Nicola here, talking today about listening to stories, not as audio books but as serializations. On 31st January 1949 the first edition of BBC Radio’s "Book at Bedtime" was broadcast. It ran every night for 15 minutes between 10.45pm and 11pm. The first book that was serialized was John Buchan’s The Three Hostages, a rip-roaring adventure story written in 1924. In the months and years that followed, all sorts of literature from the classics to new releases has and continues to be featured on the program, although perhaps there hasn't been as much genre fiction as there might have been. In fact only a year or so ago the BBC admitted that they were looking for happier endings after noticing that listeners had been put off by “gratuitously violent and tragic stories.” Well, yeah – I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to drift off to sleep with images of violence or misery into my mind!
According to The Times, a brief circulated to potential producers at the time stated: “We will always aim to select a variety but we would like to be offered more titles that are pure pleasure, diversion or even comedy. Happy endings are often a bit too rare in what we are asked to consider. We can listen to sad or disturbing stories if they are ultimately redemptive, but a gratuitously violent or tragic ending is upsetting, infuriating and can seem distasteful.” The note adds that “listeners rarely enjoy being cheated with ambiguity or uncertainty”, implying a preference for plotlines that are neatly resolved. Again, that's a yes from me; I don't mind stories where some elements are left unresolved for the reader or listener to decide on, but if that happened just before I was going to sleep I'd lie awake thinking about it!