Pulp History of The Shadow
In 1930, magazine publisher Street and Smith sponsored a radio show promoting
stories from their Detective Story Magazine. Ironically the fictional
narrator of the show, The Shadow, had become very popular with the listeners.
Numerous requests from people for "that Shadow Detective Magazine"
compelled Street and Smith to create one. A writer was needed. Fast.
Walter B. Gibson had written articles in the newspaper about everything
from puzzles to con-artist spirit mediums. He also ghostwrote for
magicians Houdini, Thurston, and Blackstone. The Street and Smith
editor-in-chief , Frank Blackwell, asked him to do a story about
The Shadow. If the story was good, he would write more on a quarterly
basis. Gibson came up with the idea of a suicidal man who is rescued
from his fate by The Shadow. In return, he would work for him as
an agent in the fight against crime. Over the next three novels,
the character of The Shadow was fleshed out. Since Street and Smith
owned the character, Gibson created a pen name from a combination
of names of magic dealers he knew: Maxwell Grant.
The first novel, The Living Shadow, hit newsstands in April of
1931, selling out in over a month. Its success meant that more stories
were needed, and it would be produced in a monthly format, then
later biweekly starting in 1932. Rival publications followed with
their own character pulp magazines, such as The Phantom and
Gibson would write most of the 334 Shadow novels. Theodore Tinsley was
hired to write four novels a year under the Maxwell Grant pseudonym
from 1936 to 1943. Lester Dent, who would go on to write the Doc
Savage series, wrote one story in 1932 entitled The Golden
Vulture when Street and Smith asked him to produce a Shadow
story as a tryout. It was forgotten until 1938. Gibson was called
in to alter the story as it swayed from the Shadow character that
readers knew so well.
During World War II, rationing of paper forced the magazine back to its
monthly format. By then, Gibson was already writing stories for The Shadow
Comics. After the war, the magazine was combined with Mystery Magazine
and the length of the stories cut in half. Bruce Elliot was hired to write
the stories for this new digest form for the next two years. In 1948,
the magazine returned to its original size and quarterly format with Gibson
doing the stories. The last quarterly Shadow Magazine was published in
summer of 1949. Paperback novels had finally taken over the pulps of yesteryear.
It was only a matter of time that The Shadow would appear in this new
Starting in 1963 and ending in 1967, Belmont Books published a
series of all-new Shadow stories. The first novel was written by
none other than Walter B. Gibson, appropriately entitled The
Return of The Shadow. Dennis Lynds would write the rest of the
series under the Maxwell Grant pseudonym.
a more in-depth look at The Shadow in the pulps >>