Here are very few good first hand accounts of the gestation and aftermath of the infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast of 1938, so this gem of a book is one to be savoured and treasured. Howard Koch actually wrote the script for the broadcast, though there is some debate as to how much was his own work, how much Welles, and how much the organic contribution of the extraordinary troupe of actors and technicians that was The Mercury Theatre on the Air.
Incontrovertibly however it was Koch who wove together all the strands into the stunning script that was performed on the night of October 30th, 1938. He was given the assignment by Welles’ right hand man and producer at the time, John Houseman just a week before it was due to be broadcast and it proved to be one of the most difficult things he had ever written, with anxious days and nights spent trying to find an angle that would work.
The suggestion that the play be set in modern times and use new-broadcast like interruptions is said to have come from Welles, but Koch gave it life, lifting place-names from a hastily procured map of New Jersey to create the chilling march toward New York that saw so many people flee from the advancing Martians. Continue reading