Pat Novak For Hire was one of three that Webb had the title role in before Dragnet (see also Jeff Regan, Investigator and Johnny Modero, Pier 23) and it may have been the best of the trio. It began in 1946 as a West Coast regional on ABC with Ben Morris as PAT NOVAK and ran about a year. It went coast to coast in February 1949 with Jack Webb stepping in as Novak and this version lasted only until June of that year, but the Webb version is far more memorable.
Webb gave Novak the street-smart, hard-boiled personality the role required. Novak operated out of a small office on San Francisco's "Pier 19" where he, like Johnny Modero, rented boats, but mostly got in and out of trouble. With his alcoholic pal, Jocko Madigan, (the voice of Tudor Owen) Novak followed beautiful dames, got knocked out regularly, but always got the best of his rival, Police Inspector Hellman (Raymond Burr).
After wrapping up a successful weekly case, Novak always ended with the same line: "Well, Hellman asked only one question..." and then Novak would quickly explain the succinct solution.
For those who want to hear the show today, five episodes of the Ben Morris version are around and, by some stroke of luck, all of the ones with Webb are available.
And you evidently can't keep a good dick down. In 2004, Moonstone Comics announced that writer Steven Grant and artist Tom Mandrake would be producing a 48-page one shot entitled (what else?) Pat Novak, for Hire. It promised on "an elderly PI who USED to be the toughest dude in town, and he still believes the hype! He talks that hard-boiled talk, but most folks have no idea what he's talking about! But there IS a crime that needs to be solved..."
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