The mystery genre has been a major force in radio programming since the earliest days of radio broadcasting. During the 1920’s, as radio grew from a novelty for hobbyists into a profitable national entertainment source, the nascent radio networks searched for ways to enlarge their audiences and revenues. As radio dramas gained in popularity, programmers found mystery stories a natural format for radio production. Radio’s auditory dimension lent itself well to mysteries since the simple sounds could enhance suspense in ways that print and film could rarely match. Moreover, detective stories were widely read, both for entertainment and for their reflection of a violently changing society, so finding audiences for mystery programs was not difficult.
What is remembered as the Golden Age of radio, the 1930’s through the 1950’s, corresponds roughly with the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction. Although it is difficult to say if there was a causal relationship in this connection, the two forms certainly took advantage of their mutual popularity. Some of the most successful and long-lived dramatic programs in radio history were detective shows. These included The Shadow (1930-1954), Sherlock Holmes (1930-1946), Gangbusters (1935-1957), and Suspense (1942-1962)—which tended more toward thrillers than straight mysteries.
The quality of the radio mystery programs was enhanced by the fact that some of...
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