Escape -- "The Man Who Liked Dickens" by Evelyn Waugh

Saturday, 12 May 2018 15:00 Dave Truesdale

Tired of the everyday grind?
Ever dream of a life of … romantic adventure?
Want to get away from it all?
We offer you … ESCAPE!

Escape (1947-1954) aired "The Man Who Liked Dickens" on December 21, 1952, as the 175th of its approximately (depending on how historians count) 235 unique broadcasts. A spinoff and sister show of the highly popular radio program Suspense (1942-62), Escape produced (according to one source) 251 episodes of which 241 were unique stories, plots, or scripts (the remaining 10 being rebroadcasts of earlier shows and not different versions of previous episodes). Escape concentrated on adventure tales, some with an SF/F theme, though the straight adventure tale set in exotic locales was its meat and potatoes. While strangely not consistently supported by its host network CBS, who rarely gave advance notice of upcoming program titles and moved the show to different times and days willy-nilly over its 7-year run, the show found a faithful audience, and continued to produce well-written scripts with many of the finest actors in radio.

Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966, painting by Henry Lamb top right), saw "The Man Who Liked Dickens" published in the September 1933 issue of Hearst's International Combined with Cosmopolitan magazine. It was later incorporated into Waugh's popular 1934, semi-autobiographical novel A Handful of Dust. The story has Tony Last, an English squire, joining an expedition to the South American jungles after his wife has betrayed him. While there, Last finds himself held prisoner in a remote outpost run by a seriously deranged man, who forces him to read all of the works of Charles Dickens. Due to circumstances revealed in the story, Last is unable to escape without help and is frustrated at every turn of fate, for each time it seems he might work himself out of the hell in which he finds himself, something intervenes to stall his efforts, is just beyond his grasp. His mental torture grows to intolerable levels as time goes by, and his psychological deterioration supplies the agonizing tension in this fine radio adaptation. Horror clothes itself in many dark colors, shifts its shape to disguise its true nature, and Tony Last, in "The Man Who Liked Dickens" finds a horror not of the physical or supernatural variety, but born within the workings of his own mind.

Play Time: 29:29

{While this episode aired a scant few days before Christmas in 1952, the antsy neighborhood gang couldn't resist treating themselves to more of their favorite reading. Bundled up, they made their way to the corner drugstore for a second visit to complete their monthly selections. fantastic Adventures (1939-53) was just the sort of off-the-wall adventure fare the could lose themselves in and giant flying bats filled the bill nicely. The magazine went monthly in late 1947 and would remain so until its demise in March of 1953. Other Worlds (1949-53) was one of Ray Palmer's several magazines on the stands at the time (it was a companion to Fate), and along with the ubiquitous Richard Shaver stories ran more traditional SF tales. It went to a monthly schedule in late 1952 but would close shop only a few months later than fantastic Adventures, its last issue coverd-dated July of 1953. Planet Stories (1939-55) was a long-standing, tried-and-true favorite, and with popular names gracing its cover like Leigh Brackett on the one below, one can see why. It was a bi-monthly in 1952.}

           [Left: fantastic Adventures, Dec. 1952 - Center: Other Worlds, Dec. 1952 - Right: Planet Stories, Nov. 1952]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.