Some wonderfully penetrating questions about The Black Tattoo in the Black Tat Guestbook this week, from Angela, 12, in Korea.

***SPOILER WARNING!*** If you haven’t read the book, you might want to look away now. If you have, here’s what she asked and how I answered…

Angela wrote:

The Black Tattoo was so… GOOD! Half of me wanted to go slowly and savor it, and half of me was flipping the pages at superhuman speed. Loved the characters, especially the Scourge, the Chinj, and Number Three. A few questions, though…

How exactly did Nick get possessed by the Scourge?

What were those burns on his hands?

Why do the Sons never reveal their names?

And what are the Sons of the Scorpion Flail exactly? I mean, why is Number One never really known, and how did Number Two get to be ‘Number Two’ in command?

Bye, I’m going to get Tim (oh wait, the bookstore isn’t open today… pfft)

-Hello Angela,

Thanks so much for your kind words. I don’t think I’ve had a message from a reader in Korea before! :D

I’m thrilled and honoured by your questions, because they’re even more of a sign of how much you enjoyed the book than your praise. However, I’m a little hesitant about answering them fully, not because I don’t have answers (I do – or I /think/ I do!) but because the reason I didn’t answer them in the book is that I like stories that leave space for the reader to imagine things for themselves. When everything is laid out for you then there’s no room for any other interpretation, and I think that’s always a shame. So while I can give you a couple of answers, I hope you’ll understand why I’m not going to tell you everything.

Also, I don’t take it for granted that what I imagined for these characters outside the story in the book is any more valid (or awesome!) than what /you’ve/ imagined, just because I’m the author. If you’ve got better answers, go with those. ;D But here goes…

-In the battle in which Belinda was killed, Nick managed to trap the Scourge in a staff – but only just: that’s how his hands got burned. The problem was, he didn’t complete the ritual by taking the Scourge back to the tree.

-If you join the Sons of the Scorpion Flail you have to give up your name — or rather, your number /becomes/ your name. You have no other identity beyond or outside The Sons of the Scorpion Flail.

-Number Two was good at being a Son. But as he progressed up the ranks, Number One noticed that his increasing power in the organisation was going to his head. When Number Two (with the agreement of the other three apparently active members of the Top Five at that time-!) was promoted to Number Two, /he/ thought he was now acting leader of the Sons. But Number One only put him there so he could keep an eye on him. ;D

-As to who or what the Sons are beyond what they say to Esme when they first arrive at the theatre, I leave that to you to imagine. HEE HEE HEE!

Thanks so much, again, for your wonderful message and questions, Angela. Very best wishes to you from here in London,

Sam

…Meanwhile, this week on Trapped By Monsters, an introduction to The Legendary Richard Matheson.