Last year, I created a podcast that collected all of our series that had few than ten episodes in circulation called The Forgotten Detectives of Old Time Radio. It contains 125 episodes from twenty-two different radio series. That’s a lot of shows, and it can be hard to know where to start. In order to help, here are my top five favorite forgotten detective programs:
5) The Adventures of Leonidas Witherall:
Leonidas Witherall is a character in a series of comedy mystery novels by Phoebe Atwood Taylor. He is a headmaster of a boys’ school and is known for his uncanny resemblance to William Shakespeare. The 1944 series starred Broadway star Walter Hampden and is a really fun listen with some really nice use of humor. If you’re looking for a light mystery series, this one is worth listening to.
4) The Defense Rests/Defense Attorney
Radio acting legend Mercedes McCambridge stars as Attorney Martha Ellis Bryant. Radio detective mysteries featuring attorneys as a lead are rare and so were mystery programs with a female lead, making this is a good find. But McCambridge’s award-winning acting is what really sells the series and makes it fun to listen to.
3) Easy Money
Larry Haines stars as a magician turned detective who dedicates his time to exposing various con games. While radio was full of murders and violent crimes, it was refreshing to have a series that turned to bunco scams. Easy Money does this with style, with smartly written scripts and solid acting and direction.
2) The Adventures of Bill Lance
Gerald Mohr, best-known for playing legendary hard-boiled private eye Philip Marlowe, stars in a very different series as Bill Lance, a piano player and tuner who gets involved in mysteries. Legendary character actor Howard McNear stars as Lance’s sidekick. The series makes good use of music in the story and manages to work in light continuity with minor characters from one episode to the next.
1)The Airmail Mystery
This 1932 serial follows Justice Department Investigator Irene Delroy as she seeks to uncover what’s behind a series of small plane crashes, assisted by her subordinate Fitz and reporter boyfriend Jimmy. The characters are a lot of fun, with Irene Delroy being a very ahead-of-her-time heroine. The mystery is pretty good with a lot of clues and exciting moments. The series was originally broadcast as thirteen fifteen-minute episodes. We featured the twelve surviving episodes in six episodes of the podcast. It’s a very fun, high-paced, and unique experience.