John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #7
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"The Third Shadow" was originally published in the March 15, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine. A
black cloaked figure of the night strikes again. But this singular mystery man
is not The Shadow. And the eerie figure strikes not against crime, but strikes
at gambling establishments, collecting loot for his own ends. Someone is
impersonating The Shadow!
This pulp novel from 1936 offers an interesting twist on The Shadow, one that
had not been seen before. But it was anticipated earlier by Police Commissioner
Ralph Weston. Weston, you may remember, refused to believe in The Shadow in the
early years of the pulp magazine. When Detective Joe Cardona reported being
rescued by an uncanny cloaked personality, Weston would refuse to believe it was
a single man. He argued that it could be the same man that Cardona had
encountered before, or that it could be someone else dressed in black. There
could be various personages appearing in black cloak and slouch hat. And
finally, in this story, that is exactly what happens.
Some unknown impersonator is masquerading as The Shadow! In this story, author
Walter Gibson examines what would happen if someone else should don the garb of
black and appear in public as The Shadow. And what if this someone was a
criminal? He could use the palpable fear generated by just the sight of the
cloaked crimefighter, to his own nefarious ends. And what if a third Shadow
appeared? What if some master criminal saw how effective the second Shadow could
be, and decided to appropriate the scheme and expand upon it? Would the rightful
Shadow, the scourge of the underworld, then lose his power? Could he do anything
to stop the ever-growing crime wave? It's this interesting premise upon which
"The Third Shadow" is based.
The story opens with a simple crime. It's a crime that The Shadow resolves in
the first four chapters. Lucian Yorne was a jewelry salesman. He was murdered in
his office; his jewels and cash stolen. The law was on the case, but overlooked
certain angles that only The Shadow could see. It won't be giving much away to
reveal that Parlington, the butler, did it.
The Shadow confronts Parlington in the pantry. The butler quakes in fear at the
sight of the man in black. The Shadow forces him to write out a confession. The
hiss of The Shadow's whisper, the glow of his burning eyes, the glint of light
from his .45 automatics, all these things add to the mysterious hold that The
Shadow has upon the petty criminal before him. After the confession is signed,
The Shadow orders, "The Revolver." Parlington removes a .32 revolver from his
coat pocket and places it to his temple. He's about to commit suicide,
apparently at The Shadow's prompting.
What's this? The Shadow encouraging a crook to commit suicide? Yup, that's
exactly what happens, here. The Shadow fades into the darkness, leaving
Parlington to pull the trigger. As it turns out, the entire scenario is
interrupted by Acting Inspector Joe Cardona before Parlington can complete the
act. Parlington's gun is turned on Cardona, and the butler is downed in a
withering hail of bullets. So in the end, Parlington is still dead, but not by
his own hand. Still, the fact that The Shadow would not only permit a suicide,
but encourage it seems rather untypical of a heroic crime fighter. So why did
author Walter Gibson include that scene in the story?
Gibson wanted to impress upon readers the power of The Shadow. It was a power
such that a man could even be influenced to take his own life. And it is this
power that another man has surreptitiously witnessed. Hidden outside the pantry,
where The Shadow and Parlington could not see him, Jerry Renwood saw the whole
encounter. He watched as The Shadow forced, though sheer power of will, the
criminal Parlington to write his own confession and nearly take his own life.
Jerry Renwood saw the whole thing, and he was suitably impressed.
Later, Jerry Renwood told the story to his partner George Corbal. The two were
petty criminals trying their hands at blackmail. When Renwood described the
terror caused by the appearance of The Shadow, Corbal hatched a scheme. He would
dress up as The Shadow. Just the appearance of a black-cloaked foe would scare
the blackmail victims into capitulating without resistance.
Jerry Renwood wants no part of George Corbal's scheme. Just the sight of The
Shadow confronting the guilty butler Parlington has scared Renwood straight. The
following morning in his old apartment, Renwood receives a strange envelope. The
message inside is from The Shadow! Renwood is being given a chance to go
straight. Train tickets to San Francisco are included in the envelope. Renwood
is instructed to go to California and get an honest job courtesy of The Shadow.
And he quickly does so, leaving George Corbal behind.
So George Corbal begins a new phase of his career, impersonating The Shadow.
Only his version of The Shadow doesn't fight crime - he commits it! And not
satisfied with coercing blackmail victims, he takes to invading Manhattan's
back-room gambling casinos. He not only makes off with the cash that's lying on
the tables, but also helps himself to the patrons' jewelry. Corbal is the second
Shadow. But there will soon be another... a third Shadow.
Yes, just as the title of the story indicates, a third person begins
masquerading as The Shadow. But this one is no petty criminal. This one is a
highly clever master criminal who seems to thwart the true Shadow at every turn.
He does away with George Corbal, and assumes the guise of The Shadow. Now crime
will truly soar under his influence.
The Shadow, the real Shadow, has his hands full with this criminal mastermind
who has usurped his identity. But luckily, he has plenty of assistance on hand
in the persons of his agents. Appearing in this story are Miles Crofton, who
meets Jerry Renwood in San Francisco; Clyde Burke, newspaper reporter; Cliff
Marsland and Hawkeye, apparent denizens of the underworld who secretly work for
The Shadow; Moe Shrevnitz, independent cab driver; Harry Vincent, who
infiltrates the backroom gambling dens, and Burbank, The Shadow's trusty contact
man. Also appearing in this story is Stanley, Lamont Cranston's butler who works
for The Shadow unknowingly.
The Shadow appears in this story as his usual black-cloaked self. The master
crimefighter also appears in several disguises. At police headquarters, he
appears as Fritz the janitor. He uses his most frequent disguise, that of
millionaire Lamont Cranston. He visits various notorious underworld dives,
garbed as a sweater-clad hoodlum. And he uses one more disguise, which I won't
mention here. It's part of the surprise twist ending to the story, and I don't
want to give it away and spoil the reading pleasure for those who haven't read
this story yet.
The Shadow also demonstrates his ability at voice disguise in this story. In one
scene he telephones Commissioner Weston twice. First he assumes the voice of
Assistant District Attorney Parrow. And later, in a second phone call, he uses
the voice of Judge Trostler. His voice was quite versatile, as was his ability
The powers of law enforcement are represented by Commissioner Ralph Weston,
Acting Inspector Joe Cardona and Detective Sergeant Markham. Commissioner Weston
now freely admits that The Shadow is a real person, not just any person who
should wear a black cloak. In one scene, he admits: "Yes, Cardona, we both owe
The Shadow a great deal." Weston had encountered The Shadow too many times,
previously, to still claim he wasn't a single man.
This is a fun romp with The Shadow. And we see a slightly different side of The
Shadow, here. In this pulp tale, The Shadow suborns suicide, something I don't
ever recall reading before. And twice in this story he allows criminals to
escape justice, if they will promise to go straight. That was a rare occurrence
in the Shadow pulps.
You'll enjoy reading this 1936 Shadow story. It offers a few twists that are
unique to this story, and don't occur in any others. There's plenty of action
and the previously-mentioned twist ending. It all makes for a pulp reading
experience that you'll relish.
"The Cobra" was originally published in the April 1, 1934 issue of The Shadow Magazine. A
new crime fighter has appeared in Manhattan. The Cobra, a sinister being clad
from head to foot in brown, decimates the criminal population as The Shadow
stands by. But does this new rival of The Shadow have some ulterior motive?
All of New York trembles at the mention of this new avenger of crime whose face
hides under the hood of a cobra. With a hiss perfectly mimicking the poisonous
snake, he strikes. Deek Hundell was a crime boss. The Shadow was keeping an eye
on him to forestall his plans for crime. But The Cobra does The Shadow one
better. The Cobra shows up and pumps a bullet straight through the heart of Deek
Hundell. And there's one less gangster to threaten Manhattan.
The sinister underworld of the city are in terror of The Cobra. And their fear
of The Shadow is decreased by comparison. Yes, The Shadow is now seen as
inefficient and not much of a threat. The Cobra has taken his place as the
number one threat to crimedom.
New York Police Commissioner Ralph Weston is convinced that The Cobra will be
the savior of the city. And as for The Shadow, the commissioner gradually
becomes convinced that The Shadow has given up fighting crime, and has turned to
join it instead.
In the past, Commissioner Weston doubted the existence of The Shadow. He no
longer has those doubts. But now, he tends to believe The Shadow a master
criminal, not a crime fighter. He has support from Caleb Myland, a criminologist
of international repute, and from Crawler Gorgan, an underworld contact who
keeps the police appraised of the latest happenings among the crime bosses of
New York. The information they provide him convinces Weston that The Shadow is
up to no good.
Of course, we know that The Shadow still works for the cause of justice. But
time and again, The Shadow carefully lays his plans to reveal the sinister
machinations of a master criminal, only to be beat to the punch by The Cobra.
This is starting to affect his reputation in the underworld. And when crooks
lose their fear of The Shadow, he also looses that edge that often allows him to
come out on top. No longer do their steady trigger fingers falter when they face
The Shadow. His advantage has been nullified.
How does The Cobra do it? How does he manage to insert himself in the hidden
lairs of the bigshots, and defeat their tight security? He has many assistants,
known as "fangs." By bribery or intimidation, he turns one trusted lieutenant of
each crime boss into his own personal stooge. This traitor is his wedge to gain
access to the master criminals that he will slay.
Each of the "fangs" report to The Cobra, who then makes his plans to defeat yet
another Manhattan kingpin of crime. But is there something more to The Cobra
than meets the eye? Is he really intent to wipe out crime? Or does he have other
motives. The police trust him, but The Shadow isn't so sure. The Shadow suspects
The Cobra may turn out to be the biggest crook, yet!
It's The Shadow's job to keep an eye on The Cobra. To try to anticipate his
lightning quick strikes and be there in advance. The Shadow won't interfere, if
The Cobra seems on the up and up. But he's watching closely to make sure that
The Cobra is truly fighting for law and order.
Assisting The Shadow in this difficult endeavor are his faithful agents Harry
Vincent, reporter Clyde Burke, underworld-contact Cliff Marsland and contact-man
Burbank. Harry and Clyde play very small parts in this story. Cliff Marsland, on
the other hand, gets a major role. He's in nearly every scene.
Poor Cliff gets run through the wringer in this one. He's even taken prisoner by
The Cobra, trussed up, drugged and left as bait for The Shadow. But in the end,
he makes a most respectable showing.
There's no sign of Hawkeye, the hunchy little spotter who was introduced to the
series in the previous year. Hawkeye and Marsland both patrolled the criminal
underworld, often as a pair. But in this story, Cliff works alone. Hawkeye is
nowhere to be seen.
A full assortment of officers of the law are present, here. Detective Joe
Cardona is about the only one who still believes The Shadow is working on the
side of justice. All the others are of the opinion that The Shadow has turned to
the criminal side of the scales. Those others include Commissioner Weston,
Detective Sergeant Markham, Inspector Timothy Klein and a new character from
headquarters, one Detective Logan.
We get to visit The Shadow's sanctum in this story. And we are reminded that
only once before had men of crime penetrated to the sanctum. However, they had
not lived to tell the location of the sanctum to anyone. This refers to an
incident in the February 15, 1934 story, "Gray Fist," which saw publication just
six weeks previously. Three years later, author Walter Gibson would again allow
The Shadow's sanctum to be invaded in the July 1, 1937 story "Crime Insured."
And just as The Shadow has his sanctum, The Cobra has his own lair. It's a
stone-walled underground room with a low ceiling. A cobwebbed den at the bottom
of a stone stairway. And in the corner is a basket containing his pet, a live
Since much of this story takes place in the darkened criminal underworld, we get
to see several of the gangster hangouts. The Black Ship, mentioned in several
dozen of The Shadow novels, appears here. And the Blue Crow is a new hangout
where only the most disreputable of rowdies meet. I don't recall the Blue Crow
ever appearing in any other Shadow novel.
Some of the other familiar trappings that appear in this story include The
Shadow's rubber suction cups, with which he climbs the outside of buildings. And
let's not forget that small vial of purplish liquid. The pungent elixir is
pulled from beneath his black cloak and administered to Cliff Marsland to help
revive him from his drugged state. It would seem that The Shadow was using one
drug to counteract the effects of another, here. And both, probably, quite
illegal. At least, that would be my guess.
The Shadow appears in only one disguise in this story. He enters the Blue Crow
in the guise of a sweater-clad dope addict. This dull-faced man has no name;
it's just one of The Shadow's many disguises. There's no sign of The Shadow's
oft-used Lamont Cranston disguise. So he doesn't get to show off his abilities
at disguise in this story. Just the one.
Yes, in case you haven't already figured it out, The Cobra turns out to be a
villain. A villain posing as a crime fighter. But he makes a pretty cool villain
with his "fangs" - his assistants - his underground lair, and his neat
cobra-like outfit. I liked this 1934 tale. It's most definitely worth your time.
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.