The Shadow returns in two of his greatest pulp adventures: "Crime, Insured", acclaimed as Walter Gibson's greatest thriller, and "The Golden Vulture", revised by Gibson from the 1932 try-out novel that won writer Lester Dent the contract to write the "Doc Savage" series. In "Crime, Insured", The Shadow's war on crime has been so successful that underworld gangs begin purchasing crime insurance to protect themselves from the Master of Darkness. Then, in "The Golden Vulture", gilded death strikes ruthlessly and brings The Shadow to Miami to investigate a series of suicides. The first volume of this new series reproduces both original pulp covers by artist George Rozen plus all of the original interior illustrations by Edd Cartier. The book also includes new historical background articles by popular culture historians Anthony Tollin and Will Murray.
John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #1
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
was published in the July 15, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine. It was actually
written much earlier, in July of 1932. And it was written, not by Walter Gibson,
but Lester Dent - the same Lester Dent who would begin writing the adventures of
Doc Savage a few months later. It is the only Shadow pulp mystery ever written
by Lester Dent, and was greatly revised by Walter Gibson before its 1938
publication, all which makes it a unique collaboration between the two.
The Golden Vulture is an unseen master criminal who extorts millions from
wealthy men of society. He controls a vast empire of gangsters who do his every
bidding. He communicates his instructions to his minions via small golden
statues of a vulture which can receive and transmit radio and television
signals. Who is The Golden Vulture? Who will be his next victim? And who can
stop him? Only The Shadow can stop this super fiend's quest for power and
Our story takes place in and around Miami, Florida. There have been five
suicides among the wealthy citizens of Miami. Each died with his bank accounts
depleted. Where did the money go? And did the men really commit suicide? These
are questions to which old Nicholas Josephs has finally found the answer.
Josephs has been contacted by a mysterious figure who demands a half million
dollars. Should he fail to deliver, his life will be forfeit. The note is signed
with a small golden figure of a vulture. Fearfully, he consults with his good
friend Avery Arthur Bland. He confides he has been threatened. Bland admits that
he, too, has been a victim of The Golden Vulture. The two make secret plans to
evade the clutches of the sinister figure.
The secret plans, however, aren't secret at all. Bland's sallow-faced butler,
Mawson, is actually in the employ of The Golden Vulture and eavesdrops on the
two millionaires' conversation. He reports his findings to the hidden mastermind
by way of the two-way television transmitter hidden inside a small gilded statue
of a vulture.
Before the evening is over, Josephs is dead of an apparent suicide. He is found
inside his locked bedroom, a gunshot wound to the temple. But we know it's not
suicide. We have seen Mawson commit the murder and escape without detection. The
Golden Vulture has reached out his claws and struck again.
Avery Arthur Bland is scheduled to be next. He has paid several millions to The
Golden Vulture, but finally has refused to be extorted further. His penalty for
such refusal is death!
Inspector Joe Cardona of the New York Police Department has been vacationing in
Miami. Bland, a good friend of Police Commissioner Ralph Weston, has requested
Cardona be temporarily assigned to guard him. With Cardona on the scene, Bland
and his beautiful young daughter Marna, feel relatively safe from the unknown
danger threatened by The Golden Vulture.
The Shadow is also on the scene. He has been drawn from New York down to Miami
because of the recent strange rash of apparent suicides among the wealthy. He
assigns Harry Vincent, one of his secret agents, to help guard Bland's life. But
even with the assistance of Harry Vincent and Joe Cardona, Bland is still in
peril. It will take all the might of The Shadow to confront the evil of The
Golden Vulture. Only The Shadow can discover the identity of the secret
mastermind behind the golden statues of a vulture! Only The Shadow can thwart
his dastardly plans and put an end to the terror once and for all!
Other than Joe Cardona and Harry Vincent, The Shadow receives no assistance from
any other source. The only other agent mentioned is Burbank, who we are told has
also come to Miami and who relays messages between Vincent and The Shadow.
Although Burbank is mentioned several times, he doesn't actually appear in the
Readers of this story in 1938 may have wondered where the rest of The Shadow's
agents were. There's no sign of underground contacts Hawkeye or Cliff Marsland.
No newspaper-reporter Clyde Burke or taxi-driver Moe Shrevnitz. But their
absence makes sense when you realize that this wasn't really a 1938 story, but a
1932 one. It was written by Lester Dent at a point in time when the character of
The Shadow was just becoming formed. Most of the above-named agents hadn't
appeared at the time the story was written.
So why wasn't the story used back in 1932? During the first year of The Shadow,
the characterization was undergoing change. Walter Gibson created The Shadow and
was gradually molding the character. He was trying different things; keeping
those that worked and discarding those that didn't.
When Lester Dent was hired to write a Shadow story, he based it on what was
known of The Shadow at that time. However, by the time the story was ready for
publication, the character of The Shadow had changed enough so that the story
was no longer appropriate. So it was set aside to be used later, and was somehow
In 1938, Dent's story was found and dusted off. Walter Gibson was asked to do a
partial re-write and bring it up-to-date. He tightened the story, updated the
character of The Shadow, eliminated some extraneous characters, and toned down
the excessive Dent gadgetry. And thus, the Dent/Gibson hybrid finally saw
publication six years later.
Many of Lester Dent's famous touches are evident in this story -- little things
that would later show up in his Doc Savage stories. Great strength, for example.
The Shadow, as described by the pen of Lester Dent, is capable of great
strength. Even Walter Gibson's Shadow was exceedingly strong, but Dent's
description of The Shadow's display of strength seems quite familiar to anyone
who has read Doc Savage. His grip is that of steel bands. He easily overpowers a
foe of tremendous strength and throws him through a door, reducing it to
Another familiar scenario to Doc Savage fans is one in which the Doc is
apparently killed. Then, chapters later, the Doc Savage appears alive and an
explanation is given. Walter Gibson's Shadow stories used this type of scenario
occasionally, but not often. Dent, on the other hand, used it in his Doc Savage
stories quite often. And he uses it here in chapter four, when The Shadow is
apparently blown to smithereens. It's later in chapter eight when The Shadow
appears unscathed. And it's used again near the end of the story, when The
Shadow is apparently killed at sea, only to show up later. Lester Dent was
honing his skills here in this pre-Doc Savage tale.
Often in Doc Savage stories, Doc knew the secret identity of the villain early
on. But he kept the secret from his aides until an unmasking at story's end.
That's a typical Lester Dent touch that we see in this story as well. The Shadow
knows the true identity of The Golden Vulture early in the story. But no one
else is told, not even the reader, until the climax of the story in the last
chapter when The Golden Vulture is revealed to be...someone we've been mislead
to believe was innocent the whole time. It's typical pulp ploy used by many
authors including Walter Gibson. But to me, it's classic Lester Dent.
And then, there's the gadgets. Lester Dent loved to use gadgets in his stories.
And although Walter Gibson enjoyed using them in his Shadow stories as well, he
employed far fewer of them than did Dent. In this story, the coolest gadget of
all is the actual statues of The Golden Vulture. Most are small statuettes of
under two feet tall. But their insides contain enough electronics to receive and
transmit both audio and video as well as enough explosive charges to create
And then there's the large eight-foot version of the vulture statue. This one
sits in the hidden underground lair of The Golden Vulture. It's a torture
device. A victim is placed within the grasping talons of the giant bird, and
they gradually close upon the victim until his bones crack. Joe Cardona is the
unfortunate victim who is subjected to the grip of the eight-foot statue.
I'm told there were many nifty scientific gadgets in the original Dent version
of the story, but that Walter Gibson removed some of them at the request of the
editors at Street & Smith Publications. Of those that remained, were a small
portable radio set concealed beneath the seat of The Shadow's automobile. The
Shadow's wingless autogiro. Electronic tracking devices that The Shadow secretly
attaches to several suspects' cars. A wire recorder, the workings of which Dent
enjoys describing in detail. A large fountain, fifteen feet across, lowers by a
hydraulic elevator mechanism to permit access to a secret underground lair.
Lester Dent describes a secret society created by this hidden villain known as
The Golden Vulture. Each secret agent is known as "feather" of the Golden
Vulture, and is assigned a number. When they report in, via the secret
television transmitters, they identify themselves thusly:
"You are Otho," it said, "chauffeur at the home of Nicholas Josephs. What else
"The Sixty-eighth Feather of the Golden Vulture."
We also see the touch of Walter Gibson in this story. He keeps the character of
The Shadow true to the version readers had come to recognize in 1938. The Shadow
creates a temporary sanctum in Miami, where he puts his thoughts to paper with
pen and disappearing ink. The Shadow has strange but vague powers to compel
others to do his wishes. He communicates secret messages by the use of slightly
emphasized words in otherwise seemingly innocent announcements. He disappears
from the back of taxi-cabs, leaving a five dollar bill on the seat. He is a
master of disguise, who can make himself faultlessly appear as others.
Some things in the story I couldn't specifically credit to Dent or Gibson. For
example, in three separate scenes, The Shadow uses his ability to perfectly
mimic voices to fool others. In one place his voice is exactly like a Vulture
guard's. In another, he sounds exactly like the Police Chief. And in a third, he
does a perfect imitation of The Golden Vulture's pilot. The Shadow's ability to
do voice imitations was something Walter Gibson often gave The Shadow in his
stories. But in my mind, it especially stands out as an ability that Lester Dent
gave Doc Savage. Doc's vocal abilities were on display much more often in his
pulp stories than in The Shadow's. So although I can't say with certainty
whether the voice mimicking was in Dent's original version of this story or were
part of Gibson's revisions, I would hazard a guess that they are Dent, pure and
Much of the action sequences seem much more Dent-like than Gibson-like. One
scene in particular which appealed to me took place in a swamp. Harry Vincent
and Joe Cardona have been captured by The Golden Vulture gang. They are tied to
the backs of two huge sixteen-foot-long alligators (actually caymans) and
released into a pen of nearly two-dozen of the creatures. The way The Shadow
saves them is wonderfully described. To me, it clearly screams Lester Dent!
At story's end, The Golden Vulture is exposed. He is revealed to everyone, but
rather than dying in a hail of bullets, as in most Shadow stories, he is wounded
and topples overboard into the sea. Which makes one wonder. Was The Golden
Vulture being prepared for a return? Was he mortally wounded when he toppled
across the rail of the speeding cabin cruiser and into the ocean waves? We know
for a fact that he never returned. But perhaps the way was being paved for his
eventual return. One that never happened.
I really enjoyed reading this partial collaboration of Dent and Gibson, and I
think you will too. You'll appreciate the exotic locations and gadgets typical
of Doc Savage, mixed with the moody atmosphere and frenetic action of Walter
Gibson's Shadow. A very unique story, and one that is definitely recommended!
was originally published in the July 1, 1937 issue of The Shadow Magazine. A new
racket has sprung up in Manhattan: crime insurance. Crime has gone ultra-modern.
Bigshots have discarded old-fashioned methods and are now insuring their crimes
against failure. But can they insure against intervention by that master of the
night, The Shadow?
It all starts with Wally Drillick, a smooth operator who spends his leisure
hours in smart night clubs and high-priced taprooms. He's been hired by Duke
Unrig, a big-time crime boss, to pilfer the Melrue jewels. Francine Melrue and
her brother George have recently become heir to half of a million-dollar estate
left by their deceased uncle. Francine's half includes the family gems valued at
a hundred thousand dollars. Wally Drillick intends to obtain those jewels.
But The Shadow is on the job, guarding the jewels. Wally Drillick is picked up
by The Shadow and held captive by his agents. It's Harry Vincent who takes
Drillick's place. It's Harry Vincent who visits the Top Hat Club to receive
instructions. It's Harry Vincent who sneaks into Francine Melrue's apartment.
It's Harry Vincent who makes off with the jewels. And all to find out who's
behind the crime.
The Shadow discovers Nogger Tellif is heading up the cover-up crew, who have
been hired to make sure Wally Drillick, actually Harry Vincent in disguise,
makes a clean getaway. And Nogger Tellif is Duke Unrig's chief lieutenant.
Gradually, The Shadow will track down the powers behind the recent wave of crime
in New York.
When Nogger Tellif is accidentally killed in the aftermath of the jewel robbery,
The Shadow gets Cliff Marsland, his underworld contact, insinuated into the gang
as Duke Unrig's new bodyguard. Now Cliff can watch things from the inside. But
Cliff is puzzled. The jewel robbery was foiled. Harry Vincent made sure the
jewels were returned to Francine Melrue. So why has Duke Unrig received his
hundred thousand dollars for the unsuccessful crime?
What we know, although Cliff Marsland and The Shadow haven't learned yet, is
that Duke Unrig insured his crime. If the robbery is thwarted, he receives
payment from a mysterious insurance company. Who is behind this insurance
company? Who is the mastermind of Crime, Insured? That's what The Shadow is
determined to find out.
The next crime is the uptown branch of the Gotham Trust Company. An armored
truck will arrive Friday night with a quarter-million dollars deposit. Duke
Unrig has his gang all set. But with the inside information provided by Cliff
Marsland, The Shadow is present to thwart the crime.
In the furious gun battle, Duke Unrig limps away mortally wounded. The crime was
unsuccessful, but it was insured. And lying in his hideout on his deathbed, Duke
Unrig receives a wrapped package containing a quarter-million dollars. Crime,
Insured has paid off again!
While all this has been going on, a mysterious figure has been watching. Someone
who keeps to the darkness has seen Harry Vincent replace Wally Drillick in the
jewel robbery. That same someone has seen Cliff Marsland leave Duke Unrig's
hideout with a suitcase full of the insurance money. And now he sees Cliff hand
the suitcase off to Hawkeye. This mysterious figure has identified three of The
Shadow's secret agents.
Yes, one by one, the agents of The Shadow are being revealed to a thin, stooped
figure who hides in the shadows. Who is this mystery man? A strange spidery
insurance investigator named Strampf was the observer who had spotted both Harry
Vincent and Cliff Marsland. Strampf works for Crime, Insured! And gradually,
Strampf is welding links in the chain that will soon enwrap The Shadow.
One by one, the agents of The Shadow are revealed to the wily Strampf. Vincent,
Marsland and Hawkeye are first. Then Clyde Burke. And Rutledge Mann. And
listening in on the phone reports of the agents, Strampf obtains Burbank's
telephone number and traces its location. And finally, Lamont Cranston is
revealed as The Shadow.
Even the location of The Shadow's sanctum is discovered, as Strampf reports: "I
have narrowed it down to one place: a small office building that has very few
tenants. I have studied that building. There is only one portion that could
contain The Shadow's secret abode. That is the north section of the basement,
near the rear wall."
The mastermind behind Crime, Insured now knows The Shadow's agents, The Shadow's
sanctum and The Shadow's disguise. And that means it's time to attack. Attack
the one man who stands to thwart crime, and cause Crime, Insured to pay out on
its insurance policies. Without The Shadow, the company fortunes will soar.
Until now, each criminal big-shot in Manhattan had worked independently. That
has ended. These big-shots will become lieutenants, under the command of one
mighty crime-master, the head of Crime, Insured. The plan is made; each big-shot
has his own duties. And now, it is put into action.
Within a few short hours, each of The Shadow's agents are captured. One by one,
they fall victim to Crime, Insured. Rutledge Mann, Harry Vincent, Clyde Burke,
Hawkeye, Cliff Marsland and Moe Shrevnitz are all taken prisoner. Burbank is
left until last, but even he is finally captured. All which means it's time for
The Shadow retreats to his sanctum, not realizing that its location has been
compromised. As he stands in the blackness of his sanctum, all of crimedom
attacks. There is no escape for The Shadow. The main exit is clogged with
gunmen. The secret back exit is likewise blocked.
Strampf leads the massive troops invading the sanctum. He witnesses a terrific
explosion in the sanctum laboratory, and sees what appears to be The Shadow's
body in the inferno. With The Shadow dead, the thugs grab all the furnishings of
the sanctum, and haul them away. The file cabinets, the tables, the lamp and
even the black curtains the cover the wall; all are removed. Then they place
explosives around the building and detonate them. Tons of masonry crush down
upon the hollow chamber that had once been The Shadow's sanctum. Everything is
The Shadow magazine continued to be published for another dozen years, so
obviously The Shadow is not dead. But how did he escape? And how can he rescue
his agents? All that makes for a thrilling story that ranks among the best of
the entire magazine series.
Nearly all of The Shadow's agents appear in this story. Not only the main agents
who are captured, but some of the secondary or "reserve" agents appear as well.
Criminologist Slade Farrow shows up along with his assistant Tapper, whose
expertise at picking a lock is second only to The Shadow. Giant African Jericho
Druke is another reserve agent who appears. Doctor Rupert Sayre joins in to
assist with some radio direction finding tasks.
The New York Police is represented by Commissioner Ralph Weston and ace
inspector Joe Cardona. Both get small parts, and don't get to do much. Still,
it's nice to see them included here.
Let's go through some random items that occurred as I read this story. It's
mentioned that The Shadow is an expert at jujutsu. This isn't the only time his
martial arts abilities have been mentioned, but it's nice to see them
We always knew that the walls of The Shadow's sanctum were covered in black
curtains. But did you know that there's a black tufted carpet on the floor? It's
mentioned here, and I don't remember ever seeing it mentioned before. Even the
floor is black. Now that's pretty cool. I wish they had mentioned what the
ceiling was, but I guess that's asking too much.
In 1933's story "The Black Hush," an amazing invention was detailed. A black-ray
machine that could suppress all electrical activity. That machine reappears in
this story, four years later. In the original story, the ray machine was
destroyed along with the prototype. The inventor was killed and the plans
destroyed. Yet, somehow the machine shows up here. And with really no
explanation. The Shadow just explains that it is in storage.
The black ray machine plays an important part in the rescue of the agents. And
this time, the ray device survives at the story's end. The last we see of it,
Hawkeye and Burbank are hauling it away to safety. Perhaps to show up in a
future story. But, alas, author Walter Gibson never wrote it into another Shadow
That strange code that The Shadow uses, the one that's comprised of a silent
eye-code shows up again. This time it's Burbank who uses it to communicate with
the other agents during their confinement. "Glances, with simple shifts of gaze,
enabled them to spell out secret messages."
Finally, as I read this story, it occurred to me that there is another of The
Shadow's agents that we always seem to forget. He's that unnamed announcer at
radio station WNX who reads The Shadow's coded messages over the air, and
emphasizes certain words to indicate the secret message. Who is he? What's his
name? We are never told. But the poor guy is replaced in this story, as the
criminal mastermind behind Crime, Insured uses his own announcer to send a fake
message over the airwaves to The Shadow's agents. Luckily, The Shadow's
announcer wasn't hurt. But I would like to know more about this unsung agent.
This story is one of the pivotal ones in the saga of The Shadow. Only one other
time, in the entire run of the magazine stories, was The Shadow's sanctum
invaded. And the other time was on a much less dramatic scale. So this is the
story to read. Read as The Shadow battles the boldest and most amazing racket in
the history of modern crime, and nearly loses his entire organization in the
bargain. Yup, this is the one.
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.