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  Shadow Volume 28 [Pulp Reprint] #5098



 
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The Shadow
Volume 28

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow Knows!" The Knight of Darkness battles supercrime in two crimebusting pulp novels by Walter B. Gibson writing as Maxwell Grant. First, The Shadow follows a bizarre murder trail that leads to the walking dead, a living skeleton and the "Master of Death," a collector of diabolical killing techniques. Then, The Shadow and his agents struggle to protect Manhattan from an underworld war conducted by the Czar of Crime known as "The Rackets King." BONUS:  a never-published 1931 horror story by Walter Gibson that inspired The Shadow's famous ring, newly-illustrated by "Shadow Strikes" artist Eduardo Barreto! This instant collector's item showcases both original color covers by George Rozen, the classic interior illustrations by Tom Lovell and Edd Cartier, and historical commentary by Anthony Tollin and Will Murray.
Special Feature:
John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #28
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission

"Master of Death" was originally published in the September 15, 1933 of The Shadow Magazine. Eric Veldon is the master of death. He collects fiendish methods of murder, stolen from their innocent inventors. Then he uses those diabolical methods of death to eliminate all witnesses. How can The Shadow even discover the identity of this brutal monster, when all traces are immediately erased?

Eric Veldon presents himself to inventors as a promoter. He claims to be a scientist himself, and thus is the perfect person to understand scientific inventions and promote them. When our story opens, Eric Veldon is working with Merle Clussig, one of the inventors that he represents. Clussig has been developing a special high-powered x-ray machine - a heat ray tube. Little does he realize that Eric Veldon is about to appropriate the invention for his own benefit. And someone will die!

The sinister Eric Veldon knows that once he uses Clussig's heat ray to commit murder, Merle Clussig will recognize that he has used it for evil. So Merle Clussig must die, too. And die he does. A strange death from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The New York police, headed by acting inspector Joe Cardona, find Merle Clussig dead inside his locked laboratory. No one else is present, and his death by carbon monoxide is a mystery. There is no apparent source for the poison gas. The police can't classify it as murder or accidental death, because they can't find where the carbon monoxide came from. But we know that Eric Veldon committed the murder, using a special dry ice that turns to carbon monoxide vapors and disappears leaving no trace.

The inventor of the unique carbon monoxide dry ice is Wycroft Dustin. Dustin developed the dry ice to help in his experiments in neutralizing poison gasses. But now Eric Veldon has stolen the secret and used it to commit murder. Merle Clussig is dead because of Wycroft Dustin's scientific experiments. Eric Veldon, being the crafty brute that he is, realizes it won't be long before Wycroft Dustin hears of the death of his fellow scientist, and realizes that his was the method employed in the crime.

Wycroft Dustin must die, and Eric Veldon has just the thing. He uses the heat ray tube developed by Merle Clussig to murder Wycroft Dustin in his lab. The master of death strikes a second time, using this new and undetectable method of murder. Two inventors are now dead, and their inventions have been perverted from innocent use to deadly use.

The Shadow is on the case. But the only clue is the strange man seen leaving Merle Clussig's laboratory. This was Eric Veldon's henchman whom he had sent to plant the death-dealing device. But the henchman was seen. He was a corpselike fellow with dull eyes that stared straight ahead. His stride was mechanical and his face was an unnatural white. He was identified by newspaper reporter Clyde Burke as being Spud Jagron. But that was impossible, because Spud Jagron was dead. Clyde Burke has seen a walking dead man!

Yes, we're talking zombies, here! Among the other inventions stolen by Eric Veldon, he has appropriated some extraordinary medical knowledge from Doctor Joseph Barratini. He has been forcing Dr. Barratini to perform brain operations on criminals which remove their criminal tendencies and leave them brain-dead zombies. These zombies are under Eric Veldon's control. They do his bidding, with no will of their own.

Now if this sounds a bit like what Doc Savage was doing at his up-state New York "college" in the Doc Savage pulps, the timing was most coincidental. This Shadow novel was written by Walter Gibson in January 1933 and submitted to Street & Smith on February 3 of that year. It was published seven months later.

In the intervening months, Doc Savage started doing brain operations on criminals, too. It was in the June 1933 issue of the Doc Savage pulp magazine (The Polar Treasure) in which those operations were first mentioned. Although I don't know the date Lester Dent actually penned that story, it's quite possible it was written about the same time as Gibson was writing this Shadow story.

Could some editorial suggestions from Street & Smith have been made about that time? Perhaps in some brainstorming meetings? And maybe various incarnations of the same general concept inadvertently made its way into both pulps. It's pure speculation. But in the Doc Savage stories, this became a continuing feature, appearing in other stories as well. In the case of The Shadow, however, it was a one-shot situation.

Dr. Barratini explains that "brain surgery performed upon criminals would be justified by its results. Others had advocated the same practice." Could Doc Savage have been one of those others? I'd like to think so, even though there's no solid evidence to indicate so.

Regardless of how the idea was born, there are zombies in this Shadow story. Zombies created by Doctor Joseph Barratini and under the sole control of Eric Veldon. Barratini is being forced to aid Eric Veldon in this sinister enterprise. He desperately wants to escape the fiendish grip of Eric Veldon. And to these ends, he contacts Doctor Rupert Sayre.

As those of you know who have read The Shadow pulp stories out of order, Doctor Rupert Sayre is a continuing character that will appear in many future tales. He will be physician to The Shadow. When The Shadow or one of his agents is injured, they are taken to Dr. Sayre's clinic for medical treatment. This particular story is the introduction of Rupert Sayre. When the story begins, he has no relationship with The Shadow. He's brought in to help Dr. Barratini, who is responsible for the brain operations.

Before you know it, Barratini is killed and Dr. Sayre is forced to take his place. Dr. Rupert Sayre and Cliff Marsland, The Shadow's underworld agent, are captured by Eric Veldon. Sayre is ordered to perform the brain operation on Marsland. Will The Shadow arrive in time to save his secret agent? Can he find the hidden laboratory of Eric Veldon? And will he be able to overpower the zombie army that serves the evil Eric Veldon? You betcha! And what a story!

As mentioned previously, Clyde Burke, reporter for the Classic, appears to assist The Shadow in this tale. Also, Cliff Marsland is on hand to help out. Other agents appearing are contact man Burbank and investment broker Rutledge Mann. No other agents appear. Lamont Cranston's chauffeur Stanley and his valet Richards appear as well, but they aren't agents per se. They serve The Shadow without realizing it.

The real Lamont Cranston is out of the country for the entire length of this pulp story. We are told he is in Abyssinia, on one of his many trips. But taking his place with perfect disguise is The Shadow. When he arrives at Cranston's New Jersey mansion and asks, "Has everything gone well during my absence?" the servants answer in the affirmative, none the wiser that the man before them is an impostor.

Remember, The Shadow uses the guise of Lamont Cranston with the real Cranston's knowledge and consent. So we aren't surprised to see a secret hiding place in the hall closet of the New Jersey mansion. When The Shadow unlocks a nearly invisible panel at the end of the closet, he draws out a brief case. Inside that brief case, we all know, is found the cloak, gloves and slouch hat of The Shadow.

Exactly where The Shadow had been before this story began, we aren't told. We are just told that The Shadow "had returned from one of his strange journeys." We can only speculate that perhaps he was on an overseas assignment. We are also told that "during his absence, his agents in New York had been on watch for the unusual." The unusual, in this case, was discovered in the mysterious death of inventor Merle Clussig.

Although Cliff Marsland was introduced to the series over a year previously, author Walter Gibson still takes time to remind us of Marsland's past. Cliff had served time in Sing Sing for a crime which he didn't commit. The Shadow pressed him into service, using Cliff's unsavory reputation to assist with his undercover work in the badlands.

Cliff Marsland was the only agent of The Shadow who was married. But his wife was mentioned only briefly in previous stories and then forgotten. By this story, Marsland is apparently no longer married. One selection reads: "Cliff had always resigned himself to an adventurous career with violent death as its inevitable termination." Now that doesn't sound like a man who had a wife to come home to, does it? Some speculate that his wife might have died shortly after their marriage. But it's sheer speculation, since Walter Gibson never gave us any indication.

It should also be pointed out that Cliff Marsland carries a pair of .45 automatics. The Shadow wasn't the only one who carried those huge smoke wagons! It's just that Marsland's choice of weapons was rarely mentioned.

This early Shadow story has many of the famous little bits that have become associated with The Shadow over the years. Sealed envelopes contain blue-inked lines of code that disappear quickly after being exposed to air. The reason for this, as other stories explained, was that The Shadow's code was a fairly simple one. If a coded message should fall into the wrong hands, the enemy could probably break the code given enough time. Having the message disappear prevented anyone from having that time.

Although many Shadow tales include a visit or two to his sanctum, we very rarely get to see the other rooms of the sanctum. In this mystery, we are privileged to visit The Shadow's laboratory. It's a square room of shining black walls, lit by a single bulb. This is not the usual blue light that shines in the other room of the sanctum; it's standard white. The Shadow works on a jet-black laboratory table with thick rubber gloves. It's here that he discovers some of Eric Veldon's secrets.

We also get to visit The Black Ship, that infamous gangster hang-out. This is where Cliff Marsland gets his first clue that leads him to Eric Veldon.

Now here's a point of interest. In this story, The Shadow saves a millionaire from a death trap - poisonous gas. He casually comments, "Poison gas... I know a lot about it - through my war experience." He says this while in the guise of Lamont Cranston. But, to the best of our knowledge, Cranston had no war experience. Could this have been a slip of the tongue? Was The Shadow referring to his own war experiences as the Black Eagle? Perhaps something he experienced when acting as secret agent behind enemy lines back during The Big War? What a tantalizing tidbit upon which to ponder...

When you've read as many Shadow stories as I have, you get used to the author's tricks. You get to the point where you've seen it all. "You can't fool me!" But Walter Gibson pulled another rabbit out of his hat and fooled me again. There's a secret twist ending that caught me totally off-guard. I won't reveal it here (no spoilers, you know), but I'll just say that it was really cool and I was impressed. That Walter Gibson feller was quite a writer!

There's a lot more in this story than I've taken the time to describe. Like the living skeleton. No wires; a true living skeleton! But I won't spoil it for those of you who have yet to experience the joy of reading this one. Master of Death is truly from a master storyteller.
 


"The Rackets King" was originally published in the June 15, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Tex Dybert was the rackets king. He was on his way to becoming supreme dictator of the underworld, when he was murdered.

There had been a wave of rackets lately, and Inspector Joe Cardona was investigating them. He had come to question Tex Dybert, the biggest racketeer in New York. Instead, he uncovered a scene of murder. Tex lay dead, a bullet through his heart. The rackets king was dead; someone else was moving in on the rackets!

The main suspect is now Lou Channing. Channing and Dybert were at odds, because of an unsettled gambling debt. Joe is of the opinion that Channing has now settled the debt in a fatal fashion. So the search is on for Channing.

But Lou Channing isn't an easy man to find. He's a man of many aliases. He's also known as Chester Vayd, who has been romancing Irene Marcy - secretary to Alfred Formion, business magnate. Since Formion's businesses were hardest hit by Tex Dybert's rackets, it's suspected that Channing, alias Vayd, helped Dybert set up Formion's businesses by getting secret information from Formion's secretary Irene.

Channing's hold on Irene was not merely romantic. He currently holds some IOU's from Irene's brother, Dick. Perhaps he used this as leverage to get information which could ruin Formion. It certainly puts Irene in a bad spot, from the standpoint of the law.

But Channing claims to be innocent of Dybert's murder. He's said to have an alibi, under one of his other aliases. As Charles Dome, he claims to have an air-tight alibi. Private detective Roger Grell supports this alibi, but is murdered before he can provide proof. Was Grell killed to keep him quiet?

Into the story steps famous aviator Kent Allard who has won fame by his long-distance flights. But we readers know he's famous for more than just that. He is in reality, The Shadow! And he's taken an interest in this case. He not only wants to find the real murderer of Tex Dybert, but he wants to put an end to the rackets that are flourishing under ever-changing leadership.

It all makes for a great crime novel in which The Shadow clears the mystery of the murders and cleans up the town of the sinister rackets. Appearing in the story are all the major characters, except Lamont Cranston. In this story, when The Shadow appears in public, it's in his true identity as Kent Allard. Making appearances in the story are Hawkeye, Clyde Burke, Harry Vincent, Burbank, Cliff Marsland, Moe Shrevnitz, Commissioner Ralph Weston, Inspector Joe Cardona, and Doctor Rupert Sayre.

One point of interest, is the appearance of "the devil's whisper" in this story. Yes, those mysterious pastes that the Shadow rubs on his fingers! One paste carefully rubbed on his thumb, and a different one on his middle finger. When he snaps his fingers, there's an explosion and flash that blinds his opponents. That's always impressed me, and I look forward to the rare occurrences when it appears. This was based on a real-life concoction which Gibson ran across in his research on magic and appropriated for pulp use. A neat concept...

I liked this Shadow crime novel. No ghosts. No mad scientists. Just The Shadow battling against thugs, henchmen, crooks, and criminal masterminds. It's a fun story.
 


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.


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