On This Day: Walter B. Gibson Died

Walter B. Gibson may not be terribly well known, today, but for almost twenty years around the middle of last century, he was one of the most popular authors in the world. Writing under a bewildering aray of house names – John Abbington, Andy Adams, Ishi Black, Douglas Brown, C B Crowe, Felix Fairfax, Wilber Gaston, Maborushi Kineji, Gautier LeBrun, Rufus Perry, and P L Raymond just to name a few – Gibson was a prolific contributor the the hugely popular pulp magazines of the ’30s and ’40s. He remains best known, though, as Maxwell Grant.

Still doesn’t ring a bell?  Try this . . .

How about now?

As noted in the indispensable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:

Gibson wrote almost 300 novels as Grant, 282 of them for the celebrated pulp magazine The Shadow (325 issues 1931-1949), whose hero The Shadow – originating in a 1930 radio series – is a mysterious vigilante who often walks by night, and whose powers – his Invisibility is not in the end created out of his magician’s bag of tricks but is clearly an sf/supernatural power, as are his feats of Hypnosis – gradually became understandable as fantastic. The famous catchphrase which begins each episode in the Radio serial – “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows”, first pronounced basso profundo by Orson Welles on 26 September 1937 – clearly conveys more than the overview of a secular crime fighter.

Podcasts of Orson Welles’ The Shadow radio plays are freely available at sites such as Old Radio World.

Interestingly, for the pulp historians among you, the house name of Maxwell Grant was also adopted by one Lester Dent, who used it to write a single story, The Golden Vulture, in 1938.  Dent, of course, is best known under the house name Kenneth Robeson, in which guise he wrote almost 140 issues of one of the other great pulps of the time, Doc Savage.

For those interested in the pulp era in general but in Maxwell Grant and Lester Dent particularly, you could do a lot worse than read Paul Malmont‘s wonderful 2007 novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. Highly recommended.