Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Report #59 - The Spider Strikes by R.T.M Scott

The "original" Radio Archives cover.
Arguably the Number Three character of the pulp era, after The Shadow and Doc Savage.

Richard Wentworth is a rich New York bachelor who, with the help of his trusted servant, Ram Singh and his girlfriend Nita Van Sloan, fights crime with deadly consequences.  He's suspected by the police of being The Spider which adds a fun increase to the suspense of the stories.  Not only are you wondering how he's going to defeate the bad guys but also how he's going to avoid capture by the authorities.

Set in present day 1933, the story kicks off with Wentworth confronting a notorious con man on board a transatlantic ocean liner. The rest of the story is set in Manhattan where you can hear the jazz, see the potted ferns and taste the champagne of a man who has continued to thrive, even in the depts of the Great Depression.

The first two novels were written by Scott before being taken over by Norvell W. Page who then took the character to dizzying places.  I'm looking forward to these supercharged stories.  This first novel of the series was very much a battle of wits from two highly intelligent foes and relies a lot on deception by the use of disguises.

My favourite part of the story was when our two advisaries meet face to face and have a civil discussion on how they will defeate each other.

The story was wonderful.  It was sophisticated, quick-paced, violent and filled with believable characters.  It was definitely worth the 10 cents charged at the time and the $3.00 I paid for the paperback reprint, published in 1969, that I bought from a used bookstore.
My paperback copy

Partway through the book I spent another $3.00 to get the ebook version from a company called Radio Archives.  This version was fantastic; not only did I get the original novel and the original cover art but there was an historical essay about the the Spider stories and the pulp era.  Plus, and this was the real hook for me, the two backup short stories that were published in the original magazine.  This is the kind of stuff that can really add to the experience of reading vintage fiction and is a way of preserving stories that would be lost otherwise.

These guys are doing a fantastic job!  Look for Radio Archives HERE to browse all the titles.

Now for the short story reviews:

Baited Death by Leslie C. White: Holy cow! This was a serious bit of hard, hard boiled storytelling. A cop is killed and his partner takes justice into his own hands to avenge his death. This story alone was worth the purchase price.

Murder Undercover by Norvell Page: Another story about Revenge. Set in Washington, DC, the nephew of an Italian ambassador uncovers the truth behind his uncle's death.

Ford 8

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