Never had Richard Wentworth—he who is the scourge of the Underworld in his guise of the Spider—faced such tremendous odds or been so alone in the strife! Nita, his beloved, had tried to kill him, was hopelessly insane. His faithful servant had been tortured beyond human endurance. And the Master of Madness, chief of a powerful, fiendish syndicate, was spreading his germs of mania unchecked. Who could rescue America from screaming, murderous frenzy when the Spider, harried by Law and lawless, himself half-doubted his own skill and bravery?
“Legions of Madness” is the 33rd Spider novel, originally published in June 1936. This time, the evil opponent has devised a way to drive people insane. He has started a company called Insanity, Inc. Rich folks have to purchase a share in the company or their family members will go crazy, an unusual application of standard racket protection.
Of course, Nita is a target of the imposed madness, and of course, Wentworth is seriously wounded. Early on, Wentworth knows the culprits behind the madness disease, and most of the novel concerns battles with them with fists, guns, and sabers, but the novel contains little of the impact of the insanity except on Nita. A lot of good scenes, but all very predictable in their development. Perhaps the most creative (and outlandish) scene occurs when Wentworth receives a shot to stimulate his heart to keep going after being fearfully wounded.
For me, this was one of the lesser works from Page. It still has his enjoyable, patented whirlwind writing style, but few noteworthy activities seem to occur. Perhaps, there is a reason why this one has a scanty reprinting history!
It might be interesting to contrast this tale with “Master of the Death-Madness,” Norvell Page’s earlier story of mass madness from August 1935. In that one the madness led to suicide, apparently killing off millions of people, depopulating parts of whole states. In this one, extortion seems to be the main thrust, not actual death and impacts far fewer people. In both the Spider rushes around fighting his enemies, but in this one, he is limited to NYC while in the earlier, he had the run of the entire nation. In the earlier novel, Nita dons the Spider outfit, Wentworth’s Spidey sense activates, and interesting Egyptian types are running the show, but nothing so interesting happens in this one. Basically “Legions of Madness” is a poor reflection of the earlier story.