Before the shadows slew the sun the kites were soaring free, And Kull rode down the forest road, his red sword at his knee; And winds were whispering round the world: "King Kull rides to the sea." The sun died crimson in the sea, the long gray shadows fell; The moon rose like a silver skull that wrought a demon's spell, For in its light great trees stood up like spectres out of hell. In spectral light the trees stood up, inhuman monsters dim; Kull thought each trunk a living shape, each branch a knotted limb, And strange unmortal evil eyes flamed horribly at him. The branches writhed like knotted snakes, they beat against the night, And one gray oak with swayings stiff, horrific in his sight, Tore up its roots and blocked his way, grim in the ghostly light. They grappled in the forest way, the king and grisly oak; Its great limbs bent him in their grip, but never a word was spoke; And futile in his iron hand, a stabbing dagger broke. And through the monstrous, tossing trees there sang a dim refrain Fraught deep with twice a million years of evil, hate and pain: "We were the lords ere man had come and shall be lords again." Kull sensed an empire strange and old that bowed to man's advance As kingdoms of the grass-blades before the marching ants, And horror gripped him in the dawn like someone in a trance. He strove with bloody hands against a still and silent tree; As from a nightmare dream he woke; a wind blew down the lea, And Kull of high Atlantis rode silent to the sea. - Robert E Howard
“That’s his wife in England.”
“When she says it like that, it’s not that he has another wife here.”
“Dad can get a senior’s coffee at McDonalds, he just chooses not to.”
“How shady do shade tarps have to be?”
“Good afternoo–wait, it’s still technically morning. Hello.”
“…heheh, hello, Riders.”
“Well, it was just an idea I wanted to float….and see who was gonna set fire to it…”
“Hello! I was actually just thinking something about you!”
“Oh hell no, that’s a bad sign. Oh no. Uh oh.”
Or, it’s a lot easier to name kids after your favorite SF/F heroes if they’re your kids….
Adam (Reith): Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure cycle. (Portrayed here by Keir Dullea in 2001: A Space Odyssey, because that’s pretty much what I imagine Adam Reith to look like).
“He looks creepy.”
“He’s this ice cold, stone cold badass space scout guy who gets crash landed on an alien planet. And then he has adventures.”
“Brrr! Look at those eyes!”
“Yeah, ain’t they nice? And then he has to basically build his own space ship to go back home again.”
“It’s a good name!”
Aragorn (Lord of the Rings)
“He don’t look like that no more.”
“Doesn’t matter, he’s Aragorn!”
Ben, Benedict (of Amber): The Chronicles of Amber. (Here portrayed by Gary Cooper as portraying Howard Roarke in The Fountainhead. I suppose Howard or even Roarke wouldn’t have gone amiss as entries on this list, but never mind.)
“I dunno who this guy is.”
“He’s a Prince of Amber! He’s the greatest swordsman in the worl–no, he’s the greatest swordsman in the universe. Any universe.”
Brandoch (Daha): The Worm Ouroborous.
“Ohhhh, I remember him.”
“Yes, that’s Errol Flynn. But the character is named Brandoch Daha. He’s this guy in The Worm Ouroborous, he’s a real dandy and he’s also the greatest swordsman in the world.”
“I thought you said that the other guy was the greatest swordsman in the world!”
“No, Benedict is the greatest swordsman in the universe. He’s better than Brandoch Daha.”
Carthoris: ERB’s Barsoom cycle. (Here portrayed by Eric Schweig from Last of the Mohicans)
“Car…thoris…? That’s a horrible name!”
“It’s a combination of his parent’s names! John Carter and Dejah Thoris! Car-Thoris!”
Corwin/Carl/Corey: The Chronicles of Amber (AKA, Tyrone Power)
“I remember Corwin.”
“You used to tell me alllllll about him.”
“Yeah, isn’t he cool?”
Duncan (AKA: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, as seen in The Prisoner of Zenda): Dune, Dune Messiah. The greatest swordsman in the universe. (It’s a different universe from the other one.) How great? His enemies were so impressed they brought him back to life after swarming him to death with sheer numbers.
“Y’know, I’m sensing a trend here.”
Eric (John Stark): Leigh Brackett’s Mars, Venus, and Skaith.
“Oh, Leigh Brackett!”
“Yes! I mean, I barely blog about her books but they were really good. This guy is like Tarzan.”
“I can see why you like him.”
Gilgamesh (Wulfenbach): Girl Genius. The one and only schmott guy. Und hiz hat!
“GILGAMESH? Are you serious?”
“…well, you could call him Gil.”
“It could be a middle name!”
“Look, he’s got a hat.”
Harry (Copperfield Blackstone Dresden): The Dresden Files.
“Awwww, but I like Harry.”
Julian (of Amber)
“Oh! I know him! That’s Charlton Heston!”
Juss (The Worm Ouroborous) (AKA: Robert Taylor in Ivanhoe), Lord of Demonland (don’t worry, they’re really only from Mercury and he’s actually the hero), Prince among princes, and a really good guy overall.
“Or Justin. Or Justinian…and you could just call him Juss.”
“It’s nice, innit?”
John (Clayton, Carter, Dillulo…): Tarzan, Barsoom, and Edmund Hamilton’s Merc Captain in the Starwolf series. It’s a good name, OK? This one happens to be Gordon Scott of the John Clayton fame.
“John. John’s a good name.”
“It’s a classic.”
Kirth (Gersen): The man who defeated The Demon Princes.
“Kirth. OK, I like Kirth.”
“His family was killed and sold into slavery by these five master criminals, and then his grandfather trained him as an assassin detective and he spent the rest of his life tracking them down one by one and killing them. They were such–they were these criminal overlords, like–they were so powerful and feared that people called them the Demon Princes.”
“And, he got them all.”
“And then what did he do?”
“Heh, the last page of the last book is him wondering what he’s going to do next.”
Leto (Duke of Arrakis and Caladan): Dune. Leto’s limited screentime doesn’t really get to show how cool a character this guy really is.
“Leto. Leto. It sounds like a middle school name.”
“…you could be ahead of the curve?–no, you’d be behind the curve.”
“–behind the curve, yeah.”
“He’s a cool character though!”
Luke: (The Legend of Luke)Father of Martin the Warrior, foe of Vilu Daskar, blood brother to Ranguvar Foeseeker, liberator of the slaves!
“Whaaaat! Oh, ahahahahahaaa, that’s hilarious. ”
“Those books were really awesome.”
Martin The Warrior: Redwall. Because REDWAAAAAAALLLLLLL! EULALIA! LOGALOGALOGALOG!
“Because Redwaaaaaalll! Yue–Eue–Eulalia! Logalogalogalog! Heh heh heh.”
Miles (Vorkosigan): Lois Bujold’s The Vorkosigan Saga
“Who is this guy?”
“I don’t know who this guy is. Why is his face on fire?”
“Why did you pick a symbolic picture?”
“…because it was symbolic and it represented the character well!”
“His face is ON FIRE.”
“IT IS NOT.”
Solomon (Kane): Robert E Howard’s Solomon Kane mythos.
“Oh! I like this guy. Who is this guy?”
“He’s a Puritan in old England who goes around smiting evil. With a sword.”
“Down from the hills came Solomon Kane…there’s a poem somewhere. Dang, I should have linked to it or something.”
“He’s very cool looking.”
“He’s very cool.”
“Put a link to the poem up!”
“Oh, ok. Since you asked for it.”
Roger: The man who gave us many worlds, glimpses of grandeur, nobility and fun that might otherwise have been lost to ours. Thanks, man. I loved your books.
“I didn’t read any of his books.”
So it appears that I have been doing the brisk Police Commissioner Weston a disservice. He has not, in fact, ever been convinced of the presence of an invisible man, to the point of ordering his detectives to take appropriate actions when guarding doors and windows against said invisible murderer’s entry–or exit. It was actually Commissioner Barth.
Weston, you see, departed New York somewhere around mid-1934 for a heroic stint establishing a….tyrannical police state in a dubiously-named South American nation, okay. His replacement, Wainwright Barth, is something special, even by pulp fiction incompetent detective standards. (It’s explained that Barth lobbied intensively for the job and got it mostly because a) being a former financier, he was able to handle the administrative portions of it, b) absolutely no one else wanted to. It’s also explained that Weston gets his job back very quickly once he returns.)
This era of Shadow stories is interesting, since globe-trotting millionaire Lamont Cranston maintains a friendship with both police commissioners, frequently gets invited out to crime scenes, and is solicited for his opinion on tricky matters. The difference is that while Weston will begrudgingly acknowledge when Cranston has a good point, Barth gets agitated when his own investigative incompetence is highlighted. Needless to say, Cranston handles both with aplomb and, often, the trailing echo of a whispered laugh.
So. An invisible murderer. An incompetent police force. The Shadow. What else does this book contain? Well, for one: a mad scientist, an ex-aviator and soldier of fortune, a couple of majority stockholders, a group of swindlers, a couple of slick gang leaders, and more gun-toting mobbies than you can shake a stick at.
The majority stockholders have lost a lot of money to a trio of swindlers. However, one of them still has a lot of faith in the mad scientist he is funding–despite the failure of the last big invention, which also lost money–and, in order to assuage the doubts of other board members, arranges a viewing of the latest: a device for the devisualization of solids. Lamont Cranston, wearing his tech investor hat (would he be a SpaceX shareholder today, one wonders….), and Commissioner Barth are along for the ride. We know there is going to be major hijinx, because we have also seen the two main mob leaders (themselves, of course, acting on behalf of the Big Boss), meticulously planning a hideout and alibis.
The devisualization test subject is Miles Crofton, a former aviator and soldier of fortune; a capable man with some unsavory associations in his past. He disappears, but then also escapes the laboratory. Threatening letters signed by “The Unseen Killer” are found almost immediately, and, shortly, one of the swindlers gets murdered in his own home. The doors and windows are locked and there is no sign of forced entry.
To give some credit to Commissioner Barth, he does propose a second test of the devisualization device–casually volunteering ace detective Joe Cardona as the guinea pig, heh–but the mad scientist’s sudden death (accompanied by another threatening letter) only reinforces his belief that there really is an unseen killer around. The Unseen Killer promptly demands that the remaining two swindlers turn their ill-gotten money back over to him, on pain of….death. The Shadow, of course, has sussed out the disappearance, and the basics of the ongoing scheme, but with the death-by-gunshot-wound of the first lead, he and his agents must scour the underworld for the next, looking for both the plotters and the not-really-invisible man–and the unseen mastermind behind it all.
And so it goes, down to a very satisfying climax indeed.
So, at the slight risk of spoiling a 92-year-old novel, Miles Crofton is innocent and in fact becomes one of the Shadow’s agents. He’s got rather the most thankless task of any agent–yes, even more so than Harry Vincent–because he’s the private pilot to one of the most badass aviators in all of pulp or adventure fiction.
Speaking of agents, they’re present but far in the background. Harry Vincent and Cliff Marsland end up on the active side of a kidnap-slash-rescue operation, for once. Jericho Druke gets to pop up, bang some heads together, and then play innocent once the police arrive. Pietro the fruitcart vendor makes his second and I believe last appearance, possibly because it’s lampshaded how conspicuous and improbable he is on a stakeout team. And the hunchy, ambling Hawkeye provides one of the biggest breaks in the case, by uncovering the Unseen Killer’s hideout spot.
Gibson’s Shadow stories didn’t contain much outright funny bits, but there’s more than a generous sprinkling of dry, sly humor to them–such as Joe Cardona’s uneasiness at being voluntold to become the next Invisible Man, or Cranston’s missed sarcasm to Commissioner Barth. (A different story sees Cranston and a tubby civilian banker get taken hostage and encouraged to stick ’em up. The narrator observes: “[civilian’s] hands went up as if impelled by springs. Cranston’s followed at a more leisurely pace.”)
Rated: Really, Commissioner? Really?
A palace was never truly silent nor still, but there was quiet and long-shadowed dimness in the high gatehouse. The ambassador himself was currently ringed by utter silence, and appeared unconcerned by it. He leaned on one long hand, and looked down towards the lands he had fled once before, a thin smile fading on his lips.
Those who were around him shared uneasy glances. He had proven embarassingly willing to remember that the king’s nephew held only the title of Duke, and had not been presented to the Council as heir; and that there was a king’s son, too, who wtill lived. That the king’s son had forsaken his people meant nothing to Moratha; that he had forgotten them, was answered only by a slight smile. He was a young man and he was strong; he had grown to manhood among proud and dangerous people, and he had learned of them, said Moratha.
He had said this in the presence of the king’s daughter.
“I can’t just have five tons of gravel sitting in my driveway, it’s not being used, it’s an eyesore!….it’s been there for twenty years but–”
“So you don’t use these ones?”
“No, I don’t even go in them. They’re….oh my.”
“I don’t go in them but the spiders do.”
“…we’ll just let them have it.”
“It’s the spiders’ room now.”
“Oh, you made it!”
“Well, I knocked on the door–”
“Yeah, I thought that didn’t sound like a poodle.”
So, I was out of town since Friday on a road trip to Nashville. It was great, except that I-24 was a nasty surprise….going and coming. And then my GPS decided that I really, really needed to take the scenic route on the way back.
Other than that, highlights of the trip were the purchase, taste-testing, and subsequent disposal efforts of Aldi-brand coffee-flavored sparkling water (which was terrible), and the discovery of Jeni’s Splendid Icecream’s Everything Bagel flavor (which was awesome.)
Normal posting will resume eventually.
Unfortunately, the poster is just about the best thing about that movie.