John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #19
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
was published in the June 1, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine. This was the
third and final story in which The Shadow battles the evil Dr. Rodil Mocquino,
known as the Voodoo Master. And it's a great story in which once again voodoo
reigns supreme until The Shadow can track down the source of evil and thwart it
in one final battle supreme.
People are disappearing from Manhattan. Wealthy people. And their wealth is
disappearing with them. Several months ago, four wealthy young men embarked upon
a round-the-world sea trip by schooner. They have not been heard from since. One
wealthy young woman took an airplane trip to South America and never arrived.
Another went to India to marry a Hindu rajah, and also disappeared. A third went
fishing off the Florida coast; her boat went up in flames. And there are more.
The heirs of the missing people who received all their wealth turn out to be
nonexistent. Supposed institutions to which some of these millionaires donated
huge sums also turn out to be bogus. One man, and one man alone, is profiting
from all this. That one man is Dr. Rodil Mocquino.
James Quinrick, attorney who specializes in defending crooks, and Beak Hyler, a
racketeering big-shot, are but small cogs in Mocquino's huge gear-wheel of
crime. Hyler has been supplying Dr. Mocquino with mobbies to control the hoards
of zombis created by the Voodoo Master. Quinrick has been helping legally fleece
the millionaire cult members who are giving, either willingly or unwillingly,
their enormous wealth to Dr. Mocquino. But the two are getting greedy.
The two crooks, James Quinrick and Beak Hyler, are conspiring against their
master. They plan on taking valuable information about the missing millionaires
to their friends and relatives, men who will pay much for that information. But
as they talk, The Shadow listens! Clinging to the wall outside their
fourth-story window, The Shadow hears not only their plans, but the details of
Dr. Mocquino's organization.
As the two talk in low tones, a voice interrupts them from the radio. It's the
Voodoo Master, warning them they shall share the same fate for their treachery.
From outside, they hear the slow clump-clump sound of zombis coming up the
stairs, from the kitchen entrance, from the front, from the fire tower. There's
no escape! Slowly the army of zombis enters the room and encircles their two
victims. It's a strange group, dressed in ragged clothes. Unseeing, unhearing,
eyes bulging, they stand before the two men and slowly raise their revolvers.
They make no move; they stand waiting.
Beak Hyler pulls his gun, and at his first shot the troupe of zombis are
released. The shot is the signal for which they've been waiting. They pull the
triggers on their revolvers, pumping a merciless hail of bullets into the bodies
of the two conspirators. They continue pulling the triggers, even long after
their guns are empty, for they are zombis with no minds of their own. They are
zombis under the control of the sinister cult master Dr. Rodil Mocquino.
This is what The Shadow must fight against. To do this, he must first capture
one of the seemingly dead zombis. He must somehow release him from the Voodoo
Master's evil spell, and then find out where the master of evil dwells. He must
confront the sinister doctor in his own domain and wrest away his occult powers
and free the cult members from his diabolical influence. He will have to fight
his way through hoards of zombis to his final battle with Dr. Rodil Mocquino.
It's a job that only The Shadow has a chance of accomplishing.
And helping The Shadow in this story are the forces of the law in the persons of
Inspector Joe Cardona, Sergeant Markham and Police Commissioner Ralph Weston.
Cardona finally meets The Shadow as Lamont Cranston in this story. For the first
time, he knows that under the slouch hat of The Shadow is the face of Cranston.
But he's not convinced that he has learned The Shadow's secret identity. He
recognizes it as a disguise used by The Shadow.
The Shadow's agents also play an important role. Appearing in this story are
Burbank, Doctor Rupert Sayre, Moe Shrevnitz, Hawkeye, Harry Vincent and several
other unnamed agents. The Shadow appears in disguise as world-traveler and
millionaire Lamont Cranston, and of course as himself, that black-cloaked master
of the night.
In this story, we're told that Dr. Sayre has recently moved his offices to Park
Avenue. Yes, Dr. Sayre is coming up in the world. He's personal physician to The
Shadow and his agents. He knows that at times The Shadow impersonates Lamont
Cranston. And he has grown in stature and wealth due to the friends and
acquaintances of Cranston who have been referred to him. The Shadow even has his
own key to the good doctor's offices.
It's interesting to note that The Shadow's short-wave sets are mentioned often
in this story. He keeps one hidden in the back seat of Lamont Cranston's
limousine, and also one in the rear of Moe Shrevnitz's cab. He carries a
portable one in a metal case that also contains his makeup kit. And his agents
use several of them, spread throughout New York City, to make it possible to
identify his location by triangulating his remote signal.
Doctor Rodil Mocquino isn't the only one who controls the mystic arts in this
story. The Shadow gets a chance to show off as well. He doesn't cloud men's
minds to become invisible; that only happened on the radio show. But he does
employ a system of yoga breathing that he had learned in India; the same system
that fakirs used to enable them to lie entombed for hours. The Shadow has
learned much in his world travels! But not enough to evade the clutches of Dr.
Before this story is over, even the stalwart Shadow falls beneath the insidious
influence of the Voodoo Master. The beat of the tom-toms, the crackle of the
fire, and the power of Dr. Mocquino all serve to turn The Shadow into a zombi.
How will he escape the power of voodoo? How will he escape the fire caverns of
Dr. Mocquino's lair? How will he overcome the mindless zombis? How will he free
the captured cult members? And how will he defeat the Voodoo Master for the
It's all in this amazing story in the pulp chronicles of The Shadow. It's one of
the best Shadow novels you'll ever read.
P.S. For those of you who want to read all three of the Voodoo Master stories in
order, they are: "The Voodoo Master" from March 1, 1936, "City of Doom" from May
15, 1936, and this story, "Voodoo Trail."
"Death's Harlequin" was published in the May 1, 1939 issue of The Shadow Magazine. The identity of
the sinister figure known as "Death's Harlequin" is a mystery. He's a strange,
costumed superspy who is working to cripple America!
What we know of this sinister figure is strange, to say the least. He is only
known by the name "Number One." He dresses in a Harlequin's costume, a shapeless
black satin smock with wide white ruffles at the neck and huge white ornamental
buttons. But his face... his face is horrible. It's the face of a dead man; thin
lips drawn away from skull-like teeth, a pale yellow skin shining faintly with
the sign of decay. A living corpse in the costume of a Harlequin!
When this story was published, war was raging throughout Europe, even though the
U.S. wouldn't enter the war for over two more years. We had a secretary of war.
We had military secrets. And we had spies. Spies on our side. Spies on their
side. This, then, is the time of our story.
The story takes place in our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. We meet Jane
Purdy a mysterious, beautiful blond dressed in fur. We follow her to the most
fashionable beauty shop in Washington, where the proprietor Madame Alyce escorts
her to a hidden underground headquarters.
Yes, Jane Purdy is a spy for the powerful international organization run by
Number One. They are working to destroy America's ability to enter the war; all
this under the direction of a warlike foreign dictator. An unnamed dictator, as
directed under Street and Smith's policies. But we are told Madame Alyce has
narrow, Oriental eyes. It's not too much of a stretch to figure out which
country was meant.
Vic Marquette, ace agent of the US Secret Service, is now working for the F.B.I
and is on her trail, trying to follow her to the mysterious leader of the
spy-ring. But he has his hands full, as these spies are are a brutal and
bloodthirsty bunch. They'll kill at the drop of a hat to obtain their goals.
What are these spies after? Why, the secret plans, of course! What else would
spies be after? There are ALWAYS secret plans; you know that! Secret plans of
what? Aw, come on! Does it really matter? The important thing is that the spies
are after the secret plans and will go to any lengths to get them. And The
Shadow must stop them, free the innocent blackmail victims from their evil
grasp, and reveal the hidden identity of the head of the spy ring. Whew! The
Shadow's going to be one busy hero!
This story was written by Theodore Tinsley, not Walter Gibson. It was his tenth
Shadow story. In total, he wrote twenty seven of them, starting in 1936 and
ending in 1943. Generally, Tinsley was faithful to Gibson's writing style. He is
known, however, for a bit more sex and violence than is Gibson. And in this
story, that reputation is well-deserved.
Tinsley's villain, the mysterious master-spy known as Number One, is a true
sadist. A shrill giggle from his thin lips shows that he enjoys the torture and
death. Perhaps it's due to his drug dependency. We are told that he smokes
hasheesh; can't go a day without it. He's depicted as a real degenerate.
Tinsley's graphic descriptions of sadistic torture and murder exceed what Gibson
Theodore Tinsley's penchant for underground mazes, caverns and headquarters is
also clearly illustrated here. In Madame Alyce's beauty establishment, there is
a large swimming pool in the basement. But hidden below the swimming pool, even
further underground, is a secret meeting room deep in the bowels of the earth.
In a downtown garage, an elevator goes down to the basement. Then a secret door
leads further downward to a deep cell in which prisoners are tortured. And out
near the marshy shore of Chesapeake Bay sits an old fisherman's hut. But deep
beneath the muddy foundations of the decaying fisherman's hut is the amazing
underground headquarters of Number One. These types of hidden rooms are Theodore
The cast of recurring characters is small, probably because the action takes
place entirely in Washington, D.C., instead of The Shadow's usual stomping
grounds of Manhattan. Harry Vincent is the only agent called in to help out,
although Burbank makes a very brief appearance by phone. Vic Marquette
represents the forces of law-and-order. And The Shadow appears as Lamont
Cranston when needed.
Finally, a few notes of interest. The hidden secret masterspy known as Number
One only employs women. Five women. When one is eliminated for whatever reason,
she is replaced with a new recruit. All five are dressed identically in a white
silk swimsuit, a rubber bathing cap and a slitted white mask. None can identify
any of the others, even when all five meet together in the secret headquarters
below Madame Alyce's beauty establishment. I think the real reason for the
swimsuit disguise is to allow Tinsley to insert a little sex into the story.
Very mild, to be sure, but certainly more than Gibson would have done.
It's also interesting to note that secret messages are hidden beneath the nail
polish of the five women. In this way, they can be carried without suspicion and
safely delivered to their destinations. When the silvery nail polish is
dissolved, the coded messages remain on the fingernails.
The sinister Number One carries a unique weapon. It looks like a wide-muzzled
tear-gas pistol. Instead of a bullet, it spits out a quick puff of brownish
vapor in a tiny dark cloud that surrounds its victim. That vapor means instant
death, as several find out in this story.
The voice of Number One is strange, as well. Sometimes he talks a soft womanish
tone. Other times, he talks in a harsh metallic tone. Evidently Number One is a
master of tone control. And it's a good thing, too, or The Shadow would be able
to identify his voice immediately!
When our story opens, The Shadow is in the process of beginning a vacation. We
hardly ever see The Shadow taking a vacation, even though he works hard enough
to surely need one. He's flying to Washington, D.C. to arrange details for a
pleasant vacation camping in the Rockies. A vacation, unfortunately, that he
never gets to take, because he's swept into the intrigue as soon as he arrives
in the capital.
A final note is regarding a strange metal in Number One's underground lair. It's
a queer shiny alloy that's used to panel the secret rooms and jail cells. This
unknown alloy of grayish steel has the unique property of being able to
disappear. At first it looks solid, then a dim rosy glow appears and a portion
of the wall seems to vanish. Doorways appear from nowhere. Number One can spy on
the prisoners in his jail cells. Just what is this unique metal? We aren't told.
But it certainly sounds like a valuable war material, and I'd hope our war
department appropriates it by story's end.
So, for a great spy novel, with trap-doors, underground tunnels, hidden rooms,
secret headquarters and all the usual Shadow twists and turns, this one can't be
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.