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  Shadow Volume 52 [Pulp Reprint] #5136



 
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The Shadow
Volume 52

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! The Knight of Darkness wages war on criminal masterminds in two thrilling pulp novels by Walter Gibson and Theodore Tinsley writing as "Maxwell Grant." First, The Shadow executes a deadly chess game with "The Crime Master", an underworld kingpin whose amazing superbrain rivals his own. Who will have the last laugh? Then, the Master of Darkness seeks to unmask "The Fifth Napoleon", the master plotter who commands New York's four most powerful crime lords. This instant collectors' item features both classic cover paintings by George Rozen, the original interior pulp illustrations by Tom Lovell, historical commentary by popular culture historian Will Murray plus a biographical article by Anthony Tollin on Frank Readick,."The Man with The Shadow's Laugh."


John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #52
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission

"The Crime Master" was originally published in the August 1, 1934 issue of The Shadow Magazine. All of New York's seamy underworld has been pulled together by one man - one amazing mastermind who treats crime like a game of chess with the law. The Shadow must tax his analytical mind to the utmost in order to oppose the Crime Master.

I enjoyed reading this Shadow adventure. It's a good solid story from the early years. It's not terrific; it's not fantastic. It's good. It has enough plot twists and turns to entertain any pulp fan. It has a seemingly unbeatable foe for our hero. And we get to root for the underdog, when The Shadow is seriously wounded and through sheer grit perseveres in his battle against evil. Yes, a very respectable Shadow mystery.

Somewhere in Manhattan, secluded in his paneled room, The Crime Master, wizened and gray-haired, places pawnlike pieces upon a many-squared board. He controls the mob bosses of the city. The underworld is in the hollow of his scrawny hand. This fiend incarnate is about to assault the entire city of New York with a crime wave unparalleled in the history of the city.

He forms a grotesque sight as he rests in his chair. His scrawny fingers are clasped beneath his chin. His grayish face, thin nosed, with scowling lips and fanglike teeth, is as terrible as his fiendish eyes. The mass of white hair adds to his insidious appearance. He looks like a portrayal of the figure of Death, ready to hew down victims with a sharpened scythe.

It is this monstrous force of evil that The Shadow must battle. The Shadow, lone wolf of action, who uses but a handful of trusted agents; The Crime Master, generalissimo of evil, relying upon massed hordes organized into a mighty fighting body. Can The Shadow drive a wedge into The Crime Master's cunning game? Which will win? I'm betting on The Shadow!

But author Walter Gibson doesn't make it easy on our hero. The Crime Master is the intellectual equal to the amazing brain of The Shadow. And our poor hero has a few disadvantages working against him. First, Joe Cardona, ace detective of all Manhattan, is seriously wounded and put out of action. Then The Shadow himself is injured as well, making battle nearly impossible.

At the Fergis Building, in the offices of the Associated Importing Company, the Shadow battles the forces of the Crime Master. He's inundated by the massed gangsters gathered by the crime lord. He's shot in the right arm. Another bullet in his thigh. He tries to make his escape out a window and falls forty feet to the sidewalk below, hitting a theater marquee on the way down. He lies, a crushed man, barely conscious.

Now's the time for that vial of purplish fluid that can give a temporary burst of strength. This unique liquid appeared in two dozen Shadow pulp stories over the years. This was the ninth time it was used. This time around, its color isn't mentioned, but it's definitely the same stimulant that revives a nearly unconscious Shadow and gives him temporary strength. He uses that strength to drag himself to the private clinic of Dr. Rupert Sayre, his personal physician.

Yes, Dr. Rupert Sayre appears in this story. He only made it into 43 of the 325 pulp novels, so it's good to see him here. This was his third time in the Shadow stories. He finds the unconscious body of The Shadow in his small clinic. He recognizes that beneath the features of Lamont Cranston is actually another person - a crime fighter extrordinaire known as The Shadow. And so he nurses his patient back to health. But it does put The Shadow out of action for a week.

Luckily, The Shadow has his agents who can be put into action while he recuperates. In this story we see Clyde Burke, reporter with the New York Classic, Harry Vincent, long-time agent who plays a small role this time around, underworld informant Cliff Marsland, and the two contact men Burbank and Rutledge Mann. Cliff gets to see the most action, this time around. He's even captured by the Crime Master, drugged and made to... well I won't spoil it for you.

As for the police, we have Detective Joe Cardona, who is put out of action in chapter seven, Inspector Timothy Klein, who replaces poor Cardona, and Police Commissioner Ralph Weston. We also see a policeman named Grady who acts as the commissioner's chauffeur. He also briefly appeared in the previous magazine issue, "Chain of Death," but other than that was not a regular character.

Was Pietro, the push cart peddler, part of this story? Pietro, for those who don't remember him, was a minor agent of The Shadow. He first appeared in the 1933 story "The Silver Scourge." At that time, he was not an agent, but assisted the law in a counterfeiting matter. His second official appearance was in the 1934 story "The Chinese Disks," and it was in this story that he became an agent for The Shadow. He only appeared in three more Shadow stories after that. There's no direct mention of Pietro in this story, but perhaps an indirect one? Early in the story, Joe Cardona meets one of his stool pigeons in an Italian section of town near a fruit peddler's wagon. Could that fruit peddler have been Pietro? Walter Gibson doesn't specify as he writes it; but I prefer to think that it was in his mind at the time. Perhaps this was Pietro's second Shadow appearance.

This story takes us to some familiar underworld hangouts. We get to visit The Pink Rat and The Black Ship. Both were notorious dives where criminals met for a drink and to plot in secret meetings. The Pink Rat was made famous in thirteen Shadow stories. The Black Ship appeared a full two-dozen times.

As always, there are a few things that deserve mention in this story. When the Crime Master sends out his written orders, he doesn't need to sign his instructions. He embosses his special seal at the bottom. It's the head of a skeleton, crossing behind it, a scimitar. It's a pretty cool symbol, but unfortunately, nothing ever comes of it, and it's never explained.

The Shadow's amazing rubber discs show up in this tale. Those are the suction cups that he attaches to his hands and feet in order to ascend the outside walls of buildings. This time, he uses them to climb to a third-floor window. These concave rubber discs were quite popular in the early years of The Shadow. They first appeared in the 1932 story "The Crime Cult" and had shown up sixteen times by their use here.

We also get to see the explosive powder that The Shadow keeps secreted in the lining of his cloak. In this story, he's caught in a sinister death trap, and uses that explosive to free himself. Hidden in the hem of his cloak is a black powder. In another section of the lining is a gray powder. He mixes the two together, then moistens them with a liquid from a vial he carries. (Not to be confused with the vial containing the restorative fluid.) The resulting explosion is powerful enough to free him from his prison.

And let's not forget The Shadow's amazing abilities at disguise. We know he often disguises himself as the millionaire globe-trotter Lamont Cranston. But in this story, we also get to see him fool police headquarters and Inspector Klein as he takes on the guise of the police commissioner, Ralph Weston himself!

This is a nice little pulp story from the early career of The Shadow. It's fun to see how the Crime Master plans his crimes and then goes about executing them. And it's great to see the powerful Shadow fighting through his weakened state to conquer the seemingly invincible Crime Master. It's the story of The Crime Master - superman of evil, against The Shadow, superfoe of crime.

I think you'll like it.

"The Fifth Napoleon" was published in the February 1, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine. There was a mystery figure controlling the four Napoleons of crime. He was the fifth Napoleon. And it would take The Shadow to finally reveal his power, his identity and bring him to justice.

The Shadow is aware that Charlie Boston, Mike Hammer, Andy Martin and Con Platt are the four most powerful crime bosses in New York. (Yes, that's right - Mike Hammer! Not the famous Mickey Spillane character who would first appear in "I, The Jury." A totally different character with coincidentally the same name. But Walter Gibson used it nine years before Mickey Spillane.)

These four masters of crime rule New York. But The Shadow knows that they aren't smart enough to do it by themselves. Someone is behind them. Someone is leading them. And the only way to discover his secret identity is to go undercover and join the mob. So, to that end, The Shadow kidnaps Lifer Stone, who has just been released from prison. Kidnaps him and takes his place. Disguises himself as Lifer Stone and takes his place so that he can infiltrate the underworld gangs and uncover the fifth napoleon!

But there's also competition in the underworld. Competition in the person of Tiger Marsh. All that's known about him is that he emerged suddenly as a power in Manhattan. He made millions racketeering in Detroit, and how he's tied up every crook in Manhattan who isn't already a member of the four Napoleons' group. He has vowed to take over the underworld and is preparing to wrest the spoils of crime from the empire created by the four napoleons.

Working for the law, attempting to pull the fangs of the insidious underworld kingpins, is Commissioner Ralph Weston and acting inspector Joe Cardona. Helping are private citizens Judge Paul Sherman and managing editor of the New York Classic Fred Daniel. Judge Sherman has been appointed by the governor as a special district attorney to prosecute and convict the racketeers. Fred Daniel is helping with the expose in his daily paper. And he's also engaged to marry Judge Sherman's headstrong but beautiful young daughter Ethel.

And then we also get to meet the Fifth Napoleon himself! He's a strange figure robed from head to foot in scarlet, the color of blood. His face is hidden behind a silken red mask; his hands and feet incased in scarlet gloves and slippers. He has a hidden all-white lair where his four lieutenants report to him. And all his numerous underlings have strange numbers like "Agent 2-11-9."

At the story's climax, when the Fifth Napoleon gets his comeuppance, as we all know he will, he's a victim of his own explosion. He lies, not dead, but mortally wounded and in horrible pain. One arm has been torn completely from the masked criminal's body. Gruesome. Say, this sounds like a Tinsley novel!

And it is. It's a pretty cool tale, the fifth written by Theodore Tinsley in mid-1937 for publication in 1938. By this time, Tinsley had The Shadow down pretty well. His style is very much like Walter Gibson's. His characterizations and descriptions are pretty much on-target. And he hasn't allowed his preferences for more vivid prose take over as they did in later Shadow novels. The excessive violence and lurid descriptions are kept pretty well in check. And there's no titillation of sex here.

But Tinsley's Shadow is a little more vulnerable in all his stories. He gets wounded regularly, whereas Gibson's version of The Shadow gets wounded much less often. A bullet creases his arm. Another penetrates the flesh of his thigh. Blood is drawn from gashed knuckled. Nothing vital, but he's not the nearly-always invulnerable hero written by Walter Gibson.

Tinsley's other signature trademarks are the more lurid passages of violence. Joe Cardona is knocked unconscious with "brass knuckles streaked with blood." When The Shadow shoots a gangster, "a blue hole flicked into the forehead of the advancing killer. Another bullet ripped away two front teeth and crashed through the back of his skull." See? A little more edge to the descriptions than was usual for Walter Gibson.

Many of Tinsley's famous little touches are present here. His fondness for underground caves, caverns, tunnels and the like show up in the second half of the novel. And then there's acid. In over half of Tinsley's Shadow novels, acid is used for either torture or for destroying records. Here, it's used for both.

In this story, The Shadow disables Lifer Stone by applying pressure to nerves in the neck. Sounds a lot like the Vulcan neck pinch to me. Mr. Spock would be proud!

The only agents of The Shadow who appears here are Moe Shrevnitz, the smartest taxicab driver in Manhattan, and Clyde Burke, reporter for the New York Classic. They only show up for a few paragraphs to help spirit away the real Lifer Stone, so The Shadow can take his place. And Burbank, The Shadow's contact man, appears once to facilitate the transfer of orders from The Shadow to his two agents. Other than that, The Shadow works alone here. Alone, and in disguise.

A couple final notes of interest. Joe Cardona wears a derby. I don't remember that from other stories, but it could be just my memory is faulty. We are reminded that The Shadow has the ability to read lips, as he does when two henchmen whisper together. And contact lenses are mentioned as the latest development in optical technique. Of course these are nothing like the contact lenses of today. They are large curved glass shells that cover the entire eye, going beneath the eyelids, and require a special suction cup to remove. Ouch!

The Five Napoleons is a most enjoyable Shadow novel, with that little extra edge that only Theodore Tinsley could offer.


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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