Conflict is essential to any good story, but it is rarely as obvious as it is in crime fiction. The conflict in crime fiction rarely involve man against nature or the elements like a straight adventure story (but the Genre is broad enough to allow these elements in). Rather crime fiction is a man against man competition, but it is usually a tale of good versus evil.
crime fiction, both in Literature and on the radio, is a large category. At its most basic, it is a story that involves a crime of some sort, and the forces that attempt to bring whoever committed the crime to justice. This definition may be too broad- Fibber McGee wheedling out of a parking ticket or the Great Gildersleeve taking shortcuts on his income tax may be crimes as well as good stories, but hardly great crime fiction. So an important factor in crime fiction is the severity of the crimes. Which leads to the popularity of mysteries involving murder, the most severe crime of all.
Edgar Allen Poe is generally acknowledged as one of the earliest crime writers with his C. August Dupin stories of "ratiocination", the Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Mystery of Marie Roget, and The Purloined Letter. The first two stories involve murder, but the third introduces a new crime, blackmail.
While Poe and others began the world of crime fiction, no one had as much influence in making the genre popular than Arthur Canon Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Holmes has become synonymous with Detective work. Arthur Canon Doyle would only write four Holmes novels and 56 short stories, but the stories and adventures of Victorian England's most spectacular sleuth didn't end there. The character has appeared in numerous works by other authors and in many different films and TV adaptations. And he has made a number of appearances on the Radio. Beginning in the 1930s, Holmes, and his partner, Dr. Watson, have been portrayed in numerous series and adaptations.
The Holmes stories are both praised and criticized for their formulaic conventions. The "Whodunit" detective story becomes a puzzle for the listener or reader as the audience tries to solve the mystery before the protagonist reveals the answer. English clergyman and mystery writer Father Ronald Knox half joking went so far as to publish a set of Ten Golden Rules for Detective Fiction. (Of course other authors make it a point to break as many of the rules as they can.)
Many times the sleuth in a rules based whodunit is an amateur detective, or one who has left the police force. Part of canon Doyle's inspiration for Holmes was the seeming incompetence of Scotland Yard, and Holmes began a long tradition of detectives showing up the professionals. Some of the greatest Whodunit characters are Agatha Christie's retired Belgian Policeman, Hercule Poirot, Crime Fiction writer Ellery Queen, Hearthstone of the Death Squad, and Philo Vance. Some of the common elements to these stories is that the detective, whether associated directly with the Police or not, tend to be somewhat aristocratic, and the crimes are committed against, and usually by, members of the British middle and upper classes.
This very British fantasy of such
The Hard-boiled style was born in the Pulp magazines of the '20s and '30s, and from there is was a short leap to the screen and the radio airwaves. The Hard-boiled school took an unsentimental view of violence and sex, many of the Western stories in the pulps were as hard-boiled as the detective stories. Among the earliest of the hard-boiled detectives was Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, introduced in the story "The Maltese Falcon" in 1929. Spade would only appear in four other stories besides the 'Falcon, but it was the portrayal of the San Francisco-based detective in the film starring Humphrey Bogart that helped to invigorate the popularity of the hard-boiled detective during the 1940s and beyond.
Another hard-boiled character forever associated with Bogey is Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlow. Marlow first appeared in "The Big Sleep", published as a novel in1939, but elements of the character appeared in several of Chandler's earlier short stories (most of which would be rewritten and published as Philip Marlow stories.) Like most of the hard-boiled detectives, Marlow prefers to work alone, he is usually
Other noteworthy hard-boiled detectives include The Falcon, The Fat Man, Barry Craig, Dan Holiday of Box 13, Danny Clover of Broadway is My Beat, Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, Johnny Madero, and Pat Novak for Hire.
In contrast to the loner hard-boiled detectives, the cops of the police procedural dramas are ultimately team players. The long drudgery of police work contrasted with the low-life criminals they have to deal with often gives them a hard out look on life that can make them just as tough as the most hard-boiled loner. Some of the earliest examples of the police procedural, like Police Reporter, Calling All Cars, and Gangbusters, were more than a little sensationalist. However the true crimes they dramatized where in fact gruesome and sensational in their own right.
The most influential of the police procedural dramas was Jack Webb's Dragnet. The program was not immediately accepted by network executives.It was felt that the day to day stories of Policemen told "straight" wouldn't sell without resorting to melodrama.Dragnet became known for its high degree of realism along with the incorruptibility of the police officers it portrayed. Every aspect of police work was chronicled, from patrol and paper work, to investigation and the questioning of witnesses and suspects. The personal lives of the detectives was mentioned, but usually as background, not as central to the story. Webb would state in an interview "We try to make it as real as a guy pouring a cup of coffee."
In direct contrast to the hard-boiled detectives and the hard edge of the real police dramas, we have the Soft-Boiled Detectives. The element that makes them Soft-boiled is that they aren't Hard-boiled! Think of them as "Murder for the fun of it!" Some of the Soft-boiled detectives fall squarely in the camp of the traditional, rules based mysteries from the Golden Age of Mystery Fiction, while others are more up to date, and even with a murder in the mix, a lot of fun.
In hard boiled detective stories the girl is usually either "the poor damsel in distress" that the detective is helping, or the Femme Fatale who makes even more trouble for our hero. However there are a number of "Dame Detectives "who are rather soft boiled (with nice soft curves!) Phyl Coe Mysteries was an early show that was sponsored by the Philco Radio Company and featured a number of promotions along with the mystery. The Candy Matson character was originally written as male role, but after a talk from the writer's mother-in-law, he cast his wife in the role instead! Candy had a few elements borrowed from Hard-boiled detectives; she tried to present herself as being completely mercenary in her detecting. But her adventures, even when they involve murder, tend to be light hearted enough to count her as soft-boiled. Mercedes McCambridge's portrayal of Marty Ellis Bryant in Defense Attorney and The Defense Rests (same character in both shows) is one of the most entertaining mystery shows available. Attorney Ellis always finds herself defending some one who has been framed for murder, and with the help of her News Reporter boyfriend, manages find the guilty party.
The real appeal of the detective story of course isn't the crime or the criminal, but the solving of the crime. Often the victim himself and what has happened to him is unimportant to the enjoyment of the story. And this is so completely opposite of real life. But crime fiction is ultimately a fantasy, even the Hard-boiled detective. While solving the crime may require more or less intellectual power, the audience enjoys the illusion that they have the same of greater intellectual power of the detective.
As macabre as the subject matter of murder is, the appeal of the detective story, no matter what medium, is that the best are just plain fun. See also: Espionage in Old Time Radio.
Rare Detective Shows
Espionage & Spies
Frank Lovejoy Collection
Jeff Chandler Collection
Jack Webb Collection
Bob Bailey Collection
Best of Dragnet
John Dickson Carr
|Radio Show Title||Date||Lead Slueuth
|Stars||Radio Show Premise|
|A Case for Dr Morelle||1957||Cecil Parker and Sheila Sim||Dr. Morrelle is a very wise sleuth, but too confident of his own intelligence for many peoples taste. His secretary, Miss Frayle seem to be the only one who can deal with him, and she is worth being around. As irritating as he is, Morrelle always solves the crime in his very British way.|
|Address Unknown||1954- 1971||Lionel Stevens, Harp McGuire, Joe McCormick and Ray Barrett||Each show dramatizes a real case of a missing person taken from the Missing Persons Bureau files in London.|
|Adventures of Ellery Queen||1943- 1967||Ellery Queen and his father, Richard Queen||Sydney Smith, Marian Shockley, Santos Ortega, Ted de Corsia||Ellery Queen was an author who solved mysteries in his spare time and then wrote about his harrowing adventures; his sidekick was his own father, Richard Queen.|
|Adventures of Frank Race||1949- 1950||Frank Race, Marc Donovan||Tom Collins, later Paul Dubov||Frank Race was an attorney before the War, but after working for the OSS, his business is now Danger! Race. Now he works as an insurance investigator, sort of a cross between James Bond and Johnny Dollar.|
|Adventures of Harry Lime (The Third Man)||1951- 1952||Harry Lime||Orson Welles||Hardly a Good Guy, Harry Lime was killed in the movie, "The Third Man". He recalls his sorted adventures in this series.|
|Adventures of Maisie||1945- 1953||Maisie Ravier||Ann Sothern||Based on the Maisie movies that made Ann Sothern famous. Maisie is a sassy and street-smart American working woman turned woman of the world|
|Adventures of the Abbotts||Jean and Pat Abbott||Les Damon and Claudia Morgan||In each episode, Jean helps her husband, a well-renowned San Franciscan private eye, to solve yet another mystery.|
|Amazing Mr Malone||1947-1951||John Joseph Malone||Gene Raymond, George Petrie, Frank Lovejoy||Socialite John Joseph Malone (Gene Raymond, George Petrie, Frank Lovejoy) is a tough Chicago criminal lawyer who takes on a new case in each episode. Malone never gives up until justice is done|
|Are These Our Children||1946- 1948||San Francisco juvenile court||"Dramatizations of actual case histories taken from the files of juvenile delinquency court."|
|Avengers (South African)||1971- 1973||John Steed and Emma Peel||Donald Monat, Diane Appleby||Spy Adventures adapted for South African Radio|
|Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator||1951- 1955||Barrie Craig||William Gargan||Hardboiled New York Private Investigator, "The Man when you can't go to the Cops."|
|Best of Dragnet||1949- 1957||Sgt. Joe Friday||Jack Webb||One of the original Police procedural dramas, Dragnet brings us the drudgery and boredom of police work with the heroism and bravery.|
|Big Guy||1950||Joshua Sharp||Henry Calvin||Unusual collection that follows the adventures of single dad detective, Joshua Sharp, as he tries to juggle parenthood and his detective agency|
|Big Town||1937- 1952||Steve Wilson, managing editor of the crusading Illustrated Press||Edward G. Robinson||Crusading Editor takes on crime and issues|
|Black Museum||1951||Scotland Yard Detectives||Orson Welles||Orson Welles presents stories from the objects in the Scotland Yard Black Museum, always stories of grisly murder.|
|Blackstone the Magic Detective||1948- 1949||Real-life magician Harry Blackstone||Real-life magician Harry Blackstone||Magician solves mysteries with his knowledge of magic and powers of deduction.|
|Bold Venture||1951- 1952||Sate Shannon and Sailor Duval||Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall||Havana Hotel owner Slate Shannon and his wise cracking side kick Sailor Duval seem to attract the roughest sort, but always come out on top.|
|Border Patrol 1941||1941- 1942||Border Patrol Agents||Agents of the US Border Patrol keep aliens and outlaws from crossing our borders.|
|Boston Blackie||1945- 1950||Boston Blackie||Chester Morris||Boston Blackie, "a modern Robin Hood, a little on the gangster side, wise to all the tricks but always reversing to do a lot of good."|
|Box 13||1948- 1949||Dan Holiday||Alan Ladd||Writer Dan Holiday has a an ad: "Adventure wanted : will go anywhere, do anything " Box 13." And he gets more adventure than he could want.|
|Broadway is My Beat||1949- 1954||Detective Danny Clover||Larry Thor||Hardboiled detective Danny Clover covers is a police detective who grew up on the hard streets of New York City.|
|Bulldog Drummond||1941- 1954||Bulldog Hugh Drummond||George Coulouris||Bulldog was a methodical crime-solving sleuth who let nothing get in his way of his goal, which was to put a stop to crime!|
|Call the Police||1947- 1949||Recent graduate of the FBI academy, Bill Grant||Joseph Julian, Joan Tompkins||Call the Police was billed as "a new series of realistic radio dramas inspired by the courageous work of police departments all over America."|
|Calling All Cars||1947 - 1949||New Officer in Each Episode||Charles Frederick Lindsley (narrator)||One of the earliest Police Procedural dramas, considered a precursor to Dragnet.|
|Calling All Detectives||1945- 1950||Detective Browning||Paul Barnes, master of many voices, played all characters.||"The Sealy Mystery Quiz". Paul Barnes, "the Man of a Thousand Voices" does a one man show presenting a short detective play. After the mystery Barnes calls a listener in the Chicago area and asks a question about a detail of the story.|
|Candy Matson||1949- 1951||Candy Matson, Lt Ray Mallard, Rembrandt Watson||Natalie Parks, Henry Leff, Jack Thomas.||Many feel that Candy Matson was the finest of all lady detectives on radio. Not only is she smart, tough and beautiful, but the show is peppered with references to San Francisco locations.|
|Case Dismissed||1954||Local Chicago Talent||Brought to you by the Illinois Bar Association, high-lighting the services of professional Attorneys|
|Casebook of Gregory Hood||1946- 1951||Gregory Hood, Sanderson Taylor||Gale Gordon, others||Gregory Hood is a wealthy San Francisco Antiques importer whose globe trotting often lands him in the way of crimes having to do with the items he is after.|
|Cases of Mr Ace||1947||Edward Ace, sole owner of Ace Detective Agency||George Raft||Cases of Mr Ace is a typical Tough Guy detective, and not above lifting plots from other Gum Shoes. He tells his stories to a criminal psychologist who is doing research.|
|Casey Crime Photographer||1943- 1955||"Flashgun" Jack Casey, reporter Ann Williams.||Matt Crowley, briefly by Jim Backus, and Staats Cotsworth.||"Flashgun" Jack Casey takes crime scene photos for his newspaper, and usually winds up involved in the crimes he covers.|
|Charlie Chan||Late 1940s||Charlie Chan & Number One Son||Ed Begley Sr||The Honolulu based Chinese Detective was originally an answer to the "Yellow Peril" stereotypes like evil Dr Fu Manchu. Detective Chan would turn up all over the world and solve crimes with a combination of shrewd observations and taking advantages of the Bag Guy's slow wits. Chan was usually aided but often impatient with his Number One Son.|
|Cloak & Dagger||1950||Agents of the OSS||This great piece of Espionage Adventure has many of the elements of Crime Fiction. Based on the cases of the OSS, forerunner of the CIA.|
|Clutching Hand||1936||Professor Craig Kennedy, newspaper reporter Walter Jameson.||William Farnum||Professor Craig Kennedy uses scientific methods to find the bad guys, and foils the kidnapping of Professor Gironda who has discovered the secret of synthetic Gold|
|Confession||1953||True crime drama based on the true confessions of real criminals. Show features dramatic recreations of the crimes.|
|Crime & Peter Chambers||1954||Palyboy detective Peter Chambers||Dane Clark & Bill Zuckert||Playboy detective with an eye for crime-solving and a taste for women.|
|Crime Classics||1953- 1954||Host Thomas Hyland||"A series of true crime stories from the records and newspapers of every land, from every time. Your host each week, is Mr. Thomas Hyland- connoisseur of crime, student of violence, and teller of murders."|
|Crime Club||1946- 1947||The Librarian||Raymond E. Johnson||A Sort of Book Club on the Air for Crime Books, the stories are Dramatized and introduced by "The Librarian."|
|Crime Doctor||1940- 1947||Dr. Benjamin Ordway||Ray Collins||Criminal Phil Morgan suffers amnesia and rebuilds his life as criminologist Dr Benjamin Ordway, who is now a member of the parole board. Each Saturday night the audience tries to guess the one mistake the crok makes which proves his guilt.|
|Crime Does Not Pay||1949- 1951||Bela Lugosi, Everett Sloane, Ed Begley, John Loder and Lionel Stander.||Anthology based on MGM short film series. Mostly B-List Hollywood actors, but occasional big names. The show tried to take high morale tone to direct away from sensationalism.|
|Damon Runyan Theater||1948 - 1950s||"Broadway", side kick and narrator||John Brown, Others||The world of Damon Runyon is peppered with Gangsters and their Molls. The seamy underbelly of the Big Apple is given delicate treatment; Crime may not pay, but the cliche's and humor work well.|
|Dan Dunn, Secret Operative #48||1934||Dan Dunn||Hard Nosed, no-nonsense detective in the Dick Tracy mold: Dan Dunn sets out to foil spies and other international bad guys|
|Danger Dr Danfield||1946- 1947||Doctor Dan Danfield, and his secretary Miss Rusty Fairfax||Michael Dunne||Dr Dan Danfield is a Criminal Psychiatrist who winds up wrapped up involved in the cases he studies. He also pointedly ignores the advances of his pretty secretary, Miss Rusty Fairfax.|
|Danger with Granger||late 1950s||Private Eye Steve Granger, reporter Cal Hendrix, and Police Detective Jake Rankin||Hard Boiled NY P.I. Steve Granger is a predictable but enjoyable Detective show, filled with the typical cliches.|
|Dangerous Assignment||1949- 1953||Steve Mitchell, international operative||Brian Donlevy||Cold War Spy Drama, a kind of precursor to James Bond.|
|David Harding Counterspy!||1942- 1950||David Harding||Don MacLaughlin||The Counter-Spies are a fictional department of the government which investigates all reports of Espionage. Plots stretch from WWII Nazis and Japs to Cold War trouble makers.|
|Defense Attorney||1951- 1952||Defense Attorney Martha Ellis Bryant||Mercedes McCambridge||Hard hitting crime drama, with a distinctive feminine touch|
|Detectives Black and Blue||1933- 1935||Jim Black and Frank Blue||A pair of Duluth shipping clerks get involved in the Detective Racket, and solve crimes with more dumb luck than smarts or hard boiled bravado.|
|Diamond Dramas||1940s||Stories of thievery, smuggling, and skulduggery, around and about diamonds.|