RARA-AVIS: More on Robert Turner and syndicated shows

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 15 Feb 2003

My apologies for sending out a blank message. A stray finger launched the email before it was written.

Thanks to James Reasoner for providing the details of the old TV program
"Tombstone Territory." It did awaken a few more memories of that old favorite of mine. Having a voice-over narrative by an observing character as a frame for the hero is pretty complicated stuff for a syndicated television program in the 1959-60 era. I am certain though that what attracted the 12-year-old me was the newspaper background. Interesting that I remembered the hero was the newspaperman. Ten years later I was working on a newspaper.

Back in that era of television there were many filmed shows that were syndicated to local stations. The national news broadcasts were only 15 minutes then and about the same was devoted to local news. So local stations had several 30 minute blocks to fill.

My favorite crime show was "Manhunt" starring Victor Jory as a detective with the San Diego police department. Victor did well in the tough cop role and what a voice that guy had! These shows were heavily promoted by the local stations, as they got more of the commercial slots than in the network time. Jory was the grand marshall of the big Fourth of July parade in Atlanta more than once.

These shows also provided an entry for writings wanting to break into Hollywood. Everyone thinks the movie sale of PSYCHO brought Robert Bloch to Hollywood. Instead it was the opportunity to write episodes for the syndicated "Lock-up" starring Macdonald Carey.

In the south one of the most popular shows was "The Gray Ghost," which starred Tod Andrews as the Confederate guerrilla John Singleton Mosby. The Gray Ghost was quite gallant with his cloak flapping behind him and the plume in his hat rippling with the breeze as he rode behind enemy lines making complete fools of the yankees. The show didn't last very long because the yankees conspired against it. But I still have my Gray Ghost comic books.

I am warming up to the Robert Turner book SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE WRITERS, BUT I WOULDN'T WANT MY DAUGHTER TO MARRY ONE. With a book like this, I flip back and forth reading chapters in no particular order. It just depends on what catches my eye. It's not fair to the book but, hey, its my

Turner says he never had much luck with novels. Lion folded after purchasing THE NIGHT IS FOR SCREAMING and it was several years before Pyramid picked it up. He was hired to ghost two western novels by the comedian Ken Murray. Murray wanted the novels to feature a marshall's daughter who lived two lives--one as a daughter and the other as a masked "righter of wrongs" who roams the night using bullwhips and guns. Hummm....maybe old Ken had a great idea! But it was too much for the time. Ace Books insisted on the marshall being the central figure and the daughter was a secondary character.
 One of the novels was called HELLIONS' HOLE. Murray wanted to develop it into a TV series and Turner did some treatments but nothing was filmed.

The book is also a bit of a writer's guide with Turner providing his view on questions would-be writers wonder about. One chapter is "Working Conditions--Including Booze, Bennies, and Sex." Turner tends to agree with Jack Woodford that sex should be avoided during the time a writer is composing a novel or story. Turner does caution that "It's always possible that if they're (sexual urges) repressed too long, or even diverted too long, it can be injurious."

As for bennies, Turner says he does not use such stimulants "except on rare occasions." Benzedrine and Dexedrine, he said, leaves his mouth parched and he has trouble coming down. He also did not use alcohol although he did a few times in the past. "I would sometimes take a big shot of brandy, which is a stimulant as opposed to whisky and gin and rum, which are depressants, along with several cups of jet black coffee when I was faced with a long night of working after being at it all day."

Now, kids, don't try this at home. I have had my share of whisky, gin, rum AND brandy and, in my professional opinion, the alcohol in one acts about like the alcohol in the others. The jet black coffee provided Mr. Turner with his stimulant not the brandy.

Anyway, I am beginning to appeciate the Turner book more as I enter into the spirit of it a little better.

Richard Moore

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