John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #16
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"City of Crime" was originally published in the October 1, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine.
Westford was a city of crime. Crime had infiltrated to the very highest levels
of city government and it would take all the power and abilities of The Shadow
to defeat the mobsters who ruled with impunity.
Our story forsakes the locales of New York and Manhattan to move to the thriving
metropolis of Westford, a city of two-hundred thousand citizens. The story opens
in Westford, stays in Westford and ends in Westford. We aren't told exactly
where Westford is, but it looks like a prosperous and flourishing city. At
least, from the outside. But that's just exterior gloss. Beneath the surface,
the inside of Westford is rotten, through and through.
Westford is in the hands of mobsters, starting with low-lifes like Lance Gillick
who runs the Club Adair as a gambling joint, and his lieutenant Beezer Dorsch.
Gillick and Dorsch are getting away with murder... literally! Yes, Beezer Dorsch
guns down reformer Prescott Dunson and gets away with it. Prescott Dunson was a
candidate for district attorney who promised he would clean up corruption. So,
he had to go.
How does such a crude gorilla get away with murder? And how does his boss,
gambler Lance Gillick, get away with running a casino in the Club Adair? It's
all simple when the Director of Police Kirk Borman is one of the mobsters
running the show. And he's created the Flying Squadron, a special khaki-clad
force of forty officers who are in actuality hand-picked thugs. To the public,
this is a special task force that can be rapidly deployed into action against
crime. But in reality, it's a cover-up squad that covers for crooks and guns
down any innocents in the way.
Is this sinister Kirk Borman answerable to no one? What about the mayor? Well,
you guessed it. Mayor Elvin Marclot is another of the crooks. His administration
is hailed as one of the greatest in the history of the city. But it's all a
sham. Marclot is just as big a crook as Director Borman and club-owner Gillick.
But all these men are tools of one master crook.
Rising above all these figureheads, is the true power in Westford. The secret
criminal master mind ruling all, is Stephen Ruthley, Westford's big
philanthropist and champion of reform. None but his most trusted lieutenants
know that Stephen Ruthley is the real political boss. Westford is a true city of
Is there no one to be trusted? Is there no honest man in Westford? Well, there's
Prescott Dunson. He had the proof that Westford is in the hands of rogues. And
he was planning on running for district attorney, to replace Louis Wilderton,
the current ineffectual one. And for that, he was killed.
Old Judge Martin Benbrook, who has been long retired from the bench is an honest
man. But the crooks have bribed his doctor into feeding him opiates, to keep him
out of action. Judge Benbrook and his beautiful young daughter Estelle trust
Doctor Lunden, and don't realize the doctor is in on the whole evil plot.
Another honest man is lieutenant of police James Maclare. He's a veteran police
officer in charge of the first precinct. But he's been fooled just like the rest
of Westford. He has no idea of the corruption that has spread throughout the
And there's current district attorney Louis Wilderton. He's an innocent dupe
that the crooks like to keep in office because he's so easily manipulated. He's
honest, but can be easily swayed by smart lawyers. The secret criminal
underground wants to keep him around as a puppet.
Luckily there's another honest man in town. A man by the name of Theo D. Shaw.
He recently moved to town, and has gotten the goods on the crooks hiding in high
places. Because, Theo D. Shaw is... The Shadow! This is one of The Shadow's many
disguises, and in case you didn't notice, his name is an anagram for The Shadow.
Just rearrange the letters.
The Shadow is on the case. And it's a good thing, because without The Shadow,
the entire town of Westford would fall under the evil sway of the mobsters
hidden in the guise of high-level officials. This is the story of The Shadow's
fight against the established powers of Westford. Powers that every good citizen
of Westford wants to uphold, not realizing the corruption hidden beneath the
surface. It takes The Shadow to finally rip away the mask of respectability and
reveal the mobsters for who they really are.
During most of the story, The Shadow works alone in Westford. He works in his
disguise as Theo D. Shaw, described as a tall, haggard-faced individual, whose
eyes were restless. But this character is soon framed by the corrupt officials,
and is on the run, himself. So The Shadow shows up next in another disguise;
that of Trig Callister, a New York gangster and trigger-man.
Our master of disguise gets to really use his amazing abilities, here. Under his
slouch hat, The Shadow apparently wears his Cranston disguise. Although Lamont
Cranston is never mentioned in this story, the countenance described beneath the
hat is definitely not that of haggard-faced Theo D. Shaw, nor is it the
blunt-nosed course features of Trig Callister.
When young Estelle Benbrook assists a wounded Shadow, "his slouch hat fell away,
to reveal a hawkish visage, pale despite its masklike contour. The Shadow's face
was well-formed, distinguished in appearance." That sure sounds like Cranston's
face to me.
Finally, in the last few chapters, The Shadow calls upon his agents for
assistance. Harry Vincent, Cliff Marsland, Clyde Burke, Jericho Druke, Hawkeye
and Burbank all come out to Westford to assist with the final big gun battle.
Yes, Burbank gets out of his little room with the switchboard, and gets some
action. It's about time!
And Doctor Rupert Sayre shows up briefly to look at The Shadow's bullet wounds,
and to help get poor old Judge Benbrook weaned off those evil opiates that
Doctor Lunden was giving him. It's good to see Doctor Sayre again. We don't see
enough of him.
There's a touch of romance in this story. Estelle Benbrook, daughter of the
judge, seems to develop a crush on The Shadow. Maybe it's the nursing instinct
after she bandages The Shadow's wounds. We're told that "She was still
overwhelmed with admiration for The Shadow's prowess in tonight's battle," and
later: "After all, The Shadow had taken the key that she had offered. That
seemed more than courtesy. Sometime - soon, she hoped - the black-clad stranger
might return." But by the story's end, she seems to have developed an interest
in district attorney Louis Wilderton. I think she'll turn him from a wimp into a
It should be pointed out that The Shadow's disguise as Theo D. Shaw was never
used again in any other pulp novel. Apparently it was a throw-away disguise, one
which he had no interest in keeping. The character was accused of crimes in the
middle of this story, and was never exonerated. So perhaps The Shadow decided it
was easier to just abandon the disguise rather than try to prove him innocent of
the crimes, just in order to preserve the character for possible future use.
Even though World War II was still a ways off, apparently feeling against
Japanese was running high. It shows in the racial slurs in this story. Haija,
crime boss Stephen Ruthley's Japanese house-man, is constantly referred to as a
"grinning Jap." And The Shadow has opportunity to whip him good, using his own
jujitsu against him. American readers probably found satisfaction in that.
This story ends with a little preview of the next story, "Death by Proxy." While
this was typical of Street & Smith's "Doc Savage" series, it was most unusual
for The Shadow. The editors nearly always included a little advertising blurb in
the magazine for the next issue's Shadow mystery. But it was always separate
from the story, itself. But this time, the last paragraph teased readers with:
"It marked the end of another life-risking battle against crime, and at the same
time it presaged greater difficulties ahead. The Shadow, who escaped death a
million times, was to face a new kind of death, and a new kind of crime, in
Death by Proxy... A strange menace hung over an ancient family home; death
struck with uncanny regularity. Into this scene of fear and danger The Shadow
must enter; here he must fight anew that justice would not be misled; that
criminals get their deserved punishment - death, real death, not Death by
This was a fun little crime drama. No ghosts, mad scientists or exotic locales.
Just a straight-forward gangster tale, well told as only Walter Gibson could.
"Shadow Over Alcatraz" was published in the December 1, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Yes,
Alcatraz - The Rock! This is the repository of America's most dangerous
criminals, a concentrated population of the world's most sinister masterminds.
Where better to find lieutenants for the most devious mastermind of all time!
Alcatraz, where America's most hidden master criminal will recruit his evil
henchmen for a plot to create a world-wide crime spree.
It all starts in Denver, Colorado, where eccentric old inventor Harvey Lanyon is
demonstrating his latest invention. He calls himself "The Rainmaker" because
he's created a machine that will end droughts. Or so he thinks. But the
invention is a failure; all it does is create a fog. And what good is fog? None,
except to that hidden mastermind known as Zanigew. Zanigew has sinister plans
for the fog machine. So he sets out to capture Harvey Lanyon and appropriate
Standing in his way is The Shadow. The Shadow, in his undisguised civilian form,
is none other than famed aviator Kent Allard. Allard is at the unsuccessful
demonstration of Lanyon's rain machine. He follows Lanyon back to his hotel,
where an attempt is made to kidnap the old inventor. Kent Allard is overcome by
a mysterious gas, and both Harvey Lanyon and his invention are carried off by
sinister henchmen in the employ of the mysterious Zanigew.
But the evil Zanigew isn't about to stop there. He has struck before, and he'll
strike again. Already he has captured James Dansell, a chemist and inventor.
It's from Dansell that he acquired the gas which he used to capture Harvey
Lanyon and incapacitate Kent Allard. And next, Zanigew is preparing to capture
Glade Tretter, a white-haired old inventor who lives in an abandoned lighthouse
on the California coast.
Why does Zanigew want Glade Tretter? It seems that Tretter has created a
fog-breaking device. This is one more piece of the puzzle. Zanigew has a
fog-creating device and now seeks a fog-dispersing one. He also has the strange
sleeping gas created by James Dansell. To what use will these devices be put?
And who will be next?
Next is Professor Eugene Barreau. Barreau is an electrical wizard - an amazing
genius who has created apparatus that can send powerful electrical currents
through the air. It can create a protective electrical field around an area
which nothing can penetrate. A kind of "force field." It sounds like something
that Zanigew could certainly use in his quest for criminal power.
So exactly who is Zanigew and what is he up to? The Shadow had heard the name of
Zanigew spoken in hushed tones when certain crooks thought they were alone.
Zanigew lurks in the background, directing crime from a safe distance. But now
he has acquired the tools he requires, and is about to strike. He has the fog
machine, the poison gas, and the protective electrical shield. With them, he
plans on attacking Alcatraz and freeing the worst criminal masterminds in
Can even The Shadow stop this cunning genius of crime? It doesn't seem so, as he
hunts for the elusive crime master. With the help of the government, The Shadow
tries to track the strange wireless signals used by Zanigew to send orders to
his minions. But direction finders lead investigators to barren spots. It seems
that Zanigew has a variety of headquarters around the country. From Denver to
San Francisco to Idaho to Puget Sound in Washington, The Shadow tracks the
elusive Zanigew in an effort to thwart his evil plans.
Zanigew plans crime such as has never before been known; an empire of evil that
will stretch throughout the world! It will take the power of The Shadow to stop
him. And it will make an adventure that ranks among the very best among the 325
Shadow magazine stories published. It's one you won't want to miss.
Assisting The Shadow in this story are Harry Vincent and F.B.I. agent Vic
Marquette. Also appearing in smaller roles are Burbank and pilot Miles Crofton.
The Shadow appears only as himself, Kent Allard. There's no sign of his famous
The Shadow does appear in disguise, once, as an unnamed adventurous Easterner
who bears little resemblance to Kent Allard. We are told that when he removes
the putty-like makeup on his face, the gaunt countenance of Kent Allard emerges.
No mention of the "horror face" beneath the makeup that was mentioned in early
Shadow novels. Perhaps there was a little judicious plastic surgery performed in
the intervening years?
It's good to see The Shadow's autogiro make an appearance in this story. It
plays a pivotal part in the climax to the story. This is the "new, improved"
autogiro that is completely wingless, capable of making a speed of one hundred
and twenty miles an hour. Generally, autogiros were considered to have wings, so
this must have been closer to the modern helicopter than an autogiro.
Some of the scenes in this story are a bit more lurid than usual. Not as lurid
as those written by Theodore Tinsley, when he penned his twenty-seven Shadow
novels. But a bit stronger than Walter Gibson usually wrote. He describes a
criminal henchman caught on fire; the odor of seared flesh as the human torch
whizzes past The Shadow. Finally, The Shadow stands above the thing that had
once been alive, looking at the limbless remains. -gulp-
Walter Gibson also describes a torture device put into use by the evil Zanigew.
It's a modern version of the old "Spanish Maiden." It's a glass box designed to
the human shape. But instead of spikes, it contains needles set deep in steel
studs that cover the inside of the glass coffin. Electrical current slowly
pushes those needles inward, at an almost imperceptible rate. In two hours, the
needles will penetrate the victim. The torture is described by Zanigew as
"exquisite." Not only can the screams be heard through the airholes in the box,
but the victim can be seen writhing in agony through the glass walls. Yes, this
is truly pulp!
There is one scene in this story that reminds me of the 1980 John Carpenter
movie, "The Fog." Glade Tretter lives in a lighthouse, a giant finger shafting
eighty feet upward from the low rocks of Point Sonola. His daughter cries out,
"Look, dad! That fog is coming from the land against a sea breeze!" Despite the
wind, the thick mass crawls toward the lighthouse until it is surrounded. The
girl sees shapes that appear suddenly from the fog. They are things like men,
but grotesque creatures that might have been created by the fog itself... If
you've seen the movie, you'll recognize this scene with a shudder!
And one final note. Did you know that The Shadow can squeeze through steel bars
only seven inches apart? It's not easy, but he accomplishes it in this story.
Maybe he can dislocate some joints, somewhat like escape-artist Harry Houdini
was reputed to do. Get out a ruler and look at seven inches. That's not much
space. I'm surprised he could get his head through! Unless... (no, let's not go
This is one of the classic Shadow stories. It's one of the top rated stories.
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.