|I finished reading KINGS OF CRIME last night. Originally published in December, 1932, the story was the 20th adventure of the mysterious crime fighter known as The Shadow. I've been reading Shadow pulp reprints aloud at dinnertime to my lovely wife Judy for the last several years and we both get a big kick out of them. The edition I read (pictured above) is the reprint published by Pyramid Books in the early 1970s. Dig that terrific Jim Steranko cover art!|
KINGS OF CRIME finds The Shadow operating in Seaview City (an analog for Atlantic City), instead of his usual hunting grounds of New York City. There are two factions warring for control of the coastal resort community. One is the public safety committee comprised of the mayor, the police chief and other prominent businessmen. They want to keep Seaview City free of crime in general and the influence of one group in particular: the Kings of Crime.
The Kings of Crime is a gang made up of five criminals, each in charge of a special brand of wrongdoing. There's the drug kingpin, the gambling czar, the blackmail master, etc. The catch is that one man is a member of both groups. That's right, the chief of the Kings of Crime is also a member of the public safety committee and he's working behind the scenes to make sure crime triumphs.
KINGS OF CRIME is really the story of Herbert Carpenter, the blackmail expert. When one of his schemes goes wrong, he's set up to take the fall for the gang and is sent to prison. He engineers a daring escape and returns to Seaview City to extract his revenge upon the Kings of Crime. But he crosses paths with The Shadow, who uses Carpenter as a de facto agent.
The identity of the criminal mastermind is finally revealed (it's not hard to figure out) in the explosive climax which features The Shadow acting as a sniper (who knew he could handle a rifle grenade launcher as well as those twin death-spitting .45s?) before making an escape in his auto gyro (pilot unknown).
It's interesting to see The Shadow operate out of his usual element and without the aid of any of his regular agents. He uses the Lamont Cranston persona (and another disguise) throughout the book but the story's real star and hero is Herbert Carpenter, the blackmailer who earns his redemption by fighting alongside The Shadow to destroy the Kings of Crime.
KINGS OF CRIME is a fast paced pulp adventure that is full of twists and turns along with bloody gunfights, chases and narrow escapes. Thumbs up.