Saturday, May 6, 2017


There were a total of 30 SHADOW pulp novels reprinted in paperback in the late '60s/early '70s. Following upon the success that Bantam books was enjoying with their ambitious reprints of the entire DOC SAVAGE series, The Shadow found a home at Bantam also at first, before moving to Pyramid which then morphed into Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, or Jove for short.

I have now read all 29 of those SHADOW paperbacks. Wait, weren't there 30? Yes but the first Shadow novel, THE LIVING SHADOW, was published by both Bantam and Pyramid. I have the Bantam edition and read that one first and didn't need to read it again when it was reissued later. But reading 29 SHADOW novels is just a drop in the bucket when you consider that there were a total of 325 Shadow adventures published. Needless to say, I have a very long way to go before I'm finished with The Shadow.

The book pictured above, THE DEATH GIVER, was the 30th Shadow thriller, first published in May 1933. It was the last reprint published by Jove in April 1978. The cover by Jim Steranko is, of course, magnificent but suffice it say, no scene even remotely like this appears in the story. As much as I love Steranko's work and his interpretation of this classic pulp hero, I think he kinda missed the boat on this one.

That's because there was stuff in THE DEATH GIVER that would have made a much more powerful cover, albeit, without the fetching redhead in the pink slip. Thade, the Death Giver, the title character, is a bonafide super villain. He's a disgraced weapons maker who, when the U.S. military declines to buy his wares, turns his devices upon the people of New York City in a reign of terror and death. Thade (real name Julius Olney), is a wizened little man who dresses in green robes emblazoned with a black skull and crossbones. He has a secret hideout somewhere in Manhattan, where he's guarded by two immense Nubian servants. From here he plots his schemes of murder and extortion.

Thade starts on a small scale, targeting random victims to disguise his real objectives, wealthy businessmen and their money. After several seemingly unrelated deaths in the first part of the book, crimes which baffle the police but not The Shadow, Thade and his thralls up the ante by unleashing a rain of poison gas on a ticker tape parade in lower Manhattan. The attack is thwarted by The Shadow which leads to a final showdown in Thade's den of evil.

THE DEATH GIVER is a first rate pulp thriller featuring a genuine costumed super villain with a secret identity, a hideout, henchmen, deadly devices and insane schemes of mass destruction. I would have loved to see Steranko's rendering of this madman on the cover of this book but alas, we'll have to make do with what we have which is still first rate.

Highly recommended for pulp fans and for those who are wondering what all of the fuss over these old stories is about. This one's a winner.

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