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  Shadow Volume 5 [Pulp Reprint] #5010



 
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The Shadow
Volume 5

The legendary super-sleuth returns in two more pulp classics by Walter Gibson, writing as Maxwell Grant. In "The Black Falcon" (1934), Lamont Cranston is abducted by a kidnapper who unearths secrets from The Shadow's mysterious past. Then, the Knight of Darkness must defeat a Dragon of Fire before the city becomes a blazing inferno in an action-packed 1936 thriller titled "The Salamanders". This instant collector's item also features the original pulp covers by George Rozen, interior illustrations by Tom Lovell, and "The Island of Ancient Death," a bonus Shadow story adapted from the Mutual Broadcasting System radio program by scriptwriter Gibson Scott Fox.
Special Feature:
John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #5
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission

"The Salamanders" was originally published in the April 1, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Yes, the April Fool's issue! But it's no April Fool's joke when The Shadow must confront the most amazing dangers of his entire career: a ring of criminals who use fire to cover their crimes. A gang that's impervious to the flames - much as the mythical salamanders of old - they actually walk through fire! The Shadow has never seen a challenge like this before.

It all starts at the Capital Hotel in the small city of Riverport, several hundred miles south of New York. Harry Vincent, secret agent for The Shadow, is there on a mission from his master. He's there to investigate why Chester Woldorf is afraid of some unspecified threat. Fire breaks out. Vincent rushes
to Woldorf's room to find him dead - murdered - stabbed through the heart.

The entire building is one huge conflagration. Harry makes his way down the stairs through the inferno when he encounters Woldorf's murderer. The man punches Harry, knocking him out. Harry tumbles to the bottom of the stone steps and lays helpless in the basement of the raging furnace. The brick walls of the hotel crumble leaving Harry imprisoned inside the death trap.

When the fire is finally out, it is discovered that the hotel safe is missing. Obviously no one could have lugged it out in the middle of the blast furnace, so all assume it must have melted in the intense heat of the hotel fire. All assume that except The Shadow. Yes, The Shadow is on the scene and knows that something unusual has taken place.

The Shadow figures that the safe was spirited away in some unexplainable fashion, and takes to tracking a mysterious truck that is the likely method of transportation. But he follows it straight into a death trap. On the road outside town, the hillside is blasted away and The Shadow's car is sent through the guard rails to a thirty foot drop to the river below. The coupe is sunk deep in the waters, a man-made avalanche of massive stone on top of it, and The Shadow trapped inside.

The gang of thugs who have perpetrated the two crimes returns to New York. On the fiftieth floor of a Manhattan skyscraper, they report to the offices of the Great American Power Company. Inside, the company president Huxley Drune awaits their report. Huxley Drune is the mastermind behind the crimes. Drune's co-conspirator is Gordon Colgarth, who headed up the team that traveled to Riverport and back. Together, Drune and Colgarth are planning more crime.

Three crimes are planned. The first has already been successfully completed in Riverport. The second will take place in New York at the home of Lincoln Breel. And the third will be at the Sheffield National Bank outside New York. All three lead to a single goal: the accumulation of some special stock which will, when combined, be worth over fifty million dollars.

The safe that was taken from the Capital Hotel in Riverport has been opened and the stocks removed. Huxley Drune now has them safely in hand. His next step will be to obtain the papers belonging to Lincoln Breel here in Manhattan. His method will once again be fire. Again, his plan is to set incendiaries to turn the Breel mansion into a blazing furnace, and to secretly remove the desired papers during the conflagration.

How is it done? How are Drune's minions able to walk through the intense heat, flame and smoke of their own making? These are his Salamanders. Named after the ancient beasts of mythology who lived in fire, these are men equipped with special suits that allow them to tread where any unprotected man would instantly perish.

These Salamanders are men in bulky garments that look like undersea diving suits with round glass-fronted helmets. A hose trails out of each suit to a compressor outside. A portable air-cooling plant provides them with fresh air through the hoses as well as keeps them cool inside their insulated suits. They carry strange weapons that shoot withering blasts of flame. They don't fear the flames. Fire is their friend!

How will The Shadow stop them? It's an amazing story filled with death traps and peril. And in the end, of course, The Shadow defeats the two evil masterminds and their Salamanders. But not before he's forced to endure more danger and excitement than ever before in his career. Death is his constant companion without hardly a single moment's rest. The story moves dizzily along right up to the final confrontation in the bowels of an even more horrific inferno.

This story has a lot more action than your normal Shadow mystery. And that was no accident. It was planned as a response to the rival pulp "The Spider" from Popular Publications. The editors at Street & Smith were under pressure from President George C. Smith, Jr. He feared that The Spider was taking magazine buyers from The Shadow, and wanted The Shadow to become less complex and more action oriented.

So circulation manager Henry Ralston and editor John Nanovic sat down with author Walter Gibson and planned out a new Shadow novel. They started with one of Gibson's existing story outlines and came up with a story that featured relentless action and suspense. No slow, moody opening here. This story starts as fire wracks the Riverport hotel and Harry Vincent is in immediate peril. And things don't slow down until the end. The result of this collaboration was "The Salamanders."

It should be pointed out that Street & Smith's concerns were overstated, and that this "new" Shadow didn't last. The next two Shadow novels were also somewhat unusual: "The Man From Shanghai" was a Chinatown story and "City of Doom" was a sequel to the earlier "The Voodoo Master." But after that, Gibson returned The Shadow to his old style. President George Smith was satisfied when sales picked back up and he let the magazine return to it's old ways.

The Shadow works nearly alone in this story. That also harkens to the more "Spider-like" story. Harry Vincent appears at the beginning of the story, but then disappears until the middle when The Shadow rescues him from a fiery pit of flaming coal in a blast furnace. Harry really doesn't get to do much, other than get captured again, requiring yet another rescue.

As for other agents, Clyde Burke is mentioned briefly in passing. And contact man Burbank gets two lines of dialog. Miles Crofton, The Shadow's pilot, appears briefly at the story's climax. But other than that, there are no familiar characters. Not even lawmen Joe Cardona or Ralph Weston appear.

The Shadow, as portrayed here, is a non-stop whirlwind of action. He shoots to kill. He's never wounded. He falls into one death trap after another, and each time escapes intact. He can't be killed. Even the criminals recognize this fact, as witnesses by this passage from the story:

"Unless you see him dead, an absolute corpse, you can not be sure that he is gone. Even then, he should be cremated; his ashes scattered to the winds."

As to disguises, there is no appearance by Lamont Cranston, Henry Arnaud, or any of his other famous oft-used disguises. He does appear in several nondescript disguises. The Shadow appears as an unnamed tall, calm-faced stranger at the Riverport train station. Later, he is an impassive, hawk-faced taxicab passenger from Times Square. And he is a dull-faced car washer at the West Side Garage. But his most impressive disguise is that of Lincoln Breel.

We get to see The Shadow putting on his disguise in his sanctum. This takes place "elsewhere" in the sanctum, rather than at the usual polished table. The Shadow sits before a mirror and examines a photograph of the man he will impersonate. He opens a make-up kit and presses a wax-like substance against his features. Later, when he appears at the brownstone mansion of Lincoln Breel, he is taken for Breel himself.

The Shadow uses his ring of skeleton keys in this story. Most often in The Shadow pulp stories, our hero used his lock picks. And indeed he does use them later in the story. His special ring of skeleton keys is rarely mentioned in these stories, and so it's worthy of note that they are used here. And his special lock picks are used, later, as well.

The Shadow carries some powerful explosives with him. In other stories, we are told of two powders carried in the lining of his cloak. But in this story, he carries three small bottles in a little pocket of the bag he keeps with him. The first bottle contains a black graphite-like powder. The second bottle holds a grayish powder that is mixed with the contents of the first bottle. The third bottle is a colorless liquid that when added to the previous mixture provides a sudden blast. And when you're trapped in a room that's afire, such a mixture is bound to come in handy!

It's good to see The Shadow's autogiro show up again. Miles Crofton, pilot to The Shadow, brings it in at the story's climax so that The Shadow can fly it down inside a burning building. Whew! Now that takes guts.

It should be noted that the special fire-proof suits used by the Salamanders were made of asbestos cloth. Back in the 1930's, asbestos was a wonder-material used to fire-proof just about everything. Today, of course, we know it to be a carcinogen; its use is banned. If those thugs who wore the suits had survived The Shadow's bullets, they might easily have succumbed later to cancer caused by asbestos fibers in their lungs. But they were doomed to a quicker and more sure fate at the hands of The Shadow.

One final comment, refers to The Shadow's reputed mystical abilities. One line in the story states: "The Shadow had a persuasive power that would rally men to proper action." It doesn't exactly say he had a "hypnotic" power, but it does seem to allude to that alleged ability. He has the power to sway the masses to his will, but the exact nature of that power of left to the imagination.

This is bit of an unusual Shadow novel. There are death traps enough for a dozen novels. There's the car plunging eighty feet to a rock quarry far below, being trapped in the basement of a burning building, the flaming pit of coals, and it goes on and on.

When The Shadow confronts opponents who can walk through fire with impunity, you know you've got the makings of a great story. And indeed, it is!

 


"The Black Falcon" was published in the February 1, 1934 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Who is The Black Falcon? That's what all of New York is asking. That's what the underworld wonders, as it admires the audacity of this master criminal. That's what the wealthy social class wonders, as it barricades itself seeking safety from the brutal kidnapper. And that's what the New York police department wonders as it attempts to unmask the strange mastermind behind the high-profile kidnappings.

A black feather. The dyed feather of a falcon is the only clue to the man behind an insidious game of crime. Even his evil minions don't know his identity. Yet they readily accept his payments, packets of money banded along with a single black feather. The law receives taunting letters from the crime master, affixed with another of those black feathers.

The Black Falcon boasts of his ability of kidnap wealthy society members and return them at will. And he makes good upon his boasts!

First to be taken was Hubert Apprison, prominent New York banker. Apprison and his secretary, Jonathan Blossom, were in his upstairs study. Guests downstairs heard shots and rushed upstairs to find Jonathan Blossom lying dead on the study floor and Hubert Apprison gone. Abducted by The Black Falcon!

Commissioner Ralph Weston receives a letter from The Black Falcon announcing his next kidnapping. Although the person is not named, Weston is sure he knows the identity of the next victim. Elias Carthers, the tobacco magnate, is in immediate peril.

Commissioner Weston and his ace detective Joe Cardona attend an exclusive reception at the Carthers' Long Island home. They are there to safeguard Elias Carthers from the announced abduction. But their presence is for naught. Their efforts are futile, as Carthers is taken from under their noses.

Who will be next? None other than Lamont Cranston! Yes, The Black Falcon has confirmed that Cranston is The Shadow, and determines to kidnap him. This will not only serve the purpose of a million-dollar ransom, but will also eliminate the threat from the black-cloaked avenger.

And The Black Falcon isn't done yet! His next kidnapping is promised to be such a notable achievement that will startle all of New York. Who could possibly be his next victim? How can he be stopped? It will take all the unique abilities of The Shadow to thwart this Napoleon of crime. It will tax The Shadow to his fullest. And it's a classic early story that you won't want to miss.

Featured in this story are underworld-agent Cliff Marsland, reporter Clyde Burke and long-time agent Harry Vincent, with Burbank and Rutledge Mann in brief appearances. The Shadow appears in disguise as Lamont Cranston. And representing law and order are Commissioner Weston and Joe Cardona.

This story features the appearance of those unique rubber discs. The Shadow uses the concave suction cups to scale the sheer outside wall of a tall apartment house. These strange cups first appeared in the 1932 story "The Crime Cult" and were a popular feature in the early Shadow novels.

In these early stories, The Shadow was apparently a bit of an inventor. He was occasionally mentioned as having invented some device that was used. In this one, Harry Vincent uses a wireless sending set, secreted in the rumble seat of his coupe. The equipment, it is mentioned, was The Shadow's own invention. Is there no end to what The Shadow is capable of?

He can even impersonate the voice of Commissioner Weston. He does it in this story, giving a perfect representation in order to fool Weston's servant Kempton over the phone.

In this early story, Harry Vincent does not know Lamont Cranston. In later years, of course, he knew Cranston and believed him to be another of The Shadow's agents. And in some of the later stories, he even knew Cranston was one of The Shadow's disguises. But not in this story. Here he comes face to face with Cranston, and views him as just another wealthy prisoner.

Another feature of the early Shadow novels that disappeared after time was The Shadow's "horror face." It was suggested that the true face of The Shadow was so horribly disfigured that he always kept it hidden beneath the collar of his cloak and beneath his slouch hat. Either that, or he kept it hidden beneath a putty-like disguise. In later years, the horror face was discarded and we learned the under the slouch hat was the face of Kent Allard. Apparently it was Allard's true face and not disfigured.

In this novel, however, The Shadow has his horror face, and reveals it to The Black Falcon in the exciting climax of the story. The Shadow tells The Black Falcon, "...those who have seen the true face of The Shadow have never lived to recite their discovery!" And then he unfolds his collar. The sight of his face causes The Black Falcon to slump in horror. His ashen face reveals terror, something the evil fiend had never felt before.

Yes, this is The Shadow at his finest. It's a thrilling early pulp novel.

 


John Olsen was first introduced to The Shadow in the early 1960's, tuning in to rebroadcasts of his adventures on KEX radio in Portland, Oregon. Several years later, John was drawn to a hardback book entitled "The Weird Adventures of The Shadow," containing three Shadow novels reprinted from the old pulp magazines. The pulp Shadow was a far different character from the beloved radio version, but the stories drew him in and opened his eyes to a richer version of the hero. Today, John is retired in Sherwood, Oregon. He has read all 325 of the old Shadow pulp mysteries and enjoys them so much that, as of this writing, he is well over half way through reading them all again for a second time.



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