Scott D. Parker
(Note: I encountered household plumbing issues last night. By the time y'all read this, I'll have the roto-rooter guy at my house and unclogging my drains. But that also means I have to post a re-run. Upon review of my past posts, however, I don't think I posted this one here at Do Some Damage. So, here you go, from January 2018. Besides, last Saturday of Batman Day, so what better way to celebrate that 'holiday' (a week late) than to present a story that inspired the first Batman story. Enjoy.)
Well, it took a while, but I finally read my first Shadow novel.
I think like most of us, I’ve known about The Shadow for a long time. I
first discovered him back in the late 70s when my parents purchased some
old-time radio episodes on cassette to listen to on vacations. Ten
years later, some of those episodes were broadcast on local Houston AM
radio on Sunday nights and I’d listen to them as I returned back to
college in Austin. And I’d even began collecting the wonderful reprints
by Vintage Library to say nothing of some of the comic adaptations.
Actually, up until now, the only time I’d encountered The Shadow in
print was the two times he guest-starred in Batman comics (my reviews here and here).
Interestingly, it was because of Batman that I first wanted to read
PARTNERS IN PERIL. The good folks a Vintage packaged PARTNERS along with
LINGO and commissioned a couple of article about how PARTNERS and The
Shadow influenced Bill Finger and Bob Kane to create Batman. The
historian in me always gravitated to the historical commentary before I
read the stories, and this collection is fantastic with not only
historical commentary by Will Murray and Anthony Tollin but an
introduction by Jerry Robinson, co-creator of Robin and the Joker. But
today, the focus is on this November 1936 story.
Reed Harrington calls the police with a desperate situation: he’s been
marked for death at midnight. For over a week, Harrington has tried to
evade the mysterious caller, but every time, the mystery man finds him.
With no one else to turn to, Harrington asks the police for help.
Detective Joe Cardona is assigned the case and he’s there in the room
when Harrington receives a call just before midnight…and falls dead! In
short order, Arnold King arrives at the dead man’s apartment with the
same incredible story. What links these two men? Well, they both were
former partners of the Milcote Chemical Corporation. Armed with police
protection, King holes up and waits…until he, too, falls dead. King dies
of electrocution; Harrington of poison.
Enter: The Shadow. He directs his agents to discover the identity of
other partners of the company and land on three: Simon Todd, Thomas
Porter and his son, Ray. But what complicates the mystery is that
Harrington, King, and the two Porters all are former partners of the
chemical company. Who would want them dead? Perhaps it is sinister
agents of a foreign power out to discover the secret formula for the new
chemical weapon created for the United States to use in the next war.
Perhaps it’s something else, but you know before you even read the first
word that The Shadow will emerge triumphant.
First of all, I really enjoyed this story. I liked how the action played
fairly quick and straight. I have since learned that the author of
PARTNERS wasn’t Walter Gibson but Theodore Tinsley. In fact, PARTNERS is
Tinsley’s first Shadow novel. I read he studied Gibson’s writing style
and aimed to achieve a certain verisimilitude with the prose. Today, I
can’t say if he did, but the prose flowed well. An aspect of the writing
that was likely a product of the times was the omniscient narrator
where you rarely got into the characters heads, much less The Shadow.
That was likely intentional because Tinsley has us readers (and certain
characters) witnessing a thing only to reveal later that The Shadow had
already performed a different task. It was very much like the movie
serials of the time.
Speaking of The Shadow himself, I enjoyed his disguises and his ability
to blend into his surroundings. He appeared both as a young and old
workman and Tinsley treated us readers to a classic sly wink as the
disguised hero vacated a scene just as another character paused and
frowned in odd recognition. A surprising aspect of The Shadow’s
character was when he constantly seemed to be five steps ahead of
events. Like Sherlock Holmes who knew, for example, the villain in the
The Hound of the Baskervilles before he even left London yet sent Watson
on errands anyway. The Shadow did the same thing with his team which
consisted of Burbank, a man who communicated the plans to other agents,
reporter Clyde Burke, and Harry Vincent, who acts as The Shadow’s
second-hand man. Ironically, just like Doc Savage’s compadres, Vincent
gets himself in trouble and The Shadow has to rescue him, but Vincent
proves an able partner.
I listened to PARTNERS from a new all-cast recording up on Audible. It
was fantastic and I got a definite old-time radio vibe. There were no
sound effects, but there was soft jazz music at the end of each
chapter. A funny aspect of the narrator was his slight pause every time
“The Shadow” was mentioned in prose. Another note on the recording: they
edited out much of the attribution. Since I had the hard copy and there
was a particularly great action sequence, I marked it to re-read and
study. It was then, while the audio was playing in my ears, that I
noticed they were leaving out some words. As an avid audiobook listener,
I wish other productions would do the same thing.
I thoroughly enjoyed PARTNERS IN PERIL and I’ll be quickly moving on to
more Shadow novels. THE SHADOW UNMASKS is the only other full-cast
recording while THE VOODOO MASTER and THE BLACK FALCON are narrated