Armchair Audies 2017: Original Work Category Pick!

Original Work

To determine my pick for the Original Work category, I ran a series of Head-to-Head contests between the five titles nominated. While the comments below each of the contest below are short, you can check out the full reviews I wrote for each of the titles by clicking on the clinks of the title in the #Head2Head subject lines.


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#Head2Head #1: The Dispatcher vs The Adventures of Tom Stranger
“Tom Stranger” is furiously funny and fast-paced; and Adam Baldwin does not disappoint; but Correia is a Sad Puppy; and the manatee character sounds like a whale. And by now, we all know how perfect I think The Dispatcher is!
Winner of Round #1: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head #2: The Dispatcher vs Alien: Out of the Shadows 
This basically comes down to The Dispatcher having a cleaner script/story and Alien: Out of the Shadows being over-produced. So far, The Dispatcher is holding its own in two Armchair Audies categories!
Winner of Round #2: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head #3: The Dispatcher vs CarTalk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back
Tom Magliozzi passed away a couple of years ago, so it was fun to hear takes from the show he did with his brother, Ray. As always, they guarantee to put a smile on your face; but I have to admit that listening to them crack each other up segment after segment wore thin even within the short runtime of this original work. It seems that this was designed to entertain more than educate. So, by default, again, The Dispatcher!
Winner of Round #3: The Dispatcher


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#Head2Head #4: The Dispatcher vs In the Embers
In the penultimate head-to-head challenge in this category, The Dispatcher wins by virtue of excellent production quality and a well-written story. I think the world of Robin Miles, and there was a lot of work that went into In the Embers; but in the end, it felt too much like community theater. I have issues with the script and post-production of In the Embers, and annoyed at having to listen to two hours of interviews.
Winner of Round #4: The Dispatcher


 

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#Head2Head #5: The Dispatcher vs Pete Seeger, Storm King, Vol. 2
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and format of Pete Seeger, Storm King, Vol. 2: Pete Seeger tells an anecdote about his life; and a corresponding song, poem, or interview follows. It’s unique and interesting; but a bit slow.  Also, it doesn’t really stand-alone. You need to listen to the first volume to get the full effect. I found The Dispatcher much more engaging.
Winner of Round #5: The Dispatcher


My pick for the 2017 Armchair Audies in the Original Work category:

The Dispatcher


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OTHER: 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.

 

Audiobook Reviews: The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music AND Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2

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The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music
Written and Performed by Pete Seeger
Edited by Jeff Haynes
Ⓟ 2013, Hachette Audio
2 Hours, 20 Minutes
NON-FICTION | SPOKEN WORD | MUSIC | FOLK MUSIC

Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2
Written and Performed by Pete Seeger and Others
Edited by Jeff Haynes
Ⓟ 2016, Hachette Audio
2 Hours, 18 Minutes
NON-FICTION | SPOKEN WORD | MUSIC | FOLK MUSIC

 

Pete Seeger was an iconic American folk musician whose work was at its zenith during the Civil Rights Movement. His signature song, “We Shall Overcome” was a reworking of the gospel song, “”I’ll Overcome Some Day”” (Charles Albert Tindley, 1900); but there is more to Pete Seeger than that one song at that one period in U.S. history. This pair of offerings from Hachette Audio gives listeners a glimpse into the man, his influences, his causes, and his legacy in a format that highlights his contributions. Pete Seeger himself narrates anecdotes set against background music; and interstitial pieces (a poem, a song, an interview with a notable person) are cut between the stories. There are guest performers, and the whole is edited into a sort of highlight reel of Pete Seeger’s life by Jeff Haynes.

For those who do not know or remember Pete Seeger, the Storm King set is a pleasant introduction to the musical folklorist; and may encourage a deeper look into his biography, his catalogue of works, and the Clearwater Festival. For those who do know/remember him, it’s a nice nostalgia piece. The whole of the works have a slow, evenly paced rhythm that reflects the late singer’s aesthetic. It doesn’t seek to dazzle, but to gently inform and entertain the listener. It has a “hippy” or New Age feel to it, a contrast to the violence of the Civil Rights Movement and the turmoil of modern politics. Those who groove on NPR will probably like this a lot.

The two audio offerings seem to actually be one work arbitrarily split into two titles. The first volume is the stronger of the two; by virtue of setting the tone, and introducing all the performers other than Seeger himself. The second volume feels like a continuation, and while not less well produced, feels unsupported without the first volume.




OTHER:
I listened to a digital download copy of The Storm King: Stories, Narratives, Poems: Spoken Word Set to a World of Music AND Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2 (Written and Performed by Pete Seeger; edited by Jeff Haynes) which I purchased from Audible.com. 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.

Pete Seeger: Storm King – Volume 2 (Written and Performed by Pete Seeger; edited by Jeff Haynes) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Works category.

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Audiobook Review: In the Embers: The Great Northern Audio Theatre

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In the Embers: The Great Northern Audio Theatre
By Brian Price and Jerry Stearns
Performed by a Full Cast:
Edwin Strout as Digger Morgan; Robin Miles as  Kit Jeffers; Olivia DuFord – Young Alice Jeffers; Dawn Krosnowski as Susan; as Gordon Smuder as Tom; Susanne Becker as Cindy; Tom Joyal as Berringer; Charlie Meitzner as Denny; Dean Johnson as Epstein; Jacquie Maddix as Old Alice; and E. G. Bailey as Reynolds
Original songs by Mike Wheaton and Brian Price, vocals by Robin Miles and Olivia DuFord
Ⓟ 2015, Waterlogg Productions
3 hours, 35 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | TECHNO-THRILLER | GHOST IN THE MACHINE | TIME TRAVEL | RADIO | INTERVIEWS

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY (SECTION COPIED FROM AUDIBLE.COM):
A song, a pressed flower, and the sound of two girls’ voices recovered from a burned wooden beam by using a brand-new laser technique to read a charred surface like the grooves of an old 78 rpm record. These are the clues that archaeologist Digger Morgan discovers while working on a routine dig at a Maryland plantation. Who were the girls? When was the fire? The answers all lead to 1920s jazz pioneer Kit Jeffers, whose voice mysteriously appears on Digger’s computer and whose existence remains haunted by a singular tragic event.


This is a science-fiction tale taking place in the here-and-now; but which involves audio archaeology (reading a fossilized sound wave,) a ghost in the machine (a digitized personality,) and time travel. The underlying concept behind the three ideas is that emotional intensity can have impact without carrying or accruing mass or energy, a challenge confronting physicists in regard to the laws of the conservation of energy when dealing with time travel in particular.

The actual story involves research into the life of a Jazz Age singer named Kit Jeffers who died in a fire as a young woman. The character of Kit Jeffers comes alive in this audio drama with the superb acting and singing skills of Robin Miles. There are three original songs, written in the Jazz/Rag Time style of the 1920s, expressively performed by Ms Miles, and at one point with her daughter Olivia DuFord (playing the role of Kit Jeffers’ little sister, Alice.)

There are sound effects and voice enhancements galore; but all the effects sometimes are confusing (Who exactly is speaking? Why does the voice sound like that?) or; superfluous (Is more than a couple of seconds of a bulldozer rattling around necessary to tip the listener off that a bulldozer was being used? Especially after being told that a bulldozer was being used?)

There is an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and work that clearly went into this audio drama; but the overabundance of story ideas and sound effects in particular made the overall production a bit unwieldy.  The script is structurally unbalanced and a modicum of post-engineering restraint is lacking. It’s no wonder that the writers managed to make a glaring continuity error regarding time travel, a mistake they seem to have only realized after the production had wrapped and they were being interviewed. In the end, the talents of Robin Miles and the songwriters could not save In the Embers from sounding like community theater-grade writing and performance.

The audio runtime is three hours long; but it the play is only about an hour long. The second hour of the audio is an interview with the writers, composer, and actors of the audio drama; and the last hour is an interview with just the writers.


OTHER:
I purchased a digital download copy of In the Embers: The Great Northern Audio Theatre (By Brian Price and Jerry Stearns Performed by a Full Cast) from audible.com. 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.

In the Embers: The Great Northern Audio Theatre (By Brian Price and Jerry Stearns Performed by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category and in the Audio Drama category.

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Audiobook Review: Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama

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Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama
Based on the Novel by Tim Lebbon
Adapted and Directed by Dirk Mags
Performed by a Full Cast:
Corey Johnson as Hooper; Matthew Lewis as Baxter; Kathryn Drysdale as Sneddon; Mac McDonald as Lachance; Andrea Deck as Kasyanov; Nathan Osgood as Welford; Abdul Salis as Powell; Regina Brandolino as Garcia; Barbara Barnes as Jordan; Tim Alexander as Vic and the computers; Laurel Lefkow as Ellen Ripley and; Rutger Hauer as Ash
Music by James Hannigan
Ⓟ 2016, Audible Studios
4 hours, 31 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | SPACE | HORROR

This is an audio adaptation of the first of three novels that take place between the time frames of the movie, Alien and the sequel, Aliens. Ripley’s escape shuttle has been adrift for thirty-seven years when it’s picked up by by Chris Hooper’s mining ship, DSMO Marion – which is held together with a wing and a prayer; and they all find themselves disabled on LV-178, a small planet with a seemingly abandoned mining colony on it…

The story uses a lot of the scene and plot devices created for the 1979 movie,  Alien   (directed by Ridley Scott); and in many respects listeners may feel that nothing new has been added to the cannon knowledge of the Alien universe; but Lebbon’s story does offer a possible explanation as to why the xenomorph aboard the escape shuttle at the end of the movie just lies there in the bulwarks; provides an interesting context for Ash’s semi-resurrection; and gives a nice “out” as to why this story wouldn’t be referenced in any of the movie sequels. However, the horrific aspects of the story are reduced to chase scenes, figuring out to deal with decompression chambers, and warning & reminding each other frequently of a variation of  “Acid burns! Watch out!” The story does offer an enticing peek at another civilization, but it does not look like it will be developed into future storylines.  Also, there was one scene in which the new crew is informing Ripley of all sorts of things about the xenomorph which they couldn’t possibly know, unless they saw the first movie!*

Laurel Leflow voices Ripley so well, it sounds like Audible has spliced in film dialogue; and Rutger Hauer voices the modified Ash character credibly as well. Most of the  other actors pass muster too, though the character of Lachance is, of all things, Cajun, and that’s just not one of those accents that really be played convincingly or not sounding comically bad.

The production has original music and sound effects. The music is gorgeous, adding atmosphere. The sound effects are a little heavy-handed at times; but always clearly indicating the action. Alien: Out of the Shadow: An Audible Original Drama doesn’t quite have the balance and finesse of a BBC production; but Alien fans will undoubtedly connect; and those for whom Rutger Hauer is a draw will not be disappointed.

 

* It is not clear if this a continuity error that exists in the original novel as I haven’t read it yet; or if it is one generated by adapting the novel into a play script; or if I’ve somehow completely missed the rationale… If you can explain, please let me know in comments!


OTHER:
I listened to a digital download copy of Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama (By Tim Lebbon; Directed by Dirk Mags; Performed by a Full Cast) which was available free during the month of April, 2016 from Audible.com. 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.

Alien: Out of the Shadows: An Audible Original Drama (By Tim Lebbon; Directed by Dirk Mags; Performed by a Full Cast) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category and in the Audio Drama category.

 

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Audiobook Review: Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back

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Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back
Witten and performed by Ray Magliozzi and Tom Magliozzi
Ⓟ 2016, Highbridge Audio, A  Division of Recorded Books
1 hour, 1 minute
RADIO | SCIENCE | CARS

Ray and Tom Magliozzi were two brothers who co-hosted NPR’s weekly talk show, “Car Talk” from 1987-2012. “Car Talk” was a call-in show wherein the public would phone into the station with questions about their cars, and the brothers would use their expertise to answer those questions. In the beginning, the questions were pretty technical; but over time, the questions became frequently more tangentially related to cars; and coupled with the brothers’ sense of humor and their Everyman approach in talking to the callers, the show became more entertaining. In 2012, the show ended its run (though NPR continued to air re-runs); and in 2014 Tom Magliozzi died due complications of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Ray Magiozzi has pulled together a few clips from the original show’s run that highlight Q&As that drew upon the brothers’ scientific knowledge (both were graduates of MIT.) That said, the callers and listeners were not subjected to some dry, academic explanations; but rather to some commonsense and comic responses. As always, hearing “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” is fun, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face; but admittedly, hearing the prolonged laughter of the two brothers starts to wear thin within the short duration of the audio. In the end, it’s basically recycled material that pings on listener nostalgia.

OTHER: I purchased a digital download copy of Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back (written and performed by Ray Magliozzi and Tom Magliozzi) from Audible.com. 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.

Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back (written and performed by Ray Magliozzi and Tom Magliozzi) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category.

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Audiobook Review: The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent

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The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent
By Larry Correia
Narrated by Adam Baldwin
Ⓟ 2016, Audible Studios
2 hours, 4 minutes
SCIENCE FICTION | SPACE | COMEDY

Tom Stranger is a top-rated insurance agent who offers policies across alternate dimensions*, and in this fast-paced and furiously funny novella, travels to alternate Earths to settle claims. Alternate worlds with their one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eaters and other assorted transgressors cross rifts, inflict damage, and create chaos on each other; so it is good to know that a man dedicated to customer satisfaction is on the job!

Larry Correia, renowned as the author of the Monster Hunter  series and Grimnoir Chronicles, is also infamous as the founder of the Sad Puppies campaign which sought to influence the Hugo nominations toward his and Brad R. Torgerson’s works – which Correia felt were not fairly recognized in favor of more progressive or politically correct titles. This is worth mentioning here only because Corriea makes it clear he views liberal polices and persons as inferior and weak, making stabs at both in this short piece: Joe Biden is portrayed as a drunken clown; Obama is dissed for golfing; ACA “makes no sense;” and Tom Stranger’s intern, an inept young man is skewered for having a Gender Studies degree, for having been an Occupier, and having Twitter skills… The humor is biting, sharp and refreshing; but there is a pettiness and meanness to it too which detracts from the whole.

Listeners cannot afford to be distracted for even a beat lest they miss a great comic line delivered by Adam Baldwin (the American actor  & narrator, not the POTUS – which is is on some alternate Earth.) Baldwin does a great job in setting a blistering pace and keeping the energy levels up throughout the piece. The Adventures of Tom Stranger is packed with references to US pop culture icons and ideas: Chuck Norris is, well Chuck Norris, but this time an arbitrator; R. Lee Emery is a Secretary of Defense; and Larry Correia himself is a head of a high-tech conglomerate when he’s not an author suffering the fate of comic-cons… Baldwin’s character voices are distinct; and his celebrity impersonations of R. Lee Emery and Barrack Obama in particular are strong. Baldwin is also to be commended for vocalizing a manatee as a character (Though oddly, it sounds like a whale calls and not a manatee, but whatever.)

The Adventures of Tom Stranger is like a blast of cold winter air on your face: refreshing, but at the same time a little biting. Fans of Correia will not be disappointed.

  • The alternate dimensions concept is predicated on Stephen Hawking’s “Many-Worlds” interpretation wherein “all possible alternate histories and futures are real,” each alternate world born of the moment any decision is made in any of the realities, thereby creating millions of possible other worlds.
    Wikipedia, Many-Worlds interpretation, Accessed March 8, 2017

OTHER: I listened to a digital download copy of The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent (by Larry Correia; narrated by Adam Baldwin) which was available free during the month of May, 2016 from Audible.com. 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 Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent (by Larry Correia; narrated by Adam Baldwin) is a finalist in the 2017 APA Audie Awards in the Original Work category.

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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.

The New Adventures of Mickey’s Spillane’s Mike Hammer

The Sounds Like a Mystery (SLAM)Yahoo! group has issued a mini-challenge:

“Keeping with our geographic theme, pick 4 books to read between now and the end of the year all set in New York.”

I’m in! The first of four titles:

The New Adventure of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer

by M.J. Elliot & Cerney (sp?) two of the writers from the TV show;
Performed by a full cast, starring Stacy Keach, who starred in the TV show in the 1980s
Blackstone Audio
2.7 hours

I picked this title in the SLAM State Challenge (NY) because 1) it is a mystery;2) it is set in NY (locations include but are not limited to: Wall St.,Fulton Street subway station, Brooklyn Heights and Long Island)and;3) Every once in while I go for something different than straight forward narration and grab a full cast production.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER features two stories: “Oil and Water” and “Dangerous Days.” “Oil and Water” is about the reunion of Mickey Spillane with a former flame, an investigative reporter working on a story about an oil company and a vanished tanker. “Dangerous Days” is about a young woman’s connection to a young Middle Eastern man identified by the government as a terrorist threat. The plot lines are basic linear narratives which rely on sound f/x for mood and setting. Anyone familiar with noir mysteries knows immediately who the villain is, so the “whodunit” component is a no-brainer. Without that (the “whodunit” challenge) though, the stories are reduced to little more than a showcase for Stacy Keach. Now, Stacy Keach IS Mike Hammer and he delivers Mike Hammer BUT: The writers of this production attempt to make Mike Hammer relevant by setting the stories in the 21st century. However the language is awkward and forced (e.g. “google” is colloquially used as a verb, not a noun; i.e. you google something, you don’t look something up on google.) The sound f/x are sometimes anachronistic (e.g. Mike Hammer pulls into a self serve gas station and the “ding-ding” bell that alerted gas station attendants to hustle out to the customers rings.) [Now I live in a state that has no self-serve gas stations and even I haven’t heard that bell in decades!:] But that could be overlooked and/or forgiven except for other production issues which include odd and protracted pauses (“Dangerous Days”) and a double take. Also, the engineer who filled out the metadata filled out the fields incorrectly AND mis-spelled “Spillane.” It’s that inattention to detail that is irksome. That said, the overall production values were better than most full cast “radio-style” dramas being currently produced. Unfortunately that’s not enough to bring in any new fans to the Mike Hammer franchise; or appeal to long time fans either. There is a THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MICKEY SPILLANE’S MIKE HAMMER, vol. 2 and THE GOLIATH BONE available, but I think I’ll pass.