January 17, 2010

Freedom Fighting One Bullet At A Time: THE SPIDER VS THE EMPIRE STATE

Admittedly, I'm not a big pulp historian/aficionado - I have a passing, working knowledge of pulp history, but my exposure is pretty much limited to Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Spider.

Or "any character that was released by a major paperback publisher"

Admittedly, the Spider appeals to me in the same way Mickey Spillane's writing does - I know it's not great literature, but it's the kind of book I simply cannot put down no matter how hard I try. I'll leave it to people I admire who have much more experience with pulps than I (and by "people I admire", I mean guys like Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Productions), but I like a really good pulp once in awhile.

Given our current political landscape, it's no surprise that Ace of Aces is reprinting a trilogy that, seventy years ago, seemed completely "torn from the headlines". In a desperate nation suffering economic troubles, crooks (quite literally) are elected, effectively creation an anti-police state, and a masked avenger must come in to save them.

In short, The Spider VS. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy reads like a great, action oriented, heavy firepower version of It Can't Happen Here. And that's the greatest compliment I can give it.

It Can't Happen Here reads like a smart, informed literary novel (which it is, and in many ways, does seem dated, but more in a what-we-easily-avoided) - but The Spider Vs. The Empire State tells a no-holds-barred, slightly melodramatic tale (after all, it is the pulps). However, it's that same go-for-the-jugular nature of this story, where the Spider (aka Richard Wentworth) not only serves to organized an armed revolt against a corrupt administration...but also, the idea of Commissioner Fitzpatrick knowingly avoiding recognizing Wentworth's role as the Spider (or, mirroring some writers' version of the Commissioner Gordon/Batman relationship)...this is just too good to put down.

It reprints three pulp novels...but it seems like one, cohesive tale. It's the kind of book with excitement, passion, and a real strong sense of purpose...and has a heart that most of its comic-based successors lack.

So for your reading list, consider both this pulp novel and the more literary version of the same story. You'll be grateful that you did.

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