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Linda F Radke

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Publisher:  Five Star Publications ISBN-10:  1589850149 Type: 


Copyright:  2005, 2007 ISBN-13:  9781589850149

"I thought that Gunsmoke was a terrific show to be on, and I didn't know it then,
but some of the happiest years of my life were on that show."
Burt Reynolds

Starting on September 10, 1955, and continuing for more than 600 episodes over the next twenty years, Gunsmoke ruled the airwaves. Never in the history of television had a show so captured the hearts of both youngsters and adults. Each week, Marshal Matt Dillon and his friends would face a new threat to the peace and lawfulness of their frontier home of Dodge City, Kansas—and each week, goodness and determination prevailed. It was the perfect antidote for a country still emerging from the darkness of World War II.

In recognition of this, the show’s golden anniversary, author Ben Costello has produced a remarkable testament to the on-screen characters and off-screen individuals who made the story lines come alive. With lead performer biographies, hundreds of episode and behind-the-scenes photographs, complete episode logs, updates on all the surviving cast members, and interviews with the show’s luminaries, GUNSMOKE: An American Institution will be a favorite for fans and historians alike.

Five Star Publications
GUNSMOKE: An American Institution, Celebrating 50 Years of Television's Best Western


Contact: Linda Radke / Five Star Publications, Inc.
Phone: 480-940-8182 - Fax: 480-940-8787

Could it possibly be 50 years since Marshal Dillon came to Dodge City?

New book commemorates golden anniversary of Gunsmoke, television's most popular Western

On September 10, 1955, John Wayne introduced the first episode of Gunsmoke. There were plenty of Westerns available on network television back then, but most were geared for a much younger audience. The target audience of Gunsmoke also included the adult crowd, those still emerging from the darkness of World War II. They embraced Marshal Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty of the Long Branch Saloon, Doc, and first Chester and then Festus. Every week, goodness and strength were tested, and every week they emerged victorious.

Gunsmoke was arguably the most popular television drama in U.S. history. The show was on the air for 20 years, with the final episode being telecast on September 1, 1975. There's probably not a place on the planet that you can't catch a Gunsmoke rerun even today.

In celebration of this, the show's golden anniversary year, author Ben Costello has compiled GUNSMOKE: An American Institution-Celebrating 50 Years of Television's Best Western, a comprehensive book that contains an impressive array of facts, figures, more than 500 episode and behind-the-scenes photographs, and stories from the sets where cameras recorded the trials and tribulations of this American frontier town.

The book also includes bios of the actors and actresses who brought the story lines to life each week, updates on all surviving cast members, a complete episode log with full guest star credits, and revealing interviews.

This book reveals for fans and historians alike the facts and mystique behind this record-breaking show. Readers will learn what it takes for a show to survive two decades on television and they will begin to understand the challenges the writers and producers of Gunsmoke faced in creating the show's more than 600 episodes.

GUNSMOKE: An American Institution (ISBN 1-58985-014-9, non-fiction, hard cover), is  published by Five Star Publications, P.O. Box 6698, Chandler, AZ 85246-6698. The book is available through Ingram and Baker & Taylor. A special, limited edition of the book is also being planned that will contain the actual autographs of some of the show's biggest and most popular stars. To schedule an interview with the author, please contact the publisher.

Web site:

Fact Sheet

Publisher: Five Star Publications, Inc.
Price: U.S. / Hardcover / Non-fiction
Size: 11 x 8 1/2" / 622 pages
Illustrations: Contains both color and black-and-white photographs
ISBN: 1-58985-014-9

Fifty years ago, on September 10, 1955, legendary Western movie actor John Wayne introduced a new television show. "I've made a lot of pictures," he said, "some of them have been Westerns...and that's what I'm here to tell you about tonight...a new television show called Gunsmoke." With that, he introduced the show's star, James Arness. "He's a young fellow, and maybe new to some of you. I predict he'll be a big star."

"Wayne probably had no idea just how right he was," says Ben Costello, author of GUNSMOKE: An American Institution. Costello says that Gunsmoke became the biggest television show of its day. And "its day" ran a total of 20 years on CBS and included more than 600 episodes (about one-third of them half-hour shows and the rest hour-long shows). The show was canceled at the end of its 15th season and public outrage spread across the nation and it was reinstated.

"There were plenty of Westerns on television at the time, such as Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, and others," says Costello, "but most were geared for younger audiences." Gunsmoke was the first Western drama to appeal to a more adult audience. Each week, Marshal Matt Dillon, Doc Adams, Miss Kitty, Chester (and later, Festus) teamed up to maintain justice and lawfulness in the frontier town of Dodge City, Kansas.

In this the show's golden anniversary year, Costello's GUNSMOKE: An American Institution captures all the intricacies and chemistry that created the most popular Western in television history.

This book reveals for fans and historians alike the facts and mystique behind this record-breaking show. Readers will learn what it takes for a show to survive two decades on television and they will begin to understand the challenges faced in creating hundreds of original episodes.


Professional Reviews

Five Pounds of Pleasure
Fellow Festus fanciers, look no further! The perfect Christmas gift is here. Gunsmoke: An American Institution by Ben Costello is the ultimate, be-all, end-all, definitive work on this television classic.

Ben was my guest on "Topeka Talks" today and I was disappointed that the book had not arrived in time for the interview. Lo and behold, in this season of miracles, the promised goodies arrived DURING the interview and I excitedly ripped into the box on the air. It's a hefty volume--5 pounds and not an ounce of fat. Every page is a treasure. There is a synopsis of each episode along with the cast of guests for that show, as well as interviews, narrative, quotes, and hundreds of photos. There are endless hours of pleasure in this volume. Visit to order and tell Ben that Deb sent you.
Topeka Talks

A certain to be popular addition to any community library American Popular Culture collection, "Gunsmoke: An American Institution" is a 'must read...

"In "Gunsmoke: An American Institution", author Ben Costello has provided the legions of fans for America's most popular and long-running television western series with an exhaustive compendium showcasing and celebrating all twenty seasons (comprising a total of 635 episodes) of Matt Dillion and his many friends and foes. Profusely illustrated with literally hundreds of photos about what went on both in front and in back of the cameras, "Gunsmoke" covers the major cast members, as well as the producers, writers and directors, and features an especially insightful interviews with Dennis Weaver, Buck Taylor, and Burt Reynolds. There are even sections featuring Dean Martin Celebrity Roast Highlights; reminisces of distinctive guest stars; Gunsmoke memorabilia, the post-television series Gunsmoke films, and so very much more. A certain to be popular addition to any community library American Popular Culture collection, "Gunsmoke: An American Institution" is a 'must read' for anyone who grew up with Matt Dillion, Miss Kitty, Doc, Chester, Festus, and all the other denizens of Dodge City and the Old West."
The Midwest Book Review

It's been awhile since I checked in with your website and the Gunsmoke An American Institution website and I was just going to let you know I have been told by my family in Delaware that our mom (she just turned 84 on 03/09/2007) has been referencing her book more and more. Then when I come to the website I see where there are some congratulations that are in order. "Best Books 2006" winner for Ben Costello's book and Alex Cord's book was recognized and then you received a well deserved award. I'm sorry I didn't find out sooner, however, I am not surprised at all because you all deserve the recognition you receive plus more! Please know as we have mentioned before you have made a family very grateful by giving our mom such pleasure referencing Ben's book. She is a faithful Gunsmoke viewer and keeps her memory sharp by using the book to verify her knowledge of each episode. We wish you all continued success and satisfaction knowing how much joy you are bringing to many people's lives.
Take care.
Pat Ward

"I don't know if you would remember me but I was the lady who drove from Las Vegas to Pahrump last year to get an autographed copy of Mr. Costello's Gunsmoke An American Institution for my 83 year old Mom, lover of Gunsmoke.

It's hard to believe it has been a year already. My Mom of course loves the book and it was also passed around to a lot of our family members, whenever would could get it away from our Mom...

Thank you again for doing right by people. You have certainly made it possible for our family to make priceless memories by sharing the love of Gunsmoke with our Mom."
Pat Ward
Las Vegas, NV

"Although there have been other books about the legendary Western series, nothing published before has ever come close to Ben Costello's amazing accomplishment. Costello's 576-page chronicle is a lively and thoroughly researched work that does honor to its subject."
C. Courtney Joyner
Wild Westerns Magazine

"The lines on my show lit up with Ben Costello talking about his book Gunsmoke - An American Institution - with a promise to my listeners of having Ben back. My dad loved Gunsmoke and for this reason Ben’s book brought back so many fond memories for me. One hour was not enough time to talk with Ben. What a great guy! Great book! I wish we had two hours to talk!"
Jack Evans
The Jack Evans Show
Uniontown, Pa.

"The title says it all. "An American Institution". That’s what Gunsmoke was, and became. That’s why it has run nonstop for 51 years now, and will for many more years.

Author Ben Costello, in his FiveStar book, celebrates all things Gunsmoke in the best possible way. The 500 plus page book is almost canonical in its’ approach to the show. Interviews with the late Dennis Weaver, Burt Reynolds, and Buck Taylor, profiles of the cast, producers, writers, and directors, memorabilia and a COMPLETE 635 episode guide pack this book with Gunsmoke lore beyond all.

What strikes me about Bens’ book is the professional/private affection he has for the show. From the early radio show section to the interviews, his love for Gunsmoke shines through. Not only his, but also the actors and guest stars as well. That’s what good shows do, bring the best out in people.

Looking at the list of professionals who contributed to Gunsmoke over the years, it reads like the Who’s Who of Western Film. Dennis Weaver. James Arness. Amanda Blake. Ken Curtis. Burt Reynolds. Bernard McEveety. Vincent McEveety. Jack Elaam. Lane Bradford. Shug Fisher. Ricardo Montalban. Morgan Woodward. Glenn Strange. Kathleen Hite. Harry Carey Jr. Andrew McLaglen. So many much talent.

Costello has included rare photos (both b/w and color), artwork by the talented Buck Taylor, insider information, and his deep appreciation of Gunsmoke. The design by FiveStar Publications is excellent as well, and adds to the presentation.

50 years of any TV show is amazing. Even more so when ONE show, after 20 years, retained and maintained quality in the long haul. The Legend will never die...

Look for this at your local book store or at"
I remain,
A slow draw.
Tim Lasiuta

"The Gunsmoke book is one of the best books ever."
William A. Smith - Indiana (April 2006)

"Every post-war baby boomer with a TV was weaned on Gunsmoke. The show ran for an amazing 20 years, from 1955-1975. Marshal Matt Dillon, Miss Kitty, Chester, Festus, and Doc were like extended family. The show was even more popular than I Love Lucy! This book is a colossal encyclopedia of facts about the production, the cast, the writers and behind-the-scenes gossip. It is peppered with photos and ads for the show. For the diehard fan, the second half of the book has credits and synopsis for every single episode."
Cynthia Green
True West Magazine
May 2006

"Ben Costello's Gunsmoke: An American Institution (Five Star) is an exhaustive appraisal and episode guide to the longest-running network show in history."
Scott Eyman
Palm Beach Post - Sunday, March 12, 2006

"...sure to satisfy the appetite of even the most devout fan of this popular television series."
New Mexico Magazine - March 2006

"Fans that had missed author Costello’s signing at the Autry National Center the evening prior sought out this opportunity to get their books signed at Dark Delicacies. The fans were practically tearing the door off its hinges as they barrelled into the memorabilia-stocked store to meet Costello and special guests and Gunsmoke alumnae..."
Ed G. Lousararian
Wild Westerns Magazine

“GUNSMOKE-AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION by Ben Costello is a dream come true for a big fan like me. Ben spent five years of his life putting this great work together. I promise you will learn things about the TV show you haven’t heard before and you will really enjoy stories about the cast as well. Mr. Costello was on my radio show January 24th and it was a wonderful experience. “Just hearing him talk about the book took me right to the middle of the action in Dodge City.” I only wish I could have spent the entire day talking to him.”
Dugg Collins
Journal Broadcast Group
Morning Drive
Wichita, Kansas

Hi Ben,
Just wanted to thank you for joining us Friday here at B95 in Flint.
Great trivia question! The man who won your book was in his mid-30's and he & his father were HUGE Gunsmoke fans. He's got a bunch of DVD's on order and has used e-bay himself for collector's items. And best of all, he had never won anything before. That makes ME happy, because, like all radio stations, we have some listeners who will try to win ANYTHING, whether they want it or not! So thanks and good luck with the book and your next endeavors!
Diane Grey

I never realized how important of a show Gunsmoke was until I spoke with Ben Costello. He was able to paint a picture about this icon of American television heritage that I hadn't expected.. one of a more thought provoking well-thought out show, rather than a shoot 'em up cowboy series than I had always envisioned it to be. Ben was able to "spur" our listeners into action by providing a great trivia question to call in and win a copy of his beautiful book. By the way, that listener drove 30 miles that day just to pick up the book, which he was absolutely thrilled with! Ben Costello, is a friendly, warm, informative interview that will round up all your listeners to find out more about Gunsmoke.
Jane Meyer, KLTF, Little Falls, MN

"Let's just say the book contains everything you'd wish to know about the show, and more!"
~Allan Pierleoni, Sacramento Bee

"Every form of popular culture has its icons, and when you consider television's place in American society, to be a TV icon is no small thing. Which is why it's so much fun to peruse GUNSMOKE: An American Institution by Ben Costello... It is definitely a must-have for the Western buff on your shopping list, and a great gift for anyone who remembers when prime-time network TV offered something better and more enduring."
~David Chesanow, The News Tribune (WA)

"'s hard to put your book down: it's as enjoyable as it is is the definitive book on GUNSMOKE."
~Ed G. Lousararian, Editor in Chief
Wildest Westerns Magazine

"This book is a gift for the series' fans. Costello's respect and admiration for television's longest-running Western shine through in his impressive retrospect Gunsmoke: An American Institution...With hundreds of photographs, a memorabilia chapter, and even a few favorite cast recipes, this book offers an ideal way to head back to the Long Branch Saloon. And it would make a great stocking stuffer for any fan of TV Westerns - though given the size and heft of the book, you'll need a pretty big stocking."
~David Hofstede
Cowboys and Indians Magazine

"With over 600 pages liberally laced with hundreds of episode and behind-the-scenes photographs, biographies of lead performers, updates on surviving cast members, a complete episode log and interviews with the show's luminaries, this book could get you out of the saddle and under a reading light until the wee hours of the morning...this meticulously researched book is a memorable tribute to a lasting legacy."
~Deadwood Magazine

They sure don’t make shows like Gunsmoke anymore
"Fans of the show are in for a special treat with the release of Gunsmoke: An American Institution - Celebrating 50 Years of Television’s Best Western. This is a comprehensive book that contains just about everything you've ever wanted to know about Gunsmoke and the characters that made the show so popular. There is even a section of Gunsmoke recipes, including James Arness’ Chili.

This 622 page book includes a complete episode log with all the guest star credits. For me this was one of the most interesting parts of the book because it really gives a sense of how pivotal the show was for so many young actors.

If you are a fan of the show, I would encourage you to get a copy of Gunsmoke: An American Institution – Celebrating 50Years of Television’s Best Western. Costello has captured just about every detail about the show and put them all together with hundreds of photographs."
~Wayne Price, Editor’s Page
Rural Electric Nebraskan, November 2005

"Thanks for all the memories! Lovingly...
Actress Mariette Hartley

Ben - if it's as good as it is heavy - you're a hit!
Actor Robert Donner

Ben - I am so honored to be a part of your beautiful book.
Actress Laurie Prange

A wonderful book on a wonderful show!
Actor John Saxon

Ben - A wonderful book - thank you for doing it! Much love...
Actress Beverly Garland

"Thank you for this great book.
Actor Robert Pine

"This book is wonderful!
Actress Dawn Lyn

Ben - I've since had the time to wallow in your book. I think it's terrific. I'm loving all the 'inside stuff' about the show, especially the struggles and politics of the early production and transition from radio to TV. Great photos. So valuable in the library of a TV buff. Invaluable in the library of a GUNSMOKE fan.
Joe Oleksiewicz
Northstate Public Radio
Cal State University Chico

September 28, 2005
Gunsmoke: An American Institution is an exceptional tribute to TV's longest- running drama, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary on TV. Author Ben Costello has given fans a warm and sentimental book packed with candid photos, interviews with many of the show's principals, updates on the cast, synopses of 635 episodes and TV films and much more. In fact, he's even included a few favorite recipes from cast members. (My husband makes a pretty mean chili, but he's gotten raves from series star James Arness' recipe with its optional ingredient, beer!) I'll admit to feeling a little cocky, believing I had seen all the photos and heard all the stories about my favorite TV show. But Gunsmoke: An American Institution is full of pleasant surprises. I was delighted by the dozens of candid pictures and interviews that were new and fresh. And I also enjoyed the Foreward by Gunsmoke scripter Jim Byrnes and the Preface by Jon Voight. Like the series it honors, Costello's book will entertain and delight fans for many years to come. I know it tops my holiday gift list this year.
Sandy Henry author,
A Child's Bedtime Companion and Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Dear Ben: Congratulations! You must be very proud of your wonderful book. I really enjoyed reading it and seeing all the wonderful pictures you gathered. It was a great trip down Memory Lane that brought back some memories of the good ole deserve many kudos.
Gunsmoke Casting Director, Pam Polifroni

Dear Ben: Your Gunsmoke book is amazing and you are a delight."
Actress Lane Bradbury

Your book is one of the VERY BEST BOOKS on Gunsmoke, and I'm proud to have it in my collection.
Robert Kagan
Founding member, The Autry Museum

Your beautiful "Gunsmoke" book is something I will treasure always...You have written an incredible book that you can be extremely proud of (I know I am!)
Brooklyn Barbara D'Andrea
Gunsmoke Fan

Tuesday, 09/13/05
'Gunsmoke' celebrates 50th anniversary with new book honoring popular series
On the landscape of American television, Gunsmoke was a giant.
It had a giant star in 6-foot-7-inch James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon.
The series, which ran for 20 years and 635 episodes, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday.
And a new book, like the show, is a giant. Gunsmoke: An American Institution weighs about 5 pounds and has 622 pages and a barrel full of photos.
Staff Writer
The Tennessean

We knew there were a lot of "Gunsmoke" fans in Montana but when we gave away Ben's book after his interview the phone started ringing and hasn't stopped! Ben makes you want to grab your pillow, plop down in front of the T.V. and stay there forever!"
Bell Braaten
Producer for KBUL Radio
Billings, MT

I just received Ben Costello's "Gunsmoke: An American Institution", and I am thrilled to bits with it! It's size and magnitude alone express it's stature as a stunning tribute and a loving memorial."
Sydney Kent
Gunsmoke Fan

On the evening of Sept. 10, 1955, actor John Wayne appeared on the TV screen to introduce a Western called "Gunsmoke." "It's honest, it's adult, it's realistic," Wayne told a national audience.

"Gunsmoke" presented 635 episodes over the next 20 years, becoming the longest-running prime-time Western drama with a regular cast of characters. They included Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness), Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver), Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis), Doc Adams (Milburn Stone) and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake).

To commemorate the show's 50th anniversary is "Gunsmoke: An American Institution" by Ben Costello, with a preface by Jon Voight (Five Star, $75, 622 pages). Let's just say the book contains everything you'd wish to know about the show, and more.
Sacramento Bee

"What a wonderful tribute to a beloved landmark western series. Like most everyone of that era, I was an unabashed fan of the timeless stories told through marvelous actors and presented with great craftsmanship."
Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, author of Cowboy Princess: Life with My Parents Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

A western legend: The two-decade run of 'Gunsmoke' is honored by Kanab fest
On Sept. 10, 1955, cast members of a new television show gathered to watch the first episode. Much to their surprise, legendary actor John Wayne came on to introduce the program.
"I've made a lot of pictures," Wayne said onscreen, "some of them have been Westerns . . . and that's why I'm here to tell you about tonight . . . a new television show called 'Gunsmoke.' "
Then Wayne introduced the show's star, James Arness. "He's a young fellow, and maybe new to some of you. I predict he'll be a big star."
No one at the time — the cast members included — knew how right that prediction would be, said Ben Costello, author of a new book, "Gunsmoke: An American Institution."
Carma Wadley
Deseret Morning News

"I appeared in a lot of Westerns in those days, and Gunsmoke was the king of them all."
Actress Angie Dickinson

"This marvelous tome helps me re-live my work with the superb Gunsmoke cast."
Actor Morgan Woodward

"I appreciate your book, and I think a lot of people will. The interest is still certainly there."
Actor & Artist Buck Taylor (was Newly O'Brien)

"The reason for the record-breaking longevity of Gunsmoke is simple: Quality."
Actor & Author Alex Cord

"Many congratulations on your fine book."
Actor William Smith

"The book features more than 500 photos, 60 interviews with cast and crew members, and complete credits for all 644 episodes."
Lucinda Dyer
Show Daily BEA
Friday, June 3, 2005

"Author hits bulls-eye with book on Gunsmoke"
Mark Wheeler
Hi-Desert Star
Tuesday June 14, 2005

"New book commemorates golden anniversary of Gunsmoke, television's most popular Western"
Western Legends Roundup

"What a book, what a show, what a cast, crew and pleasure it was to be part of it."
Actor Lance LeGault

"Gunsmoke has been watched avidly for 50 years and I am sure it will be watched for the next fifty. The fact that it ran weekly for 20 years is proof of its greatness, worthy of this terrific in dept history book of the show by Ben Costello. I am proud to have been a part of it."
Andrew V. McLaglen

"I thought that Gunsmoke was a terrific show to be on, and I didn't know it then, but some of the happiest years of my life were on that show."
Burt Reynolds.

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