Like an eerie devil-dawn, that green death-ray spread its lethal shadow over New York—burning to smoking crisps the helpless hundreds who dared its path. For the Eye of Flame had loosed his fire-fiends upon America’s proudest city, and, as prisons poured forth their criminals, and the underworld came into its terrible own, no man could hope to combat that ray of death. Single-handed, Richard Wentworth, in the Spider’s gruesome garb, dared the Flame—fighting for an entire people’s safety against a monster who had learned to make millions out of human misery and the charred cinders that had once been men!
“Legions of the Accursed Light” is the 52nd Spider novel and was originally published in January 1938. This is Norvell Page’s fourth contribution since his return as he alternates monthly with Wayne Rogers.
This time the enemy is simply called the Terror. He has a green death ray that causes men to heat up, start to smoke, and even to break into flames. The ray seems to spread out such that it can cover a lot of area rapidly, thereby allowing the death it brings to add up quickly.
Certainly, Page has used provided his villains with devices that can spread fire before and incredibly most recently in his last outing “Master of the Flaming Hordes.” Yet there are some very interesting points in this one. Three that I thought were particularly attention-grabbing were:
- Wentworth using his connection with the President, presumably because he saved the man in “Guns over the White House, to make an appeal that knowledge of the death ray should be suppressed to minimize panic and then a second appeal to organize an attempt to stop the Terror.
- The Terror raiding a prison to get inmates to join his “legions.” The Spider tries to thwart the mass escape using a commandeered death ray, but then joining the “escaped inmates” as Blinky McQuade.
- The use of bombers raining dry ice on death-ray machines to stifle their motors by removing oxygen needed for their motors to operate.
The Terror is using escaped convicts to loot cities. The Spider sees close up the attack of Catskill, the name of a small town, where hundreds are killed and then finds out that NYC is also being targeted. With the help of the President and many planes, he stops the attack and then unmasks the Terror, thereby ending his reign.
This one will not be listed as one of Page’s greatest tales, but I found it overall to be satisfying and would highly recommend it to Spider fans.
Note: The first part of the novel appears to have been written in a style unlike that of Page’s, much more of sing-song quality to it. Sampson writes that Page’s work does not start until page 8, although he does not indicate if he has any reason to think that beyond the initial difference in style. Certainly as this one proceeds, it is all Page. Page’s work is sometimes deficit in standard novel development, but this one seemed better developed than most. Perhaps he was simply trying something different or maybe someone did wrote the first part or helped him to do so.