The Spider, Master of Men! #24: King of the Red Killers (Grant Stockbridge, Norvell W. Page) Review
In the 1930s nobody told Norvell W. Page that it would be impossible to cram ten 100 million dollar action movies into one 60,000 word hero pulp novel. Of the works I've read by Norvell W. Page (here using the house pseudonym, Grant Stockbirdge), none shows off his weird, frantic, throbbing brain more fully than this adventure, King of the Red Killers, featuring The Spider, probably the most bloodthirsty and emotionally volatile guy ever to be labelled "hero."
Gallons of graphic violence are on display in this story of congregating bad guys, which is a run on sentence of hyper-detailed, moment by moment, breath by breath action where improbable shifts into super impossible all over multiple terrains. Disbelief is not suspended when you read Norvell W. Page, but set on fire, shot in the head, and dropped out of a plane into a volcano that is filled with atomic bombs.
Two things things make this particular book stand out from the other novels of The Spider that I've read:
1. The number of incredible visual ideas on display is uncommonly high. The lovingly detailed torture set-piece that involves a chair and swimming pool will never be forgotten, nor the airport chase sequence, nor the astounding ending.
2. The conclusion is the highlight of the entire book. This is rarely the case Spider tales, which often have very strong sequences of destruction (like Dragon Lord of the Underworld) and amazing action, but don't have equally creative or memorable bad guy plans or resolutions. In King of the Red Killers, the best sequences are the final sequences, and that helps put this adventure at the top.
Have you ever applauded while reading a book?
I did with this.
This book has more flaws than my other two favorite adventures of this character (The Spider and His Hobo Army and The City Destroyer, which are much better plotted experiences), but in terms of lunacy, imagery, sadism, and invention, King of the Red Killers is the perfect courtroom evidence of the deranged and furious thing that lived inside of Norvell W. Page's brainpan.
Also highly recommended by this author is the creepy and paranoiac sci-fi/fantasy, But Without Horns, which was written for Unknown Magazine, and has been collected elsewhere.