Set Five of Harry Nile continues the high quality from the previous four sets with most episodes clocking in at 19-22 minutes in length recorded in the 1990s, but with stories set between 1954-56 (sort of) produced by Jim French and starring Phil Harper as Harry. The vintage feel remains on most episodes, with a few exceptions.
“The Toni Parsons” story is a great story about a girl who runs away to Seattle in hopes of finding her brother who has been declared MIA in Korea. There’s the case of Harry running into a less than savory relative in, “Who Killed Harry Nile?” And Harry has to deal with a medical mystery in, “The Case of the Missing Witness.”
This set marked a return of double episodes. “Always Leave ’em Wanting More” informs us that Harry had briefly been married to a black lounge singer in the 1930s before he began his career as a private eye. While Harry learns the truth about his late wife’s murder in the 1950s much of the story is set in the mid-1930s. While the episode was educational about the type of challenges faced by an interracial couple in the 1930s, it really felt like it was primarily trying to be educational. The attempts to squeeze this incident into what we know of Harry’s back story was really forced and not credible.
It is perhaps the final step in the rehabilitation of Harry’s harder edged past. Recalling that the first Harry Nile story, “West for My Health” had Harry come West with orders to kill a man with Harry debating whether he’d carry this out, we’ve come along way to much more of a straight arrow character. Though if you want a rougher edged story, another 1950s framed story tells of Harry’s days in Los Angeles and deadbeat client he’d never forget in a great story called, “Tony Macaroni Still Owes me $600.”
The other thing that become apparent listening to the show is how hard it was to keep supporting characters actors on the show. Harry gets several friends on the force who pop in for two or three episodes and then pop out. Perhaps the most memorable such character to appear was Keys Louise who has a key that’ll get her into every office in town.
One actor who stuck with the show and eventually succeeded Harper was Larry Albert whose voice work on a variety of characters was truly indispensable. His best episode was entitled, “Finding Portland,” in which Albert plays Fred Allen, who is visiting town to promote his new book. The story is set in 1956, seven years after Allen’s last radio appearance and Albert is dead on as Fred Allen. He captured the voice perfectly in a way that made you feel like you were actually hearing Allen.
Despite a few rough spots, Set 5 of the History of Harry Nile was simply marvelous radio entertainment the spirit of golden age radio detectives.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0
The set is available at French’s website for $49.95 on CD or as a digital download for $25.
The History of Harry Nile, Set 5 (along with Sets 1-4, and 6) are available on Audible for $19.95 for members or 1 Credit. I bought this set with my an Audible listener Credit ($14.95).
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