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Last updated: October 30, 2018

Helpful Books for Radio Play-writers

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.

  • On 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 to find a used copy. Don't forget to check out Norman's new website:
  • Words 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.
  • 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 starter.

Other lists of audio-theatre books:

The Remember WENN bookshelf - a bibliography compiled by a fan of the defunct cable TV show.

Radio 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.

TONY PALERMO is a radio playwright, professional sound effects artist, radio director, composer, and educator based in Los Angeles, California.

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