Reviewed by David Brzeski
This is the second original Pat Wildman adventure. The first was ‘The Evil at Pemberley House’, from Subterranean Press, which Win Scott Eckert co-wrote with the late science fiction Grand Master, Philip JosÃ© Farmer. It’s a limited, signed edition of 225 copies, so if you’re interested grab it fast!
Pat Wildman is the daughter of ‘Doc’ Wildman, whose many adventures were published under a slightly different name. Most people will immediately figure out what name when they read of Pat’s bronzed skin and gold-flecked eyes.
As one would expect from Win Scott, Eckert and Meteor Press, especially in a book in a series which Philip JosÃ© Farmer had a hand in, it’s full of references to Farmer’s ‘Wold Newton Family’. As well as Pat, we meet one Helen Benson, who has inherited some of her father’s powers of disguise. Fans of sixties TV will also recognise a certain bird-named organization, whose soldiers are now mercenaries since a certain United Nations based task force put their leaders out of business. There are quite a few other references to other characters and stories by Farmer, Eckert and others. I won’t spoil the fun by listing them.
Indeed, all the influences at work in this bookâ€”pulp heroes, old movie serials, classic sixties spy shows etc.â€”have one common factor; sheer fun adventure! There’s certainly no shortage of that in this book. We have a mysterious villain, the Scarlet Jaguar of the titleâ€”with his equally mysterious weapon, which turns objects and people into red glass and shatters them into thousands of shardsâ€”not to mention a dastardly plot to destroy the Panama Canal, unless the South American country of Xibum (the pronunciation of this will bring a smile to the face of many readers) is ceded to his absolute control.
The cover, by Mark Sparacio, is excellent, but I actually liked the black and white illustration on the signature page even more. It’s a short book, but there’s much to be said for leaving the reader wanting more. I’m very much looking forward to the next adventure of Pat Wildman and Empire Investigations.