John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #35
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
was originally published in the June 15, 1935 issue of The Shadow Magazine. For six long years, The Condor, strange supercrook supreme, has been planning a crime spree unparalleled in history. Arson, robbery, blackmail, forgery, murder - all the calendar of crime will be unrolled. Now, those six years are at an end and it will take all the might of The Shadow to defeat The Condor and his minions of evil.
Who is The Condor? Well, it doesn't take us long to find out. Early in the story, it is revealed that the gray-haired owner of Mountview Lodge, Griscom Treft, is the evil mastermind known as The Condor. For these past six years, The Condor has been assembling men of crime beneath the nose of The Shadow. He has been scheming, setting men out on various assignments of criminal activity. And all without detection of The Shadow. But now, The Shadow has learned of his existence.
In the process of dealing with a small-time hoodlum named Luff Cadley, Cliff Marsland, agent for The Shadow, falls into a strange situation. Luff is shot by a rival thug, and with his dying breath he tells Cliff Marsland about The Condor. Luff had planned to join up with The Condor as part of his gang, but now he passes the information on to Marsland, instead. Marsland will have to earn his way into the mob by the theft of the Blue Pearl.
Cliff Marsland is informed of the only way to infiltrate The Condor's secret cabal. He must crack the safe of old Michael Walpin and steal his large collection of valuable pearls. He must take the famous Blue Pearl to a place just outside the small town of Paulington, called Mountview Lodge. It's not a hotel, but a private residence. There he will surrender the priceless Blue Pearl to the lodge owner and be admitted to The Condor's ranks.
And so he does. With the assistance of The Shadow, he successfully robs Walpin's safe and makes off with the pearls. All of which initiates a series of adventures in which he pretends to join forces with The Condor. But his real purpose, of course, is to aid The Shadow in the ultimate defeat of this mastermind of crime.
Harry Vincent, another of The Shadow's agents, is also on hand. He heads out for Mountview Lodge early, ahead of Marsland. His plan is to be in place before Cliff Marsland arrives, so as to be ready to assist him as needed. But what he doesn't realize is that he is spotted as soon as he arrives. Recognized by a strange dark-faced man as an enemy to be eliminated. The dark-faced man reports Vincent to The Condor, and plans are made to dynamite him to atoms. Plans that apparently succeed!
Cliff Marsland meets The Condor at the lodge and is introduced to the others in the mob. Each of the other members of the ring reside at the lodge in an innocent guise. One poses as the chauffeur. Another as the house man. Some are caretakers; others are guests. Together they wait until the thirteenth of the month. That is when they will shed their disguises and start out on their master plan.
As the deadline nears, only The Shadow can thwart the evil plans of The Condor. Only The Shadow can rip away the facade of respectability surrounding Mountview Lodge and reveal the true evil beneath the surface. It's a rip roaring story that I know you'll love.
A large number of familiar characters appear in this rousing tale. Cliff Marsland, The Shadow's underworld contact, has the largest role. Harry Vincent, one of the oldest of The Shadow's agents in terms of service, gets another meaty role. We also see Hawkeye, that hunch-shouldered little trailer who often pairs up with Cliff Marsland. And Burbank is there, too, along with hackie Moe Shrevnitz, reporter Clyde Burke and investment broker Rutledge Mann. There's even a brief appearance by Miles Crofton, The Shadow's pilot.
Two other recurring characters are Richards, Lamont Cranston's butler, and Stanley, his chauffeur. Both work for Lamont Cranston and apparently have no inkling that many times their employer is being impersonated by The Shadow. That's not to say they are particularly dense. It is simply a testimony to The Shadow's mastery of disguise.
The Shadow, himself, appears as both businessman Henry Arnaud and millionaire Lamont Cranston. And as his usual black-cloaked self, of course. The Shadow is truly a master of disguise. And as is typical in a 1935 Shadow pulp adventure, our hero doesn't hesitate to shoot first... shoot to kill, not wound.
One strange thing I did notice about Henry Arnaud's appearance, compared to Lamont Cranston's. Apparently, Arnaud's was more hawk-like. As author Walter Gibson explained it: "Aided with articles of make-up, he changed the contours of his visage. A masklike, thin-lipped countenance replaced the face of Henry Arnaud. Only a hawkish trace remained as a reminder of the former features." Funny, but as I remember it from other stories, Cranston's was the more hawkish one. I write it all off to the fact that this was still somewhat early in the series, and the somewhat-vague features of The Shadow's alter egos weren't as firmly established, yet.
Another ability of The Shadow that's showcased here is his ability with ventriloquism. Early in the story as The Shadow makes off with the Walpin pearls, he uses the ability to throw his voice. While The Shadow is in the guise of Lamont Cranston, he makes it appear that a burglar is speaking. Unknown to the others present, the sounds really came from the unmoving lips of Cranston.
This story is from the period when Gibson wrote Commissioner Weston out of the series, and replaced him with Acting Police Commissioner Wainwright Barth. Joe Cardona is still there, and at this time he was Acting Inspector. And local law enforcement was provided by Howie Brock, sheriff of Paulington. Also in this story is Vic Marquette, government agent. It's always good to see Vic assisting The Shadow.
As mentioned earlier, Harry Vincent is apparently killed in an explosion. Clyde Burke, fellow agent and friend, considers wreaking revenge against the killers. As Gibson writes:
"Clyde recalled the vengeance that The Shadow had wreaked upon slayers who had killed an agent long ago."
The incident referred to is, of course, the death of Claude Fellows way back in the 1931 tale "Gangdom's Doom." Fellows collected information for The Shadow until author Walter Gibson killed him off in the fifth Shadow novel. Six issues later, a replacement was found in Rutledge Mann. And Mann, luckily, survived until the end of the magazine run in 1949.
There's a bit of racial insensitivity, this time around. There a couple slurs cast equally at both the Japanese and Chinese. Nothing blatant, but noticeable nonetheless.
There are the usual trappings that we come to expect in a Shadow mystery. The strange autogyro makes its appearance and makes an important contribution to the climax of the story. We see The Shadow's sanctum, his strange girasol ring that he uses to identify himself even when in disguise, and the coded messages written in bluish disappearing ink.
When it comes to The Shadow's secret code, his story presents us with a slight contradiction. Here, we are told that the code is an intricate one. In other stories, we were told just the opposite. In most stories, the code that The Shadow uses was a simple one. It was one that anyone could quickly learn. In fact, it was so simple that it could not withstand continued scrutiny. That's why it was always written in disappearing ink. It would disappear long before any unauthorized reader would have time to break it. This was specifically mentioned in several pulp stories. But strangely, the code in this story was described thusly:
"The Shadow's code was an intricate one; Cliff had always wondered why it required letters with an abundance of dots and dashes, with double dashes in some letters."
The matter of the code aside, this is terrific story that will keep you glued to the pages until you reach the very end. The general consensus is that the early Shadow novels were the best ones, and this particular one helps illustrate that point. From page one to the very end, this story keeps you entertained and wanting more. Just like a good pulp story should!
"Chicago Crime" was originally published in the November 15, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine. The title pretty much says it all. There's crime, you see. And it's in Chicago. And The Shadow goes there to clean it up. And that's about it. Yes, the title is bland. But the story isn't much better.
This is one of the five vaguely-related stories that make up "The Hand" series. There are five master criminals, who together are known as The Hand. Each is a finger of The Hand. The first in the series was "The Hand" from May 15, 1938 in which The Shadow defeated "Pinkey" Findlen, a crime boss who blackmailed and murdered his victims. Second was the July 1, 1938 story "Murder for Sale." In that story, The Shadow battled "Ring" Brescott, the murder specialist in the group.
Now comes "Chicago Crime," in which The Shadow confronts "Long Steve" Bydle. Notice that we're taking the fingers in order, starting with the little finger, next the ring finger and now the middle finger. Clever, eh? OK, maybe not. The final two stories would be "Crime Rides the Seas" from January 1, 1939 and "Realm of Doom" from February 1, 1939. But let's ignore those other stories and focus on the middle one, "Chicago Crime."
High in the night sky flies a dark plans with a lone occupant: The Shadow. He's heading to Chicago to ferret out the next finger of "The Hand," Long Steve Bydle. Long Steve Bydle has a new racket making a small fortune in Chicago. It's the traffic accident racket. His stooges fake traffic accidents and Bydle collects the insurance.
Traffic accidents in Chicago have doubled in the past few months. And The Shadow has heard rumors that Long Steve Bydle was the head man of crime in Chicago. Putting two and two together, The Shadow quickly deduces that Bydle is the likely culprit behind the insurance scam. And he's right.
Our proxy hero in this story is unemployed Herb Waylon. He badly needs a job, to impress the father of his true love, beautiful young Joan Gramley. He's recently met Chet Soville, who offers to introduce him to wealthy, invalid, philanthropist J. M. Cruke. Cruke likes to find positions for worthy young men, and young Herb hopes to be one of them.
What we know, although innocent young Herb doesn't, is that the wheelchair-bound Mr. Cruke is actually Long Steve Bydle in disguise. And his new friend Chet Soville is really Bydle's lieutenant who helps round up new recruits to the insurance-fraud racket. Yes, Herb is the perfect young patsy for this scheming pair.
Herb Waylon is told that one of J. M. Cruke's friends, an Arthur Reether, needs a chauffeur. Herb is to have that job. Now Joan's father will be impressed and give his permission for Joan and Herb to web. But little does Herb know that before the day is out he will be in an automobile accident. One staged by Long Steve Bydle.
A truck bears down on the limousine that Herb Waylon is driving. There's a crash in which Arthur Reether dies in the back seat. It's murder for insurance profit, and Herb Waylon is in the hot seat. But luckily, The Shadow takes a hand, and enlists the aid of Herb Waylon in the battle against the crime organization run by Long Steve Bydle.
Of course, Herb Waylon isn't The Shadow's only assistant. Harry Vincent, The Shadow's most trusted agent, comes to Chicago to team up with Herb. The two of them are the only assistance that The Shadow has in this story. All his other agents are back in New York, busy with their usual duties.
The Shadow sets up a temporary sanctum at a centrally located Chicago hotel. And from those headquarters, he sets out to determine the extent of the racket. How deep does it go? What officials are involved? Who can be trusted? At first, not even The Shadow knows. But one by one, The Shadow starts identifying those involved in the huge scheme.
The Shadow dons his favorite disguise, that of millionaire traveler Lamont Cranston. We know he's a master of disguise, but on only one occasion does he disguise himself as anyone else. He appears as an unnamed passenger in a taxicab who bears a resemblance to Cranston, "although the contours of his features had a different mold."
And he wears his famous girasol ring, that rare fire opal that's known with fear and dread to gangsters all over. But he wears it here when in his black garb as The Shadow, not when in disguise as Lamont Cranston. That, of course, would change as the years passed.
The Shadow again uses his special disappearing ink, this time to send directions to his new agent, Herb Waylon. No code is used, probably since poor Herb is new to this cloak and dagger work.
There is one other person assisting The Shadow. I won't mention who, because it's supposed to be a secret. I'll just say that it's someone who appears earlier in the story and then disappears, presumably for good. But at the story's climax, the character appears again and we discover that this mystery person has been working behind the scenes the entire time. I gotta admit, it did surprise me.
The Shadow loses another gun in this story. He's involved in one of the many car wrecks, and his gun is lost somewhere in the wreckage. Yet another gun lost. America must be littered with discarded firearms of The Shadow, judging by the number that are mentioned as lost in the various stories. I wonder who they are officially registered to? Somebody's gonna get in trouble!
Anyway, the damsel in distress is rescued, the lovers are reunited, the racket is smashed and Long Steve Bydle meets his well-deserved doom. The Shadow is triumphant once again. Three fingers of The Hand have been removed. Two more to go. But that's two more stories for some other time.
All in all, it's pretty standard pulp fare for The Shadow. Nothing really special, here. A nice respectable effort from author Walter Gibson, but nothing to make it stand out. Should you read it? Yeah, why not. You could do worse.
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.