Ruthless, invulnerable, that Scarred Hand reached out to destroy the entire law machine of New York—blasting into merciless oblivion those juries which dared convict even a single criminal. In that twilight of terror, when empty cells yawned for the felons who never arrived, and helpless Justice hid her bloodied head—no one but Richard Wentworth could combat this invisible Juggernaut which had paralyzed five mighty boroughs. Once more, in the Spider’s weird vestments, Wentworth sets out—this time to annihilate a brain so evil that it is encased in two heads!
“Slaves of the Black Monarch” is the 47th Spider novel and was originally published in August 1937. It is the first novel by Wayne Rogers who will share writing duties with Norvell Page until 1939 when he will be phased out. This story is at best acceptable, which tells us why it has not been reprinted more.
The tale starts out well. Blinky McQuade is back again following the Norvell Page reboot in the previous issue. He is attending a trial where a scarred-hand man starts gunning down the jury, judge, and two key witnesses, killing eight and wounding six. Later, a judge is killed because of his bias for convicting criminals. So, the case is underway as juries, judges, and witnesses become afraid for their lives.
As more and more murders of jurors and judges mount to ever higher levels, the entire New York City criminal legal system seems to breakdown. This is the goal of Scarred Hand as the villain becomes known.
Despite a promising start, much of the novel is wasted, or is simply filler. For instance, Kirkpatrick vows to put the Spider in the electric chair, and puts out an all-points bulletin to arrest Wentworth. He seems to have locked onto the Spider as the culprit in this one and with a one-track mind chases the Spider; there are nearly more words on this subplot than the Spider actually chasing the Scarred Hand. The last three words of the novel describes the actions of this erratic, un-Page-like Kirkpatrick: “Panic-bred blunders.”
Likewise, Nita has returned to being confused, ineffective eye candy. As in keeping with the earlier Grant Stockbridges, Rogers has her abducted, actually more than once. He continues the silliness of Wentworth not being willing to marry her because of the danger to which it would expose her or the leverage that a criminal could use her, while having her exposed to danger and having her used as leverage against the Spider/Wentworth.
All in all, a rather poor outing. By the end when the identity of the culprit is revealed, it is hard to care. Rogers’ next outing in September 1937, “The City that Dare Not Eat” is rated better. So we will reserve judgment on him until then. He seems to have all the skills as a pulp writer, but also appears out of his zone in writing the Spider. Perhaps our judgment will reflect Will Murray’s comment in the Pulp Adventure edition of “The Man Who Ruled in Hell” where he pointed out that Page did enough in his contributions to carry the magazine.