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The man with the action-packed expense account

Thursday 5/25/23

Last night I went back and listened to the five-part Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar episode, "The Chesapeake Fraud Matter," which aired from October 17 to October 21, 1955. Dramatic radio doesn't get any better than these multi-part episodes with Bob Bailey.

This particular one makes you feel uneasy to the point of being afraid. It's not a ghost story--though it also is, in a manner of speaking--but it very much induces the willies.

Dollar as played by Bailey is the most competent person at their job that I can think so far as fictional creations go. He's better at being an insurance investigator than Sherlock Holmes is at being a private consulting detective, for instance.

Much of Dollar's skill comes from his rhetorical efficiency. He speaks with purpose, picks the right words, and he's able to create those words with little mental delay. He's fast. Thinks fast. Answers fast, parries fast, gets himself in the positions he wants to be in because of his language skills.

Those same skills work with his interpersonal skills. His way with people. How he understands human nature. He knows what someone will respond to, what certain words will make them feel, all while being removed from this kind of thing himself.

That's a rare quality: to know how people work and what makes them feel a certain way--almost automatically--but to not be that way yourself. That takes a mental discipline and an awareness that many millions of people in a row won't have. You're unlikely to meet someone like that in your whole life.

When you don't function in this manner, which is how pretty much everyone else functions, you're free to be someone who takes no bait. Rarely does Dollar. He's also comfortable with himself. What mid-century private dick would sign off a telegram with, "Love, Johnny"?

Wouldn't happen. But it's natural when Dollar does it. There is a crease of the sardonic in the gesture, but the words are still genuine as the literal words. Dollar is a person who is on multiple levels at once, in nearly everything he does. He's anticipatory, but able to also be reactionary--in a good way, not the "it's time for me to blow a gasket!" way.

Here one can find all of the multi-part Bailey episodes in superior sound. A real repository of radio art, and very instructive, life-wise.


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