This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
Click here to return to the index of selected articles.
RADIO CRIME FIGHTERS
Over 300 Programs from the Golden Age
by Jim Cox
333 Pages $45 Case Binding (7 X 10)
ISBN 0-7864-1390-5 2002
Reviewed by Michael J. Hayde
(From Radio Recall, December 2002)
"Get this and get it straight - crime is a sucker’s road and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison or the grave." It stands to reason that if Philip Marlowe had known what Jim Cox would produce while traveling the road of radio crime, Marlowe might have re-worded his introductory spiel.
Cox, the prolific author of “The Great Radio Audience Participation Shows” and “The Great Radio Soap Operas”, chronicles another aspect of OTR history with his latest tome, “Radio Crime Fighters”. Its subject is just that, encompassing any series in which the conquering of evildoers is the central premise. Children’s programs, westerns, soap operas and even a comedic title or two are given as much attention as police dramas, private eye capers and amateur sleuths.
“Radio Crime Fighters” is both an informative primer for the OTR novice, as well as an invaluable reference tool for long-time hobbyists. For the former, Cox provides a pocket history of each program (at least, those for which a documented history could be located); complete cast listings that tell you not only who played a major character, but when; and a generous helping of critical insight from fellow historians. Hard-core radiophiles will delight in the inclusion of the number of circulating episodes; in-depth network/day/time shifts; alternate titles; and sponsor listings for each series.
Network, syndicated or regional; sponsored or sustaining: every crime fighter that three decades of golden-age radio scholarship has brought to light is represented. Thus, readers will not only discover the popular Jack Armstrong: The All-American Boy but also a syndicated rip-off, The Adventures of Dick Cole. Milestones such as The Shadow, The Adventures of Superman, The Lone Ranger, Dragnet, Gunsmoke and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar receive their due.
But Cox also provides informative coverage for such lesser lights as Danger, Dr. Danfield; Martin Kane, Private Eye; The Lone Wolf; Mark Trail; Kitty Keene, Incorporated and Call the Police.
Best of all, Cox has peppered his narrative with a number of anecdotes and occasionally eye-popping statistics, such as the documentation of the number of households per advertising dollar that were tuned to crime and mystery programs - versus not only the big ticket comedy-variety and musical-variety shows, but also "nondescript drama" programs.
Anecdotes include a humorous story-behind-the-story of Front Page Farrell. The show was a competent, if not exactly memorable, treatment of the crusading newspaperman. However, Farrell’s most memorable portrayer, Staats Cotsworth (who also played Casey, Crime Photographer), gave a Newsweek reporter a thumbnail accounting of his annual take as an actor, while in his cups, and this led to repercussions beyond the confines of both shows.
All of this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The wealth of information couched in a well-organized and easy-to-read volume makes Jim Cox’s “Radio Crime Fighters” another highly recommended entry in the growing list of OTR reference works.
This book available from the publishers, McFarland & Company, 800-253-2187, or visit their web site at www.mcfarlandpub.com
Reviewer Michael Hayde is a MWOTRC member from Manassas. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book, “My Name’s Friday: The Unauthorized but True Story of Dragnet and the Films of Jack Webb”.