This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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RADIO RIDES THE RANGE:
A Reference Guide to Western Drama on the Air, 1929-1967
Edited by Jack French and David S. Siegel;
244 pp; $49.95; Illustrated
McFarland Publishing (2014)
Reviewed by Nandio Amabile
Columnist: Frederick News-Post of MD
(From Radio Recall, February 2014)
This is a reference book with broad appeal to a limited audience-the professionals who make a living or supplement it by collecting radio show audio copies, talking about the shows, and selling reproductions and related items and serious collectors with time and money to devote to their hobby.
The book fills a reference void that would have been better filled a generation or two ago. Careless about its legacy, radio's Western scripts were often discarded or put away and forgotten after receiving air time. Radio drama, particularly in its early years, was ephemeral. Plots followed a couple of successful patterns. Heroes were supermen and villains were dastardly. It was easier to kill a show that was not quickly successful and replace it with another rather than tinker with it.
Consequently, oral history plays a vital part in a reference work of this nature but those who could provide it for the early, formative years of radio westerns have died out. The book has a page and a half listing of series about which information is too sketchy to include. An earlier version surely would have included some of these series about which little more than their names is now known.
Despite this handicap, editors Jack French and David S. Siegel have done an excellent job of collecting material and presenting it. Selections with adequate information are very readable, a nice mix of story plots and characters and the actors who portrayed them. The who, when and where on all shows is presented in an orderly fashion.
To experts and aficionados, Radio Rides the Range may well be worth its $49.95 list price. More casual admirers of radio westerns, particularly older ones, might get a strong dose of nostalgia from the sections on Tom Mix, The Lone Ranger and a few others.
I found it evocative of my youth when my brothers and I would gather at the Philco every evening. We three would ride in with the Lone Ranger.and Tonto, ta-dum, ta-dumming the William Tell Overture into the night's story. We clamored for Mom to buy Silvercup, "the world's finest bread," long before it was available in New Jersey. When we finally got to eat it, we declared the tasteless glop wonderful.
The book deserves a place in the reference section of public libraries. If your library gets it and the price to purchase is too steep, Hi-Yo Silver. Return to yesteryear free of charge.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Nanda Amabile taught military dependents in Germany before moving to Washington, where he worked for the Bureau of Prisons, the Secret Service, and Congress. He retired to Frederick, MD 18 years ago. Amabile is the author of the novel, "A Friendly Kill".