The Spider, Master of Men! #86: The Spider and His Hobo Army (Grant Stockbridge, Norvell W. Page) Review
The issue of the hero pulp magazine The Spider entitled 'The Spider and His Hobo Army' is more consistent and fluidly written than the earlier adventures of this character that I've read and fully displays Norvell W. Page's ability to write unbridled, manic action for a novel-length duration.
(Grant Stockbrige is a pseudonym used by Norvell W. Page [and others].)
I am a big fan of Robert E. Howard and Max Brand, but in terms of unrelenting action and overall intensity, I can't recall a work by either author that rivals Norvell W. Page's writing here in this Spider book. The rapidly spinning plot is impressive and the choreography of some of these chases and gunfights--where a paragraph may cover a fraction of a second of action--brings to mind the work of action auteurs like Peckinpah, Leone and Woo...and this was written in 1940.
Although some of the other Spider novels that I've read have more memorably gruesome set-pieces (the attack on the striking factory workers in 'The Emperor from Hell' is horrifying), none is a more continually exciting adventure than this one. Additionally, the lack of a sadistic, albeit incompetent villain--a common staple in this series--makes things feel a bit more menacing, a bit more like Operator #5, which generally excelled in the villainous plots department. (The Operator #5 issue The Red Invader is a frantic fever dream of paranoia, which I also review.)
Something else that lifts this Spider adventure is that instead of just the usual stable of Spider's lackeys and love interest, the author adds some charming and ornery hoboes, whose development throughout the issue exceeds what can be done with the regular characters. There are some really nice and touching moments with the 'boes.
Running, shooting, careening, veering, laughing, employing exclamation points, using improbably excellent powers of deduction, coming up with the least likely solutions for impossible problems, Norvell W. Page & the Spider never let up and exemplify many of the virtues of pulp fiction.
A gasping beeline of invention and passion.