Murray decided to give many fans what they wanted and has penned a solo Pat Savage novel. Well, almost solo, as Monk joins Pat on her adventure:

When a man so anemic that he could be a vampire’s victim comes to Patricia Savage for rescue, the impetuous girl can’t say no. Excitement is her meat and danger her dessert.

Accompanied by Doc Savage aide, Monk Mayfair, Pat finds herself in the worst danger of her life. Wanted for murder, hounded by the minions of a weird mystery figure calling himself Chief Standing Scorpion, narrowly evading the hordes of the Vinegarroon tribe, the bronze-skinned golden girl battles her way to a sinister secret cached in an ancient ruin.

From the oilfields of Oklahoma to the forbidding Ozark Mountains, the trail of scorpionic doom winds. Will Pat Savage’s first great adventure also be her last?

The novel was released in softcover, but no announcement has been made regarding hardcover or ebook versions.

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Roger Kastel

Oct 27, 2014 by

Roger Kastel

kastel1Roger Kastel painted a cover for Doc Savage Omnibus 3 and the poster for the film, Doc Savage: Man of Bronze.

While still a student Roger had his first paperback book cover published in the 1960’s by Pocket Books (Simon Schuster). All told, Roger estimates that he has done over a 1,000 illustrations for various publishers. Also in the 1960’s, a painting of Roger’s won first prize from the National Fire Underwriters. This painting was made into a fire safety poster that was used for many years and had high visibility.

By the 1970’s Roger Kastel hit full stride as an artist, becoming one of the most well respected illustrators in the business, working for every major publishing house in New York. — Roger Kastel


kastelDoc Savage study by Roger Kastel. Prints for sale at RogerKastel.com

Joe DeVito wrote: “Thank God I ran into an illustrator named Ralph Amatrudi, who was very well disciplined in the Riley method. Riley was a modern-day Howard Pyle and the mentor of many tremendous artists (James Bama, who revolutionized paperback cover art and made Doc Savage famous again, Roger Kastel, who painted Jaws, Bob McGuire, and many others).”

ds1Ron Ely as Doc Savage by Roger Kastel. Prints for sale at RogerKastel.com

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