Discussion:
Review: "No Safety in Numbers" (The Shadow)
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John Olsen
2014-07-11 07:02:39 UTC
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NO SAFETY IN NUMBERS was published in the November 1946 issue of The
Shadow Magazine. Gang violence and gambling madness corrupt a city!
Crime is on the march again, as innocent men pay with their lives for
the cruel schemes of vicious lawbreakers. Terror reigns... and only The
Shadow can cope with the monstrous out-cropping of evil.

Why would you want to read this? I can't think of many good reasons.
It's barely passable as a regular mystery story, and completely
unacceptable as a Shadow mystery. Imagine if you would, taking a Tarzan
story and changing the names to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Would
that make a good Sherlock Holmes story? Of course not. The characters
would be all wrong, as would the settings and the entire mood of the
story. And so it is with this story. It's as if a run-of-the-mill
detective story were selected and the names of Lamont Cranston and The
Shadow were used in place of the previous character names. The story is
all wrong. It's a bad, bad, bad Shadow story. And -- as you have
probably guessed -- was written by Bruce Elliott.

This story was written by Bruce Elliott during the two-year period when
Gibson left the magazine. It was his fourth Shadow mystery, out of a
total of fifteen. And while none of Elliott's Shadow stories even came
close to those of Gibson, this one isn't even his worst one. At least
The Shadow appears regularly in this story; in a few of Elliott's Shadow
stories, there was no appearance by The Shadow at all! And the word
count, while low at only 37,000 words, is much higher than some of his
later Shadow stories, which sunk to an all-time low of 19,000 words.

I don't think Elliott really understood The Shadow. There are just too
many inconsistencies between the relationships as described by Elliott.
The relationship between The Shadow and his agents is way too casual. In
this story, they seem to be friends. There's no sense of master/aide.

In Gibson's Shadow stories, reports from his agents always were made to
communications man Burbank. In this story Burbank owns a telephone
answering service, but doesn't play the part of information clearing
house. Instead, agents telephone The Shadow directly. And informally, as
when Harry Vincent reports in: "Hi Boss! This is Harry." Sheesh!

Bruce Elliott never got certain facts right. The most annoying example,
to me, is that The Shadow should always wear a cloak. Elliott often
describes it as a cape. If its purpose is to enclose his figure in
blackness, only a cloak would suffice. A cape would leave the lower half
of his body conspicuous. It's as if Sherlock Holmes was said to wear a
loincloth... it's just plain wrong. Walter Gibson rightly always
described it as a black cloak.

In one spot in the story, The Shadow hangs outside a window, clinging to
some brownstone decorations, listening to the plottings of the criminals
inside. This would have been a natural place for The Shadow to be using
his famous rubber suction cups to cling to the wall. But Elliott ignores
them. He just didn't get it...

In this story, Lamont Cranston is no longer a wealthy clubman and world
traveler. Instead he is a well-known detective. Many have heard about
Cranston's deductive powers, but all have apparently forgotten that he's
a big-game hunter.

Harry Vincent is the only agent to take an active role in the story. And
it's very minor. Burbank appears once or twice, but basically does
nothing. Hawkeye is mentioned as trailing someone or other, but never
actually appears. Shrevvy (yes, he's called "Shrevvy" not Moe Shrevnitz)
is mentioned as being unable to make the trip. No other agents are even
mentioned.

As for the plot of the story, it's all about numbers... as in the
numbers racket. The illegal racket has become legal today and is now run
by the states and is called a lottery.

Back in the 1940's, the numbers racket, also known as a "policy game,"
was a big one. People from all walks of life would select their favorite
three-digit number and place their bet with their bookie, known as a
"numbers runner." The winning number would be selected in some random
manner; in this story they are the last digits in the daily horse-race
results. The following day, those who selected the winning number would
receive their winnings from the numbers runner. Illegal, at the time,
but very common.

In this story, the numbers racket has come big-time to Skillton, a
thriving metropolis in an unnamed northern state. Two rival gangs have
set up in town. On the north side of town, Larry Bonds runs the racket.
On the south side, it is Joey Raoll who controls the game. The two
factions are involved in a feud to take control of the entire lucrative
racket.

Gang war has broken out in Skillton, and crusading newspaper owner
Gerald Winthrop calls his friend Lamont Cranston for assistance. The
gang warfare must stop, and Winthrop figures that Cranston is the man to
help him clean up the town. And clean it up, he does! Because, he's The
Shadow!

Yes, this man we're talking about is The Shadow, not the "real" Lamont
Cranston. This story makes no reference to the fact that there is
another Lamont Cranston. In this story, there is only one Cranston, and
he's The Shadow. The explanation for the discrepancy lies, most
certainly, in the fact that this story wasn't written by Walter Gibson.

As far as Shadow novels go, this one is near the bottom of the ladder.
Not quite the bottom rung, but getting close. I can't really recommend
this story to anyone but completists or masochists. Or to someone who
has a lot of time on his/her hands and is reeeaalllly bored! There were
325 Shadow mysteries published during its eighteen year magazine run...
so go read one of the other ones.

John
--
"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"
The wonderful old pulp mystery stories are all reviewed at:

http://home.comcast.net/~deshadow/
Chuck
2014-07-11 09:51:05 UTC
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As far as Shadow novels go, this one is near the bottom of the ladder. Not
quite the bottom rung, but getting close. I can't really recommend this
story to anyone but completists or masochists. Or to someone who has a lot
of time on his/her hands and is reeeaalllly bored! There were 325 Shadow
mysteries published during its eighteen year magazine run... so go read one
of the other ones.
John
I have to read them all and if it gets reprinted, I will buy it and
eventually read it. Thanks for the warning.

Chuck
John Olsen
2014-07-11 15:11:05 UTC
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Post by Chuck
I have to read them all and if it gets reprinted, I will buy it and
eventually read it. Thanks for the warning.
Like you, I felt obligated to read it. And to add insult to injury,
I've read it twice, now. Yes, twice! Once in 2003 and again in 2014.
I should take my own advice.

John
--
"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"
The wonderful old pulp mystery stories are all reviewed at:

http://home.comcast.net/~deshadow/
Joe Pfeiffer
2014-07-11 16:54:05 UTC
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Post by John Olsen
Post by Chuck
I have to read them all and if it gets reprinted, I will buy it and
eventually read it. Thanks for the warning.
Like you, I felt obligated to read it. And to add insult to injury,
I've read it twice, now. Yes, twice! Once in 2003 and again in
2014. I should take my own advice.
Ah, but if you did we wouldn't get to read reviews like this! It's sad
but true that reviews of really bad books tend to be more fun to read
than reviews of good ones. Thank you for taking one for the team here.
Chuck
2014-07-11 22:38:35 UTC
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Post by Chuck
I have to read them all and if it gets reprinted, I will buy it and
eventually read it. Thanks for the warning.
Like you, I felt obligated to read it. And to add insult to injury, I've
read it twice, now. Yes, twice! Once in 2003 and again in 2014. I should
take my own advice.
John
I do have a text file copy since at one time 'someone' had them all
available online. That is actually why I bought a Kindle, so I could read
them. I can't read at the computer. Because of the reprint series, I just
wait. Hopefully they do the bad ones also. I'd hate to see them get lost.

The question is, how do you do it? Save them all for last and you loose
sales because they are horrible. Put them with a good story and they just
appear worse. I just hope they all get reprinted. My goal is to reread the
series in publication order.

Chuck

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