In 2017 I posted one of my favorite articles on the gumshoe/street punk/police detective interactions on serial radio programs in the 1940s (read it). Not everyone owned a television set yet and home radio entertainment was a family event. Everything from sci-fi, comedy, horror, family, and mystery shows flowed into the ears of eager listeners.
I have Sirius radio in my car and listen to Radio Classics as I drive. I get a kick out of how the world was viewed then. And I admire the great writing of the programs I hear.
If you want to know how to give images to your work, to give your reader visuals of your story, listen to old radio broadcasts.
Following are great samples from one such program.
These come from Pat Novak for Hire, a gumshoe detective dealing with little-educated criminals. Some of the outtakes are as the gumshoe related the tale and some are dialogue.
The gumshoe got bashed over the head, “I went down like the price of winter wheat.”
Related to another fall, “I didn’t want to test the varnish too long.”
Faced with a group of thugs, he thought to himself, “I have as much chance as a bottle of Scotch at a cocktail party.”
Police Lieutenant says to gumshoe, “Stay out of this, Novak. My boys will follow him.” To which Novak replies, “Your boys couldn’t tail a moose in a revolving door.” (What a word picture!)
Novak interrogating a bad guy – bad guy says, “If I talk, I’d be a dead pigeon.” Novak retorts, “Start cooing!”
Novak referring to a sociopath-type criminal, “He mistakes a moral inclination for the flu.”
Gumshoe in a difficult situation, “It was like tight-roping on a rubber band.”
Comment on a person failing at sneaking around, “He was creeping like a stallion with a broken leg.”
Cop asks Novak, “Is he dead?” Novak responds, “Yeah. He couldn’t stand the bleeding.”
Later, “He was cut up like a piece of parsley.”
Novak, kissing-off a bad guy, “Lots of luck.” Bad guy says, “Thanks.” Novak says, “You know what kind.”
Novak, “If you think you’re going to get your throat cut, send in a substitute.”
The point of all this is – you can get a lot of enjoyment out of the way words are put together. And there are many ways of doing that.
Try writing in the old radio noir style. It really is quite fun and teaches you to form word pictures in a sardonic, satirical way.
Or just tune in to Classic Radio on Sirius radio and enjoy a few old – but gold – great tales from the past.