Greetings from The Raven!

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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Aug. 17, 2018

The Shadow #97: Crime at Seven Oaks and The Northdale Mystery 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 think about the Shadow novels is that the back-story isn’t repeated over and over ad infinitum throughout the series, unlike other pulp heroes.

This may be because the Shadow is a man of mystery. Garbed in flowing black cape and slouch hat, laughing mockingly at crime; the Shadow is recognized with ease. He is the Master of Darkness, able to camouflage himself in the shadows so as to be virtually invisible.

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:

Crime at Seven Oaks originally published 8/1/1940

Following a running gun battle with gangsters, the action moves inside the estate of Grover Melridge, known as Seven Oaks. Along with Grover Melridge are his wife, Lucretia, twin children Bob and Janice, and Lucretia’s doctor Martin Heverly. Newcomer Carl Thayer seems content to woo Janice.

 Lucretia is suffering from a nervous breakdown, and wails about banshees, whispers, and shadows… Crime stalks the property, a perhaps more than one of the little group are not what they seem…

This story’s star is the Shadow’s canine companion for this adventure, Vulcan the Great Dane. (Hummm… You might think Vulcan a pit-bull from the cover!)

The Northdale Mystery was published 5/1/1942

In a return to the bustling town of Northdale, the Shadow tangles with Burt Skirvel’s gang. Having robbed the bank in Northdale, the gang flees to an unusual spot, the estate of Arthur Mordant. The place is big enough that a fleeing car can double back to avoid pursuit since the owner is known to be private and reclusive. The Shadow is not easily fooled, however; and Burt’s car crashes into a bridge and explodes. No one could have survived the blast.

Entering the picture at this juncture are two men: Rufus Mayberry owns a chain of stores and Norman Chalmody is a financier. Both employ shady characters: Mayberry, a crook named “Sleeper” Groth; and Chalmody, disgraced PI Jeff Bracy. Are Mayberry and Chalmody partners or rivals, and what goal can there be? Was the only witness to the robbery, Terry Trent, involved in the crime? What makes the hermitlike Mr. Mordant willing to hobble about town deeply hidden in oversized coats and broad-brimmed hats…

I like them both, but the story in Crime at Seven Oaks promises more than it delivers. There should have been more development into the character of Lucretia. The Northdale Mystery can lose a reader if one is not careful. But I do give it kudos for starring Margo Lane! I give the book four stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Aug. 3, 2018

Medical Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Dr. Verner by Carl Heifetz

A very unusual Holmes book…

To begin with, this is not the usual formula for a Sherlock Holmes book. In fact, Holmes appears in the book almost as an afterthought. The book centers mostly on the character of Dr. Maurice Verner. Dr. Verner is the cousin of Sherlock Holmes that purchased Dr. Watson’s practice after the death of Mary Morstan Watson.

The stories appear to be the property of the Verner family. They are usually introduced by being read by Maurice Verner, a descendant of Dr. Verner. The Verners have taken the original 221B sitting room and transferred it to their business headquarters, said to be located in a warehouse on the Detroit River.

The mysteries as per the title, revolve around mysterious deaths that have medical explanations, such as Tapauli Fever, Ergot Poisoning, Bubonic Plague, Tetanus and so on. A  Holmes fan will find familiar names, situations, and places.

But the stories don’t really ring true to a Holmes mystery. For example, it is hinted that Sherlock Holmes is not the real name of the Great Detective. I took it to mean that perhaps Holmes was being used as a fictional way to tell the stories of someone else. Dr. Joseph Bell is mentioned in passing. Bell has long been supposed to be the man Conan Doyle based his hero on, due to the man’s keen observation and deduction. Just a thought, maybe this is what the author means by his statement.

Honestly, I didn’t like the book much. There are bright spots, such as the means of detecting Ergot Poisoning, but overall the stories were—blah comes to mind. These stories have little beyond cold fact to try to capture the reader’s attention. They might do well as essays on medical mysteries, but as stories, they fall a good deal flat.

I did get a laugh on page seventy when Watson protests “I’m a Doctor, not a secret agent!” Nice echoes of Star Trek’s Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. I will give the author only two stars… Lackluster tales…

Quoth the Raven

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