Book Review: The “Lost” Sam Spade Radio Scripts

Sam Spade, “The Greatest Private Detective of Them All”, thrilled listeners for the five years he was on the air.  Most of that time, the character was played by Howard Duff. However, around 80% of Duff’s episodes are missing, along with one episode from his successor in the role, Stephen Dunne. After listening to every Sam Spade episode in circulation, if you find yourself hungry for more, you’re not alone.

While it’s not the same thing as uncovering more lost recordings of the series, The “Lost” Sam Spade Scripts, edited by Martin Grams, is the next big thing. Eschewing any superstition, Grams offers up a baker’s dozen of scripts for The Adventures of Sam Spade as written for broadcast, including commercial messages and the parts read by announcers, in this book from Bear Manor Media. 

Grams has selected a variety of stories, including one which sees Sam on jury duty, and the somewhat gimmicky but fun “Caper with Ten Clues”One of the scripts is the only missing episode from Dunne’s 24-episode run as Spade, which was also a Christmas episode. As such, it serves not only to complete the Dunne era, but also to give us a taste of what a Sam Spade Christmas episode sounded like.

What does stand out is the brilliant writing of the scripts. Grams chose the thirteen episodes to exclude subpar outings, but those were few and far between among circulating episodes anyway. The scripts highlight the snappy, hard-boiled dialogue; the smart, efficient storytelling; and the genuinely clever humor that make Sam Spade such a favorite of mystery enthusiasts to this day. While we don’t get Duff or Lurene Tuttle (who played Sam’s secretary Effie Perine throughout the series’ run) performing the script, I easily imagine their voices reading them.

The only story that I was a bit iffy about being included was “The Inside Story on Kid Spade”, which was a recycled script from Suspense, turned into a flashback to Spade having an early career as a boxer. It’s not a bad script, but it doesn’t feel like a Sam Spade episode or even a probable backstory for the character. But Grams makes his fair case for its inclusion, and I can’t rightly say that another story that was available to Grams would have been a better choice.

All in all, the book is a must-buy for fans of Sam Spade. It gives readers a chance to delight in thirteen stories of one of America’s most iconic private eyes that haven’t been available to the public in more than 70 years.

Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0

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  2 comments for “Book Review: The “Lost” Sam Spade Radio Scripts”

  1. David John Craven
    April 7, 2024 at 12:05 pm

    I note that for Sam Spade we see the caveat “in circulation”. Are episodes known to still exist which are not in circulation? Held in the hands of private collectors who have admitted that they have audio recordings but don’t wish to share?

  2. Yours Truly Johnny Blogger
    April 7, 2024 at 12:15 pm

    This is a good question. If anyone has any specific information that a Collector has made such declaration, it’s known at a level of OTR collecting far above mine. The only places I’m aware that are “on the record” about having uncirculated episodes of old time radio programs are academic collections at places like the Paley Center, the Library of Congress, and the Museum of Broadcasting in Chicago.

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