By Nora Vasconcelos
It was the just the second decade of the past century when the radio stations found the way to keep an ample audience captive with programs that broadcasted live theater plays specially adapted for the radio format.
The lack of other forms of entertainments, such as television and the turbulent economic situation that came after the Great Depression, make these shows grow as the listeners found a way to escape from reality, even if just for a short while.
Radio stations in the U.S. such as National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and Mutual Broadcasting System, offered all sort of programs that ran from about half an hour up to one hour.
Mystery, Drama, Suspense, Fantasy and Romance dominated the plots of original stories that were performed live by professional actors whose voices match perfectly with effect sounds that have managed to impress people up to these days.
As the documentary Back of the Mike (presented by Old Time World) shows: “rain was created by pouring sand over a spinning potters wheel which sent it down a metal funnel onto a microphone which was covered by a paper bag. Fire was created by wadding up plastic wrap close to the microphone”.
It was so that from the 30’s up to the late 50’s, detectives like Sam Spade and Boston Blackie came to live, as well as crime drama series such as The FBI in War and Peace and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, the same as superheroes such as Superman, Flash Gordon, Batman and Planet Man.
The broadcasts also included romantic stories, like the series Theater of Romance, produced by the CBS; Westerns, like Tales of Texas Rangers and The American Trail, and Comedy shows, including Abbot and Castello, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and the Bob Hope show.
Mystery play a special role in the success of radio shows as it attracted for many years famous actors such as Orson Wells, who was part of the Campbell Playhouse, and E.G. Marshall, host of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Other famous starts that joined the casts of some radio plays were Marlene Dietrich, Vincent Price and Mike Wallace.
When the radio stations didn’t play original scripts, they share with the audience adaptations of the works of famous authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. In the same way, books like Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Hamlet by Shakespeare, Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte and Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne, were adapted into radio theaters that were able to present in a short time the essence of these works.
The magic produced by these broadcasts was increased with the rhythmic tunes coming from the live performance of the Big Bands, very popular at that time, swinging the audiences away with performers like Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Artie Show.
Music and radio theaters helped many people get through the difficult years of the Second World War, as the audience used to keep their radios on hoping to catch the latest news from the troops abroad. Once again, radio shows gave them some solace.
Reknown brands took also advantage of the popularity of the shows, becoming sponsors of different series, such as Sears, Colgate, Palmolive, the same as hotels like the Lincoln and the Pennsylvania, in New York, joined their names to the Big Bands that performed their shows in there.
Unfortunately, as contracts and legal recording and broadcasting issues affected live performances of the musical groups, and with the recent popularity or commercial Television in color, the popularity of the radio shows gradually decreased until they weren’t popular anymore and their broadcasts ended.
Fortunately, the Golden Age of Radio has remained alive in the minds of many people who have shared their love for old time radio shows to new generations. At the same time, international organisms such as The International Archive have compiled and preserved many of this radio shows for all people to listen to them.
And now it’s time to say: Lights out!
By Nora Vasconcelos
While reading the different passages of Le Fantome de l’Opera, a novel by Gaston Leroux, it’s hard not to start humming that famous tunes from the musical written by Andrew Lloyd Weber for the musical The phantom of the Opera, based upon the story by Leroux.
So, it becomes a magnificent experience going through the pages of this novel, recreating the images of the show, while discovering all those little details and hidden secrets that the book has to reveal to the readers.
Along with the well known Christine Daae (the opera singer who’s enchanted by the ghost); Raoul de Chagny (Christine’s boyfriend) and the Opera Ghost (who’s in love with Christine), another characters appear in the book. The main one is The Persian, who plays the role of the narrator, as well as the reader’s guide.
Also, in the novel, the Ghost, called Erick, is at the same time a disgusting figure that performs evil acts (much more than the ones that appear in the musical), and a lonely soul desperately looking for Christine to love him “for who he is”.
The drama increases as the story develops up to the point that it’s really hard to put the book down, while curiosity to know what’s going to be the destiny of the characters as a chase among them has started, followed by a series of dilemmas, problems and hard choises.
Then the characters, along with the readers, are driven to desperation while going through the dark and dangerous hidden places of the Opera house.
Their efforts to find a way out of the horror continue until the end of the story,when an unexpected faith awaits for all of them.
After such intensity, it’s really hard stop thinking about the passages and the characters of the story, and the feeling of having read a great book remains for a long while.
Note: This site is in French, but it’s a good reference to get to know Gaton Leroux a little bit better: http://gaston-leroux.net/news.htm
By Jane Isaac*
No matter what genre you write, every book carries some element of research and, for crime fiction, the weight is a heavy one.
There’s not only police procedure, plotlines, areas and events to study, but also people.
What’s the secret formula behind the great characters in fiction? Research. Investment into creating and layering our characters gives them the depth to become ‘real’.
As writers we are great people watchers. Aside from interviewing people in our chosen genre, we observe the world around us and pick up little traits: the man in the cafe with the six o’clock shadow, the perfectly manicured mum at the school gates, the child with the tuft of hair that sticks up around his crown – all quirks that help us to build the characters in our fiction.
I’ve always been a great fan of studying, a perennial student in many respects, undertaking courses in a plethora of different subjects over the years including law, pottery, even sign language. Consequently, research is one of my favourite aspects of novel writing – a labour of love, one might say.
It’s interesting what directions book research takes. For An Unfamiliar Murder, fire research led me to a wonderful meeting with the former Chief of Northants Fire Service who explained how the structure of our old terraced properties work in the UK, the role of accelerants, and fire procedures.
I also spoke to endless police officers about their role, their aspirations, the politics of the organisation. Then there are all the books about serial killers and psychopaths – the real case studies that kept me awake at night and haunted my dreams.
For my second book, The Truth Will Out, I met up with a former Detective Superintendent, who managed murder squads all over the UK during his 30 year career, for some in-depth research into some of the cases he has managed. Boy, did he have some tales to tell…
The internet can provide a great resource model but, when considering settings, I prefer the hands on approach. I like to visit a scene, if possible, to see what it really looks like, how it smells, what noises I can hear in the background.
There are times when you can’t beat touching the cold stone, breathing the air around you. I spent hours trudging over fields examining disused mine shafts, old pump houses, railway cabins, derelict cottages, in pursuit of deposition sites for a body for my first novel. Something my Labrador, Bollo, found particularly enjoyable!
Often such information provides background material which never appears in the novel, or only converts to a couple of lines. Sometimes it’s edited out. But the details we learn provide more depth to our work, allowing us to describe scenes and people from an informed viewpoint. This not only enables the words to flow, but makes it feel more real, which is particularly important for a psychological thriller.
Ever read a book when you’ve questioned an event, a character, a place because it isn’t quite right? Failing to do your research will show. And with the internet these days, it’s easier than ever to make sure we check our information. I’d never claim for my work to be completely factually correct, but it’s certainly not for the want of trying.
Released on March 1st, 2016, An Unfamiliart Murder, was my first book, originally published in the US, and it’s almost four years to the day that this title was originally published, so it feels very special to be able to share the ‘all new’ version again. Here’s a blurb taster for you:
“Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder inquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim…
Leading her first murder investigation, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?”
*Jane Isaac lives writes detective novels with a psychological edge. She lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. On 1st March 2016 she re-released her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, originally published in the US in 2012, which was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ Later in the year her fourth book, Beneath the Ashes, will be published by Legend Press. www.janeisaac.co.uk