Shadow Over Alcatraz was published in the December 1, 1938 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Yes, Alcatraz – The Rock! This is the repository of America’s most dangerous criminals, a concentrated population of the world’s most sinister masterminds. Where better to find lieutenants for the most devious mastermind of all time! Alcatraz, where America’s most hidden mastercriminal will recruit his evil henchmen for a plot to create a world-wide crime spree.
It all starts in Denver, Colorado, where eccentric old inventor Harvey Lanyon is demonstrating his latest invention. He calls himself “The Rainmaker” because he’s created a machine that will end droughts. Or so he thinks. But the invention is a failure; all it does is create a fog. And what good is fog? None, except to that hidden mastermind known as Zanigew. Zanigew has sinister plans for the fog machine. So he sets out to capture Harvey Lanyon and appropriate Lanyon’s invention.
So exactly who is Zanigew and what is he up to? Can even The Shadow stop this cunning genius of crime? Zanigew plans crime such as has never before been known; an empire of evil that will stretch throughout the world! It will take the power of The Shadow to stop him. And it will make an adventure that ranks among the very best among the 325 Shadow magazine stories published. It’s one you won’t want to miss.
Assisting The Shadow in this story are Harry Vincent and F.B.I. agent Vic Marquette. Also appearing in smaller roles are Burbank and pilot Miles Crofton. The Shadow appears only as himself, Kent Allard. There’s no sign of his famous disguises here.
The Shadow does appear in disguise, once, as an unnamed adventurous Easterner who bears little resemblance to Kent Allard. We are told that when he removes the putty-like makeup on his face, the gaunt countenance of Kent Allard emerges. No mention of the “horror face” beneath the makeup that was mentioned in early Shadow novels. Perhaps there was a little judicious plastic surgery performed in the intervening years?
It’s good to see The Shadow’s autogiro make an appearance in this story. It plays a pivotal part in the climax to the story. This is the “new, improved” autogiro that is completely wingless, capable of making a speed of one hundred and twenty miles an hour. Generally, autogiros were considered to have wings, so this must have been closer to the modern helicopter than an autogiro.
And one final note. Did you know that The Shadow can squeeze through steel bars only seven inches apart? It’s not easy, but he accomplishes it in this story. Maybe he can dislocate some joints, somewhat like escape-artist Harry Houdidi was reputed to do. Get out a ruler and look at seven inches. That’s not much space. I’m surprised he could get his head through! Unless… (no, let’s not go there.)
This is one of the classic Shadow stories. It’s one of the top rated stories.
And it along with another Shadow tale is in The Shadow Volume 16 for $12.95 from Radio Archives!