The story opens at 9 a.m. in the Blue Note Cafe, with bartender Ethelbert delivering a hearty “Happy New Year” to a moaning “Flashgun” Casey and reporter Ann Williams, who both order coffee and aspirin.
That’s all a tease. Casey and Williams are suffering from smoke inhalation, not hangovers. They’re just back from covering an early-morning fire. But they do make New Year’s resolutions — about staying out of trouble in the coming year — before going out to cover a missing-person story. No rest for the working press.
As is sometimes the case in “Crime Photographer” episodes, Casey doesn’t do much reporting or picture-shooting. He does get to throw a few punches, and he gets a tip on the missing person case from a mob connection who owes him a favor.
Despite the stay-out-of-trouble pledge, it’s not long before Casey is sapped from behind, thrown unconscious into a ditch, and apparently about to be cured of hangovers for good — by a man with a gun.
If there’s a “journalism ethics” issue involved, it has to do with the perils of becoming too identified with the forces of law and order, which was often the case for radio’s version of newspaper reporters. Casey is always helping the authorities solve crimes, whether they like it or not, but this episode makes it clear that the adversarial aspect of his relationship with the police may not be obvious to the crooks.
Here’s what happens when he looks up a confidential source at a bar frequented by mob characters.
“You still runnin’ with the cops, Casey?” the mob’s favorite bartender asks him.
Casey’s reply is, “I don’t know what you mean. I’m a newspaper guy.”
However, the bartender puts in a call to a gang boss, who slips in and eavesdrops on Casey’s interview with his source. As a result, both Casey and his source land in that ditch with bumps on their heads and a gun aimed at them. (To find out what happens next, you’ll just have to listen to the program, linked above thanks to the Internet Archive and the Old Time Radio Researchers Group.)
An intriguing bit of journalism-education background from this episode: When a secret code turns out to involve Greek characters, it’s Ann Williams who recognizes the alphabet.
“Ann knows — she’s been to college,” Casey tells the police.
Is that supposed to imply that Casey got his photojournalism training on the job (or the street), while women journalists might be more likely to take a collegiate route into the racket? Was Ann supposed to be special, or a typical case? I can’t be sure.
The movie “Here’s Flash Casey” starts with our hero having used his camera to work his way through college, but I don’t know whether the two-fisted radio version or his pulp-magazine first incarnation ever admitted to earning a degree. I’ll keep my ears open while I listen to more episodes.
It’s been a couple of years since I read the book Flashgun Casey, Crime Photographer: From the Pulps to Radio And Beyond, but I’ll go back and see if it reveals anything about Casey’s or Ann’s education before I declare my Crime Photographer page finished.