11. A Wink and a Nod

In The Annihilist (November 1934), there are some interesting items.  A couple of times I could close my eyes and imagine I was reading about some other character besides Doc Savage. Then there’s this expression: Basenstein reporting,” he repeated over and over.   “Basenstein reporting.”  Report,” directed a voice over the receiver.  At this point in the story the reader does not know exactly to whom Basenstein is reporting.  It turns out to be Hardboiled Humbolt but it reads like something that Maxwell Grant penned.

Here’s an example from The Shadow, The Crime Cult (July 1932).  “Burbank reporting,” he said. “Report,” came the voice.

Moving on to The Mystic Mullah this is an interesting passage: The thin, white beam of light collapsed suddenly. Quiet again gripped the vicinity, except for the small sounds of the water, which were sufficient to cover other, minor noises. A wave nudged the tug into the dock, and the fenders screamed out like condemned souls, as they ground between hull planking and dock piles.

There was no sound of anything living, no trace that the wielder of the thin-beamed flashlight had moved; yet inshore, toward the end of the dock, where there was a little glow reflected from a distant street light, a shadow moved unexpectedly. It was a very large shadow and quite shapeless, with nothing definite enough about it to identify it.

A bit later, the shadowy figure materialized again, some distance down the street, near where three other figures stood.

Of course, it’s Doc Savage and not The Shadow but the reader could be excused for getting the two confused here.

This stuff gets you to thinking.  Let’s go look at Cold DeathVONIER let a single drop of the ink fall from the bottle on a square of white paper. The color was brightest blue. The Shadow is a big fan of blue ink as is shown in The Living Shadow from April 1931: The flashlight was out. All was silent for a while then the circle of illumination appeared again above the table in the library. A hand was writing in blue ink. Keen thoughts were finding their cold expression on a sheet of paper:

The Purple Dragon from September 1941 has another Shadow-like cameo.  A dark clad figure roams the night as he “shadow’s Fielding Falcan who enters an office.  This unknown, laughs “mirthlessly” as he trails his man.  The figure, who is completely clothed in black, enters an office directly above Falcan’s.  This office belongs to a “John Jones.”  The Jones name bring to mind the B. Jonas name used in The Shadow.

Lastly in The Three Wild Men (August 1942) here is a nod at The Shadow.  One trait the wild men possess is an unpleasant kind of laugh. He lets out the awfulest laugh that ever came out of a radio,

So in regards to The Shadow it looks like Lester Dent was having a little fun.

The Shadow is not the only Street & Smith character to make an appearance here.  Falling back to The Annihilist we come across this passage: The gun he brought out was not the regulation service revolver, but a lean-snouted .22-calibre target pistol. This is the same weapon Richard Benson, The Avenger uses a few years later.  Finally, let’s remember a henchman we encountered in The Seven Agate Devils: The lower part of this man’s face had a somewhat hair-raising way of retaining whatever expression was on it. It seemed incapable of changing expression voluntarily. The man had a discomfiting habit of fingering his countenance. These are the same facial characteristics that become The Avenger’s trademark.  While The Shadow already had his own magazine, these Avenger-like references all appear before the first issue of the magazine.  They are some of the raw materials that ended up as Richard Benson.

Sometimes it looks like characters from the competition are stopping by.  There is an interesting ring in Mad Mesa from January 1939.  Tom Idle stares unbelievingly at his hands.  He is also wearing a very interesting ring that would be more at home in the pages of Operator #5.

He stared in horror at his hands—for they were not his hands either, it seemed; they looked pale, and on one finger was a ring he had never seen before, a big, ugly, yellow gold ring with the top carved in the shape of a skull