The name of John Wright is a new one for fans of The Avengers to take on board, but there can
be no doubting that his contribution to the show's legacy has been considerable. Without him, there
would be almost no record existing of the radio remake of The Avengers, transmitted on
Springbok Radio in the early 1970s. The same can also be said for many other South African radio
shows that he recorded.
and Coral Wright...
Pictured at their home in Port
Elizabeth, South Africa.
It would be very easy to fall into the trap of seeing John as an old-time radio fan, "the man who
saved John Steed", judging by the reason for which he is featured here, but there is considerably
more to the man than that.
Born in South Africa, John quit school early at just fourteen to go and work in a battery factory,
without his parents' consent. He subsequently secured diplomas in marketing and other business
functions, before trying his hand at a succession of jobs: laboratory assistant, storeman,
salesman, private investigator, nightclub photographer and project specialist. All of these
no doubt gave John an excellent grounding for the next phase: his career in writing.
While attempting to break into writing, John was still working in an office, and had only recently
married his wife, Coral. He recalls long, long days, where he would more than burn the midnight
oil... "Often, Coral never knew what time I'd be home, or sometimes, if I'd be home at all. It
was tough, but interesting, and along the way I met some really great people. An average day
would be: at the office for 8.00am, home by 6.00pm - perhaps a movie or company at 8.00pm. I'd
be free again at perhaps 11.30pm, then at the typewriter until possibly 2.00 in the morning -
and back at the office at 8:00am!"
One of John's many novels written
under the pseudonym, Wade Wright.
John's first novel, Suddenly You're Dead, a mystery tale written under the pseudonym Wade
Wright, was published in 1964 by Robert Hale Ltd. (London) - a publisher with whom John has remained
throughout his writing career. The central character in this novel, Bart Condor, would appear in a
further five novels, ending with Two Faces of Death, published in 1970. Another series of
books, focusing on the exploits of Paul Cameron, ran concurrently with the Bart Condor books,
and commenced with Shadows Don't Bleed. The collection, which included The Sharp Edge
(cover pictured, left) drew to a close with The Hades Hello, issued in January 1973. A new
Paul Cameron novel is currently in preparation.
When his publisher began slowing down on issuing mystery books, John turned his attention to a
genre which he has long had a love for - the Western. Writing as Ray Nolan, John had his first
novel of this type published in February 1986 - The Dorne Gun, and has since written seven
more entries, the most recent being Double Cross Range.
Most of the Wade Wright novels are now out-of-print, but can often be found on
eBay and are regularly offered by sellers of first editions. Several
Western genre books that John has written under the pen-name Ray Nolan are still available in
large print editions from Ulverscroft Large Print Books Ltd.
Other writing credits include short fiction and articles for magazines and periodicals, including
Family Radio and TV, Detective Story Magazine, Under Western Skies,
Nostalgia and Screen Thrills. John has also written business manuals and advertising
In 1962, John produced the first comicbook fanzine to be issued outside the United States. Remarkably,
John still has enquiries from other countries about this amateur publication, some
four decades later. Proof indeed that there is always someone who remembers and appreciates what the
originator has long since forgotten!
of Name, Change of Subject...
The cover for Trouble in Twilight
John's CV also boasts an extensive list of credits in radio drama, totalling over two hundred
scripts for Springbok Radio and Radio South Africa. This certainly has its roots in his
appreciation of radio drama as a youngster. John recalls his earliest memories of radio
drama in South Africa: "As a kid the old Pilot table-top with its 'magic eye' was just
another piece of furniture, but one that sometimes sprouted music, and was positioned
near my dads chair, where he'd sit and listen to the news. At that time commercial radio
was not even a remote consideration. Coming into the front room one evening, I overheard
a couple of mysterious voices emanating from the speaker... then a woman screaming. It
stopped me in my tracks. I seem to remember that it was a drama, possibly something penned by
Edgar Wallace. After that radio took on a little more meaning."
The interest in radio grew to take in audio recording and John made his first experimental recordings
at about age 15. He acquired his first ¼" recorder at around this time. "It was a second-hand
Ampro, purchased from African Consolidated Theatres in my second working year. The recorder
operated with valves, had only one input socket for a microphone, so recordings were not very
good. But it was fun, and interesting to experiment."
Economics dictated that many recordings were not preserved. Initially, programmes would be kept
only if they had some special appeal. If there was little to warrant keeping a programme, or,
for instance, reception was poor, John would record over it. As tapes became more affordable,
however, he began to record specific items, and began to build a collection of tapes. John's
current collection is what is left of the recordings he made. Sadly, many tapes were lost when
moving house, while others were given away (including, now, The Avengers recordings,
generously donated to this website).
A publicity still of John in the guise of
Wade Wright, his literary alter-ego.
Gradually, John began to cast his eyes towards America and began purchasing US radio shows from
collectors there. "They were recordings of The Shadow, The Green Hornet, and The
Black Hood - characters I'd known from comic books and pulp magazines, who I knew were
featured on radio, but whom I'd never heard. These I subsequently traded for others, and it
snowballed. Later I traded a number of South African shows," John notes.
South African radio shows that were particular favourites included On Safari,
Address Unknown and SF-68. "And there were others," John recalls, "including the
early shows featured on Springbok Radio that were canned goods imported from Down Under. Nightbeat
was a favourite, and I enjoyed The Hidden Truth and Life With Dexter, among others. Way
back, possibly even before Springbok Radio, there was an excellent series on Oscar Hammerstein... and
another on Dame Nellie Melba. I thought both to be great, and that was even before I became
hopelessly hooked on operetta and stage musicals. I had no favorite actors, but if forced to
name one it would have to be Adrian Steed. Still active with TV commercials, this gentleman
remains one of the very best. Then there was Brian O'Shaughnessy, who wrote Jet Jungle, and
loads of other stuff, and who died only recently. Brian was one of the last of the Old School."
As the process of finding blank reel-to-reel tapes became harder and harder, John Wright reluctantly
ceased recording Springbok programmes - though his increasingly hectic work schedule was another
factor. He was initially intrigued by the "new kid on the block" - compact cassette: "I found
cassettes pretty novel, and bought a recorder. Soon, though, I discovered their limitations.
And the problems so many presented. Jamming, snapping, tangling - and one very well known brand
reducing the recordings to a bunch of screeches after only a year in storage. Lost a lot of good
stuff through them. But I remain a staunch supporter of the open-reel machines. They may have taken
up more space, but they had a lot more to offer."
A remarkable document of the history
of Springbok Radio.
Fans of both
The Avengers and South African radio have cause to be grateful for John's dedication to
South African radio. It is remarkable that he still retains most of the
original tapes he recorded on the open-reel format back in the 1970s. His recordings of
The Avengers and many other series have aged well - and are now bringing the golden age of
South African radio back into the limelight. And rightly so. Well done, John and many, many
thanks from ourselves and on behalf of the many visitors to this site who
will benefit from your generosity.
by Alan and Alys Hayes
with grateful thanks to John Wright