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Michael R. Linaker – The Touch of Hell

Posted by demonik on July 13, 2020

Michael R. Linaker – The Touch of Hell  (NEL, 1981)

 David McAllister


Winter wasn‘t gripping the village of Shepthorne so much as strangling it with a blanket of snow and Arctic temperatures. A massive pile up on frozen roads … A fireball of exploding petrol as a truck collided with a tanker in the garage forecourt. then from the sky, a huge military transport with its cargo of devastation crashed through the village, Hell was just beginning to touch Shepthorne …. 

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Michael R. Linaker – Scorpion: Second Generation

Posted by demonik on September 15, 2007

Michael R. Linaker – Scorpion: Second Generation (Nel, Feb. 1982)

Nightmare black and hideously armed they came scuttling and swarming from underground. Ever hungry, ever vicious, they hunted down their prey, clawing, biting, stinging.

The scorpions have returned, this time grown huge, irradiated, mutant. Their claws could strip the living flesh of man or woman down to the white bone. Could snap and strip the bone into tortured fragments. Gouging, tearing, blinding, they held their bloodied victims while they pumped spurts of venom into the agonised body.

The scorpions have returned, and the stench of death seeped out over the countryside.

Cornwall, fourteen months after the events described in the previous book (The Touch Of Hell).
The pesky ones that got away have been busy breeding and now an army of 4ft super scorpions are closing in on the popular holiday resort of Port Pendall. It being the hottest summer on record as usual, the place is even more packed with tourists than ever.

P.C. Trevor Parkinson is investigating a series of recent crimes. There’s been a break-in at the butchers, the bolts plucked from the heavy door to the cold storage room and chunks of frozen meat ripped apart: Young Gillian Bampton hasn’t been seen since she took Timmy the terrier for a walk: livestock has been stolen from Needham Farm.

Trevor drives over to the farm where he’s met by old flame Linda dressed in a too-tight t-shirt and tiny shorts. She married his best friend, Jim, but now she’s wondering whether she made the right choice. Seeing as he’s not going to be back for hours, Linda decides to pick up where she left off with Trevor and they get down to business.

By Chapter eight, the souped-up scorpions are getting well full of themselves. The girl they dragged off in the opening chapter has evidently been picked clean by now and next on the menu are Eddie and Jock, two thugs who’ve just battered old Harry Butlin and ran off with the daily takings from his mobile snack bar. Then Terri – stark naked, of course – and lover Don are stung, sliced and diced – not necessarily in that order – at home.

Parkinson has a hunch that all the recent events are connected and DI Sam Braddock likes a cop who runs on intuition and gut instinct so he temporarily promotes him to plain clothes, meaning Trevor can now wear his sports jacket to work. Also on the case is Miles Ranleigh, entomologist, who’s just been tipped off about the situation. Evidently he’s the Clifford Davenport of the piece, having been instrumental in putting down the previous scorpion uprising at Long Point in Kent.

So far, Linaker has ticked all the right boxes, but then comes the incident at The Guillemot, a traditional Cornish pub, populated by cider fiends, “grizzled elders” who “would have snorted with contempt if anyone had tried to introduce beer in ring-pull cans.” The pub is devoid of jukebox and Space Invaders, and if you want something to eat go piss off to a restaurant. All well and good, but when the latest victim crashes blooded and mutilated through the glass doors, landlord Barney Daley rings an ambulance. Call me a purist but whats with the Florence Nightingale act without first checking the guy’s credentials? He could be an outsider or a poofy flash Londoner or anything, for crying out loud! The author redeems himself when the mangled stranger turns black in hospital and there’s more gruesome death when two blokes decide to explore a disused tin mine ….

God, but this is so The Crabs!

See also Vault’s Scorpion II thread

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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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