The year 1948 was a tough one. World War II had ended, the Cold War had turned former allies into adversaries, there seemed to be scary monsters everywhere. Hollywood held sway over the American imagination and sometimes it was difficult to tell the real from the unreal. It was a time when comedy and horror began to blend, on screen and sometimes in life. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-853268.mp3
“Bela Lugosi and the House of Doom” is the newest mystery/thriller by Dwight Kemper and part of the Marquee Movie Mystery series. Following on his novel “Who Framed B oris Karloff?”, it again turns some of the most notable screen actors of the day into detectives, working to unravel evildoing in the movie milieu. This time, Basil Rathbone, the screen’s Sherlock Holmes, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are joined by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello , the immortal comedy team then in the midst of shooting one of their best-loved films, “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein”. Bela Lugosi, the intense actor who starred in the first “Dracula” movie (and has been the standard ever since for actors playing the Transylvanian vampire) is both victim and sleuth. The novel begins with Lugosi comatose in his movie-lot trailer, along with his wife and son. Soon Universal Studios is the scene of arson, kidnapping and the presence of unreconstructed Nazis and unrepentant Communists. A few of Lugosi’s fellow Hungarians want to carry him back to his native land to be Minister of Culture. They are led by a mysterious Madame Z, who kidnaps Lou Costello and young Bela Lugosi, Jr. (details of the boy’s life are accurate — he is now a prominent attorney in Los Angeles). The celebrity detectives are often in conflict among themselves and police strain to keep up with them, all in pursuit of spies trying to hide from the CIA while the allegation of Communist leanings threatens to draw the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Dwight Kemper is an actor, writer and producer from Binghamton who has written more than sixty mystery plays. His Murder Mystery Theater creates mystery weekends and special events in which the audience becomes the sleuth. An upcoming mystery will take place during a cruise to Bermuda. He is also a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. Dwight is also an artist; twenty-five of his pen-&-ink drawings illustrate “Bela Lugosi and the House of Doom”.
Among the many contributions of African-Americans to our national life, one seems almost incidental: the intense interest in genealogy. The appearance in 1976 of the book “Roots” by Ithaca native Alex Haley, its sequels, and the consequent television series gave everyone a keener appreciation of the disruption of African society, enslavement, emancipation, segregation and the struggle for the full rights of citizenship. It also motivated people of various ethnicities to search for their own background. The election of Barack Obama as the USA’s first African-American president is surely a milestone in American history. Also significant is the revelation that President Obama and former Vice-president Dick Cheney are eighth cousins. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-818760.mp3
February is Black History Month, an observance created in 1926 as Negro History Week by historian Carter G. Woodson and sometimes criticized for appearing to set the history of African Americans as distinct from the rest of American history. The depth and complexity of the role of African-Americans in our history is reflected in a new book, “African American Freedom Journey in New York and Related Sites, 1823-1870: Freedom Knows No Color”. The author is Harry Bradshaw Matthews, associate dean and director of U.S. Pluralism Programs at the U.S. Pluralism Center at Hartwick College in Oneonta. The freedom journey lasted longer than the crucial years of the title – years marked by the rise of the abolitionist movement, the Fugitive Slave Act, the Underground Railroad and the Civil War. “This book,” Mr. Matthews states, “has been written in a style that allows the reader to follow a journey from slavery to freedom.” The first chapters deal with the drive to abolish slavery, the political temper of the times and the condition of Freedmen. The story is made more vivid through dozens of excerpts and extended passages from the writings of the day, including articles and letters that appeared in important abolitionist and black publications. The editor, aware of the diversity of opinion in reference to the title of this “Paper”, thinks it not amiss here to state some reasons for selecting this name as more appropriate than any other. Many would gladly rob us of the endeared name, “AMERICAN”, a distinction more emphatically belonging to us, than five-sixths of this nation, and one that we will never yield.
What is the meaning of “romance”? One of life’s great questions, indeed. Searching out the definition of romance may lead us past a style of 16th century song, a group of beautiful languages, a measurement of human passion and a literary genre. It also promises an escape from the cold and the dullness of daily life. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-860715.mp3
Romance literature and the realm of fantasy may be the most accessible (and prudent) path away from the mundane, for both the reader and the writer. Its popularity is enormous, and the care and enthusiasm that romance writers bring to their work is apparent in works that go beyond the heavy-breathing, gaze-penetrating (and, yes, bodice-ripping) that has characterized the genre. If you go to a conference of the Southern Tier Authors of Romance (STAR) you meet people who are realistic about fantasy and hard-headed about romance. OFF THE PAGE visits the 5th annual conference of STAR — a chapter of the organization Romance Writers of America — held in Owego on September 12th. In addition to the chance to break away from their word processors for a while and hobnob with other writers, the agenda for the day-long event includes panels on science fiction, how to appeal to young adult readers and writing for movies and television. There was also a session during which the first page of works-in-progress were read (they say those are the lines that have to snag the reader). Among the invitees was Rhonda Penders, editor-in-chief of The Wild Rose Press, who was at the STAR conference inviting writers to pitch their latest stories for possible publication. Following a report from the STAR Conference, OFF THE PAGE welcomes live three writers of romance, fantasy and science fiction to respond to questions and comments from listeners who are fans of imaginative fiction. Joining WSKG’s Bill Jaker will be:
Doreen Alsen of Lansing, president of Southern Tier Authors of Romance, whose debut novel is “Mike’s Best Bet”. She is also conductor of the Finger Lakes Women’s Chorale.