The unsung heroes of radio drama are the writers. We marvel at the creative genius of the Special Effects Man, and we tune in to hear our favorite actors. However, radio drama is first and foremost a medium for that most ancient form of entertainment, storytelling.
Writers need to tell stories nearly as badly as actors need to act, and few genres tax the writer's talent like film noir. Film noir is not really even a genre so much as it is a style. The term didn't even come into common use until the film noir era was nearly over.
Denied access to American cinema during the War years, French critics were shocked to see how dark and pessimistic Yankee films had become during the Thirties and Forties. Visually, the films were influenced by German expressionism, featuring dark lighting and sharp, linear contrasts. For all their visual clues, the story, the characters and the situations were the telling feature of film noir.
Before the French coined the term "film noir", these stories were considered melodramas. The term melodrama implies a story with exaggerated plot and characters to elicit an emotional response. Noir stories usually have a strong morality message. While the lines between right and wrong may be blurred, they do exist and we empathize with the character's struggle to stay on the right side of those lines.
The most familiar noir stories are those from the hard boiled detective school of pulp fiction world. These are also the elements which transfer best to radio. With few exceptions, the writers who make up our Radio Noir collection did not write for radio. Their workcomes to us from novels and short stories which were first adapted for the big screen. This does not lessen their impact as radio stories, in fact it enhances the experience.
The ability of radio drama to create even more vivid images in the mind than movies and television has been explored many times. However, this phenomenon can only occur if the listener has a visual reference already in place. This reference comes from photos, drawings, magazine covers and movies that the listener has already seen. Radio's power is to allow the mind to cherry pick through these images to create the most effective mental picture. In this way dingy waterfront scenes become dingier, the creases on the bad guy's suit become sharper, the heroine's doe eyes become mistier, and the flint in the hero's eyes becomes harder.
The biggest limitation to Radio Noir is not the stories, it is the 30 minute or one hour format in which the adaptation is forced to fit. However, this allows the listener to enjoy the complete stories in manageable portions. Our collection includes stories from Patricia Highsmith, Cornell Woolrich, James M Cain, Frederic Brown, Agatha Christie, John Cheever, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, W.R. Burnett, Rex Stout, and Alfred Hitchcock.