John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #2
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"The Chinese Disks" was originally published in the November 1, 1934 issue
of The Shadow Magazine. The appearance of strange disks of grayish metal, upon
which are engraved a queer Chinese character, marks the return of Diamond Bert
Farwell. The Shadow will once again engage in a battle of wits and strength with
this formidable foe from his past.
This is one heck of a Shadow story. It brings back some characters from the past
and adds five new agents to the ranks of The Shadow's aides. There are gun
battles, death traps and a sinister organization based in Chinatown. The Shadow
is at his peak of power in this 1934 story, and he'll need all his strength to
do battle with his old nemesis, Diamond Bert Farwell. Do yourself a favor and
read this top-notch Shadow pulp mystery.
Diamond Bert Farwell. The Shadow had met him three years previously when he was
guised as the Chinaman, Wang Foo. The malevolent Wang Foo was responsible for a
wave of jewel robberies and accompanying murders. That all happened in the very
first Shadow novel, "The Living Shadow." At the end of that story, Wang Foo was
unmasked as Diamond Bert Farwell and was sent to prison for ten years.
This story, set three years after Diamond Bert Farwell had been incarcerated,
finds him preparing for parole. The law had never been able to pin the murders
on him, and could only convict him of possession of stolen gems. And now, since
he had been on good behavior, Diamond Jim is nearly due for release from the
The Shadow has been picking up signs that Diamond Jim Farwell is up to
something. He is preparing for a wave of crime that will begin as soon as he is
released from the penitentiary. The Chinese disks, those metal coins slightly
smaller than a half dollar, were originally used three years previously to
identify all those who served Diamond Jim Farwell in his guise as Wang Foo. Now
they are being used again to identify members of the new gang to each other. All
in preparation for Diamond Jim's return from prison, and the beginning of a new
To get details on Diamond Jim's plans, The Shadow has his good friend Slade
Farrow enter Sing Sing as a fellow prisoner. Farrow appeared in a total of
eleven of the Shadow's pulp adventures. The first was in "The Green Box" eight
months earlier. This story marks his second appearance.
Slade Farrow is a criminologist who takes pride in reforming criminals who want
a second chance. Two of those were Hawkeye and Tapper. They both appeared in the
earlier novel assisting Farrow. In this story, they join the ranks of The
Shadow. Hawkeye specializes in unobtrusively trailing even the most wary
subject. And Tapper is an expert at locks and safecracking. Tapper was only used
occasionally in the ensuing stories, showing up eight more times during the
magazine's run. Hawkeye became a regularly used agent for The Shadow. He
appeared in over one hundred more stories.
Three other agents are added to the growing assortment of agents of The Shadow
in this tale. Pietro, the push-cart vendor was a minor agent who is drafted
here. He first appeared a year previously in "The Silver Scourge" in a minor
role, but it is here that he first actually works for The Shadow. He never
seemed to catch on, perhaps because there was never much of a need for his
services. He only appeared three more times, making his final appearance in the
1935 story "The Third Skull."
Jericho Druke appears here for the very first time. When we first meet Druke,
the giant African is running an employment agency in Harlem. Harry Vincent
visits his office and reminds him of the time a mysterious figure cloaked in
black saved his life. Harry whispers a brief sentence, and Jericho immediately
closes the office and offers to join The Shadow in his fight for justice.
What did Harry whisper to Jericho Druke? We aren't told. But perhaps it is some
secret password given to him when The Shadow saved his life. A similar concept
was used in the 1994 Shadow motion picture, and this may be where the
As for Jericho Druke himself, he was also a minor agent, but appeared more
frequently than Pietro did. His strength was one of his notable assets. In a
fight, he preferred hand-to-hand combat in which he would grab two antagonists
by the back of the neck and crack their skulls together. Druke appeared in a
total of thirty two pulp stories.
Taxicab driver Moe Shrevnitz was the final agent added to The Shadow's band of
aides in this story. He had never appeared in any of the pulp stories before,
although when Harry Vincent enlists his assistance, he reminds Moe of an earlier
encounter with The Shadow. That story was never told in any of The Shadow pulps,
but Harry recaps it for Moe's benefit, and the reader's as well. Some time
previously, some thugs had confronted Moe. They intended to kill him and take
his taxicab. It was The Shadow who saved him, and Moe agrees to repay the debt
by assisting in any way he can. Little did he know that he would become the
standard driver for The Shadow, and would go on to appear regularly in the pulp
magazine until the end of the run. In all, he appeared in one hundred thirty
seven of the adventures.
This Shadow pulp novel is unique in that it introduces these five new agents for
The Shadow. And it brings back some old characters in the person of Slade
Farrow, friend of The Shadow, and Diamond Bert Farwell, enemy of the cloaked
crimefighter. But that's not all. Yat Soon, the arbiter of Chinatown appears
here, as well. It is his second appearance, after "Gray Fist" earlier in 1934.
Yat Soon turned up five more times until his final appearance in "The Golden
Pagoda" in 1938.
As for regular characters, Burbank and Clyde Burke make appearances. Rutledge
Mann and Cliff Marsland get a few good scenes. So does chauffeur Stanley. Joe
Cardona is an acting inspector in this story, and his boss is Police
Commissioner Wainwright Barth. Ralph Weston is out of the country, in this
story, cleaning up the Central-American republic of Garauca. At police
headquarters we also see Detective Sergeant Markham. And dull-faced janitor
Fritz shows up with his vocabulary still limited to a single word: "Yah." This
wasn't the real Fritz, of course. It's one of The Shadow's disguises. There was
a real Fritz, as this story makes quite clear, but The Shadow occasionally
usurps his identity, much as he does with Lamont Cranston. Oh yeah, The Shadow
uses the Cranston disguise in this story, too.
There is one character in this story who seems to be set up for being a future
agent of The Shadow, but nothing comes of it. Slade Farrow has been
rehabilitating criminals, including Tapper and Hawkeye. There is a third man in
this story. Dave Garvell was another ex-criminal who is now a trusted worker of
Farrow's. He has a couple scenes in the story, and it would appear that he would
make a good agent for The Shadow. But he disappears about mid-way through the
story, and is mentioned no more. He's never really fully used, and he never
appeared in any further Shadow novels.
This story is filled with all those little consistent things that readers have
come to expect in a Shadow story. The Shadow uses his rubber suction cups to
cling to sheer surfaces. We visit the small room that Burbank uses, although
this time Burbank is off duty and Harry Vincent is on duty. We get another visit
to Red Mike's, the popular underworld dive that moves around frequently, usually
after police raids. And we visit Chinatown several times; once to visit with
arbiter Yat Soon, the other to track down Diamond Jim's associate Tam Sook.
It is during this second visit that The Shadow encounters a most diabolical
death trap. The Shadow is captured by Tam Sook. If he should put up any
resistance whatsoever, Tam Soon has only to lift his foot and the entire floor
will open. The Shadow will fall to his destruction. Seeing The Shadow escape
certain death is a true pleasure to read. Wow, what a scene!
You'll have to forgive the occasional racial slurs that are found in this story.
Chinese and Italians are referred to in slang that was common at the time.
They're certainly not proper by today's standards, but need to be taken in
context. At least it's not our heroes spewing those insulting words.
Watch The Shadow track down Diamond Jim Farwell when he is released from prison
and immediately disappears. What is his new disguise? As jewel robbery after
jewel robbery take place, can The Shadow halt this seemingly unstoppable crime
wave? This is a Shadow story that will leave you on the edge of your seat,
It is a story that contains some important origins, when it comes to agents of
The Shadow. And it contains the return of some early characters as well. It's
quite a story, and one that you owe it to yourself to read.
was originally published in the July
1946 issue of "The Shadow Magazine." A sinister figure that haunts the sewers of
New York, that is Malmordo. A crime figure of international repute has brought
his hoards of ratlike minions to America to begin a new wave of crime. Thus, The
Shadow will pursue the world's most desperate criminal.
This story stands out among the other 1946 pulp mysteries of The Shadow. This
and an earlier story, "Crime Out of Mind," stand as the top two Shadow stories
of the year. Of course, 1946 wasn't known as a strong year for Shadow tales, so
perhaps bestowing that title upon this story isn't all that much of an honor. Of
the weaker tales for that year, there were "The Banshee Murders" in which no
murders took place, "Crime Over Casco" in which The Shadow casually reveals his
most closely guarded secret to near-strangers, and "The Curse of Thoth" which
showed definite traces of heavy-handed editing.
Things really went downhill in August of 1946, when long-time author Walter
Gibson left the magazine series and Bruce Elliott took over the writing tasks
for the next two years. The following month after "Malmordo" brought readers
"The Blackest Mail," a Shadow story which Bruce Elliott butchered so badly that
I can still barely consider reading it again. Yes, 1946 was not a good year for
The Shadow. But "Malmordo" made things a bit brighter for the year as a whole.
The story opens on a fog-covered pier along the North River. A banana boat, the
Steamship Santander, lies at anchor. A gypsy named Panjo is seeking birds that
have been smuggled in on the Santander. Parrots, macaws and similar birds are
regularly being smuggled from South America into New York Harbor. But this time,
there are no birds. The birds are all dead; killed by huge rats. Why does Panjo
seek exotic birds? That's just one of the many things that is revealed later in
Inspector Joe Cardona is also down at the pier; he patrols the docks looking for
stowaways that have been slipping into port. Little does he realize that this
simple old hulk carries not only stowaways who are sneaking into the country
from Europe, via South America, but it also contains other bizarre passengers,
as well. There are the huge rats that are bigger than the cats set out to chase
them; the rats are killing the cats! And there is one other bizarre passenger,
which readers don't learn about until the amazing climax of the story. (No, I
won't spoil it for you.)
The Shadow shares the concern about the stowaways; they have been stealing into
this country aboard tramp steamers. He is following one of the stowaways,
figuring if one could be captured, he could tell much about the others. There is
a shipboard chase, and the stowaway is chased into the hold of the ship where he
is killed; crushed by a shifting pile of mahogany logs. His dying words:
"Malmordo - morto - noktomezo -"
The story is off to a good start. Action and mystery abound in a gloomy
atmospheric setting. The Shadow makes an early appearance. Giant rats. Dead
birds. Human stowaways from Europe. Death strikes. Cryptic dying words. And the
name Malmordo. Who is this Malmordo?
We find out in the next chapter, when Joe Cardona visits Cafe de la Morte in the
heart of Greenwich Village. He has received a strange card, promising death at
midnight at the Cafe de la Morte. And The Shadow is not far behind. In the
outdoor garden of the small restaurant sits Janice Bradford with a yellow
daffodil pinned to the lapel of her jacket. She is there to meet... someone. In
the background, Harry Vincent, agent for The Shadow, watches as Gypsy palmist
Madame Thalla sits down to tell her fortune. And that's when Malmordo makes his
Malmordo appears through a hole in the fence. He is a disgusting creature; a
thing that looks like a rat of man-sized proportions, wearing clothes to
disguise the fact that it is a rodent, not a human. Bulging teeth, beady eyes
below shaggy hair that strews down upon a heavily lined forehead. The creature's
face is so ugly, so vicious, that its owner must have purposely misshapen it or
practiced facial contortions to the limit, in order to acquire such grotesque,
He whips out a long, thin-bladed knife and buries it in the back of Gregor, the
waiter. Cardona and Harry Vincent spring to action. Guns roar and chaos breaks
out. In the ensuing melee, Malmordo makes good his escape and Janice Bradford
flees the scene of the crime. Yes, as promised, death has struck at midnight.
But why? Why was Gregor killed? Who is Malmordo? Who was Janice Bradford going
to meet? And why?
The story is off to a whirlwind start, and rarely slows down enough for the
reader to pause and catch his breath. The story is jam-packed with action,
especially for a shorter-than-normal Shadow story that is just over 36,000
words. And by the climax everything is properly explained (well, almost
everything) and the evil ratlike Malmordo has received his just rewards.
The Shadow does all this mostly on his own, although there are a few agents who
appear briefly in the story. None of them carries much of the action, however.
Harry Vincent appears in the opening restaurant scene at the Cafe de la Morte.
Hawkeye appears briefly in two scenes. Moe Shrevnitz appears a couple different
times, but he's only referred to as "Shrevvy" here, not by his given name. And
contact-man Burbank is mentioned once in passing.
The Shadow appears both as his black-cloaked self and as Lamont Cranston. He
also gets to appear once in disguise. And it won't be giving anything away to
reveal that he appears disguised as Malmordo, himself. And he does it without
makeup! The Shadow is able to distort his features so as to become the twisted
man-sized rat. That's a pretty effective disguise!
Also in this story are New York Police Commissioner Ralph Weston and his ace
detective, Inspector Joe Cardona. And a new character is introduced, Trent
Stacey from Scotland Yard. He's part of the C.I.D., or Criminal Investigation
Department, and has come to America following the trail of Malmordo.
The Commissioner Weston of this story conforms to the characterization typical
of the 1946 stories. He continues to officially deny the existence of The
Shadow. The Shadow is not supposed to be mentioned in police reports because an
identity such as his, based on the evidence of a cloak and hat, might
technically be assumed by anyone. But he has personally met The Shadow often
enough to unofficially recognize him. And the commissioner still doesn't believe
in Joe Cardona's hunches. But he begrudgingly allows Cardona to follow those
hunches, since they so often pay off.
So what's the story on this Malmordo character? Well, it won't be giving
anything away to describe his background a bit. Malmordo is currently the most
notorious criminal on the European scene. His name is a corruption of Esperanto,
that international language used so often by spies. It refers to something that
Before the war (that would be World War II), Malmordo had built up quite a
criminal empire. When the Nazis came into power, he hired out to them, squirming
his way into every occupied country with his fellow-rats. They looted treasures
for the Nazis; rare paintings, famous jewels, and whatever else they could lay
their hands upon. And in the process, they took vital records whenever they
could. These records could be used to their advantage, if the war didn't go as
the Nazi's had planned.
And, of course, by 1946 the war was over and Germany had lost. But Malmordo and
his other rats were still in business. Now they have arrived in America, looking
for more loot. This time, they are going to use the records they stole. These
records prove that certain men had been engaged in subversive dealings with the
Nazis. And as such, they will make valuable fodder for blackmail. A crime wave
of blackmail and murder is about to begin, with Malmordo and his squirmy league
of henchmen leading the way.
The language known as Esperanto plays an important part in this story. Author
Walter Gibson seemed to be quite intrigued with this artificial language that
had been created in 1887. He introduced it early in 1934's "The Embassy
Murders." It also played a part in the plot of "Crime Under Cover" from 1941.
This is the third time that Gibson wrote Esperanto into his Shadow stories. He
would go on to use it in "Return of The Shadow" which was his 1963 attempt to
revive the series.
Readers learn two new names for The Shadow, in this pulp tale. The most famous
and oft-used of those "alternate" names is "Ying Ko;" that is how he is known to
the Chinese. In this story we learn that "Yek Ushalyin" is Romany (the Gypsy
language) for The Shadow. And "La Ombrajo" is Esperanto for The Shadow.
One note of interest is that passing reference to whom I can only assume to be
Fritz, the janitor at Police Headquarters. In the early years of The Shadow
Magazine, The Shadow would occasionally disguise himself as the real janitor
Fritz, so he could overhear police conversations while supposedly mopping the
floors. Fritz, whose only dialog usually consisted of the single word "Yah,"
appeared in twenty-one of The Shadow stories. He was in the very first Shadow
pulp novel, "The Living Shadow." The final mention of Fritz by name was in
1944's "The Crystal Skull." He isn't specifically mentioned in "Malmordo" but
author Gibson does say: "Cranston had rarely visited the inspector's office, at
least not as himself." This seems to be a reference to the times when he visited
the office in the guise of janitor Fritz. It's good to see that Fritz was not
There are a couple loose ends in this story. What happened to Janice Bradford?
The last time we see her, she is hidden in a closet before a gun-battle with
Malmordo. Then, she is mentioned no more. It was a bit untidy of Walter Gibson
not to clean up that loose end, especially since it would have been so easy to
make some passing comment on the last page. The other loose end is the question
of why Malmordo killed Gregor, the waiter at the Cafe de la Morte. There is some
vague talk about his possible motivation, but it's never clearly resolved. This
is another topic which could easily have been settled by Gibson, if he had so
If you can overlook a few minor flaws, this is a pretty good Shadow story,
especially considering it was from 1946. Maybe Gibson knew it would be his last
one, perhaps forever, before Bruce Elliott took over the series, and Gibson
decided to go out with a bang. Of course, as it turned out, Gibson did return to
writing the final Shadow stories after a two-year absence. But he wouldn't have
known that at the time.
If for no other reason, read this story for the ending. The way in which
Malmordo meets his doom is quite exciting. It's one that the reader won't see
coming, even though hints were given in several spots previously. It's a bit
grisly, but the evil Malmordo deserves it!
If you want to read a 1946 Shadow story, this would be a good one to read. And
it's relatively short, too. There's no way it would make it into my top
twenty-five Shadow stories of all-time, but it definitely makes it into the top
two of 1946. A pretty good Shadow story that I think you would enjoy.
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.