Max Afford Max Afford i(A32752 works by) (a.k.a. Malcolm Afford)
Born: Established: 8 Apr 1906 Parkside, Unley area, Adelaide - South / South East, Adelaide, South Australia, ; Died: Ceased: 2 Nov 1954 Mosman, Cremorne - Mosman - Northbridge area, Sydney Northeastern Suburbs, Sydney,
Gender: Male
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Max Afford worked as a reporter and feature writer at the Adelaide News and Mail from 1929-1934. In 1935 he joined Radio 5DN as a producer and continuity manager.

In 1936 his play 'William Light - the Founder' won the South Australian Centenary Drama Competition. The same year saw him move to Sydney (leaving Adelaide on 27 September 1936, according to the Adelaide News of 18 September 1936), where he worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for five years before becoming a freelance and prolific writer of fiction and radio plays, gaining enormous popularity as a serial writer. 'Hagen's Circus' (1941), for example, ran for 800 episodes. Between 1929 and 1954 he wrote more than sixty radio and stage plays and radio serials. Most of these remain unpublished, but some of his plays are included in the posthumous selection Mischief in the Air (1974). His film scripts include 'Smithy' (1944), about the aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith.

Afford's 'Flail of God' was the first drama by an Australian playwright to be broadcast on Australian radio (19 July 1932), and his stage play 'Lady in Danger', although it was not well received there, was the first Australian play produced on Broadway (1945). His success as a radio play writer has been attributed to his mastery of radio drama techniques as well as to his exciting plots and realistic characterisation. As well as the plays he also published six detective novels. Their central character, the detective Jeffery Blackburn, also featured in a number of his radio plays, but with a somewhat different background.

A chain smoker, Afford died of cancer at the age of 48.

See also Notes below for further information.



Most Referenced Works


  • Additional Works:

    In addition to the works individually listed on AustLit, Max Afford has also been associated with the following, untraced works:

    • 'The Case of the Talking Fingers': in 1940, Afford claimed to be working on this script, which was 'a complete hour play depicting a murder seen by a deaf man and heard by a blind man' ('Write Tough–but Aren't', Lockhart Review and Oaklands Advertiser, 23 January 1940, p.2).
    • 'A Hundred Years Ago': advertised as an adaptation of a play by Spanish playwrights the Quintero Brothers (Los hermanos Quintero), this radio play was broadcast on 7 March 1937, but the original play from which it was adapted has not yet been traced.
    • 'The Mulberry Bush': advertised as an adaptation of the play by E.M. Delafield, this first aired on 30 May 1937. But since Delafield's was originally written (in 1933, two years before its stage debut) as a radio play, the extent to which this has been adapted by Afford is unclear, as is whether he is working from the stage play or the radio play.
    • Reports on sales of Afford's plays overseas (see below) include mention of one called Mr Allchurch Comes to Stay. This title has not been traced anywhere outside this article.
  • In the early days of his radio career, when Afford was writing thrillers for Adelaide broadcaster 5CL at the rate of at least two a month (c.1934), his works were sometimes only listed in radio guides as 'a radio thriller by Max Afford', with no title or other distinguishing information.

  • Two interviews with Thelma Afford, wife of Max, are held at NLA. She speaks about his writing and career in Australian theatre.

  • A number of secondary sources (including an earlier version of this AustLit entry) have claimed that Afford's Flail of God was the first 'play' by an Australian to be produced for Australian radio, citing the date of broadcast as 19 July 1932. While it may have been the first 'drama' broadcast, Flail of God was by no means the first locally written work to be heard by the country's radio audience. The previous year Evan Senior's On the Air, became the first musical comedy to be specially written for radio. It was broadcast by South Australian station 5CL on 5 August 1931. A few weeks later Fred Whaite's musical, The Tin Soldier, also specially written for the medium, was broadcast by the ABC's Sydney station, 2BL (26 August).

  • In 1939, newspapers reported that Afford had sold a number of works overseas:

    Mr Afford is probably the only Australian radio playwright to have sold a serial to the B.B.C.—"Fly By Night." This mystery adventure has sold also his "Labours of Hercules," "Oh, Whistle When You're Happy," "The Four Specialists" and "For Fear of Little Men. To South Africa "Mr. Allchurch Comes to Stay," "Merry-Go-Round," "Two Hundred Thousand Witnesses," etc. Cairo also has bought some of the above-named plays, and Polskie Radio asked for "The Four Specialists." Canada has bought "The Four Specialists" and "For Fear of Little Men."

    None of these productions have been traced so far, though his Queer Affair at Kettering was produced twice by the BBC in the 1940s.


    'Australian Radio Plays: Success of A.B.C. Playwrights Abroad', Canberra Times, 14 August 1939, p.2.

Awards for Works

William Light - The Founder Mischief in the Air : Radio and Stage Plays , 1936 single work drama

This play is based on the life of Colonel William Light, the first surveyor-General of South Australia.

1936 winner The Adelaide Advertiser Centenary Play Competition
Last amended 10 Aug 2015 15:55:58
See Also
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: