Thursday, November 3, 2011

THAT'S the Chicago way!!

Read/Watch ‘em in order #5

The Shadow had been in Chicago once before, smashing the local mobs in retaliation for their murder of one of his agents. But the November 15, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine (titled “Chicago Crime”) shows us that new crooks had taken up the slack.

The Shadow is in the Windy City to track down Long Steve Bydle, the third of the five Fingers of the loosely-knit criminal organization known as the Hand.

Long Steve’s racket is a prosaic one—he stages car accidents and uses an unlicensed doctor to exaggerate the injuries in order to collect insurance claims. But he has a number of ruthless gunmen in his employ and he’s not above ordering a murder if that will increase his profits.

The Shadow needs to find Long Steve. He starts by trying to capture the one member of the gang he knows about, but that scheme degenerates into a nightclub brawl, which ends when the gangster is riddled with police bullets.

But our hero is nothing if not persistent. He’s soon able to make contact with a chauffeur who is being used as a dupe by the gang, talking the guy into becoming an inside man.

But, unlike the Shadow’s regular agents, this guy proves to be initially unreliable, knocking back a few too many drinks just before he was supposed to help the Shadow put the kibosh on the gang’s latest faked accident.

That lands the Shadow in hot water—leading to a wild gunfight on the streets of Chicago that involves several car crashes as well as a lot of gunplay. The Shadow drops a number of henchmen, but only barely escapes with his own life.

Did I mention the Shadow is persistent? By the end of the novel, he has given his temporary agent a chance to redeem himself and driven Long Steve and his gang into hiding inside a private hospital. It looks as if there’s no way to sneak inside the heavily guarded facility without alerting the villains and getting a hostage killed, but the Shadow, as usual, has a clever plan for bypassing the armed guards. He’s also already arranged for a surprise or two once he gets inside. And, heck, if there’re too many thugs for even him to shoot personally, he’ll arrange things so that they shoot each other.

Needless to say, there’s a lot more gunplay at the climax, with the Shadow, the gangsters, the Shadow’s allies, and the cops all getting to blaze away in a riotous melee.

I never would have figured that a novel about insurance cheats would be this action-packed, but Gibson manages to shove in a number of exciting gun battles, using his enormous skills as a storyteller to make each battle unique and exciting. He also adds several nifty twists at the end. Of the three Hand novels we’ve covered so far, I think this one might be the best yet.

But there’s still two more fingers left on the Hand. It won’t be long before the Shadow takes on modern-day pirates in “Crime Rides the Sea,”

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