The First Appearance of Mr. Keen

Larry Maupin

Friday evening I completed  reading a short story entitled "Samaris" by Robert W. Chambers, and happily and surprisingly it has a strong old-time radio connection.  It appears in a collection entitled Occult Detective Stories: Fighters of Fear, edited by Mike Ashley (Talos Press, 2020), pp.117-46).

The "Introduction" to the story states that "Robert W. Chambers was a best-selling author of romantic fiction and society novels.  Often overlooked among his many books is The Tracer of Lost Persons (1906).  This book introduces Westrel Keen, who runs an agency that claims to be able to trace anybody, living or dead.  The series is a collection of mysteries and weird tales, and it seems that Mr.Keen, with his immense fortune and network of contacts, does have some psychic abilities.  Westrel Keen was given a new lease on life when the book was adapted as Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons for a long-running radio series that aired from 1937 to 1955.  Its theme music was titled "Someday I'll Find You" (p.117).

This Mr. Keen, I might add, is still in the vigor of youth and is to be taken very seriously.  The protagonist, a desperate young man from a wealthy family in the Middle East, unhesitatingly pays him $1000 to take on the case.  Keen is a hypnotist and an Egyptologist, both of which assist in the solution of the case.  But then our own Mr. Keen, a "kindly old gentleman," is a good detective, brave, sad and a little tragic-- all lovable qualities. 

This series, I think, is great old-time radio from the beautiful, haunting theme music to the nostalgic commercials to the blood-curdling screams that punctuate most episodes to the solutions by Mr. Keen and his small but dedicated staff.

Larry Maupin  

Larry Maupin

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