Helpful Books for Audio Dramatists
Advice from Tony Palermo
The best information on how to create audio theatre cannot be found in books.
The market is too small for publishers to bother with. That's WHY I created my
"Radio Drama Resources" webpages. There are also other websites with useful
information. You can find them on my pages devoted to
Radio Drama/Audio Theater Information For Educators and
Radio Drama Links. Meanwhile, here are some books
that I found useful.
The Great American Broadcast by Leonard Maltin, covers the various
creative aspects of radio drama. It's an inspirational work. You can now find
it in paperback for about $15.
Radio Sound Effects by Robert L. Mott,
has just been re-issued in paperback. This is his lively history of the art of
radio drama sound effects with plenty of pictures. I learned a lot from this
book and from Bob, personally. His second book
Sound Effects in Radio, TV & Film is more of a textbook, covering sound
waves, cart machines, and foley artists, but it is out of print and very expensive on e-bay or other sites. His
Radio Live, TV Live, is another fascinating memoir, but it has fewer
pictures of tantalizing SFX devices than his earlier books. Bob is a genius of
sound and a very nice guy. His books are invaluable to audio artists. I can't
recommend them enough.
The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski, the creator
of the Babylon 5 TV series, covers film and TV writing, but devotes
several chapters to radio scripting too. You'll find plenty of "how to"
examples contrasting how radio and the visual media differ. Highly recommend.
However my webpages on Writing for Audio go into
far more detail on the unique requirements of writing for radio.
Producing Great Sound for Digital Video by Jay Rose, covers the entire
soundtrack process for recording, editing and mixing. He also includes info on
mikes, foley sound effects and even how to build your own phone coupler.
Nearly everything here applies to producing radio dramas. This is a great
resource for newcomers and professionals alike. Amazon sells it for $32. Jay
Rose also hosts the Digital Playroom website
and has several other books
a Note of Triumph: Norman Corwin and the Golden Years of Radio by R. Leroy
Bannerman is a biography and appreciation of the pioneering work of Norman
Corwin, the poet laureate of radio. Being unfamiliar with the power,
ingenuity, and eloquence of Corwin's work, is like never having heard
Shakespeare. He's that important! This book will whet your appetite to hear
his programs. NOTE: The biography is out of print, try
www.bookfinder.com to find a used
copy. But just start with the audio collection
Thirteen by Corwin
from Lodestone-Media. And don't
forget to check out Norman's new website:
at War by Howard Blue, is a history of radio focused on and after World
War II. As a popular art form, radio was at its peak during these years. Blue
"describes how seventeen radio dramatists and their actors fought a war of
words against fascism abroad and injustice at home." He recounts the works of
Archibald MacLeish, Arch Obler, William Robson, Norman Corwin, and many others
writers, actors, and producers. His history also covers the anti-communist
witch hunts following the war and how primal radio talents were blacklisted
off the air--thereby contributing to the demise of the medium. See
Howard's web site for more
information, including the text of a U.S. wartime
propaganda play called "Mass
- On the Air
: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John "Tune in Yesterday" Dunning,
is an enormous listing of 1500 radio shows with brief descriptions of each. It
cites highlights of certain shows and often provides a critique of
personalities and programs. Handy, to see what was done in the golden age, but
not essential to producing your own radio dramas. It is, however, a great idea
Other lists of audio-theatre books:
Remember WENN bookshelf - a bibliography compiled by a fan of the
defunct cable TV show.
Scripts In Print by Susan & David S. Seigel - a listing
of where to find old time radio scripts. NOTE: This book does NOT contain the
scripts themselves. The authors state that "many of the books listed in the
bibliography fall into the 'how to write for radio' category," but again
my web pages on Writing for Audio go into
far more detail on writing for radio.