In 2006, Anthony Tollin began an ambitious series of reprints of classic pulp hero magazines under the Nostalgia Ventures imprint. The series continues to this day, now published under the Sanctum Books label. These handsome trade paperbacks feature two vintage novels published in the dimensions of a pulp magazine and include both original covers, interior art and the old two-columns of type layout of the pulps. In addition to a painstakingly correct reproduction of the pulps (everything but the feel and smell of the paper), each volume contains well researched and well written background material by Tollin and Will Murray (and others) about the stories and their authors. All in all a superlative package of terrific pulp action.
I finished reading the first volume in The Shadow series last night. The book contains two classic, vintage Shadow adventures: CRIME, INSURED from July, 1937 and THE GOLDEN VULTURE, from July, 1938. writers. In CRIME, INSURED, a crooked insurance man begins selling "crime" insurance to various criminal gangs. The gangs pay a hefty premium and, should their criminal endeavor fail, the insurance company has to cover the claim and pay off big bucks. When several schemes are disrupted by The Shadow, forcing the insurance company to pay huge amounts to the crooks, the insurance man and his henchmen declare all-out war on The Shadow and his agents.
The bad guys succeed in capturing and holding half-a-dozen of The Shadow's best agents. The crooks also discover the location of The Shadow's secret sanctum and his true identity (at least, they think it's Lamont Cranston). The sanctum is blown up and it's up to The Shadow alone, without his agents or his headquarters, to go after the crooks and mete out his deadly vengeance.
CRIME, INSURED was written entirely by Walter B. Gibson and it's a solid Shadow adventure. THE GOLDEN VULTURE has a different pedigree. It was written by none other than Lester Dent, of DOC SAVAGE fame. Street and Smith asked Dent to write a Shadow novel as a try out of sorts. The editors had conceived of the idea of Doc Savage and they needed to find someone who could handle an original hero pulp novel a month before they launched the new character. Dent wrote GOLDEN VULTURE in 1932. The editor's liked what they read and assigned Dent to DOC SAVAGE. The manuscript for VULTURE sat unpublished for several years until Gibson gave it a polish in 1938, when it was finally published.
THE GOLDEN VULTURE finds The Shadow in Miami, investigating a series of suicides of wealthy men. The suicides look like murders orchestrated by the master villain The Golden Vulture. The Vulture communicates to his army of henchmen by means of small golden vulture statuettes (think Maltese Falcon), that contain both radio and television senders and receivers as well as explosives. There are also a couple of much larger Vulture statues, one underneath a ruined mansion in the Florida swamps, the other secreted aboard the gambling ship The Buccaneer.
Dent's fingerprints are all over this one as THE GOLDEN VULTURE features head long action and a furious pace throughout. The Shadow, Harry Vincent and Inspector Joe Cardona, face death by alligators, explosions, gun battles, death traps and more in a non-stop narrative of capture, escape, capture, escape, capture, escape,and final showdown. The identity of the Vulture is easy to guess but getting to the finale is one helluva lot of fun. The speaking vulture statues reminded me of the way the Black Tiger communicated to his men through a mechanical tiger head in THE SHADOW serial of 1940 starring Victor Jory.
Two classic Shadow novels in a beautifully produced and designed trade paperback is a winner winner chicken dinner in my book.
Check these babies out at http://www.pulpcomingattractions.com/SanctumBooks/SanctumBooks.html!