John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #15
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with
"The Shadow Unmasks"
was published in the August 1, 1937 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Yes, this is
the famous story that tells the true identity of The Shadow. The Shadow was not,
as the radio version would have it, Lamont Cranston. There was a real Lamont
Cranston, millionaire and world-traveler, and The Shadow would often disguise
himself to appear as Cranston when the real person was out of the country. But
until this story was published, the pulp reading audience didn't know the true
identity of The Shadow. And now it is told.
For months, the police have been looking for Shark Meglo, the murderer behind
the most serious wave of jewel robberies that has ever startled New York. Even
The Shadow hasn't been able to track him down. But The Shadow has figured out
the clever scheme behind the robberies. The same jewels are being sold and then
stolen, over and over again. The reason for the murders of the jewelry owners is
to keep the secret.
There's a mastermind behind Shark Meglo, of this The Shadow is quite sure. Some
jewel merchant of high repute is behind the whole racket. The hidden big-shot
sells a collection of high-priced gems to dupes who are sworn to secrecy. They
readily agree, as they don't want their purchases publicized, making them a
target for robbery.
The master then crook tips off Shark Meglo, who breaks in and steals the
collection of jewels. And murders the only person who could identify the jeweler
behind it all. This nets the gang over two-hundred-thousand dollars each time.
And, since the jewels are back in their custody again, the gems can be slightly
reset to avoid recognition and the whole scheme can be repeated.
The secret identity of the high class jeweler may be unknown to The Shadow and
the police, but we, the readers, are in on the secret from the beginning. The
mastermind is Madden Henshew, an international jewel broker. We see him complete
yet another transaction with the innocent Hugo Silsam, the copper king. But this
time The Shadow is in on it.
The Shadow has intercepted a message from Henshew to Shark Meglo, and knows that
Silsam is the next victim. He shows up and battles Melgo's gang. Although he
saves Silsam's life, the unfortunate victim has a heart attack and dies. And
Shark Meglo makes off with the jewels yet once again. He surreptitiously passes
them to Henshew, paving the way for another future crime.
Just when he's getting close, The Shadow must lay low. Due to unfortunate
circumstances, his disguise as Lamont Cranston is rendered useless. The real
Lamont Cranston, in leaving England for the Orient, is involved in a plane
crash. Although not severely injured, his picture nonetheless is prominently
displayed in the newspaper.
As chance would have it, The Shadow in his guise as Lamont Cranston, is standing
outside the Cobalt Club talking with Police Commissioner Ralph Weston when they
both pick up the paper and see the crash article with the real Cranston's
photograph. The Shadow makes a hasty departure, leaving a confused Weston. The
Shadow must do some quick cover-up work to explain how Lamont Cranston could be
in two places at once. (You'll have to read the story to see how he does it.)
The Shadow also decides it's time to bring his true identity to light. He
subjugated his true identity twelve years previously, and decides the time to
return is now right. His true identity is that of world-famous aviator Kent
Allard. To the world at large, Kent Allard was lost somewhere in Central America
twelve years ago on a flight to South America. Of course, in reality, he's been
in New York during that time, fighting crime as The Shadow.
Kent Allard returns to New York amid much fanfare. A lost pilot has returned
after twelve years stranded in the jungles of Guatemala. He has been living with
a tribe of Xinca Indians, and brings back two Xincas as his servants. He's
welcomed back with a ticker-tape parade up Broadway. He meets the police
commissioner and is introduced to the Cobalt Club. Thus he gains access to the
same people that Cranston has known.
And now, he's ready to rejoin the battle against Shark Meglo and the unknown
mastermind behind the jewel robberies and murders. But it will be quite a
battle. There are sinister undercurrents of which no one is aware. It will take
all the cunning of The Shadow to uncover the full extent of the crimes involving
jewels, robbery and murder.
Assisting The Shadow is his contact man Burbank. Burbank plays an important role
while The Shadow is out of the country, preparing his return to America as Kent
Allard. Burbank must run the organization of agents and try to anticipate the
orders of his absent master. Also seen in this story are agents Harry Vincent,
cab-driver Moe Shrevnitz, reporter Clyde Burke, alleged-killer Cliff Marsland
and wizened trailer Hawkeye. Commissioner Ralph Weston and Inspector Joe Cardona
appear for the police.
In the pulp novels, there were only three people who knew that The Shadow was in
reality Kent Allard. Good friend Slade Farrow was one. The other two were the
Xinca servants brought back from Guatemala. No one else knows. (I prefer to
ignore the 1946 tale "Crime Over Casco" where The Shadow casually reveals his
true identity to three others, for no reason whatsoever. I prefer to think of
that as one of Gibbon's biggest mistakes, and it doesn't count.)
In a wonderful scene, The Shadow sits down with Slade Farrow and reveals his
true identity. He discusses his past history as a World War I flying ace known
as the Dark Eagle. He tells about his prison camp escapes, his disguises, his
black garb and the end of the war. He goes on to describe his feeling about the
rampant crime when he returned to America. His intentional landing in Guatemala
is covered and how he used the cover of being lost to come back to New York as
The history of his girasol ring is also described. In a 1932 Shadow pulp
magazine story, "The Romanoff Jewels," Walter Gibson told us the origin of The
Shadow's fabulous ring was from the Russian Romanoff collection. In this 1937
tale, that origin is ignored and we are told that the color-changing fire opal
was the great "eye-stone" of the Xinca Indians, given to Allard, their "sky
god." An apparent contradiction.
In 1977, Walter Gibson appeared in Florida at the Orlandocon, and in an
interview explained this apparent contradiction. There were two stones, both
originally the eyes of the Xincan idol. They were separated and one fell into
the hands of the Romanoff’s. As the fates would have it, both eventually ended
up in the hands of The Shadow. And now we know.
A few other notes about this Shadow story. Harry Vincent has long connected The
Shadow with Lamont Cranston, and has even occasionally suspected that the two
were the same person. But in this story, it's all explained to him, and he
finally understands that The Shadow is someone else. He doesn't know who, but he
knows that the mystery person he acknowledges as master will sometimes assume
the persona of the real-life Cranston.
The Shadow's ability to read lips is again mentioned in this story. Harry
Vincent is able to signal his master through a closed glass window by just
mouthing the words.
Another point of interest is that in this story Cliff Marsland uses a .45
caliber automatic. In most stories, only The Shadow carries the large and heavy
weapon. His agents carry smaller .38's or .32's. But for some reason, maybe
because his master is out of the country, Cliff is described as using a .45.
Moe Shrevnitz is the speediest hackie in Manhattan. In various stories, he has
been described as "driving like a Jehu." Although I never knew exactly what this
meant, I always took it to mean he drove quickly and somewhat recklessly. That
particular term is mentioned again in this story, which motivated me to finally
look it up. From my internet sources, I understand that it means "driving like a
madman." It's from the Bible: "The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi -
he drives like a madman." - 2 Kings 9:20.
This story is a little more racist than the usual Shadow novel. The Chinese are
not well-described in this story. They speak singsong English: "Me do washee;
you lookee." They are cunning torturers who grin "like an ape." And they are
referred to twice with a racial epithet that I won't repeat here. You cringe,
you understand that it was written in 1937, and you move on.
More than any other Shadow novel, this one gives you a clearer picture of the
history behind The Shadow. It's not an "origin" novel, but it does give some
insight into The Shadow's past.
"The Yellow Band" was published in the August 15, 1937 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Terrorizing
Miami, Florida is a band of criminals, and yellow is their signature. Murder is
their game. And The Shadow will be their nemesis.
Kent Allard, noted explorer, has stopped off in Florida on his way to Guatemala.
That's what the public believes. But in actuality, Kent Allard is The Shadow!
And he has come to Miami because of the recent crime wave. Death and robbery
have left the local law at a loss.
While in Miami, The Shadow visits the Spanish-type home of Howard Dorsan. Dorsan
is a retired millionaire who still dabbles in real estate. Since Dorsan has made
the news lately, The Shadow sees him as a potential victim and decides to keep
an eye on him. But he arrives too late.
When Allard enters Howard Dorsan's library, he finds the millionaire lying face
upward, dead with a knife thrust into his heart. Clutched in his right fist is a
yellow rubber band. A robbery has taken place. The desk still contained
securities and other valuable papers, but The Shadow divines that the murderer
took only selected papers: those marked with a yellow rubber band!
Yes, there's a band of criminals who are murdering and plundering. But they are
very select about the pelf they acquire. They have agents marking the valuable
booty with yellow. That way they know which to take and which to leave.
The Shadow is sure he knows the identity of the murderer and thief. Sleek, young
Craig Wylett is the one. But The Shadow can't prove it... yet! Wylett is engaged
to Howard Dorsan's daughter Ethel, and was the last man to see Dorsan alive. He
claims, of course, that Dorsan was alive. But The Shadow knows better!
It's not long before The Shadow has identified the three main members of the
Yellow Band. Craig Wylett, Rupert Gancy and James Zunick are those three. The
Shadow starts to trail the three, so that he can catch them in the act. To
assist him he calls in his agent Harry Vincent. He puts Harry to work following
James Zunick, while he keeps close watch on Rupert Gancy. He allows local law
enforcement keep and eye on Craig Wylett, since they are naturally suspicious of
Another wealthy Miami millionaire, Lyman Thexter, enlists the aid of Kent
Allard. He fears he will be next to be murdered and robbed. Allard suggests that
New York Detective Joe Cardona would be the one to keep Thexter safe. Allard
sends a message from Lamont Cranston to Joe Cardona asking for his assistance,
and Cardona comes down on the next train.
But the crimes haven't stopped. There are more murders to come. And swag worth
over a million dollars in the offing. It will take all the cunning that The
Shadow has to offer to stop the crime wave and defeat the wily Yellow Band.
It's interesting to note that The Shadow appears in this story as both his true
self Kent Allard, and as his oft-assumed disguise of Lamont Cranston. We are
told that it only takes a few minutes to mold the Cranston face over Allard's
face. It's not merely a disguise. He actually builds his face into a new one!
As usual, Kent Allard is accompanied by his two Xinca servants. In most stories
featuring Kent Allard, they are present but don't really do much. In this story,
however, they take a quite active role. They have adapted themselves to
civilization and are stalkers without equal. In this story, they help guard the
outside of the hotel where Harry and Zunick are both guests. No one can slip
away without their knowledge.
When Allard is accused of the crimes himself, and the law is about to take him
into custody, the two Xinca servitors help him escape by a clever illusion. When
one goes to help him on with his coat, he actually has the black cloak hidden
beneath, allowing Allard to change into The Shadow. The second servant helps him
on with his hat, but beneath it is the black slouch hat of The Shadow. While
they hold the coat and hat, Allard changes rapidly into The Shadow and sneaks
away. When one detective grabs at the coat, it falls to the ground; Kent Allard
has seemingly vanished into thin air! And all because of the assistance of the
two Xinca Indians.
And at the climax of the tale, the two Xincas once again assist in the capture
of Zunick. Their steel-like grip holds him tight, dragging him like a figure of
straw. We are told their faces are as cold as stone images. Yes, it's good to
see them get some action for a change, rather than just receive casual mention.
It's also interesting to note that Harry Vincent suspects some relationship
between Kent Allard and The Shadow. He knows, of course, that the guise of
Lamont Cranston is one that The Shadow uses frequently. But when instructed to
cooperate with Kent Allard, Vincent concluded that Allard is another agent of
The Shadow, like himself. Or, he figures, perhaps The Shadow sometimes takes
Allard's place, as with Cranston. He has no idea that Allard is The Shadow's
At story's end, Joe Cardona is convinced that Cranston is The Shadow. But what I
found surprising is that Walter Gibson tells us that, "What Cardona did not
know, was that The Shadow himself had tried to convey that impression." Yes, The
Shadow actually *wanted* Cardona to believe he was the Shadow. Apparently, all
in an effort to shield his true identity of Allard. Whew! That's the first time
I can remember The Shadow intentionally seeking to pin the Cranston identity
And one final note. As The Shadow sits in his Miami hotel room, he turns on a
blue light as he inscribes suspect's names on paper. Just like he always does in
his New York sanctum. But it made me wonder: just where did he get that blue
light? Does he carry a blue light with him when he travels, for just such
occasions? Or does he purchase one locally? Where would you get a blue light
bulb? A K-Mart blue light special? No, that wouldn't be for years to come... It
makes one wonder...
So there you have it. Another great early Shadow mystery, in which we get to see
both Kent Allard and Lamont Cranston.
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.