In early March, I had a Skype visit with a school in the Down East Maine town of Pownal. (They told me it was minus seven degrees that day, “and that’s not including the wind-chill factor.”) A student asked which character in which of my books, was most like me when I was a kid. I answered that it was the character Frankie in Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?”
Growing up in the 1940s, before television was an established entertainment medium, I was an avid listener of adventure radio shows for kids,among them: Jack Armstrong, Sky King, The Green Hornet, Superman, The Shadow, and the series that provided the title of the book, The Lone Ranger.
Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? is my fond remembrance of those listening days. It tells the story of Frankie, and his sidekick Mario, as they try to enact radio-like adventures in their own ordinary lives. The book is one hundred percent dialogue, not one “he said,” or “she said,” in the whole book. Not only do I also think this is my most unusual novel, I also believe it is my funniest.
The way Frankie narrates (and directs) his improvised adventures with Mario—and other characters—is very much like what I used to do with my cousin (and best friend) Michael who lived around the corner.
I would say, “Now we creep around the corner, and surprise the … “ or some such, and we would enact those invented tales for hours on end. I believe that was my earliest storytelling. I also believe that radio narrative has greatly influenced my writing.
In the novel, there are a number of excerpts from real radio shows of the day. One show however—for plot purposes—was something I wrote. I remember enjoying writing that segment so much that I suddenly had the thought: Radio shows. I’ve missed my true calling. I should have been a radio writer!