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Murder They Wrote

One of the joys that results from an immersion into the world of old-time radio involves discovering little-known or forgotten series that might have completely disappeared from the historical record had not a handful of broadcasts survived.  The upside is finding a show that’s better than its reputation (and in many case, superior to its more popular competition).  The drawback is that with so few episodes in circulation, there’s the eventual letdown once all the broadcasts have been played.

A good example of this was a Mutual mystery program that premiered on this date sixty-three years ago: Murder by Experts.  Produced and directed by the two men who also brought The Mysterious Traveler (not to mention The Sealed Book and The Strange Dr. Weird) to the airwaves, David Kogan and Robert A. Arthur, Experts featured a weekly tale of cold-blooded mayhem.  Each tale was adapted by Kogan and Arthur, and written by a novice author whose work was selected by a prominent member of the Mystery Writers of America.  Two other renowned genre scribes, John Dickson Carr (creator of famed sleuths Dr. Fell and Sir Henry Merivale) and Brett Halliday (the father of Michael Shayne) acted as hosts and narrators of the series, which had a two-year sustained run on Mutual before coming to an end on December 17, 1951.  (In the program’s final year the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, acted as the program’s genial host.)

The program was produced in New York and took advantage of fine local acting talent such as Lawson Zerbe, Maurice Tarplin, Gertrude Warner, Larry Haines, Leslie Woods, and Santos Ortega.  The stories on Murder by Experts did not rely on a lot of the “gimmickry” that was present in other mystery anthologies, so the series was highly regarded.  It was even presented with The Edgar Allen Poe Award (“the Edgar”) for best mystery program (which can be heard on “Conspiracy,” an April 24, 1950 broadcast available in this Radio Spirits collection).  Sadly, only about 13-15 episodes of this neglected mystery treat have survived…but fans who have availed themselves of those broadcasts have confirmed that it is a series well worth making an acquaintance.

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