What happens to super heroes when they grow old? I remember an interview from the late Christopher Reeve where he explained regardless of his own age, he had to play Superman as 35. Superman was perpetually thirty-five, not too young to be punk, but not old enough to be, well, old.
With the five novels of The Black Stiletto author Raymond Benson has given us a glimpse of what happens to heroes after their prime. The first novel was published in 2011 and the last one only last year. So far, I’ve read the first one and last one. Right away I can tell you that Mr. Benson did a good job of not spoiling the previous books, they are one story arc, but self-contained, which is good since I read them out of order.
The Black Stiletto is a masked vigilante that operated in New York and Los Angeles in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Think of a Batman, but without the resources. Judy Cooper is seemingly ordinary girl, tall and pretty, she’s also gifted with a marvelous sixth sense. She can feel danger looming close. Also she can tell when people are lying, pretty much like Wonder Woman, but without the lasso. She trained in boxing, martial arts, and of course she’s most proficient with a knife. (You can substitute “proficient” with “deadly” and that sentence would still hold true.)
The novels occur in two time lines, one in the present day through the eyes of her son and granddaughter, and one in the past in the form of diaries that Judy Cooper filled with her thoughts and escapades.
In the present day Judy Cooper, now Talbot, lives in a home for the elderly and she suffers from Alzheimer’s. As I have relatives suffering from the same illness, I can attest to the novels accurate depiction. It is a heart-breaking disease and it can bring a grown man to tears. The dual time-line is a neat but complicated trick, and the author handles it pretty well.
What I enjoy about the story is the simpler times from days long gone. For example, in one occasion she shed some blood during a fight, but she was unconcerned later as the police could, at most, type her blood but nothing else. Yes, those were the days before DNA tests and caller ID’s so she could phone the police from wherever she felt without compromising her secrets.
Without his knowledge, I think the author may have started a trend, or at least he was ahead of it. In the past few years we have seen aging Rocky / Rambo, an Indiana Jones with a grown-up son, and even a white-haired Terminator.
Although the saga is completed in its novel form, a deal for a TV series was recently announced. The project is attached to Milla Kunis and her production company Orchard Farm Prods.; so we have Black Stiletto for a while longer.
Oh, and Mr. Benson, if you happen to be reading this, I bet you a drink at the next convention where we coincide that the piece Eric Draper was listening to was Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.