Nick Carter, Master Detective

Quick Links

Overview | Significance | Background | Plot | Cast | Resources | Episodes

Overview

Nick Carter, Master Detective (1943-1955) was an OTR radio crime series based on a fictional private detective first introduced in an 1886 Street & Smith dime novel.

Significance

Both crime and detective stories were popular Old Time Radio (OTR) genres from the 1940s-1950s. This popularity coincided with rising concerns for emerging criminal activities, especially organized crime, and containment efforts at all levels. Nick Carter, Master Detective included more than 700 30-minute episodes in its twelve-year run, 4 November 1943-25 September 1955. Lon Clark played Nick Carter in every episode during that period. In roughly the same time period, six actors played the title role in Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and two others auditioned. Clark also voiced The Comic Weekly Man from 1947-1954 on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Keeping with the Street & Smith tradition, most episodes included subtitles. For example, "The Corpse in the Cab" episode was subtitled "Nick Carter and the Murder in the Park."

Background

SFX: Sound of someone knocking on the door. . .

Patsy: "What's the matter? What is it?"

Man: "It's another case for Nick Carter . . . Master Detective!"

Announcer: "Yes, it's another case for that most famous of all manhunters, the detective whose ability at solving crime is unequaled in the history of detective fiction — Nick Carter, Master Detective."

Nick Carter, Master Detective first appeared in the 18 September 1886 issue of New York Weekly a dime novel published by Street & Smith. Created by John R. Coryell (1848-1924), Carter was young, clean living, and strong, able "to lift a horse with ease . . . while a heavy man is seated in the saddle . . . he can place four packs of playing cards together, and tear them in halves between his thumbs and fingers." Carter's pulp adventures followed him to manhood. As "the world's greatest detective," Carter frequently traveled around the world to solve cases, often accompanied by Patsy Bowen, assistant and Scrubby Wilson, reporter.

This dime novel premier for Nick Carter was one year before the world first heard of Sherlock Holmes. Although there are similarities between Carter and Holmes, Carter is modeled more on earlier dime novel detectives like Old Sleuth, Old Cap Collier, and Old King Brady.

Over the years, Carter changed from a dime novel detective to a consulting/adventure-seeking detective, to a hard-boiled detective. He appeared in a number of different media. By 1949, Nick Carter was featured in more than 4,000 dime novels, pulps, films (both silent and talkies, including many in French), comic books, comic strips, and radio shows.

The successful radio series began 4 November 1943 and was originally titled The Return of Nick Carter in reference to the character's dime novel origins. The title was changed 8 December 1946 to Nick Carter, Master Detective, and remained that until the last episode, 25 September 1955. Carter became a private detective characterized somewhere between a two-fisted tough guy and gentlemanly sleuth. His cases became more realistic and downbeat.

Episodes followed Nick Carter, assisted by Patsy Bowen, and "demon reporter" Scrubby Wilson, as he solved crimes and apprehended criminals. Episodes were written, produced, and directed at WOR in New York by Jock MacGregor.

Plot

Episodes followed a classic detective story formula: Nick looks for clues, each one of which brings him closer to solving the case. After the criminal is apprehended, Nick, in the epilogue, explains the meaning and importance of each clue and how it contributed to the criminal's downfall.

Cast

Nick Carter (Lon Clark)
Patsy Bowen (Helen Choate, 11 April 1943-13 August 1946; Charlotte Manson, 18 August 1946-25 September 1955)
Scrubby Wilson (John Kane)
Sgt. "Matty" Mattison (Ed Lattimer)
Writers (David Kogan, Alfred Bester, Milton J. Kramer, Jock MacGregor, John McGreevey, Ferrin N. Fraser, Norman Daniels, and others)
Director / producer (Jock MacGregor)

Resources

Nick Carter, Master Detective radio logs at Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs website
Plot summaries and credits at Radio Gold Index website
Episodes at Internet Archive website
Episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website

Episodes

Totals

Total episodes: 722 (estimated)
Surviving episodes: 139

Timeline

4 November 1943-25 September 1955
Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS)
Episodes at Old Time Radio Researchers Group Library website

Exemplary Episodes

The first and last three known surviving episodes.

  • Episode 13

    The Echo of Death
    Episode 13, 6 July 1943

  • Episode 17

    Murder in the Crypt
    Episode 17, 2 August 1943

  • Episode 25

    The Glass Coffin
    Episode 25, 27 September 1943

  • Episode 410

    The Case of the Vanishing Weapon
    Episode 410, 18 September 1949

  • Episode 418

    The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing
    Episode 418, 13 November 1949

  • Episode 424

    The Case of the Phantom Shoplifters
    Episode 424, 25 December 1949