John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #10
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"The City of Doom" was published in the May 15, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine. This is the
second of the three novels in the Voodoo Master series, as the evil Dr. Mocquino
returns to battle The Shadow. In fact, that was Walter Gibson's original title
for this story: "Dr. Mocquino's Return." Once again The Shadow must face the
sinister Dr. Rodil Mocquino. And it will take all his courage, all his skill,
all his amazing abilities to avert the slaughter that threatens the city of doom
and defeat the Voodoo Master.
Hampstead is the city of doom. It's a small city, heavy on industry. But the
various industries are meeting with accidents. Disastrous accidents in which
lives are lost. Like the railroad yards. Two wrecks in the railroad yards within
a matter of days, both unexplainable. Eight men killed. Another accident at the
dye plant; a boiler explosion that took three more lives.
The town is jinxed. Harry Vincent, secret agent for The Shadow, had been sent to
Hampstead to investigate, but he's now missing. So The Shadow makes a personal
visit himself. And he's just in time to witness another horrible accident. At
the steel mill, a cauldron of molten steel is accidentally poured too early.
Instead of reaching the molds, it is splashed upon the workers. Another nine men
perish in horrible deaths.
The Shadow confirms that this is sabotage. Trusted workers are performing
sabotage against their wills, under the hypnotic influence of The Voodoo Master.
Dr. Rodil Mocquino, known as The Voodoo Master, was last seen sinking beneath
the waves in the Hudson River, riddled with bullets. But now he's back, and he's
trying to destroy the will of the inhabitants of Hampstead. If he can destroy
the influence of the machine age, he can implant the principles of the voodoo
belief upon the community. Only then will they be susceptible to join his cult.
Thus, his war on industry.
Dr. Mocquino wields a strange hypnotic power over men. He has the ability to
make them do his bidding, without realizing what they are doing. The Shadow must
break the power of the Voodoo Master before the superstitious townsfolk fall
prey to his evil. He must find and rescue his trusted agent Harry Vincent. And
he must destroy the Voodoo Master once and for all. (Well, at least until the
To do all this, he must fight the hypnotic power of Dr. Mocquino's strange lamp
that glows, sparkles, and glistens. The lamp that strangely draws the mind's
focus and makes any human susceptible to Dr. Mocquino's commands. He must fight
Dr. Mocquino's zombies, not truly the walking dead, but close enough. Their
minds have been taken by Dr. Mocquino and they are automatons under his complete
Who's helping him in this fight? No one. He's on his own, in this story. No
agents are here to help him out. No forces of the law are present to give aid.
It's just The Shadow. The Shadow against Dr. Mocquino.
The Shadow appears in disguise as businessman Henry Arnaud of Chicago. It was an
often-used disguise, first appearing in the 1932 story "The Black Master." The
Lamont Cranston disguise became more popular in later years, but Henry Arnaud
was used throughout the 1930's and into the 1940's. The Shadow chooses the
Arnaud disguise in this story because his features are full and bear little of
the hawkishness his enemies associate with The Shadow's countenance. Also, Henry
Arnaud is not a real person, unlike Lamont Cranston, so he is disposable if
necessary. In fact, in this story, he lets Arnaud take the rap for a murder,
something he wouldn't do with the Cranston disguise.
This story is more gruesome than usual. Men flee from the molten steel that's
running loose, it pours onto their feet, melting their ankles and they fall into
the molten horror. It's described in more graphic terms than Gibson was usually
wont to do. And when The Shadow battles the zombies, it takes a bullet to the
brain to stop them. Or he has to hack them up with a sharp saber. Yes, this is
more the type of gore that Theodore Tinsley was known for. But when Walter
Gibson worked on this story, Theodore Tinsley hadn't even started on his first
Shadow novel, yet. So it's pure Gibson, gore and all.
There are some classic scenes in this story. One takes place in the Hampstead
power house, when The Shadow battles Dr. Mocquino's minions. He stands between
two massive generators, shooting between the spinning blades of the dynamo. Then
there's the scene where it faces the dazzling hypnotic light of the Voodoo
Master. "You are helpless!" jeers the Voodoo Master. "You are in my power!"
My favorite scene is where The Shadow battles against half a dozen zombies in
his attempt to rescue Harry Vincent. In the castle dungeon he holds off the
unearthly creatures with a saber in one hand and an automatic in the other. His
bullets have no effect because they are garbed in old Roman helmet and armor.
They never tire. They just keep coming. And The Shadow battles on. Yes, this is
a true classic pulp moment!
No rubber suction cups are present in this story. Instead, The Shadow climbs the
outside walls of the castle like a human beetle, all the way up a four-story
It has been often mentioned that The Shadow is a master linguist. It seems there
is never a language he hasn't mastered. He speaks dozens of languages throughout
his many adventures. But in this one, he encounters one that he doesn't
recognize. We are told that he hears Dr. Mocquino give a hard order in some
unknown tongue. I think it's the only time he's been stumped.
For those of you who want to read the other two stories in this series, the
first novel was "The Voodoo Master" from March 1, 1936 and the third one was
"Voodoo Trail" from the June 1, 1938 issue. Together, these three stories make
up some of the very best of The Shadow's pulp adventures.
I did find one possible discrepancy, however. - Spoiler coming up. - After
you've read the story, ask yourself if blowing up Dr. Mocquino's castle wouldn't
also disconnect the transformer that was keeping the machinery at the Hampstead
Knitting Mills under control? Uncontrolled, wouldn't they begin to run wild and
cause the very disaster that The Shadow has worked so hard to prevent? Or did I
"The Fifth Face" was originally published in the August 15, 1940 issue of The Shadow Magazine.
Who is this new criminal mastermind? He can change his looks to become five
different people. But one by one, The Shadow will eliminate those faces, until
he reveals the final, fifth face!
Our story opens as three down-on-their-luck gangsters sit in their hideout
playing cards. In walks Jake Smarley, their bookie. But it turns out that
Smarley has much higher aspirations that being a bookie. He wants to enlist
these three men as his lieutenants. Under his command, they will instigate a
crime wave unlike any remembered in New York history. The secret of their
success lies in Smarley's uncanny ability to change his appearance. He calls
himself Five-face, as described in this excerpt from the pulp novel:
"Five-face will wipe off his map, like this" - Smarley started to spread his
hands across his face - "and be another guy!"
An instant later, the lieutenants were gawking in amazement. They weren't
looking at Jake Smarley any longer. His face had changed; it was shrewd, rather
than drab. As the three men squinted, Smarley's hands made another sweep.
His face seemed to enlarge, to become fuller and more genial. Then, as his hands
performed another swing, he turned his head and gave them a brief view of a set
profile that wore an expression of disdain.
One more quick change came, as the face turned toward them, but before the three
lieutenants could gain more than a vague impression, a sweep of the swift-moving
hands restored the drab features of Jake Smarley.
How does he do it? Well, apparently he has a natural ability. And he uses makeup
to add to that natural ability. He uses materials from a make-up box: a fake
chin and a molding substance that looks like putty. And exactly how will he use
his chameleon-like ability?
The plan is simple. The master criminal walks boldly into a bank and gets a
hundred grand. The three lieutenants have their gangs outside, to cover his
getaway. Naturally the crook will get spotted when he grabs the mazuma, but
that's not a problem. Even The Shadow can't find him, because Five-face will
change his appearance and never be that man again. Sounds like a perfect plan.
There will be four crimes, each bigger than the last. And each will be blamed on
a character who will disappear after the crime, never to reappear. That will use
up four of the faces mastered by the crook who calls himself Five-face. The
fifth face is his real one. It's the face he will keep permanently after the
crime wave is finished. It's the fifth face that will retire in wealth at the
end of the spree of violence and death.
Luckily, The Shadow is on the job. The Shadow is keeping an eye on certain
events that involve great wealth and might be tempting to denizens of the
underworld. And when Five-face strikes, The Shadow is nearby to enter into
battle. And luckily, he's not alone. He's going to need all the help he can get.
Assisting The Shadow is his team of agents including Moe Shrevnitz, his very
capable hackie, Cliff Marsland, who has quite a reputation in the underworld,
Hawkeye, a clever spotter who could follow a snake's trail through the grass,
Harry Vincent, long in The Shadow's service, Clyde Burke, reporter on the New
York Classic, Jericho Druke, the big African, and Burbank, his sequestered
contact man. Also present is chauffeur Stanley, who aides The Shadow
unknowingly. Officers of the New York Police Department are, as usual, present
in the person of Inspector Joe Cardona and Commissioner Ralph Weston.
In all the early adventures of The Shadow, his agents never knew his identity or
his disguises. But as the years passed, that changed. In this story, they now
recognize that Lamont Cranston is one of The Shadow's disguises: "The Shadow's
agents stared in utter amazement at two men who came from the main door and
entered a waiting limousine. One was Lamont Cranston, otherwise The Shadow."
The usual trapping are all here. On the third finger of the left hand, The
Shadow wears his one-of-a-kind girasol ring. The Shadow appears in his favorite
guise, that of millionaire and world-traveler Lamont Cranston. In the back of
Cranston's limousine, is the hidden drawer containing the slouch hat, cloak of
black, gloves and two .45 automatics. And also in the back of the limo, is
hidden the special short-wave radio by which means The Shadow can contact
We are treated to a visit to the black-walled room lit with a single blue bulb,
The Shadow's sanctum. And we even get a very quick visit to Chinatown, which
Shadow fans always cherish. The Shadow uses his special fountain pen containing
the special vivid blue ink that disappears shortly after exposure to air. And he
uses that special three-colored flashlight to signal his agents.
As this story was written, Europe was at war. American had yet to enter into
what would be known as World War II, but it was clearly just a matter of time.
Author Walter Gibson gives nod to the current events by indicating that Lamont
Cranston now makes excursions to South America, "since European voyages were no
It's a fun story to read, but certainly not one of the best that The Shadow had
to offer. By 1940, things had started to become a little routine. But still,
even at that, the ending had me fooled. I was sure I had figured it out early
on. After reading all of these stories, and I should be able to see through
Walter Gibson's tricks by now. Right? Nope, he got me again! A cool ending that
caught me by surprise.
I guess that's why I never seem to get tired of these stories. They are always
fresh. Never formula; never predictable. Always worth the few hours it takes to
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.