Lady Detectives on BBC Radio 4 Extra Redux

If you missed it when it was on BBC Radio 4 Extra last time in September 2011, this series is repeating on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Includes Valeria Woodville, Wilkie Collin’s lady sleuth; Violet Green in an Anna Green adaptation; L. Meade’s Florence Cusack and Catherine Pirkis’ Loveday Brooke.

All four are available immediately and will remain so for about 30 days.

[Thanks to albie for the head’s up. ]

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 269 – Mystery Is My Hobby

Glenn Langan Prior to and after the commercialization of radio, many people found entertainment in the many magazines and pulps which were ubiquitous at that time. By the time radio drama began to develop there were many short stories and serials from these magazines that were beginning to be picked up by radio. those with an interest in crime oriented subjects were enamored by lighter detective stories of S.S. Van Dine’s Philo Vance, Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. One element these detectives had in common is that they were urbane sophisticates working privately and often hired by wealthy clients. Their detective work bordered on a light touch to crime. Their circles were often urbane couples and lavish gatherings such as race tracks, society parties and so on.

One such series that was heard beginning in 1945 was Mystery Is My Hobby. This series eponymously demonstrated the amateur detective. The leading character was one Barton Drake, who was a popular and well-known crime writer who himself dabbled in solving crimes. The series is light enough in overall tone that it could have passed for a daytime drama. But such was the tastes of listeners born out of the stories they previously had read in the pulps and slicks of the day.

Expect a much lighter detective story as you listen to my Christmas offering – Boston for Christmas from Mystery Is My Hobby as heard over Mutual in 1947.

Music under is Oh Holy Night performed by Doug Boldt

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 268 – Rocky Jordan

Jack Moyles Recently, I’ve found myself drawn at night to listening to episodes of Rocky Jordan. I’m sort of in conflict with myself about this series. It’s an interesting listen, but it got me thinking about just what is it that I find attractive about this series? What I determined at least for me is an explanation of just what makes good audio drama.

Radio writer Gerald Nachman wrote that “radio created its own visual language through sound effects, vocal theatrics and music.” I think this applies quite well to the Rocky Jordan series. Rocky Jordan was created by Gomer Cool and Larry Roman and their stories are punchy and succinct. The structure of the Jordan scripts with a balance of narration and action with well-crafted dialogue between characters makes these episodes a joy to listen to. Moyles like Bob Bailey in Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar was made for the role and naturally falls into character. His chief protagonist, Sam Sabaaya, played by Jay Novello does an equally excellent job in portraying his character.

So listen and enjoy “The Return of Dr. Piru” as heard on Rocky Jordan from February 1950.

Music under is from Voices of the Night.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 267 – Suspense – Til Death Do Us Part

John Dickson Carr On November 30th, we celebrate the 110th birthday of mystery writer and radio dramatist, John Dickson Carr (right).

Carr was a master of the locked room mystery and his most famous detective was Dr. Gideon Fell. However, he wrote a number of suspense thrillers including helping the CBS series Suspense get its start in the early 1940s. For a period of time then, he was the primary, in-house, scripter with his original mysteries.

One is “Til Death Do Us Part” which is a good one in terms of radio production and stage craft. Its use of sound within the drama enhances the suspense of the play. It starred Peter Lorre who was a much better radio actor than film star in my opinion except for a few unique film performances. When you listen to this play, listen for the use of sound effects as well as the musical bridging.

Music under is Beethoven’s String Quartet, Opus 74 “The Harp” – the Adagio Ma Non Troppo performed by the Cleveland Quartet.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 266 – The Chase

Actor Lester FletcherBy the early 1950s, radio drama was becoming a thing of the past. Television was the new “it” and advertisers were making money hand over fist in the home visual world. One anthology series on NBC was “The Chase” written mostly by Lawrence Klee.  The producers, music, staff were all in-house NBC, which was a huge cost savings. The musical bridges were the same ones heard in other NBC series of the past.

“The Chase” followed another series from several years previous called “Pursuit.”  Both were themed around a hunter and the hunted, though neither really stuck to that theme.  This episode is a detective story, but one in which one wonders who is the hunted and who is doing the hunting – who is pursuing and who is being pursued. The episode, “Elliott Preston is framed for Murder” is very British in sound and might even originated over there. Both leading actors are British and the story takes place in Europe.

The story-line is actually quite good given the short broadcast time frame to develop. It manages to hold some surprises and twists with a touch of suspense. Told in a first person narrative style from the lead character’s point of view, it does draw you in and is a taut suspenseful drama.

Music under is “All I Need” performed by Over the Rhine

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 265 – Suspense: The Night Reveals

Cornell Woolrich In 1934 at the height of the Great Depression, writer Cornell Woolrich decided to try to reinvent himself as a writer. He had spent most of the late twenties and early thirties attempting to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald and he was getting nowhere despite a number of novels and short stories behind him some of which had a modicum of success. All of these were stories of romance and adventure. But in 1934 with the rise of the pulps in detective fiction, the success of writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Woolrich decided to give crime fiction a try.

After writing crime fiction for the pulps – mostly Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly and Dime Detective, Woolrich wanted to try to return to the main stream. Story Magazine in 1936 was a prestigious publication of short fiction with writers such as Norman Mailer, JD Salinger, John Cheever, Tennesee Williams and others writing for them. Woolrich offered a story to them, which they ultimately published in 1936 called “The Night Reveals.”

As radio began to discover Cornell Woolrich mostly through early adoption by the CBS series Suspense, more and more of his stories were being adapted as radio plays. “The Night Reveals” was picked up because then producer William Spier was a fan of Woolrich’s fiction and felt his themes fit well into the structure of the series he was producing and directing.

Music under is “Blue in Green” performed by Miles Davis.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 264 – New Adventures of the Thin Man

d_hammett-posterizedPrior to either of the two series I featured over the last two podcasts, one which began as a single fictional story, moved to film, then radio, for the most part maintained the female lead role in pretty much the same fashion of the time. This was the Dashiell Hammett story titled “The Thin Man.” The role of women in forties drama was usually second class and while Nora Charles is bright and intelligent, she defers to her husband, Nicky, who though cocky is a brilliant detective.

The original story first appeared in Redbook Magazine in 1933 in serial form, was published as a novel in 1934 and would be the final novel Hammett would ever write again. Unless one is a follower of Hammett’s bibliography, you might not know that Hammett wrote an original “Thin Man” story in 1930 he never published. It was initially the same “Thin Man” story involving a missing scientist but much darker. No Nora, no Nick. The detective was named John Guild who had what biographer William Nolan calls “the businesslike Agency approach of the Continental Op and the ultra-coolness of Sam Spade.”

Music under is “My One and Only Love” performed by Art Tatum Group.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 263 – Adventures of the Abbotts

Claudia Morgan Part two of a look at Husband/Wife detective duos and the role women played in the dramas. The Adventures of the Abbotts was the model for the last podcast offering – It’s a Crime, Mr. Collins and the drama on the former is much meatier and overall better played. The scripts were written by Howard Merrill, a former actor and better writer than those on the latter series. The 1950s version (there was also a late forties version) starred Claudia Morgan (right) and Les Damon as Jean and Pat Abbott.

The role of women hadn’t changed much from the forties, though this series based upon Author Frances Crane’s Abbott novels in which Jean Abbott is the main protaganist, shows a little less silliness of character written for women.

Music under is by the Bill Evans Trio and is called “Young and Foolish.”

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 262 – It’s A Crime, Mr. Collins

Mandel Kramer

Mandel Kramer

In this podcast, I look at the role of husband/wife detectives and how radio treated the role of women within the world of radio drama and production. This is the first of several parts looking at various husband/wife detective series over the years of radio drama.

It’s A Crime, Mr. Collins debuted on American radio via the Mutual Broadcasting System in August 1956. Unfortunately, it was a short run ending in February 1957. But Mutual continued to broadcast an Australian version of the series. There appears to be no American version audio extant. The American version starred Mandel Kramer (left) as Greg Collins. The woman who portrayed Gail, his wife, is not known. The Australian version gives us a flavor of the American version, but it seems we won’t know how the other actually sounded unless audio appears.

Radio did not treat women well as attested through the situation involving one of the premier sound effects persons ever in radio drama – Ora Nichols. For more on this listen to

Music under is Art Tatum playing My Ideal.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 261 – One Hundred in the Dark

Eric Dressler Here is a mystery play where no clues are given. Sometimes with “clueless mysteries” we can enjoy the story for the curiosity and not worry about the “who” or “whydunnit.” This is a good example of an attempt to solve a crime in which the reader or the listener is not given any clues to help solve the crime. In fact it seems the crime is not solved – or is it?

In 1913, Owen M. Johnson wrote a short story in which theories of what makes a good detective story are discussed followed by an example of one which focuses on the crime itself and not the solution. One Hundred in the Dark as heard over Suspense and adapted by Jack Anson Finke quite closely to the original story and which can be found online here.

One Hundred in the Dark starred film, radio and stage star, Eric Dressler (right) in the role as Peters/Harris.

Music under is the Alec Wilder Octet in two pieces: “The House Detective Registers” and “Walking Home in Spring.”