Book Reviews: Cleveland Rocks with Radio History

 

These two books feature some of the historic times of Cleveland radio, and are rich with tales from a time when radio was not so predictable, in playlist format and personalities.

 

One of my favorite television shows growing up was “WKRP In Cincinnati”. I loved watching the crazy deejays on the show, especially Dr. Johnny Fever, and the high jinxes that occurred on the program. Many times as a child, I would play my records and tapes, pretending to have my own radio show by channeling my inner Casey Kasem and Wolfman Jack. Even though some of the stories on WKRP was thought to have been made up for the show, there were many crazy deejays and radio station personalities across the country whose stories influenced the show. In their book “Cleveland Radio Tales” ( Gray & Company Publishers, 2017), Mike and Janice Olszewski tell some of the stories that were experienced from radio stations in Cleveland Ohio.

The book details many different unique, and just plain odd, people that worked at the area radio stations, including on-air talent like “Count” John Manolesco, who performed a live exorcism on the air (who also claimed he was a vampire and an astrologer), to the legendary story of how Jack Paar, before he went on to become the host of “The Tonight Show,” stopped the city from panicking during the broadcast of Orson Wells’ reading of “War of the Worlds.” The book tells a story about Murray Saul, who worked for WMMS, and held a big party at his apartment with complete strangers only to wake up the next day to the place being looted, to the times the WMMS staff ran up huge bar tabs on the company’s accounts.

There are some great brief stories about musicians and acts that came into the radio stations, such as Gene Simmons of Kiss, Michael Anthony of Van Halen, an incident at Blossom Music Center involving Greg Allman and a flying bat, to why The Moody Blues were in their dressing room at Cleveland Public Hall holding on to their gear. The book tells a quick story about how great wrestling managers Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Jimmy Hart were to the staff at WMMS.

The book covers pirated radio stations, some country stations on the AM dial, and other tales from Cleveland radio’s past. Some of the stories involve the time Leonard Nimoy wanted Jim Morrison to be on the television show “Star Trek”, when a deejay lost the company car after being at the local bar too long, and a story of an on-air talent who hid drugs in the wall when he was leaving the station to go elsewhere, only to find the drugs in the same spot two years later when he returned to the station.

The book is a short read (188 pages), with short chapters. Some of the stories are quick and not elaborate in detail, due to the many tales in the book, there is only so much that the authors could possibly put in the book. The short read makes the book enjoyable and one that Cleveland historians would enjoy, along with those that grew up listening to their favorite Cleveland radio personalities.

 

“Cleveland Radio Tales” by Mike & Janice Olszewski (Gray and Company Publishers, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-938441-90-5) is available at http://www.grayco.com or at 800-915-3609.

 

In his book “Lanigan In The Morning: My Life In Radio” (Grey & Company Publishers, 2017), John Lanigan takes the readers through an interesting journey through his radio and television career.

Lanigan is a well known radio and television personality in the Cleveland, Ohio markets, but the early chapters of the book tells the reader that he is really from Nebraska. Lanigan was born in San Diego, and moved to Nebraska when his father decided to help with the family hardware business. Lanigan’s football dreams ended early, which started his love for radio, spinning records at a local radio station in Nebraska. Lanigan then went on to do radio in Colorado (where he befriended a young John Denver), New Mexico, and Dallas before ending up in Cleveland (at one time his weather man in Cleveland was Al Roker, whom Langian tells a funny story with Roker and him at a TV Awards show).

Lanigan talks about his television career, which he was famous for “The Prize Movie” show on WUAB in Cleveland, where he had several famous guests come in and help him host the show (which included Don Rickles, Drew Carey , and Arnold Schwarzenegger to name a few). Lanigan tells a story where one reporter was so tired of seeing the contest movie clip (where fans could guess the clip to win money) that the answer was revealed in one of the papers, unbeknown to the viewing audience.

An interesting topic in the book describes how some of the other radio stations used devious tactics to prevent the other stations from succeeding in the markets. This was during a period before the big corporations owned several stations at a time. Lanigan examines his problems with rival Cleveland station WMMS radio crew, along with a feud with shock jock Howard Stern.

There are many great stories in the book , from his failed promotional events, which is something that could been seen on TV’s “WKRP In Cincinnati” with its hilarities, including the time Lanigan was asked to be the Grand Marshal for a Cleveland parade that did not go as planned. There are stories about some of the famous people he met throughout the years, including entertaining stories about Bob Saget, Tony Bennett, and an unknown Barack Obama. He also talks about his favorite interview of all time, which is a touching story, and his return to radio with his show with Mike Trivisonno (another Cleveland legend in radio) and his first thoughts on working with Trivisonno.

Even though the book is pretty short (155 pages) and not in a normal chronological order (which has it’s appeal, but parts jump around at times), the book is entertaining, humorous, and at times, touching. There are some great photographs used in the book (Lanigan interviewing Carrie Fisher during Star Wars, in a car with Clint Eastwood, and a shot of George Hamilton on “The Prize Movie” to name a few). One doesn’t have to just be knowledgeable in Cleveland history to enjoy this book (like this reviewer who grew up outside Youngstown, Ohio and was a fan of “The Prize Movie”). Lanigan and his writers, Peter Jedick and Mike Olszewski, have a nice book on the travels of a radio personality in the pre-internet world.

 

A Special Thanks to Gray & Company for the book copies for review.

 

“Lanigan In The Morning: My Life in Radio” by John Lanigan with Peter Jedick and Mike Olszewski ( 2017 Grey & Company, ISBN: 978-1-938441-93-6 or ebook ISBN:978-1-938441-94-3) can be found, along with their other titles, at http://www.grayco.com, or at 1-800-915-3609

 

 

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Book Review: “Girl” Is The Future of The Wild West

 

One of the many great publishers putting out books right now is Jimmy Patterson Books. Not knowing much of the company, besides the name of James Patterson, the books they have sent for review have been unique and well written for the YA genre. Lyndsay Ely’s “Gunslinger Girl” ( JIMMY Patterson Books/Little, Brown and Company, 2018) is the latest product of the company.

Ely’s book is part western, part science fiction/dystopian , and lots of fun. The story involves a girl named Serendipty “Pity” Jones, who is great with shooting guns. She ends up in a city called Cessation where she becomes a part of the theater. At the end of certain shows, “The Finale” occurs, which involves the killings of criminals, thieves, and others that disobey the woman that runs the place, named Selene. Even though the city seems to have no real rules, Selene has the final say, and the residents obey by her rules.

While she trains her skills in the theater show, and trying to escape her past, Pity befriends several people in the theater, along with catching the eye of Selene, who promises her favors in return for her loyalty. The city deals with outside movements of political upheaval that makes its way into the story.

The book combines the old West ideas, such as using guns, knives, and rifles as weapons, while combining future and modern technology like trucks and video walls, to combine a new West setting. The theater aspect and its Finale, is similar to the idea of creations like the books The Running Man, or The Hunger Games, where the circus type acts perform the sentences of criminals in front of eager audiences, but with a nice twist in keeping the setting of the old western weapons. The novel combines romance, action, and character twists (no spoilers here, but several characters are not who they seem to be), while delivering the coming of age of Pity’s character, who is trying to escape her past while trying to be the best at her skill.

The only negative critique of the book is the names of the characters. Although , like any of the writers covered on this site, the respect of anyone writing a book and getting published (especially a big name publisher like this one) is always here with this page, but there seems to be too many character names starting with “S.” Although throughout the book Serendipity is called “Pity” ( the full name is still a great character name instead, in this opinion), other characters are named Selene, Santino, Siena (a bounty hunter), Sheridan, and a Dr. Starr. There are other characters in the book, including Max (who is involved in the romance aspect of the book), and Olivia, but there are over five characters (counting Pity) with the same letter name. If the reader is not paying close attention to who each character is in the book, they can get confused in the plot of who is doing what, as opposed to other books where the reader could just remember the first letter of the name of the character (which this reader has done before, when books are filled with characters with non regular names). However, that being the only complaint, that’s a remarkable achievement for Ely’s debut novel.

Lyndsay Ely’s debut novel is filled with many things: romance, action, character twists, and great character development, along with combining two different time periods (the West meets the future) to send the reader on a exciting trip that young adults, along with any age readers, will enjoy. The ending of the novel leaves the reader wanting more, which is a great thing in this situation. The publishers have chosen wisely in adding Lyndsay Ely to their roster of author. Good things are yet to come with this writer.

 

A special thanks to Jimmy Patterson Books, Hatchette Books, and Little, Brown and Company for the advance reading copy.

 

 

“Gunslinger Girl” by Lyndsay Ely (JIMMY Patterson/Little, Brown, and Company ISBN-13: 9780316555104) is available at bookstores everywhere and online. For more information about JIMMY Patterson, Little Brown and Company, and Hatchette Books, visit http://www.littlebrown.com or http://www.hatchettebookgroup.com.

For more information about Lyndsay Ely, visit : http://www.Lyndsayely.wordpress.com or on twitter at: @lyndsayely

Book Review: You Will Not Want To Leave “Kent State”

“Leaving Kent State” by Sabrina Fedel (Harvard Square Editions, 2016) is an interesting Young Adult book about a teen and her family living during the 1970 Kent State University protest.

Rachel Morelli is a seventeen-year-old whose father is a professor at Kent State University. Rachel is in love with her neighbor, Evan. Evan just returned injured from Vietnam and has to deal with the aftermath of coping with a normal life, along with his experience being a young man in the war. Evan was a great guitar player before going over to Vietnam, and returns home with a damaged hand with missing fingers. Rachel not only tries to get the old fun loving friend back that she remembers, but also has to hide her feelings for him. Meanwhile, Rachel’s dreams of going to Pratt University for art is in jeopardy as her parents want her to go to Kent State, which is deemed a safer, and cheaper, environment.

The book is filled with some great references to Kent, Ohio, from not only the university buildings, but also the places downtown, such as the bar JB’s, and Brady’s Cafe. There are also references to certain street names that residents of Kent would recognize. The author is knowledgeable with the Kent State sites, buildings, and cultures (including a reference about a local musician named Joe Walsh). Even though the book takes a while to get to the main themes of the stories (will Rachel go to Kent or Pratt and what happens with her and her family when the Kent shooting occur), the character development is well written where the reader is not anxious or bored with the slow build up of the story. Any reader or follower of the historical aspect of Kent State University officials calling in the National Guard, along with the shootings, knows that these events are going to happen, but Fedel’s build up makes the events more powerful with Evan, Rachel, and her family’s reactions of the events.

Anyone that is familiar with Kent State, or history in general, would like this book. The family’s thoughts of the events and the war itself, it is not preachy to those that may feel differently than the characters. The concept of creating a story through the point of view of a senior in high school during the events is unique and enjoyable. Being a Kent State graduate, this book was interesting, powerful, and entertaining all at the same time. Sabrina Fedel may have a slow build up to the events at times, but the developing of the characters makes the pay off well worth it.

 

Thanks to Sabrina Fedel for the copy of the book to review.

 

“Leaving Kent State” by Sabrina Fedel (Harvard Square Editions, 2016 ISBN: 978-1-941861-24-0) can be found at : http://www.harvardsquareeditions.org. For more about Sabrina Fedel, go to : http://www.sabrinafedel.com.