Hello, Everybody! The Dawn of American Radio

The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value, declared a not particularly prescient executive of the newly formed RCA in 1920. "Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" As Anthony Rudel explains, the fact that radio waves scattered about was considered a disadvantage to early developers; they hoped to use the technology to send signals directly from one point to another. Rudel's lively history of the dawn of the radio age covers a parade of innovators and hucksters (see Dr. John Brinkley, the broadcasting pioneer who advertised his surgical technique, transplanting goat testicles into men to cure impotence, over the air) who grasped that the ability to reach many people at once was in fact radio's greatest strength. During the 1920s, radio's popularity exploded as sports events, variety shows, and religious sermons became programming staples -- the latter made national celebrities out of controversial evangelists Aimee Semple McPherson and Father Charles Coughlin. On-the-spot coverage of the Scopes trial and the Lindbergh kidnapping revolutionized the way Americans received their news (thus alarming the newspaper industry, one of several fascinating parallels to the dawn of the Internet age), while weather updates and market reports changed the way farmers did business. One of the figures credited with guiding the growth of radio was Herbert Hoover, who, as commerce secretary under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, helped determine how active the government should be in regulating the airwaves. Ironically, radio contributed to his resounding defeat in the 1932 presidential election at the hands of an opponent, FDR, who was a master of the medium.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."