T H E B O O K S
About This Page
Remember WENN fans seem to be, as a whole, interested in the historical background behind the series, and many a chat or mailing list/newsgroup message has mentioned a radio-oriented or World War II era book that has been read and enjoyed, passing on the title and author for others to read. I had the idea to compile the list of titles and other pertinent information on this page, but the project turned out somewhat larger than I expected. <g> Joe Mackey solicited the OTR Digest for "must reads" and it turned out that there were many more books out there than expected, and most of them sounded too good to "get away."
Unfortunately this meant I couldn't cite individual contributors as I wished to, for which I apologize.
The books here range from those written in the 1930s to those published just recently, therefore the older volumes may be out of print. Libraries, of course, are the first source, but you can also try http://www.bookfinder.com to find a copy to purchase.
In the list below, entries with their descriptions in quotes are titles that I was sent by other contributors; descriptions or notes without quotation marks are personal contributions.
Contributors to this page beside myself include Joe Mackey, Michele Savage, Kerri Berney, Daniel Taylor, Laura Hayden, and the nice folks at the OTR Digest
If You'd Like to Contribute...
Is there a good book, nonfiction or fiction, involving the WENN era or about the Golden Age of Radio, that you'd like to pass along? If so, please help the poor beleaguered compiler <g> and contribute in the following format:
Here's an example from the list below:
Let's Pretend (A History of Radio's Best Loved Children's Show) Arthur Anderson
Written by a longtime cast member, an excellent recent book that should be in every collection. McFarland and Company, 1994.
Then, of course, e-mail to email@example.com
Raised on Radio..........Gerald Nachman
Nachman's affectionate overview of radio, with chapters on comedians, sitcoms, radio dramas, even radio announcers, giveaway items, and sound effects men. It's like eating popcorn. Pantheon, 1998.
The Better of Goodman Ace..........Goodman Ace
"The droll Mr. Ace says the publishers 'suggested a stronger title, but I wasn't going to leave myself open to the sneer of some browser in a bookshop, opening a book at random, reading one of the chapters, and saying, "Is that his best?" Nobody ever says, "Is that his better?"'" Doubleday, 1971.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Easy Aces..........Goodman Ace
"A collection of scripts from the show featuring the usual malapropisms by Jane. If you DO find one I'll hope the floppy disc show recording is still there (mine is!)." Doubleday, 1970.
Treadmill to Oblivion..........Fred Allen
"If you can find it (sadly, it's out of print), it's a great read. A vaudevillian/stage actor at his core, Allen was not particularly enamored with his radio days, and this book tells you why. And, if you read and like this book, check out Much Ado About Me which tells about his stage career. Both are great reads; highly recommended."
Much Ado About Me..........Fred Allen
"Allen on Allen, from Boston Public Library to vaudeville to Broadway, from radio to (gulp!) TV. 'My agent,' said Allen, 'gets 10% of everything except my blinding headaches.'" 1956.
Let's Pretend (A History of Radio's Best Loved Children's
"Written by a longtime cast member, an excellent recent book that should be in every collection." McFarland and Company, 1994.
History Of Radio To 1926 (published 1938)/Big Business And Radio
(Published 1939)..........Gleason L. Archer
"Definitive early historical texts on the development of the industry. The emphasis is on the corporate and the technical, not on the programming aspects; pretty turgid reading in points. But Archer had direct and unrestricted access to the NBC and RCA files in doing his research, and offers invaluable information and he was a primary source for many later histories." Ayer Publishing.
Funny Men Don't Laugh..........Arnold M. Auerbach
"Radio comedy writer tells of his time working for Eddie Cantor's head writer, and then (with Herman Wouk) for Fred Allen. A warm, lovely, amusing book." "Auerbach, who wrote gags for Fred Allen, explains the business of comedy writing and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the master wit's civility." Doubleday and Company, 1965.
Norman Corwin and Radio: the Golden Years..........Leroy
"Sure it's biased, but it's about Corwin." 1986.
The Education of a Broadcaster..........Harry Bannister
"He had an illustrious career in Detroit radio, then moved on to eventually become NBC veep of public relations." Simon and Schuster, 1965.
Golden Web..........Erik Barnouw
"Thorough, well-written history of broadcasting in the 30s, 40s & 50s." 1968.
Handbook of Radio Writing..........Erik Barnouw
"Study of what made the drama, comedy, serials, kids' shows and advertising agencies tick." 1939.
Radio Drama in Action..........edited by Erik Barnouw
"First-rate plays by Corwin, Oboler, William Robson, Stephen Vincent Benet, etc." 1945.
Sunday Nights at Seven: the Jack Benny Story..........Joan Benny and
"Benny's never-completed autobiography, polished and edited by his adopted daughter."
That's Not All Folks..........Mel Blanc
Blanc's autobiography, from his days on the vaudeville stage to behind-the-scenes at those Warner Brothers' cartoonswith of course many chapters on his radio days with Jack Benny. Warner Books, 1988
All My Best Friends..........George Burns
"Burns spends a good portion of the time talking about his buddies from his radio days. Actually, any of the George Burns biographies/autobiographies are good reads."
The Big Broadcast..........Frank Buxton and Bill Owens
Encyclopedic radio reference book which has been panned for its errors but is a good quick-and-dirty reference. Some nice photos inside as well.
None of Your Business, or My Life with J. Walter Thompson
(Confessions Of a Renegade Radio Writer)..........Carroll Carroll
"Carroll wrote Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall for 10 years, and then for Burns & Allen, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, Victor Borge, Bert Lahr, W. C. Fields, Bergen & McCarthy, Bob Hope, etc. The book is lively and funny, great anecdotes." Cowles Books, 1970.
Thirteen by Corwin..........Norman Corwin
"Anthology of 13 dramas written when Corwin and radio were peaking. Includes 'The Plot to Overthrow Christmas' (a play in verse) and 'My Client Curley.'" 1942.
This Is War!..........Norman Corwin
"Bellwether series of 13 plays about America on the march in World War II written by America's top playwrights. Corwin wrote six, collaborated on one, and directed all. This shows how radio was used to stir the homefront juices to get listeners involved." 1942.
Out Of The Blue ..........John Crosby
"Crosby was the radio-TV critic for the New York Herald Tribune, and the volume is a collection of some of his best columns. If you've never read radio criticism, you're in for a real treat with this book Crosby is a brilliant, funny writer, whose conclusions will make you think, even as you're laughing out loud." 1952.
Columbia Workshop Plays..........Douglas Coulter
Mighty Music Box..........Thomas A. Delong
"Subtitled 'The Golden Age of Musical Radio,' this work reflects on radio’s musical pioneers, from Damrosch to Sinatra. Excellent radio history besides." 1980.
Radio Stars: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary of 953
Performers..........Thomas A. DeLong
"One of the most comprehensive works on the lives of people in all walks of radio life. I highly recommend it for pleasure reading and for researchers working in the medium." McFarland, 1996.
Tune in Yesterday..........John Dunning
This is the original version of Dunning's recently expanded, mammoth reference On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio.
On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio..........John Dunning
Dunning's recently (1998) published revision of his original radio encyclopedia, this volume is an incredible-looking piece of work, with entries not only for every radio series, but individual articles on subjects such as announcers, various genres, sound effects, etc. Right now only in hardcover.
The Adventures Of Amos 'n Andy..........Melvin P. Ely
"Not a nostalgia book but rather a social and historical analysis of this important show. A thoughtful, balanced view of the series in all its versions." 1990.
Whatever Happened to the Quiz Kids..........Ruth Duskin Feldman
There's Laughter In The Air..........Jack Gaver and Dave Stanley
"Contains actual radio scripts from some of America's top comedians of the 30s, and 40s, including such not-often-seen favorites as Easy Aces and The Jack Kirkwood Show." "Compilation of radio comedy scripts and articles about comedy performers, covering the whole range from Jones and Hare to Joan Davis and everyone of importance in between. The book has been a primary source for just about every OTR comedy study written since: it's the only major source, for example, of information on Raymond Knight's early work, complete with script excerpts. There are occasional errors of fact this book seems to be the earliest mention of the 'Ed Wynn founded' WNEW" myth but if you're careful it's a valuable study. And a lot of fun to boot." Greenberg, New York, 1945.
I Looked & Listened..........Ben Gross
"Reminiscings of a pioneer radio reviewer." 1970.
The Great Radio Comedians and The Great Radio Heroes..........Jim
Two books great for good reading; although his book on the comedians is excellent, I was fascinated by the descriptions of plots and characters in the "heroes" book covering the adventure series, from Tom Mix to the infamous I Love a Mystery. A wonderful trip into an era when "hero" wasn't a dirty word.
Fred Allen's Radio Comedy..........Allen Havig
"Published 1990, another important work for the Allen completist."
The New, Revised Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming
and Guide to All Circulating Shows [and supplements]..........Jay
Tune in Tomorrow..........Mary Jane Higby
"Rich with anecdotes." Cowles, 1968.
This Was Radio..........Joseph Julian
Julian's autobiography of his days in radio, including his Norman Corwin broadcasts during World War II and his encounter with Red Channels.
The Panic Broadcast..........Howard Koch
What happened the night of Orson Welles infamous broadcast of H.G. Wells' War of the Worldsbook includes newspaper articles about the alarm caused by the broadcast and the script from the production.
Radio Continuity Types..........Sherman Paxton Lawton
"About the ins and outs of the writing side of the business when radio was roaring. Sample scripts from the obscure Kenrad Unsolved Mysteries, Startling Detective Adventures to the popular Jack Armstrong, Bobby Benson with incisive editorial comment." 1938.
Off Mike: Radio Writing by the Nation's Top Radio Writers..........edited by Jerome Lawrence
Radio Listening in America..........Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Patricia
"Chart-heavy survey of America's listening habits interpreted from the social angle. Topics: attitudes toward radio, programs and their audiences. Chart books like this take a while to digest, but they pay big dividends for the curious." 1948.
The Great American Broadcast..........Leonard Maltin
Subtitled "a celebration of radio's golden age," Maltin lovingly covers radio from early radio listeners (called "hobbyists" because you had to build your own sets) to the people who produced the shows to those who performed in them. Filled with photos and reproductions of old advertisements. A Dutton Book, Penguin Putnam, 1997.
The Quality of Mercy..........Mercedes McCambridge
"One of the best 'insider' views of old-time radio. She devotes many, many pages to her relationships with OTR actors: how they were treated; what directors expected from them; how much they were paid, etc." Times Books, 1981.
Out of the Air..........Mary Margaret McBride
"An unbelievable list of interviewees by one of radio's earliest and best talkers.'" Doubleday, 1960.
Fred Allen's Letters..........edited by Joe McCarthy
"Still a riot after 20-odd readings." 1965.
Radio Sound Effects..........Robert Mott
"Don't let the title fool you. This book is a lot more than just sound effects, with some marvelous anecdotes. Bob, of course, had an illustrious career as a network sound man and has continued to practice his image evoking magic at the major OTR conventions across the country. A private note, he is absolutely great to work with!" McFarland, 1993.
This Is London..........Edward R. Murrow
"A collection of his wartime scripts with terrific examples of Murrow's unequalled ability to phrase things in such magnificent fashion." Simon and Schuster, 1941.
Jack Benny: the Radio & Television Work..........Museum of TV & Radio
New York Harper, 1991
Raised on Radio..........Gerald Nachman
Published 1998. Received a good review in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
WYXie Wonderland (An Unauthorized 50 Year Diary Of WXYZ
Note: WXYZ in Detroit originated some of the radio programs most remembered today, including The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon ("Sergeant Preston").
The Old-Time Radio Book..........Ted Sennet
"It looks like a particularly chintzy trade paperback made to capitalize on the nostalgia craze of the seventies and some of the content is mighty lame (political correctness, for example, precludes all but the most fleeting mention of Amos 'n' Andy.) Amidst all the fluff are some very interesting articles and essays including Carroll Carroll's detailed reminiscences about his days writing The Kraft Music Hall and one of the few interviews I've seen with Himan Brown in which Brown is willing to discuss his very early work (Bronx Marriage Bureau, sponsored by Goodman's Matzoh! And don't miss his reminiscences of working for Gertrude Berg - she wasn't as nice as she seems.)." 1976.
A Pictorial History of Radio..........Irving Settel
Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1960's.
First Quarter-Century of American Broadcasting..........edited
by P. J. Shurick
"Good analysis of the medium from the first hams through radio's commercial beginnings, development & maturation in World War II." 1946.
The Nostalgia Entertainment Sourcebook..........compiled by
Randy Skretvedt and Jordan R. Young.
"Lists dealers (both of books and programs), syndicated OTR programs, fan clubs, periodicals, research centers (with OTR archives), museums, etc. The book gives the OTR fan powerful connections. It is eight years old, so some of the information may require an update. But it is a touchstone, and there is much there worth "gleaning" by the person new to the OTR hobby." Moonstone Press, 1991.
It Sounds Impossible..........Sam J. Slate and Joe Cook
"Described as 'a documented study of the social and economic impact of broadcasting in the 20th century,' but in a light-hearted, anecdotal fashion. Some good pictures." Macmillan, 1963.
Selected Radio and Television Criticism..........Anthony Slide
"From the introduction: 'Gathers together a group of articles on radio and television from the late twenties through the late fifties. It includes reviews of individual shows and series, as well as critical articles and commentary on various radio and television personalities.' [It] came in handy when I was writing my papers on Old Time Radio in school."
Upon My Lips a Song..........Kate Smith
Funk & Wagnall's, 1960.
The Serials: Suspense and Drama by Installment..........Raymond
"A 500-plus page volume exploring sequential drama not only via the radio but also through film and comic books. It relates how Americans fell in love with the technique of the continuing story line, with origins in early magazines and comic strips, and devotes much of its territory to juvenile and adult serial programming. A joy to read and a treasure for researchers!" University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.
His Typewriter Grew Spurs (A Biography Of Fran Striker
Writer)..........Fran Striker, Jr.
Note: Fran Striker was the gentleman who originated The Lone Ranger.
Thirty Year History of Programs Carried on National Radio
Networks in the U.S. 1926-1956..........Harrison Summers
"Exhaustive index of programs, sponsors, ratings, etc." 1971.
Handbook of Old-Time Radio: A Comprehensive Guide to Golden
Age Radio Listening and Collecting..........Jon D. Swartz and
Robert C. Reinehr
"It certainly is worthy of appearing among reference works by Dunning, Buxton and Owen, Terrace and a few more." Scarecrow Press, 1993.
Fred Allen - His Life and Wit..........Robert Taylor
Little Brown & Co., 1989
Radio's Golden Years..........Vincent Terrace
Note: A caveat may do Terrace a disservice, but his encyclopedia of television is really poorly researched; even the update contains numerous errors. Perhaps the radio book is better.
My Time Is Your Time..........Rudy Vallee
"Fascinating anecdotes by the supreme egotist who, in spite of his bluster, was head man on radio's first truly successful variety show." 1962.
Radio Comedy..........Arthur F. Wertheim
Detailed study of radio comedy from early skits on test stations to the classic radio comedy series, recording how the type of comedy changed over the decades. Includes an extensive chapter on Amos 'n' Andy, another on Fred Allen, commentary on the small town humor of the 30s, and an analysis of wartime radio.
Science Fiction on Radio: a Revised Look At 1950-1975..........Jim Widner & Meade Frierson
"For collectors of radio science fiction." AFAB, 1996.
Best Broadcasts of 1938-39..........Max Wylie
"Choice broadcasts from choice years. Contains a selection of scripts from that year, each with an introduction by Wylie. Includes Town Hall Tonight from Dec. 7, 1938, Information Please from April 14, 1939, We the People, Feb. 14, 1939, a Christmas Kate Smith Hour with a Henry Aldrich segment and an Abbott & Costello segment, an H. V. Kaltenborn broadcast on the Czech Crisis from Sept. 20, 1938, and a 'Situation in Europe' broadcast by Raymond Gram Swing (great name) from Oct. 13, 1938." 1939.
Radio Writing..........Max Wylie
"The most comprehensive, interesting and panoramic book written on radio writing I've come across. Wylie was a bigshot in radio and his ardor for the medium is evident on every page." 1939.
Home for Christmas..........The Library of Congress
Using archival photos, news reports, diaries, memoirs, and other sources, this is a chronicle of the Christmases during World War II
Star Spangled Radio..........Col. Edward M. Kirby
The head of the Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II relates his experiences. Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., 1947 or 1948
Piercing the Reich..........Joseph E. Persico
Subtitled "the penetration of Nazi Germany by American secret agents during World War II," this is the story of the American agents who infiltrated the Axis after D-Day.
We Band of Angels..........Dr. Elizabeth Norman
"...a fantastic book about the nurses who were left on Bataan and Coreggidor when Gen. Douglas MacArthur pulled out. Real life accounts woven into a story-like atmosphere. I couldn't put it down except to wipe the tears from my eyes."
Love and Rutabaga..........Claire Hsu Accomando
Fascinating autobiography of a woman of Chinese/French extraction who, as a young child, survived the German occupation of France; her relatives worked in the French resistance and the family was continually threatened with exposure.
Flappers, Bootleggers, "Typhoid Mary" & The Bomb, an Anecdotal
History of the Untied States from 1923-1945..........Barrington
"In a foreword to this book, Isaac Asimov says, 'Much of the material in the book is admittedly trivia, but trivia is almost always interesting precisely because it is not the sort of thing you can easily find in books.' Truer words have never been spoken. The book is an substantial collection of information organized in chronological order, balancing between straight facts and insightful, amusing anecdotes. The combination of styles gives the reader a surprisingly interesting and accurate insight into life during those years. Where else would you learn that in 1932, a gentleman named C. Elmer Doolin bought a tasty recipe for corn chips from a small San Antonio eatery and turned their production into a family business. He called them Fritos." Perennial Library, 1989, ISBN 0-06-091581-1.
The Murrow Boys..........Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson
Although the last third of the book touches on CBS television news, the majority of this story talks about the adventures of Edward R Murrow's radio team during World War II, including William Shirer's increasingly harrowing years in Berlin.
My Longest Night..........Genevieve Duboscq
As paratroopers and parachuted supplies went astray during the Normandy Invasion, 12-year-old Genevieve helps her often abusive father "Papa Maurice" save American soldiers and supplies from the waters outside their town and get them to safety. Unflinching account of the dangers of the time, including Genevieve's fate after the war had ended.
US Army Handbook 1939-1945..........George Forty
"Exactly what is says it is. It explains basically the US Army during the war."
Roll Me Over; an Infantryman's World War II..........Raymond
"From Normandy to Czechoslovakia, an American infantryman's march through the death throes of the Third Reich. This book is fascinating. he tells it like it is. No bull."
West Point Atlas For The Second World War (Europe And The
Mediterranean)..........editor Thomas E Greiss
Best Little Stories from World War II..........C. Brian Kelly
A collection of one- to three-page stories from the pages of various magazines, books, and other publications of interesting or amazing events, or short character portraits of people involved in the war effort. Cumberland House, 1998. (Original edition 1989.)
Since You Went Away..........Judy Barnette Litoff
"Women's letters to their sons, husbands, boyfriends, fiances, etc. during the War."
The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life From Prohibition Through
World War II..........Marc McCutcheon
"What this book lacks in anecdotal style, it makes up in a high volume of information. much of it delightfully quirky. With divisions such as 'Slang, Colloquialisms and Everyday Speech' to 'Clothing and Fashion' to 'Radio and Radio Shows,' McCutcheon presents most material in each division in glossary form. Although it lacks a centralized chronological structure, each 'definition' is well identified in terms of appropriate year of usage or existence. For example, you'd have to know that the Lambeth Walk was a dance and look it up in the alphabetical listing under 'Music and Dance,' but then you'd learn it was the most popular dance in 1938, read a description of its steps and learn it was first seen in America at the St. Regis Roof in New York in August 1938." Writer's Digest Books, ISBN 0-89879-697-0
Page One: The Front Page History of World War II as Presented in
The New York Times
"The front page covers of the times during the war years. The only bummer is getting caught up in a story and it was 'continued on page xx.'"
Here Is Your War..........Ernie Pyle
"The African Campaign through Ernie Pyle's eyes. He's a fascinating writer, love his sense of humor!"
The Big Bands..........George T. Simon
"A loving look back at the artists and arrangers who made the big band era jump & swing. 'And now live, from the beautiful green room of the hotel no occupancy in downtown Creosote-by-the-Bay, Michigan, in the hookworm belt of America, overlooking the waffle works on the banks of lake saliva, we hear the soulful rendering of Finbar Todd & His Hothouse Fig Suckers, "There's a Shortage of Lard Somewhere in the World Tonight, O My Darling."'"
Glenn Miller and His Orchestra..........George Simon
"Well worth reading for those with an interest in the Miller band in particular and big bands in general."
Reporting The War, The Journalistic Coverage of World War
"Compiling information about the major (and a few minor) journalists who reported on the war."
If You Survive..........George Wilson
"One soldier's story from D-Day until the end of the war."
What They Didn't Teach You About World War II..........Mike Wright
A cornucopia of facts, both light and dark, from beginning to end...about Admiral Halsey's nickname (it was a typo)...an infamous woman spy named Betty...who was Kilroy anyway?...how the Germans claimed Poland invaded them...the real fate of most POWs...all the victims of the Holocaust.
Slacks and Calluses..........Constance Bowman and Clara Marie Allen
"In 1943 two teachers decided to do their part for the war effort by spending their summer vacation working the swing shift on a B-24 production line at a San Diego bomber plant. Funny and informative!"
"The basis for the classic Dana Andrews/Gene Tierney film. Difficult to find but a fantastic read, full of period slang and pop culture references. Published 1940."
Mama's Bank Account..........Kathryn Forbes
"Autobiographical story of Swedish immigrants in turn-of-the-century San Francisco: The basis for the popular movie, radio and TV program I Remember Mama."
Red Sky at Morning..........Richard Bradford
A coming-of-age story about an Alabama teenager and his fragile mother, sent to finish the duration of World War II in a sleepy New Mexico town.
Mister Roberts...........Thomas Heggen
Basis for the popular stage play and later movie, the story of Lt. JG Doug Roberts aboard the USS Reluctant. Warning: the book is much "saltier" than the movie!
"Fictionalized account of a Midwestern radio station from the late thirties through the early fifties."
Hangin' Out With Cici..........Francine Pascal
A teenager at odds with her mother passes out on the subway and wakes up to find herself in the 1940sand that cool girl she just met turns out to be her mother as a teen! Nice sense of growing up during World War II. (Young Adult)
Keep Smiling Through..........Ann Rinaldi
Kay, ignored by her cold father and neglected by her self-absorbed stepmother, must resolve a crisis involving a man she thinks may be spying during World War II. It is her love for her favorite radio heroes that help her to make the right decision. (Young Adult)
The Open Gate and The Chestry Oak..........Kate Seredy
The first, written just after Pearl Harbor, chronicles the tale of a city family who accidentally buy a farm in June of 1941 and grow to love country life; exhibits a level of patroitism people might find "corny" today. The second is about a small boy, heir to a prince's throne in Hungary, who finds out his father is thought to be a traitor who works with the Nazis. (Children's)
American Girls Books: Molly 1944..........Valerie Tripp
The American Girls series, written for pre-teenagers, cover seven eras in American history. This last six book set takes place during World War II; Molly, age 9, copes with rationing, bond drives at school, Red Cross projects, scrap drivesas well as the usual problems of a school-age child. (Children's)
Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?..........Avi
"As World War II draws to a close, Brooklynites Frankie and Mario, scheme to get Frankie a radio of his own, and entangle their war-wounded brother, their eccentric upstairs boarder, and their sixth-grade teacher in their hilarious exploits. Orchard Books, 1992" Note: the book is done completely in dialogue, with excerpts from fictional radio series. (Children's)
My Wartime Summers..........Jane Cutler
A girl growing up during World War II worries over a favorite uncle sent to war. (Children's)