In the gaunt desolation of those dark Kentucky hills, the Dixie Limited, crack flyer, stood gutted of all living passengers… The Spider, the only survivor, stood alone at that bleak scene, vowing silently, solemnly, to destroy the ambition-mad arch-criminal who had plotted this wholesale ruin. For this, and manifold like disasters, were occurring everywhere in the land—at the direction, Richard Wentworth knew, of some diabolical brain which was unleashing hordes of primitive barbarians to lay waste civilization. But later, at the very moment when the Spider should have struck his most telling blow, he was pacing a narrow cell in the death-house at Sing Sing!
“Hordes of the Red Butcher” is the 21st Spider novel and was originally published in June 1935. For unexplained reasons, nine months have apparently transpired between this issue of the Spider Magazine and the May 1935 issue of “The Reign of the Death Fiddler.” The most significant change has been the election of Kirkpatrick as NY governor.
The story opens in rural Kentucky where Wentworth is battling large beast men with the strength of gorillas, which are later classified as Neanderthals. Although he finds them difficult to kill, he escapes to find an entire looted train filled with dead people having had their skulls crashed in… and then a town where most of the people have apparently been captured. They apparently take women with them and molest them. The beast men have been brought to America from their secluded overseas location where they have lived unknown to the rest of the world.
Soon murders directed at leading industrialists are being reported. New robberies of trains, banks, etc., keep happening, each associated with many death caused by the beast men. Everyone in entire towns are murdered, at one point three towns in one night.
The Headsman, leader of the beast men, frames Wentworth for murder, knowing him to be the Spider. He is tried, convicted, and sent to death row in Sing Sing; Governor Kirkpatrick will not pardon his old friend without solid evidence. So, “Nita Takes Command.” (Note: Actual title of Chapter 14.)
After several failed attempts to free Wentworth, including pointing a gun at Kirkpatrick to sign commutation papers, she crashes her man from the heavily guarded and fortified Sing Sing. She enters the prison with the supposed purpose be married to Wentworth at the last minute before the execution. Using a narcotic, everyone in the prison is knocked out for four to twelve hours, allowing Wentworth, Nita, and Jackson to escape before an alarm can be issued.
Released, the Spider is quickly able to ferret out the Headsman and ends his career. He finds out the robberies are to accumulate money so that businesses associated with the dead industrialists can be bought cheaply. Wentworth is also apparently proved innocent.
Lots of action as always, but as is not uncommon for the Spider, also some illogic. For me the individual scenes within the novel were good, but the entire storyline did not hold together as well as other Spider tales. The ending seemed bogus to me… but still fun!