With appalling suddenness, a new hooded monster of crime unleashed swift murder and soul-chilling madness upon Manhattan. His army of assassins struck with wanton savagery to lash terrified millions into a paralysis of fear. The Dictator held sway!—and Richard Wentworth, the avenging Spider, driven to the ambuscades of the underworld, faced the vortex of sudden peril alone.
“Dictator of the Damned” is the 40th Spider novel and was originally published in January 1937.
This story is Emile Tepperman’s third consecutive Spider tale in the string of eight that he will write. I must admit that I am enjoying these stories. It seems to me that he provided a great relieve for Norvell Page in much the same way as Theodore Tinsley did for Walter Gibson in the Shadow Magazine. Page’s beloved over-the-top, frantic style had become too over-the-top and frantic in 1936. The relief that Tepperman provided will enable Page to return to write some additional great Spider novels.
This one starts with the aftermath of the four-part Pharaoh threat now in the past. Wentworth/Spider, Kirkpatrick, and the Spider associates are all thinking about retiring from their crime-fighting lifestyles just as another threat arrives. Three police commissioners following Kirkpatrick’s resignation while under false suspicion for murder have been killed in three days, and then the Mayor is killed as well. So Kirkpatrick is once again police commissioner, and the Spider is ready to do battle. (Note: Being NYC police commissioner is apparently dangerous, as only Kirkpatrick is able to do it and live. Remember that Commissioner Flynn was also killed in the “Mayor of Hell,” which also allowed for Kirkpatrick to transition back into the roll.)
Having stated the above consideration of Tepperman’s Spider work thus far, it should also be noted that this novel conforms better to one of the Shadow’s novels from the mid-1930s when Gibson had a supreme crime boss involved.
The Dictator is a mysterious hooded fellow with an unknown identity. All the city’s mobsters report to him. His assassins are responsible for the deaths of the police commissions and of the major.
Wentworth’s/Spider’s approach is to follow up on crimes, including the inevitable kidnapping of Nita. He blasts away at the bad guys killing many while the enemy has apparently attended the Star Wars Clone Academy for Marksmanship and continually misses Wentworth despite the barrage of lead aimed at him. Overall a rather well-developed mobster novel probably popular in the 1930s.
Again a good job by Tepperman, but if all we had was his Spider novels, the Spider would have had a much different reputation. It took Page to make the Spider, and Teppermen is only a fill in. Yet we can still enjoy his work. Perhaps a rapid Spider fan will dismiss novels like this for their differences from Page, but a pulp fan should enjoy this novel.