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  Shadow Volume 17 [Pulp Reprint] #5043



 
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The Shadow
Volume 17

In this volume, the Dark Avenger - known to Asians as Ying Ko - confronts deadly Chinatown riddles in two intriguing pulp novels by Walter B. Gibson. First, The Shadow investigates the strange disappearances and reappearances of a half-ton golden idol. What are the incredible secrets of "The Fate Joss" and the mysterious Dr. Roy Tam? Then, a miniature "Golden Pagoda" leads The Shadow and his agents through a series of bizarre deathtraps into the realm of the infamous brigand Li Hoang. In supporting features, pulp-historian Will Murray examines The Shadow's many forays into the mysteries of Chinatown, while series editor Anthony Tollin provides a history of Myra Reldon, The Shadow's first female agent. This classic reprint also reproduces both color pulp covers by George Rozen and all the interior illustrations by artists Tom Lovell and Edd Cartier.
Special Feature:
John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #17
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission

"The Fate Joss" was originally published in the July 1, 1935 issue of The Shadow Magazine. The Fate Joss is a huge half-ton statue; an idol made of gold and bronze, encrusted with clusters of garnets and other valuable gems. Stolen from China, The Fate Joss has been removed from the old temple of Je Ho on the border of Manchukuo, carried thousands of miles across the sea and brought to America. Along with it came the two War Dogs; a couple of strange-looking cannons that always accompany the Fate Joss and were taken along with it.

The Chinese believe that the Fate Joss is in charge of its own fate. Nothing happens to it, that it doesn't want to happen. If the statue wants to be taken to America, thieves will steal it from the Chinese temple and spirit it off to America. If the Fate Joss wants to be taken back to China, something will occur to make that happen, too. If the Fate Joss is stolen, it's because the idol itself has willed it. It chooses its own destiny.

As our story opens, The Shadow is stealthily making his way through Chinatown. Mystery is afoot, and he's on his way to see the famed Yat Soon, the arbiter of Chinatown. The Shadow has been here before, in "Gray Fist" and "The Chinese Disks." He knows his way through the twisty underground maze that leads to Yat Soon's secret chambers. He has come to see Yat Soon about the rumors that The Fate Joss is in New York.

The Shadow presents Yat Soon with a note written on rice paper. It is from General Cho Tsing, a man whom The Shadow has helped in the past, and who now appeals to him once again. He wishes to reopen the temple of Je Ho, but cannot do so until the Fate Joss is returned to its rightful place. Yat Soon is also a friend of General Tsing and recognizes his legitimate claim. So the arbiter of Chinatown gives The Shadow what information he possesses.

The Fate Joss has been brought to America by a man named Chichester Laudring. He was seen in San Francisco, then later in Chicago. More recently, a different man by the name of Raymond Roucard has been making inquiries in New York's Chinatown. He seeks those who might wish to possess the Fate Joss. This is all that Yat Soon knows. It's up to The Shadow to take it from there.

And so he does, in this wild and wonderful mystery. The Shadow must find the statue and return it to its rightful owners. To do so, he must encounter Shan Kwan, the Mandarin who has purchased the Fate Joss from Raymond Roucard for fifty thousand dollars in cash. Shan Kwan seeks to reclaim the Fate Joss and return it to China. Opposed to Shan Kwan are the purposes of another Chinaman, Doctor Roy Tam. And between them is Yat Soon, the arbiter of Chinatown.

In this story, we meet, for the first time, Dr. Roy Tam. For those of you who have read of Dr. Roy Tam in later stories, you'll find the next three paragraphs of interest. Those of you who haven't encountered this character before should skip the next three paragraphs, or much of the enjoyment of the story will be spoiled for you.

SPOILER STARTS HERE

You know Dr. Roy Tam from other Shadow novels. You know he is a friend of The Shadow; he's one of the good guys. But in this introductory novel, Walter Gibson tricks the reader into believing Tam is a villain. It is only at the end of the story that the reader discovers his error, and realizes that Dr. Tam has been working on the side of right the entire time.

Knowing this as I began to read the story, it was interesting to see how Gibson tricks the reader. Everything that Dr. Tam says or does is subject to interpretation. The obvious interpretation is that Dr. Tam is an evil warlord trying to acquire a fortune and seize the Fate Joss for himself. But if you look at his words and deeds carefully, you'll see that there is a second more innocent interpretation. It's quite unique, the way Gibson cleverly manipulates the reader with all the double-meaning.

It's a technique he used several other times in other Shadow novels to introduce continuing characters. Myra Reldon and Miles Crofton are two such examples.

SPOILER ENDS HERE

In this story, The Shadow is referred to as "Ying Ko" for the very first time. Although there had been previous sojourns into Chinatown by The Shadow, he had never before been called by his Chinese name, Ying Ko. In this story, it's explained that in his letter, General Cho Tsing addresses The Shadow as Ying Ko, which means The Shadow. From this point on, all Chinese started addressing him as Ying Ko as well.

The Shadow appears briefly as Lamont Cranston in our story. He also appears in a special disguise, as a tall Chinese. A disguise good enough to fool other Chinese, we're told. Also appearing in this story is Detective Joe Cardona, representing the law, and nearly all of The Shadow's agents. Clyde Burke, Harry Vincent, Cliff Marsland, Hawkeye, Jericho Druke, Burbank and Rutledge Mann are all present and accounted for. The only conspicuous absence is taxicab driver extraordinaire, Moe Shrevnitz.

A few notes of interest. Again, as in other Chinatown stories, we are told that Chinese carry their guns with an empty chamber beneath the hammers. This, apparently, was a safety measure they preferred to use. I have no idea if, in reality, this was truly a practice of the Chinese. But it's been repeated in other Shadow novels often enough that it gives one pause to wonder.

That mysterious purplish liquid makes another appearance, here. In a weakened condition, The Shadow pulls a tiny vial (or phial, as it's spelled here) from beneath his cloak and quaffs the purplish liquid therein. The strange elixir gives him immediate vigor. Today, would the FDA approve such a suspicious potion? I think not...

And speaking of phials, there's some greenish phials in this story as well. Harry Vincent and Cliff Marsland are made to drink from these greenish phials so as to take "the long sleep." It's a unique Chinese concoction that I won't describe further, because I don't want to spoil the story for you.

Yat Soon gives The Shadow a curious signet ring bearing a Chinese character in this story. It is to serve as a means of identification to one of Yat Soon's followers. I've always wondered why, in stories such as these, a ring is given as a means of identification. Wouldn't a simple note do as well? A few words like, "This guy is OK. (signed) Yat Soon" would certainly accomplish the same thing, and be a heck of a lot cheaper.

But enough picking of nits. This is a wonderfully exciting Chinatown adventure of The Shadow. And the concept of the Fate Joss is quite unique. An interesting concept of fate, destiny and self-determination.
 


"The Golden Pagoda" was originally published in the March 1, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Deep inside New York's Chinatown resides a small ten-inch miniature Chinese pagoda, made of gold! This is the symbol of Li Hoang, one of the most feared names in China. Yes, Li Hoang - the master of all Chinese brigands - the terrible Li Hoang - has secretly traveled to America to challenge The Shadow's might in this epic Chinatown tale.

As the story opens, Harry Vincent, long-time trusted agent for The Shadow, is visiting Chinatown. He comes in the guise of a tourist; this is his third night in a row. There has been a sinister menace in Chinatown, and The Shadow has sent Harry Vincent to see if he can get a line on it. And, on this night, he does.

For the past two nights, Harry has seen a suspicious character hanging around Chinatown. Chun Laro, recently arrived from San Francisco, has a bad reputation. While seeking Chun Laro's present location, Harry notices that a small golden pagoda figure is missing from the shop where it had sat on a shelf the previous night. Shortly thereafter, he notices that exact same pagoda in the window of a different shop. And inside that shop... Chun Laro, himself!

Quickly grasping the importance of the golden pagoda as some type of signal, Harry enters the curio shop. He tries to buy the small figurine, but is refused. The strange shop owner yanks a cord; an alcove wall pivots; everything whirls and Harry drops into darkness. Harry Vincent has become a prisoner in the underground dungeons of Chinatown!

Harry Vincent and The Shadow aren't the only ones interested in the goings-on in Chinatown. At the apartment of New York Police Commissioner Ralph Weston, the commissioner, his good friend Lamont Cranston and his ace detective Inspector Joe Cardona are discussing the current situation. Things aren't right in Chinatown, and they are justifiably worried.

There are new faces in Chinatown. Sinister faces. Mugs that look like hatchet men. The police Chinatown squad has spotted hoodlums moving in and out of the strange city within a city. Something's up, but no one knows exactly what. Even the F.B.I. is suspicious and have assigned undercover agent Myra Reldon to the case. Disguised as Ming Dwan, she has insinuated herself into the inner circle of the hidden mastermind, Li Hoang!
Harry Vincent is now in the clutches of the evil Li Hoang. Kept in an underground cell far beneath the cobblestone streets of Chinatown, Harry is at the mercy of the merciless Li Hoang. Ming Dwan will try to save him without revealing her true identity. But it will take The Shadow to penetrate the twisty mazes far underground and make his way to the headquarters of the most-feared criminal mastermind known in Chinatown, Li Hoang!

Li Hoang fears not Ying Ko, as he knows The Shadow. His evil plans extend far beyond Chinatown, and nothing will stop him. Not even the strange figure of the darkness feared by all lawbreakers and revered by all law-abiding Chinese, Ying Ko, will deter Li Hoang from his plans to extort millions from wealthy industrialists. And as his wealth grows, so does his power. His influence extends far beyond the invisible boundaries of Chinatown, deep into the wealthy society set of New York.

Only Ying Ko, The Shadow, can defeat China's mastermind of evil. Only The Shadow can free the prisoners, release the unrelenting grasp of Li Hoang upon his helpless victims, turn the tide of the denizens of Chinatown against their evil master and wreak justice upon the destructive power of Li Hoang.

And assisting The Shadow in this terrific tale are his agents Harry Vincent, contact-man Burbank, newspaper-man Clyde Burke and part-time agent Myra Reldon. The Shadow's autogiro pilot is also present, and although he isn't mentioned by name, we know him to be Miles Crofton. The Shadow is also aided by a group of agents who are not named, but come in at the climax to help battle the hoards of Li Hoang. Assisting from within the forces of the New York Police Department are Commissioner Ralph Weston, Inspector Joe Cardona and Detective Sergeant Markham.

The Shadow appears in outfit of black throughout most of the story. But he also appears as his true self, Kent Allard, here. And he appears in disguise as Lamont Cranston and as an unnamed American walking through Chinatown. We even get a description of his makeup techniques as he changes his visage to that of Lamont Cranston by using a "puttyish substance."

Yat Soon, the arbiter of Chinatown, makes one of his rare, but always welcome, appearances in this story. His part here is to supply The Shadow with a list of potential victims and also to find a suitable Chinese agent for The Shadow in his final assault on the headquarters of Li Hoang. Yat Soon first appeared in the 1934 story "Gray Fist" as the wise Celestial dedicated to keeping the peace in Chinatown. He only appeared in seven Shadow novels total, and this was, unfortunately, his last. After this, he never again appeared in a Shadow pulp mystery.

This was Myra Reldon's second pulp appearance. She first appeared in the 1937 story "Teeth of the Dragon." As he often did with first appearances, Walter Gibson wrote the story ambiguously so that Myra Reldon's characterization in "Teeth of the Dragon" seemed to be working against The Shadow. Only at the end of the story did the reader realize that her actions had alternative, less-sinister, interpretations. At story's end, she was revealed as actually working for the forces of good over evil. And so in this story, her identity already confirmed, there is no doubt left for the reader that she is assisting The Shadow, not Li Hoang.

Myra Reldon would go on to be featured in seven more Shadow mysteries. Probably her most famous role was in helping defeat the mastercriminal Shiwan Khan in the 1940 story "The Invincible Shiwan Khan." She continued to appear sporadically right up until the end. She was in the 1948 story "Jade Dragon" and Walter Gibson brought her back in 1963 for "Return of The Shadow," his only paperback novel of The Shadow.

Let's talk about death traps. Ah yes, what would a Chinatown tale be without death traps! And this one has a couple of doozies. There the trapdoor through which victims fall into a huge cauldron of boiling oil. It's a trap that The Shadow falls though... and survives. How he survives makes terrific reading, so I won't spoil it for you. There's also a gigantic pit of flames where The Shadow faces peril and where the villain finally meets his well-deserved doom.

Yes, this story has got it all. There are the twisty underground mazes. The stone cell from which there can be no escape. The resplendent throne room of Li Hoang. The giant bronze gong that signals his minions. The crazy scientist and his strange invention. The wealthy industrialist who owns several large corporations. The private detective working to free the industrialist from the grip of Li Hoang. The underground door fitted with an hourglass mechanism. The thin rice papers containing mysterious Chinese symbols. The Shadow's autogiro. Those uncanny blue-inked messages that fade to nothingness.

Yes, Walter Gibson did a great job with this story. Again, we are told that the Chinese practice carrying their revolvers with an empty chamber under the hammer as a safety. This was mentioned in various of Gibson's stories, and I'm told has the ring of truth behind it.

Gibson loved to create his own words, especially adjectives. These "Gibsonisms," as they have come to be called, have become famous. And one of my personal favorites, "squatly," appears here. There's a squatly Chinaman, a squatly knife-thrower and a squatly watchdog among others.

Walter Gibson always tried to treat the Chinese with respect in his tales, which was not always the case with other "yellow peril" pulp writers of the time. Yet, even he let several racial slurs slip into this story. It's unfortunate, and stands out today. So while today's political correctness cringes at certain terms, keep in mind that they were mild indeed by those historical standards.

All of Walter Gibson's Chinatown tales were very intriguing. They make up some of his most popular Shadow novels. This is a fun and exciting story, a taut and thrilling adventure.
 


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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