Walter B. Gibson Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Walter B. Gibson brought to the mystery novel a consistent sense of illusion. Misdirection is combined in a spiritual and symbolic way as well as in specific terms. Nothing is what it appears to be on the surface, and anyone can be revealed at the end as the guilty party. The greatest mystery of all, however, concerns the identity and origins of the detective himself. The mysterious cloaked avenger known as the Shadow has a dispassionate approach to crime fighting, which to him is much like an intellectual puzzle or a game of chess. Gibson works toward achieving an effect as he manipulates his audience. Each novel in the series is not merely another unit in a saga, interchangeable with its mates, but part of an evolving account of the career of the hero. The Shadow has become a symbol of what “mystery” itself should be and of that part of the story that is most fascinating because it is never solved. Even the revelations in the story “The Shadow Unmasks” did not spoil the ending.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Cox, J. Randolph. Man of Magic and Mystery: A Guide to the Work of Walter B. Gibson. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1988. Complete and comprehensively annotated bibliography of Gibson’s writings.

Goulart, Ron. “A.K.A. The Shadow.” In Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazine. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1972. Discusses the importance of the Shadow to the success and evolution of pulp fiction.

Haining, Peter. The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2000. Looks at Gibson’s contribution to the pulps and the relationship of pulp fiction to its more respectable literary cousins.

Hutchison, Don. The Great Pulp Heroes. Buffalo, N.Y.: Mosaic Press, 1996. The Shadow is compared with his equally famous codenizens of the pulps, including Doc Savage, Tarzan, and Zorro.

Montgomery, George. The Shadow Knew. Clarence Center, N.Y.: Textile Bridge Press, 1989. Short pamphlet covering the biography and career of Walter B. Gibson and discussing his influence on Jack Kerouac.

Shimeld, Thomas J. Walter B. Gibson and the Shadow. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2003. Detailed scholarly study of the Shadow in pulps, drama, and radio. Bibliographic references and index.