Greetings from The Raven!

Aug. 19, 2018

The Spider: The Doom Legion by Will Murray

In this new adventure of The Spider, Richard Wentworth is joined by two other long-running pulp heroes.

First is Jimmy Christopher, otherwise known as Operator 5 of the US Intelligence agency. He has a trademark flexible rapier in his belt and a skull ring with a deadly poison. He needs this should he be captured and there is no other way out. The Operator 5 magazine ran for 48 issues between 1934 and 1939.

The second hero joining the Spider is America’s Flying Spy, the mysterious G-8. A pilot, Spy, master of disguise and more; G-8 faced many foes during a magazine run of 100 issues from 1933 to 1944. He was a deadly force during WWI, fighting strange sky-battles against foes like Herr Doktor Kruger of the Kaiser’s war machine.

The Spider magazine ran for 118 issues from 1933 to 1943. The Spider was incredibly violent, preferring to kill his foes and mark their heads with a blood-red spider. He is aided by girlfriend Nita van Slone, gigantic Sikh Ram Singh, and Wentworth's chauffeur Raymond Jackson. Professor Brownlee makes some of the Spider’s equipment, and Harold Jenkyns the butler presides over the Wentworth Mansion.

As Richard Wentworth, the Spider is a close friend of Police Commissioner Stanley Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick is positive that Wentworth is the Spider, officially wanted for many murders. Should he ever be able to prove it, he will send Wentworth to the electric chair.

In this novel, a green-glowing meteorite slams into Central Park on Halloween.  Anyone who gets too close to the space stone falls victim to a horrible fate. They become mindless zombies. Even worse, they have glowing green eyes that emit rays that cause fires wherever they happen to gaze. People are going up like human torches as the radiation zombies fill the streets. The only way to stop the zombies is to kill them. The body count grows and grows.

Two foes of our intrepid three are using the meteorite as a deadly weapon. One is the almost seven-foot-tall German madman known as Stahlmaske, or Steel Mask in English. He is an old foe of G-8 and nothing would please him more than eliminating the flying spy. The other fought the Spider as the Dictator and is equally ready to destroy the Master of Men. Gaining control of the glowing stone is their plan, total mayhem is their game.

Operator 5 still regards the Spider as an outlaw, despite his recent pardon by the President. He makes it very clear that he doesn’t want Wentworth anywhere around the crime scenes either. G-8 is a military asset, allowed to investigate only if supervised by Operator 5. This makes for problems with the three men working together…

I think that part of the charm of this novel is that dissension in the ranks of our heroes. In the end, all three will have to fight to the end of their strength to battle an enemy that can create weapons from anyone…

The novel is action-packed from start to finish. If I had one issue with the story, it would be that having three heroes makes it hard for all of them to really shine. There are a lot of chapters where one or the other of them is temporarily out of action. The remaining two manage to team-up with startling results.

At the end of it all, this story is a true winner! I give it five stars plus!

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 18, 2018

Intermittent Blasting: The Simple Truth behind Consistently Losing Weight and Keeping It Off… for Good! by William King

I agreed to review this book at the request of the author, who kindly supplied me with a copy. I took this book because I have a weight problem myself, and have tried many things to lose weight. What could possibly be wrong with trying something new, right?

I am not a nutritionist, so I cannot speak for the nutritional value of Mr. King’s suggested methods. There is a foreword written by Doctor Maurice Werness, who explains the way the body reacts to the reduction of calorie intake. To be honest, I found the foreword to be more enlightening than the entire rest of the book.

It could be that I somehow missed the entire point of Mr. King’s methods, but it seems too good to be true. It reads more like the dream of someone who is trying to lose weight than as a “how to” book.

I am not saying that this method did not work well for Mr. King. I would have liked to see before and after photos. Visuals do far more to encourage others to lose weight than anything else. To have the comparison photos might very well be the catalyst required to gather disciples to follow this dietary plan.

It is not that the volume is written too much from a technical standpoint, it simply is not a miracle cure. I would say the same for any author hawking his or her own special weight loss plan. I am glad it worked for the author, yet it has nothing special to separate this method from any other.

I have dreams of losing a good deal of weight, and I hope it will work out. I just cannot fully endorse this plan. I give the book a neutral score of three stars.

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 17, 2018

The Shadow 100 The Death Triangle, The Crimson Death. And The Seven Deadly Arts by Maxwell Grant

I am going to assume that anyone that is likely to read this review knows the Shadow’s back-story. The really great thing about the Shadow novels is that the back-story isn’t repeated over and over ad infinitum throughout the series, unlike other pulp heroes.

To the Shadow, the weed of crime bears bitter fruit. He knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. The Shadow knows! The whisper of his laugh can freeze a killer in his tracks! The suggestion of moving darkness causes criminals to startle and swear. Many have tried to shoot it out with the Shadow. Few survived. Even wounded, the Shadow was a match for desperados everywhere.

Yet without the cape and hat, the Shadow might be any number of people. A master of disguise, he often fools people who have known the person he imitates for many years! To fans of the radio show, sorry, but while Lamont Cranston is the Shadow, the Shadow is NOT Lamont Cranston! Cranston is a real person, often in far-flung corners of the globe, so he makes a convenient face for the Shadow—with the real Cranston’s full knowledge and permission!

The true name of the Shadow is not revealed until issue 131 The Shadow Unmasks. And yet at times, even this identity is questionable. Perhaps the Shadow, like the Joker, prefers his life to be multiple choice!

As for these stories:

The Death Triangle was published October 15, 1933

This story was written by the original Maxwell Grant, Walter Gibson. Crime is underway and the Shadow has discovered three positions that form the area of a triangle. Writing notes to himself in his sanctum, he identifies them thus: The Murderer, the Informant, and the Betrayer! At stake is a mysterious deed, the legacy of Cyril Wycliff to his son, Howard. People are after that deed, which seems to be worth killing for…

 

The Crimson Death was published 8/1/1941

This story was written by the second Maxwell Grant, Theodore Tinsley. A daring robbery seems to net only a pink powder. It has been vacuumed into a tanker truck, then replaced with a similar powder. In a major double cross, the truck is wrecked deliberately, and the mastermind takes a few pounds of the powder, then sets the rig alight.  Among many other qualities, the powder is super inflammatory, burning with tremendous heat and difficult to put out.

People begin to die from what is termed “the falling illness.” Losing balance and becoming convulsive, they die quickly. As they lie dying, blood begins to trickle from their ears. The Shadow makes progress on solving the crime, but our mastermind also imitates the Shadow. The Shadow is thus wanted for murder!

The Seven Deadly Arts was published 10/1/1946

This story is by the third and last Maxwell Grant, Bruce Elliot. Most of Elliot’s Shadow stories were sub-par when compared to Gibson and Tinsley. This may be the best of the worst.

Many Shadow stories are a tad eerie, but this one touches bases heretofore left unexplored. A voodoo priestess chants over packages brought by people in garish carnival masks. An old man is delivered a voodoo doll of himself pierced with two pins. The belief that this is a true threat causes him to have a possible heart attack.

The Shadow seems like a de-fanged serpent in this story, having little of his usual ability. The final reveal is fair, but I don’t think the build-up really led in that direction.

So what we have here are two terrific Shadow stories by Gibson and Tinsley. Add to that the story by Elliot that was likely his best, and the book gets 5 stars.

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 17, 2018

The Shadow #98: Gems of Doom and The Teardrops of Buddha by Maxwell Grant

I am going to assume that anyone that is likely to read this review knows the Shadow’s back-story. The really great thing about the Shadow novels is that the back-story isn’t repeated over and over ad infinitum throughout the series, unlike other pulp heroes.

To the underworld, the Shadow is a creature to be feared. He appears out of the night wrapped in a cape, with a large slouch-hat on his head. Usually, only his eyes and nose peep out to the dark. His two .45’s spell death to crooks everywhere, always punctuated by a shivering laugh. Perhaps he will deliver an explosive snap of the fingers he calls “The Devil’s Whisper.” One thing for certain—seeing the Shadow can be fatal for wrong-doers…

Without the cape and hat, the Shadow might be any number of people. A master of disguise, he often fools people who have known the person he imitates for many years! To fans of the radio show, sorry, but while Lamont Cranston is the Shadow, the Shadow is NOT Lamont Cranston! Cranston is a real person, often in far-flung corners of the globe, so he makes a convenient face for the Shadow—with the real Cranston’s full knowledge and permission!

The true name of the Shadow is not revealed until issue 131 The Shadow Unmasks. And yet at times, even this identity is questionable. Perhaps the Shadow, like the Joker, prefers his life to be multiple choice!

As for these stories:

Gems of Doom was published 7/15/1940

Diamonds of every kind, raw uncut stones to highly polished faceted jewels all dance through this tale in a seemingly endless circle. Three men have plans for making millions in the business: Alfred Blendon, Jan Traal, and Donald Krell. Traal will provide raw stones through a South African syndicate. The gems will be cut and polished at Blendon’s shop. Krell is planning a chain of stores and will buy his jewels from Blendon at a wholesale discount. Yet someone is after the jewels, and it seems that the thief is—The Shadow?

The Teardrops of Buddha published May 1, 1945

 

The gems known as the Teardrops of Buddha are priceless. There are 12 stones in all—four diamonds, four rubies, and four emeralds. The jewels were taken from the Rajah of Bidipore, who apparently lost everything in WWII.

Mysterious characters weave in and out of the story, Count Bela Zurich, young Ted Trent, Niles Naseby, Cecil Crenshaw—who is in hiding; and a mysterious woman known as Mata Safi. Everyone seems to want the stones! It turns out that Naseby is in possession of the jewels in question. Moves are made by both the Shadow and the crooks to seize the stones—and it seems the crooks were first.

Of note is a scene on page 69. “Somehow, Cranston had a way of not being noticed when he so chose.” Like maybe “the ability to cloud men’s minds so that they cannot see him.” This could be a nod by Gibson to the Radio character, and Moe Shrevitz, radio’s Shrevvy the cab driver, appears in the story.

Both stories read rather well, so I give this volume 5 stars!

Quoth the Raven…

You will probably have to search for this one. It is unavailable at either Amazon or ABE Books…

 

 

Aug. 17, 2018

The Shadow #99: The Mardi Gras Mystery and City of Fear by Maxwell Grant

I am going to assume that anyone that is likely to read this review knows the Shadow’s back-story. The really great thing about the Shadow novels is that the back-story isn’t repeated over and over ad infinitum throughout the series, unlike other pulp heroes.

The Shadow is a force of one. Costumed in cape and hat, laughing and firing well-aimed .45’s, his name has been screamed by dying gangsters. Every crook wants to make a name for themselves by eliminating the Shadow. Few ever survive the first encounter.

Yet without the cape and hat, the Shadow might be any number of people. A master of disguise, he often fools people who have known the person he imitates for many years! To fans of the radio show, sorry, but while Lamont Cranston is the Shadow, the Shadow is NOT Lamont Cranston! Cranston is a real person, often in far-flung corners of the globe, so he makes a convenient face for the Shadow—with the real Cranston’s full knowledge and permission!

The true name of the Shadow is not revealed until issue 131 The Shadow Unmasks. And yet at times, even this identity is questionable. Perhaps the Shadow, like the Joker, prefers his life to be multiple choice!

As for these stories:

The Mardi Gras Mystery was published 9/1/1935

While the Shadow’s cape and hat both hide his real identity and proclaim him as the foe of crimedom, the Mardi Gras masquerade is a place he can appear openly. The Shadow is a flash of darkness within darkness when on the prowl, moving from one low-lit spot to another unseen. At a masquerade, he is just another reveler, if a brave one for using a guise that crooks usually fire at on sight!

A box is passed from a girl in a ballet costume to a young man dressed as a French colonial gentleman, wig, hat and all. She tells Andrew Blouchet that the box is his and she was told to deliver it. She also presents a silver key. Reaching his art studio, Blouchet finds the box is filled with large bills, some even in the 500 and 1,000 range! Confiding in a wealthy friend named Carl Randon, he is advised to take claim of the money and spend it as he pleases.

Spending some of the money brings Blouchet under the scrutiny of several unsavory characters. They have been told to watch for certain serial numbers by their sneaky employer. The money is declared fake by one of the snoops when Blochet spends several 50 dollar bills, only to then declare them fine.

The Shadow is in New Orleans after Pierre Trebon, international swindler. The Shadow has trailed the man from New York. All the treads of this mystery weave a wild story that ends with a man I wouldn’t have really thought guilty…

City of Fear was published 10/15/1940

This story is written by Theodore Tinsley, the second Maxwell Grant. Tinsley’s stories tended to be a bit darker than Walter Gibson’s and often had femme fatales. In the oddly named Western City, crimes are being committed by persons easily identifiable. But they cannot be guilty, due to strong alibis. The mastermind shows a flair for disguise that would rival the Shadow!

Agents of the Shadow are well aware of various persons that are the Shadow in disguise, such as Lamont Cranston. Now there is a criminal loose that can disguise himself so well that if he should learn the Shadow’s secrets, he can even pose as the Shadow himself! And Cranston could be the next person accused of a crime!

Foes who could fight the Shadow on his own terms were few and far between.  Great! 5 stars!

Quoth the Raven…

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