Book Review: The Shadow: The Chinese Disks and Malmordo

While TV, film, and comic adaptations generally reign over their radio counterparts, The Shadow is one character who is (pardon the pun) overshadowed by the radio interpretation of the character, even though his appearance in pulp magazines predated it. The book version of the Shadow was a Mastermind, perhaps the most powerful of the mystery men who dominated the pulps in the era before the coming of the superhero.

Nostalgia Ventures had reprint rights to the Shadow novels in the 2000s. Just as they did with Doc Savage, they reprinted two pulp novels in each volume. I acquired the second volume in a sale a few years back. This volume collects two Shadow stories twelve years apart: The Chinese Disks and Malmordo.

In The Chinese Disks, a gang under returning Shadow foe Diamond Jim Farwell is using disks with Chinese characters on them as identification for members of his gang, while he plans a large heist. In Malmordo, a giant, rat-like monster-man known as Malmordo arrives in New York City on a boat from post-War Europe.

Both of these short pulp novels showcase the pulp Shadow stories at their best. The Shadow is not a lone wolf in his pulp iteration. He’s the Master of Men, and as such, he’s accumulated a large number of operatives, whom he calls on to do his bidding. In The Chinese Disks, these operatives are being gathered, and in Malmordo, they’re used to full effect to investigate a terrifying foe. While the Shadow’s lieutenants lack the color of fellow Street and Smith pulp hero Doc Savage, the Shadow’s men are perfectly suited for the more grounded stories of crime and ultimate punishment by the Shadow.

Overall, both novels have a lot going for them, with a good amount of mystery, atmosphere, and suspense. While this reprint is no longer available for retail sale, it’s certainly a worthy read if you can find it used or in a library. This is a great illustration of how the Shadow was not just a mainstay of radio during its Golden Age but also of pulp magazines.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

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