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Drama – action –crime -- and just the guy to solve the case.  Detective programs, from the earliest days of radio, captured the imagination of audiences.

Very popular and successful, detective series on the radio usually focused on one main character.  That character was the detective whose job it was, whether by profession or by ‘hobby’, was to find the clues, track down the bad guys and ferret out the solution.

Quite often the program would feature the detective telling about events as they happened and relating their thoughts and opinions, speaking in the first person narrative.  This allowed the audience to relate to the character and the story, and drew the audience in.

The detectives in the most popular shows were usually of the ‘hard-boiled’ variety.  They were tough guys, but with a sensitive side – ruthless in their quest to bring the criminal to justice, and not always averse to operating a bit outside of the law if necessary.  Their sharp wits and experience allowed them to find clues that no one else noticed, and put the puzzle together to solve the case.  Other series featured investigators who were more cerebral and less physical than the hard-boiled guy, but no less effective.

In many cases the detective also had a sidekick, who was invaluable as an assistant, but not quite as sharp as the private eye.  The sidekick came in handy for bouncing ideas around, enhancing dialogue, and making the hero look good by comparison.

Boston Blackie was a radio detective program that was broadcast from 1944 to 1950.  The program starred Chester Morris and then Richard Kollmar as Blackie, with Lesley Woods then Jane Minor as his girlfriend, Mary Wesley, Richard Lane and Maurice Tarplin as Inspector Farraday, and Tony Barrett as Blackie’s best friend, Shorty.  In the series’ 30-minute episodes Blackie and his girlfriend, investigated and solved crimes, sometimes with the reluctant assistance of police Inspector Faraday and Blackie’s best friend, Shorty.

Called “the finest dramatic program on the air” by no less an authority than J. Edgar Hoover, This Is Your FBI aired from 1945 to 1953 on the radio.  The series was based on FBI files on organized crime, the most wanted list, and headlines in the news and adapted for radio by creator/producer/writer Jerry Devine, who was given access to the files by Hoover himself.  The first part of the program was a narration of the crime, and the second part was an account of the agent's investigation and report.

Featuring a classic hard-boiled detective, The Adventures of Sam Spade was broadcast from 1946 to 1951.  With drama, wisecracks, dames and maybe a couple of punches thrown with a recalcitrant thug, each half-hour episode included Spade updating his case file to his secretary, Effie, so she could stay on top of his progress.  The series starred Howard Duff, Steve Dunne, Lurene Tuttle, John McIntryre and William Conrad.

From 1949 to 1957 audiences were glued to the radio, listening to Dragnet, the classic radio detective program.  The series starred Jack Webb, Raymond Burr, and Barton Yarborough, and dealt with some of the grittier topics the LAPD faced.  From prostitution, drug addiction and even the accidental killing of a young boy by his friend, Dragnet pushed the sensitivities of the day.

Set, according to the creators of the program, on "the gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world", Broadway Is My Beat was another radio detective program popular from 1949 to 1954.  The series followed the cases of hardboiled New York detective Danny Clover who worked homicide between Times Square and Columbus Circle, and starred Anthony Ross, Bern Bennett, Larry Thor, Sheldon Leonard and others.

There were many more detective shows on the radio, some of which are 21st Precinct, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Calling All Detectives, Casey, Crime Photographer and Secrets of Scotland Yard.

With drama, adventure and action, the detective shows held the audience’s attention.  Listen and follow along with some of your favorite detectives as they fight crime and the bad guys.  Could you solve the crimes like they did?

21st Precinct

A Case For Dr. Morelle

A Life in Your Hands

A Salute to the Law

Address Unknown

Barry Craig, Confidential Investigator

BBC Broadcasts

Big Town

Boston Blackie 

Broadway is My Beat

Bulldog Drummond

Call The Police

Calling All Cars

Calling All Detectives

Candy Matson

Carter Brown Mystery Hour

Case Dismissed

Casey, Crime Photographer 

Charlie Chan


Crime and Peter Chambers

Crime Classics

Crime Club

Crime Does Not Pay

Danger With Granger

Danger, Dr. Danfield

Dick Barton Special Agent

Dick Tracy

Dr. Tim Detective 


Easy Money

Epic Case Book of Inspector Carr 

Federal Agent

Front Page Drama

Gang Busters

Guilty Party

Hercule Poirot

Hollywood Star Time

Honor the Law

I Was a Communist for the FBI   

In the Name of the Law
Jeff Reagan, Investigator
Let George Do It
Michael Shayne
Molle Mystery Theater
Moon Over Morocco
Mr. and Mrs. North
Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons
Mr. Moto
Nick Carter, Master Detective
Night Beat
Night Watch
Obscure Radio Programs
Old-Time Radio Shows
Pat Novak, For Hire
Perry Mason
Philo Vance
Police Headquarters
Richard Diamond, Private Detective
Rocky Fortune
Rocky Jordan
Rogue's Gallery
Secrets of Scotland Yard
Sherlock Holmes
Squad Cars
Stand By for Crime
That Hammer Guy
That Strong Guy
The Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue
The Adventures of Ellery Queen
The Adventures of Frank Merriwell
The Adventures of Frank Race
The Adventures of Philip Marlowe
The Adventures of Sam Spade
The Adventures of the Abbotts
The Amazing Mr. Malone
The Big Story
The Black Museum
The Casebook of Gregory Hood
The Chase
The F.B.I. in Peace and War
The Falcon
The Fat Man
The Green Hornet
The Hidden Truth
The Lineup
The Lives of Harry Lime
The Misadventures Of Si And Elmer
The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe
The Police Reporter
The Private Files of Rex Saunders
The Saint
The Shadow
The True Adventures of Junior G Men
This is Your FBI
True Detective Mysteries
Walk Softly Peter Troy
Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

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