Old Time Radio


   If you’re a fan of Old Time Radio (The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Sam Spade) and Early TV (The Twilight Zone), then you already know Martin Grams’ name. But you may not know that he’s started his own blog: http://www.martingrams.blogspot.com/

   So far he’s been posting only once a week, but each post is long and jam-packed with vital information to collectors and connoisseurs of, well, Old Time Radio and Early TV shows, information you will find nowhere else, I guarantee it.

   Topics covered so far, working backward:

Boris Karloff: The “Lost” Radio Broadcasts
Cincinnati Old Time Radio Convention
Batman: The TV Series
Cavalcade of America, A History in Pictures
Duffy’s Tavern: Year One

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


THE AMAZING MR. MALONE. Based on character created by Craig Rice. Written by Gene Wang; produced by Bernard L. Schubert.

   ● ABC: January 11, 1947 through March 26, 1949. Frank Lovejoy as John J. Malone.
   ● ABC: September 21, 1949 through September 24, 1950. Gene Raymond as John J. Malone.
   ● NBC: May 25, 1951 through July 13, 1951. George Petrie as John J. Malone.

   With the success of Craig Rice’s books and the films based on her character John J. Malone, radio wanted its turn with the popular Chicago lawyer. The ratings were good but the loss of sponsor Guild Wine forced ABC to drop its first attempt at a series, starring Frank Lovejoy. Despite two later tries, The Amazing Mr. Malone never got the sponsor it needed to survive.

   Originally titled Murder & Mr. Malone, the series was an uneven attempt to blend humor, screwball plots and hardboiled mystery together. However, there were just enough moments where it worked to make The Amazing Mr. Malone one of the best comedy mystery series radio produced.

   Not making the transition from the books were the characters of Jake Justus and Helene Brand Justus. Rice’s cop, Lt. Daniel Von Flanagan and his “woe is me” humor was first replaced by typical banter between Malone and Lt. McGraw, then with Lt. Sidney Brooks. Maggie, Malone’s secretary, was rarely mentioned.

   Each show began with the sound of two gunshots. A frantic voice at a telephone pleading, “Operator, operator, get me John J. Malone!”

   When the series was called Murder & Mr. Malone the announcer would introduce Malone as “fiction’s most famous criminal lawyer.” After the title changed to The Amazing Mr. Malone, the introduction became more sarcastic with “whose practice before every type of bar has become legend.” Malone then introduced the story, and after he became “amazing,” added the cliche of the week that illustrated the episode’s “moral” which was also its title.

   The story would often begin without Malone until deep into the episode. The epilogue would usually feature Malone and Brooks at a bar discussing the case. During the Petrie series, the fourth wall would be ignored during the epilogue scene.

   The following are reviews of all known (by me) surviving complete episodes of the series:

THE AMAZING MR. MALONE

   ● FRANK LOVEJOY. Recorded in Hollywood. Cast: not credited (except Lovejoy, of course).

    “Charles Morgan” (May 24, 1947) In the opening of this episode from the Murder & Mr. Malone period, Malone admits he has no sense of humor and he wasn’t kidding. The serious hardboiled tone was more Black Mask than Craig Rice.
   Practical joke playing gambler hires Malone to prove he didn’t kill a man who owed him money. Malone finds himself faced with a locked room mystery.

    “Cleanliness is Next to Godliness” (August 28, 1948) The series is now called The Amazing Mr. Malone, and this episode reflects an effort to recreate Rice’s screwball plots. Lovejoy’s lack of comedic ability cripples any attempts of humor by Malone.
   Nightclub owner murders a politician and frames his rival with the rival’s lucky rabbit’s foot.

   ● GENE RAYMOND. Recorded in Hollywood. Cast: Lt. Brooks: Henry Morgan. Guest Cast not credited but included Jack Webb.

THE AMAZING MR. MALONE

   The series returns with only changes in the cast. Gene Raymond might not have been the star like Frank Lovejoy, but he could deliver lines like “When it comes to murder, I’m, just a great big blabbermouth.” Rice’s Malone was still missing. Malone refused to take one client until he was sure the client was innocent, causing Rice’s fans to wonder what the Perry Mason happened to their Malone.

    “Devil Finds Work For Idle Hands” (January 29, 1950). A payroll thief (Webb) breaks out of prison to get the girl and loot he left behind. Malone finds the thief’s murdered body in his office, but when Brooks arrives the body is gone.

    “Appearances Can Be Deceiving” (February 26, 1950). When a jealous husband kills the man he suspects of cheating with his wife, it sets off a chain of events that has dead bodies falling like dominoes. Webb plays the brother of the murder victim.

   ● GEORGE PETRIE. Recorded in New York. Cast: Lt. Sidney Brooks: Larry Haines.

   After months off the air, NBC decided to bring back The Amazing Mr. Malone as a summer replacement series starring Edgar G. Robinson (Billboard, February 10, 1951). Something happened and George Petrie was brought in to star instead.

THE AMAZING MR. MALONE

   Actually, Petrie was the closest radio got to Rice’s John J. Malone, a coward (“You wouldn’t shoot a guy just because he’s yellow?”), womanizer (he was afraid of guns because they reminded him of weddings), and a fountain of sarcasm. Larry Haines (That Hammer Guy) as Brooks showed a wonderful comedic touch and was the perfect foil for Malone, arguably even better than Rice’s Von Flanagan.

    “Strong Defense is the Best Offense” (May 25, 1951). Club owner tries to stop his no good daughter from running off with a gangster. And Malone has to deal with a hitman who named his gun, Marvin.

    “Seek And Ye Shall Find” (June 8, 1951). Cheating husband, disappointed when PI finds his wife is not cheating on him, refuses to pay the PI. The PI tries to shake down the wife who goes to Malone. The twists and number of characters leave you feeling like you just watched a Shell game, but Malone finally picks the right killer.

    “Early To Bed, Early To Rise” (June 15, 1951). Musician decides to teach his jealous wife a lesson and fakes an affair. It was a fatal mistake.

    “Hard Work Never Killed Anyone” (June 22, 1951). A man learns his first wife, thought dead, is alive and married to a rich man. His decision to blackmail her leaves him dead.

    “Handsome Is As Handsome Does” (June 29, 1951). Overprotective wife of immature husband tries to save him from a murder rap. One of the weaker episodes, but the character of the femme fatale has some good moments.

    “Never Judge a Book By Its Cover” (July 6, 1951). A jealous wife’s PI husband does a LAURA and falls for the woman he is hired to find after seeing her picture. Despite his efforts to protect her from the bad guys looking for her, she ends up murdered. But the killer is a stranger.

    “Haste Makes Waste” (July 13, 1951). This final episode has Malone asking the audience to write in and ask for the show’s return to the air.
   A complex mystery, not unusual for this series, has a crooked lawyer on the run after he cons a gangster. He had put everything he owned in his wife’s name. Now that he needs the money to get away, she dumps him and keeps the money for herself.
   The lawyer hires a classical music loving hitman to kill the gangster. The gangster buys off the hitman. When the lawyer turns up dead, the hitman wants more money and when the gangster refuses, the hitman goes to Malone who represents the wife. Malone, with the help of the hitman, reveals the killer.

   My source for all the Frank Lovejoy and George Petrie episodes for free: www.mysteryshows.com; or for purchase: www.originaloldradio.com. The Gene Raymond episodes are available only for purchase at: www.OTRSite.com.

SOURCES: Billboard magazine archives are available for free to view at Google ebookstore.

            ADDENDUM:

THE AMAZING MR. MALONE – Australian Version. August 27, 1953 through August 28, 1954. 52 episodes. Grace Gibson Productions. Produced and Directed by Lawrence Cecil or Charles Tingwell. Cast: John Saul as John J. Malone, Harp McGuire as Lt. Brooks.

   Grace Gibson Production sold many of the Australian based radio series here in America, mainly in small rural independent radio stations. The production company also purchased some American network series to be recreated by local talent for listeners in Australia. The Amazing Mr. Malone was one of those shows.

   Reportedly, the recreations stuck closely to Eugene Wang’s script and the series music. The only noticeable change in content was shifting Malone from Chicago to New York. The style of the stories was more hardboiled than screwball, and the attempts at humor similar to the Gene Raymond era. John Saul’s Malone tended to oversell the humor and some of the hardboiled characters were as over the top as Mugsy in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

   Two of these recreations are still available. I found “Lucky Stiff” for free at Boxcars711 podcast at iTunes. I purchased both episodes from Original Old Radio.

    “The Smoothie” (November 5, 1953). Cliche of the week and probable American episode’s title, “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.”
   A swindler has his hands full with an upset victim, an unwelcome return of his old partner, and his girlfriend who makes the mistake of trying to help him. He dumps her when he learns she hired John J. Malone. Malone was not all that happy about the job offer either.
    “Don’t you want to work?” she asked.
    “Does anyone?” replied Malone.

    “Lucky Stiff” (November 12, 1953). Cliche of the week and probable American episode’s title, “Lucky In Cards, Unlucky In Love.”
   A gambler and mathematical genius has become too successful for anyone to take his bets, so he hires a front. But to make his wife happy he decides to stop gambling and accepts an offer from a publisher to write a book teaching his methods of success at the gaming table. But his luck runs out when he is murdered.

   There are many places on the internet to learn more about the people and world of old time Australian radio.

Australianotr.com.au

“Once Upon a Wireless” an oral history with Charles Tingwell.

AUSTRALIAN RADIO SERIES 1930-1970 (available as free pdf at: http://www.dadsotr.com/collectionguide_australianradioseries1930-1970.pdf

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


SAM SPADE HOward Duff

THE ADVENTURES OF SAM SPADE, DETECTIVE. ABC: July 12, 1946 through October 4, 1946. CBS: September 29, 1946 through September 18, 1949. NBC: September 25, 1949 through September 17, 1950; November 17, 1950 through April 27, 1951. Based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett. Produced and directed by William Spier. Cast: Sam Spade: Howard Duff (July 12, 1946 through September 17, 1950), Steve Dunne (November 17, 1950 through April 27, 1951), Effie Perrine: Lurene Tuttle. Announcer: Dick Joy

    The Adventures of Sam Spade, Detective was popular with the radio audience and critics alike. While today it is rightfully remembered for its humor and style, the show featured great radio mysteries and moments of drama.

SAM SPADE HOward Duff

    In “Vafio Cup Caper” (August 22, 1948), Sam chases a priceless ancient Greek cup in a mystery with non-stop twists and hilarious dialogue.

    In “Edith Hamilton Caper” (April 17, 1949), Sam falls for a woman he believes killed her husband. The episode was dramatic with an effective use of music. Effie’s support for broken-hearted Sam was typical of a series that could be tearfully sad, yet end with a bitterly funny line.

    Sam Spade changed when he moved to radio. Howard Duff took Bogart’s cynical loner and let him have fun. Duff’s Spade could get drunk, be short-tempered, and sleep with the femme fatale, and we would be as forgiving and admiring as his secretary Effie.

    Some of radio’s top talent worked on the series.

SAM SPADE HOward Duff

    Producer/director William Spier was famous for his popular and critically acclaimed series, Suspense. To promote Sam Spade, Spier aired an hour-long episode “The Khandi Tooth Caper,” a sequel to The Maltese Falcon, on Suspense (January 10, 1948).

    Lurene Tuttle (Effie), known as “Radio’s First Lady,” was as important to the show’s success as Howard Duff. Top radio actors would appear, often without billing. Some of the supporting cast were William Conrad, June Havoc, and Hans Conrad.

    Behind the mike talent was equally impressive. Jason James (Jo Eisinger) and Bob Tallman won the Edgar award for Best Radio Drama in 1947. Other writers included Gil Doud, E. Jack Newman, and Elliott Lewis.

    While Hammett had no direct involvement, the writers made good use of other Hammett characters such as in “Dick Foley Caper” (September 26, 1948). Sam tries to help an old friend from the Continental Detective agency. A highlight was when Sam told the femme fatale he knew she had a gun because it made her bulge in the wrong place.

SAM SPADE HOward Duff

    The series did adapt some of Hammett’s short stories. “Death and Company” (August 9, 1946) was adapted from a Continental Op short story with the same title. While no recording survived, the script is reprinted in the book The “Lost” Sam Spade Scripts, edited by Martin Grams, Jr.

    It would take outside forces to kill the show. Hammett was blacklisted and his name removed from the credits. When Howard Duff’s name appeared in “Red Channels”, the series sponsor, Wildroot Creme Oil Hair Tonic, canceled the series and replaced it with Charlie Wild, Private Detective (NBC: September 24, 1950 through December 17, 1950. CBS: January 7, 1951 through July 1, 1951).

SAM SPADE HOward Duff

    According to Spade expert John Scheinfeld, the last words Duff said on radio for six years was as Spade welcoming Charlie Wild to the PI business. The only thing Charlie and Sam had in common was a secretary named Effie Perrine. No recordings of the radio show exist and who played Effie on radio’s Charlie Wild remains unknown.

    Sam Spade was not off the air long. The radio audience demanded the show back and NBC quickly obeyed. The only change in the series had Steve Dunne take over the role of Sam Spade, but it was a change that cost the series its charm.

SAM SPADE HOward Duff

    Duff had a light playful touch while Dunne’s delivery seemed forced, often sounding like a bad Jack Benny impersonator. Times were changing. Duff’s Spade was a lovable drunken womanizer, Dunne’s Spade was becoming a boy scout.

    The final episode “Hail and Farewell” (April 27, 1951) was an average melodrama about saving an innocent man from execution. At the end Spade told listeners to write in and save the series. But this time the Governor did not call.

    So, after over two hundred and forty episodes (around seventy are known to still exist on recordings), it really was “Goodnight Sweetheart.”

      SOURCES:

●   On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, by John Dunning
●   Radio Detective Story Hour podcast: Jim Widner (otr.com/blog)
●   Boxcars 711 podcast: Bob Camardella (boxcars711.podomatic.com)
●   Sam Spade Double Feature, Volume 1. Audio Archives: Bill Mills (audible.com)
●   OTRR.org
●   Digital Deli (digitaldeliftp.com)
●   MP3 disk with sixty seven episodes of Sam Spade, the Suspense episode “Khandi Tooth Caper”, and other extras. (otrcat.com)

    There are many places where you can still find Sam Spade on the web, as well as iTunes and the Sirius XM radio series “Radio Classics.”

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins


   I recently unearthed an Ellery Queen mystery, or more precisely a mystery about EQ, which will not be solved easily if at all. The September 2002 issue of Radiogram, a magazine for fans of old-time radio, includes “In the Studio with Ellery Queen,” a brief memoir by Fred Essex, who was a producer-director for the Ruthrauff & Ryan advertising agency in the early 1940s when one of the programs the agency brought to the air every week was The Adventures of Ellery Queen.

   At this time Ellery’s creators, the cousins Fred Dannay and Manny Lee, were working out of an office in mid-Manhattan but asked the agency not to disturb them while they were in the throes of creation. “[T]he boys in the mail room who would deliver two mimeographed copies of the finished script each week were instructed not to enter the office…but to throw the fat envelope through the transom above the door.”

   At the time in question, Essex recalled, “Carleton Young played Ellery….” We know that Young took over that role in January 1942, when the series returned to the air after a 15-month hiatus, and kept it until August or September 1943 when he was replaced by Sydney Smith. Essex occasionally directed an EQ episode, and in his memoir described a segment where the murder “was committed in a radio studio that was supposedly rehearsing a crime program.”

   Essex recalled that the guest armchair detective that evening was radio comedian Fred Allen, and that he failed to solve the mystery. What’s wrong with this picture? Simply that The Sound of Detection, my book on the Queen series, lists no episode during Young’s tenure where Ellery solved a crime in a radio studio and no episode at any time where Fred Allen was the armchair sleuth!

   Either Essex misremembered radically or there’s still some information on the Ellery of the airwaves that hasn’t been unearthed. I hope to live long enough to find out which.

***

   Anyone in the market for another EQ mystery? As most mysteryphiles know, roughly between 1960 and 1966 Manny Lee was suffering from some sort of writer’s block and unable to collaborate with Fred Dannay as he’d been doing so successfully since 1929.

   Ellery Queen novels and shorter adventures continued to appear during those years, with other authors expanding Fred’s lengthy synopses as Manny had always done in the past. We know who took over Manny’s function on the novels of that period but not on the short stories and not on the single Queen novelet from those years.

   “The Death of Don Juan” (Argosy, May 1962; collected in Queens Full, 1965) is set in Wrightsville and deals with the attempt of the town’s amateur theatrical company to stage a creaky old turn-of-the-century melodrama.

   Could this be a clue to the identity of Fred’s collaborator on the tale? In his graduate student days Anthony Boucher had worked in the Little Theater movement, and on his first date with the woman he later married the couple went to a creaky old-time melodrama.

   This is hardly conclusive evidence but, if I may borrow a Poirotism, it gives one furiously to think. Between 1945 and 1948 Boucher had taken over Fred’s function of providing plots for Manny to transform into finished scripts for the EQ radio series. Might he also have performed Manny’s function a dozen or more years later?

***

   The first publisher of the hardcover Ellery Queen novels and anthologies was the Frederick A. Stokes company, with whom Fred and Manny stayed from their debut in 1929 until 1941. A few months before Pearl Harbor they moved to Little, Brown and stayed there through 1955.

   After a few years with Simon & Schuster (1956-1958) they moved to Random House and the aegis of legendary editor Lee Wright (1902-1986), who among other coups had purchased Anthony Boucher’s first detective novel and the first “Black” suspense novels by Cornell Woolrich.

   What was behind their earlier moves from one publisher to another remains unknown, but when I interviewed Wright more than thirty years ago she explained why Queen left Random House. The year was 1965, a time when Manny was suffering from writer’s block and Fred called most of the shots for the two of them.

   He left Random, Wright told me, ”literally because Bennett Cerf didn’t invite him to lunch. His feelings were hurt….I said: ‘Fred, Bennett isn’t your editor. I am. You’re sort of insulting me. My attention isn’t enough for you, it has to be the head of the house, is what you’re saying.’”

   Fred tended to be hypersensitive to any hint that mystery writers were second-class literary citizens, while Manny over the years had come to hate the genre and his own role in it, to the point that he described himself to one of his daughters as a “literary prostitute.”

   That he and Fred could have disagreed about this and everything else and still have collaborated successfully for so long is nothing short of a miracle.

***

   When I was ten years old, for no particular reason I began squirreling away the weekly issues of TV Guide as my parents threw them on the trash pile with the week’s newspapers. The result is that today my bookshelves are weighed down by a week-by-week history of television from the early Fifties till the end of 2000, a goldmine of information unavailable elsewhere.

   One such nugget is buried in the listings for Thursday, June 14, 1956. One of the top Thursday night programs broadcast that season was the 60-minute live dramatic anthology series Climax!

   That particular evening’s offering was “To Scream at Midnight,” in which a wealthy young woman breaks down and is placed in a sanitarium after being thrown over by her lover. Her psychiatrist becomes suspicious when the man reappears and claims he wants to marry her.

   Heading the cast were Diana Lynn (Hilde Fraser), Dewey Martin (Emmett Shore), Karen Sharpe (Peggy Walsh), and Richard Jaeckel (Hordan). John Frankenheimer directed from a teleplay by John McGreevey which, according to TV Guide, was based on something by Highsmith.

   But what? I can recall no novel or story by her from 1956 or earlier (or later either) that remotely resembles this plot summary, but I am no authority on Highsmith. Joan Schenkar, author of the Edgar-nominated The Talented Miss Highsmith (2009), has read every word her subject ever wrote, including hundreds of thousands of words in her diaries.

   When I sent her a photocopy of the relevant TV Guide page, she too couldn’t connect the description with any Highsmith novel or story.

   That makes three mysteries about mysteries in one column, all of them probably unsolvable. If any readers have suggestions I’d love to see them.

***

   Breaking News! My chance encounter last Thanksgiving with that website devoted to William Ard has borne fruit. Ramble House, a small publisher with which every reader of this column should be acquainted, has arranged with Ard’s daughter to reprint a number of her father’s novels of the Fifties, probably in the two-to-a-volume format pioneered by Ace Books back when Ard was turning out four or more paperback originals a year. More details when I have them.

THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


XANTIPPE – Death Catches Up with Mr. Kluck. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1935. Film: Universal/Crime Club, 1938, as Danger on the Air (with Nan Grey as Christina “Steenie” MacCorkle & Donald Woods as Benjamin Franklin Butts).

XANTIPPE Death Catches Up with Mr. Kluck

   The Mr. Kluck, inventor, owner, and manager of Kluck’s Korjul — “Feeling depressed? Headache? Nervous? Drink Kluck’s Korjul. Lack pep, vitality? How about the sparkle in your eyes? Do you attract the opposite sex? For vim, vitality and vigor, drink Kluck’s Korjul, America’s fastest selling drink. . . ” — is at Radio Forum, Consolidated Broadcasting Company’s new studios, to watch one of his radio programs being produced. Unfortunately, he is a much unloved man, and no one mourns him when he dies in a sponsor’s room.

   Kluck’s death is a complex one, first attributed to a heart attack, then to arsenic, and finally to carbon monoxide poisoning through the ventilating system. Doing the amateur investigating is Benjamin Franklin Butts, with the help of Finny McCorkle, of McCorkle, McCorkle, and Fish, radio productions. Butts has encyclopedic knowledge and Finny writes mystery scripts for radio.

   Xantippe’s view of early radio, its alleged talent, and its programs is delightful and illustrates the saying that the more things change the more they stay the same. Even the footnotes are amusing, as well as being informative. The predictions for what radio might do for good and for harm are especially fascinating.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 1989.


Editorial Comments: Bill Deeck did not know, or I assume that he would have mentioned it, but the exotically named Xantippe was the pseudonym of Edith Meiser, 1898-1993, herself the writer and producer of many radio programs, including the long-running Sherlock Holmes series, including the one that starred Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce for many years. One online source states that she wrote over 300 radio scripts for the series, far more stories than Sir Arthur did himself!

   Xanthippe (meaning blonde horse in the Greek) was the wife of Socrates and the mother of their three sons. There may be some significance to this.

   A complete listing of the Crime Club movies can be found in this preceding post from not too long ago. Danger on the Air itself has been released on DVD by oldies.com.

H. PAUL JEFFERS – Murder on Mike. St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 1984. Hardcover reprint, Detective Book Club, 3-in-1 edition, no date. Ballantine, paperback, 1988.

   A brief note on the author at the end of the book tells us that in the real world H. Paul Jeffers was the head of the news department at WCBS in New York, which perhaps explains why his mystery writing career seems to have been awfully sporadic.

H. PAUL JEFFERS Murder on Mike

   It also says that he grew up listening to crime programs on the radio, which definitely explains where the idea for this particular case for private eye Harry MacNeil came from, and more on that in a minute.

   This is the middle of three cases that chronicle MacNeil’s adventures: The Rubout at the Onyx (Ticknor, 1981); Murder on Mike (St. Martin’s, 1984); and The Rag Doll Murder (Ballantine, paperback, 1987). It’s also the last of the three chronologically, as it takes place in 1939, while both of the other two are set in 1935. (Courtesy, as is often the case, to Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV.)

   MacNeil knows his way around Manhattan, and he’s known for also sitting in on late hour jazz sessions, but for hard-boiled fiction, you’d have to look elsewhere. When a good-looking girl asks him to look into the murder of radio’s most popular detective — well, the actor who played him, that is, and the creator of the Detective Fitzroy’s Casebook program — MacNeil is too soft-hearted to say that it’s an open-and-shut case, and that the lady’s boy friend, the show’s announcer, is sure to be convicted.

   He takes the case, he says, to be sure that Maggie Skeffington (Miss Molloy on the radio show) doesn’t waste her money with a more unscrupulous private detective.

   The accused, David Reed, already locked up and waiting trial, is the only person who could have done it and who does not have an alibi. By some fortuitous chance, the sound of a shot in the radio studio pinpoints the time of the murder exactly.

   Aha! You say, I’m one step ahead of you. That’s what I thought, too, and I’ll get back to that.

   Let me give you a feeling of Jeffers’ writing style, from pages 84-85 of the DBC edition. It’s a long quote, so jump in and out wherever you care to:

   As I crossed the street toward the plaza entrance of the RCA building, there was a crowd around the tree and and along the walls above the sunken ice rink where, even at that early hour, skaters were doing their stuff, every girl as pert and graceful as Sonja Henie and every boy as nimble as a Fred Astaire on skates.

   I paused a moment to watch as they performed and knew that in their minds they were stars, basking in the approval of the strangers surrounding the plaza. Whatever dreams of celebrity or affection or approval those skaters had in their heads were surely being fulfilled, if only for the brief moments they spent on the ice below Prometheus’ blank gaze.

   New York had always been a city for dreamers because it was a city that could make dreams come true. Which is why all those starry-eyed kids piled off trains at Grand Central or Penn Station or hopped off the buses at the Greyhound terminal on West Fifty-Third Steet and the All-American station just a short walk from the glittery promise of Times Square and Brodway, where dreams were a dime a dozen but where success was emblazoned in the lights of signs several stories high.

   There was the dream that David Reed had brought with him from Cleveland, the dream of being a star on a popular radio program that people listened to from coast to coast.

   Not a paragraph you’d find in the works of Hammett or Chandler, say. Maybe Woolrich, but as long as I’m making comparisons, the ending of this novel is pure Agatha Christie (see above) and very neatly done.

   And in closing, let me ask you this. Why in almost every retro-mystery like this, why is it that everyone who smokes, lights up a Lucky?

— August 2003


[UPDATE] 09-01-10.   This book was reviewed earlier on this blog by Bill Pronzini, in conjunction with an announcement of the author’s death in December 2009. There’s a complete crime fiction bibliography for him there also. It’s quite extensive, more than I realized when I wrote that first paragraph of my review above, once you add in the work he did under several pen names.

FIRST YOU READ, THEN YOU WRITE
by Francis M. Nevins


   During World War II John Creasey wrote dozens of thrillers set in London that were never published outside the UK — until decades later when, as a superstar of the genre, he revised them for US publication, cutting out all the vivid wartime atmosphere that made them special.

JOHN CREASEY Toff Is Back

   Recently I picked up The Toff Is Back — first published in 1942 and, according to the copyright page, revised in 1971, two years before Creasey’s death — and found to my surprise that all the ambiance of a largely bombed-out London survived the revision intact.

   The Hon. Richard Rollison, a.k.a. The Toff, returns from military service in North Africa to find that a well-organized gang has been looting bombed jewelry shops on a grand scale and framing innocent residents of his beloved East End for their crimes.

   Over the years I’ve read, or rather tried to read, several revised Creaseys alongside the 1940s versions, and every time found the originals infinitely better. I’ve never seen the wartime version of this one but it reads as if it hasn’t been revised at all, for which I shout Hallelujah.

   In fact, even the occasional gaffes which are inevitable when a book is written at the rate of 10,000 words a day seem to have been preserved. The racket boss is named Barte Lee while other characters live in Bartley Square, and on page 54 we read “Very slowly and deliberately Lee leaned forward,” which reminded me of the hilarious “Everywhere a Lee Lee” song from 1776.

   Gaffes and all, I highly recommend this one to any reader who wants to be taken back, like viewers of the early seasons of the Foyle’s War series, to a London being nightly pulverized by Hitler’s Luftwaffe.

***

   Anyone who would like to sample Creasey’s unretouched WWII thrillers without hitting used book shops has a golden opportunity in store. His first five Roger West novels, originally published between 1942 and 1946, will be reprinted a few months from now by Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, the Canada-based publishing operation owned by George Vanderburgh, as the omnibus volume Inspector West Goes to War.

   I’ve written an introduction for the book and have just finished proofreading the computer-scanned texts of those novels. It was a tedious task with two capital T’s but there’s no other way I could have learned so much about the stylistic oddities of these chronicles of London during and immediately after the war.

JOHN CREASEY Holiday for West

   Quirks and all, the early West novels are still amazingly readable today. Unlike any other Scotland Yard series I can recall, these books are packed with vivid action scenes. One might almost be reading a series of old-time Westerns except for the fact that guns are sparingly used, both by the bad guys and the bobbies.

Pounding out those ten thousand words a day, Creasey couldn’t avoid perpetrating some Avalloneisms, but far fewer than in the works of the grand master of malapropisms, Mike Avallone himself.

   One I found while proofreading is worth preserving. In Chapter 11 of Holiday for Inspector West (1946) Roger questions a female suspect and then her father, of whom Creasey says: “Like his daughter he had become a changed man.”

   As editor of this five-volume omnibus I’ve decided to substitute “person” for the last word of that sentence.

   Blatant mistakes of this sort, grammar-wise, usage-wise or otherwise, are being corrected, but I am not Americanizing any British terms: those four rubber doughnuts that are found on motor vehicles are called tyres, and when a car has engine trouble, the driver pulls into the kerb and looks under the bonnet.

   What you will read in Inspector West Goes to War is (except for those blatant slips) precisely what Creasey wrote at white heat as that war was raging and immediately afterward.

***

Between late June and late August 1939, during the first ten weeks that the 60-minute Adventures of Ellery Queen radio series was broadcast on CBS, each episode featured original background music composed and conducted by the soon to be famous Bernard Herrmann.

   None of those episodes survive, and the last time anyone heard what Herrmann wrote for the EQ series was 71 years ago. But today, thanks to the wonderworld of the Web, you can see some of the pages of Herrmann’s score on your computer screen:

BERNARD HERMANN    

   First, go to the Bernard Herrmann Society website. Click on “Talking Herrmann.” Enter the box at the bottom of the first page and, among the options given, click on “Topics for the Last Year.” Near the bottom of the fourth page is a thread entitled “Adventures of Ellery Queen 1939.” [This link, if it holds up over time, should take you there directly.]

   There lies the treasure, allowing those who can read a score and have an appropriate instrument to play some of Herrmann’s EQ music in their own homes.

   I wish I were one of that number. When I was a child my mother tried to make a pianist out of me but I resisted and today, sixty years later, I can’t read a note. Damn!

***

   The second and final Herrmann-Queen interface took place almost a quarter century later. Among the episodes of the second season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on CBS-TV was “Terror in Northfield” (October 11, 1963), based on Queen’s 1956 non-series novelette about a string of violent deaths on the exact same spot. [Hulu link.]

HITCHCOCK HOUR

   Harvey Hart directed from an adaptation by Leigh Brackett that dropped most of the detection in the Queen tale and stressed suspense. The puzzled deputy sheriff, the menaced local librarian and the mad farmer were played respectively by Dick York, Jacqueline Scott and R.G. Armstrong.

   Herrmann composed the score for this and several other Hitchcock Hour segments as well. May I still be alive and the owner of a decent pair of ears on the day when his scores for that series and others of the same period, like The Richard Boone Show and The Virginian, become available on CD.

A REVIEW BY JIM WIDNER:         


JOHN DUNNING – Two O’Clock, Eastern Wartime. Scribner, hardcover, 2001. Paperback reprint: Pocket, 2002.

   In John Dunning’s 2001 thriller, Two O’Clock, Eastern Wartime, one of the characters says of radio:

JOHN DUNNING

    “And listen, the best that radio can do hasn’t even begun yet. Think of it in the Darwinian sense. Radio crawled out of the sea in nineteen twenty, and all this time we’ve been struggling to breathe air, not water. We haven’t even gotten our legs yet but maybe it’s time we at least begin to struggle to stand.”

   Radio — dramatic radio — in a sense is one of the characters in the book. One of the main characters, Jordan Ten Eyck, is a writer who discovers the power of dramatic radio writing while he finds himself in the midst of a cracker of a thriller involving Nazi spies, murder and mystery surrounding a fledgling radio station, WHAR, in fictional Regina Beach, New Jersey. The time is 1942.

   Dunning, as most old time radio fans know, is no stranger to radio or old-time radio. He is the author of two encyclopedias of the Golden Age of Radio: Tune in Yesterday and On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio.

   He also was the host of a radio show, Old Time Radio, in Denver for many years. But Dunning also is a writer of mystery thrillers. This Nero Wolfe Award winner is the author of several other suspense stories, among them Booked to Die and The Bookman’s Wake.

JOHN DUNNING

   Two O’Clock, Eastern Wartime tells the story of Jack Dulaney, aka Jordan Ten Eyck, and Holly Carnahan. The two were in love years ago but drifted apart after the death of their friend and Jack’s rival, Tom Rooney. Now Jack wants to find Holly again, and with the help of an often-inebriated radio actor friend, Marty Kendall, he begins his trip across America to Pennsylvania, where Tom, Jack, and Holly all lived at one time and was Holly’s last known address.

   But Jack encounters only suspicious characters and death along the way and, eventually, finds himself in Regina Beach, New Jersey at radio station, WHAR, looking for work and Holly’s father, Tom Carnahan. It is there that Jordan begins his career as a radio writer and with the WHAR radio community — Rue, Pauline and Hazel, radio actresses; Livia, a sound artist; and Waldo, creator of the magnificent black program, Freedom Road.

   Woven into the story is Jordan’s journey into the discovery of the power of radio drama:

JOHN DUNNING

    “Now he saw what he had was the rough draft of a half-hour radio play. He felt a surge of inexplicable excitement as he took the next logical step, prose into script in the middle of the page, and again his fingers were flying and all his new awareness was there in the words. He understood demands and restrictions that had never given him a conscious thought, and he saw the story anew. The opening could not linger. Leisure was fine for depth in prose but a story for the ear must begin with the first spoken word of the encounter that will drive it.”

   Jordan discovers the power of radio and nothing, it seems, can hold back his thirst for creation as scripts and ideas continue to flood out of him. Later, he discovers that he can move beyond even that thirst by directing his own work. Dunning, through Jordan, makes the power of radio drama come alive.

   All the thrill and excitement of the production both as listener as well as participant is explored. Meanwhile, Jordan becomes absorbed in the mystery of what became of Holly’s father, who disappeared from the radio station before their arrival and of one of the radio actor’s, March Flack, who disappeared in 1936. And what about the station’s seemingly ominous owner, Mr. Harford?

JOHN DUNNING

   Jordan begins to write powerful and politically explosive scripts to the encouragement of the radio owner and management who hope to return the station to a glorious time before the war. His excitement begins to affect the actors and technicians as production reaches fever pitch.

    “Jordan felt the play unfolding in his mind, the cotton fields stretching across most of the known world. He moved his hand: the sun went down. He raised a finger: the new day dawned in an explosion of sound, of horses and rowdies and the unmistakable din of a railroad yard. He stood like God and the universe rolled out at his feet. If he pointed left, Livia gave him London, a different kind of clatter with steel rims on cobblestones and a British flavor to the babble. He swept that away with a thrust of his arm, and in the cross fade sat Charity, three thousand miles away… He couldn’t remember a greater moment as it grew into the evening. This was it. Live radio.”

   Surrounding this is Jordan the detective trying to find out what really happened at the station several years before. Using the power of his radio scripts, he attempts to seek out the truth from those who were there.

JOHN DUNNING

   Jordan and Holly both become targets and become wrapped into the intrigue endangering them. The mystery of the German Schroeder boys, George and Peter, the attempts on his life, the mystery around the radio writer, Paul Kruger and his script about the Boer war all need answers for Jordan. The book is full of wonderful characters with stories to tell, who carry their own sense of mystery with them.

   There are a number of writers who have written stories framed around early radio, but if you are both a fan of old time radio as well as a mystery thriller fan, then this book will definitely entertain.

   John Dunning is a superb writer. As a mystery writer, he is new to this reviewer, but he is certainly an author I will seek out again.

Copyright 2001, 2010 by James F. Widner.


Editorial Comment:   Jim Widner has long been involved with Old Time Radio, both as a collector and as a researcher, author and indexer. His web site is devoted to OTR in a historical context at Radio Days. For several years he has also produced a podcast called the Radio Detective Story Hour. Follow the links to each.

      Adapted from an email from David Vineyard:

   Just a heads up for hardboiled fans. BBC7 is currently reading Dashiell Hammett’s Nightmare Town and beginning Sunday will air a full length (90 minute) dramatization of The Big Sleep (Ed Bishop of UFO as Marlowe).

   A dramatic series of Father Brown with Andrew Jack is winding down and there are dramatizations of Poirot and Lord Peter (Ian Carmichael) on going. There is also a scheduled dramatization of Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday coming up.

   They recently completed two Dick Francis thrillers and a reading of Edmund Crispin’s Frequent Hearses. They are also concluding The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and about to start Casebook.

   You can still catch the Hammett reading from the beginning for the next three days.

Editorial Comment:   I used “Old Time Radio” as the category to put this post in, rather than create a new one, even though it’s not really correct. After checking out everything that’s available to listen on the BBC7 site, all I can do is wish that days were ten times longer, or if not that, perhaps I needn’t get seven or eight hours of sleep every night?

A TV Review by MIKE TOONEY:


“Let’s Kill Timothy.” An episode of Peter Gunn (Season 1, Episode 17). First air date: 19 January 1959. Craig Stevens (Peter Gunn), Lola Albright (Edie Hart), Herschel Bernardi (Lieutenant Jacoby), Hope Emerson (Mother), Mel Leonard (Casper Wellington), Henry Corden (Vladimir Sokolawsky), Arthur Hanson (George Tate), Frank Richards (Tiny Walsh), Peter Brocco (Sam the drunk), David McMahon (Mike the desk sergeant). Story: Blake Edwards. Teleplay: Lewis Reed. Director: Blake Edwards.

   Timothy is a most unusual individual: modest, unassuming, reticent to a fault. He is also many things to many people.

PETER GUNN

   To Peter Gunn, Timothy is an unexpected baby sitting charge. To Lieutenant Jacoby, he’s a “thing” that indecorously invades his office.

   To Casper Wellington, Timothy is both a friend and the way to fabulous wealth, while to George Tate and Tiny Walsh he’s worth kidnapping and gutting like a fish.

   But through it all Timothy maintains his composure. He may be a little guy three feet tall and three hundred pounds — but he can fend for himself. Of course, practically no one can ward off two burly brutes intent on kidnapping; when that happens, even his foreflippers are of no avail.

   You know, if things keep going the way they have been, Timothy could soon be up on a grand theft felony charge. You have to wonder if the California penal system is capable of providing enough fish for an upwardly mobile but healthy young seal ….

   The normally drop dead serious Peter Gunn series veers into comedy with this one, and the whole thing works beautifully as director-creator-writer Blake Edwards shows he can do funny stuff with the mystery genre. Maybe this was him warming up for Inspector Clouseau.

   The best scene is at the police station, first with a drunk being booked, and then in Jacoby’s office when Gunn leads Timothy in, who immediately makes himself at home by flopping down on the couch. Gunn and Jacoby have an entire conversation without Jacoby once referring to the seal until the very end, but even then he doesn’t state the obvious a nice piece of underplaying by everybody concerned.

   When Gunn is trying to locate Casper Wellington, he goes to one of his snitches, “artist” Vladimir Sokolawsky (Henry Corden), who is as surreal as any of his “artwork.” Like Victor Buono, Corden (1920-2005) could always do over-the-top superbly, and in his one bizarre scene he nearly steals the show.

   Mother was played in 25 Peter Gunn episodes by a fine character actress, Hope Emerson (1897-1960). In this show, she gets to “sing” “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” but the less said about that the better. (You’ve been warned.)

Note: According to the Internet Movie Database, this Peter Gunn episode was based on a Richard Diamond radio program, “Timothy the Seal” (5 February 1950).

Editorial Comments:   Click on the link provided to listen to the radio program that Mike mentions. The series, which starred Dick Powell as medium-boiled PI Richard Diamond, was on radio for several years. Many more episodes can be found here: http://www.archive.org/details/RichardDiamond2.

   The movie Gunn was reviewed here on this blog by Dan Stumpf about a month ago.

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