Norgil the Magician

Walter Gibson is rightly associated with The Shadow, having written 282 novels featuring the character. But he also wrote 23 stories featuring the lesser-known “Norgil the Magician,” drawing upon his real-life knowledge of magic. Norgil debuted in the November 1937 issue of Crime Busters and continued to be published until 1940. These 23 stories are, for the most part, very hard to come by. In 1977, Mysterious Press issued two volumes collecting 16 of the tales — I can only assume there were plans for a third book that ended up never happening. The books themselves are beautiful things to behold — both feature Jim Steranko covers.

I’m lucky enough to own these two volumes and I thought I’d take some time to talk about the first of them with you. It contains 8 stories, selected as a “best of” from the ’37-’40 period. The very first story is a little rough compared to the others — it’s easy to see that Gibson (writing under the Maxwell Grant byline) gets more comfortable as time goes on. Unlike The Shadow, Norgil doesn’t have a large supporting cast — in fact, the only character who appears in each tale alongside Norgil is his trusty stage assistant, Fritz. There is also a showgirl named Miriam who is in many stories but it’s really only in one of them that she has much to do or say — the rest of the time she’s basically background material.

The basic premise of each story (all of which are around 22 pages in this book) is this: the story opens with Norgil in some new city, performing a magic trick, which Gibson explains to us. Then he becomes involved in solving a murder/jewel theft/protection racket scheme. He usually manages to solve the mystery with the help of another magic trick, which Gibson again gives a full description of. Sometimes Fritz helps, sometimes not. My favorite plots involved Norgil attending a magicians’ convention (“Battle of Magic”) and one about a ring that people are being killed over (“Ring of Death”).

All the villains in this book are of the small-time variety: hoodlums, rich guys who are secretly bankrolling the mob, etc. There’s no true threat for Norgil, who handles all the cases with relative ease. In that sense, it reminds me of a perfect setup for a television series, a la Murder, She Wrote – our hero could travel each week, with one or two supporting cast members, solving crimes wherever he goes.

Norgil himself is suave and intelligent. There’s no signs of romance in his life but he’s a friendly sort who seemingly knows people in every town. He’s a master of disguise, good with his fists and a master illusionist.

Gibson’s trademark writing style is recognizable but the character certainly feels different from The Shadow. If you enjoy Gibson’s more famous creation, I think you’ll find enjoyment in this one, as well. My biggest complaint is that I kept hungering for Norgil to face a true master criminal, one that would push him to the limit. Despite all the gunfire and death traps in this book, I never really felt that Norgil was threatened.

The book is great fun and an interesting look at a forgotten character.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars — if Norgil’s opposition had been greater, I would have given it a perfect score. Norgil is one of those characters on my bucket list to write… I tried unsuccessfully to get the rights to him at one point and would dearly love to have a shot at handling this wonderful but forgotten hero.

2 Comments on “Norgil the Magician

  1. Norgil is owned by Conde Nast, the owners of the old Street & Smith characters. They also own The Shadow and Doc Savage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Helena Wayne Huntress

Creator of Action & Adventure fiction

Millhaven Press

Creating New Worlds



Seinfeld Law

An Outrageous, Egregious, Preposterous, take on the legal issues of Seinfeld

John F Allen Writer

The Official Website of John F. Allen writer.

Turtle Tracks Blog

Toys | Games | Movies | Comics and everything else in between

Future of the Force

The Future of Pop Culture Writing

Nerds of Mass Distractions

What's your distraction?

Nitrate Diva

Old Movies. Fresh Takes.


We love comics.

Balladeer's Blog

Singing the praises of things that slip through the cultural cracks

Magazines and Monsters!

Comic book and movie reviews!

Longbox Graveyard

Marvel and DC comics and community


Horror, Science Fiction, Comic Books and More

Fraser Sherman's Blog

Fantasy and film reference writer.


Library of the Odd, the Obscure, and the Occult

Helen Power

Scribbler & Scholar

Eva Newermann

Art and Books

The Working Writer

Pro Advice For Freelance Writers

Writer of Age

Adam West’s Updates

In One Ear...

"I'm a whole lot better and a whole lot worse than you think I am."-The Choir

America DeFleur

Once a foster child, Always a foster child

Tommye Turner Talks

Fantasy and Science Fiction Book Reviews and Discussions


T.V/Movie News & Reviews

J Ramos "Writer"

This site is the bee's knees

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.


"Find what you love and let it kill you." – Charles Bukowski


The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

Our Dodge Blog

1939 Dodge D11 Deluxe Luxury Liner

Planetary Defense Command

Defending the planet from bad science fiction

Passion For Popcorn

Movie critiques by a popcorn enthusiast

Cheche Winnie

Writing is human communication tool and it brings out the real personality in you as a person.

cracked rear viewer

Fresh takes on retro pop culture

Micah The Missus

I am the mistress of this blog and this is where I channel my inner domestic goddess

M.F. Calhoun's Key to Imagination

The collective writings and thoughts of that guy in the site title.

Superhero Novels

News, reviews, and commentary about superhero prose fiction


Geeky News, Reviews and Rants from a Working Class Super-Villain


A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.

Books and Mor

Let's Read

When My Worlds Collide

Worlds and ideas from my mind

Every Day Should Be Tuesday

Speculative Fiction Book Reviews and Sundry

william hope hodgson

A blog about the writer of THE NIGHT LAND and HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND

%d bloggers like this: