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Series Guide
• Background Notes
• The Series in Detail
• The Programmes
• Personnel File
• Steed Talks

News and Comment
• Episode Recoveries
• Restoration Project
• Features
• Reviews
• Your Views

Resources
• The Avengers Declassified

About this Site
• Site Stuff

Avengers on the Radio designed, maintained and Copyright © by Alan and Alys Hayes.

The Avengers is Copyright © CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd. No attempt to infringe this copyright is intended. 

JOHN WRIGHT

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.

John and Coral Wright

John 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.

A MAN OF MANY NAMES... 

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!"

Cover for The Sharp Edge

The Sharp Edge... 
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 materials. 

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!

An entry into the Western genre, "Trouble in Twilight"

Change of Name, Change of Subject... 
The cover for Trouble in Twilight (1993).

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 dad’s 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."

A LOVE OF RADIO...

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).

Publicity still as Wade Wright

Wade Wright... 
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."

ALL GOOD THINGS...

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."

Springbok History Preserved...

Springbok History Preserved... 
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