Thursday, May 23, 2013
Mobsters and Ray Guns.
The July 15, 1935 issue of The Shadow magazine was an important one for several reasons.
First, writer Walter Gibson wrote a longer story than usual. This was actually because he had just gotten a new typewriter and didn't realize the font size was fitting more words per page, but this was probably a factor in allowing him to turn out one of his finest efforts. Its difficult to see where the story could have been trimmed without losing something cool.
Second, it was the first of what would be a number of stories in which the Shadow went up against a super-scientific threat. Up until now, he'd usually been dealing with mobsters and spies. Gibson felt the crime-fighter needed a new kind of threat to properly challenge him.
Well, they don't fool the Shadow. When the scientist's assistant realizes something untoward is going on, he contacts Harry Vincent--whom he met in a previous story, so he knows Harry is an agent of the Shadow. Mobsters try to whack the guy, but the Shadow and his agents save him.
That leaves the Shadow starting from scratch, with no idea where the bad guys have set up their new headquarters. He tries to stop a couple of robberies. The first time, he has to run a gauntlet of gunmen while speeding down the street in a car. The second time, the villains have planted false clues to lure him to the wrong location, where they use machine gunners and a guy tossing grenades to try to finish him off. He fights his way out of this, but makes no progress in finding the hideout.
But that gives the Shadow a chance to finally track them down, though he must deliberately allow another of his agents to get captured. The neat part here is that the agent who volunteers for this dangerous job is Rutledge Mann. Mann isn't normally a field agent--he's an investment broker who generally acts as a contact for the field agents. But he gamely steps up to the plate when called upon. I always liked Mann and I was happy to see him get a moment in the limelight.
Anyway, the climax involves the Shadow in disguise sneaking into the hideout, followed by a wild shootout involving both pistols and and disintegrator gun.
In the recent reprint volume that included this story, pulp historian Will Murray refers to this story as a "must-read." He's right, of course. If you're a fan of the Shadow, you gotta read this one.