Before My Time
Americana, Hard-Boiled Detectives, Jack Webb, Radio, Television
We geezers who were little kids watching television in the 1950s remember Jack Webb playing LAPD Sergeant Jim Friday in Dragnet, but you have to be older yet to know that Webb previously played a hard-boiled detective on the radio.
Before Dragnet, before everyone knew him, Jack Webb did several other radio shows. The best of them was called Pat Novak for Hire [1946-1947], about a boat owner and general odd jobs guy who kept getting involved in various pulpy adventures.
What set this show apart was the writing, which was noire hard boiled writing at its absolute best. The primary writer Richard L. Breen who went on to write such films as State Fair, Niagra, and PT 109. And his work was poetry. The interaction between Novak and his nemesis on the police force Lieutanant Hellman is classic and usually hilarious, and the philosophical monologues and musings of drunken ex-doctor Jocko Madigan is unique to the show. …
Every show starts with a grim and often bitter intro by Pat Novak about how hardcore his life and the world he moves through is. This is San Francisco back before the hippies, the toughest place in America and one of the roughest places in the world.
‘Around here a set of morals won’t cause any more stir than Mother’s Day in an orphanage. Maybe that’s not good, but that’s the way it is. And it wouldn’t do any good to build a church down here, because some guy would muscle in and start cutting the wine with wood alcohol. All you can do is try to make the books balance, and the easiest way to do that is to keep one hand on your billfold and the other hand on somebody else’s.’
‘Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, you always bite off more than you can chew. It’s tough on your windpipe, but you don’t go hungry.’
‘Pat Novak, for hire. It’s about the only way you can say it. Oh, you can dress it up and tell how many shopping days there are ’til Christmas, but if you got yourself on the market, you can’t waste time talking. You got to be as brief as a pauper’s will, because down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, everybody wants a piece of the cake, and the only easy buck is the one you just spent. Oh, it’s a good life. If you work real hard and study a little on the side, you got a trade by the time you get to prison.’
Almost all of these are worth listening to and as hardboiled as a fifteen year egg.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Vanderleun.