The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio The great ones are back in action.

21Nov/090

Pat Novak Doesn’t Swear

One of the great things about Old Time Radio is the lack of swearing on the shows. Many parents are thankful for this, and a lot of us would rather not hear it for whatever reason. However, I think the lack of swearing actually forced the writers to write better scripts.

When researching Pat Novak, I've found that's he's been twice published in modern books from Moonstone Books, which imagine him as an old man still kicking about, getting into trouble. As interested as I might be in these books, I'm almost willing to bet that the writers did something to Novak that would ruin the story. While I've not read the books (and maybe I could wrong), I'm willing to bet that in the updated version Pat Novak swears.

Of course, defenders of realism would say, Of course, Pat Novak swears. He swears like a tough waterfront boat operator, because he's a tough guy waterfront boat operator.  

Realism has a point, but if you're wanting realism, the private detective genre is where to come. Most private eyes live a far more boring live than Novak and other detectives. What makes Pat Novak fun is the dialogue and what makes the dialogue fun is that Pat Novak doesn't swear.

Of course, that doesn't mean Novak's a goody good. He's got a big time bad attitude and is a smart mouth. In a modern detective show, much of the dialogue used to insult Hellman would be cast aside for the ever-convenient curse words.

But without the ever-reliable "four letter dictionary" available in the 1940s, Novak has to be creative in taking on Inspector Hellman:

Pat Novak: I'm walking out of your jail, Hellmann. You got a broken down .38 that won't fit anything but your thumbs. You can't hold me on that.
Inspector Hellman: I found you over the body. I can hold you on suspicion of murder.
Pat Novak: But it will hurt tomorrow morning, Hellmann. The paper's will be down here for a follow-up, and you'll have to tell them what it looks like out in left field.
Inspector Hellman: I'll handle them.
Pat Novak: You can't afford to have them start laughing at you. People will get the idea it's your face.
Inspector Hellman: You can save carfare if you stay right here, because I'll have you back by noon tomorrow.
Pat Novak: You're not that good, Hellmann. You couldn't hold a moth with a searchlight. 

Pat Novak is the Poet Laurete of putdowns. The master of the stinging smart aleck remark. The show's got a rythym, a certain poetry to it. No, it's not realistic, but it's better than realistic.  

A swearing Pat Novak wouldn't have to be near as creative, near as smart, or near as good as the trash talking waterfront rat who couldn't talk trashy. A swearing Pat Novak isn't Pat Novak at all.

   

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