THE SHADOW: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930-1954

THE SHADOW: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930-1954

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The Shadow — for the consideration of those who never heard a radio broadcast or read a pulp magazine — was a supernatural sleuth with a sepulchral chuckle. A detective whose success in tracking down criminals became a popular long-running radio program from 1937 to 1954, after beginning a number of years before as a ghost-like voice introducing a bone-chilling murder play that concluded with a sinister laugh.


The Shadow was originally the voice of conscience and it was through the fear he aroused in the minds of criminals that they exposed their own villainy or destroyed themselves. Never committing cold-blooded murder for the sake of justice, The Shadow suffered a harrowing existence of close calls and death-defying challenges. His exploits were many; a career paced by chase and gunplay. Werewolves, vampires, psychotic murderers, gangsters, mad scientists — he battled them all. Looking back on the program today, it is hard to decipher which was more fun — The Shadow’s methods at plaguing a guilty conscience or the variety of horrors and villains he fought against.


The program left an impression on adults who enjoyed reading the pulp magazines and on young children who listened to the chillers. Radio station KQW in San Jose, California, created its own radio advertisement to promote the station one depicting two children at play remarking, “I don’t want to be Napoleon any more I want to be The Shadow.” The Shadow was inspiration to many, famous or fan. In his autobiography, Isaac Asimov fondly recounted filching the exciting yarns of The Shadow pulps from his sleeping father and replacing the magazine before he woke. Dick Ayers, creator of the Ghost Rider for the comics, admitted there was a blending of enthusiasm in his interpretations of the Ghost Rider’s speech, influenced not by the pulp magazines, but by having been an avid fan of the radio program. Scriptwriters for the radio program later recycled their Shadow plots for novels and short stories — Alfred Bester recycled one of his Shadow plots into the 1952 novel The Demolished Man, which won him a Hugo Award in 1953.


This 840 page book documents the entire history of the long-running radio program, with rare never-before-seen photos, interviews with cast and crew, and a carefully organized presentation of the facts. Through extensive research of original radio scripts, newspapers on microfilm and various archives across the country, this book is sure to please both casual and devoted fans of The Shadow. An extensive episode guide with plot summaries and an index enhance the book’s appeal.


“For those who first heard The Shadow on the air when radio was young, this book will bring back memories. For those too young to remember the radio show, this is a wonderful introduction. For the collector and historian of old-time radio, there are facts here they may be seeing for the first time. For everyone else, this is a book to treasure.”

J. Randolph Cox
Editor, Dime Novel Round-Up


“Martin Grams may be the largest influence in the hobby, providing more output of research than anyone I know. His endorsements seem to make or break commercial products. His opinions are valued, evident to anyone who tries to grab a moment to speak with him at the Friends of Old Time Radio Convention. After reviewing my recent purchases and his most recent books I now understand why his book on The Shadow was the talk of the weekend.”
— Peter Buchman’s Childhood Memories Blog


“Walter Gibson created him. J. Randolph Cox studied him.  Anthony Tollin glorified him, and now Martin Grams Jr. has provided hungry Shadow enthusiasts like myself and scores of others the most complete and thoroughly researched volume (actually several volumes between the covers of this encyclopedic tome). In 836 pages we learn, in minute detail the Street and Smith birth of The Shadow from print to air and back again. We are treated to book long comparisons of the styles of the actors who portrayed The Shadow, Margot, Weston, Shreve and others. And we are introduced to the talents of the major script writers (including my own favorite, Alonzo Dean Cole). Behind the scenes Martin reveals often neglected information about production, direction, sound, sponsorship. We discover how programs survive to this day as Mutual and Charles Michealson (my source for the Witch’s Tales scripts) expand the influence of their product and profit by means of transcriptions. The detailed episode guide alone, is worth the price of the book and what we learn about The Shadow in Australia and South America is quite revealing. If there is a photo or illustration that Martin ommited, I would be shocked. If you have not guessed by now, you can’t claim to be a real otr fan if this book is not on your bookshelf.”
— David Siegel, Author, The Witch’s Tale


“Martin has authored a new book, due out in April, which many are calling the definitive history of The Shadow on radio. The book covers the origin of the Shadow as a mysterious voice narrating several series in the the early 30s and then winding up as the main character in the long running, legendary crime series on Mutual.”
— Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound


“In the past I have turned to John Dunning, Jim Harmon and others for my research on The Shadow. From now on my research efforts will almost always be initially directed towards Martin Grams’ latest release… No matter how many other books on old-time radio that you might possess, your shelf is empty until you purchase Martin’s biography on the “Man of Mystery.”

— Jerry Collins, The Illustrated Press (September 2012)


“In regards to THE SHADOW book, I have to say that it is one of the most impressive books that I have seen in my lifetime. I am humbled by the amount of research and time that you put into it, just simply mindboggling. You need to be commended as your book is absolutely awesome and is a must for every Shadow and/or radio enthusiast. WELL DONE!!!”
—  Dwight Fuhro, well-known collector of The Shadow


“Now I know the meaning of ‘exhaustive work.’ Has this much been written about a single program in the annals of OTR history?  I don’t recall it.  Your Shadow treatise (dare I say, encyclopedia set?) will occupy a prominent place on my shelf.  As a reference, it will be unsurpassed.  As entertainment, it will be an enjoyable reminisce.  As a gift from a treasured co-laborer, it is truly unsurpassed (bet the rent on it).  I thank you for including me among the recipients.”
—  Jim Cox, author of numerous books for McFarland


“This book is exactly what the title states, an extremely complex and comprehensive history of the phenomenon that was the long running SHADOW radio program.   Grams starts with the origins of the character as a narrator for pulp tales and step by step takes the reader through the growth spurts and growing pains of the program that truly made The Shadow a part of the modern pantheon of American heroes.  Although one would think that there would be urges to devote a lot of space to Orson Welles’ time on the program or to the intricacies and involvement of Street and Smith, Grams not only gives those and other well known aspects of this history their due, but he brings into light so many, one would daresay every aspect of this show and then does something even more startling.  He makes every bit of it interesting, from the details about all the creative minds involved to the advertising to the effect that this program had on the industry and society alike.”
— Tommy Hancock, ALL PULP BLOG


“For Shadow and OTR fans, this tome will be one of the two indispensable volumes on the subject. Because it was co-written by Shadow creator Walter Gibson, The Shadow Scrapbook (1979) will remain the “bible” for many fans. But for a detailed, accurate, incisive history of The Shadow radio show and movies, it is hard to believe that there will ever be a better source than Martin Grams’ definitive book.”
—  Rob Farr, August 2011 issue of Radio Recall


“Marty did one hell of a job, far superior than anyone has done in the past. There are corrections made to mistakes that were done by early historians.”
— Frank Boncore, September 2011 issue of The Illustrated Press


“The term ‘definitive’ gets bantered around a lot these days, quite often inaccurately and prematurely, but in this case there is simply no other term to describe the voluminous amount of work and research that Grams put into this monumental effort. Nothing in the Shadow’s long career and broadcasting itinerary is considered too insignificant to ignore and the author is more than up to the challenge. This is a magnificently researched and executed work which will never encounter a problem surviving the test of time as the ultimate Shadow sourcebook.”
— Bruce Dettman, Autumn 2011 issue of Scarlet: The Film Magazine


“This take on THE SHADOW covers all the bases, hits a home run and twirls a perfect game in pursuit of developing a dossier of which the CIA would be proud… Where Grams excels is in the detail of the background material that other authors ignore or just don’t want to bother with… If you like Old-Time Radio and particularly if you are drawn to the mystery genre, get this book. It’s a winner.”
–Charles R. Sexton, RLL on the Air, Spring 2012


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