Never before has the Spider, Master of Men, crusader extraordinary against the Underworld, been faced with such overwhelming difficulties. A magically persuasive radio voice luring thousands of young people to crime; a scientific madman dealing germicidal death over the nation; every criminal gang in the country organized to levy toll by stark terror… How can Richard Wentworth link these facts, weave a web of retribution for the Doom Dealer? With his beloved Nita captured and waiting for a ghastly old-world torture, his one-time friend Kirkpatrick ordering police on his trail to ‘Kill at Sight!’, his every movement hampered not only by outlaws but by the law itself—can even the Spider find a way to free humanity from the grip of wholesale destruction being planned for it by the greatest of all Crime Masters?
“Slaves of the Crime Master” is the 19th Spider novel and was published originally in April 1935.
The Tempter promotes youth to take up crime to relieve their extreme poverty during the high point of the Great Depression by high jacking radio broadcasts and extolling crime as a way to make money. An interesting scene in Chapter 1 where the Spider is in pursuit of adult criminals and encounters a gang of about 20 boys and girls following the Tempter’s urging into crime. The Spider realizes that he cannot kill children as he would other criminals… so he tells them he is their friend. Immediately, they proclaim him as their friend because the Spider is the greatest of criminals having killed a 1000 men. About this time, some adult criminals come along and try to kill the Spider; instead the Spider kills them and hangs them before the children with his web to show them what happens to criminals.
As more and more youth are drawn into the Tempter’s service, the Spider discovered the criminal gangs are collecting dues from them for the Tempter. Soon, just to drive in downtown NY City, one needs to buy protection in the form of a Tempter card or be stopped by roving bands of young criminals. The Spider even has his own Spider youth club to counter them.
Meanwhile, a worse scenario is unfolding; a contagion of infant paralysis is sweeping the country, killing thousands of babies. In league with the Tempter, an evil Doctor has created the paralysis transmitted through food substances. He grows an anti-toxin in live kidnapped babies who are killed to harvest it and then sold to millionaires to cure their infants. (Note: The test tube on the cover.)
The climactic scene was great where the Spider apparently rides a giant-spider model down into Yankee Stadium to kill the Tempter and the Doctor with much of the NY City police department trying to stop him.
As with all of Page’s Spider stories, this one has lots of action and many subplots, only a few of which are alluded here. This is Page’s 17 Spider novel, the half-way mark through the 34 consecutive stories that he wrote after R.T.M. Scott wrote the first two. Page’s stuff is terrific, and this one is no exception.
An interesting aside is that The Spider Magazine had articles to help young adults and adolescents to become sleuths and help the police with crime, much as the Spider uses good youth in this novel to stem the criminal impact of those youth led astray by the Tempter. One magazine might indicate ways to provide more expressive and useful descriptions of criminals to help police catch them, and another how to tail bad guys. The only disclaimers for danger were minimum, mainly pointed out the thrill that came from such activities.