Thursday, July 23, 2015

DOC SAVAGE meets THE SHADOW: "The Sinister Shadow" by Will Murray

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.


JoeK said...

To be fair, when Gibson was required to add Margo to the stories he made her more of an agent. None of the "Darling" "Dear" from the radio show, and Margo could be competent most of the time. To be frank, The Shadow's agents always seemed to be more able than Doc's crew - who were barely more than kidnap fodder in most stories.

Charles Gramlich said...

One problem I had with Doc Savage was that his crew are just mostly incompetent. This crossover looks wonderful though. As soon as I get book money again. Don't now when that will happen considering the plumbing issue we are having currently.

Anonymous said...

Doc's sidekicks were supposed to be experts in their respective professions, but they often seemed like bumbling buffoons. Usually, Doc could have handled everything without any help.

Doc and the Shadow never met (AFAIK, anyway) in the original pulp stories, but they did in some later pastiches. DC's Doc Savage comic in 1989-1990 had a two-part Shadow crossover. They also published a Shadow comic in the 1970's, and #11 had a guest appearance by The Avenger.

Anonymous said...

Doc Savage and The Shadow meet Tarzan and John Carter in The Martian Legion by Jake Saunders. It is a fun book but pricey.

Evan Lewis said...

Yeah, I've read a few Margo pulp stories, and Gibson did the best he could handling her as an agent. But though I'm a big fan of OTR, I've never heard a Shadow I liked. It was generally hokey and boring, and I resent its intrusion into the world of the "real" Shadow.

Rick Robinson said...

I could do without Ham and Monk completely. They might not be so bad if they could lighten up with the arguing and do some crime solving or deduce reasons for mysterious happenings. Or something. Sheesh. I wish Matt would edit some of them out. This one sounds good, in spite of that, but I haven't read enough Shadow "novels" to even recognize all your references.

Evan Lewis said...

I know you acquired The Living Shadow recentlhy, Mr. R. If you follow it with The Eyes of the Shadow and The Shadow Laughs (second and third in the series) you'll be perfectly primed for this book.

And here's something you'll like: Monk and Ham are seperated for most of this story.

Anonymous said...

Doc Savage guest starred in DC's The Shadow Strikes #5 and #6 (1990), which presumably was a crossover with Doc Savage #17 and #18, published at the same time.

Someone, probably either Jim Harmon in The Great Radio Heroes or Ron Goulart in Cheap Thrills (aka An Informal History of Pulp Magazines), pointed out that Margo Lane was a creation of the radio show, and that Gibson and the other pulp writers "seemed to employ her almost under protest."

Anonymous said...

The Shadow also guest starred in Batman #253 and #259 in the 1970's.

DC's 1973-75 Shadow comic borrowed the "power to cloud men's minds" from the radio series, but otherwise was based more on the pulp magazine. In it, Margo seemed to be one of the Shadow's agents, not his girlfriend. And Cranston seemed to be one of his disguises, not his true identity.

Benny Drinnon said...

I like Margo Lane, myself.