Famine marched through America’s metropolis, and the starving multitudes who sat down to eat found only the choice of empty plates—or a murder-menu! Richard Wentworth, with the whimpering chorus of unfed babies ringing in his haunted ears, picked up once more the Spider’s eerie weapons of mercy—to fight a new and awful figure in the field of crime, a criminal red Spider who, with a thousand unknown assistants, was contaminating the city’s food supply!
“The City That Dared Not Eat” is the 49th Spider novel and was originally published in October 1937. This is Wayne Rogers’ second novel as the Spider’s author. The first of Rogers’ outings, “Slaves of the Black Monarch,” was one of the worse Spider novels. This one is much better, although not Page’s characteristic Spider. I found it quite enjoyable!
At the end of the last Spider novel, the Spider had been exonerated of all his crimes by the President. Now someone is framing the Spider and Wentworth for murders that he has not committed although they are of the type of murders that he might have done, ridding the earth of scoundrels who no longer needed to live. The framers even put a red Spider on the forehead of his victim and not only involves the NYPD but also the FBI such that the Spider becomes Public Enemy Number One. With both Wentworth and the Spider on the lam, Blinky McQuade plays a strong role once again.
Norvell Page used food-related themes in earlier stories such as “The Citadel of Hell” and “The Pain Emperor.” In his renditions, food distribution supply lines were sabotaged or food tainted with poison. Like Page’s earlier works, criminals are using terror and murder to cause a shortage of known good food, thereby causing prices for their food to soar. As people flee to the countryside for food, the crooks rob the wealth that they leave behind unhindered by those who would usually be protecting it.
Again, I found this to me a successful novel. To me, it is not as interesting as Page’s best, but it is much better than his worst. So it is easy to recommend it. For a later review, a comparison will be made between Page and Rogers.