Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 272 – The Thimble

Whitfield ConnorEliazar Lipsky was a lawyer and prosecutor in the Bronx and Manhattan until his death in 1993. In the 1940s he turned to writing novels and plays while maintaining his legal work. It was natural that most of his stories revolved around the courtroom and investigative attorneys. Probably his most famous novel was originally based upon a 100 page manuscript which became a film noir called Kiss of Death starring Victor Mature.

Lipsky wrote a number of other stories including a detective story centered around an investigator in The People Against O’Hara, which also became a film starring Spencer Tracy. Nearing the end of its long run on radio, the thriller series Suspense adapted a story by Lipsky called “The Thimble.” The story was adapted by Allan Sloane who went on to write extremely sensitive scripts for television earning him several Emmys and Peabody awards.

Given that this script came from a medium that was in its death throes in 1959, it is fast paced and holds listeners in leading up to the crime resolution. The District Attorney was played by Whitfield Connor, whose authoritarian voice works well in this story.

The radio play has a somewhat surprising ending on how the crime is committed.

Music under is created and performed by Oskar Schuster

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 271 – Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper

Robert Bloch This podcast offering is only tangentially a detective story of sorts. It does involve investigations by individuals, potential suspects, potential crimes, and a resolution of sorts. And like many of my features, it comes based upon a short story. The story is from the sometimes strange mind of writer Robert Bloch. Bloch is probably best known among the public at large as the writer of the story upon which the classic Hitchcock film, Psycho, is based.

In 1943 Bloch published “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” one of the author’s first unique stories and not an imitation of H.P. Lovecraft, whom he had admired since before his writing days. Previously, his stories were mostly imitations of Lovecraft’s style.

In 1945, the story was adapted and aired over the Molle Mystery Theater, but like much of this series audio, it is only available via the Armed Forces Radio’s Mystery Playhouse. The adaptation is relatively faithful for the first 20 minutes, then creates a completely different final scene to end it. Unfortunately, if you have read the original story which appeared in Weird Tales in July 1943, there is a sort of third act to this story and possibly the best written scene in the whole story, in my opinion. The third major scene takes place in a seedy bar on a cold, foggy November night in Chicago’s south side, wonderfully described by author Bloch. You can read the original story online by going to the link below.

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper in Weird Tales

The music under is from the series Twin Peaks and is written by Angelo Badalamenti called “Fire Walk With Me”

Radio Detective Story Hour Episode 270 – The Man in the Velvet Hat

Bernard Lenrow In the introduction to Jerome and Harold Prince’s first detective short story, editors Ellery Queen called the piece a “strange, strange story.” The story was called “The Man in the Velvet Hat” and it became the best known of the writing duo who continued to publish occasionally in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

In the introduction, the authors wrote to the editor: “…we think we owe a good deal to the motion picture. For the motion picture is able to create a mood of unreal reality by means of quick, sharp, shifting images (rapid cross-cutting). We have utilized the same technique.”
Ellery Queen added “Slowly, increasingly, inexorably, this frankly experimental technique will get under your skin, and in the end you will possess and be possessed with such a long lingering memory of the man in the velvet hat.”

In 1944, the story was adapted for radio for the Molle’ Mystery Theater via the Mutual Broadcasting System. That original episode is not available, but it was captured via the Armed Forces Service for its Mystery Playhouse. The version attempts to catch some of the style created by the authors by being rather fast paced trying to squeeze the overall plot within a 30 minute timeframe. The host of the Molle Mystery Theater was Bernard Lenrow (left) who portrayed Geoffrey Barnes. You won’t hear him in this episode, but he remained host for a few years.

Music under is “Blind” performed by Train.

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.

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