One might wonder why I have The Spider in a Forgotten Books post. One of the more popular pulp characters, The Spider in these two novels is considerably different from what all pulp fans know and love. I first read these books when first published in 1969. They were bound together and sold for the price of one: sixty cents. You’ll note # 2, The Wheel of Death says free bonus book in the upper left corner. The pair I had sustained water damage many years back and when I had the opportunity to replace them, I didn’t hesitate. A re-reading was in order of course and I was reminded just how different this Spider was from the Norvell Page version.
Harry Steeger created The Spider for Popular Publications to compete with Street & Smith’s Shadow. R(eginald) T(homas) M(aitland) Scott was selected to bring Richard Wentworth and Company to life. The character he rendered in these first two novels make for good reading. All the ingredients were there: the characters, the Spider seal Wentworth planted on the foreheads of his victims. But they were considered slow paced and other writers were brought aboard, Norvell Page the first and best, to continue The Spider’s adventures under the house name Grant Stockbridge.
The Spider in these two books is more of a conventional crime fighter. He doesn’t have the cape, the slouch hat, the mask(fangs and make-up in later volumes) or the twin .45s, though he does use one occasionally. His main weapon is an air pistol that fires darts.
In the first book, THE SPIDER STRIKES!, Wentworth is pursuing a criminal mastermind who goes by the name of Mr. X. It’s the closest of the two to the popular later novels as he has a plan using poison gas to kill thousands. The second book, THE WHEEL OF DEATH, finds him looking for the mastermind blackmailing and bribing politicians to control New York City. He also is helping a young girl looking for evidence to clear her father of a murder he didn’t commit before he is sent to the chair.
I liked these books being a fan of R. T. M. Scott, but I can see the need for the change. The run would probably have been short and mostly forgotten today.
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