Monday, August 19, 2019

The Case of the Mysterious Cardigan Radio Script

I recently found a small trove of 1970s radio scripts. But in that pile are some anachronisms. OTR, Digital Deli, and Radio Echos each list most of the known episodes of General Mills Radio Adventure Theater.  Many post the audio. You can refer to that material HEREHEREHERE and HERE. This script purports to be from that series but it is included in no known list; not by author, and not by name and the introductory text is unique compared to all the episodes I can find.

You can easily find the original script's source material. It's the tale of a swashbuckling young American colonialist named Michael Cardigan. He was the eponymous subject of Cardigan, a young adult novel written by Robert W. Chambers published in 1901. You can read those details HERE. Some of his work was serialized in magazines but I don't think this one was. Chambers wrote mostly in the romance and science fiction genres and list one clearly belongs to the former.

The script itself is 40 pages long and bears all the stains and yellow oxidation you'd expect from a 40-year-old typewritten manuscript. The stables and paperclips have rusted which is also consistent with it's vintage. Consistently with other episodes, Tom Bosley acts as host and it would be produced by Himan Brown. The introductory paragraph is structured similarly to that of other known episodes and like those, the text varies slightly to account for the individual story, and it's historical context. If you don't know the gravelly tone of Tom Bosley the radio voice actor, you do probably know him for playing Howard Cunningham on the 1970s ABC sitcom "Happy Days" from 1974 to 1984.

But let's get back to Roberts W. Chambers work. More than a few of his works were converted into radio dramas. Another of his books, The Cambric Mask, published in 1899, was re-worked into the episode "Turning to Marble" in the South African radio horror anthology series Beyond Midnight. It aired September 26th 1969 on the SABC station Springbok Radio.

More impressively, his 1906 collection of short stories Tracer of Lost Persons was transformed into series titled "Mr Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons" which aired on NBC Blue then CBS. It ran from October 1937 to April of 1955. The show ran long enough that the protagonist Mr Keen was voiced by three different actors: Bennett Kilpack, Arthur Hughes and Phil Clarke. As far as I know Mr. Keen's sidekick Mike Clancy was always voiced by Jim Kelly for all 726 episodes. The incredibly long-lived series Episode Log was canonized as the book Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons: A Complete History and Episode Log in 2004 by Jim Cox. In 2003 that lineage had also begat a 3-issue miniseries comic book of the same name by Lee Ferguson and Justin Gray. More here.

Chambers full bibliography is 80+ books deep. Some were compilations of his short stories published in magazines such as McCalls or Cosmopolitan but that number speaks volumes to his prolificacy. But in that context Cardigan wasn't particularly notable. It was just one of his four books set around New York state: Cardigan, The Maid-At-Arms, The Hidden Children, and The Reckoning: which are sometimes referred to collectively as "The Cardigan series".  These are historical romances all set during the war of Independence, and do share a few characters. But so far as I know, none of the others became radio dramas. But it's further supporting evidence that any other works by Chambers have been used in radio dramas. It would be anachronistic if Chambers was a total unknown with a small body of unremarkable work, with no other radio texts.

Robert W. Chambers is better remembered today for his contributions to science fiction, in particular a book of short stories entitled The King in Yellow published in 1895. In the 2019 Big Book of Short Stories some of his works were reprinted but comically editor August Nemo referred to The Yellow King as "Art Nouveau." (It's not but the font on the cover arguably was.) But it is a classic in the field of the supernatural, and was influential for early sci-fi writers like H.P. Lovescraft. For that we give our thanks. I have uploaded this script to You can download it for free...

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