The Shadow Unmasks The Yellow Band: A Pulp Book Review!
The 1930s Crimefighter in Two of His Most Revealing Adventures!
The Shadow, that mysterious crime-fighter from the 1930s pulps, is back in regular publication, with a series of books from Nostalgia Ventures. Each volume contains two stories of the Master Avenger, as well as articles and other extras. This one, No. 15 in the series, contains the stories ''The Shadow Unmasks'' and ''The Yellow Band.''
Who Knows What Evil Lurks In the Hearts of Men?
The Shadow Knows!
The Shadow appeared in 325 pulp novels spanning the years 1931-1949. Created by Walter B. Gibson, The Shadow fought gangsters, evil scientists, murderers and spies with the help of a loyal team of aides. Gibson wrote 282 of the novels, which appeared under the house name of Maxwell Grant. The Shadow later appeared in nine original paperbacks during the 1960s under the Belmont label.
Since then, there have been various attempts to republish the tales, with the current series being published by Nostalgia Ventures. Each Nostalgia Ventures book contains two of the pulp stories, as well as some bonus material (which may be a script from The Shadow radio series, or a profile of an actor from that series, or an article about how The Shadow influenced comic book superheroes).
You Can Buy The Book Here
The Shadow Unmasks
Finally, the truth is revealed!
The Shadow Unmasks, the first story in this volume, originally appeared in the Aug. 1, 1937 issue of the pulp magazine. It was the 131st story of the series, which had established that the mysterious crimefighter liked to impersonate Lamont Cranston while the millionaire was on some trip abroad. But the real Cranston is injured in an airplane crash in Britain, leaving The Shadow no choice but to return to his true identity of Kent Allard to stop a crime spree involving gems and murder.
I found the main action to be on par with the better Shadow novels, but I did think the way The Shadow's true background was revealed was pretty lame and undramatic. I won't give any hints so no one can claim I spoiled the story!
There are always lots of items related to The Shadow on eBay, in part because of the 1994 film starring Alec Baldwin. Here is a sample of the products available if you are interested in buying any.
The Yellow Band
The Second Kent Allard adventure
The Yellow Band, the second in this volume, originally appeared in the Aug. 15, 1937 issue of the pulp magazine, making it a kind of extension of The Shadow Unmasks. In this issue, The Shadow mixes it up with a gang of criminals in Miami, with Kent Allard coming under suspicion of murder at one point. Miami was a regular setting for The Shadow, and in the 1930s may have been a wilder place -- or at least that is how Walter Gibson always betrayed it.
I liked this tale, which had criminals that really gave The Shadow a true challenge.
The Pulp or the Radio Shadow?
In many ways The Shadow of the pulps was very different than the one on the radio, using different methods to fight crime in each. On the radio he teamed with Margot Lane mostly, while he had numerous aides in the books (most of them male). Margo Lane (without the T) eventually became part of the books as well. On the radio, The Shadow could ''cloud'' men's minds, while in the books he could hypnotize using his ring.
Which Shadow do you prefer?
The Bonus Material
Each of these two-story volumes contains some bonus material. In this book, the material includes an article about how and why Walter Gibson and the publishers decided that The Shadow's origin needed to be told after so many years of mystery -- it's an interesting tale that shows the influence of the radio program on the pulp series. A second article is about the world-famous explorer P.H. Fawcett, who had disappeared on a trek in Brazil in 1925. Fawcett may have helped inspire Kent Allard's origin. Finally, there's a short article on Walter Gibson and what a prodigious writer he was.
Walter Gibson: More Than The Shadow's Creator - A Writer and Magician!
Walter Gibson, creator of The Shadow, wrote much more than the 282 novels featuring that character. For The Shadow, he used the pen name Maxwell Grant, which was a typical practice during the era of the pulps. He wrote books on magic, the occult, games and other topics, as well as several entries in the Biff Brewster children's book series. He also authored comic books and radio plays, as well as ghostwriting books for magicians of the day. He also created puzzles and magic tricks, and for a while was a newspaper man. How did he produce so much? He said he was used to deadlines from his newspaper days, and averaged 10,000 words a day. You can find out more about him with this wonderful biography.
C.J. Henderson, Modern-Day Pulp Writer
The Spider, Rival of The Shadow!
The Spider was created in 1933 to be a pulp fiction rival to The Shadow, and he appeared in 118 adventures through 1943. He may not be as well-remembered as The Shadow or Doc Savage, but in recent years he has appeared in comic books and short stories.
C.J. Henderson has written a new novel starring The Spider that was published in November 2012. I attended a panel where Henderson spoke about The Spider and writing fiction for a living.
Please check it out here:
C.J. Henderson, a writer of novels and comic books, spoke at KotoriCon 2012, the anime festival at Gloucester County College in Sewell, New Jersey. His panel...
More Information on Pulp Fiction
There's plenty of information on The Shadow, other pulp heroes and pulps in general on the Internet. Here are a few sites to get you started!
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Pulp Fiction Collection in Baltimore
Visit Geppi's Entertainment Museum
If you are ever in Baltimore you need to set aside time to visit Geppi's, which is right near the baseball stadium. The museum, founded by the head of Diamond Comics Distributors, has a great pulp-fiction collection, with issues of the Shadow, The Spider, Doc Savage and more! I wrote a review of the museum that you can check out in the following lens. The museum is definitely worth a visit!
Geppi's Entertainment Museum
Geppi's Entertainment Museum is located in Baltimore and is dedicated to all sorts of American pop culture: comic books, television, radio, movies, magazines...
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Here's your opportunity to discuss the book, The Shadow, or anything else on your mind. Thanks for visiting!