Your Daily NEL: New English Library

Cheap and Nasty Seventies Horror Pulp

Michael R. Linaker – Scorpion

Posted by demonik on September 15, 2007

Michael R Linaker – Scorpion (NEL, June 1980)


‘ A high shrill cry of terror ripped from her taut throat. Thousands of black scuttling insects curving tails arched over their backs and pincered arms splayed out…
They surged towards her, sensing her warmth, the promise of food. In moments her body was covered by flowing blanket of hungry scorpions…’

Les Mason has just been stung by something. A bee? A wasp? He’s waiting outside Long Point Nuclear Plant in Kent. He’s a journo and there’s about to be a demonstration led by Christine Lane. This pair get along quite well as Les is anti-nuclear and the protestors make for a good story. Chris notices he looks pretty ill, and drives him home in his own Triumph Spitfire. She returns to the plant to find there’s been a good old knuckle-up in her absence. Her bloodied second in command, hot tempered beardie Jack Webster tips her the wink that scheming pervo head of security Vic Condon (who’d like nothing better than to drool all over Chris) had planted an agitator in the peaceful demo – giving him an excuse to send in the gorillas to dish out a few whacks to the peaceniks. The Old Bill and ambulances arrive. Chris gets a talking to from good at heart Inspector Duncan, and she leaves to check on Les whilst Condon cackles in the background.

Mason’s not at the flat – neighbour Jenny Mills had to dial 999 when Les’s agonised screaming wouldn’t stop. She saw his swollen arm, skin black,fingers like big sausages – and as he was stretchered out, the blackness was spreading across his face!

Mason is rushed to Greenbank Hospital and the care of kindly Dr Renshaw – who’s baffled. Fortunately a Tropical Disease Research Unit is attached to the healing centre, overseen by Dr Camperly, a glory seeking despot who makes life miserable for his underlings – Allan Brady, capri-driving young hero, and red-haired comedy Scotsman Fergus McFee.

Allan’s analysis of blood and saliva from Les Mason shows that the venom in him is far more virulent that anything a bee or wasp could conjure up – it’s worse than an adders.

Meanwhile, Maurice Jenkins has shut up his small newsagents in the Mile End Road and is enjoying a leisurely camping holiday on the Kent coast with his black and white terrier-cum-collie Rex. As Maurice enjoys a leather bound copy of David Copperfield from the comfort and warmth of his sleeping bag he’s surprised to hear Rex growling. That’s a bit out of character for the pooch. When Rex gets in the tent, the saliva pouring from his mouth, the swollen, puffy, discoloured flesh around his eye and the dark objects within his tangled fur set alarm bells ringing. Before Maurice can aid Rex, the hound tears out his throat.

Two days later, Les shuffles off this mortal coil – in great agony. Camperley’s cheesed off – nothing beats his department. Chris is in tears, but is consoled when Allan gives her a lift home.

Holidaying family the Lippmans suffer a mysterious death – and nude sunbathing model Fran Collingwood ‘bronzed body glistening with oil’ is stung. Fran manages to get into her expensive sports car and makes a desperate attempt to drive to an hospital. The pain proves too much and she crashes at 121 mph.

Allan manages to determine that the dead Lippman and Fran have been stung – and gets a lunch date with Chris Lane.

Chris is determined to finish Les Mason’s last article as a tribute to him. He’s discovered a few things about the nuclear plant.
So ends section one – Encounters.

Things hot up in Engagement. Chris interviews one of Les’s contacts who has knowledge of a leak from the plant. A young courting couple get stung and nipped while enjoying love al fresco. A self-employed garageman is attacked by poor old Rex – an oxy-acetalane torch and petrol make for a terrific explosion.

Allan is at the hospital with Doc Renshaw when some workmen, one of whom has been stung, identify the culprit as – a scorpion.
And so we’re off on another animal rampage classic.

Scorpion is very small scale – the action confined to Long Point and its environs – and a bit by the numbers – young couple, tramp etc but still a very enjoyable read, and at 158 pages doesn’t outstay its welcome. A superb welter of gore set piece in a supermarket made my day.

Review by Franklin Marsh of Vault

See also Vault’s Scorpion thread

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