Writer Martin Grams is the author and co-author of more than 20 books on pop culture, retro television, old time radio and vintage motion pictures. He is the winner of numerous awards including the 2008 Rondo Award for “Best Book of the Year” for his book on THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Martin has written numerous magazine articles for SCARLET STREET, FILMFAX and RADIOGRAM. CBI reporter Michael Sacal interviewed Mr. Grams about his career in writing…
MS: How did your love affair with radio and television begin?
MARTIN: I have always been a fan of old time radio and classic television since I was a kid. My grandmother got me a few audio cassettes for Christmas and from the day I first heard “The Shadow,” I was hooked.
MS: How did you get started as a radio and television historian?
MARTIN: I saw a need for doing research when I bought three books on the same subject and discovered they all had conflicting information. I also discovered that none of the books credited any archives located across the country, which meant they never did the leg work from dig up the true facts. You see, most people when they do a write-up, they refer to previously-published reference guides. But if there is an error in a reference guide, the same mistake gets carried over. And once it’s reprinted frequent enough, the mistake is taken as the gospel. But having trolled through numerous archives across the country, including my own independent research, I was discovering the horror of this factoid and decided to do something about it. So I wrote a book. Over the past few years, I’ve built up a lot of connections with friends who allow me access to archives and private collections to independently research and write books on subjects no one has taken the time to research.
MS: How do you go about researching your books?
MARTIN: That depends on the subject. Tracking down next of kin involved with the program, contacting the studios, the artists, the writers, and so on gets complicated. It takes an average of five or six years research for a single subject, before I can do a rough draft. Then I have to give the book a scroll through and decide what I still need to do, dig up and follow up. The Library of Congress is a treasure trove of sources, as is the Billy Rose Theater Collection in New York City.
MS: How do you explain the appeal of dramatic radio to a generation that doesn’t even want to watch black-and-white movies or TV shows?
MARTIN: Exposure is the key. I usually refer to old time radio as the “unexplored Hollywood.” That is, the type of Hollywood that involved movie stars, but yet movie buffs often overlook because it’s not a visual medium. I’ve met people who are in their twenties who LOVE old time radio simply because they took the time to listen to it while driving to work or a convention. In fact, more than half of the pioneering research efforts in the past six years were done by people under the age of 30.
MS: Have you ever had the pleasure (or displeasure) of meeting any of the people whose work you’ve written about? Any interesting stories there?
MARTIN: There’s never been anyone I had the displeasure of working or meeting. Everyone has been friendly and helpful with assisting in my work. They understand the historical significance. If I ever came across something horrible about someone, I disregarded it. I find that people are more fascinated in hearing the good behind-the-scenes stories about a movie star or writer or director, rather than something scandalous.
MS: Can you tell me anything about any upcoming projects?
MARTIN: I finished a book about THE SHADOW recently and it’s now available. DUFFY’S TAVERN is being completed and SCIENCE FICTION THEATER with Truman Bradley is at the printers as we speak. With luck, and I would like to express “luck” in capital letters, I will have 77 SUNSET STRIP done by the end of the year.
MS: Are there any achievements you’re particularly proud of?
MARTIN: I think my best work has been my last three books, THE GREEN HORNET, THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE SHADOW. But that’s up to the readers who make the decision.
MS: Finally, could you give me a quote that sums up your feelings about radio and/or television? (It can be from you or anyone else and can be serious, silly or whatever.)
MARTIN: Old time radio and retro television still knocks away today’s television and the fan bases out there are certainly appreciative when they learn there is a book about their favorite television or radio program. I get a pleasure knowing that I helped preserve a program with one of my books, knowing companies that release them on CD and DVD consult the reference guides, historians turn to them for consultation, and encyclopedia entries are corrected as a result.
Everyone at ComicBookInterviews.com would like to thank Mr. Grams for taking the time to answer our questions. For more from Martin, please visit www.martingrams.com.
About the interviewer –
Michael Sacal is a freelance writer and archivist whose work has appeared in Faster Than Light, an anthology series published by Orang Utan Comics, and the Book of Geomancers, a Wikipedia-style online resource focused on the VALIANT Universe published by VALIANT Entertainment Inc.
Michael is a contributing writer for Surprising Comics and Red Leaf Comics who is in the process of developing multiple work-for-hire and creator-owned projects with different publishers in the United States.
Michael holds the post of Senior Reporter at Comic Book Interviews, and can be reached at email@example.com.