Tuesday, August 31, 2021

JOHNNY CRAIG and "The Corpse in the Crematorium" (1950)

Another cool silverprint color guide from Crime Patrol #16, the last issue before it became The Crypt of Terror, and then Tales from the Crypt. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

MASTER OF MYSTERY by Will Murray: The REAL Shadow - by someone who KNOWS!

Beware! This book will take hold of you and put you in such a Shadowy mood that you’ll be compelled to delve immediately into some of his many adventures. I advise you to have at least a couple of novels—and maybe a few comic books—on hand to enjoy as soon as you finish reading. If you’re also enamored of the radio show (which I am not), you may crave a couple of those, too. For that reading, I would also most heartily recommend Will Murray's two Doc Savage/Shadow team-ups, The Sinister Shadow (HERE) and Empire of Doom (HERE).

Master of Mystery: The Rise of the Shadow collects eleven articles that have appeared hither and yon—over a period of thirty or more years—in various fanzines and other publications. I’ve seen a couple of them before, but most I have not, and every one of them makes engrossing and entertaining reading.

Fittingly, more a third of the book’s 311 pages involve the single most important person in Shadow history: Mr. Walter B. Gibson. Will Murray enjoyed a ten-year friendship with Mr. Gibson, conducting interviews and gathering personal and professional information, and the bond they shared is apparent in these pages, allowing us to participate—at least vicariously—in that relationship. Among other things, we’re treated to Mr. Gibson’s thoughts on the radio program, the creation of the pulp magazine, the process of creating the stories, the cover and interior artists, and his relationships with his various co-creators. We also get a lot of inside dope on his other career, as a magician and author of innumerable books on magic.

The less Gibson-centric articles include: an in-depth and fascinating history of the creation and development of the radio program; a visit with Street & Smith editor John Nanovic (who also oversaw Doc Savage); an interview with and appreciation of Theodore Tinsley—the Black Mask writer who contributed 27 tales to the Shadow canon; a no-holds-barred interview with cover artist Graves Gladney; a fine piece on interior illustrator Edd Cartier; and reports focusing on the purple girasol and the Shadow’s influence on Batman. Among the many photographs and illustrations are a couple dozen by the great Frank Hamilton. In all, Master of Mystery is a hell of a package, and one that belongs on every bookshelf.

Near the end, in a chapter called ‟Memories of Walter,” Mr. Murray describes the moment he heard of Walter Gibson’s death: ‟I could think of no other way to say goodbye to Walter than this: I pulled my copy of The Shadow’s Justice from my bookshelf and began reading it . . . ”

It should come as no surprise that reading this passage had the same effect on me. I pulled out my Nostalgia Ventures reprint of that same novel and dived in. And yep, it was a corker.

The publication of Master of Mystery was timed, no doubt, to coincide with the appearance of the new novel The Shadow from the James Patterson Fiction Factory—written by Brian Sitts with probably a cup of coffee’s worth of input from Patterson himself. (WARNING! THERE ARE SPOILERS COMING. But don’t fret. The Shadow is a book that deserves to be spoiled.)

I’ll be reviewing that novel elsewhere, but this much must be said right now. The Shadow by Patterson/Sitts is NOT about the pulp or radio character discussed in Master of Mystery. Instead, it purports to be about the ‟real” Lamont Cranston, upon whom the pulp and radio stories were supposedly based. That ‟real” Cranston considers the fictional versions ‟junk.” The concept is not a bad one, and in the right hands (like Mr. Murray’s) could produce a very good novel. Unfortunately, this Patterson/Sitts effort just plain silly. The ‟real” Lamont Cranston, we are told, is ten thousand years old, can shoot fireballs from his hands, and is a shape-shifter who can turn himself into a cat or a brick wall at will. (He turns himself into a brick wall in an effort to stop Shiwan Khan, who has turned himself into a double-decker tour bus!) Nothing says ‟real” like a ten thousand year-old fireball-shooting shape-shifter.

Ideally, any newbees picking up that Patterson/Sitts atrocity should be required to read Master of Mystery first. It would give them an understanding of what the Shadow is truly about, and what the character has meant to millions of readers and listeners over the past ninety years. It might also make them choose to read the adventures of the ‟unreal” Shadow instead, which would be a very good thing!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

HAMMETT HERALD-TRIBUNE: The Thin Man Radio Show (1941) Part 3

Honolulu Advertiser, Aug. 10, 1941

Minneapolis Star, Aug. 13, 1941

Austin American, Aug. 13, 1941

Fresno Bee Republican, Aug. 17, 1941

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 20, 1941

Shreveport Times, Aug. 20, 1941