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This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.

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Book Review: The Gunsmoke Chronicles:
A New History of Television's Greatest Western
by David R. Greenland

Bear Manor Media, 2013
Paperback, $32.95
95 photos, index
580 pages
Order: 580-252-3547
Book review by Martin Grams, Jr.
(From Radio Recall, December 2013)

I have four books now on Gunsmoke, including James Arness' autobiography, and I questioned whether this book might be worthy of adding another bookshelf to my growing collection of reference materials. I only have so much space in the closet and the loft for bookshelves and every summer I weed out five percent of my collection because I realize they are inferior compared to other tomes, or I simply no longer have a need for them.

I find myself torn down the middle when it comes to David Greenland's book. It has some information that, together with the rest of the Gunsmoke reference guides, makes it valuable. But 320 of the 575 pages is a television episode guide that offers very little of anything that is not found in prior reference guides. Trivia under various episodes include notes any casual viewer would notice themselves: "Brief appearance by Matt at the end of the episode" "Would have made a good hour-long episode," and "Matt once again show in the left arm."

Factual trivia includes a lot of actors who worked on other series such as "First of Lee Van Cleef's three Gunsmoke episodes," "Joanna Moore also appeared in this season's 'Colleen So Green," and "Anne Helm appeared in more than a dozen television Westerns." I would have preferred trivia that warrants repeat viewing of the episodes such as where you can see the microphone on the screen (twice in the first season alone), music cues that were originally composed for Perry Mason, bloopers such as when Burt· Reynolds' hat disappears and reappears on his head during a scene, and ... well, you get the idea.

In fact, every entry in the episode guide provides one or two sentences for a plot summary, writer and director credits, an episode number, title and air date, and a small list of cast names. This is going to sound like an insult but please don't take it the wrong way: imdb actually features more information per episode entry than this book.

I never use the internet as reference, so comparing it to imdb was merely a way of verifying how comprehensive (or the lack thereof) by comparison. I still prefer the printed page as a 500 page book on a subject can be more in-depth than a 5 page write up on a website. (You should have seen the book McFarland published earlier this year that was literally a cut-and-paste from imdb -- no, I won't be reviewing that one. It's being used as a doorstop.)

The historical write up about the series, however, is really well done, well researched and three extensive interviews with Peggy Rea, Jeremy Slate and Morgan Woodward make wholesome reading. In fact, the write-up is so good it's the only reason I am recommending this book, even with a hefty $32.95 suggested retail price. But if you are looking for an extensive episode guide to all 20 years of televised episodes, this is not the book for you.