‘Yesteryear’ is loosely based on the life of Buffalo’s Fran Striker, the creator of the Lone Ranger

If the city of Buffalo had a persona, say, like a superhero, who would it be? Batman? Wonder Woman? Storm? How about the Lone Ranger? I’m sure that we can see how this city might be a good match with the Lone Ranger, considered an enduring icon of American culture.

Were you aware that test episodes of Lone Ranger first aired on radio station WEBR in Buffalo? Yes, it turns out that this mysterious masked crusader was the brainchild of Francis Hamilton “Fran” Striker, who – born in Buffalo – also happened to come up with the character of the Green Hornet.

To help tell the true-life story of Lone Ranger creator Fran Striker, Buffalo author Stephen G. Eoannou has written a book titled Yesteryear (SFWP 2023). Eoannou, whose hometown of Buffalo is the inspiration for much of his work, says that, “Yesteryear is historical fiction-noir based on the life of Buffalo’s Fran Striker, the controversial creator of the Lone Ranger. Striker’s story is little known, even here in WNY. 2023 marks the 90th Anniversary of the Lone Ranger’s radio premiere on WEBR.”

Publicity photo of Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and his horse, Silver

Eoannou continues, “Set in 1930s Buffalo, Yesteryear delves into the imagined inspirations behind Striker’s iconic character, the Lone Ranger, which includes a sinister plot to assassinate FDR and a madcap heist to retrieve stolen diamond rings belonging to an alcoholic boxing champion. The backdrop is The Great Depression, where Americans huddled around their radios looking for hope and escapism. Yesteryear is the winner of the Eyelands International Book Award For Historical Fiction and Bookshelf’s ‘Must Read’ distinction for 2023.  The official launch will be held at The Gypsy Parlor on October 3 at 7pm.

It is interesting to note that Striker is interred at Arcade Rural Cemetery, just outside of Buffalo. His papers are in the archives of the University at Buffalo. He was posthumously inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1998*.

One would think that there would be a push to create a larger-than-life public work of art (statue with his horse, Silver?), depicting the Lone Ranger, who was essentially born in Buffalo. Thanks to Eoannou’s book, more people will tune in, and learn about the masked character’s formations – formations that led the Lone Ranger to emerge as a national sensation.

From the cover:

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!

Who was the mind behind the Lone Ranger?

It’s 1930s Buffalo, and the Great Depression rages. Playwright Fran Striker needs to write the pilot for a new radio show but, first, he must overcome writer’s block, defeat a curse, foil a plot to assassinate FDR, and recover stolen diamond rings belonging to an alcoholic boxing champion.

Who was that masked man? Based on the controversial true-life story of Lone Ranger creator Fran Striker, Yesteryear takes us on a magical journey leading to an icon’s debut, a show that provided hope to Americans during the country’s darkest days. Populated by characters of the era—radio actor John Barrett, Mafioso Stefano Magaddino, former lightweight champion Jimmy Slattery, and president-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt—Eoannou’s latest novel breathes new life into the immortal Lone Ranger, and the man who struggled to create him, echoing the spirit of W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, and Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish.

Following is an Excerpt from Yesteryear:

Striker pointed to Armbrewster, and Rossini filled the city from the Central Terminal to the Statler Hotel. Trombones rattled the bars at the Buffalo State Asylum for The Insane and the drums and cymbals woke illegitimate babies at the rebuilt Ingleside Home For Reclaiming The Erring. Bassoons and French horns drowned out Scaredy-Cat Floyd, Boom-Boom Bennett, and Kid Charlemagne at The Colored Musicians Club while piccolos, flutes and oboes bounced off the Blocher monument and Danek’s empty cabin at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Even Don Stefano, huddled alone in a federal prison cell, heard the work of Gioachino Antonio Rossini, a fellow Italian, and wiped a tear.

Stunned families turned off their radios and looked at each other with hopeful eyes. There was someone out there helping those who needed it? Someone who righted wrongs? Who brought the guilty to justice? Maybe the crooked cops and the railroad bulls and those who had crashed the stock market would be made to answer for their crimes. Maybe houses and farms would be un-foreclosed and repossessed furniture returned. Maybe believing in this Lone Ranger and all he stood for would carry them through this Depression. They blinked and shook their heads and searched the floor, hoping that tossed silver bullet had landed in their lives and rolled toward their feet.

Striker pressed the Off Air button and the studio erupted in cheers. Actors hugged and praised each other’s performances. Trendle and Campbell shook hands, as if they had accomplished something. Striker tilted his head and released all the smoke he’d held in his lungs. He stared at the ceiling, imagining that all the stories and characters he’d ever write were above him, beyond the ceiling and roof, floating amongst the stars waiting to find him.

Then Barrett was dragging him out of the booth to the others, who pumped his hand and smacked his back. Darcy Menifee kissed his cheek, leaving lip prints. James Connolly opened champagne, the popping cork a gunshot, and poured into outstretched coffee cups. Charles Armbrewster left The Gold Room to retrieve his flask hidden in the Music Library. When he returned, he announced that the switchboard was lighting up with calls praising the Lone Ranger.

Stephen G. Eoannou is the author of the novels After Pearl (SFWP 2025), Yesteryear (SFWP 2023), Rook (Unsolicited Press 2022), and the short story collection Muscle Cars (SFWP 2015).

He has been awarded an Honor Certificate from The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Best Short Screenplay Award at the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival, and the 2021 International Eyelands Award for Best Historical Novel.

Eoannou holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and an MA from Miami University.

The post ‘Yesteryear’ is loosely based on the life of Buffalo’s Fran Striker, the creator of the Lone Ranger appeared first on Buffalo Rising.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *