Friday, May 7, 2010

Forgotten Books: The Living Shadow by Maxwell Grant (Walter Gibson)

The Shadow knows . . . and everyone knows him. But how many have had a really proper introduction and read the first Shadow novel?

I’ve read this one several times since 1969, when I picked up the Bantam paperback, and it still packs that old sense of wonder. The Shadow, in this first print adventure, is elusive and mysterious. Harry Vincent, the primary point of view character, is not at all certain this strange dark figure is human, and neither are we.

Harry, jilted by his girl, is about to end it all by plunging off a bridge. Instead . . .

Something clamped upon his shoulder. An iron grip held him − balanced between life and death. Then, as though his body possessed no weight whatever, the man felt himself pulled around in a sweeping circle. He staggered as his feet struck the sidewalk of the bridge.

He turned to confront the person who had interfered. He swung his fist angrily, but a hand caught his wrist and twisted it behind his back with irresistible power.

It was as though the man's strength had been wrested from him when he faced a tall, black−cloaked figure that might have represented death itself. For he could not have sworn that he was looking at a human being.

The stranger's face was entirely obscured by a broad−brimmed felt hat bent downward over his features; and the long, black cloak looked like part of the thickening fog.

And so it begins. In the course of the story, which involves stolen jewels, a mysterious Chinese disk, and of course murder, we meet Detective Joe Cardona, see the Shadow in disguise as Fritz the janitor, face a Chinese torture chamber and get our first glimpse of the girasol ring.

The Shadow, as you may know, was created for the radio, but only as the narrator of a mystery anthology show. His role was rather like that of the EC comics Cryptkeeper. As the show gained popularity, Street and Smith decided to try him in a print adventure of his own, and this is it. The Lamont Cranston/Shadow that later appeared on the air was only a pale imitation of the guy in the magazine.

As far as I know, this novel has been out of print since 1977. I expect it will appear eventually in the fine Nostalgia Ventures series, but until then you can download a free PDF version right here: THE LIVING SHADOW.

If you like it, I highly recommend three more books in the Bantam series. The Eyes of the Shadow, The Shadow Laughs! and Gangdom’s Doom are reprinted from issues 2, 3 and 5 of the magazine, and that sense of wonder sweeps right through them all.

Though I can still enjoy one of the later adventures once in a while, they lack the punch of these early stories. The more I came to know the Shadow, the less I held him in awe, and it’s that awe that gives The Living Shadow its power.






As always, Patti Abbott has links to more of today's Forgotten Books over at pattinase

The Almanack Archive of Forgotten Books:
Six Deadly Dames by Frederick Nebel
Sinful Woman by James M. Cain
Dead at the Take-Off by Lester Dent
Homicide Johnny by Steve Fisher
Murder Wears a Halo by John Evans/Howard Browne
Kid's Books: Have Gun Will Travel, Maverick, Zorro
Kid Wolf of Texas by Paul S. Powers
Simon Lash, Private Detective by Frank Gruber
Lady Afraid by Lester Dent
Flash Casey - Detective by George Harmon Coxe
Doc Dillahay (Six-Gun Doctor) by Paul S. Powers
Fast One by Paul Cain
Not Too Narrow... Not Too Deep by Richard Sale
Dead and Done For by Robert Reeves
No Love Lost by Robert Reeves
Sabotage by Cleve F. Adams
And Sudden Death by Cleve F. Adams
The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis
Killer's Caress by Cary Moran
Red Ryder (the strip) by Fred Harman
The Secret Museum of Mankind
Sherlocko the Monk by Gus Mager


Randy Johnson said...

I have the Bantam editions, the Pyramids, the Belmont series(of which Gibson only wrote the first)and the first twenty-six or so of the twofers. Not to mention a few odds and ends.

James Reasoner said...

As often happens with books from this era that I love, I recall where I bought the Bantam edition of this one (a drugstore in River Oaks, Texas) and where I read it (the front porch of my parents' house). Although the character evolved considerably over 18 years and several hundred novels, this first book lays the groundwork really effectively. I've read it a couple of times and enjoyed it a lot both times.

Scott D. Parker said...

Talk about timing. This book is on my immediate TBR pile. I found this ebook online somewhere and I'm reading it on my iPod. Also, I picked up a copy of the Nostalgia reprint that focuses on a story from which the first Batman story was derived as well as another story that inspired the Joker. Thanks for fast-tracking this book.

Deka Black said...

THANKS! Dave, you have no idea how happy i am! Pulp heroes are my favorites (second only to Weird Tales), and finally the day has come. ^^ Y am able to read the first Shadow adventure!


pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Dave. As usual your post is a pleasure to look at as well as read.

Richard R. said...

Another great post, and especially, thanks for the covers. I'll have to ferret out one of these.

I have no FFB today, but have put up a small observation on books which is hopefully enjoyable.

Iren said...

I haven't read any of the Shadow books, but The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont has me curious about not only The Shadow pulps but the Doc Savage ones as well.

Evan Lewis said...

I've always seen the Shadow and Doc Savage stories in very different lights. Walter Gibson's prose is very workmanlike and sometimes moody, while Lester Dent's crackles with life. Consequently, I've read a lot more Dent.