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Radio Archives, April 16, 2010
By: Charles Rector | Newsletter | 1:14pm, April 17, 2010
April 16, 2010

It's a Pulp Fiction Festival at RadioArchives.com!

In the 1930s, there were three characters that dominated the world of pulp fiction: The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Spider. For the past few years, the crime-fighting adventures of The Shadow and the action-packed tales of Doc Savage have been re-released in a series of double-novel reprints - and now, for the first time, Radio Archives is excited to introduce a whole new line of equally attractive double-novel pulp fiction books featuring The Spider - Master of Men! Published by Girasol Collectables, this new series offers the classic tales of The Spider in a format very similar to that of The Shadow and Doc Savage - including easy to read reformatted text, eye-catching cover art, and all of the original interior illustrations. If you're a fan of pulp fiction, you'll want to get your hands on one, two, or all fourteen newly reprinted books featuring The Spider, now available from RadioArchives.com - but that's not all! This month, you'll be excited to hear that brand new issues of both The Shadow and Doc Savage have just been released, featuring four heart-stopping novels and many special features. Plus, as a "pulp bonus" we now carry DVDs featuring the first screen appearances of The Shadow, as well as the screen debut of another popular pulp hero, Jack "Flashgun" Casey. Add to these our newest old time radio CD set "Command Performance" and two 10-CD collections of "Casey Crime Photographer" and you'll find that we're truly having a Pulp Fiction Festival at RadioArchives.com!

Introducing The Spider, Master of Men!

The great pulp magazines of the 1930s and 40s produced a number of heroes, but none were as action-oriented as The Spider. For ten years, from October 1933 to December 1943, The Spider was the scourge of the Underworld, doling out his own particular brand of justice and imprinting his dreaded red Spider seal on the foreheads of those he has killed for the good of mankind.

The Spider was, in real life, wealthy man-about-town Richard Wentworth III, master of disguise, dilettante of the arts, and completely devoted to the pursuit of justice. Secretly donning a decrepit black hat, a tattered black cape, a false hunch to his shoulders, a lank wig of stringy hair, an application of sinister face makeup, and a pair of .45 automatics, Wentworth prowled the streets of New York in the guise of his alter-ego, chasing down criminal masterminds bent on enslaving or destroying humanity. Much of the action takes place in the tenements and slums, the poor and lower classes victimized as readily as the rich, with the villains regularly committing acts of destruction on a grand scale. As much terrorists as criminals, these evildoers are often bent on mass destruction for its own sake; whole ocean liners are sunk, buildings toppled, entire towns wiped out with germ warfare.

While The Spider borrowed his black slouch hat and cloak from the already thriving Shadow, the rest of the character was significantly different. The Spider stories are all about action, emotional intensity, and pacing. Wentworth himself is strongly emotional, plumbing the thrills of victory as readily - and as deeply - as the depths of despair during his escapades. His long-suffering fiancée, Nita van Sloan, is a worthy character in her own right, though frequently relegated to the traditional role of hostage-bait. As additional exotic spice, Wentworth maintains a Sikh manservant/warrior companion, Ram Singh, as well as chauffeur Ronald Jackson, the sergeant from his old army days. Rounding out the cast of characters is Commissioner of Police Stanley Kirkpatrick, Wentworth's staunch friend and The Spider's greatest adversary; Kirkpatrick himself lives in a state of constant angst for fear that duty will one day force him to send his friend to the electric chair as punishment for The Spider's crimes. And indeed, that fear nearly becomes fact on several occasions.

The stories of The Spider plunge along head-first aboard an emotional roller-coaster, with scarcely a moment's pause for respite. Oriental death-traps, treacherously alluring women, and rabid, machine-gun toting gangsters are all part of a typical day for the hero; Wentworth is frequently suspected of being the dreaded Spider, his home is periodically destroyed, his servants and friends tortured. His fiancée, at one point, even faces horrible death at the hands of an amorous orangutan!

Most of The Spider's adventures were written by prolific pulp wordsmith Norvell W. Page under the Popular Publications house pseudonym Grant Stockbridge. It was Page who gave The Spider his unique appeal, his stories masterworks of spirited action and fast paced storytelling. He departed "The Spider Magazine" in 1937 to write war propaganda, returning sporadically to the title in the late 30s, then full-time again in 1940 until nearly the end. The late 30s era stories were written by Wayne Rogers and Emile C. Tepperman, who wrote backup stories for The Spider as well as the hero character Operator 5.

Such is The Spider's compelling personality and powerful will that he is often referred to as the Master of Men, his frightening visage and commanding presence alone causing the guilty to quiver in terror. Mystic elements seep in here and there, particularly in the latter part of the series, when Wentworth's Tibetan lama instructor makes an appearance. Mar-lar-delan, an ancient servant of higher power, pops up to assist Wentworth as The Spider, exhibiting powers and abilities beyond the explicable. The real delight in The Spider stories is their relentless ability to dash forward at break-neck speed, pulling the reader along right from the first paragraph. Like much of the best stories of the pulp era, the writing is condensed into the most excitement in as little space as possible; ironically, in a time when writers were often paid by the word, the stories of The Spider are completely devoid of artificial padding - an attribute many contemporary novelists could take a lesson from.

Published by the Canadian-based Girasol Collectables, the timeless adventures of The Spider will be the perfect addition to your collection of pulp fiction classics. Like Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Whisperer, and The Avenger, reprints of The Spider's stories are compiled into an ongoing series of double-novel reprints, all of which feature the attention-grabbing original full-color covers, reformatted text, and the line illustrations that accompanied the stories when they were originally published. So far, fourteen issues of The Spider have been reprinted - and RadioArchives carries them all! Future issues will be released quarterly, with issue #15 due to be published in just a few weeks.

If you're a long-time fan of the "pulps" - and especially if you're discovering them for the very first time - you owe it to yourself to meet The Spider, now available from RadioArchives.com.

Also New in Pulp Fiction

Great news! The Man of Bronze and The Knight of Darkness are back in two more newly released issues of their heart-stopping adventures:

In "The Shadow, Volume 36", the Dark Avenger takes to the High Seas in two action-packed pulp classics by Walter B. Gibson and Theodore Tinsley and a lost radio thriller by Bob Shaw. First, in "Crime Rides the Sea", roaring ocean waters set the scene for an epic battle between The Shadow and another of The Hand's murderous Fingers. Then, the Master of Darkness combats the drowned corpse calling himself "Davy Jones" in "River of Death." BONUS: Lamont Cranston and Margot Lane investigate "The Case of the River of Eternal Woe" in a lost classic from the Golden Age of Radio. This instant collector's item showcases both of George Rozen's color pulp covers, the classic interior illustrations by Edd Cartier, and commentary by popular-culture historians Anthony Tollin and Will Murray.

In "Doc Savage, Volume 35", the pulp era's legendary Man of Bronze confronts threats from space in two pulse-pounding pulp novels by Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson. First, after the "Blue Meteor" horror brings near-fatal insanity to Ham Brooks, Doc Savage and his Iron Crew are spirited away to Tibet where they confront the mysterious Mo-Gwei to uncover the strange secret behind the "Meteor Menace." Then, a war hero's plea for help and a box of anaconda skins lead Doc to the danger-filled Brazilian jungles in search of "The Ten-Ton Snakes." Will Murray provides historical commentary while Anthony Tollin chronicles "Doc Savage Around the World." This classic pulp reprint also features the original color pulp covers by Walter M. Baumhofer and Emery Clarke, plus Paul Orban's classic interior illustrations.

And don't forget about our brand new series of Collector Sets - eight issues of your pulp fiction favorites combined with an Old Time Radio compact disc collection at a very special price. These sets are a great way to start or build on your own personal library of classic reprints and classic radio entertainment.

If you enjoy the adventures of Doc Savage and The Shadow, you'll want to stop by RadioArchives.com and place your order for these brand new books right away!

New on DVD

If you've thrilled to the pulp fiction adventures of the Knight of Darkness, you're probably familiar with the Shadow radio series, as well as the controversial 1994 movie adaptation starring Alec Baldwin. But did you know that The Shadow first appeared on the silver screen in 1937 in the guise of silent screen heartthrob Rod La Rocque? It's true - and, what's more, La Rocque made another appearance as The Shadow in a second film that premiered the following year. These two films, originally released by Grand National Pictures, were long unavailable for viewing - but now you can see them once again thanks to two brand new DVDs just added to the Radio Archives website. When you visit our DVD section, be sure to look in the Movie Classics section for "The Shadow Strikes" and "The Shadow: International Crime", both priced at just $5.98 each. Additionally, be sure to read the liner notes describing each film and reprinting original posters from when they were first released to theaters.

Radio Archives now carries a full line of interesting and diverse DVD titles that have been hand picked for your viewing pleasure. Whether it's the classic western adventures of The Lone Ranger, hilarious comedy with Jack Benny, the quizzes and quips of Groucho Marx, or the high-flying serial classics of Superman, you'll find that our DVD section offers a wide range of titles - all offered at everyday low prices.

So, while you're celebrating Pulp Fiction Month, be sure to make it a Pulp Movie Month as well. Add "The Shadow Strikes" and "The Shadow: International Crime" to your order today!

Our Latest Old Time Radio Release

It's the greatest radio show you never heard - unless, of course, you were in the Armed Forces during World War II. Recorded exclusively for the enjoyment of servicemen and women and aired worldwide via shortwave, "Command Performance" was a weekly variety series that featured the top names in radio, nightclubs, and motion pictures performing in person in front of live all-military audiences. Had it been a commercial series, it would have cost a fortune to produce - but every member of the star-studded roster of performers donated their time and talents in support of the war effort. In this 10-CD collection, just released by Radio Archives, you'll hear such stars as Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Judy Garland, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Lena Horne, Al Jolson, Groucho Marx, and a host of others. Both die-hard collectors and casual listeners alike will be thrilled with the crisp and sparkling fidelity of these ten fully restored shows. If you've heard any these shows before in tape or MP3 versions - and especially if you heard them via shortwave when you were in the service - you'll be amazed by the quality. Listen to them with a set of earbuds or headphones and you'll be even more impressed; it's not like you're in the audience for the shows, it's like you've got a private seat in the control room!

"Command Performance" remains a wonderful variety show, filled with comedy and music. You can enjoy it solely as entertainment - the shows are hilarious as well as tuneful - or consider it a virtual time capsule of "who was who" in show business during the war. If you've enjoyed the other variety shows from radio's past - "The Big Show", "Birdseye Open House with Dinah Shore", "The Kraft Music Hall starring Al Jolson" - we know you'll love "Command Performance, Volume 1" from RadioArchives.com!


To Better Serve Our Customers

If you browse around these days, you'll find that the companies that sell radio shows tend to use the word "restored" quite a lot. It's a good word and, for most customers, it implies that a great deal of time and technology has gone into making the old shows sound better than ever. This is sometimes the case - but the fact is that, for most companies, "restored" really means something quite different. And that something is not necessarily a good thing.

You see, there are a lot of software programs out there that claim to take away all of the defects associated with older recordings - the pops, scratches, crackle, hiss, and general noise you hear when you play an old record that's been tucked away in the attic for a few decades. But most of these programs promise far more than they deliver - and remove far more of the original recording than you'd expect. The person using the software clicks a button and the hiss goes away - but so does most of the crisp fidelity of the recording, making the show sound dull, flat, and lifeless. Another button is pressed and the extra noises disappear, but the effect is strange, unnatural, and isolating - the audio equivalent of cutting someone out of a photo and pasting their figure onto a plain white background. Click a third button and the hiss disappears - right along with the fidelity. What you end up with is a noiseless recording, but often one that is also muffled, blanketed, and sometimes even hard to understand.

At Radio Archives, we've often had to listen to the effect of such low-grade "restored" radio shows - and have despaired at the result, particularly when its a radio show that we really wanted to enjoy. You see, we're both professionals and perfectionists when it comes to our restorations, and we're also dedicated to treating radio shows with the respect and reverence that they deserve. This is why, over the past ten years, we've gained a solid reputation for releasing radio shows of only the highest possible quality. Using only first generation masters and state-of-the-art technology - including CEDAR, the premier audio processing system used by major recording companies to restore older recordings - we spend countless hours restoring the programs we offer to make sure that they sound just as crisp and sparkling as they day when they were first aired. In fact, many of our customers tell us that our radio shows sound as if they were recorded yesterday, rather than 50, 60, or even 70 years ago. Our radio shows are truly restored, not muddied up or damaged under the guise of restoration. Our work is challenging, yes, and it often takes six or seven hours of hands-on labor to restore a single half-hour show. But when you hear the results of our work, we know you'll agree that its worth it. There are no clicks, no pops, no scratches - but the shows sound just as bright, sparkling, and full of life as they did when they were first aired.

When you purchase a Radio Archives CD collection, you can be sure that you're getting the best sounding versions of these shows available anywhere at any price. Couple that with our attractive artwork and durable plastic keep cases and, if you truly love Old Time Radio, you'll quickly find that RadioArchives.com is your first and only choice for classic radio entertainment.

Did You Know?

In the 1930s and 1940s, the publishers of the pulp fiction magazines issued literally thousands of stories and short novels for all sorts of readers - everything from love stories to western adventures to futuristic science fiction and even issues containing "spicy" stories your dad or grandpa had to hide in the woodshed so their wives wouldn't find 'em. Because so many stories were printed and so many magazines were issued each week, relatively few of the stories would today qualify as classics - and even those under the counter sexy stories wouldn't qualify for more than a PG rating in these more permissive times. But among the publications, there was an early one that almost always seemed to offer stories of greater quality by writers who would later come to redefine mystery and detective fiction: "Black Mask".

"Black Mask" regularly published stories by then-unknown authors like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, and Max Brand (Frederick Faust), as well as writer George Harmon Coxe, Jr. who, in 1934, introduced the character of Jack "Flashgun" Casey. Coxe, who had been a newspaper man himself before taking up fiction, had long been fascinated by the stories regularly swapped by reporters while they waited for news to break. But he realized that tales of daring newshounds were not particularly novel or unique in the world of the pulps. He decided instead to give his fictional adventures a unique twist by making them not about reporters but, instead, about the press photographers who accompanied them to the scenes of the crime. Reporters could write their stories about events based upon eyewitness accounts, but photographers usually had to get far closer to dangerous situations in order to capture their more visual part of the story.

Between 1934 and 1938, Coxe wrote 21 "Flashgun Casey" stories for "Black Mask" and, based on their continuing popularity, eventually realized that there might be a market for the character beyond the pages of the pulps. Thus, in 1938, Casey made his screen debut in the 1938 motion picture "Here's Flash Casey", produced by Grand National Pictures and loosely based on Coxe's short story "Return Engagement". Though it was an inexpensive "B" movie, designed to play on the bottom half of a double feature theater bill, it proved popular enough that, five years later, Coxe was able to bring the character to radio in a series first titled "Flashgun Casey," but later referred to as "Casey, Press Photographer," "Crime Photographer", and finally "Casey, Crime Photographer". On radio, Casey proved even more popular than he had been in print; in a variety of incarnations, and with a few pauses, the series would run on CBS Radio until 1955.

In this modern era of satellite communication, paparazzi, and the Internet, it may seem a little quaint or old fashioned to look back on a time when a photographer had to lug around a heavy Speed Graphic camera in order to get the best shots for the latest edition of his newspaper - but there's no denying that the adventures of Casey and his fellow reporters, reliable sources, and favorite bartenders still make for great entertainment. Radio Archives has released two 10-CD sets of "Casey, Crime Photographer", each containing 20 fully restored shows from the best years of the radio series, as well as a just-released DVD of "Here's Flash Casey", now available in the DVD section of our website. Together, these two collections and the classic film will provide you with over twenty hours of lighthearted action and excitement.

So the next time you read through your morning paper, pull out "Casey, Crime Photographer" and "Here's Flash Casey". We bet that, in the distance, you'll hear a newsboy shouting "Extra! Extra! Read All About It!" and be thrust right back into the days of newshounds, Speed Graphics, and the legendary story-grabbing reporters of the past.
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