John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #24
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"Washington Crime" was originally published in the April 1, 1937 issue of The Shadow Magazine. The
Shadow travels to our capitol, Washington, D.C. to battle the most evil form of
crime: treason! Yes, a traitor has stolen the National Emergency Code, one of
the most secret codes in existence. With world-wide war looming on the horizon,
this secret code was the mainstay of our national defense. And it's up to The
Shadow to retrieve it before the enemy can use it.
It all begins in a military courtroom where a court-martial is taking place.
Colonel Richard Follingsby stands accused of extreme negligence. It was to him
that the National Emergency Code was entrusted. It was from him that the
super-secret code was stolen.
Into the courtroom steps Lamont Cranston. Cranston has been summoned to
Washington by none other than the President of the United States, himself.
Suggested to the President by Senator Ross Releston, it is felt that Cranston's
hidden ties to The Shadow, known only by Senator Releston, will aide the
government with the single most vital problem that had ever concerned the
defense of the nation.
Cranston sits in the courtroom, holding his official pass signed by the
President. He listens to the evidence as it is presented, and silently deduces
the identity of the thief. Yes, before the end of the first chapter, The Shadow
knows the hidden identity of the culprit. But more important than exposing the
guilty party is the retrieval of the secret documents. The papers must be
secured before the traitor can sell them to our enemies!
The Shadow is asked to cooperate with the nation's top espionage member, secret
agent F-3. They meet in a house on H Street, and The Shadow compares notes with
the top spy. He details his deductions about the identity of the man who stole
the secret code. All is well and good for now, but soon things start to fall
Before you know it, Hugo Creelon steps into the picture. Creelon is the most
dangerous of all international spies, who makes it his job to purchase stolen
information and sell it to competing countries. Creelon has discovered the fact
that the secret code has been stolen. He has discovered the identity of the
thief. And he contacts the man in order to make arrangements for the purchase of
the vital documents.
Only The Shadow can stop the traitor. Only The Shadow can stop international spy
Hugo Creelon from obtaining the documents. But The Shadow isn't dealing with
typical New York hoodlums, anymore. These are sinister international spies with
devious minds and whip-like reflexes.
Before you know it, The Shadow has been captured. He is held in the hidden
basement of an unnamed nation's embassy, securely in the power of Hugo Creelon.
Creelon knows of The Shadow's sheer strength, so he doesn't tie him up. He knows
of The Shadow's ability to escape from locked rooms. So he doesn't lock him up.
Instead, he drugs him. And The Shadow, under the influence of hashish, is
powerless to resist. He is helpless in the power of Hugo Creelon!
Will The Shadow be able to overcome the effects of the insidious drug? Can he
escape the underground maze of the foreign embassy? Can he track down the
traitor before he takes off for Havana? Can he rescue the secret code before the
documents are turned over to the foreign government? Can he avoid sinister
death-trap after death-trap?
The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, of course he can! And in this story you'll
see him fight his way though armies of foreign agents. All in the pursuit of
truth, justice and the American way! And he does it all without the assistance
of any of his own agents.
None of The Shadow's agents appear in this story. Not even briefly. No mention
of Burbank, Mann, Vincent, Marsland, Hawkeye, Burke, Shrevnitz or the rest of
the gang. The only characters we recognize are Senator Ross Releston, who was
first introduced in 1935's "The Plot Master", and secret service man Vic
Marquette, who has been around in this series since the third story, "The Shadow
Laughs". And, of course, Lamont Cranston. Not the "real" Lamont Cranston, but
The Shadow in his Cranston disguise.
The Shadow briefly appears in a second disguise, that of the Count of Santurnia,
a tall, dark-skinned Spanish nobleman. This is the second time he has used the
Count of Santurnia disguise. It was first used a year previously in "The Gray
Ghost". This is the last time that this particular disguise is used by The
Shadow. The Count of Santunria only appeared twice in all of the 325 magazine
stories, this being his second and last appearance.
And finally, a few special notes about this story. It is very rarely that The
Shadow reveals his identity to anyone. His good friend, criminologist Slade
Farrow is the prime exception. But in this story, there is another man to whom
The Shadow could safely make his identity known. That man is Secret Agent F-3.
In their meeting at the house on H Street, The Shadow reveals himself. And then
later regrets it...
Walter Gibson rarely wrote women villains into his stories. We have one here in
the form of Senorita Nina Valencita. She's a dark-eyed beauty who is an
international spy working with Hugo Creelon. Most amazingly, she escapes
unscathed at story's end. No indication is given that she was ever apprehended.
She just isn't mentioned... That seems most Gibson-like, letting her go.
Another interesting item in this story is a two-way mirror, known as an Argus
mirror. The Shadow is able to stand behind the mirror and peer into a reception
room without being seen. This is standard stuff today, with every cop show
having an interrogation room fitted with one. But apparently it was a new
technology back then. I've never seen one referred to as an "Argus" mirror,
however. I wonder if there's a story behind that...
Did you know that The Shadow keeps a special tool belt beneath his cloak? Sounds
a little like Batman's utility belt. It's something I hadn't run across before,
but is briefly mentioned in this story. No details are given, just a tantalizing
hint. Makes one wonder what tools he kept there.
"Quetzal" was published in the February 15, 1937 issue of The Shadow Magazine. The
mysterious Quetzal of this story's title is a hidden master-spy located
somewhere in Mexico. No one knows the identity of Quetzal. He is identified only
by a jeweled medallion containing the feathered, dark-eyed image of the ancient
Aztec serpent-god Quetzal. Whoever he is, he's up to no good. He has acquired
the secret plans to a hidden military base being built in on the Gulf of
California in Old Mexico, and is about to sell them to unspecified foreign
powers for two million dollars.
It's El Ombre to the rescue! That's what they call The Shadow in Mexico. In this
pre-WWII story, The Shadow has been assigned the task of tracking down the
unknown Quetzal by the state department. He must retrieve the secret plans
before they can reach the hands of our enemies.
As our story opens, The Shadow is on an small passenger plane bound from
Washington to San Diego. But somehow his plans have been learned by the enemy.
The plane has been filled with enemy agents who have learned the identity of The
Shadow. There is a terrific battle aboard the small passenger plane, and the
aircraft, which has unknowingly been diverted into Mexico, crashes in flames.
The Shadow and the innocent pilot are the only two who survive the plane crash.
All four enemy agents perish in the flames. The Shadow is unharmed, but the
pilot is injured. They are stranded in the desert, miles below the border. The
two slowly make their way to an isolated hacienda in the middle of the desert.
There, they receive aide and split up. The pilot heads for Mexico City, and we
never hear from him again. The Shadow rides on horseback out over the mountain
passes toward Ensenada.
Once in Ensenada, The Shadow will find danger, intrigue and mystery. Death
awaits The Shadow. Death from the sinister hand of Quetzal and his multitude of
minions. It will take all the powers at his disposal to confront the evil of
Quetzal. It will take cunning to thwart the sinister plans of the hidden
master-spy. And it will take courage beyond belief to enter the den of enemy
agents in search of the secret plans. Yes, this is a job for El Ombre!
The only familiar agent of The Shadow appearing in this story is Harry Vincent.
He makes a brief but vital appearance. A new agent appears with little
introduction - a solemn-faced Indian - Moyo. And the only appearance of the
forces of law and order is government agent Vic Marquette. The Shadow appears in
several disguises: his oft-used disguise as Lamont Cranston, a man who did exist
but whose identity was appropriated by The Shadow, Henry Arnaud, a man who did
not exist but was kept for emergency occasions, a slow-moving Mexican peon with
no name, and the wealthy Mexican Senor Jose Rembole.
Rembold, it should be noted, is an anagram for "El Ombre." The disguise of Jose
Rembole would be used again, in the following issue of The Shadow Magazine, when
The Shadow would meet "The Masked Headsman." After that, the character never
It's interesting to note that The Shadow carries his massive .45 automatics on
the airplane. And he's not alone. The four other passengers also carry weapons:
a .38 revolver, a thick knife, and a woman's .32 pistol. Wow, how times have
changed! These days, you can't even board a plane with a sharp comb.
Another unique feature of this story is that there are two female villains.
Walter Gibson rarely wrote female antagonists into this stories. But this story
actually has two of them. One is an unnamed woman on the plane that seeks to
kill The Shadow. She perishes with the others in the plane crash. The other is
the sinister Dolores Borenza who also dies in the story. Usually, if Gibson
wrote in a female villain, he reformed her by the end of the story. But in this
one, both die. Quite unusual!
It's interesting to ponder how the four enemy agents aboard the plans knew that
the man disguised as Cranston was in reality The Shadow. All doubt that they
know this man is The Shadow is erased when they cry, "The Shadow! Finish him!"
How has the Cranston disguise been penetrated? Will it be safe to use the
disguise of Lamont Cranston in the future? Or is it now common knowledge?
That strange phial of purplish liquid that we've come to admire makes another
appearance in this story. It seems The Shadow carries it with him everywhere.
And it has a variety of uses. This time, drops of the elixir trickle down the
throat of the pilot, reviving him immediately. Good thing the phial wasn't
broken in the plane crash!
This story makes for a nice change of pace, after all those New York settings.
It's one of the classic Shadow stories.
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.