Greetings from The Raven!

May. 12, 2019

The Shadow Double Novels #102 by Maxwell Grant

The Shadow was a superhero that starred in both pulp magazines and Old Time Radio. The magazines were extremely popular, and the Shadow began to star as the host of a radio show. Later, the Shadow Radio Show would begin with stars like Orson Wells and Margot Stevenson.

There was a marked difference between the magazine Shadow and the radio Shadow. On the radio, the Shadow used “hypnotism to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him.” The Shadow was Lamont Cranston, who was accompanied by his girlfriend, Margo Lane.

The Magazine Shadow was much more mysterious. He used darkness as his cover and could almost vanish due to his skill and stealth. He sometimes appeared as Lamont Cranston, but he was not Lamont Cranston. The real Cranston and the Shadow had an arrangement. Margo never appeared in the magazine until 1941, when she was introduced and sometimes was with Lamont Cranston and sometimes with the Shadow’s agent Harry Vincent.

The majority of the stories were written by Walter Gibson, under the house name “Maxwell Grant.” All the stories in this volume were Witten by Gibson.

King of the Black Market was originally published in October 1943.

Various industries are hit by sabotage, their shipments replaced with inferior products. People within the besieged factories are framed for the crime.

I always like it when Vic Marquette of the FBI shows up in a Shadow novel! This means that the Shadow will be backed up by a man who has authority behind him. The Shadow will solve the crooks, and the law will be on the side of the Shadow!

Crime Caravan was originally published in April 1944.

Used cars are big business. The cars are shipped cross country from New Jersey via a caravan of drivers. They are driven slowly and are checked at towns along the route. But cars are vanishing from the caravan and banks are being robbed in towns near each overnight stop.

Not bad. This novel highlights the more pedestrian crimes the Shadow fought. Many pulp heroes fought earthshaking battles across the globe. The Shadow fights against gangsters and various rackets, closer to street crime. The amazing methods the master crook uses to divert the stolen cars is top notch! The final reveal is well played! Bravo!

The Mine Hunters is a Shadow radio play broadcast August 7, 1938.

Hijinks on the High Seas! A spy ring is mining the coastal waters near the Canal Zone in Panama.

A good story.

I give the book five stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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May. 6, 2019

A Most Diabolical Plot by Tim Simons

Thanks to both MX Books and the author for copies of this book.

First, let me tell you a little about the stories. What I say here will in nowise spoil any mysteries.

In A Most Diabolical Plot, Colonel Moran returns with a most unusual weapon…

Die Weiss Frau concerns a woman accused of spying for Germany…

The Ghost of Dorset House deals with the corpse of a suspected burglar. It takes place during the Great Hiatus…

The Mystery of the Missing Artifacts is about a dead man in a field with an arrow in his eye…

The Pegasus Affair has another returning person, John Mason of Shoscomb Old Place…

The Captain in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment concerns a man in uniform…

I have delayed reviewing this book because Tim Simons asked me himself. I always try to give an honest review, and I don’t like most of the stories. They just don’t resonate with me like Tim Simons’ novels always do. I would say that The Ghost of Dorset House is my favorite, and indeed, the only story I really liked.

I am so sorry, Tim, but I can only give the book two stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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May. 5, 2019

The Spider Pulp Doubles #18  

The Spider is Richard Wentworth, a wealthy criminologist. Backed up by his manservant Ram Singh, his old war pal Jackson, and his fiancé Nita van Slone, Wentworth takes on crime at the street level.

The Spider has no scruples about killing. The criminals who cross the Spider die and their foreheads are marked with a scarlet spider.

The Spider is wanted by the police, and his friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick suspects Wentworth. Hardly surprising, as everyone seems to know the Spider’s secret. Proving it is another thing entirely…

The Spider and the Slaves of Hell

Wentworth’s fortress home is blown up. A warning has enabled the Spider to escape, but he is wanted for the deaths of policemen who died in the explosion.

With no warning at all people explode violently. There are wolves loose in the street. A mild-looking man in an old-fashioned suit and derby hat acts for the hidden leader, known only as “he…”

This story was straightforward as to the crime and the methods. The death toll is shocking, thousands of innocents die. The Spider is without his usual resources, wounded, and almost dies, losing time he cannot afford. I enjoyed this one!

Zara, Master of Murder

The Spider is framed for murder by a man who has some sort of secret weapon that strikes people with an irresistible force. The man calls himself Zara, but the notes he sends the police are signed Iskander.

Using a combination of his device that weakens men’s resolve and hypnotism, Zara quickly gains control of the underworld. From there he moves to take the city, gaining control of the Mayor. Even Kirkpatrick falls to mental control. And worse, Zara even makes Nita give up the secrets of the Spider…

This one was a little further out than the first story. The methods used by Zara tiptoe the line between something that could have happened and something totally fictional. But that is the beauty of pulp fiction. It is full throttle action! I think it works under those rules…

I give both stories four stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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May. 5, 2019

The Spider Double Pulp Novels #16

The Spider is Richard Wentworth, a wealthy criminologist knight!gist. Backed up by his manservant Ram Singh, his old war pal Jackson, and his fiancé Nita van Slone, Wentworth takes on crime at the street level.

The Spider has no scruples about killing. The criminals who cross the Spider die and their foreheads are marked with a scarlet spider.

The Spider is wanted by the police, and his friend Commissioner Kirkpatrick suspects Wentworth. Hardly surprising, as everyone seems to know the Spider’s secret. Proving it is another thing entirely…

Reign of the Death Fiddler

A new leader rises in the underworld. The Fiddler marks his victims with a small violin mark, much like the Spider’s way of marking his kills. The Fiddler selects a victim every Thursday night and kills them at eleven thirty. He appears as a corpse, stitched with bullets, sporting a knife in the chest, strangled—however the last victim died…

Wentworth has to disappear and walks the night as Blinky McQuade. He shoots down a policeman in front of a bar full of crooks. Or so it appears…

This story is strong in that it could really happen. The chief criminal’s methods are not beyond the realm of possibility. A+!

City of Whispering Death

The Whisper of Death is the latest super-crook to strike New York. No one will bear witness against any person accused of a crime. The Whisper resounds out of nowhere, and witnesses fall, slashed up by an invisible weapon.

The Whisper appears in a robe and devilish mask, sometimes more than one figure, all dressed the same. Each of the devils can unleash the mysterious slashing death, but only one is the real Whisper of Death…

The story is a product of its time. It was 1938 and the world was at war. Old prejudices, unfortunately, come through, in the form of considering Orientals to be “The Yellow Peril.” I did think it big of the author to point out that Wentworth knew many Chinese people who were solid citizens. This was a viewpoint rare in these dark times.

I give both stories four stars…

Quoth the Raven…

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Apr. 29, 2019

Doctor Who: Royal Blood by Una McCormack

Starring the 12th Doctor and Clara Oswald

Possible Spoilers

The TARDIS lands on a planet which is never named in the story. The Doctor and Clara walk down to a strange city.

Going by the costumes worn by the inhabitants, the planet is still in medieval times. Yet there are electric lights and the knights carry laser swords! There is something about the numerous gems that decorate the clothing and tapestries that has the Doctor perplexed.

The Doctor and Clara are mistaken for an ambassador that Duke Aurelian of Varuz is expecting. The planet is divided, and outside of the city, the lands are ruled by someone else.

Then the knights of Lancelot arrive on a quest for the Holy Grail!

I liked the storyline and the characters were developed well. Except for one guy, Lord Bernhardt. I am not quite sure what to make of him. There are chapters that jump into first-person accounts by Bernhardt. I’m far from sure that they add anything to the story. It probably wouldn’t harm the storyline to skip Bernhardt’s first-person accounts.  Just saying.

I give the book three stars. Una McCormick—not your best work, I have read another Doctor Who story you wrote, and this one doesn’t match the other one. IMHO

Quoth the Raven…

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