Sunday, February 6, 2011

How To Have A Wonderful Crime







I am, admittedly, a fan of mystery stories.


I grew up reading Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery magazine, The Saint Detective Magazine, along with Shell Scott, Sherlock Holmes, a plethora of assorted crime novels, and my personal favorite – anything by Travis McGee creator and fiction writer extraordinaire John D. McDonald.


Which likely explains my fondness for many of the old low-budget `B’ mystery movies – programmers really – released by poverty row studios like Monogram and Grand National during the 1930s and 1940s.


The Saint, Bulldog Drummond, The Falcon, Boston Blackie, The Lone Wolf . . .  formulaic to be sure, but for me they are the mac & cheese of early cinema.


Comfort food for the mind.


Likewise, during the late 1930s and into the early 1950s, crime & mystery dramas on radio were almost certainly the most popular dramatic genre.


Some . . . like Sherlock Holmes,Casey Crime Photographer, Boston Blackie, Box 13, Dangerous Assignment,  and Adventure by Morse all featured recognizable recurring characters.


Anthology shows, like Murder at Midnight, Suspense, The Whistler, and Crime Club – with the exception of the host/narrator – used different characters in every episode.


Crime Club – which aired from 1946-47 - while not the best remembered of these radio shows, has an interesting pedigree.


The Crime Club began as a series of crime fiction books in 1928, published by Doubleday.   Over a period of 63 years they published nearly 2,500 titles, including all 50 of  The Saint by Leslie Charteris.


In 1931, an early version of The Crime Club appeared on radio first as a 6 day-a-week 15 minute show, and then twice-a-week, sponsored by Eno’s Effervescent antacid salts.


This was one of the earliest crime dramas on radio, and for a time was very popular. Unlike the later radio version, the stories (taken from Crime Club books) were reworked for two recurring detective characters, Detective Spencer Dean, and his sidekick Danny Cassidy.


During the 1930s, Universal Studios inked a deal with Doubleday to use The Crime Club imprint for a series of mystery films, starting with The Westland Case in 1937.


In 1946, The Crime Club took to the airwaves once more, this time with a little more polish.


Directed by Roger Bower, and with Crime Club stories adapted by the likes of writers like Stedman `The Shadow’ Coles or Wyllis `Quiet Please’ and `Light’s Out’ Cooper these 30 minute mysteries used the contrivance of the host/librarian who speaks to the listener as if they have just requested one of the Club's books.


He would settle his `guests’ into an easy chair, and begin the tale.


The Internet Archive has a nice selection of 30 episodes from the 46-47 run of this series.   You can download each episode individually, or listen online using their embedded player.

The link for these episodes is HERE.

With MP3 CD players common in new cars, these make excellent traveling companions.   I download, and burn about 50 hours of OTR audio to a single CD.


Beats the heck out of listening to what passes for radio today.

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