I am in awe of this book.
Pulp fans like me have been dreaming about a Doc/Shadow encounter for decades, and The Sinister Shadow is everything we could have hoped for.
We’ve known for a long time that Will Murray inherited the style and wit of Lester Dent (by my count, this is his 17th Doc Savage novel). This novel makes it clear he’s somehow in communication with the spirit of Walter Gibson as well. And Mr. Dent actually lends a hand from beyond the grave, because portions of this book are based on unused chapters and scenes from a Shadow novel he wrote before becoming the first “Kenneth Robeson.”
The action takes place early in the careers of both heroes, most likely in 1933 or ’34. The Shadow is still so mysterious that his very existence is in doubt. Doc and the gang know him only as a creepy voice on the radio. Faced with the notion that he’s a real being, they have no way to know which side of the law he’s on. Meanwhile, though the Shadow knows Doc is a good guy, trust and cooperation are not his strong suits.
This sets up a great dynamic in which Doc’s crew and the Shadow’s agents, as well as the two big cheeses themselves, are battling each other rather than focusing on their common foe, a death-obsessed mastermind called the Funeral Director.
Will Murray does a masterful job of integrating the worlds of the two series, and it works so well it’s a wonder Dent and Gibson never tried it themselves. Doc interacts with Commissioner Weston and Detective Joe Cardona. Ham Brooks meets Lamont Cranston. Monk Mayfair and Johnny Littlejohn tangle with Harry Vincent, Clyde Burke and Cliff Marsland. The Shadow makes an undercover visit to the 86th floor of the ESB, and Doc invades the Shadow’s sanctum. The Cobalt Club and the Crime College come into play, and we’re even treated to a dogfight between the autogyro and the gyroplane.
Yep, it’s all* here. All the trappings from each series, interwoven into one BIG story that had me smiling from beginning to end. This is a book I’ll definitely be reading again.
Every pulp fan will want a copy of this. Here's where to get it: THE SINISTER SHADOW.
*Thankfully, there is no Margo Lane. She debuted on the radio in 1937 and didn't infest the pulps until 1941.