Meet the Spider—master of men! More just than the Law… more dangerous than the Underworld. Hated, wanted, feared by both! Alone and desperate, he wages deadly, one-man war against the super-criminal whose long-planned crime-coup will snuff a thousand lives! Can the Spider prevent this slaughter of innocents?
“The Spider Strikes” is the first Spider novel, although certainly not the best and was first published in October 1933. R.T.M. Scott is the listed author for the first two Spider novels. Apparently, there were two pulp writers with this name, a father and son. The father wrote the most, the son the least. There is a bit of controversy over which one was responsible for these first two books.
I have a bit of history with the first two Spider stories. In 1969, when I was 17, I bought the first one and received the second one (more on it later) free as part of a promotional special. When I read them, I was entirely bored, also thinking that they were contemporary novels. I did not pick up another Spider story for 40 years as a result. When I did return to the Spider, I did so from reading about the greatness of Page’s Spider coupled with generally poor remarks about these first two novels.
So when I started to read this first novel yesterday, I was surprised that it was actually good in parts. Certainly, not Page’s Spider, but we do see the introduction of Richard Wentworth, Nita Van Sloan, Stanley Kirkpatrick, and Ram Singh, plus Apollo the dog and Prof. Browlee. The Spider does not wear his makeup, cloak and hat yet, but he does have his Spider seal or brand.
Caper: Stealing a gold shipping coming by sea from a foreign country to repay debt to the US government.
The story starts and ends well, but slow in the middle. The plot is somewhat convoluted, driven by coincidence. The story is in the bottom tier of Spider stories, but given that it is the first Spider novel and that it does have some limited redeeming qualities, it is easy to recommend that a Spider fan.
Note: In the 96th Spider novel, “The Spider and the Deathless One,” from September 1941, the Chief in the Web section of the original magazine noted that R.T.M. Scott wrote the first novel, but that the Spider was really conceived by Grant Stockbridge and for him to be the author all along. Apparently, “Grant” was involved in scientific studies and could not get started until the third novel. “Grant Stockbridge” was a house name, not used in the first two Spider novels. After Scott, Norvell Page was the sole writer for the next 2 ½ years.
Comments like this one are often apocryphal in letter sections of magazines. However, if Norvell Page was slated to be the writer for the magazine all along but with Scott asked to pinch hit for the first two until Page was ready, there might be some truth to this comment. Of course, there is no way to verify it; no reason has been given for Scott’s departure.