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.

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.

Writers That Have Influenced Me

EmmaWatson-HarryCrowder03I’m not going to go in-depth as to why these guys have influenced me since in many ways, it would be hard to nail it down. These are authors that have been favorites of mine and are ones that when I read them, I consciously go “Wow, look how they did that! I want to be able to do that!”

I certainly read and enjoy other authors besides just these guys but these are the ones that I’d list as inspirations (in no order other than what popped in my head). Some of them have styles that are very different from my own but I still feel like I’ve taken something from them along the way.

Continue reading → Writers That Have Influenced Me

Writers That Have Inspired Me

EmmaWatson-HarryCrowder03I’m not going to go in-depth as to why these guys have influenced me since in many ways, it would be hard to nail it down. These are authors that have been favorites of mine and are ones that when I read them, I consciously go “Wow, look how they did that! I want to be able to do that!” I certainly read and enjoy other authors besides just these guys but these are the ones that I’d list as inspirations (in no order other than what popped in my head). Some of them have styles that are very different from my own but I still feel like I’ve taken something from them along the way.

Paul Ernst

Robert E. Howard

Walter Gibson

Stephen King (“old” King anyway — ’70s & ’80s)

Michael Moorcock (Elric specifically)

Rob MacGregor (his Indiana Jones work)

Andy McDermott

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Frank Herbert (his Dune series)

Timothy Zahn

Chris Claremont

Clive Cussler

Marv Wolfman

Geoff Johns

Jim Shooter

Wayne Reinagel

Arthur Conan Doyle

Derrick Ferguson

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writers Who Have Inspired Me

EmmaWatson-HarryCrowder03I’m not going to go in-depth as to why these guys have influenced me since in many ways, it would be hard to nail it down. These are authors that have been favorites of mine and are ones that when I read them, I consciously go “Wow, look how they did that! I want to be able to do that!” I certainly read and enjoy other authors besides just these guys but these are the ones that I’d list as inspirations (in no order other than what popped in my head). Some of them have styles that are very different from my own but I still feel like I’ve taken something from them along the way.

Paul Ernst

Robert E. Howard

Walter Gibson

Stephen King (“old” King anyway — ’70s & ’80s)

Michael Moorcock (Elric specifically)

Rob MacGregor (his Indiana Jones work)

Andy McDermott

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Frank Herbert (his Dune series)

Timothy Zahn

Chris Claremont

Clive Cussler

Marv Wolfman

Geoff Johns

Jim Shooter

Wayne Reinagel

Arthur Conan Doyle

Derrick Ferguson

Writers Who Have Inspired Me

EmmaWatson-HarryCrowder03I’m not going to go in-depth as to why these guys have influenced me since in many ways, it would be hard to nail it down. These are authors that have been favorites of mine and are ones that when I read them, I consciously go “Wow, look how they did that! I want to be able to do that!” I certainly read and enjoy other authors besides just these guys but these are the ones that I’d list as inspirations (in no order other than what popped in my head). Some of them have styles that are very different from my own but I still feel like I’ve taken something from them along the way.

Paul Ernst

Robert E. Howard

Walter Gibson

Stephen King (“old” King anyway — ’70s & ’80s)

Michael Moorcock (Elric specifically)

Rob MacGregor (his Indiana Jones work)

Andy McDermott

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Frank Herbert (his Dune series)

Timothy Zahn

Chris Claremont

Clive Cussler

Marv Wolfman

Geoff Johns

Jim Shooter

Wayne Reinagel

Arthur Conan Doyle

Derrick Ferguson

Writers Who Have Inspired Me

EmmaWatson-HarryCrowder03I’m not going to go in-depth as to why these guys have influenced me since in many ways, it would be hard to nail it down. These are authors that have been favorites of mine and are ones that when I read them, I consciously go “Wow, look how they did that! I want to be able to do that!” I certainly read and enjoy other authors besides just these guys but these are the ones that I’d list as inspirations (in no order other than what popped in my head). Some of them have styles that are very different from my own but I still feel like I’ve taken something from them along the way.

Paul Ernst

Robert E. Howard

Walter Gibson

Stephen King (“old” King anyway — ’70s & ’80s)

Michael Moorcock (Elric specifically)

Rob MacGregor (his Indiana Jones work)

Andy McDermott

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Frank Herbert (his Dune series)

Timothy Zahn

Chris Claremont

Clive Cussler

Marv Wolfman

Geoff Johns

Jim Shooter

Wayne Reinagel

Arthur Conan Doyle

Derrick Ferguson

From the Vault: Authors Who Have Inspired Me

EmmaWatson-HarryCrowder03I’m not going to go in-depth as to why these guys have influenced me since in many ways, it would be hard to nail it down. These are authors that have been favorites of mine and are ones that when I read them, I consciously go “Wow, look how they did that! I want to be able to do that!” I certainly read and enjoy other authors besides just these guys but these are the ones that I’d list as inspirations (in no order other than what popped in my head). Some of them have styles that are very different from my own but I still feel like I’ve taken something from them along the way.

Paul Ernst

Robert E. Howard

Walter Gibson

Stephen King (“old” King anyway — ’70s & ’80s)

Michael Moorcock (Elric specifically)

Rob MacGregor (his Indiana Jones work)

Andy McDermott

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Frank Herbert (his Dune series)

Timothy Zahn

Chris Claremont

Clive Cussler

Marv Wolfman

Geoff Johns

Jim Shooter

Wayne Reinagel

Arthur Conan Doyle

Derrick Ferguson

Monday Morning Ramblings

shadow1994Welcome to another new week at Ye Olde Blog!

Mostly took the weekend off from writing though I did do a good bit of plotting in my head and read over some reference material for my Pulse Fiction story. I think it could be quite fun — it’s strictly a work-for-hire deal so I’m following someone else’s character notes and bible. It’s fun sometimes to do that sort of thing though I always end up wishing I could take the characters in some different directions. Nobody ever does things exactly the way I’d want them to 😉

Finished reading an old Shadow novel by Theodore Tinsley – Death’s Bright Finger (1942). I really enjoyed it. Tinsley’s Shadow is much more violent than Walter Gibson’s but it makes for an excellent change of pace. I’ll be reviewing that one on the next episode of The Shadow Fan Podcast.

Had a great time recording the interview that will run as the 50th episode of the podcast. My guest was a great speaker with lots of interesting stories to share, both about Shadow lore past and present. Definitely my favorite episode of the show so far!

Today I’ll be adding a few more words to Lazarus Gray Volume Five and starting up my Pulse Fiction story. Fun times – but busy! If you want to learn more about me and what I’ve been doing — and why — please give a listen to the latest episode of the Pro Se Presents Podcast. I rambled on a bit about the origins of my characters, my feelings about the nature of pulp fiction and I even go on a mini-rant about heroism in our modern society. I can’t promise I always make sense but hey, I think you can hear the passion anyway.

True Blood ended its season last night — the show is starting to feel its age and I wish Sookie would eat something before she vanishes completely but I still enjoy the show. It’s good, trashy fun and Jason Stackhouse makes me laugh out loud every episode.

Our image today is of Alec Baldwin as The Shadow, circa the 1994 feature film. Enjoy!

Ugh.

Psst-Masked-GirlI feel awful today. Started getting sick yesterday and woke up around 2:30 this morning, feeling like I had one foot in the grave. I managed to get myself up and dressed but we’ll see if I can manage a full day of work or not. I did record The Shadow Fan Episode 24 and it’s now live, so you can download it and hear me talk about Dynamite’s upcoming comics, Masks # 4 and 1937’s “Foxhound” by Theodore Tinsley.

I’m finishing up the last of the edits on The Rook Volume Two Special Edition today and then I’ll send them back to my editor. Hopefully that one will be in the hopper soon. I also received the edits on the first story for Lazarus Gray Volume 3 and will start looking through those.

My Weird West story is going well though my illness might slow me on it just a bit. The character that I’m introducing here is one that intrigues me. I didn’t want to create another series for myself and I think I’ll be able to avoid the temptation but I do have ideas for what other adventures Miss Anna Holst could have… Hell, her background is fascinating enough to merit delving into, as well.

No! Must show willpower and not give in! I have enough series to occupy me.

Pulp-wise, I’m currently re-reading The Golden Master, which is the first appearance of Shiwan Khan in The Shadow series.Good stuff but different than the usual Walter Gibson material. I will, of course, be reviewing it on next week’s episode of The Shadow Fan.

I learned that Sedat Ozgen will be the artist on my G-8 story coming from Moonstone. This will be in the format of “one page of text, one splash page” that they sometimes do with their books. G-8 battles zombie pilots in my tale so you know it’s gonna be fun! Sedat is a talented guy who has worked on The Phantom: The Ghost Who Walks, Airfighters and Captain Action. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!