Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday's Favorite OTR

The Fat Man: “Order for Murder” 9/15/51

The Fat Man was supposedly based on Dashiell Hammett’s “Continental Op” character, but he’s really not. The Op (so-called because he’s never named in the stories he narrates) is an agent for the Continental Detective Agency—a skilled P.I. who happens to be a little overweight.

The protagonist of the radio show, though, has a name (Brad Runyon) and works as an independent investigator. And he’s really, really fat.

It was a case where Hammett just let him use his name in the credits, then took the money and ran. That’s okay, though, since the show was a pretty good one. Character actor J. Scott Smart endowed Runyon with intelligence and rolled words out of his mouth in a manner that somehow sounded fat.

And the individual episodes were well-written. In “Order for Murder,” Runyon is taking a trip when his car breaks down. He’s picked up by a man with horrible facial scarring who blames his former army commander for his woes. Fearing the man is planning murder, Runyon decides to warn the commander.

On the way there, though, he has encounters with the commander’s bitter ex-wife--who is convinced that ghosts rising up from the family graveyard will take vengeance upon her former husband. Then he meets the current wife, who is quickly revealed to be having an affair and admits to getting married just for the money.

Actually, this aspect of the plot stretches coincidence a little too far. Getting a ride from someone who turns out to be a potential murderer is fine—that sort of thing is an accepted convention of the genre. But Runyon runs into three suspects in quick succession without even trying.

Still, the rest of the story is done well enough to earn forgiveness for this one brief Sin of Poor Plot Construction. There’s an attempted murder followed by a successful murder followed by Runyon having to figure out which of the three suspects is guilty. His deductive reasoning here is perfectly sound and the episode comes to a satisfying conclusion.

The Fat Man wasn’t the finest of the many hard-boiled P.I. shows that came to radio in the years after World War II, but it was still a good one.

Click HERE to listen or download.


  1. Didn't Sidney Greenstreet portray the Fat Man? I mean this one, not the fat man from Maltese Falcon.

  2. No. Sidney played Nero Wolfe on the radio, not the Fat Man.


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