Friday, December 8, 2017

The Missing SUSPENSE Radio Episodes

Looking for something to buy this holiday season? A casual fan of radio's Suspense? Then this new book might be of interest to you. A veteran collector of vintage radio broadcasts, Joseph W. Webb, Ph. D., wrote an 86-page book providing insight into the show's history, revealing how and why Roma Wines broadcast the show twice a week (bet you did not know that), the near-cancellation in 1947, and the numerous versions of Suspense recordings, from network broadcasts, rehearsals, air checks, home recordings, AFRS renditions, and others. In other words, there are more than one version of each episode and Joe took the time to clarify the numerous versions that exist. 

Back in the early days of collecting, circa late 1980s, I knew there were at least two versions of some Roma Wines broadcasts existing. I had both an East Coast and a West Coast version of "Commuter's Ticket," with J. Carrol Naish in the lead, from August 1, 1946. I wrongfully assumed this was a one-time novelty that collectors discovered and made available. Each side of my audio cassette had one of the two versions. Playing them back I could tell no difference. But then again, I did not know what to look for.

More amusingly was the fact that over the years multiple people would claim responsibility for transferring radio programs from disc. "I was the one responsible for making that show available," they would tell me. Eventually I took any such claim with a grain of salt. Today, I now suspect that multiple people each had copies of discs which is why we have two, three and sometimes four different versions of the same recording. For collectors who use a checklist and know they already have "Commuter's Ticket" from August 1, 1946, why would they think of purchasing the same recording from a different source? This is why today, when someone claims they were responsible for making an old-time radio recording available, I believe them... but also realize that the recording in my hands or in general circulation could also have come from someone else who had access to another set of transcription discs.

Today, thanks to Laura East and Joe Webb, we now know there are multiple versions of each Suspense episode for many consecutive years. In his book Joe also goes into the reasons why specific episodes are still lost, created an official list of episodes not known to exist in whole or in part, and fills in the gaps with details of re-enactments, short stories adapted from the radio scripts, and other references.

This book may not reach the expectations of casual old-time radio fans, who might find Excel spreadsheets and multiple reprints of script covers repetitive. But it certainly offers a unique perspective of the collecting community of old-time radio recordings as it stands today. And provides hope that a few of these "lost" or "missing" recordings will surface in the coming years.

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