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Shadow Volume102 [Pulp Reprint] #5275
The Shadow Volume 102
 
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The Shadow
Volume 102

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! The Shadow crisscrosses the country battling thieving black marketeers in two wartime thrillers by Walter B. Gibson. First, The enigmatic "King of the Black Market" endangers the future of our nation at the time of its greatest peril. Then, coast-to-coast car hijackings sabotage the war effort until The Shadow shuts down the subversive "Crime Caravan." Bonus: an Orson Welles Shadow classic from the Golden Age of Radio! This instant collector's item showcases the classic color pulp covers by Modest Stein and the original interior illustrations by Paul Orban, with original commentary by popular culture historian Will Murray.


John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #102
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission

"King of the Black Market" was published in the October 1943 issue of The Shadow Magazine. This story reflects America during World War II. The industrial might of the United States was in full swing, but profiteers were out to reap millions on the black market. Only The Shadow could bring the King of the Black Market to his knees. This is the exciting story that recounts that adventure.
 
It's night time as our story opens. Night at the Pyrolac manufacturing plant. Pyrolac is a unique quick-drying, weatherproof lacquer; and as such it was a vital war industry. It was costly, but worth the price. Nothing else could match it.
 
Yet there has been a problem at the factory. Something has gone wrong with the secret formulation of Pyrolac. Entire shipments have turned bad; instead of lacquer, the opened cans revealed a gummy mess. It appears that recent shipments have been adulterated - injected with something that turns the valuable lacquer into worthless goo.
 
The F.B.I. is on the case, and Vic Marquette is the agent in charge. Main suspect in the sabotage is young Chet Conroy, the chemist in charge of the inspection department. Chet is one of the few people who knows the formula for Pyrolac. He's the only person who could be in the position to inject the sealed cans with some unknown agent to render it useless.
 
Although young Conroy proclaims his innocence, no one will believe him. No one but The Shadow! Yes, The Shadow is on the case, and he helps Chet Conroy make his escape in the middle of a pitched battle with a gang of black marketeers out to switch the entire shipment of good Pyrolac for worthless gunk.
 
Chet realizes his only chance is to find the guilty parties, so sets out to follow the crooks who were highjacking the Pyrolac and were replacing it with some messy substitute. Will he be able to track down the gang? Will he be able to prove his innocence? Will he be able to thwart the future schemes of the black market gang? Will he be able to unmask the hidden mastermind behind it all? Will he get the girl; clear his name, and reveal the King of the Black Market? Not alone, he won't. But with the aide of The Shadow and his agents, Chet Conroy will be able to save America's war effort!
 
The Shadow appears strong and powerful in this wartime story. He's grazed by a bullet, but shrugs it off. He engages cutthroats on the top of a boxcar during a wild train ride, and stages an amazing victory. He battles hoards of black marketeers at a rubber reprocessing plant. He takes an amazing motorcycle ride down a sheer hillside into the midst of a meeting of mobsters. Yes, when you're fighting for truth, justice and the American way, you've got to be tough!
 
The Shadow appears most often in his night-time garb of black cloak and slouch hat. But also makes several brief appearances disguised as Lamont Cranston. Assisting The Shadow are his agents Harry Vincent, who is undercover as private secretary to the president of a rubber factory, Cliff Marsland who gets a job as truck driver to watch the shipments, Hawkeye, Cliff's pint-sized side-kick, Jericho Druke, the giant fighter extrordinaire, Clyde Burke, reporter and currently extra gun-hand, and Miles Crofton, some-times pilot, but now filling in as a most capable fighter. Yes, the gang's all here. All except cabbie Moe Shrevnitz and relative newcomer Margo Lane. They aren't even mentioned.
 
There's lots going on in this story. There are hidden railroad tunnels with secret entrances, a junkyard where illicit evidence is hidden, trucks crashing through guardrails to plunge into deep ravines, a trip to The Shadow's hidden sanctum and an amazing climax inside an old arsenal where The Shadow sets of an immense explosion.
 
And yet, during all this, there's time for young Chet to meet beautiful young Joan Merrick. Yes, true love blooms even as Chet Conroy is on the run trying to track down the gang and prove his innocence. Yup, that's the American way!
 
One thing that stands out as unique in this story is that The Shadow uses an innocent person as a shield against the bullets of a gang of mobsters. Not only an innocent person, but a woman at that! I don't think The Shadow's ever done that in any other story. Of course, he knows that the gangsters won't shoot at her, because she's valuable to their future blackmail schemes. But still, using an innocent woman as a shield is quite un-Shadow-like!
 
Notice that this story was written over a year before it was actually published. When this story was submitted to Street & Smith in August of 1942, America's industrial war effort was still gearing up. It had only entered the war nine months previously. Of course by the time the story was actually published, the United States' involvement in WWII was nearly at the two-year mark.
 
America's war effort in peril. Vital war materials in jeopardy. And it takes The Shadow to save the day for democracy, in this fun war-time pulp story.


"Crime Caravan" was published in the April, 1944 issue of The Shadow Magazine. From coast to coast stretched a devilish net of crime waiting to snatch needed cars from vital war workers! It was a caravan of crime that was operating on a nation-wide scale. Car thefts, bank robberies, and murder were sweeping across America. And it would take The Shadow to stop them!
 
I had a tough time getting through this one. Not one of Walter Gibson's better Shadow stories. The story is a bit rambling and lacking in plot. What plot is there, I found rather confusing. But I have to admit the ending was fun and helped make up for the other weaknesses. The basic premise of driving a caravan of cars from coast to coast seemed unbelievable, since this was written during the war years when gasoline and tires were in strict rationing. I just kept telling myself, "it's fiction... it's fiction..." If I were to rank all 325 Shadow pulp stories from best to worst, this one would fall in the bottom hundred, somewhere. Not as low as Bruce Elliott's stories, of course. But still low.
 
Our story opens at a conference of car dealers. Because of a shortage of cars during the war, the dealers have formed the Cross-Country Delivery Association. Police Commissioner Ralph Weston is talking business with the association president Thomas P. Marldon and six of the other members. A nationwide crime-wave has struck, using the Cross-Country Delivery Association as its method of delivery.
 
Automobiles are needed badly on the west coast. They can't be shipped via rail because of war-time rationing. So the Cross-Country Delivery Association was formed by east-coast car dealers to buy up cars on the eastern seaboard and have them driven across the country to the west coast.
 
Cross-Country Delivery Association has hired drivers to drive a caravan of cars, a hundred or more, across country to deliver the cars to San Francisco. The cars are never driven more than thirty miles per hour, follow routes where traffic is light, and are inspected at designated places along the way. In this way, the badly needed vehicles can be easily and cheaply transfered cross country... or so this story claims. I still have my doubts.
 
Hoodlums have infiltrated the drivers, and are committing crimes enroute to their final destination. All along the caravan trail, bank robberies, truck hijackings, disappearances of payrolls have been occurring with alarming regularity. Yes, it's truly a caravan of crime stretching from coast to coast.
 
Into this setting, steps our proxy hero, Rod Ballard. Ballard gets a job driving a car across country with the Cross-Country Delivery Association. It's not explained why young Ballard isn't serving in our armed forces during the current World War, because he certainly seems plucky enough. And healthy enough to battle gangsters and other minions of evil along the way. Ballard is joined by Harry Vincent, agent for The Shadow.
 
Together, Ballard and Vincent join the caravan of crime, and set out to thwart the evil plans along the way. They are also gathering evidence which The Shadow needs to crack the crime ring and discover the secret identity of its leader. It all leads to a rousing climax in Pass City, near the junction of the four states Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. A climax in which The Shadow wipes out not one, but two gangs of thugs!
 
Appearing in this story are Harry Vincent, Burbank and Shrevvy. Vincent plays the main part, while Burbank and Shrevvy play minor roles. Shrevvy is only referred to by his nickname, never as Moe Shrevnitz. This became more prevalent in the mid to late 1940's, unfortunately.
 
Poor Harry gets knocked about in this pulp tale, as he does in so many of The Shadow's adventures. "Sagging under the blows... Harry felt his senses reel." Pulps heroes of the thirties and forties were always getting into fights, being beat up, and knocked out. Yet they never seemed to suffer from traumatic brain injury. They must have been made from pretty tough stuff. Indeed, they earned the name "the greatest generation."
 
Ralph Weston is the only representative of the law. There is no mention of Joe Cardona. Since these are a multi-state crimes, the FBI is mentioned more than once. But, surprisingly, Vic Marquette isn't brought into the story. The Shadow appears in disguise as Lamont Cranston and, of course, in his usual garb of black.
 
This story was supposedly written by Walter Gibson but there are many slight indications that perhaps someone else wrote it, and Gibson cleaned it up. Some of the phrasing just isn't Gibson's style. But regardless of the true author, many of the usual Shadow items are present.
 
The special blue ink used by The Shadow appears. And the special code used between The Shadow and his agents. As expected, the writing disappears as it hits the air, obliterating itself as an agent reads it.
 
Reference is made to the special keys owned by The Shadow and given to Harry Vincent. Harry has been taught how to use them by The Shadow. A person needs to be taught how to use keys? I thought they were pretty simple to use... insert and twist. Am I missing something here?
 
Something I hadn't seen used before was a special high-pitched horn on Shrevvy's cab. We are told that Harry wears a special ear-plug that enables him to hear the peculiar pitch of Shrevvy's special horn. In this way, Shrevvy can act as lookout and warn Harry of advancing thugs. Whether this special ear-plug is just an amplifier or something more unique is left unknown. It does sound like something that The Shadow invented, though. While The Shadow as less well-known for his gadgets than Doc Savage, he did rack up a respectable number of inventions, and this was undoubtedly one of them.
 
I can't say I really enjoyed reading this story. I kept having a nagging feeling that Walter Gibson didn't actually write it. But records show he received the paycheck for it, so I suppose he did. But this isn't one of his best. Not even an average effort, unfortunately. I still would recommend that you read it, but don't go into it with high expectations.

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.


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