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.”

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 260 – The Cross-eyed Bear

Dorothy B. Hughes

Wanted: A beautiful girl. One not afraid to look on
danger’s bright face. Room 1000, The Lorenzo.

This simple advertisement in a newspaper begins one of Dorothy Belle Hughes (left) psychological thriller crime stories. Hughes, whose works are only recently finding resurgence being re-published by The Mysterious Press were written mostly in the forties of which this story was first published in 1940 as The Cross-eyed Bear Murders. Hughes preceded even Jim Thompson whose The Killer Within was considered a seminal psychological crime story. But Hughes, for seem reason, arced and seemed to have lost traction in the publishing world until recently.

Suspense adapted two of her stories, of which this one is from 1943. The adaptation leaves you wanting and I would recommend reading the original works by this fabulous crime writer.

Music under is the Bill Evans Trio performing Young and Foolish.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 259 – The Eleventh Juror

Vincent Starrett Vincent Starrett was a Chicago-based journalist and crime fiction writer in the early part of the 20th century. He was an intense bibliophile and became interested in all things Sherlockian writing what is probably one of the best pastiches of Holmes in 1920 called The Adventure of the Unique ‘Hamlet.’

It is Starrett’s other fiction that this podcast is concerned about. In 1927, Starrett wrote probably his best short story called “The Eleventh Juror” which some have called an “experimental mystery.” The original story is mostly arranged differently from the radio adaptation which was heard on the Molle Mystery Theater in April 1945. Whether you come to this story via the written word or the radio play, I think you’ll find it is unique in its approach and filled with fascinating plot twists.

Music under is Chopin’s Waltz No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 34, No. 2 performed by Janusz Olejniczak.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 258 – Eno Crime Clues

Stewart Sterling Eno Crime Clues is a good example of early radio detective stories from the earliest time of radio programming. Often there were very little or crude sound effects, somewhat thin plotlines and the acting was a bit stilted. These series definitely were not the sophisticated versions of later detectives such as Nick Carter, Nick Charles or Philip Marlowe. I always find them hard to listen to as the pacing is so slow.

But that said, they are still part of the radio history of detectives on radio and I am presenting it here for that reason. This series was after the original Eno Crime Club moved to NBC and the writing was picked up by Stewart Sterling (left), a pseudonym for Prentice Winchell, who also wrote occasionally for the pulps and later published a number of crime detective books. Sterling called this his “Manhunter” series featuring his detective Spencer Dean and his aid Dan Cassidy.

Music under is Annette Hanshaw singing “Say It Isn’t So” and “Body and Soul.”

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 257 – The Lady in the Morgue

Jonathan Latimer

Jonathan Latimer

Jonathan Latimer was an American crime writer who first was a reporter writing about the likes of Al Capone and Bugsy Moran for the Chicago Tribune and the Herald-Examiner. In the thirties he created a detective character called William Crane in a series of novels Latimer himself referred to as “half-boiled” as his stories were send ups of the likes of the hardboiled fiction of Hammett and Chandler.

This radio version of his story comes from the Molle Mystery Theater via the Armed Forces’ Mystery Playhouse. The radio version is much more a screwball than serious crime detection, though due to Latimer’s ability to create a serious crime story, it raises above a simple comedy.

Music under is Sidney Bechet and Bix Beiderbecke.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 256 – On Stage

E. Jack NeumanE. Jack Neuman was probably one of the best radio script writers in the age of radio drama. He wrote for many series including many detective series as well as other drama series. He moved onto a successful television writing career later in the fifties though he was still writing for radio into the mi-fifties.

He considered it a privilege that he was able to write a number of scripts for the Elliott and Cathy Lewis vehicle called On Stage.  Radio historian John Dunning called On Stage “the pinnacle of radio drama.” He also felt as do I that this episode from that series called “Statement of Fact” was possibly one of the best written suspense dramas for radio. I present several clips with the writer Neuman and producer Elliott Lewis speaking about this play which could be viewed today as an early example of the relationships of man and women as well as a common man versus the system story.

Music under is Miles Davis performing “Blue In Green”

Thanks to John Dunning for his interviews.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 255 – Mr. District Attorney

Mr. District Attorney In 1935, then relatively unknown and untested Federal Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey was appointed special prosecutor for New York County by then Governor Herbert Lehman to attempt to pursue the mob and political corruption including graft, bribes and other crimes.

Inspired by Dewey’s work, a young, former law student named Edward A. Byron, created a new radio drama for producer Phillips H. Lord about a crime fighting DA. The series was called Mr. District Attorney. It was less of a courtroom drama and more of a detective-crime-solving attorney one.

The series featured actors Jay Jostyn and Vickie Vola (both above right) as the D.A. and Miss Miller, his secretary. Both portrayed these roles until it left network radio in 1952 having joined the series about 1940.

Music under is “I Can’t Get Started” performed by Warren Vache.
Thanks to Chuck Schaden for the Jostyn clip.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 254 – Adventures of Christopher London

Glenn Ford With changes in how Hollywood worked with actors and contracts, a number of well-known actors began doing usually short term series on radio including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Bold Venture, Dana Andrews in I Was A Communist for the FBI, Joel McCrea, Tyrone Powers, Alan Ladd and Glenn Ford, who starred in a detective/adventure series called The Adventures of Christopher London.

In declining radio markets, competition was fierce and some of the stars, it was hoped, would draw listeners away from popular programs on other networks. When you listen to The Adventures of Christopher London you’ll notice right away that it is a top notch production. NBC hired mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner to create a character that is a handsome, single, cynical, ladies’ man that sets out each week on an adventure solving crimes around the world.

Despite its best effort, as was the case with many big screen actors coming to radio, it simply wasn’t enough to sustain any length of time to develop a truly devoted listenership.

Music under includes Requiem For a Dream performed by the Kronos Quartet; the Larry Clinton Orchestra with Bea Wain singing Heart and Soul and Al Bowlly singing Heart and Soul.

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 253 – Suspense – Last Night

MargoCornell Woolrich wrote a short story under the pseudonym of William Irish which he titled The Red Tide. While the story was well written, the plotting was overly melodramatic and never was one of his better ones. In 1943, it is believed he was given an opportunity to write a radio play based on the story for the series Suspense. He expanded the original story and created a passable radio play utilizing his familiar oscillation plotting in which the reader and listener is moved in opinion back and forth on the guilt or innocence of one of the characters. He titled the script Last Night and was so pleased with it, that he later re-wrote the original story expanding it similar to the radio play and titling it the same as the script.

The play starred the actress known as Margo on screen, possibly because her real name was Maria Marguerita Guadelupe Boldao y Castilla. Margo’s acting in the radio play was like the story – overly melodramatic. Still it passes as an interesting Woolrich noir storyline involving possible murder.

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

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 252 – The Fat Man

J Scott SmartAnother look at Dashiell Hammett’s creation for radio – The Fat Man. The Brad Runyon character was never seen in Hammett’s stories, though the overall character creation was his despite his not writing any of the scripts for radio. Hammett wasn’t a big fan of radio drama nor of how his characters were developed over the medium.  Quite honestly, he did it for the money mostly.

I also look briefly at J Scott Smart (left) who was himself a “fat man” and strongly advocated for the portrayal to make people more sympathetic toward people of size.  He claimed he never felt fat.  Smart was a veteran stage actor who also was on radio prior to his taking on the role of Runyon. An interesting man with an interesting voice.

Music under is Charlie Haden Quartet performing Billy Strayhorn’s Passion Flower.

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