Pat Novak, For Hire: About


"For a total stranger, you sure meet a lot of people."

Ladies and Gentlemen, the American Broadcasting Company brings to its entire network one of radio's most unusual programs . . .

1946-47, ABC West; produced at KGO, San Francisco, and aired on the West Coast network only. Feb 13-June 18, 1949, ABC. 30m.

Pat Novak was Jack Webb's first significant radio crime drama. It was also the vanguard of radio crime drama, so hard-boiled as to be high camp in its own time. The show was rich with hilarious pessimism, rippling with ridiculous metaphors.

In two separate stands as Pat Novak, Webb was propelled to national prominence. Novak operated out of "Pier 19," a small office where "I rent boats and tell a few white lies, if the price is right." Writer Richard Breen wrote the kind of dialogue that Webb delivered better than any one else: it was sassy, brassy, and full of pent-up anger.

The series existed, in fact, simply to push one-liners. Each story was exactly like all the others. They all opened to the same general patter. "Sure, I'm Pat Novak, for hire. . . . That's what the sign out in front of my office says--Pat Novak, For Hire." This was always the transition into the so-called story. Someone would hire Novak: if not a beautiful dame, the job would lead to a beautiful dame. Someone would get murdered, Novak would become the "patsy," and he'd get beaten up at least once by the thugs and again for good measure by his old enemy, Police Inspector Hellmann. His drunken pal, Jocko Madigan, would be enlisted to do some legwork, and all would end in glorious violence. The closing line was always the same: "Well, Hellmann asked only question . . . ," and this always led to Novak's wrap-up. The listener was told who had done what, to whom, and occasionally why and how. None of it made much sense, but people tuned in for the writing and delivery.

Jack Webb as Pat Novak, acid-tongue waterfront troubleshooter. (PN)
Jack Lewis as Jocko Madigan, ex-doctor, boozer, and friend of Novak. (JM)
John Galbraith as Inspector Hellmann, the brutish police detective. (IH)
Raymond Burr as Inspector Hellmann during second stint. (1949)

text courtesy of On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, Jack Dunning.

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