A woman lighted a cigarette, puffed it a few times, and began to scream, to tear her clothes from her body. Her head twisted back between her shoulders and she died a horrible convulsive death-death from tobacco smoke! The lascivious cultist, Deacon Coslin, had seen his mad prophecy fulfilled… for already other smokers, everywhere throughout the land, were dying by tens of thousands! With Richard Wentworth’s beloved Nita in the power of the enemy, facing an unspeakable death; with his faithful servants drugged and out of the battle; with the police hounding hint and the arch-criminal foreseeing every strategy, how can the Spider combat the overwhelming odds aligned against him? How can he save his compatriots from the Red Death Rain—save the land he loves from domination by an ambition-twisted brain?
Smokers beware! “The Red Death Rain” is the fifteenth Spider tale and was originally published in December 1934.
It begins: “A woman lighted a cigarette, puffed it a few times, and began to scream, to tear the clothes from her body. Her head twisted back between her shoulders, and she died a horrible, convulsive death—death from tobacco smoke!” Soon similar deaths soar, until according to the novel, “tens of thousands” are dying from smoking. One would think that people would quit smoking in the millions, but apparently not!
This story also has a Chinese connection although not quite as over the top or condescending as is often the case in pulps. The Red Mandarin, the bad guys’ leader, wants everyone to use his supposed “safe” cigarettes, but which in reality will turn users into mental slaves.
Also the bad guys being really bad (as usual) allows an orangutan to rip all of Nita’s clothes off her and to attempt (unsuccessfully… thankfully) to rape/murder her. For caffeine lovers, coffee and tea also become tainted; even alcoholic beverages are poisoned.
If you are looking for a Spider Christmas story, this is a Norvell Page’s offering… literally. Read it for a few extra murders in your stalking or with Christmas dinner! It is totally outrageous and inappropriate, yet a Spider frolic at the same time.