Coffins and gold lay side by side in the strongroom of the liner that was sailing to its doom. And Richard Wentworth had picked that ship to carry Nita and himself to their long-delayed honeymoon in Europe! Denounced by Baron Otuna as a pirate, assailed by the green men in flaming chaos, he donned once more the Spider’s dusty cloak and well-oiled guns—for an epic battle at sea with a terror that stalked in the great ship’s wake and menaced a thousand lives!
"Voyage of the Coffin Ship" is the 45th Spider novel and was originally published in June 1937. It is Tepperman’s eighth consecutive Spider novel. Page returns for the July 1937 issue, and we will have to wait until 1940 for Tepperman’s final four Spiders.
In the last tale, Wentworth’s obit was published, and in this one, he is still officially dead; he is traveling under the name of Pierre Colain of Senegal. With this as backdrop, Nita and Wentworth are off to Europe on the ship Monrovia to be married, traveling in adjacent staterooms. As a demonstration that this is a pulp magazine, Wentworth takes along his Spider outfit and his working tools… perhaps a little strange for a man seeking to get away to get married.
Of course, we on find out that it is good that he has done this. The engaged pair are sailing on a ship with 24 coffins (from which the story’s title comes) filled each with dead Japanese in them who had been killed in an accident in the US and with a mysterious Japanese named Baron Kawashi Otuna. A shipload of gold and a shootout at the passenger loading docks add credence that this is not going to be a simple voyage.
At sea, the ship is attacked by a yacht, followed by boarding, and nearly non-stop gun fights. The yacht is commanded by an unknown Baron… at first the Spider thinks that it might be Baron Otuna, but learns the true identity at the end of the story before ending that bad guy’s life. The Baron’s men are dressed in green, and their target is the ship’s gold.
This is a relatively short Spider novel, but a reasonably developed and pleasing tale with a lot of action. The Spider is outside his usual haunts; the main character could been a number of other pulp heroes without changing much of the plot.
By this time, Tepperman seems very accustomed to being the Spider’s author, even though the real Spider is returning in the next issue. In my opinion, this one is Tepperman’s best Spider outing yet, although the ending seemed a little rushed, although not Page’s Spider.