Zombiestan

Zombiestan
by Mainak Dhar
narrated by John Lee
2012, Tantor Audio
6.00 hours

Zombiestan is a bildungsroman that takes place in the zombiefied country of India in a post-911 world. Mayukh was a seventeen-year old gamer without much responsibility and few concerns when, far away in Afghanistan, bio-hazmat materials that were being delivered to the Taliban were ignited by drone-delivered bombs. The chemical reaction created an infectious compound that found its first victims and carriers with the Taliban members who followed up at the site to see if there was anything to recover. Moving on from the site, these would-be terrorists ended up spreading the contagion as they boarded planes. The rate of the infection spread exponentially and manifested itself in necrotizing humans, rendering them virtually invincible and, transmitting Taliban sympathies into the memories of the newly dead. As the contagion swept into India and black-turbaned Taliban zombies posed an increasing threat to societal structures and personal safety, Mayukh was goaded into action. In a trek towards safety, Mayukh gets a hyper-accelerated lesson in growing up.

Mayukh is not alone as he makes his journey: There is a U.S. Navy SEAL, an older woman with a dual identity as a professor and a romance novelist, a teen-aged girl and, the girl’s little brother who may hold the secret to an antidote. All the characters in Zombiestan have an arc of development as each rises to the occasion of the crises they find themselves in. While the temptation always lurks to take the easy way out, this cast of characters, individually and together, clings to their of sense of what is right. One of the great things about Zombiestan is that, unlike many zombie-apocalyptic novels, this one keeps hope alive in the story: There are survivors; There are people who help; There is the idea of a future. The story faces forward even while conditions worsen.

Zombiestan is a fun novel, full of action and a unique take on zombies. The writing is a bit rough, with a number of repetitive descriptions and cliches; but the plot never stalls and scenes are strongly depicted. Mainuk Dhar may have taken the concept of zombies a bit far afield in depicting them with  rapidly evolving sentience, organizational and strategic skills and an ability to learn and adapt; on the other hand, Dhar’s terrorist zombies make an obvious political statement if you want to go there.

John Lee, the British-American narrator who won an Audie for his reading of White Tiger (by Aravind Adiga), brings his Indian accent back for Zombiestan. John Lee has a highly enunciated style of delivery and brings well-delineated characters into play. His Americans pretty much all sound like cowboys; but since the Americans in Zombiestan are all U.S. military personnel, it works 🙂

See Also:

  • Zombie in Love (by Kelly diPucchio; illustrated by Scott Campbell) – Print review
Other Stuff: Zombiestan (by Mainak Dhar; narrated by John Lee) is a part of the






I received a MP3-CD edition of Zombiestan (by Mainak Dhar; narrated by John Lee) under reviewer auspices from Tantor Audio. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Spy Who Loved Me


The Spy Who Loved Me
by Ian Fleming
narrated by Nadia May
4.9 hours

The Spy Who Loved Me is the ninth novel in the James Bond series and completely different from Fleming’s other books in the series: The story is told from the view point of a female character and is devoid of much of the action and language that are the coin in the world of espionage. Instead, what we have is a sexual ingenue who gains experience rather quickly through this story arc which takes her from her native French-speaking Canada to London, Switzerland and back to North America. In seeking to start over from her misadventures of the heart and body, Viv has fled Europe and seeks to start over in Florida. She first heads back to her hometown and then starts her journey southwards. In upstate New York, short on funds, she agrees to work as a front desk clerk at The Dreamy Pines Motor Court. Here, a situation develops and Viv finds herself in a jam.

Enter James Bond. His car has broken down on a dark and stormy night and he seeks refuge at the motel. The scene is set: There’s thunder, lightening, bad guys and a damsel in distress! The action unfolds quickly and with missing scenes: For the first time in a Bond novel, we are not sure of what Bond is doing throughout as we are only seeing him when and how Viv sees him. And the image that she sees, without the benefit of actually knowing him, provides another dimension to Bond’s character in that we have a greater sense of his physicality and presence via the impact he has on his surroundings and people.

The sexual content of The Spy Who Loved Me is surprisingly explicit, given that it was published in 1962 – a time when social conventions had not yet allowed for open discourse on sex and sexuality. Even now, nearly fifty years later, the sexual candor may make the listener uncomfortable, especially when Viv delivers the lines about how,

All Women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly wonderful…

Fleming always manages to deliver a provocative sentiment in his Bond novels; but the whole of The Spy Who Loved Me seems to have been intended to incite unconventional sentiment: The departure from the action-adventure modus, the detailing of Viv’s sex life, the contempt Fleming seems to bear women… At the same time, there is a certain literary bravery in Fleming’s willingness to write something different and controversial, inserting it into a successful series where certain expectations had been set.

The Spy Who Loved Me was narrated by the British-American narrator, Nadia May (a.k.a. Wanda McCaddon.) Nadia May delivered the story with confidence and empathy; but Ms May sounds a bit old to be voicing a twenty-five year-old, especially as there is no convention with the story indicating that The Spy Who Loved Me is the reminiscence of an older woman. The tense is only slightly “future past,” so listeners may reasonably have expected a younger voice. There were minor processing issues in regard to the quality of the audio itself, most noticeably at the beginning of the audio; but nothing terribly egregious: Perhaps a slightly-too-heavy hand on the expander which led to an odd sound chop at the end of some words.

See Also:
The Shaken, Not Stirred: A Simon Vance Audiobook Challenge Featuring James Bond (Offical Web-Site)
Casino Royale (Audiobook Review)
Goldfinger Audiobook Review)Quantum of Solace/For Your Eyes Only (Audiobook Review)
Thunderball (Audiobook Review)

Other Stuff: The Spy Who Loved Me (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Nadia May) is a part of the

I received a MP3-CD edition of The Spy Who Loved Me (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Nadia May) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under professional courtesy/reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of this title. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season



We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season  

created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland
12 podcasts  performed by a full cast
10.30 hours


Michael, Angel and Saul are three soldiers in present day Northern California ordered to report for duty: to restore order to their beleaguered city which is ravaged by “zombies.” The infected are necrotic bodies that can only be truly taken down by fire or beheading and, the transmutation of the corporeal states is triggered via a bite from one of the infected.

We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season is a collection of twelve podcasts that details the story of Michael, Angel and Saul as they make their way through  the new landscape where the infrastructure is crumbling and other survivors are recovered. The survivors hold a position in an abandoned apartment building, referred to amongst themselves as “The Tower.” Here, the military triumvirate fight to provide food, clothing and shelter as well as security against the zombies and “Mallers.” The Mallers are the convicts from a local prison who  have holed up at a local mall and who pose a threat with their unchecked violence and ambitions to seize the Tower.  The Tower residents and the Mallers are the antithesis of the other, representing civilization and anarchy respectively.


The production quality of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season is very much in the tradition of foley inspired radio drama. Sue Zizza of Sue Media Productions, once coined the phrase “testosterone grade sound effects” when describing the heavy usage of sound effects like guns, squealing tires, etc. in an audio drama and, in the case of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season, the description is apt. This is not to say that the “testosterone grade sound effects” aren’t appropriate; only that subtlety is not in play. The sound effects take an almost equal place in the sound track as the characters’ lines, as opposed to underscoring or used in service to the action or dialogue.

Jim Gleason, Shane Salk and Nate Geez, as Michael, Angel and Saul respectively are noteworthy in voicing their roles convincingly, naturally and without getting into excessive hyperbole. However, the pulp tenor of the story lent itself to a temptation that many of the other performers could not resist: to drop into over-characterization or stereotyping. Mostly, this works to keeps the characters distinct; but occasionally, a performer’s choices didn’t work out quite as well as might have been expected: Claire Dodin plays Riley, a French restauranteur/survivor/Tower resident. Ms Dodin seems to have had a little trouble settling into a French accent, which seemed to have come by way of  Britain and Asia; all of which left the character of Riley as something of a enigma until the story spelled it out as to who she was and where she came from. Datu, a Filipino who worked as the apartment building’s maintenance supervisor before becoming the Tower’s engineer, sounded more like Apu from The Simpsons than he did a native from the Philippines. There was no question as to who was speaking when any of the performers rendered their lines; it was just a bit jarring when a performer didn’t really seem to be “in character.”

There is plenty of action, adventure, and “testosterone grade sound effects” to galvanize the listener to the story: There are no guarantees as to who will survive and what will happen next and the unexpected twists in We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season will keep you on the hook for Season Two.  


05/24/2012 – Correction: Strikethrough of the word “Northern” in the first line. Bell, CA is a town in Southern California. 

See Also:


Other Stuff:
We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast) qualifies for:



I borrowed a LIbrary CD edition of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. I had no involvement in the production of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Thunderball

Thunderball
by Ian Fleming
narrated by Simon Vance
(P) 2001, Blackstone Audio, Inc.
7.60 hours

James Bond, 007, spy in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is sent into the Bahamas to vet M.’s hunch that the island area is the site where a military aircraft and it’s cargo of two nuclear missiles has disappeared to. Thunderball introduces listenership to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), the successor organization to SMERSH in the Bond canon; to Blofeld, the mastermind behind the criminal organization and, to Bond Girl, Dominette “Domino” Vitali.

Ian Fleming wrote contemporary novels which reflected the values and fears of Post-War men and women. After two atomic weapons had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Atomic Age was ushered in with all it’s possibilities and terrors. The promise of atomic energy was that it would be the driving force behind the manifest industrialism of the Western world; but security concerns and the threat of Communism were equally prevalent. While many view Bond’s adventures as fantastic, Thunderball is less so in creating a scenario that even today is not impossible: a NATO plane is high jacked and a terrorist organization seeks to blackmail the Western world with the threat of detonating the bombs unless its demands are met.

Thunderball is the ninth title in the James Bond series and if you’ve read the preceding eight titles, there are certain things you may find familiar and welcome: the casino card games, the setting in the Caribbean Community, the underwater tableaux and, of course a Bond Girl. What’s great about Bond novels though, is that despite these recognizable features, you still don’t know what to expect! Instead of being formulaic in his plotting, Fleming uses the familiar as metaphorical touchstones in unfamiliar territory.

Inasmuch as Fleming write of his times, listeners may rise an eyebrow at certain expressions that have fallen out of favor or meant something completely different in 1961 than they do now. To wit, there are frequent references to “nigger heads” which is a term that was used to describe certain kinds of coral and; there is a chapter called “How to Eat a Woman” which is not the sexually explicit reference in the context provided!

Simon Vance is the British narrator for Thunderball and voices the multi-national raft of characters with astuteness, making discernment of the characters easy. If some accents are more challenging for Vance, such as American or the Island Patois, after eight Bond novels he has definitely settled into a comfort zone that accommodates and ameliorates those challenges. It’s also worth noting that Fleming didn’t throw a figurative curve ball in characters in Thunderball either: no white Anglo colonial daughter raised by a Jamaican nanny (cf. Doctor No)! Simon Vance has definitely taken ownership of Fleming’s Bond and roster of characters. Just as Fleming used the familiar touchstones to explore the unfamiliar, Simon Vance has created the vocal equivalent in character work.

Convo Starter:
In the beginning of the novel, Bond is sent to a health spa to detox. The health regimens, outside of the exercise machines, should be surprisingly familiar to 21st century listeners: Emphases on fresh foods and, admonishments against refined sugars, alcohol and tobacco. Bond’s housekeeper decries this lifestyle as ill-serving a man of action! While a seemingly ridiculous charge at first, I seem to find myself playing the role of May Maxwell IRL! As a couple of my friends temporarily lose weight on The Juice Fast; but have also become noticeably weaker and, less focused and shorter in their attention spans, I do wonder at the lasting effects of this particular diet and if overall it warrants more concern than admiration. I’ve already decided that The Juice Fast is not for me; but what do you think about The Juice Fast?

See Also:
The Shaken, Not Stirred: A Simon Vance Audiobook Challenge Featuring James Bond
Casino Royale (Audiobook Review)
Goldfinger Audiobook Review)
Quantum of Solace/For Your Eyes Only (Audiobook Review)

Other Stuff: Thunderball (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) is a part of the


I received a MP3-CD edition of Thunderball (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under professional courtesy/reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of this title. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.




Out of My Head

Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head*)

by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti
narrated by Bronson Pinchot
4.30 hours

Martin Harris arrives in Paris and, in the rush to return to the airport to collect his forgotten laptop, grabs a cab. Unfortunately, the cab is involved in an accident with a truck and Martin ends up in a coma for three days. When he wakes up, no one recognizes him – not his wife, not his neighbors, not the doorman… he has become unknown. Martin sets about to prove his identity and reclaim his wife, his life and his career.

Van Cauweleart has created, for the most part, a great psychological thriller from the first person point of view. The listener is privy to the thoughts of Martin – his bewilderment, stubbornness, frustrations and doubts – as he careens through Paris with the help and support of a female cab driver in his efforts not only to gather evidence as to who is is; but to discredit the man who is claiming to be him! Successive sections of the story are built with tantalizing clues and intriguing possible explanations – all embedded in the scenes’ details and dialogues. This is not story driven by action/adventure as much as it is upon the subtle terrors and perceptions of the mind. But what exactly is going on? Not only does Martin not know, but the listener doesn’t either. There is no sense of imminent danger, only a case of what may be identity theft and a vague conspiracy; or maybe it’s just a matter of guilt and paranoia. Out of My Head has confused bafflement with suspense and, unfortunately, the author seems to have exhausted his burgeoning talent for creating a psychological thriller and instead opted for a cheap ending.
Bronson Pinchot, who can be seen on DIY network’s The Bronson Pinchot Project, is the American narrator for Out of My Head. He perfectly inhabits the character of Martin and of special note is the argument between Martin and… Martin! Martin, and the-man-claiming-to-be-Martin have a showdown of memories, each trying to prove that he is the true Martin. The dialogue is fast and, as the recountings escalate in tenor the longer the confrontation draws out, one can hear the frustrations and smugness of each of the men as they stake their claims. It is an absurd conversation that could never actually happen; but Bronson Pinchot makes it sound natural.
* The original name of the book is Out of My Head and it is under the original title that the submission to the APA/Audie judges was made. Upon the release of the movie, Unknown (starring Liam Neeson,) which was based on the story, the audio edition was renamed Unknown ( A Special Edition of Out of My Head.) The cover art was changed to that of the movie poster art.


Convo Starter:
The hardback edition of this story is under 200 pages long, making it a short novel or novella by definition. A short novel is a testament to an author’s skill in that it takes quite a bit of literary craftsmanship to deliver the story with enough detail to make it all work; but there is no room for extensive backstory or digressive ruminations that might otherwise add character depth or plot nuance. While this may at first seem like a limitation, it allows the reader room to project or imagine things into the novel. For instance, “3:10 to Yuma” (short story by Elmore Leonard) is a spare but complete story that has been made into a film twice and, both times the essence of the story, what Elmore Leonard wrote, was integrated into the screenplay; and yet what the screenwriters added in, in terms of backstory and other details, created vastly different results. Do you see the the short form as a concentrated story form, or as a writer’s abridgment?


See Also:
Armchair Audies (The Bad Employee/Bad Wife Edition – Inaugural Post)
3:10 to Yuma” (Audiobook Review)
Other Stuff:

Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) qualifies for:


I received a MP3-CD edition of Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3:

Encore for Murder
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach
2.50 hours
Mike Hammer is a private investigator whose sense of justice is predicated less on the letter of the law than the spirit of the law. Bordering on vigilantism, Hammer’s actions are backed up by an ethos born of Post-War morality and by a Colt .45 named “Betsy.” Max Allan Collins has updated the time line to make Hammer a Vietnam veteran; and the story takes place in present day New York City; but Hammer comes across as something of a relic of a bygone age and as someone who neither understands nor respects due process or authority. Hammer, whose intractable sense of right and wrong and belief that the end justifies the means, exacts a rough justice for those who stand in his way.

In “Encore for Murder,” Rita Vance, an ex-girlfriend of Mike Hammer’s, needs a bodyguard. Making an acting comeback by starring in a Broadway show, she has been targeted with a series of threatening and anonymous letters. Mike Hammer agrees to protect her out of a sense of chivalry and because he has the sexual drive and control of an adolescent. It’s difficult to imagine the universal sex appeal that Spillane and Collins imbue Mike Hammer with, as the brand of machismo that Hammer wears is about as dated as his sense of justice and the Fedora he sports.

The sex and violence are blunt and even vulgar in places, not in what is being described but in how they are described. The crudity of the prose and sentiments combine to make some scenes cringe-worthy.

Stacy Keach played the role of Hammer in the 1980s television series and returns as Hammer in the audio dramas. Keach has superseded other versions of Hammer in the public eye and has invested much of his talent in successfully preserving the legacy. As such, he is Mike Hammer and the perfect casting choice for The New Adventures.

There is a different set of expectations going into The New Adventures, production-wise, than for other audio dramas. The New Adventures take more from the playbook of radio dramas instead of trying to create a virtual soundtrack of the story. The Foley and voice enhancements are rather ham-fisted in comparison; but match the prose’s style and writing manner well.

Convo Starter:
In “Encore for Murder,” Mike Hammer is an underage soldier in the Vietnam War. No date was specified in the story; but let’s say Hammer was sixteen years old the year that Saigon fell (April 30, 1975) – that would make him fifty-two to fifty-three years old in 2011/2012. That is definitely better than being a nonogenarian (cf The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death)! But is it still too old for Mike Hammer to be behaving the way he is behaving (i.e. like a fifteen year old when it comes to his libido and action adventure tactics?)

See Also:

Other Stuff:
The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) qualifies for:



I received a MP3-CD edition of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The New Adventures of Mickey’s Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer,

Vol. 2: The Little Death

by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach
2.25 hours
Mike Hammer is the old school private investigator living in 21st century New York City, still willing and able to deliver black-and-white justice in a technicolor world. In “The Little Death,” Helen Venn, the girlfriend and bookkeeper of the late Marty Wellman, gambling kingpin, seeks protection from Marty’s rival, Carmen Rich. At stake is the ten million dollars everyone believes Helen has, not to mention Helen’s life. Helen needs protection and Mike Hammer’s chivalry is aroused as well as his libido.
For those who fondly remember the Mike Hammer franchise from the 1940s and 1950 and/or the TV shows starring Stacy Keach in the 1980s, The New Adventures provide a touchstone to a character of a known quantity: a man of unwavering loyalty, ideals and, a gun named Betsy to back it all up. For those unfamiliar with Mike Hammer, The New Adventures offers an action hero who metes out lethal justice straight-forwardly and without equivocation. Mike Hammer is an unapologetic throwback to wrong versus right conflict, which some may love for simplicity’s sake; but others may decry for lack of traction in the gray areas of life.
The title, “The Little Death” is a double entendre, referring not only to a homicide of little importance, but to an orgasm. This is spelled out in the narrative right away, but in case you miss it, listeners should be forewarned that this is not family fare. There is nothing subtle in any of the sexual innuendoes and in fact the references are often crude and artless. There are even sound effects at one point, of a couple having sex, including the squeaky bedsprings.
Mickey Spillane purportedly said:

See, heroes never die. John Wayne isn’t dead, Elvis isn’t dead. Otherwise you don’t have a hero. You can’t kill a hero. That’s why I never let him get older.

This may be true in an abstract way; but the reality is that both John Wayne and Elvis aged and died and, some listeners may not be able to help themselves from doing the math where Mike Hammer is concerned too. In the Mike Hammer canon, he was a WWII vet. In the best case scenario, having him fight in the Battle of Guadacanal at the age of twenty, that would make Mike Hammer a nonogenarian. There is nothing in “The Little Death” that adjusts the time line forward, so what we have is a really old man running around acting like a twenty-something-year old! Plus, Velda, who has been his secretary and unrequited love interest all these years, is running around in pink lace lingerie. The mind boggles!
Stacy Keach, who played Mike Hammer in the 1980 television series, reprises his role as the had-boiled detective in The New Adventures. He has become the quintessential Mike Hammer, with his gruff tones and Mid-Century sensibilities. Any other actor in the role has become virtually impossible to imagine. Interestingly, Stacy Keach seems to be very involved in The New Adventures: He wrote and played the saxophone musical score and his wife, Malgosia Tomassi plays a recurring role in all three volumes of the audio dramas.
The production team applies a voice enhancement, reverb to Stacy Keach’s voice when he speaks from the narrative point of view, which is the audio equivalent of warping the picture with wavy lines in a T.V. show to indicate a segue into a flashback or dream sequence. Not very artful; but it does the trick in delineating narrative from scenes with dialogue.
Convo Starter:
The writing overall is better than the first volume of The New Adventures; but one wonders if, despite the updates into the twenty-first century; Mike Hammer might be better left consigned to the place in history where he and his ideals best fit in, Post-War America. What do you think? Do you think that the hard-boiled noir detectives of the fifties have a place in 21st century culture, other than as a throwback or nostalgia trip? Can you think of any other candidates for an updated appearance?
See Also:
The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (audiobook review of the first volume)

Other Stuff: The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) qualifies for:



I received a MP3-CD copy of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices.I had no involvement in the production of this title. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and.or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

I, Claudius

I, Claudius

based on the novel by Robert Graves
A BBC Radio 4 full cast production starring Tom Goodman Hill as Claudius and, Derek Jacobi as Augustus
Ⓟ 2011, AudioGo, Ltd
5.8 hours (12 episodes @ ≈30 minutes each)
Every culture has its Golden Age and Ancient Rome was no different. The monarchy was overthrown by the Republic (see Julius Caesar) and eventually the empire was manifestly consolidated under the reign of Augustus (31 B.C. – 14 A.D.) Augustus’ reign as caesar inaugurated the Pax Romana, and ironically, his death would signal an epic struggle for power amongst his family. The political landscape for which successive caesars fought was divided into two allegiances: those who held to Republican ideals (Senate, check and balances, plebeian representation) versus the the imperial dictates of leaders who then often became gods post-mortem. By the time of Augustus’ death, the ideals of the Republic were part of a Golden Age, fondly remembered and nominally respected but with no political traction against the immense power the caesars came to wield.
I, Claudius chronicles the history of Rome’s caesars from the waning days of Augustus to the last moments of Claudius’ reign – all told principally through Claudius’ point of view à la the meta literary device of having Claudius narrate his own autobiography. The time frame covered, roughly 10 B.C. to 54 A.D, covers the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and, Claudius himself, with Nero waiting in the wings. The rise and fall of each of the caesars is the product of massive and insidious court intrigue, manipulation and assassinations.
The BBC 4 Radio production has very high production values and talent with the result that the listener feels as if s/he is actually bearing witness to history. The foley effects are expertly applied and mental visualization of the action is made easy. Each of the actors performs their role with distinction so that there is never any question as to who is speaking or what is going on. Claudius, famous for his stutter, is played by Tom Goodman Hill who plays the speech impediment strongly at the beginning and then tempers it somewhat as the narrative continues, reflecting Claudius’ own progress against the stammer. In moments of high anxiety, the stammer returns and, countered by the strong assertive voices of the other actors, reminds the listener that Claudius was never the fearsome, intimidating god-in-the-making; but rather an intelligent scholar and statesman who survived the machinations of Livia, his ambitious stepmother, by flying under the radar. BBC 4 attached Derek Jacobi’s name to this production in the promotions, capitalizing on his reputation in the title role in the BBC television series nearly forty years ago. But Jacobi does not reprise his role in I, Claudius. This time he plays the role of the older, esteemed Augustus. It is a sleight of hand that cheats Tom Goodman Hill of due notice; but the production is none the worse for it. I, Claudius is a well produced, well performed audio drama that brings Robert Graves’ esteemed novel to life.


In the U.S., people often refer to the 1950s as a Golden Age: High standard of living and low crime rate. And yet, racism, sexism and homophobia, not to mention McCarthyism and fears of atomic war were prevalent. Do you think Mid-Century America was a Golden Age?
See Also:

Armchair Audies (Inaugural Post)
The Mark of Zorro (Audiobook Review)
The Graduate (Audiobook Review)

Other Stuff: I, Claudius (based in the novel by Robert Graves; performed by a full cast starring Derek Jacobi and Tom Goodman Hill) qualifies for:



I purchased a digital dnload copy of I, Claudius (based in the novel by Robert Graves; performed by a full cast starring Derek Jacobi and Tom Goodman Hill) from iTunes. I had no involvement in the production of I, Claudius (based in the novel by Robert Graves; performed by a full cast starring Derek Jacobi and Tom Goodman Hill.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Graduate

The Graduate

based on the novel by Charles Webb and;
the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
dramatized by Terry Johnson
live stage reading performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys
1.65 hours
Having graduated from from college and on track to live The American Dream, Benjamin Braddock is not so sure that that is what he really wants or even what that really means. It’s 1967, societal paradigms are being deconstructed and Ben’s self-assuredness, intelligence, angst and inexperience combine to mire him in months of indecision and a retreat into his parents’ home and the arms of Mrs. Robinson. Why, exactly Ben chooses to sleep with the much older, alcoholic, intellectually stunted woman is not clear; but she serves as a foil to Ben’s potential. Having lived according to the dictates of mid-century life, she has ended up as damaged goods and has the capacity to keep Ben bogged down. And why Mrs. Robinson chooses to seduce Ben remains equally unclear. She does not seem to gain anything other than immediate gratification from their relationship, though amelioration from the disappointments of her own life are implied. The situation becomes further complicated when Ben is set up on a date with Elaine, Mrs. Robinson’s daughter!
The Graduate is a comedy that finds its humor in finding the absurdity of the quotidian. Underneath the ideals of American life is the messy, complicated and bizarre constructs of human emotions and reactions. If you didn’t laugh, you might cry; but there are great lines and ripostes written into the script and, the performances of the full cast ensemble show remarkable timing and chemistry. Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys reprised their roles as Mrs. Robinson and Ben respectively from the original run ten years ago in the West End.
The L.A. Theater Works production is a live stage reading and the audience’s reaction to the exchanges provide the auditory cues for the listener. There are no foley effects, so the audience serves as the relay between the immediate action of the performers and the listener. The audience is always one step ahead, laughing, responding perhaps to the body language or facial expressions of the actors, while the listener waits for the explanatory line. While somewhat disconcerting, the overall performance comes across as fun and funny. You’ll wish you had been there!
After graduating, Ben was at a crossroads in his life: He could either follow the path that his past had circumscribed for him or; he could try and forge ahead, creating his own path. We encounter similar choices almost continually in our lives: to go to college or not; to take on pre-med or theater courses; to live in a garrett starving for our art or selling out to take a computer programming job that pays… For decades, people were lifers in corporate jobs, pursued a single career or vocation. Now re-inventing one’s self and having multiple careers in a single lifetime are very common. Do you think that the social revolutions of the 1960s played a role in forming the now-quotidian search for self (as manifested by what we do?) Extra points if you manage to incorporate “post-modernism” in your comment(s)!

See Also:
Kathleen Turner on Mrs. Robinson and Molly Ivins (L.A. Stage Times article by Steve Julian; 12/10/2010)
The Mark of Zorro (Audiobook Review of the Audio Drama based on the novel by Johnsotn McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky and, performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer)


Other Stuff: The Graduate (based in the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry; dramatized by Terry Johnson; performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys) qualifies for:



I purchased a digital dnload copy of The Graduate (based in the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry; dramatized by Terry Johnson; performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys) from iTunes. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress

Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1
by Walter Mosley
narrated by Michael Boatman
Ⓟ 2009, Audible. Inc.
5.60 hours
Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, a black WWII vet who has relocated from Houston to L.A., finds himself without a job; but with a mortgage to pay. Enter DeWitt Albright, a white man of suspect ethics who offers Easy a paying job: to locate Daphne Monet, a white woman who is known to frequent black jazz clubs; but who has disappeared with $30,000 in cash. The story is embroidered with black history, post war US history and, issues regarding race and prejudice. The writing is descriptive and nearly pedantic; but overall the plot is solid if without any real surprises.
Michael Boatman, noted TV actor (Pvt. Samuel Becket in “China Beach” and Carter Haywood on “Spin City” to name but two memorable roles) is the narrator of Devil in a Blue Dress. He does a good job of drawing up distinctive voices for the differing characters, both male and female and, using parenthetical interpretation to denote interior thought (versus spoken lines.) Overall, however, the narration lacks liveliness and shape. The narrator’s evenness in tone and pace regardless of the scene renders the whole of the story neutered of tension or excitement.
Meh.
Easy Rawlins was caught between a rock and a hard place (no job, a mortgage to pay and a job offer from a shady character.) Even given assurances that every thing was on the up and up relatively speaking, he had his suspicions about DeWitt Albright’s motivations; but took the job anyway. I could sympathize to a certain, albeit nominal degree: In the late eighties, the country was in a recession and work was hard to come by and getting harder. I had bills to pay and ended up being a telemarketer. While I worked for a legitimate company and there was nothing illegal in what I doing, it never sat well with me. It was just too… skeevy.
Have you ever done something “not quite right” just to pay the bills?

Other Stuff: Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1; by Walter Mosley; narrated by Michael Boatman) qualifies for:




I purchased a digital dnload copy of Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins Mysteries, Book #1; by Walter Mosley; narrated by Michael Boatman) from Audible, Inc. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.