Things from St. Martin’s: The Man With the Dark Shadow

The Man With the Dark Shadow is a series of noir detective novels written in the 1980’s and set in the 1930’s. It stars Mike Gambol, a predictably gritty, disillusioned, middle-aged private detective with a knack for getting involved in what he calls “bad hoodoo”. Despite pitting Gambol, who refused any sort of spell, against magician after magician, and getting a fair number of facts wrong, it has remained popular among the magical set. Part of this comes from being one of the few works of popular fiction to include positive (if slightly stereotypical) portrayals of magicians. These include the motherly Lady Beauchene, who introduces the title mid-way through the first novel, and is a constant source of advice for Gambol as he comes up against powers far beyond his knowledge. There is also the duo of Kitty and Foxy, a performing duo of illusionists who are later revealed to be lovers. The fifth book, Reynard’s Return, centers around Foxy’s kidnapping by a cult who takes her stage name a little too literally. Kitty assists Gambol heavily in this case, eventually cracking the code which leads to her girlfriend’s rescue.

While the plots are dated all twenty books in the series have remained in print partially due to nostalgia value and partially for containing a diverse cast of enjoyable and flawed characters. Depictions of Kitty, Foxy, Lady Beauchene, and Mister Shakes (a mysterious man, always dressed to the nines, who appeared as a deus ex machina on multiple occasions) are common in the homes and businesses of magicians. In areas where magic is less acceptable these depictions sometimes act as markers for safe meeting places.

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