*originally published on 08/30/2016
As I write this blog post I am listening to the Old Time Radio program, Let George Do It. I started listening to old time radio since high school – when my insomnia would keep me up late listening to the radio. On an AM station every so often they would play a few old radio programs – from the 1930s-1960s. One of favourite parts in the program is listening to the radio ads from that time. No wonder people were smoking in that time – smooth flavourable cigarettes sounds pretty dandy. I like listening to sitcoms, dramas and theater but mystery and suspense are my absolute favourites. I cannot even begin to list the shows I love. I enjoy that period of the “Golden Age” so when I saw the synopsis for Cheryl Honigford’s debut novel, The Darkness Know I added it to my TBR. Sourcebooks was extremely kind to send me a physical advance copy to read and review!
THE DARKNESS KNOWS (Viv and Charlie Mystery: #1) Written by Cheryl Honigford
2016; 330 Pages (Sourcebooks Landmark)
Genre: historical mystery, old time radio, golden age, fiction, suspense
(I received an ARC from the Publisher via NETGALLEY)
In Chicago, 1938 Vivian Witchell has landed the plum part of Lorna Lafferty in a detective radio series. Graham Yarborough, the debonair actor, plays the lead of Harvey Diamond, PI. If she can prove herself in this role and other small roles she just may have a chance in Radio. One night as Vivian heads back to the station to grab an umbrella she comes upon the body of a prominent radio actress, Marjorie Fox. The only problem is that everyone disliked Marjorie so the suspect pool is plentiful. In a letter found by Marjorie’s body it indicates that Lorna Lafferty might be the next victim. Fearing for her life, but not willing to give up her roles to her arch nemesis, the station hires it’s consulting PI, Charlie Haverman, as her bodyguard. As Charlie tries to discover the identity behind the letter and murder, Vivian inserts herself as his gal Friday. Can Charlie find the killer before Vivian makes herself an open target?
This is Cheryl Honigford’s debut novel so I had fair expectations going into the book. I have higher expectations when it about a subject I am passionate about. I was trying to tell myself it’s okay if this novel doesn’t quite meet up to expectations…page one I was hooked. Honigford actually seems genuinely a fan of that era and golden age radio. Vivian, a woman looking for her independence and a bit of fame, is a great character. She reminds me a bit of the character Brooksie in Let George Do it. Brooksie might be the “sidekick” character, but she is the tough one that holds the hero up and keeps the story flowing. Though in this book Vivian is the main character and we see everything through her voice, and Charlie is the glue that keeps them going. Vivian can be rash where Charlie is reason. The two mix very well with chemistry and characters working well with one another. I loved the secondary characters around them, but at times felt they were a bit kitschy. Honestly, that would be my only “flaw” with this book if it really is one. It never hindered my enjoyment of the book at all. I loved the characters, enjoyed most of the story and am very hooked on where Viv and Charlie go in the future. I do kind of wish that Viv was more of a “working-class” character BUT her being from a wealthy family is also intriguing. I do think Mrs. Witchell is a blast! I would recommend this novel to fans of historical mystery, cozy mysteries, historical fiction of the 30s and anyone looking to know more about Old Time Radio! Book two won’t be out till next Fall next year, so I am a bit disappointed with the wait…as if I have no other books to keep me occupied.
I have “spoken” with Cheryl on Instagram and she is a very kind person Her and Sourcebooks have been so kind in providing me some fun stuff for you. Including answering my questions!
Q&A with Cheryl Honigford:
- What drew you to Old Time Radio and as a setting for your book?
I’ve loved old time radio since my eighth grade reading teacher, Sister Barbara Jean, played a cassette of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” in class. I remember that the “live broadcast” from Grovers Mill gave me chills. It was so far ahead of its time. Also around that time I happen to see Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” which is a fictionalized memoir about his childhood mixed with behind the scenes action of fictional radio programs in NYC. Something about it struck a chord me with me. Years later, I started listening to old time radio through my earbuds at my desk at work. Then when I started writing a mystery for Nanowrimo shortly after that it naturally fell together to set it in a radio station in the era that I loved.
(War of the Worlds was one of my first radio programs and I too felt the Welles passion through this production. No movie version can touch it)
- What do enjoy most about OTR?
It’s such a different way of telling a story. When you’re reading a book, you imagine everything – the way characters look, how they sound, you can even read their thoughts sometimes. In the movies and on TV, you don’t have to imagine much of anything. It’s all laid out for you. Radio is halfway between the two, a purely auditory medium that engages your imagination.
- Do you have a favorite Radio Program(s)? Actors/Actresses?
My favorite program, hands down, is Suspense (https://archive.org/details/SUSPENSE). And my favorite episode is “Sorry, Wrong Number” starring Agnes Moorehead. Suspense, in general, is just a consistently well-crafted 30 minutes. I particularly love OTR horror programs though – Lights Out, Beyond Midnight, Macabre, The Creaking Door, Inner Sanctum, Nightfall, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater… Funnily enough, I don’t really care for the detective shows I modeled “The Darkness Knows” after – Shhh, don’t tell Graham and Vivian.
(I love Agnes Moorehead – especially in radio as she brings the characters to life. Sorry Wrong Number is one of my favourite along with Welles’ The Hitchhiker. I won’t tell Viv and Graham – and I am sure I listen to enough of the detective ones for both of us)
- How did you come up Vivian?
She’s been lurking in my subconscious, I suppose. I just started writing the story and there she was on page one. I came across a tidbit about “screamers” in an old Radio Guide during my research, and so that became her specialty and what we find her doing in the very first line of the book.
(I loved learning that tidbit, and I really enjoyed her as a character)
- Where do you see this series going in the future?
Oh, all kinds of places! There will be more Chicago, more radio, more bickering between Viv and Charlie… Hollywood might come knocking for Vivian at some point. And WWII is also looming on the horizon, so that opens up a lot of possibilities.
(I am so excited to hear that and am waiting…semi-patiently for the next book!)