January 14, 2013

Exploring the Audio Noir of NIGHTBEAT

 One of the many ways in which I've learned to maintain my thirst for discovering new experiences has been as a volunteer proofreader for Radio Archives' pulp e-book reissues. A key unforseen benefit has been that I get "reimbursed" for my time with gift certificates, allowing me to order many of their reissues, pulp reprints, and their more noir-oriented fare.

One of the greatest discoveries (or rediscoveries) has been their Volume 1 reissue of Nightbeat, a radio show from the 1950s focusing on the two-fisted adventures of Randy Stone, crusading writer for the Chicago Star. Each of the half-hour episodes are sharply written, each one wearing its noir-colored heart on its sleeve. Listening to audio drama is a slightly different experience, and if you were interested in, say, Big Finish's offerings, this might be a great introduction, enabling the listener to experienced bite-sized pieces before engaging in longer fare.

(If you're thinking of downloading episodes free from other sites, let me just reassure you - Radio Archives has done an exemplary job in remastering these episodes. Each one sounds like it was just recorded yesterday, and it's a little disconcerting, especially if you're used to listening to old vinyl recordings....but quite honestly, this is well worth buying, especially since it's available as both CDs and direct MP3 downloads)

But one of the other Nightbeat-derived products is the Nightbeat: Night Stories audiobook, more modern-derived tales from several "New Pulp" writers. Although available in ebook form (either PDF, epub, or Kindle format), Nightbeat: Night Stories really swings due to Michael C. Gwynne's vocal performance. Although no one would mistake him for Frank Lovejoy (the Randy Stone of radio's Nightbeat), his voice has a gritty musicality that enlivens these tales, really bringing out the strong noir quality of these tales. There is no sense that these are simply OK tales that Gwynne works to make better: these are well-crafted stories that gain an additional level of polish when read aloud.

Many have suggested that the recent "revival" in pulp-oriented literature and media is due to troubled economic times. If anything, the Nightbeat: Volume 1 reissue (and there are several other volumes) and Nightbeat: Night Stories proves that if anything, the revival is more due to a greater appreciation of craft, focusing on well-told stories regardless of medium....and both of these reissues are well worth your time.

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