Discussion:
Review: "Murder on Main Street" (The Shadow)
(too old to reply)
John Olsen
2012-04-06 07:21:24 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
MURDER ON MAIN STREET was originally published in the April-May 1948
issue of The Shadow Magazine. A murderer had struck and then left the
house... left it despite the fact that all the windows and doors were
locked, bolted, and chained on the inside. It caused fear to walk like a
live thing... until Lamont Cranston came to town. And even then the
murderer struck again...

Avoid this story like the plague. It is bad. Very, very bad. You've been
warned. Now go ahead and read the rest of this review, knowing in
advance that the mystery tale is a real klinker. You'll find out why
it's so bad. Or I can just sum it up in two words: Bruce Elliott.

If you've been paying attention, you know that Bruce Elliott wrote
fifteen Shadow stories between 1946 and 1948. They were all bad -- some
being worse than others. This was one of the worse ones.

This was Bruce Elliott's next-to-last Shadow novel. But why do I even
call it a "Shadow" novel? Only because it was published in "The Shadow
Magazine" and featured Lamont Cranston. Certainly not because The Shadow
ever showed up. Nope, there is no Shadow in the entire story; this is
one of those infamous "Shadow" stories in which The Shadow is never
mentioned. Feeling cheated? So, I imagine, did the readers of the pulp
magazine! No wonder that pulp magazine sales started dropping off
drastically.

This is a detective story, plain and simple. The detective happens to be
Lamont Cranston. Cranston shows up in the beautiful small town of Harris
right after a murder has been committed. Old Thomas Archer was killed;
his wife Mary found him sitting in his chair, a carving knife straight
through his heart. How was it done? There was no one else in the house
and all the windows and doors were locked. It's a real mystery for
sturdy young sheriff Billy Tennan, a veteran of WWII.

It seems that Cranston is in town investigating the murder of a man
named Jenkins. He had relatives in this town, so Cranston came to town
to see if any of them had motive for murder. And the first relative on
his list to check turned out to e old Thomas Archer, the next murder
victim. So as long as he's here, he involves himself in the case.

When Lamont Cranston steps up and offers to lend a hand in the
investigation, Sheriff Tennan is only too glad to accept. Tennan
recognizes the name of Cranston as someone who has assisted the New York
Police in the past. Plus to gain the sheriff's confidence, Cranston does
a little name-dropping, mentioning New York Police Commissioner Ralph
Weston and Inspector Joe Cardona. And so before you know it, Cranston is
looking into the murder with Sheriff Tennan's blessings.

Did the wife do the dastardly deed? She was the only one in the locked
house at the time. Or maybe young Jimmy Jason who received a
dishonorable discharge from the services for being a bit looney. Maybe
it was kindly old Doc Ender, who seems too good to be true. Or Kitty
Randall... She was young Tommy Archer's fiancee; they were to be married
when he got out of the Army, but unfortunately he was killed in the war.
Or Bummy Byers, the ex-sheriff who has a grudge against the new young
sheriff.

Yet another will die, before the mystery is cleared up. One of the above
suspects will be killed by a long-range bullet shot with stunning
accuracy. And the motive for these murders? Well, you see... Nah, I'm
not going to tell you. That would spoil it for you. (And it doesn't take
much to spoil a Bruce Elliott story.)

The only other familiar character from The Shadow series that shows up
in this story is Moe Shrevnitz. He appears briefly at the very end of
the story, and speaks no lines. He just appears as Cranston's taxi
driver. And, as was typical of the later Shadow stories, he is only
referred to as "Shrevvie."

In this story, Cranston carries a single .45 automatic. He uses it only
once, at the climax to shoot the guilty party in the hand. Ah, for the
grand old days of The Shadow, when both of the .45's were used regularly
and bodies were dropping like flies. But the year is 1948, the author is
Elliott, and those days were long gone.

One of the things I noticed in reading Bruce Elliott's stories is that
they mostly leaned toward wackos. Elliott seemed obsessed with abnormal
psychology. Story after story focused upon men who had returned from the
war (that would be World War II) badly scarred, emotionally and
mentally. They were Schizoid. Paranoid. Psychoneurotic. In this story we
have Jimmy Jason who is the main suspect; he's dangerously obsessive.
And, as would be obvious to even the most casual mystery fan, if he's
the main suspect, then he must be innocent.

Another thing about Elliott's stories is that he intentionally misleads
readers. Now in a mystery story, that's to be expected. But the writer
shouldn't outright lie. Elliott will say things early on that prove to
be totally inaccurate, later. For example, in Chapter 9, he says, "the
killer stabbed the man he hated." But when motives are revealed at the
story's end, we find the killer doesn't hate the man at all. He just
wants to eliminate the other heirs so he can inherit a bag full of
money. It's all very unemotional and mercenary. And quite typical of
Elliott's writing style, unfortunately.

One of the things that I thought was interesting is that at one point in
the story, Cranston leaves for five weeks. When he returns, he makes a
few off-hand remarks about having been in Havana working on a drug
smuggling case. This is not a reference to any stories published in The
Shadow Magazine, so I'm not quite sure what to make of it. But it seemed
noteworthy just because of its atypical nature.

It's a short story, barely 23,000 words in length. A far cry from Walter
Gibson's stories of 45,000 words. But think of it this way: would you
really want to suffer through one of Bruce Elliott's stories that was
longer? I tend to think of it as "mercifully" short.

There's no sign of The Shadow in this story. No sly reference. No
passing comment. Nothing. It's as if The Shadow didn't exist, except for
the name on the masthead of the magazine. What could the editors at
Street & Smith could have been thinking? Had they no clue what their
readers expected? And these were supposed to be seasoned businessmen and
women.

If you're looking for a Shadow story... this ain't it. If you're looking
for just a good mystery... this ain't it, either. Even if you try to
look at this as strictly a murder mystery having nothing to do with The
Shadow, it still fails. On any level, it's a story that will waste your
time when you have better ways to spend it. I spent several hours of my
life reading this story. There were so many other ways -- better ways --
that I could have spent that time.

Do not read this story. Your time could be better spent clipping your
toenails.

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://www.spaceports.com/~deshadow/
Joe Pfeiffer
2012-04-06 16:28:02 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by John Olsen
MURDER ON MAIN STREET was originally published in the April-May 1948
issue of The Shadow Magazine. A murderer had struck and then left the
house... left it despite the fact that all the windows and doors were
locked, bolted, and chained on the inside. It caused fear to walk like
a live thing... until Lamont Cranston came to town. And even then the
murderer struck again...
Avoid this story like the plague. It is bad. Very, very bad. You've
been warned. Now go ahead and read the rest of this review, knowing in
advance that the mystery tale is a real klinker. You'll find out why
it's so bad. Or I can just sum it up in two words: Bruce Elliott.
fifteen Shadow stories between 1946 and 1948. They were all bad --
some being worse than others. This was one of the worse ones.
This was Bruce Elliott's next-to-last Shadow novel. But why do I even
call it a "Shadow" novel? Only because it was published in "The Shadow
Magazine" and featured Lamont Cranston. Certainly not because The
Shadow ever showed up. Nope, there is no Shadow in the entire story;
this is one of those infamous "Shadow" stories in which The Shadow is
never mentioned. Feeling cheated? So, I imagine, did the readers of
the pulp magazine! No wonder that pulp magazine sales started dropping
off drastically.
This is a detective story, plain and simple. The detective happens to
be Lamont Cranston. Cranston shows up in the beautiful small town of
Harris right after a murder has been committed. Old Thomas Archer was
killed; his wife Mary found him sitting in his chair, a carving knife
straight through his heart. How was it done? There was no one else in
the house and all the windows and doors were locked. It's a real
mystery for sturdy young sheriff Billy Tennan, a veteran of WWII.
It seems that Cranston is in town investigating the murder of a man
named Jenkins. He had relatives in this town, so Cranston came to town
to see if any of them had motive for murder. And the first relative on
his list to check turned out to e old Thomas Archer, the next murder
victim. So as long as he's here, he involves himself in the case.
When Lamont Cranston steps up and offers to lend a hand in the
investigation, Sheriff Tennan is only too glad to accept. Tennan
recognizes the name of Cranston as someone who has assisted the New
York Police in the past. Plus to gain the sheriff's confidence,
Cranston does a little name-dropping, mentioning New York Police
Commissioner Ralph Weston and Inspector Joe Cardona. And so before you
know it, Cranston is looking into the murder with Sheriff Tennan's
blessings.
Did the wife do the dastardly deed? She was the only one in the locked
house at the time. Or maybe young Jimmy Jason who received a
dishonorable discharge from the services for being a bit looney. Maybe
it was kindly old Doc Ender, who seems too good to be true. Or Kitty
Randall... She was young Tommy Archer's fiancee; they were to be
married when he got out of the Army, but unfortunately he was killed
in the war. Or Bummy Byers, the ex-sheriff who has a grudge against
the new young sheriff.
Yet another will die, before the mystery is cleared up. One of the
above suspects will be killed by a long-range bullet shot with
stunning accuracy. And the motive for these murders? Well, you
see... Nah, I'm not going to tell you. That would spoil it for
you. (And it doesn't take much to spoil a Bruce Elliott story.)
The only other familiar character from The Shadow series that shows up
in this story is Moe Shrevnitz. He appears briefly at the very end of
the story, and speaks no lines. He just appears as Cranston's taxi
driver. And, as was typical of the later Shadow stories, he is only
referred to as "Shrevvie."
In this story, Cranston carries a single .45 automatic. He uses it
only once, at the climax to shoot the guilty party in the hand. Ah,
for the grand old days of The Shadow, when both of the .45's were used
regularly and bodies were dropping like flies. But the year is 1948,
the author is Elliott, and those days were long gone.
One of the things I noticed in reading Bruce Elliott's stories is that
they mostly leaned toward wackos. Elliott seemed obsessed with
abnormal psychology. Story after story focused upon men who had
returned from the war (that would be World War II) badly scarred,
emotionally and mentally. They were
Schizoid. Paranoid. Psychoneurotic. In this story we have Jimmy Jason
who is the main suspect; he's dangerously obsessive. And, as would be
obvious to even the most casual mystery fan, if he's the main suspect,
then he must be innocent.
Another thing about Elliott's stories is that he intentionally
misleads readers. Now in a mystery story, that's to be expected. But
the writer shouldn't outright lie. Elliott will say things early on
that prove to be totally inaccurate, later. For example, in Chapter 9,
he says, "the killer stabbed the man he hated." But when motives are
revealed at the story's end, we find the killer doesn't hate the man
at all. He just wants to eliminate the other heirs so he can inherit a
bag full of money. It's all very unemotional and mercenary. And quite
typical of Elliott's writing style, unfortunately.
One of the things that I thought was interesting is that at one point
in the story, Cranston leaves for five weeks. When he returns, he
makes a few off-hand remarks about having been in Havana working on a
drug smuggling case. This is not a reference to any stories published
in The Shadow Magazine, so I'm not quite sure what to make of it. But
it seemed noteworthy just because of its atypical nature.
It's a short story, barely 23,000 words in length. A far cry from
would you really want to suffer through one of Bruce Elliott's stories
that was longer? I tend to think of it as "mercifully" short.
There's no sign of The Shadow in this story. No sly reference. No
passing comment. Nothing. It's as if The Shadow didn't exist, except
for the name on the masthead of the magazine. What could the editors
at Street & Smith could have been thinking? Had they no clue what
their readers expected? And these were supposed to be seasoned
businessmen and women.
If you're looking for a Shadow story... this ain't it. If you're
looking for just a good mystery... this ain't it, either. Even if you
try to look at this as strictly a murder mystery having nothing to do
with The Shadow, it still fails. On any level, it's a story that will
waste your time when you have better ways to spend it. I spent several
hours of my life reading this story. There were so many other ways --
better ways -- that I could have spent that time.
Do not read this story. Your time could be better spent clipping your
toenails.
John
Why is it that the worst stories lead to the most entertaining reviews?
John Olsen
2012-04-07 06:28:31 UTC
Permalink
Raw Message
Post by Joe Pfeiffer
Why is it that the worst stories lead to the most entertaining reviews?
I've noticed that, myself. The good Shadow stories (and there are many
of them) are not always fun to write. But the bad Shadow stories... ah,
those are ones in which a person can vent their spleen. And this Shadow
tale was among the worst of the bad 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://www.spaceports.com/~deshadow/
Loading...