Monday, June 23, 2014

The Shadow Laughs!

"The Shadow Laughs" is the last of the original three Shadow novels penned by Walter Gibson  in his initial surge to create some sort of context for the highly popular character on the radio who was just a fascinating voice. It's the first to get an original cover by Jerome Rozen. The story concerns counterfeiting and pits The Shadow once again against Isaac Coffran, a old and evil man set up to be The Shadow's arch nemesis, but who disappears from the annals after this encounter. Other baddies repeat from the previous stories.

New stuff is the first trip to the Cobalt Club where Lamont Cranston mingles with the rich and sometimes infamous. And Lamont Cranston himself puts in an appearance, the real one, as Gibson does a twist on his revelation from the previous novel that The Shadow's identity was Cranston. Instead we learn that The Shadow merely assumes the guise of Cranston when the peripetetic Cranston is jet-setting around the globe.

Harry Vincent is back as he attempts to solve two murders, which only The Shadow thinks are linked. Harry spends a good deal of time in this one spying on different folks, but frankly seems to have little to do as The Shadow seems to increasingly dominate the story. The action is heady and we see for the first time the matched set of .45 automatic guns come into play. And the hint of the "Yellow Peril" returns.

Nonetheless this installment is the weakest of the three novels. We learn about our hero, who seems to blend into the shadows and emerge from the darkness in an almost supernatural way, but the adventure itself seems rather humdrum after the lurid danger of the previous yarn. There are some weird torture devices, but they lack the verve of the previous threats.

One begins to notice the almost complete absence of women in the stories. We've had three adventures now featuring The Shadow and not a single woman of consequence has been introduced. That's peculiar.

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