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Story Behind the Story #26: Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?

Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?It will no doubt date me when I reveal that one of the key influences on my writing life was radio.  I am not referencing music here, but radio drama, in particular those shows sent out over the airwaves (as they were called) to young people like me.

If I was home sick there were the soap operas such as The Guiding Light.  Far better were shows (starting at 5 PM) like Jack Armstrong, Superman, Sky King, In the evening, The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Suspense.  The comedy of The Jack Benny Show. There also was Edward R. Murrow’s You Are There. These were historical reenactments of great moments of history, as if reported by the modern newsmen. “Richard the Third is now riding down Bosworth hill. He has been cut off from his own soldiers. Henry Tudor’s soldiers are surrounding him! Great Scott, the king … . ” Great stuff.

If you know what I’m talking about, you’re probably my age.

These dramas were all (to me) terrific. It very much guided me to theatre (my first writing goal) and to the extensive use of dialogue in my books.

Years later I was attending an old movie with Dick Jackson and his wife, Nancy. At some point he leaned over to me, and said, “I’d like to see you try a book with just dialogue. I’ll give you a couple of “he said, she said.”


The result was Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? my homage to those radio days. It is one hundred percent dialogue. Not one “He said, she said.” Even the title is dialogue.

I also think it’s my funniest book.

My research was all fun, listening to those old shows. I was sure I could remember particular shows. Some of those shows are in the book.

In the original book there was an excerpt from a Superman script.  The company that owned those rights said it could not be used. They even told me to take out one of the funniest lines in the book. In it, my hero provides the revelation that Superman’s female sidekick and the Shadow’s female sidekick must have been sisters.

If you can figure out that gag, you are right there with me.

In one instance-because of the plot, I had to write a brief radio script. As I wrote it I had this thought: I missed my true writing career. I should have been a writer of radio serials.

Oh, well …

2 thoughts on “Story Behind the Story #26: <em>Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?</em>”

  1. As president of the Long Island Radio & Television HS, I play a major part in the acquisition of items for our coming radio & TV exhibit room at Suffolk County Community College, Selden Campus College, also our study library in the Sayville Library. With both we have many of the old shows on tape and CD’s. When TV gets boring, I put on the Jack Benny Show, Baby Snooks, The Great Gildersleeve, etc. Remember the wonder code rings, etc. That you could send for with so many box tops from whatever?

  2. I was born after radio shows were in their heyday but I’ve always listened to recordings every chance I get. I enjoy the smart, snappy, suspenseful, and often hilarious dialogue the writers of these shows crafted … so much so that I often “listen” to television now without watching. With the popularity of podcasts and This American Life, I believe we’re ready for this kind of storytelling again. And Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? IS one of your funniest books.

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