Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! The Shadow demonstrates that “crime does not pay” in two macabre mysteries by Walter B. Gibson writing as “Maxwell Grant.” First, discovery of the theft of “Treasures of Death” brings fatal consequences, but The Shadow knows that this is only the prelude to a greater supercrime! Then, the greatest crooks in the world pass through “The Yellow Door,” until the Man in Black teams with G-Man Vic Marquette to uncover the deadly secrets of the sinister portal! This instant collector’s item showcases both classic color pulp covers by George Rozen and the original interior illustrations by Tom Lovell with original commentary by popular culture historian Will Murray.
John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #89
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission
"Treasures of Death" was published in the December 15, 1933 issue of The Shadow Magazine. The treasures of the title are all of a literary nature. On his death-bed, Shattuck Barliss cries out that a crime has been committed. But only The Shadow knows that it is but the beginning of greater crime. Rare old books and ancient manuscripts worth over a million dollars have been from their owners. And these treasures lead to death. Death for their owners!
The Shadow mysteries from the early years of the magazine run have a reputation for being some of the best ever written. This story, Treasures of Death, definitely lives up to that reputation. Plenty of action and suspense. No boring lulls in the action. The Shadow fights, is severely injured and still fights on. I did notice a couple of loose ends when the story wrapped up, but those were minor. I didn’t notice any plot inconsistencies or loopholes. It was a lot of fun to read, and just seemed to zip by at a shade over 43,000 words.
As our story opens, young Terry Barliss has come to New York from California, summoned by an urgent telegram. His uncle, Shattuck Barliss, lies dying with not long to live. Old Shattuck tells his nephew of a secret panel in his study, behind which is a sturdy safe. Terry opens it and removes a rare old manuscript.
The manuscript is called ‘Les Rondeaux de Paris’. It contains five ballads written in 1455 by Francois Villon, the first and greatest of the French lyric poets. It is extremely rare because it contains the only copy of the elusive fifth ballad.
Terry places the manuscript into the feeble hands of his dying uncle. As Uncle Shattuck flips through the pages, explaining their meaning, he stops suddenly. Where the fifth ballad should be, is only blank pages. Some crafty, unknown hand has stolen the true Villon manuscript and replaced it with a worthless copy!
The shock of the discovery is too much for old Shattuck Barliss. He dies with the manuscript in his hands. Young Terry Barliss stands there stunned, left with a worthless inheritance. This is a job for The Shadow!
The Shadow learns of old Barliss’ death, and the reputed switch of the document, through his newspaper contact Clyde Burke. Burke is sent to cover the story of the lost manuscript and the ensuing death. He reports it to Burbank and before you can say “The Shadow Knows” the black-garbed avenger is on the case.
Before long, The Shadow has discovered other unknown thefts. Other wealthy men discover their highly-cherished valuables have been switched for worthless imitations, as well. Some master crook has arranged robberies by means of clever substitutions, hoping that his crimes would not be discovered until long after the work has been done. The pilfered books and manuscripts are worth at least a million dollars.
The Shadow discovers the single clue that connects all these crimes. That clue is an interior decorator named Compton Salwood. It seems that Salwood had recently done renovations on all the victim’s houses. It seems he was the only person in the position to discover the hiding places of the valuables, and make the switch. Yes, Compton Salwood must be the man!
Compton Salwood is only a small cog in a big wheel. Just one link in a much larger chain. And now that the link has been identified, it puts the entire chain at risk. Thus, it must be removed. And soon, Compton Salwood is found dead, a knife thrust through his heart.
With Compton Salwood out of the picture, how can The Shadow track down the mastermind behind the astounding series of thefts? How can he uncover the stolen treasure trove? And how can he bring the sinister hidden chief to justice? It won’t be easy, as any possible clues are eliminated before they can be of any use. But The Shadow can do it! And you’ll enjoy reading just how he does it, in this great early Shadow pulp novel.
The Shadow appears in several disguises in this story, including that of millionaire Lamont Cranston, and curio dealer Hawthorne Crayle. This is the second and final appearance of Hawthorne Crayle. He first appeared earlier that year in “The Shadow’s Shadow.” In that story it was suspected that he might be an agent of The Shadow. The question isn’t answered here, but we do see The Shadow impersonate him after sending him out of town.
Other familiar characters appearing in this pulp mystery are long-time aide Harry Vincent, Clyde Burke, contact men Burbank and Rutledge Mann, chauffeur Stanley and Doctor Rupert Sayre. Inspector Timothy Klein and Detective Joe Cardona appear on the behalf of the police, and Joe plays a crucial part at the climax.
Moe Shrevnitz hadn’t been introduced to the series yet, and would make his first appearance in the 11/1/34 story “The Chinese Disks.” So The Shadow must make do with any taxicab that happens to come along. He typically would just mysteriously appear in the back of a cab, and whisper a destination. Then before the cab had arrived, he would disappear from the back seat in equally mysterious fashion. A bank note, usually a ten-dollar bill, would flutter down to the front seat as payment. And thus it is in this story.
As we know, he eventually bought his own taxi and installed Moe Shrevnitz as permanent driver. I guess he got tired of being at the mercy of random cabs. And those fluttering ten-dollar bills...
In this story we get to make several visits to The Shadow’s mysterious sanctum. We even get to see inside his laboratory, that seldom-seen second room of the sanctum. There, The Shadow performs some chemical experiments to prove the death of Shattuck Barliss was not an accident.
One of my favorite things about Walter Gibson’s Shadow stories are the strange names he comes up with for his characters. This story is full of them: Lycurgus Mercher, Shattuck Barliss, Thibble, Eli Galban and Compton Salwood to name a few.
Another favorite thing about Gibson’s stories are the codes. His interest in various codes carried over into many Shadow stories. In this one, there is a code in stamps. Postage stamps. He finds a collector’s sheet of postage stamps, and finds a hidden message within their arrangement. Pretty clever!
Several other favorite things appear in this story: those rubber suction cups, the purplish liquid and the “devil’s whisper.” The Shadow climbs the sheer outside of a building, his hands and feet equipped with his famous rubber suction cups. He hovers outside the upstairs window, listening to the evil plans of the room’s occupants.
The Shadow is injured in this story. But where is that vial of purplish liquid which can revive him and give him added strength? He’s left it in the sanctum! So he has to drag his gunshot form over to Dr. Rupert Sayre’s apartment for emergency care. When he partially recovers several days later, he makes a beeline for the sanctum, and wafts from that small bottle. Ah... now that’s better! It gives him the strength for the climax of our story.
The reviving purplish liquid, by the way, is described as having a pungent odor. Maybe that explains how it could also be used as smelling salts in other stories. Smells bad, but is good for you.
And The Shadow uses the “devil’s whisper” in this story to save one of our protagonists from peril. Just as he’s about to be shot, The Shadow steps in and saves the day with a snap of his fingers. He’s smeared the two pastes upon his thumb and second finger of his right hand. When he snaps his fingers, there is an astoundingly loud report accompanied by a flash of blinding flame. Nasty stuff. And remember, it actually does exist! You can still occasionally find it for sale on eBay.
At the story’s end, the master criminal shoots at The Shadow, but misses. Our hero shoots back, and his aim is unerring. There’s something strangely satisfying in having the chief baddie meet his demise at the hands of the master of the night. In later stories in the series, I always felt a bit cheated when the head villain was only wounded by The Shadow, and then expired in a hail of bullets from the police. I guess in later years, it was more politically correct to have the criminal mastermind dispatched by the police. It gave it more of an air of legitimacy, I suppose. But not so in this early Shadow tale. To The Shadow goes the honor of ridding the world of a very, very bad man.
This is one of those Shadow stories that you should read. You won’t regret it.
"The Yellow Door" was originally published in the July 1, 1936 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Just what is the Yellow Door? Is it a real door? Or is it a hidden password? Or is it a secret society? The Shadow discovers that it is all three. And only The Shadow can defeat the sinister organization reaping millions in illegal wealth.
James Dynoth has returned to the safety of his home, but he is scared. He’s a member of The Yellow Door and is being tracked by The Shadow. Dynoth has finished a job for The Yellow Door. He has murdered Peter Gildare, a radio equipment tycoon in Chicago. But now he is confronted by The Shadow. He’s terrified by The Shadow, but even more terrified by The Yellow Door. Fearful lest he betray the secret of The Yellow Door, he commits suicide by biting down on a capsule of poison. He chooses death, rather than face The Shadow.
As James Dynoth lies dying, The Shadow wrests vital information from him, by sheer force of will. Dynoth claims he doesn’t know the full truth about The Yellow Door, but there is one man in Chicago who does. Dynoth’s final words reveal that the man is Ferris Krode. What does Krode know about The Yellow Door? What is so terrible that a man like Dynoth would rather commit suicide than tell all? The Shadow intends to track down Ferris Krode to find out.
But the strange group of men known as The Yellow Door hasn’t been idle. They are not about to let James Dynoth talk to The Shadow. James Dynoth must die. The organization has planned death for James Dynoth. Triple death! They have provided him with the poison suicide pill. But they have also sent a car-full of gangsters with machine guns to ensure his death. The Shadow twists out of the way just in time, as Dynoth’s body is riddled with bullets from the car outside.
And to make absolutely sure that Dynoth won’t talk, the gang has also planted a huge time bomb in Dynoth’s cellar. As The Shadow frantically tries to avoid the hail of bullets raining in from outside, dynamite shatters the floors, walls and roof. The house collapses into a pit of smoke and flame. Yessir, whatever James Dynoth knew, the gang wanted to make sure he took it to his grave.
The Shadow survives the tremendous blast because of his steel-like grip on the window frame of the top-floor room. The frame provided enough structure as it loosened from the shattered wall. In the explosion, the frame is thrown outward, The Shadow with it. The Shadow lies on the ground outside, injured but safe. After brief unconsciousness, he slowly drags himself away from the ruins.
Seems to me that this would be the opportune time for The Shadow to pull out that small phial of purplish liquid which has amazing restorative powers. He’d used it many times before, but no. Either he was saving it for a more vital need, or had forgotten it back at the sanctum.
So, we’re told that The Shadow is temporarily out of combat. He’s suffered severe wrenches and sprains in his fall from the dynamited house. So while he takes it easy, he sends long-time agent Harry Vincent to Chicago to track down Ferris Krode. And Harry becomes our proxy hero for the story, as The Shadow takes a back seat due to his injuries.
The Shadow, as written by author Walter Gibson, didn’t often suffer injuries. Certainly not as often as in the stories written by alternate author Theodore Tinsley. Tinsley’s slightly different version of The Shadow was routinely shot, bludgeoned, knifed, thrown off of trains, and otherwise run through the proverbial wringer. Occasionally Gibson’s Shadow would get injured, as in this story, but it was with much less frequency that with Tinsley’s Shadow.
Getting involved with The Yellow Door gang is government man Vic Marquette, who The Shadow first met in “The Shadow Laughs” in 1931. By the time of this story, Vic Marquette was becoming a semi-regular; he had appeared in over a dozen Shadow pulp novels. In all the stories, Vic works for the government, although he seems to be assigned to different organizations in different stories. Sometimes he’s with the FBI. Sometimes the Secret Service. In this one, he’s heading a group of operatives for the Department of Justice.
Vic Marquette is also on the trail of Ferris Krode. He knows that Krode is involved in some racket that seeks to blackmail men of power and wealth. What he’s about to discover is that Krode is just the tip of the iceberg. Ferris Krode is just one of many involved in the secret group known as The Yellow Door. This organization, run by some master mind of unknown identity, seeks to manipulate corporations in order to reap a fabulous fortune. And Krode is just one cog in the great wheel.
Working together, Vic Marquette and agents of The Shadow headed by Harry Vincent, fight to defeat the power of The Yellow Door. And just when all looks hopeless, in steps that master of the night, The Shadow! Because only The Shadow can uncover the Citadel, the secret headquarters of The Yellow Door. Only The Shadow can make his way unseen inside the Citadel, to disable their defenses and allow the army of government agents to storm the stronghold. And only The Shadow can rip the mask of anonymity from the leader of The Yellow Door.
In addition to Harry Vincent, the other agents for The Shadow who appear are hackie Moe Shrevnitz, erstwhile spotter Hawkeye, sharpshooter Cliff Marsland, gigantic Jericho Druke, and contact man Burbank.
And this time, Burbank gets to leave his cramped little room with the switchboard. Yes, he gets out and gets some action. He gets to deliver a suitcase on a train, then heads to an old house on the Hudson. There, he meets with Vic Marquette and assists The Shadow in triangulating a hidden radio signal from Harry Vincent.
In these early stories, Burbank’s facial features were never described. He was always a dimly lit figure with his face in shadow. Of all the agents, Burbank’s face was the only one that was never fully described. In this story, we are told that:
“In the room that Marquette had entered, a lone man was seated at a table in the corner. There was a vacant chair beside him. Marquette sat down; but his position did not enable him to glimpse the man’s face. He guessed, however, that this was Burbank.”
Assisting the forces of the law, in addition to government agent Marquette, were Acting Inspector Joe Cardona and New York Police Commissioner Ralph Weston. As was so often the case in these novels, Commissioner Weston mucks things up a bit in his efforts to solve crimes. This became something of a running theme in the stories, even admitted openly by author Walter Gibson, as he writes:
“Once more, trouble was due because The Shadow had placed reliance in the police commissioner.”
The Shadow appears in disguise as Lamont Cranston, multimillionaire resident of New Jersey, member of New York’s exclusive Cobalt Club and friend of Commissioner Weston. He doesn’t don other disguises in this story, but he does, of course, appear in his famous outfit of black cloak and slouch hat.
In an interesting reference, this story gives us a hint as to an earlier adventure of The Shadow. It involves The Shadow’s amazing abilities at disguise and one of his international adventures:
“Once, in London, Harry had worked with The Shadow and had seen his chief handle a double role. The Shadow had twice interviewed one man, but in different characters, thanks to his mastery of disguise.”
As Lamont Cranston, The Shadow helps the police solve a strange code being used by The Yellow Door gang. Walter Gibson was fond of codes, and often wrote strange ones into his Shadow novels. The code in this story involves the use of a typewriter and caps that fit on the typewriter keys. His assistance in solving the code inspires one character to comment:
“Mr. Cranston should become a professional criminologist,” he stated. “As a crime hunter, he ranks with the rest of you, commissioner.”
And, of course, in later years Lamont Cranston was described as just that: a criminologist. In the later stories, his description as wealthy world traveler was downplayed and dropped completely. He became known as Lamont Cranston, criminologist. So the above comment was a bit prophetic, although it seems Walter Gibson had no such intents at the time.
The Shadow had a rehabilitation colony where criminals could be set on the straight path of lawfulness. Something vaguely like Doc Savage’s upstate New York institution. The Shadow’s colony was actually a small chain of islands, administrated by his good friend Slade Farrow. This rehab center wasn’t mentioned often, and when it was mentioned, it was usually very vague. This story makes vague reference to it, in this way:
“Big-shots and their henchmen had disappeared in wholesale fashion. The underworld had never learned where they had gone. Rumor had it that The Shadow was shipping them to parts unknown. That rumor was scarcely credited, for it seemed too fabulous. Nevertheless, it was correct.”
The Shadow’s island rehabilitation center was first fully described in the next issue, on the news stands two weeks after this story. In the July 15, 1936 story entitled “The Broken Napoleons,” we get more information on the island colony. So readers of “The Yellow Door” must have puzzled over the above paragraph.
The explanation lies in the fact that Street & Smith publishers printed the stories out of order. Author Walter Gibson actually wrote this story after The Broken Napoleons. The Broken Napoleons was submitted to the publishers on October 11, 1935. The Yellow Door was finished on November 15, 1935. So the paragraph quoted above made sense at the time. It was the publisher’s decision to print the “origin” story after this one, so the reference to the rehabilitation center was probably lost on most readers.
The strange island rehab center was only referred to five times that I can find: “The Yellow Door” (7/1/36), “The Broken Napoleons” (7/15/36), “Intimidation, Inc.” (12/15/36), “The Sealed Box” (12/1/37) and “The Devil’s Paymaster” (11/15/40). The latter was written by Theodore Tinsley, and he probably picked up the idea from reading samples of Gibson’s earlier works, and didn’t realize the idea had subsequently been dropped.
One other point of interest, is the appearance of The Shadow’s autogiro in this story. It’s not described fully, so I can’t tell if this is the first version of the autogiro that had wings, or the later version that was “wingless.” But it’s always good to see it used, just because it’s so cool.
And just what is behind The Yellow Door? Members who are privileged to pass through this strange yellow door set in a purple room, will encounter “golden walls that hear” and “jeweled panels whose gems are seeing eyes.” And power... Power lies behind The Yellow Door. If you want to know more, you’ll just have to read the story for yourself! You won’t regret it.
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.