John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #17
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"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
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
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.