John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #11
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"Road of Crime" was originally published in the October 1, 1933 issue of The Shadow Magazine.
Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been "Road From Crime" because this
is a story of one man's journey from the evil clutches of crime to the freedom
of honest, clean living. And it's all due to... you guessed it... the love of a
good woman. And, of course, the just actions of The Shadow.
I love that title, though. It's reminiscent of "The Weed of Crime." I can almost
hear the filtered voice of the Shadow coming over the radio on a Sunday evening
announcing "The road of crime leads to death. The Shadow knows! Heh... heh...
This isn't the radio show, however. This is the early 1933 pulp version of The
Shadow. It's The Shadow who lurks in the background and doesn't play a large
part in the actual story. The Shadow's part, though not large, is vital. And
when he does show up, he dispenses justice with his huge automatics. And the
dead bodies quickly begin to fall.
As our story opens, we meet our proxy hero Graham Wellerton. He's certainly no
hero when our story begins, though. When we meet Wellerton, he's one of
Manhattan's top bank robbers and mob lieutenant for King Furzman. And he's just
successfully knocked off the Terminal National Bank for thousands of dollars.
But he's not overly pleased with his success. Already the stirrings of a guilty
conscience are beginning to make themselves evident.
The Shadow is involved from the very beginning. He has followed another of King
Furzman's lieutenants, a cunning but crude fellow by the name of "Wolf" Daggert,
from the scene of a failed bank holdup which Daggert had attempted. He tracked
Daggert to the mob moss King Furzman. And while surreptitiously watching Furzman,
he encountered Graham Wellerton.
After our handsome young bank robber Graham Wellerton leaves the apartments of
King Furzman, a blazing gun battle erupts between Furzman and The Shadow. The
mob boss goes down in a blaze of bullets. With the kingpin out of the way, The
Shadow's job is to mop up the rest of the gang. Specifically, that means Wolf
Daggert and Graham Wellerton.
Graham Wellerton, along with his gang, is heading out of Manhattan for Michigan
where he plans a string of bank robberies in the mid-west. Wolf Daggert follows
and takes over the gang, leaving Wellerton stranded several hundred miles short
of Michigan. And that's where young Wellerton's gradual conversion from crime
We are given a little back-story on how Graham Wellerton started down the road
of crime. It seems he was the son of a wealthy business owner in Southwark, a
prosperous mid-west city. But he got into a jam and woke up to find himself
married to a cheap, painted gangster's moll named Carma Urstead. He needed dough
to hush things up. He ran with bad company, and it wasn't long before the lure
of easy cash led him to crime. Shortly thereafter, his wealthy father died, and
his skinflint uncle, Ezra Talboy, fleeced his father's estate of all its money.
So here we have a young man who has lost his fortune, his own uncle being the
cause of the loss. He's penniless, working as a bank robber for mob boss King
Furzman. And he's been tricked into marriage with the cold, heartless Carma. She
only shows up every few months to squeeze money out of him. And now he finds
himself stranded in the mid-west without a mob. Stranded in Southwark, of all
places. Southwark, where he grew up. Southwark, where his miserly Uncle Ezra
still lives. Southwark, to where he swore he'd never return.
And that's where his life begins to turn around. That's where he meets Ralph
Delkin, a big manufacturer in the town of Southwark, and his beautiful young
daughter Eunice. Delkin was Graham Wellerton's father's friend, and gives him a
place to stay. It's Delkin's friendship and Wellerton's growing attraction to
Eunice that begin his gradual trip back from crime to honest citizenship.
The tale is unlike most of Walter Gibson's Shadow pulp mysteries. It's very
reminiscent of the Horatio Alger stories. But instead of following a young
street urchin as he grows to become wealthy through sheer pluck, we follow a
young man forced into crime as he gradually climbs his way up to respectability.
And, yes, wealth.
As was typical in these very early Shadow stories, The Shadow plays only a minor
role. He remains in the background, stepping in at crucial moments to help shape
the destiny of this one young man. It's only through the love of a good woman
and the timely intervention of The Shadow that Graham Wellerton climbs up from
the low road of crime. That, and a few well-placed plot devices and coincidences
which eventually lead him to a life free from crime, wealthy, and with the woman
We not only see very little of The Shadow, himself, but we are nearly half-way
through the story before any of The Shadow's agents show up. Rutledge Mann
appears to compile newspaper clippings and reports from other agents. And he
makes a trip to that abandoned "B Jonas" office on Twenty-third Street, to
deliver the envelope into the mail slot there. A minor point to note: the office
is referred to only as "Jonas" not "B Jonas" this time around.
Burbank, The Shadow's other contact man, appears in only one scene, to pass
along some verbal reports from several agents. Harry Vincent is sent to
Southwark, to keep an eye on things while The Shadow travels between Manhattan
and Southwark and back on various errands. Clyde Burke stays in New York and is
assigned the duty of keeping an eye on Carma Urstead. Cliff Marsland continues
to lurk in Manhattan's underworld, watching for signs of Wolf Daggert's hideout.
Although these agents' duties are described for us, only Harry Vincent actually
appears. And he only gets one short line of dialogue.
Many of the standard locales of The Shadow pulp adventures are already in place,
even though this was only the thirty-ninth of the three-hundred-twenty-five pulp
novels. Red Mike's place, an infamous underworld dive, is mentioned. There are
several visits to his hidden sanctum. The Shadow uses his rubber suction cups to
climb to the outside of a fourth-floor apartment window along a vertical wall.
And he flies his special monoplane from New York to Grand Rapids and back.
While in his sanctum, The Shadow's long white hands are described, and on the
third finger of his left hand is the famous girasol ring. It's described as "a
priceless girasol, a rare jewel unmatched in all the world." Of course, we know
from later events that the claim is actually false. It is matched by its twin,
the other eye of a Xincan idol. (The story of the two girasols was told by
Walter Gibson himself, in 1977 at Orlandocon in Florida.)
It has been said that in the stories written by Walter Gibson, women never die.
But in this one, Carma Urstead is shot and killed at the story's climax. That's
extremely rare. In fact, I can't remember any other Gibson-authored story where
that happens. (But one or two Tinsley-authored stories had molls die.) I can see
where Carma's death was necessary for the plot, in order to free young Graham
Wellerton to marry our heroine Eunice Delkin. It wasn't The Shadow that killed
her; it was the local sheriff. So I think we should rephrase the original
statement slightly: in the stories written by Walter Gibson, "innocent" women
One last comment is about The Shadow's archives. They are referred to
occasionally in the early years, but disappeared and were never mentioned in the
later stories. This story makes reference to those secret archives. Those are
the large books in which The Shadow's handwritten exploits were recorded at the
end of each adventure.
As this story puts it, "those massive tomes which, like The Shadow's identity
itself, would never be discovered!" Well...never say never. Because the early
pulp magazines claimed that Maxwell Grant had been given access to those
records, in order to write the stories. (Maxwell Grant, of course, was a
fictional person -- the house name given by Street & Smith to the author of The
Shadow tales.) So the massive tomes were discovered.
And, as it turned out, The Shadow's identity would be discovered, too. Readers
discovered his identity in the 1937 story "The Shadow Unmasks." And several
story characters discovered (or were told) The Shadow's identity during the
nineteen-year run of the pulp magazine. So the original statement wasn't
accurate. But, it sounded good at the time.
This is one of the more unique Shadow pulp stories. It's a tale of redemption;
one man's fight to pull himself from the quicksand of crime. Young Graham
Wellerton, bank robber and gentleman crook, has been forced down the road of
crime by an evil woman. We watch as he struggles with his conscience and finally
regains the path of right and lawfulness.
It reads very unlike most of the other Shadow stories. But I really liked it. A
nice change of pace that I can recommend.
"Crooks Go Straight" was originally published in the March 1, 1935 issue of The Shadow Magazine. How
many crooks go straight? Two crooks, to be exact. This story follows the
reformed lives of two ex-crooks, Steve Zurk and Jack Targon. Steve Zurk was in
the pen for a bank robbery. Jack Targon was a convicted swindler. But both have
recently been pardoned by the governor, and are now free men.
Aboard the Eastern Limited, headed for New York, Zurk and Targon sit in their
drawing room on the train. They discuss their past lives and their bright
future. Both are determined to go straight and make a success of their lives. In
the compartment next door, The Shadow listens to their conversation via a small
wire. Although his usual task was to harry men of crime, The Shadow had more
than once aided ex-crooks to go straight. And this was one of those times.
Both Zurk and Targon have been invited to visit wealthy philanthropist Perry
Delhugh. Delhugh has promised to find them jobs, if they promise to report to
him several times a week. It's an offer they plan to accept. And one of which
The Shadow approves.
They arrive at the mansion of wealthy Perry Delhugh. He gives each a loan of one
thousand dollars. To Steve Zurk, a man who shows business sense, he arranges
credit at the Sourlain Hotel. Also a personal letter of recommendation to Joseph
Daylin, head of the Daylin Importing Company. A job is awaiting Zurk there, with
the potential for advancement.
To Jack Targon, a man of proven sales ability, he arranges living quarters at
the Hotel Cliquot. And a business recommendation to Galen Flix, president of the
New Century Advertising Agency. Targon will be able to use his abilities as an
And so, two ex-convicts begin their new lives. Crooks have gone straight. Or
have they? There are sudden murders. Robberies. And signs point to one of the
two. Or perhaps, both! Only The Shadow can solve the mystery. Only The Shadow
can uncover the true mastermind behind the scheme. Only The Shadow can clear the
innocent and unmask the guilty.
This story features Cliff Marsland, Hawkeye and Harry Vincent in major roles,
with Clyde Burke and Burbank taking minor ones. Police Commissioner Ralph Weston
and Detective Joe Cardona appear to represent the law. And The Shadow appears in
his disguise as Lamont Cranston.
Moe Shrevnitz appears briefly, and is described as a reserve agent of The
Shadow. I always considered Moe to be a full-time agent, but keep in mind that
his was an early tale of The Shadow. Moe had been introduced only four months
earlier in "The Chinese Disks" and apparently hadn't yet been awarded full-time
status among the agents of The Shadow.
The story features that strange vial (spelled phial, here) of purplish liquid
which restores The Shadow's strength after being injured in a two-story fall.
It's been used in other stories, and always intrigues me because of its vague
power. We're never told exactly what it is, but its effect is immediate. Are we
talking about some illicit narcotic, here? Somehow, I wouldn't be surprised.
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.