John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #70
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission
"The Man From Scotland Yard" was originally published in the August 1, 1935 issue of The Shadow Magazine. This is the story of Inspector Eric Delka, the man from Scotland Yard. It's also the story of a spy ring out to steal secret plans for new inventions related to war. And into this tense situation steps The Shadow, the one man capable of dealing justice to the sinister gang.
The Shadow runs across this band of spies by accident. As our story begins, The Shadow is out to track down Rigger Luxley's band of cutthroats. He has Hawkeye tracking one man suspected to associate with Luxley's gang, a down-and-outer named Scud Paffrey. Hawkeye tracks Scud Paffrey to a secret meeting with New York Police Detective Joe Cardona. It seems that Scud Paffrey, accepted as an average denizen of the underworld, is in reality a stool pigeon for the police.
Hawkeye hears Scud Paffrey give Joe a tip to an upcoming meeting at The Pink Rat, that infamous underworld grog shop. Paffrey doesn't know where Rigger Luxley can be found, but he knows that Luxley's associate, one Sailor Martz, will be at The Pink Rat later. Sailor Martz can be picked up and made to talk. But Hawkeye knows that The Shadow can pick up the trail much faster than the slower moving police department.
Shortly after Hawkeye has reported the overheard conversation to Burbank, The Shadow appears at The Pink Rat. The Shadow intervenes in a confrontation between Sailor Martz and a government undercover man, Vic Marquette. In the ensuing gun battle, the police arrive. Sailor Martz is severely wounded but escapes. Vic Marquette is taken into police custody, due to a misunderstanding.
The Shadow follows the blood trail that Sailor Martz leaves, and tracks him to a barge down on the river. There, as Sailor Martz's life fades, The Shadow manages to wrest important information. Before he dies, Martz indicates that future crime is due aboard the steamer Zouave. What crime? He doesn't know. But we are about to find out.
A man from Scotland Yard is sailing to America to assist the local authorities in breaking up a spy ring. This is the man that Rigger Luxley's gang has been hired to kidnap and murder. He must not reach this country's shores. He will be secretly replaced on shipboard, and spirited away to the steamer Zouave. There, he will be silenced for good.
The man from Scotland Yard is Inspector Eric Delka. He is coming to meet with government agent Vic Marquette, police Detective Joe Cardona and Senator Ross Releston. This is the group that is trying to safeguard some secret plans and thwart the attempts of the international spy ring.
It all concerns war secrets. War looms threateningly above the horizon as the world teeters on the brink of conflict. Nations are building weapons of terrible power. And international spies are stealing the plans for these weapons whenever they can. Government and local law enforcement agencies have partnered up to fight this threat to national security. But they seem no match for the sinister espionage agents. Inspector Eric Delka, the man from Scotland Yard, seems to be their only hope.
The spy ring kidnaps Eric Delka from the oceanliner the Doranic, and replaces him with a double. This master spy named Jed Barthue takes Delka's place on shipboard, while Delka is secretly transferred to the old steamship The Zouave. There, he awaits his death sentence. But rescue is at hand. Rescue in the person of The Shadow!
Out of the darkness of the night, an autogiro descends straight down to land squarely on the deck of the Zouave. Out jumps The Shadow, .45 automatics pumping lead. Half the crew belong to Rigger Luxley's gang; the other half are law abiding citizens. Lead by The Shadow, the honest men take up battle against Luxley's gang. And in the battle that follows, Eric Delka disappears. Was he kidnapped again? Did he drown in the fracas? Where is he?
The following day, when a man named Jarvis Knight checks into suite 3612 at the Goliath Hotel, we aren't sure if this is Eric Delka in disguise or his double, Jed Barthue still replacing him. The good guys assume he's Delka. The bad guys assume he's Barthue. And since no one in this country has seen a photo of Eric Delka, no one can prove otherwise.
Who is the mysterious Jarvis Knight? Who is behind the international spy ring? How do they plan to break into the impregnable vault built especially to hold the valuable plans? The Shadow is on the case, and The Shadow will find out. There are twists and turns aplenty in this puzzling mystery. But The Shadow will puzzle out the clues and the secret codes to unmask the true villains before it's too late.
The Shadow doesn't have a lot of help in his battle against the forces of evil. Hawkeye, that hunchy little spotter, appears at the beginning of the story and again about three quarters of the way through. Harry Vincent and Cliff Marsland appear briefly in the second half of the tale. Burbank makes his usual token appearances. And Miles Crofton is mentioned as the autogiro pilot who assists The Shadow. But the agents really see very little action in this pulp mystery. It's mostly the black-garbed Shadow who carries the action.
The Shadow doesn't get to do much in the way of disguises, here. He does appear once as Lamont Cranston in the middle of the story, but he doesn't get to do much in that guise. Usually, he's simply just his cloaked self.
The forces of law and order are well represented here. Commissioner Weston doesn't show up, but Detective Joe Cardona gets to make the New York Police Department proud. Vic Marquette, the government agent who first appeared in the early story "The Shadow Laughs" from October 1931, also gets into plenty of the action. Senator Ross Releston also gets involved. Senator Releston appeared in nine of the Shadow pulps; his first being in 1935's "The Plot Master."
If you're read the later Shadow novels, you know that Inspector Eric Delka is a recurring character. This was his first appearance, but he also appeared in four other novels. Five, if you want to count Walter Gibson's 1963 paperback "Return of The Shadow."
In a pivotal scene, Inspector Delka and ace spy Jed Barthue battle to the death. One of them falls forty floors to his doom. We aren't sure until the end of the story which one survived. The reader puzzles throughout the story on the true identity of the man who calls himself Jarvis Knight. Did Delka die, and this man is Jed Barthue? Or did Barthue die, leaving Delka to assume the identity of Jarvis Knight?
Well, of course if you've already read the later novels and know that the Inspector Delka character appears again, the answer is obvious. And the suspense is gone. But if you possess this knowledge, it does give you the opportunity to see how author Walter Gibson cleverly manipulates the reader into thinking that Jarvis Knight could be either one.
But hopefully, you haven't read the later stories. And you aren't reading this spoiler, either. So you'll end up being just as fooled as the rest of us, the first time we read this story.
The Shadow's famous autogiro appears in this story. And it should be noted that this autogiro has wings. It's a bi-winged job, as the description includes specific mention of the struts and the lower wing. In later Shadow pulp novels, we are told that the autogiro is a "wingless" model. Thus we can only assume that The Shadow had at least two different models of autogiro during his career. Which is certainly logical for an ace pilot of the World War I era, such as The Shadow.
Author Walter Gibson's love of codes comes into play, here. The spies send coded messages back and forth, and we get to see them in their encoded form. This gives readers a chance to decode the messages if they can figure out the secret. And at the story's end, the secret is revealed, for those who want to know the working of the code but didn't figure it out yet. Secret codes of different kinds popped up regularly in the Shadow pulps.
The story is classic 1935 Shadow fare. The other characters take the foreground, and The Shadow himself often remains hidden in the background. And there is no lack of bloodshed. In later years, The Shadow would rather knock his opponents senseless; here he readily shoots them straight through the heart. There's no lack of dead bodies, here.
It's an early Shadow pulp, and a good one. Nothing particularly noteworthy in the general sequence of stories, except for the introduction of the Delka character. Still, if you've got a few spare hours to spend, you could do worse than to polish off this one. It's pure pulp fun.
"Zemba" was originally published in the December 1, 1935 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Through brightly lighted boulevards and dark byways of Paris moves The Shadow, playing the strangest role of his career in counteracting the movements of the international crook, Zemba!
This Shadow story is unusually complicated for a pulp magazine story. There's a lot going on and many times it involves people who are in disguise as other people. Since the reader doesn't discover this until the end, it makes you want to go back and re-read the story which scenes contained the real characters and which contained their dopplegangers. I tried re-reading it, and I still got confused. It's an excellent mystery with The Shadow, but you really have to be paying attention. If you can do that, you'll really like this one. If you can't do that, you'll probably end up somewhat dizzy by all the twists and turns.
Zemba is the name of the master criminal of Paris, Gaspard Zemba. When writer Walter Gibson submitted this story to Street & Smith in June of 1935, he had entitled it "Paris Affair." I'm glad the name was changed to Zemba. Otherwise, we all might be mistaking it for a frothy Audrey Hepburn romantic movie from the 1950's. And, it's anything but!
The plot of Zemba is a convoluted one, to be sure. It's a much more complicated and twisty storyline than is usually found in a Shadow pulp novel. As our story begins people are being killed by other people who are then killed by other people who are then killed by other people... See, it's getting confusing already, isn't it? It was just one of Walter Gibson's more involved and intricate plots, which is both good and bad, depending on your level of concentration.
The story begins in London as Inspector Eric Delka of Scotland Yard prepares to apprehend Willoughby Blythe. Blythe is a traitor who has stolen secret submarine plans from the British Admiralty for a French mastermind by the name of Gaspard Zemba. Blythe thinks he is scott-free, and is making his way to Paris, France where he will meet up with Zemba. Delka plans to trail him to Paris where he will put the collar on Blythe after he has led Delka to Zemba. But that plan will soon go terribly awry.
On the train "The Golden Arrow" from London to the coastal city of Dover, Willoughby Blythe is murdered by Rene Levaux. Levaux jumps on the steamship "Canterbury" on its journey across the English Channel from Dover to Calais. Levaux is poisoned on shipboard by Boris Danyar. Danyar continues the journey to Paris aboard the "Fleche d'Or" going from Calais to Paris. And he, too, is murdered upon reaching Paris. Killed by that master of crime, Gaspard Zemba! And Zemba then disappears into the Paris underground.
Ah, but Inspector Eric Delka of Scotland Yard is on the case! Delka, you may remember, was a semi-regular in The Shadow pulps. He appeared in a total of six magazine stories, beginning with 1935's "The Man From Scotland Yard." The story of Zemba marks his third appearance. Walter Gibson would bring in Delka's character whenever The Shadow had need of an international lawman.
In this story, the British admiralty has discovered the loss of the submarine papers and has sent Inspector Delka out to arrest Willoughby Blythe. Delka begins to follow the trail of murders, always arriving just after the victim has been dispatched in some grisly fashion. The trail of corpses leads to Paris, where Delka is drafted into service by the Paris police force.
What's behind the murders? Why is life so carelessly discarded to prevent a trail back to Gaspard Zemba? Exactly what is Zemba up to? As it turns out, Paris is swarming with intrigue. The prefect of police, one Monsieur Clandine, has gathered together in Paris representatives from many countries to discuss Zemba. From each of these countries, Zemba has stolen secret plans. And he is willing to return the papers to their proper owners... for a price.
From Lord Bixley, he demands a hundred thousand pounds for the return of the submarine plans. From Senor Alonzo, a similar sum, for stolen fortification diagrams. From Signor Chiozzi, twice as much for Italy's army mobilization arrangements. From Mr. Cleghorn, a half million dollars for airplane plans stolen from Washington. From the French, a like amount for plans of their anti-aircraft defense. And so it goes, on and on. The total reaches five million dollars! That's a lot of money, even by today's standards. Think what an enormous amount that would have been in 1935! The representatives have five days in which to pay the money, something they are not anxious to do. But what else can they do? Who can save them?
It's The Shadow to the rescue! The Shadow is known to Parisians as "L'Ombre." This is the first story to reveal that fact. It would go on to be mentioned in four more Shadow adventures, and took its place in the mythology of The Shadow.
So, anyway, the master of the night has come alone to Paris, tracking down the war secrets stolen from Washington. He is tracking down Gaspard Zemba, the master criminal known throughout Europe. He checks into the Hotel Moderne in a new, never-before-used disguise as a Herbert Balliol. But by night, he dons his black cape and slouch hat to track down the evil Zemba.
How to recognize Gaspard Zemba? No one can be sure of Zemba's face. He shows it seldom and is a master of disguise, changing it often. There is, however, one definite sign of Zemba. On his left hand, the third finger is missing. Chopped off from the lower knuckle upward, it's one sure sign of recognition of the criminal mastermind. And thus begins one of The Shadow's most unique and confusing adventures.
It seems that not only The Shadow is disguised as someone else. Just about everybody else in the story is not who they appear, as well. At the story's climax, everyone is revealed to be someone else, and that's what makes this story so confusing. Even though I've read this story twice before, and I knew who was really who, I still had trouble keeping track of what character was "supposedly" appearing in each scene and what character was "actually" appearing in it. Confusing, but fun. It all does make sense, when you go back and study it carefully. A tribute to Walter Gibson's careful planning.
The Shadow doesn't work alone, in this mystery set on the continent. He has left orders for Harry Vincent and Cliff Marsland to follow him. They arrive shortly after The Shadow has settled in, and begin assisting him. They were chosen because both have been in France before and know both the language and the city of Paris. We aren't told the details of their previous visits, but it seems safe to assume they were during the World War.
The Shadow, of course, has been in Paris before as well. We can only guess of his wartime experiences in France as the Dark Eagle. It is often mentioned in the pulp stories that The Shadow has fought post-war crime throughout Europe, including France. We actually read about several of them before this particular story was published. He was in Paris at the beginning of the 1932 tale "The Blackmail Ring" and had a brief visit there later that year in "The Romanoff Jewels." The Shadow certainly had other undocumented adventures in Paris as well, since the prefect of police comments that "He has been in Paris before. He has done much to aid us in the past."
One additional note. We are given a different description of The Shadow's gloves in this story, something I don't remember seeing before. The gloves are loosely made, except for the fingers which stretch to exceeding thinness. This is so the hands can manage his .45 automatics yet slip the gloves off and on with ease.
It's a mile-a-minute whirlwind story of mystery and intrigue as The Shadow tracks Zemba and his Apaches through the underground passages beneath the streets of Paris. (Apaches, it should be noted, refer not to native Americans, but rather to the gangs of Parisian cutthroats.) It all climaxes at Zemba's secret hideout in a furious battle that will leave you breathless. This story is not just good; it's a classic!
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.