Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Sinister Shadow!

Since reading about this delightful crossover by Will Murray and weirdly Lester Dent (by way of a cache of unpublished materials) of the two most famous Street and Smith pulp heroes, I've been most eager to get my mitts on it and read it though. The Sinister Shadow from Altus Book's TheWild Adventures of Doc Savage imprint is a delight in many ways and easily something any fan of Doc Savage or The Shadow must have. For more from Murray on how it came together check this out.

Joe DeVito
The Sinister Shadow begins with Lamont Cranston going to see Doc Savage about the problem he has with The Shadow stealing his identity and (in his mind at least) threatening to kidnap him and extort money. He is in fact kidnapped along with Ham Brooks, one of Doc's five assistants, and that puts Doc and The Shadow both on the trail of a villain who calls himself "The Funeral Director" and has fashioned an elaborate organization of henchman dubbed variously as Morticians, Undertakers, Gravediggers, and Pallbearers. This large gang has made a business of kidnap and ransom of various rich men in the society, so much so that it has drawn the attention of the criminologist George Clarendon.

Dave Stevens
In this rousing and fast-paced but unusually lengthy pulp adventure, we at different times find Doc and The Shadow battling each other and even working in tandem to bring down the Funeral Director's vile gang. The Shadow's men include Harry Vincent, Clyde Burke, and Cliff Marsland. Doc is helped by Monk Mayfair, Ham Brooks, and Long Tom Roberts. Sadly neither Renny Renwick nor Johnny Littlejohn show up in this hair-raising war on crime.

Joe DeVito
Murray tells the story in precise short sentences and quickly paced paragraphs and the action rarely slows down and almost never stops. We get some very evocative descriptions of the characters, in particular The Shadow. If there is a big complaint about this one it's that the Doc fan gets slighted as The Shadow and his men seem to dominate much of the action. Each hero is showcased though and by the story's end the heroes appear to understand one another better.

The story, full of action as it is, needed a few more twists and turns. It does do a vivid job of drawing from the early stories of both characters, set as it is relatively early in the careers of both heroes. And we do get some neat switches for the fans. But maybe even more would've been nice. Not as well read in Shadow lore as I am in Doc, I felt most fortunate that I took the time last year to read the first three Shadow novels, they come in handy.

It's a pricey package, but a highly readable one. This one gets the Dojo's highest recommendation.

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