Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Shadow: The Black Falcon

Scott D. Parker

THE BLACK FALCON is not only the fourth Shadow novel I’ve read in 2018 but my fourth one overall. And, to date, it might be my favorite for all the action, mystery, and zeal of the storytelling.

As the story opens, Rowdy Kershing is at a poker game amongst his criminal brethren. When he loses his winnings, he needs to buy more chips. He does so with a fat wad of money he makes sure all around him see. What he hides is the presence of a falcon’s feather, dyed black. For Rowdy has been assigned a task: recruit some “gorillas” to be of service to the super criminal, The Black Falcon, who has already kidnapped one millionaire and taunts the police that he’ll do it again.

But as gruff a talker as Rowdy is, he pales when the Knight of Darkness enters the room. They all do. Action ensues and Rowdy squeals like a rat.

The next set piece is the preparations the police deployed to protect Elias Carthers, the next millionaire on The Black Falcon’s list. This is a great action sequence mainly for how it plays out and the clues it reveals. I know that in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, authors frequently left clues for the readers to draw their own conclusions. Pulp fiction was not too known for that, but the clues in this sequence are plain to see.

It is after these scenes where The Shadow, in disguise as millionaire Lamont Cranston, takes action not in Shadow garb. Again, I’m too new at reading these stories to know if this is normal or special, but I’m guessing it’s likely normal, seeing as how The Shadow inserts himself as Cranston into the action.

And by poking his nose into the action gets Cranston in hot water. You see, he’s a millionaire and he walks directly into the clutches of The Black Falcon. From here to the end, the action is fantastic, the revelations are eye-opening, and the ending is outstanding in a “how will he get out of this” manner.
Perhaps the reason I like this one so much is the similarities to the villains of Batman. The Joker or The Riddler rarely commit their crimes without letting everyone know ahead of time, and The Black Falcon is right in that wheelhouse. Surprisingly, the Falcon makes some deductions of his own, and that got me to worrying for The Shadow’s safety. This novel is from February 1934 so I needn’t have worried. There was still going to be another fifteen years of stories, but still.

At one point, The Shadow reveals his true face to another character…and author Walter Gibson doesn’t describe the face! He only describes the reactions of the other character. I found that simultaneously great and frustrating. Who really is The Shadow? And what must his visage look like to bring such dread?

Of the new productions by Audible, THE BLACK FALCON is not a full-cast recording but a single narrator. Thankfully, it’s the same narrator as the full-cast versions so there is continuity.
For those of y’all who have never read a Shadow novel, here is a good one with which to start. It’s got all the pieces in place for a rip-roaring pulp adventure tale.

Partners in Peril
The Shadow Unmasks
The Romanoff Jewels

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