Box 13 was one of the best syndicated radio programs of all time and was one of the first five programs I did on the Great Detectives of Old Time Radio. It was a syndicated series starring Alan Ladd which ran for fifty-two episodes. In it, reporter-turned mystery writer Dan Holiday finds plots for his stories based on responses to his ad that he runs in the Star Times, “Adventure wanted, will go anywhere, will do anything. Write Box 13 C/O Star Times.”
Box 13 ended only because there had been a large enough number of episodes produced for a syndication package. The number of plots that could be produced from the idea were virtually unlimited. Radio Archive has presented an audiobook read by Nick Santa Maria containing six new short stories featuring new adventures with Dan Holiday based on letters he received from Box 13.
“The Mystery of the Menacing Manuscript” has Dan Holiday going to a mystery weekend with a house full of jealous mystery writers at one of the premier publishing houses in the nation. The story has a fine setup and a nice atmosphere but the final twist turns it into a bit of a lecture and is disappointing.
“The Horror of the Plague Doctor” has an investor turning to Dan for help as an investor’s meeting he attended tends to turn to a blood bath at the hands of a man dressed like a plague doctor. It’s atmospheric and the sort of yarn that would have worked great on the radio. My only problem is that this one felt like it was re-purposed from a more traditional, period, hard-boiled story with the way Dan talked to Suzie in a couple places and also all the guns around his office.
“The Out of this World Affair” has a conspiracy theorist turning to Holiday for help as he believes in a conspiracy including little green men. Not really a story they would have done on radio, but that was because of the times. It’s very quirky and has some nice twists worked into it with a somewhat ambiguous ending.
“Room 13” is one of the more intriguing episodes. Dan is asked to share his soul with an android. However, there’s more than a crazy experiment going on with a robot as there’s also a beautiful lab assistant and a mobster mixed up in it. The story’s has some great twists and manages a noir story with potential science fiction elements.
“The Game’s Afoot, Mr. Holiday” has Dan Holiday receive a note challenging his detective skills and threatening a murder if he doesn’t solve it. He goes to the police for help and in one of the great moments of realism, the police can’t help with such a vague clue. The story has its good moments, but it also a lot of problems including some leaps in logic and an unsatisfying conclusion that adds up to the fact that the criminal really wasn’t all that great.
In “Kalidescope” Dan Holiday is sent eight five dollar bills with a request for help and ends up stumbling into an incredible web of intrigue with twins, lookalike wives, insanity, and a mysterious circus playbill. This is a superb story and I’d love to see it expanded into a novel or done with a full cast.
Overall, the stories were pretty good. My main criticism was it wasn’t necessary to explain the premise of Box 13 in every single story. Still, this was a decent effort. While they weren’t perfect, for listeners who’ve been waiting more than sixty-five years for more Dan Holiday adventures, Box Thirteen: Adventure Wanted is a welcomed release.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
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