Aug. 17, 2018

Three stories—three Maxwell Grants!

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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