I’m by no means an expert on pulp characters. I do have most of the Bantam Doc Savages, all of The Shadows in book form, and all the mass market Spiders. Other than those three, I’ve only read a handful of the G-8 novels.
The Spider I would like to see more of in mass market paperbacks. The few I’ve seen in the facsimile editions and others look good, but trying to assemble all of them is just not cost effective for me.
The best find I’ve made recently is this collection of three novels in one volume, collectively known as The Complete Black Police Trilogy. From Age of Aces Books, it brings together the novels that originally appeared in the September, October, and November 1938 issues of The Spider Magazine.
THE CITY THAT PAID TO DIE
THE SPIDER AT BAY
SCOURGE OF THE BLACK LEGIONS
The book begins with a forward by Thomas Krabacher(correction of a stupid error earlier by myself) that gives us an overview of the Thirties and the climate that brought us this trilogy. The Depression, the rise of the Nazi Empire, movies and books that had the government usurped by dictators. Norvell Page may have visited Europe in the mid-thirties and witnessed first hand what Nazism was doing.
During an election year, the Party of Justice swept the major elections in New York, as well as most of those in the larger cities. Unknown was that criminals were backing the party and they swiftly moved to consolidate their new empire, drafting new laws for high taxes and sweeping authority. Pardons were issued to residents of the prisons and they formed the newly organized NYBI, the Black Police that had power over any local police force.
They would move in and demand taxes from small merchants immediately. If they couldn’t pay, they could be beaten with whips or hanged on the spot. Concentration camps were set up for these scofflaws.
An obvious take on the Nazi party. It’s all orchestrated by someone known only as the Master, appearing only in special mirrors as a white blob to dispense orders to his lieutenants.
The Spider had always fought crime from the shadows. Indeed, he was considered a criminal himself for his uncompromising attitude toward those who preyed on the innocent. He would respond in kind, cutting them down if they didn’t surrender.
Now he, in his real identity of Richard Wentworth, becomes a leader of the resistance and, along with his best friend, Police Commissioner Stanley Kirkpatrick, gets a $10,000 dead or alive reward placed on their heads. Preferably dead, no questions asked. The pair had always played the game of Who’s the Spider? Kirkpatrick was sure Wentworth was his man and, friend or no, would arrest him if he got the proof.
Now Wentworth has to play a dangerous game of pretending he is not the Spider, but using the identity to inspire the populace. Who knew where the real Spider was or where he might be in these dangerous times?
The identity of the Master must be learned. He’s using every trick to loot banks and businesses, even to using a leprosy-like disease, claiming anyone who opposed the Master automatically contracted it. But every time in the three novels Wentworth learns who his opponent is, the man slips away, leaving a taunting note and peeling away another false identity.
The action moves at breakneck speed as usual with the Spider.
The book is gorgeously designed from the Chris Kalb cover to the ten pages of black and white illustrations before each novel from the original magazine by John Fleming Gould to the three magazine covers by John Newton Howitt.
A nicely done package that should be a part of any pulp fan’s collection.