Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! The Knight of Darkness proves that crime does not pay in two pulp classics by Walter B. Gibson writing as "Maxwell Grant." First, The Shadow follows a trail of murder to retrieve the priceless rubies known as "The Seven Drops of Blood." Then, to prove the innocence of a man accused of an impossible crime, the Dark Avenger must uncover the strange secret behind "Death from Nowhere." BONUS: The Whisperer brings true sight to "The Eye of Zion" in a thriller by Alan Hathway writing as "Clifford Goodrich." This instant collector's item features the classic color pulp covers by Graves Gladney and George Rozen, the original interior illustrations by Tom Lovell and Edd Cartier, and commentary by popular culture historian Will Murray.
John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #73
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission
“The Seven Drops of Blood” was originally published in the December 1, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Seven massive rubies worth a king’s ransom. Seven killers determined to acquire those valuable gemstones. The combination is a deadly one - a combination that leads to theft, murder... and The Shadow’s justice!
Although this is a 1936 story, it reads much like a typical Shadow adventure from the 1940’s. It lacks much of the pizzazz that the 1930’s era Shadow mysteries were famed for. Which is not to say it’s a bad story. It’s just not special, in the way that so many of the other 1936 stories were. Instead, it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill crime tale. There’s really not much to make it stand out.
Our story opens at the Pettigrew Auction Gallery. The Shadow is there, in the guise of Lamont Cranston, since he has a reputation as being a connoisseur of fine jewels. And Acting Inspector Joe Cardona is there, as well. The police are in force at the gallery, because of a tip-off from The Shadow. Not that The Shadow actually knew there would be a robbery attempt, but he was playing a hunch.
The reason for all the security at this particular auction was a six-pointed star of gold, each point of the star set with a gigantic ruby. A seventh matching stone adorned the center. Once the prized possession of the Maharajah of Bolopore, each ruby cost the life of a prince who owned it. Some years before, The ruler of Bolopore had been forced to sell the Seven Drops of Blood in order to pay the costs of a quelled rebellion. The ruby star passed through many hands, and was finally purchased by Tobias Berkland. After years of ownership, he decided to place it on sale.
Well, sure enough. During the auction there is a daring robbery and murder. Seven high class thugs dressed as hindus commit the heinous crime, taking the jewels from the auction and killing two people in addition. They make a successful escape through an underground tunnel, and cover their getaway by an underground explosion. Temporarily, they are out of The Shadow’s grasp. But only temporarily.
Most of the story is spent tracking down the disguised criminals who committed the foul deed. We know that there is some mastermind behind the whole thing, and it’s no surprise that he is the last one tracked down. And again it’s no surprise that during the whole thing, a series of red herrings are trotted out to help mislead the reader. But we know that among the various characters, one will be the chief villain of the piece. And it’ll probably be the one that we least suspect.
Among the cast of characters, we have Tobias Berkland, a retired oil magnet, who owned the seven rubies. And there’s his daughter, a former debutante named Lenore. She has a ne’er-do-well finance named Lawrence Woolford. He’s a young society man who spends most of his time drunk; what Lenore sees in him is a mystery all in and of itself. Glen Mogridge is brother-in-law of Tobias Berkland, and is president of a subsidiary oil company of Berkland’s. And let’s not forget James Ungler, Berkland’s secretary of three years; he always seems to act suspiciously. And finally, we have Old Professor Antonius Hanlock. He claims to be able to create synthetic rubies that are indetectible from the real thing.
While The Shadow keeps an eye on the various individuals involved in the case, he begins tracking down the criminals who assisted the supercrook in charge. One by one, he finds them. Each time, the crook is killed by some method or another. And each time, The Shadow finds one of the rubies, one of the Seven Drops of Blood, in their possession.
Gradually, the stolen gems are recovered, one at a time. The police are happy. The newspapers are happy. Berkland, the owner, is happy. But the reader knows that something fishy is going on here. It’s just too easy. And the reader is right. By the story’s end, we find out that all is not as it seems. Author Walter Gibson has a twist ending planned for us. Unfortunately, it’s not all the big of a surprise.
In the middle of the story, The Shadow decides to have his Cranston character leave town. So he plants a newspaper item in the society section mentioning that Cranston is leaving New York for a short trip. Then The Shadow reappears in his other guise as businessman Henry Arnaud. But then later, he has Cranston reappear. None of it makes much sense, so readers are just expected to accept it, I guess.
It’s interesting to note that usually Arnaud is usually portrayed as a well-to-do businessman, and indeed he starts out that way here, too. But for one short scene, The Shadow decides to make him a down-on-his-luck businessman. He modifies his disguise to look the part of a man who might be short of money. His clothes, though tidy, are old ones. But apparently he’s still the Arnaud character. Not quite a different disguise.
Other familiar characters in this story include a brief appearance by contact man Burbank and hackie Moe Shrevnitz. No other agents appear. Too bad; maybe they could have added a little excitement to this story. As for the police, Commissioner Ralph Weston, Acting Inspector Joe Cardona and Detective Sergeant Markham are all involved. But all in all, it’s a rather abbreviated cast.
There’s really not much unique or special about this story. We do get one brief scene in The Shadow’s sanctum. There, The Shadow examines a ruby under a microscope. Apparently all this takes place in the main room of the sanctum; we don’t even get a visit to the rarely-seen laboratory.
The only thing that stood out as being noteworthy in this story was that The Shadow got a new taxi-cab. The Shadow, as you’ll remember, owns the taxi that Moe Shrevnitz drives. The Shadow wants to replace it with a newer, speedier model. But rather than junk it, he decides to sacrifice it for the cause. The Shadow fools gangsters into thinking the cab contains victims, so they rip loose with their machine guns and destroy the cab. The victims, of course, are safe elsewhere.
Before sending the taxi into the fray, The Shadow removes Moe’s picture from the driver identification in the back seat, and replaces it with a different picture and name. And then he goes on to dispose the of cab in the service of justice. Later in the novel, we are told that The Shadow buys a new cab. It’s a streamlined model that is becoming popular, and will easily blend in with the other cabs on the street. Sounds like the old taxi was starting to stand out because of its age. Standing out was the last thing The Shadow wanted to do.
The pulp mystery ends with a brief mention of the upcoming story, “Intimidation, Incorporated,” which would be in the next issue. There was a brief time when The Shadow magazine did that, unlike the other Street & Smith publication Doc Savage, which consistently previewed the next story on the last page.
And when I finished reading the last page, I found myself barely satisfied. The story wasn’t all that great. Certainly not when compared with other 1936 stories like “The Voodoo Master,” “The Salamanders” and “Jibaro Death.” There would be many worst Shadow stories to come in the future. But this was probably the low point of the 1936 stories. It’s still worth reading, but go into it knowing in advance not to expect too much.
“Death from Nowhere” was originally published in the July 15, 1939 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Death from nowhere... an impossible murder that can be pinned upon only one man. It’s up to The Shadow to prove that man innocent, and to trace death to its true source.
Here we have a pretty good Shadow story. It’s a satisfying blend of red herrings, dead ends and false clues. There is a romance that is threatened when one of the parties is framed for murder, and it’s a fool proof frame, too! There are disguises, twist endings, gangsters and a Hindu psychic. The story never seems to lag, which can sometimes be a problem with other pulp stories. Plenty of action, and when there is no action, you are still engaged in the plot convolutions. The story didn’t seem padded, and if anything it was more tightly edited down to under 39,000 words from the usual 42,000-46,000. So what you have here is a nice, enjoyable mystery with The Shadow.
After a quick chapter to introduce the characters who live in the stately old house, the murder happens in chapter two. Old Adam Rendrew is murdered in his upstairs study. The only persons present were his niece, the lovely Louise Dreller; his nephew and brother to Louise, Archie Dreller, his stepson John Osman, secretary Helene Graymond, and the faithful old butler Froy. One of them was the murderer...
But wait! Rumor has it that the cousin from California, Dwight Kelden, is secretly in town. And a stranger was seen leaving the house shortly after Adam Rendrew was shot. Was he in town to kill his uncle? Was Kelden the murderer? Or was there some other reason for the secret visit to Manhattan?
Young Louise Dreller has been seeing a strange turbaned psychic and spiritualist named Rahman Singh. He seems to have strange knowledge of the family. And an unquenchable thirst for money. Perhaps he had a hand in the murder of old Rendrew.
Let’s not forget gambler and club owner Silk Elredge. The nephew Archie Dreller is in deeply debt to Elredge. And Archie’s visits to Elredge at the Club Cadiz at strange hours could mean that Elredge might be involved. Perhaps Elredge looks to collect his debt out of Archie’s inheritance.
Yes, there’s no lack of suspects, but everybody seems to have an alibi. Everybody except cousin Dwight Kelden who can’t be located. So naturally, the suspicion falls directly upon him. But the reader finds himself rooting for Kelden, hoping he is innocent. After all he’s in love with the secretary, Helene Graymond. And Helene quickly becomes our proxy heroine who joins forces with The Shadow to discover the identity of the real killer. So we’re hoping Keldon is being framed, and someone else did the dastardly deed.
It’s nice when The Shadow takes some innocent bystander into his confidence and seeks their aid. In this case, Helene Graymond is the perfect person. She works in the old house, which gives The Shadow access. And she knows things that can help him. In return, The Shadow will reveal the true murderer, which will hopefully not be her true love Dwight Kelden.
This is mostly the story of The Shadow and his alter-ego Lamont Cranston solving the crime with the assistance of Helene Graymond. He doesn’t need much other assistance from his normal agents. Several of them do appear, but only briefly. Harry Vincent, Cliff Marsland, Moe Shrevnitz, Hawkeye, Burbank and Doctor Rupert Sayre all appear in minor roles. Joe Cardona and Commissioner Weston have larger parts in the story. Oh, and Detective Sergeant Markham shows up quite a bit, as well. But, it’s mostly a story of the Rendrew family and the solution to the strange murder.
When you see Doctor Sayre appear, you know that The Shadow gets injured in the story. Sure enough, he’s wounded in the shoulder during a wild gun fray. Cliff Marsland and Hawkeye drag him to Moe Shrevnitz’s taxi, and they rush him to Dr. Sayre’s clinic. Before you know it, Sayre has him patched up and he’s back action. That’s the extent of their scenes in the entire story. Harry Vincent’s part is just as brief.
One of the interesting characters is that of the Hindu, Rahman Singh. He knows things. Things that no one could seemingly know. He has a secret, and when it’s finally revealed, it’s a pretty clever plot twist. I won’t spoil things by giving it away here, but it’s a nice addition to the mystery which I’m sure readers appreciated.
Silk Elredge runs the Club Cadiz and the gambling establishment upstairs. The Club Cadiz appeared in four different Shadow stories. It’s first appearance was in 1935’s “The Dark Death.” This was it’s second appearance; it also showed up in the 1940 story “Crime County” and the following year’s “The Star of Delhi.”
Silk Elredge, however, wasn’t the owner in the other three stories. It won’t be giving anything away to reveal that he bites the dust by the end of this story. That’s no surprise to readers, since he is a crook and he discovers that Lamont Cranston is actually The Shadow in disguise. Readers immediately recognize that he couldn’t be left alive at the end of the tale, with such damaging knowledge.
So that brings up the question, if he knows the identity of The Shadow, why doesn’t he tip off all of gangdom, and let them finally get rid of their most feared foe? Author Walter Gibson dances around that subject a bit, and to be honest, it wasn’t very convincing. Something about he considered that maybe The Shadow was working with the law, and Cardona already knew his identity. It didn’t make sense to me, but it wasn’t all that important to the plot, so I just overlooked it. And when he’s killed in a huge battle with the police, we know his lips are sealed forever.
There is a pretty cool death trap where Elredge prepared to offer Cranston a drink of whiskey. Yes, Cranston’s regular drink is whiskey, we are told. Anyway, there is a hollowed out cork that contains poison. That way Elredge can remove the cork, pour himself a harmless drink, replace the cork in the bottle and give it a squeeze, and then hand it to Cranston. When Cranston pours himself a drink, it has now been drugged. Pretty clever! And just how does The Shadow escape this trap? You’ll just have to read the story to find out!
We do get a brief visit to the sanctum, “hidden away in an old building in the heart of New York City.” That’s just about as specific as we ever get, when it comes to the location of his headquarters. No sign of the girasol ring. We do get to see that strange disappearing ink used, when The Shadow sends messages to Helene Graymond. That’s always pretty neat. And we also get to see The Shadow use his flashlight with the red/green/white lenses to flash signals to Helene, as well.
The one flaw in the story -- well the big one that I couldn’t overlook -- was the explanation of how the seemingly impossible murder was committed. It’s all explained as being accomplished by “black light.” Well, that part makes sense. But the description of black light is completely wrong. Black light is just another name for ultraviolet light, and a black light bulb emits very little visible light. It’s mostly invisible. But not according to Walter Gibson’s description.
According to this story, it can’t be seen at night because it’s black. But it can be seen in daylight, as a thin black beam emanating from the bulb. “With the click, a thin black beam appeared, forming a pencil line straight... to the bulb in the floor lamp!” Huh? Usually Walter Gibson’s pretty accurate with his science. What happened here? No black rays shine from a black light bulb! That’s a pretty important point, about which the resolution of the murder revolves. It’s not just something tossed in by a careless editor. I don’t understand...
But overlooking that single variance, this is a fun mystery with The Shadow. I really enjoyed reading it. I can recommend it. It’s a pulp tale that will have you guessing until the final denouncement, when The Shadow reveals the killer and his (or her) motives.
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.