John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #62
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission
"Cyro" was originally published in the December 15, 1934 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Cyro is a name whispered throughout the underworld. A vague international figure, he is reputed to be the ultimate con man and swindler. No one knows who he really is, not even The Shadow. But now, two million dollars in sunken treasure is at stake. And The Shadow must unmask Cyro in order to keep murder at bay.
Most of our story takes place in New Orleans. But it opens in New York where Roke Rowden is completing preparations for a silver-mine swindle. Rowden poses as a rich gentleman who needs a partner to buy a Nevada silver mine. His partner, Tracy Lence, is posing as an investor willing to put up half the funds. They are attempting to bilk a Mr. Northrup Lucaster from Des Moines for the other half.
Tracy Lence receives a letter from his previous boss, the master swindler known only as Cyro. Lence is to report to New Orleans for a new con game. This one will garner millions, the kind of big stakes that Cyro goes after. Roke Rowden finds out about the better offer, and wants a cut of the action. Tracy Lence refuses and in the ensuing altercation, Lence shoots Roke Rowden at point-blank range.
As Roke Rowden lies dying, Tracy Lence quickly exits via the fire escape, preparing to book quick passage to New Orleans. The Shadow shows up, missing Lence only by minutes, and finds Rowden on the floor only moments from death. From beneath his black cloak he brings a small phial of purplish liquid. He applies the elixir to Rowden’s lips, giving him temporary vigor.
With his last dying strength, Rowden gives The Shadow the information he needs. Cyro! He was shot by an associate of Cyro, a name The Shadow has heard before. Cyro is a swindler who has spent years touring the European Continent and gypped members of the nobility. Now he’s in America, plucking only the richest of the Four Hundred. No one knows the identity of Cyro, not even the stooges who work for him. And that includes Tracy Lence.
From clues left at the scene, The Shadow deduces that the unknown murderer, the accomplice of Cyro, has headed for New Orleans. The Shadow, disguised as Lamont Cranston, visits the Cobalt Club and converses with Police Commissioner Wainwright Barth. He subtly influences Commissioner Barth to send acting inspector Joe Cardona to New Orleans to seek Roke Rowden’s killer.
The action then moves to New Orleans. The Shadow has already arrived when Joe Cardona arrives on the southbound train. And while Cardona introduces himself to the local police, The Shadow has already determined the likely target of upcoming crime. Cyro’s next probable target: sunken gold treasure!
The man with the gold millions is Danforth Gaudrin. He owns the yacht the Nautilus. He has been searching for gold for the past few years, and finally found the wreck he was looking for; the wreck of the Don Carlos, an ancient galleon carrying Spanish doubloons and pieces of eight! While Gaudrin stays in New Orleans, his yacht, under the command of Captain Peters Emory, is bringing up the gold from its resting place along the Gulf Coast. The Nautilus will dock in New Orleans with the gold soon.
Only four men know of the secret gold find. They are Danforth Gaudrin, himself, Dunwood Marr, who is in the process of buying the Nautilus, Peters Emory, captain of the Nautilus, and Professor Pearson Babcock, an English professor currently aboard the Nautilus hunting coral. But there are others who might know, as well.
Danforth Gaudrin has a son, Luke. Luke needs money to pay off his gambling debts, and may have overheard the secret. Luke owes the money to Royal Medbrook who runs the Club Caprice. Medbrook may know the secret, if Luke has told him in order to postpone payment of his debts.
Danforth Gaudrin also has a daughter, Alicia. Is it possible she has learned the secret? Her fiance, Reginald Exeter, has been staying at the old mansion and may have picked up the information as well. And Alicia’s portrait is being painted by the French painter Raoul Brilliard. Secretly, he’s an agent of Cyro, and may have discovered the golden secret, too.
Although the news of the sunken gold is supposedly shared by only four men, somehow Cyro has found out. And he’s making plans to commit robbery and murder as soon as the gold is delivered to the old Gaudrin mansion. Only the power of The Shadow can stop him. Only the cunning of The Shadow can reveal the true identity of Cyro. And only the force known as The Shadow can defeat the hoards of mobsters that follow the lead of Cyro.
The Shadow has plenty of help in defeating Cyro, although most of it comes in only at the very end of the story. For the vast majority of this tale, The Shadow works alone. But in the last couple of chapters, he calls in his faithful agents Harry Vincent, Cliff Marsland, Hawkeye, Jericho Druke and Clyde Burke. Appearing briefly at the beginning of the story is hackie Moe Shrevnitz. Rutledge Mann is mentioned several times, but doesn’t actually appear. And Burbank isn’t even mentioned.
The side of the law is represented in New York by Police Commissioner Wainwright Barth, acting inspector Joe Cardona and detective sergeant Markham. Commissioner Ralph Weston, you will remember, was in the South American country of Garauca during this time, and Wainwright Barth was his temporary replacement.
In New Orleans, we meet Lieutenant Wayson of the New Orleans police force. He’s a police instructor and small-arms expert who is assigned to assist Joe Cardona. He’s a most capable officer, and author Walter Gibson brought his character back one more time in the 1935 story “Mardi Gras Mystery.”
The Shadow gets to try out several new disguises in this story. He appears as the “mark” in the New York swindle, a tall, stoop-shouldered, gray-haired man named Northrup Lucaster. In both Manhattan and New Orleans, he appears as Lamont Cranston, his favorite disguise. Later, when Cranston apparently leaves New Orleans, The Shadow changes disguises to Justin Oswood, a well-dressed stranger who checks in to the Bontezan hotel. And he also assumes the identity of Jose Larribez, a Cuban, who worked for Cyro in Havana. Yes, The Shadow really gets to show off his mastery of disguise, here.
In this 1934 story, we are given a little insight into how The Shadow accomplishes his disguises. One passage reads:
“Opening the briefcase, he produced a make-up box. Surveying his countenance in a mirror, he laughed softly and began to remold his masklike features. His visage changed beneath the pressure of his finger tips.”
Sounds like he’s arranging the putty built up on the gauze mesh that we’ve read about in earlier adventures. In my mind, I imagine that all this is built over his “horror face” that was disfigured during the war. But the novel doesn’t indicate any of this. It just comes from reading previous Shadow novels and filling in the blanks.
When The Shadow is in New York, he has his sanctum. There, he ponders in near total darkness and solves the riddles proposed by crime. When The Shadow leaves New York, he often creates a mobile sanctum. In this story, he turns the Bontezan hotel room, which The Shadow occupies as Oswood, into his temporary sanctum. Much like the original, a switch clicks in the darkness; the light from a table lamp came on. And The Shadow reads the reports of his agents.
As we all know, The Shadow is a master of many languages. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Shadow story in which he overhears a language that he doesn’t understand. In this story, we are told he speaks perfect French. Just the thing to get along in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
A few interesting notes about this pulp story. The Shadow makes reference to one of his previous adventures, something he rarely did. When discussing the advantages of the autogiro over seaplanes, he says:
“I flew into Mexico, some time ago, and landed perfectly in a forgotten valley, right into the midst of a surviving Aztec tribe, on the flat rock where they were holding a religious ceremony.”
This is in reference to the 1933 tale “Six Men of Evil.” It’s just a casual comment, and has no effect on the storyline. It’s one of the few times that a reference to an earlier incident is made, without some pertinence to the current storyline.
Jericho Druke was The Shadow’s only African-American agent, and he was treated with more respect than other pulp novels of that period. He spoke without dialect and was given meaningful roles to play. But it is interesting to note that while other agents can call him by his first name, he only responds more formally:
“Ready, Jericho?” questioned the newcomer, in a whisper.
“All set, Mr. Marsland,” returned the African.
I’m not trying to read more into this than I should, but if Walter Gibson really wanted to portray Jericho Druke as an equal to the other agents, he should have had him reply “All set, Cliff.” Hope I’m not being too picky, here.
Another interesting point of interest is the special key that The Shadow uses to pick a lock. It’s made out of soft, puttylike metal. He probes the lock with it, pulls it out and scrapes away the excess. Then he dampens it with a strange liquid and subjects it to the heat of a cigar lighter. The fitted key is hardened, and can then be used to unlock the door. That’s pretty cool!
And agents of Cyro have a clever way of passing secret messages. They use a double layer piece of paper, with a coded message written on the inner surface. Most people won’t notice the extra thickness of the paper, but those in the know can peel the two sheets apart, revealing the secret writing.
This was a fun romp with The Shadow, in a nice change of pace from the normal Manhattan setting. A satisfying “Charlie Chan” denouement where all the suspect are gathered in a room together. And The Shadow at his blood-thirstiest best, shooting down the bad guys with abandon and stacking them up like cordwood. Yup, that’s pulp!
"The Man Who Died Twice" was originally published in the September 15, 1940 issue of The Shadow Magazine. The title refers to Richard Benton, a famous New York lawyer. It all has to do with several dopplegangers - exact doubles - who die in Benton’s place. Thus to all appearances, he has died twice even though actually he still lives. And who’s behind this evil scheme? The prince of evil himself, Benedict Stark!
This is the third story to feature the evil master-criminal Benedict Stark, known to The Shadow as The Prince Of Evil. There were four Prince of Evil novels, hence you know in advance that Benedict Start won’t receive his well-deserved comeuppance at the story’s end. No, he survives for one more tale. If you want to read the series in order, the titles are:
04/15/40 The Prince of Evil
07/01/40 Murder Genius
09/15/40 The Man Who Died Twice
11/15/40 The Devil’s Paymaster
The story opens when Richard Benton leaves the governor’s mansion. Not the governor of New York. This takes place in an unnamed neighboring state. Benton and the governor of this state are personal friends. Benton has just left a letter with the governor which seeks to blackmail the state leader.
Back in his hotel room, Richard Benton is murdered by an unknown assailant who wears gloves and mask. The mystery murderer makes his escape down the alley fire escape into the night. Richard Benton has died for the first time. We better keep track, because it becomes confusing.
Benton’s wife, the gorgeously beautiful, ex-star on the musical-comedy stage, Claire Benton, shows up shortly thereafter. After the initial shock wears off, she suspects that the dead man on the floor isn’t her husband. The lack of a tattoo on his chest confirms her suspicions. This man was a dead ringer (no pun intended) for the real Richard Benton.
Everyone seems to believe that the real Richard Benton had used the double for a stooge, and had killed him when the blackmail scheme didn’t work. They all figure that he’s now in hiding, building up a fake alibi for himself. All believe it, except for Benton’s wife. Only she... and The Shadow!
The Shadow believes that the Prince of Evil is behind it all. He believes that Richard Benton is innocent and is being framed by Benedict Stark. Stark is one of the five wealthiest men in the United States, yet he is a man of mystery to nearly everyone. Only a few wealthy men know Stark socially. And one of them is Lamont Cranston.
Benedict Stark has had several run-ins with The Shadow in the past, and has come to believe that Lamont Cranston is really The Shadow. He can’t prove it any more than The Shadow can prove Stark is guilty of any crimes. But in his heart, he knows it.
Stark sets up a complicated scheme to set Cranston up to be murdered. And he will frame Richard Benton for the crime. But The Shadow knows something is awry. So he begins to plan his counter-scheme. And when it all plays out, Richard Benton appears and murders Lamont Cranston before witnesses. But, of course, Richard Benton didn’t actually commit the crime; it was another exact double. And Lamont Cranston doesn’t really die; he’s been wearing a bullet-proof vest.
The fake Benton makes good his escape and The Shadow takes off after him in the dark of night. There’s a battle on the estate grounds at the edge of a high cliff. The Shadow is about to capture Benton when a shot rings out from the dark. Benton falls dead, a bullet in his spine. Richard Benton has died twice, now.
This Richard Benton is also proved to be a fake, when some rubbing alcohol wipes away the tattoo on his chest. The real Richard Benton is still alive. But instead of proving Benton’s innocence, this whole affair is used by reporters and the police to prove his guilt. They believe he’s behind the entire scheme, using doubles to do his dirty work.
Only The Shadow has a chance of proving that the real Richard Benton has been kidnapped, and is being framed for these crimes. Only The Shadow can prove who is really behind the diabolical scheme to ruin the man. And only The Shadow can free Richard Benton before there is a third crime and a third man dies.
Assisting The Shadow in this story are his various agents: contact man Burbank, ace reporter Clyde Burke, aviator Miles Crofton, trusted agent Harry Vincent and taxi driver Moe Shrevnitz. Clyde Burke is kidnapped in this story and the hoodlums attempt to murder him on a ferryboat. They unknowingly fail; he survives although they think they have succeeded. Harry Vincent is called in to take up the slack, while Burke goes undercover for the last half of the story.
The only law enforcement officer mentioned in this story is Inspector Joe Cardona. New York Police Commissioner Ralph Weston doesn’t appear, nor are any other officers in that unnamed nearby state identified by name.
This story, as with the other three Benedict Stark stories, was written by Theodore Tinsley rather than Walter Gibson. Tinsley wrote twenty-seven Shadow novels between 1936 and 1943. He was noted for keeping close to the characterization of The Shadow that was created by Walter Gibson, although with a little added emphasis on sex and violence.
Tinsley was quite restrained in this story when it comes to sex. No titillation is present. No vague descriptions of women in various stages of undress. And the violence was also kept to a minimum, by Tinsley’s standards, at least. No gruesome murders, no torture, no graphic descriptions.
There are still some distinctive Tinsley touches, though. The Shadow, as written by Theodore Tinsley, is a little more vulnerable. In this story, The Shadow is slightly injured three times: a bullet grazes his ribs, another creases his thigh, and later a third bullet rips a bloody furrow across his forearm. The Shadow is rarely slightly injured in a Gibson novel. In Gibson’s writings, The Shadow is either never injured, or severely injured. In Tinsley’s, by comparison, The Shadow is often nicked and grazed.
Another distinctive Tinsley touch is the presence of underground chambers and tunnels. These are found in nearly all of his Shadow novels. In this story, there is an underground chamber beneath the cellar of a real estate office, where Clyde Burke is kept prisoner. There is also a water-filled underground tunnel at the country hideout, where the kidnapped Richard Benton is being held prisoner. All definite Tinsley touches.
We are treated to a few closer insights into The Shadow, here. Agent Miles Crofton, an efficient aviator, holds every aviation license possible in the United States, Tinsley tells us. And Lamont Cranston owns a seaplane. This has been mentioned before in a few other stories, but is so rarely seen that it deserves to be mentioned here.
The Shadow’s sanctum is soundproof. I always rather assumed that was the case, but it’s nice to see it actually spelled out, here. The sanctum also contains a large chrome-steel safe, something rarely mentioned. Usually, we think of the sanctum as having a table and file cabinets. But, yes, there is a large safe. And in most stories, The Shadow’s sanctum is located below ground in some unnamed location in the city. In this story, the sanctum is located high above the street. We know that The Shadow moved his sanctum occasionally, so it’s location so high above ground shouldn’t be cause for confusion. Apparently, it usually was below ground. But not always.
If you want to be technical, this story should be titled “The Man Who Died Thrice,” not “Twice.” Yes, at story’s end, a third Benton double dies as well. Of course by then, everybody knows that it’s not really Benton, so maybe that doesn’t count. But still, the story could have accurately been entitled “The Man Who Died Thrice” and it might have made for an even more interesting title.
In my opinion, this is the weakest of the four Benedict Stark novels. The first one in the series was probably the best, and the fourth and final one was probably a close second. But just because it is less thrilling than the others doesn’t make it a bad Shadow tale. It’s still great to read the battle of wits between the Master of the Night and the Price of Evil.
It’s a fun Shadow mystery to read. And an important part of the entire four-story series that makes up the Prince of Evil novels. It’s one I think you’ll like, as well!
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.