A conscientious but uninvolving history of American quiz shows from the 30's on. Hundreds of dedicated radio and TV fans could have outlined this book themselves: the pioneer radio successes of Vox Populi and Professor Quiz; the rapid spread of quiz shows across the country; the phenomenon of the Quiz Kids; the impact of WW II (mostly uniforms and boosterism) on the genre; the shift to the competing medium of TV; the 1958 quiz-fixing scandals; the return of game shows on daytime TV. DeLong (Pops: Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz, 1983) adds breadth—details culled from old newspaper and magazine stories, published reminiscences, and more recent interviews—without depth. The result is a breathless Cook's tour of over 250 game shows with few memorable portraits (Groucho Marx, Charles Van Doren, Mark Goodson) and even fewer insights along the subtitle's promised line (a typical conclusion: ``Quiz and game shows remain a part of a new Horatio Alger story: get on a show and strike it rich''). DeLong's determination to say something about so many different shows leads him to say pretty much the same thing—opening date, thumbnail sketch of emcee, one or two anecdotes (enraptured audiences, intransigent contestants, unzipped flies)—about each one. As social history, the text adds surprisingly little to the appended production credits; as narrative, it rarely strays from the ``that-reminds-me-of-Allen-Ludden's-other-show'' category. (Twenty-one photographs, mostly of emcees lording it over their studio sets.)
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").