On New Years Day of 1976, radio listeners were introduced for the first time to a former Chicago cop turned hard-luck private detective named Harry Nile, the brainchild of mystery fan Jim French, who created the character for a one-time-only broadcast.
But audiences wanted more, and so began over 25 years of episodes featuring Phil Harper as Harry, later to be joined by Pat French as his admiring and quirky associate, Murphy.After the first episode, West For My Health, set in 1940, Harry hung up his shingle in Los Angeles in a loft over a tailor shop. Eventually one of his cases took him to Seattle, where he was shot by the man he was chasing. During his convalescence he decided to relocate to this gray, rainy city which seemed to fit his disposition better than sunny California. Harry Nile has developed a large, devoted following, maybe because hes had a hard life kicked off the Chicago police force, Hounded by a dirty cop who was on the take, battling his own gambling addiction, even losing his bride of one year in a gun battle.
To a million listeners, Harrys adventures, now lodged in the Seattle of the 1950s, are real.
And so is Harry.
The Twenty-three Pound Clue: Harry chases down missing secret plans lost in a plane crash in the high desert of California.
Stand-in for Murder: Our boy can have a free trip to Hawaii, all expenses paid, as long as hes willing to set himself up as a target for death.
Avalon: Did the runaway bride simply get cold feet shortly after the wedding, or is there a more sinister reason for her leaving?
Vacation with Bullets: Introducing Manny the Tailor, Harrys L.A. landlord and his favorite police contact, Dutcher, in a tale of fear and revenge.
Figueroa Street: Who is beating up a beautiful taxi dancer and why? Harry takes his own knocks trying to find out.
The Case of the Matinee Murder: A would-be teen tough guy is suspected of vandalizing the local movie palace, but is he also a killer? Harry figures on free popcorn if he can solve this one.
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At the age of eight, Jim French knew what he wanted to do with his life: he wanted to be a radio announcer. With this seemingly impossible goal tucked in the back of his mind, he turned a room over the family garage into a make-believe radio studio and broadcast into tomato-can microphones mounted on broomsticks. He practiced announcing by reading out loud from magazines he had stashed in the bathroom. His pretending paid off six years later. It was 1943, most radio announcers were fighting in WW2, and Jim got a job playing piano and announcing on KPAS in Pasadena, California, a mile away from his home. From that time on, Jim was seldom without some connection to radio. Carl Bailey, his mentor at KPAS (now KRLA) arranged for Jim to do dance remotes from the Pasadena Civic Ballroom, where he broadcast a half hour of live big band music by such orchestras as Les Brown, Jimmy Dorsey, Stan Kenton and other well known groups of the time. Jim was just sixteen.
When he entered the Army, it was only a few months before he was sent to Japan with the occupation troops, and there he got assigned to an Armed Forces Radio Service outlet in the city of Kokura. It was while there, doing several DJ and live music shows, that he was assigned to write a weekly dramatizaton of the week's news, using the station's announcers as the actors.
Returning to civilian live in 1948, Jim teamed up with a college chum to write scripts for the CBS radio series Suspense and the Dick Powell Theatre. But his real interest still lay in announcing, and in 1949 he left Pasadena City College to take his first fulltime announce job at a local station. During this period he became engaged to Patricia Anne Soule, who had come to town from the University of Washington on an acting scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse. They were married in Seattle in 1950, and spent the next two years in Honolulu, where they did a morning show, Over The Coffee Cups With The Frenches, and Jim honed his interviewing skills on a series of audience shows.
Back in Seattle in 1952, Jim worked on the air at KING-AM and KING-TV with his own daily audience show, then to KIRO and KVI. It was at KVI that he began producing radio dramas on a weekly basis. Moving back to KIRO in 1980, he continued writing and directing dramas for a weekly series called KIRO Mystery Playhouse, and in in 1995, TransMedia, the syndicating company, began sending his radio plays around the country under the title of Imagination Theatre.
Jim has written and produced nearly 500 original shows, including the popular Harry Nile& and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series, which are now broadcast on over 120 stations in the U.S. and Canada, and are also heard on the XM Satellite Radio system all over North America. Playing acting roles in some of Jim's dramas have been such stars as Patty Duke, Tom Smothers, Keenan Wynn, Roddy MacDowall, Ruta Lee, John Astin, Richard Sanders, and many, many others.
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