Sunday, September 16, 2018

Historical Background - The Lunch Wagon

One thing I really enjoy is digging into the history from a Shadow story.  From learning some of the slang from the times or other aspects of life in the 1930s and 1940s it is always a lot of fun and I end up learning a lot.  This article will look at a small part of the very first Shadow story, "The Living Shadow" that published in April of 1931.

In "The Living Shadow" we have a villain named English Johnny who is also in the lunch wagon business.  Not only does English Johnny play a part in the story, there's also some great action that takes place in one of English Johnny's lunch wagons that involves The Shadow!  What in the world is a lunch wagon?  That's what I wondered as I read the story so I had to investigate!

To some degree, lunch wagons started out as the food trucks of the late 1800s and early 1900s.  In 1872, Walter Scott parked a covered wagon in front of a newspaper office in Providence, Rhode Island and sold food items out of it to reporters and others.  In New York City in 1893, the Church Temperance Society operated a lunch wagon from 7:30pm to 4:30am and offered warm food and beverages to workers in the hopes of keeping them out of the saloons.  

1893 magazine cover featuring a lunch wagon

A lunch wagon complaint from 1907

Lunch wagons began to be massed produced and started including stoves, sinks, refrigerators and places for customers to sit.  Several manufacturers built them and an enterprising person could purchase one and go into the lunch wagon business for themselves!

As time went on, lunch wagons became less mobile and more stationary.  Based on the action that takes place in The Shadow story, the picture below is what I imagine English Johnny's lunch wagon looked like!

That's just a brief look at the history of the lunch wagon!  I hope it adds some background perspective whenever you read about them in the pages of The Shadow!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Cry Shadow!

Cry Shadow! was the fourth Shadow paperback published by Belmont Books.   It was published on April 1, 1965.  Dennis Lynds authored the book and used the Maxwell Grant pen-name on the cover.

Compared with the other two Shadow stories I've read by Dennis Lynds, it wasn't as good as Shadow Beware.  I'm not saying it was a bad story or there was no action, it was good and well written, but just not as suspenseful and action-packed as Shadow Beware.  

Let me give a spoiler alert before I get into a brief review of the story.  I'm going to reveal information about the characters and the ending, so if you don't want to know them until after you read the book yourself, you may want to skip the next section!

The story begins with The Shadow stopping two thieves in an art gallery.  They are attempting to steal a pretty worthless statue, compared to anything else they could have taken!  While The Shadow questions the two thieves, one of them is killed by a poison dart.  That sets the story in motion as The Shadow discovers that the murdered two-bit art thief was actually a master craftsman at creating counterfeit money plates!  The Shadow uncovers an international counterfeit money ring, being run out of an old WWII German U Boat off the coast of New England.  An art gallery was shipping the counterfeit currency (American, Russian, etc.) around the world in hollowed out boards of its shipping crates.  By the end of the story, the counterfeiters are either dead or captured, the U Boat is sunk, and the counterfeit ring has been smashed by The Shadow!

The Shadow:
We learn a few new things about The Shadow and there is one big revelation about his past.  The minor things we learn are he uses both his mental powers and a special ointment to aid in the healing and recovery of two broken fingers.  He learned safecracking and lock picking techniques from Walter Pettibone.  The Shadow can speak most languages of the world.

The big revelation we have about The Shadow is found on pages 91 and 92 where it's revealed that Cranston served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II!  The OSS was an intelligence gathering organization of the United States that was founded in June 1942 and was dissolved in September of 1945.  It was the predecessor of the CIA.  We are told that Lamont Cranston had been a Colonel in the OSS and had "done much work against the forces of Facism in the war." (page 92)  On one mission, he had slipped into the heart of Japan aboard a PT boat!  This is awesome and interesting background!  In the Belmont book series, Lamont Cranston is always described as having blonde hair with some gray in it.  Supposing he was 20 years old when he joined the OSS in the early 1940's, he would be in his mid to late 40s during the time these stories take place (mid 1960s).   

The Shadow's sanctum is hidden in his offices as Lamont Cranston.  It is here - lighted only with a blue light - that The Shadow does much of his communicating with his agents.

In this story The Shadow uses the disguises of Lamont Cranston, and for the first time in this series he uses the disguise of Henry Arnaud!  Shadow fans will recognize that name as it is one of the frequent disguises used by The Shadow in the pulp stories.  Henry Arnaud is described as a business man and financier.  The Shadow uses a makeup kit to disguise himself as Arnaud.  Arnaud is taller than The Shadow and Lamont Cranston, so The Shadow wears special built up shoes to be taller.  Then, with special putty and fluid from a hypodermic needle injected beneath his skin, The Shadow molds his face to look like Arnaud's.  "...the broken and broad nose of Henry Arnaud appeared.  The nose was the result of Arnaud's early boxing career, and was well known to the world." (page 105)  The Shadow uses a special bridge to elongate his jaw, and special tape to make his left eye droop (another of Arnaud's boxing injuries!).  He uses a special dye to make his hair almost white.  "Finally, clenching his fist and narrowing his left hand with the plasticity of bone and sinew he learned from his years of yoga, he slipped on the ugly artificial hand, the reported result of losing his left hand in an automobile accident twenty years ago."


Margo Lane.  Margo is described as The Shadow's most trusted agent.  She goes undercover twice in this story.  First, as Molly, a prostitute who becomes the girlfriend of a criminal The Shadow is tracking.  Second, as Ellen Morgan, secretary to Henry Arnaud (one of The Shadow's alter-egos).

Burbank.  Burbank does his usual role of facilitating communication between The Shadow and his agents.  We learn he records all agent reports and maintains these records.  He does deep investigation into records for The Shadow.

Stanley.  Stanley chauffers Lamont Cranston around in his Rolls Royce.  He's described as one of The Shadow's most trusted agents.

Moe Shrevnitz.  Shrevvy is described as small and peppery and wears a leather cap.  In this story he is used by The Shadow as a look out and observer while in his taxi cab.

These are the only agents in this book.  However, also included are regulars Detective Joe Cardona and Commissioner Weston.