The man behind the magic
Prior to writing The Shadow tales, Walter Gibson spent 10 years writing syndicated newspaper columns on puzzles, games and other parlor tricks. He was friends with and a ghostwriter for such popular illusionists of the time as Harry Houdini, Howard Thurston and Harry Blackstone. In fact, Houdini’s wife gave Gibson access to the illusionist’s private notebooks so that Gibson could write two books Houdini’s Magic and Houdini’s Escapes originally published in 1930. The two books which explained Houdini’s illusions later were reprinted in the 1970s.
As if that weren’t enough, Gibson, himself, was a conjurer and, in the preface to the Double Day Crime Club reprint of “The Freak Show Murders,” says he toured as a magician in a traveling carnival. That particular experience played directly into the plot of that book.
Gibson took things a step further in the mid-1930s and created Norgil the Magician. The character, who used his knowledge of magic and illusion to solve mysteries, appeared in a series of short stories in Crime Busters and Mystery Magazine. The Norgil tales were also signed by Maxwell Grant.