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For the Love of Radio Theater

Old radio shows, love of mysteries, classic movies, over-sized cozy sweaters, drinking tea from a fine china cup, card games, knitting, a good book, antiques, an overall appreciation of vintage things…all symptoms that I might have been born in the wrong era.

It was a late night many years ago. I had the radio on and was distracting myself with channel surfing, when I stumbled upon a story. It was a captivating mystery. I can’t remember now exactly what pulled me in initially. Maybe it was the thrilling riffs between each scene, the deep voices and dramatic scuffles, the car chase or the private detective wrapping up the case into a neat little package at the end. To this day I still struggle to put my finger on what it is that I love so much about old radio shows. Perhaps it’s that they are more than just books on tape. They’re amazing productions with sound effects and a full cast of characters in all their vocal glory. This was TV, before there was TV.

It’s a great adventure, a “movie for your mind” as Jim French from Imagination Theatre says. Dramas, mysteries, sci-fi and fantasy, thrillers, comedy, westerns and even variety shows, I appreciate them all. One of my favorite things to do in high school and college was come home, set up my easel and turn on some music or a radio show to listen to while I lost myself in my work.

I don’t have an antique radio, but I do have a vintage iPod.
A classic iPod for listening to my favorite radio shows.

Not being presented with a visual picture allows me to create my own in my mind. I imagine the detective as I know him and the damsel in distress might have the face of a good friend. The room the dinner party guests are gathered in as Sherlock reveals the killer, might look a little like a room I’ve been in before. Filling in the blanks with a stock of images from our own lives is what makes the story resound with us. It makes it real.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so fond of radio dramas, it reminds me of what I love most about writing fiction. Those moments when you are  describing a scene and picturing it in your head; you are pulling from your own experiences to give your fiction a ring of truth. It’s  magic – creating a world so real that it can draw anyone in. That kind of writing lasts generations.

My husband says I’m a “classic” person because I enjoy classic things. I like to think it’s a matter of quality. I appreciate top shelf things; writing in particular. Hemingway is like a nice quality cardigan, it will never go out of style. That’s the type of writing I strive for. It’s timeless.


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