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Great Authors and Writers in Old Time Radio

Agnes Moorehead in Lucille Fletcher's Sorry Wrong Number

Great Radio Drama depends on great stories. But, where do great stories come from? Many stories have been passed down through generations, others spring from the minds of radio script writers. One of the richest sources of great stories is from the authors who wrote great literature.

Broadly speaking, literature is any collection of written work and is generally considered to have artistic merit. This includes not just prose fiction, but nonfictional works such as biographies, essays, and memoirs, as well as poetry and plays. In this discussion, we will focus on the authors who produced great stories.

The original creator or writer of a story is considered the work's author. Learning about the author and his or her motivations for creating a story can enhance our appreciation for the tale, as well.

Undoubtedly, many authors created their stories for purely mercenary reasons. Writing stories is a terrific way to make a living for those who have the talent, although writing to feed a market does not always result in great literature. A good deal of the work churned out to fill the pages of pulp magazines. However, even in the cheapest pulps, there were some definite treasures.

We like to imagine that an artist is a tortured soul who yearns to express himself or herself. To be sure, an author needs to put a good deal of personal expression into a story if it is to connect with an audience. If the audience does connect with and appreciates the piece, then the author deserves to be compensated for the work as well as any retelling of the story in other formats, such as comics, film, or on the radio.

A not uncommon practice was for radio producers to seek stories from older literature as long as they were hearing a compelling story. However, there were examples of stories written for Radio which gained their own literary merit.

Lucille Fletcher began as a music librarian, but soon one of her stories would be adapted by Norman Corwin for The Columbia Workshop. She would go on to write "The Hitch-hiker" and "Sorry, Wrong Number", two of the most thrilling stories to ever grace the airwaves and would be adapted into novelizations and film scripts.

Another author who notoriously brought his own life to his writing was Dashiell Hammett whose characters would become more famous than his stories. Hammett, who created such immortals as Sam Spade and Nick and Nora of The Thin Man series, was a Pinkerton Detective before becoming an author and would influence the entire Hard-Boiled Detective genre.

An author needs the support of others in his life to do the work that he does but creating the worlds and characters that populate his stories is a very personal endeavor. The story itself is the most important thing for the audience. However, getting to know the author can make it come alive in a much more real and intensive way.

Author Years Active Primary Genre Notable Works
Ambrose Bierce 1872-1913 Realism The Devil's Dictionary
Alexander Dumas 1820-1869 Romanticism/Historical Fiction The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers
Charles Dickens 1836-1870 Social Reform/Popuar Fiction A Christmas Carol, The Pickwick Papers, A Tale of Two Cities
Charlotte Bronte 1846-1855 Romantic Fiction/Poetry Jane Eyre
Dashiell Hammett 1929-1951 Crime and Detective Fiction Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man
Edgar Allen Poe 1827-1849 Horror The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher
Emily Bronte 1846-1848 Romantic Fiction/Poetry Wuthering Heights
Erskin Caldwell 1929-1987 Social Reform/Popuar Fiction Tobacco Road, The Windfall
Feodor Dostoyevsky 1846-1880 Philosophical Fiction Crime and Punishment
Guy de Maupassant 1880-1910 Popular Fiction, Futility of War The Horla
Honoré de Balzac 1829-1850 Realism A Passion in the Desert, Beatrix
Isaac Asimov 1930-1992 Science Fiction C Chute, I Robot
Jane Austen 1787-1809 Romance of English Gentry Pride and Prejudice, Snse and Sensibility
John Cheever 1935-1982 Symbolism The Enormous Radio, Bullet Park
John Dickson Carr 1930-1967 Detective/Murder Mystery The Hollow Man, The Burning Court
John Steinbeck 1930-1967 Social Realism Of Mice and Men, Medal for Benny, Viva Zapata, Grapes of Wrath, Lifeboat
Joseph Conrad 1889-1918 Sea Stories Lord Jim, Typhoon
Louisa May Alcott 1849-1878 New England Life Little Women, Jo's Boys
Lucille Fletcher 1940-1988 Mystery Sorry Wrong Number, The Hitch-Hiker
Nelson Bond 1946-2005 Science Fiction Exiles of Time, The Thirty First of February
Raymond Chandler 1908-1959 Detective Fiction The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely
Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain 1863-190 Popular Fiction, Futility of War Tom Sawyer. Roughing It
Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1792-1820 Poetry, Criticism Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Eolian Harp
Stephan Crane 1893-1903 Popular Fiction, Futility of War The Red Badege of Courage, The Open Boat
Stephen Vincent Benet 1915-1942 Poetry, Criticism The Devil and Daniel Webster, John Brown's Body
Wilkie Collins 1824-1870 Sensation Novels The Woman in White, Moonstone

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Your dedication to the preservation, sharing, and collection of old time radio is to be commended. What you offer to anyone who remembers this golden age, and who take pleasure in reliving these years of entertainment and information, will certainly thank you as well. We need people like you. Good on you.


I learn from doing things more than being taught. The many days at Ogden Park neighborhood library and Chicago’s downtown Public Library were wonderful. Reading has led me to the myriad forms of audio recordings now available. Isn’t it great to live in a computer age as well as still having books available. Authors have reflected the historical, present and ‘future’ history of our world.

Froemke John Arthur

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