Why did I write a book about radio crime dramas? This is still something of a mystery. Perhaps the answer may be found in my childhood experiences. When I was young, my Nana, who took pleasure in occasionally finding ways to scare my brother and me, would recite the opening lines of The Shadow as she stuck her bottom dentures out past her lower lip and rolled her eyes back into her head. Of course, initial fright became amusement, and she knew this would entertain us. I was well into adulthood when I heard this line issued by one of several actors who played the Shadow on the radio and was instantly struck by how accurate Nana’s rendering was. At some point during my childhood, my father purchased a police scanner, and he, my brother, and I would listen on the weekends for various emergency calls and spend our weekends chasing mill fires in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In her later years, my Nana also spent her homebound days listening in on a police scanner. Radio crime dramas and police radio were, in fact, a part of my growing-up experiences.
The move from childhood experiences to scholarly study requires much encouragement. This book began as a dissertation at the University of Iowa. The comments of my advisors, Joy Hayes and John Peters, whom I happily thank for many years of intellectual and emotional support, were key in shaping this project. I value the insight and advice of my committee, including Bruce Gronbeck, Rick Altman, and the late Joanna Ploeger. Important financial support was provided by the University of Iowa through the Robert Olney Scholarship for Sound Research Travel, Ramona Tomlin (p.242) Mattson Fellowship, and Ada Louise Ballard Dissertation Completion Fellowship. I received crucial research assistance from Bryan E. Cornell and the staff at the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress.
What started as a dissertation has grown into something much more, and since leaving Iowa I have benefited from continued advice and input from a growing circle of wonderful friends and colleagues. My heartfelt thanks go to Joy Hayes, whose friendship and guidance well past my days as a graduate student have been essential to the intellectual reshaping of Calling All Cars and the preservation of my sanity through the process. Similar thanks go to Wendy Hilton-Morrow, at times my most critical and insightful reader, at times my most persistent and nagging cajoler, but most often a loving and supportive presence in my life. A number of friends and colleagues, including Naomi Andre, Rachel Andrews, Tim Anderson, Kyle Edwards, Kellie Hay, Tom Discenna, Lisa King, and Lisbeth Lipari, generously gave their time and effort to talk through central issues and to read and comment on many drafts. I owe special thanks to Elena Razlogova for sharing archival materials and important conversations about Gang Busters. This project has benefited immensely from wonderful reviews by Kathy Newman, who proved to be that perfect reader who often seemed to grasp the scope of my work better than I did. This book would not be what it is today without the guidance, advice, and insight of all of these individuals. My thanks to Alex Russo and Shawn VanCour for their last-minute advice. That said, there were certainly times when I did not follow their suggestions, so while the success of Calling All Cars is owed to all of these contributors, its failures are ultimately my own.
I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, the Department of Communication at Denison University, and the Department of Communication and Journalism at Oakland University. I owe an additional debt of gratitude to my department chair, Shea Howell, for her gentle reminders to finish, and to both my department and the Office of the Provost at Oakland University for their financial support of this project.
Throughout too many years of working on Calling All Cars, I appreciated constant support from friends and family, especially Robin Allen, Naomi Andre, Mark Andrews, Steve Andrews, Thomas Andrews, Tim (p.243) Anderson, Christina Battles, Patricia Battles, Steven Battles, Larissa Faulkner, Mary Garrett, Annie Gilson, Kellie Hay, Lisa King, Andrea Knutson, Lisbeth Lipari, Susan Mayer, Leslie Oh, Valeria Palmer-Mehta, Kyra Pearson, Rose Ribeiro, Erin Sahlstein, and Tom Wilson. I owe my parents, Mary Smith and Tom Battles, a debt of gratitude for never letting me forget that I had not yet finished. This book would not even exist without the continued love and support of my partner, Rachel Andrews. I owe you a lifetime of clean dishes. (p.244)