John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #8
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
London Crimes" was originally published in the September 15, 1935 issue of The Shadow Magazine.
The Shadow has traveled to England to assist his old friend Inspector Erik Delka
of Scotland Yard. He seeks a master criminal and expert at disguise known as The
The Harvester has been thwarting London police for months. He deals in
large-scale swindles and outright theft. He worms his way into a situation that
allows for huge profit, by using a variety of disguises. For example, the
distinguished and trusted Sir James Carliff cashed a bank draft for eight
thousand pounds - forty thousand dollars. But after he left the bank, it was
discovered that he was an impostor; The Harvester had struck.
Then there was a loan to be given Monsieur Pierre Garthou, the head of a French
mining syndicate. Immediately after the funds were transferred, a fraud was
suspected. But when Garthou was stopped by a representative of the banking
house, Garthou produced a revolver and riddled him with bullets. It wasn't
Garthou after all; it was The Harvester in disguise again.
The steamship Baroda was sunk. An explosion occurred on board, before the vessel
had passed the Scilly Islands. All on board were lost. The owner, Lemuel Brodder
appeared to collect his insurance. But... you guessed it. Once again, The
Harvester was appearing in disguise.
So The Shadow has come to London to unmask The Harvester. Harry Vincent, his
long-time agent, has also arrived in London to assist his master. With the
assistance of Vincent and a bit of help from The Yard itself, The Shadow tracks
down the suspects and eliminates them one-by-one. Until finally, there is the
ultimate showdown in the drawing room of an old country estate. All the suspects
are there. And one of them is The Harvester. Whew, what a story!
A few points of interest. At this time, the English pound was apparently worth
ten dollars. The Harvester is after half a million pounds in loot, which the
story tells us is close to five million dollars in American money. Wow, how
times have changed! Today, the English pound is worth about $1.42.
The Shadow isn't known for his gadgets. When you think of gadgets, you usually
think of Doc Savage. But The Shadow had a few of his own. This story features a
special roller for a typewriter. Inside the hollow roller is unique ribbon and
coil of paper that keeps a record of what has been typed upon that typewriter.
In this story, Harry Vincent replaces the roller on a suspect's typewriter with
this special roller of The Shadow's recent invention. Later he retrieves it, and
is able to read what the suspect has typed. I don't think I've seen this one
The Shadow's power over animals is again demonstrated in this story. Two fierce
watchdogs are guarding the gangsters' hideout. As The Shadow skulks closer, they
detect him and attack. He makes a hissing noise that stops them short. After a
few moments, they are sitting docile creatures, obeying his every command. Wow,
how does he do that?
The Shadow is also a master of languages. In various stories through the series,
The Shadow has demonstrated the ability to speak Chinese, Japanese, Arabic,
Afghan, French, German, Russian, Spanish Gypsy, and Esperanto. In this story, he
shows his ability to understand Hindustani. Pretty impressive...
All in all, this is one of the best of the series. It's a story that just keeps
getting better and better.
"Castle of Doom" was originally published in the January 15, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine.
Now we're talking! To me, this is what The Shadow is all about. Stealthily
stalking through the night, he uncovers strange plottings in an old English
castle. Secret passages, ghostly visitations, hidden treasure. Only The Shadow
can unravel the secrets of the Castle of Doom!
The Shadow travels to London, England. Tales of crime have crossed the seas to
Manhattan, where The Shadow hears of the swift, mysterious crime wave. The theft
of gold, jewels, jade, tapestries and much more. Valuables worth a million and a
half dollars. Along with the thefts, also murder; two and counting. So,
disguised as Lamont Cranston, The Shadow makes a prompt trip to the British
capital. Accompanying him is Harry Vincent his most trusted agent.
On a foggy London street, we meet Geoffrey Chiswold, owner of Chiswold Castle.
Owner until recently, that is. He has just sold the castle to Barton Modbury, a
wealthy diamond king from South Africa. And now young Geoffrey plans to travel
to Canada. But it is not to be.
Trailing Chiswold through the fog is Harry Vincent. But Harry loses track of
Geoffrey Chiswold when he accidentally picks up the wrong trail -- the trail of
Geoffrey's cousin just home from India, Nigel Chiswold. The two look enough
alike to be twins, so it's no surprise that Harry is fooled. Unfortunately, that
leaves Geoffrey Chiswold unprotected. And in the fog, awaits death. Yes,
Geoffrey Chiswold meets a swift and violent death, at the hands of mysterious
lurkers in the fog.
Inspector Eric Delka of Scotland Yard investigates the gristly murder. His good
friend Lamont Cranston is visiting, and accompanies him to the small town of
Yarwick, outside of which Chiswold Castle lies. The two are there to interview
those who knew Geoffrey Chiswold, to determine if his death was premeditated by
some unknown enemies, or if it was a misfortune of chance -- being in the wrong
place at the wrong time.
At Chiswold Castle they meet the new owner, Barton Modbury, and his weekend
guests. There is Sir Rodney Ralthorn, wealthy from the beet-sugar industry. His
beautiful young daughter, Gwendolyn Ralthorn, is also a guest at Chiswold
Castle. Lord Cedric Lorthing, a wealthy Londoner, is her fiancÚ. The last of the
guests is a Spaniard, Francisco Lodera, whose family held high rating during the
days of the Spanish monarchy. All of these guests knew the recently deceased
ex-owner Geoffrey Chiswold. All might help provide clues for Scotland Yard.
But one who they don't meet is Nigel Chiswold, the cousin of Geoffrey who has
recently returned from a five-year stay in India. Nigel secretly makes his way
to the castle along with his giant servant, the faithful Afghan, Amakar. Nigel
doesn't want his presence known, so sneaks into the castle using secret passages
that only he knows. He hides himself in a secret chamber known as the spy room,
located at the top of a spiral staircase in the abandoned turret of the castle.
And with this atmospheric setting, the strange tale gradually unwinds. Set
against a backdrop of a three-hundred-year-old castle sitting high on a cliff
overlooking the raging ocean on the rural English coast, The Shadow will have to
use all his abilities to determine who killed Geoffrey Chiswold, and why. It's
an amazingly intricate story that's a real joy to read.
This is The Shadow as he is meant to be read about. He is at his full power,
with stealth abilities bordering on invisibility. He spends nearly the entire
story in the background, skulking about in the dark of night. He appears only
occasionally in disguise; he prefers his black cloak and slouch hat. He only
rarely needs the assistance of his agent, Harry Vincent. And his mastery of
languages now includes the Afghan language, as well as so many others.
We see The Shadow with his portable make-up kit, that small flat box which he
uses to manipulate his wax-like features. He only appears briefly as Lamont
Cranston. And similarly makes brief appearances as a rustic farmer in one scene,
and as Professor Roderick Danglar, of Cambridge, in two others. No one sees any
similarity between the three characters, so effective is his skill at disguise.
But it's as his black-garbed true self that he spends most of his time, here. As
he slides across the wide green lawns at midnight, he appears as a flickering
shadow cast by the fringe of trees surrounding the estate. When he climbs the
outside castle walls, using the heavy ivy vines to noiselessly ascend, no one
It's interesting to note that when this story was written, author Walter Gibson
indicated that the stolen valuables were worth three hundred thousand pounds in
English currency, or a million and a half dollars in American currency. The
exchange rate, for those of you unwilling to do the math, was five dollars for
each pound. That's changed over the years. At the time this review is being
written (2005), the current exchange rate is $1.82 for each pound. How times
This is one Shadow pulp mystery that I can recommend unconditionally. Mystery
and intrigue abound in this atmospheric adventure. Set among ancient underground
passages, hidden rooms, secret chambers, spiral staircases, spy rooms and
mysterious vaults filled with flapping bats, this story weaves a tale of strange
murder! It all makes for a story not to be missed!
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.