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Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

JUNE 2013
by Jonathan Lowe

Phil Jackson served as head coach for the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, and won more championships than any coach in the history of professional sports. Unlike some other coaches whose scandals regularly make the news, he was an inspiration to his players and not a "screaming me-me." His new biography (Eleven Rings) is a fascinating journey from his days as a preacher's kid in North Dakota to how he managed Michael Jordan and others like Dennis Rodman (who was deemed "uncoachable") using Zen techniques.Written with Hugh Delehanty, this revelatory audiobook is read by Matt Walton, who maintains a consistent upbeat tone with a voice that never bores. (And I get bored with sports easily, as author of The Umpire Has No Clothes.)

AS I KNEW HIM by Anne Serling is an honest, revelatory, and fascinating memoir of one of television's most original and provocative writers, Rod Serling, told by his daughter in loving memory. Serling also reads her book on audio, and paints a portrait that is anything but dark. Recalling a personal life with her father, she reveals a complex man with a silly sense of humor, deep political convictions, and boundless imagination. Not only does she comment on most of his works, but she reads letters from her father, and shares his reactions, opinions, and complaints about the machine that is Hollywood. Who is this enigma of a man with a cigarette? You will know after hearing this book. Serling won multiple Emmys during his career, but more than that he was unafraid to unmask the prejudices and flaws of those more interested in perpetuating the status quo. Some of his scripts were tongue-in-cheek simplistic, but others were masterpieces, such as "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and the ending to the movie "Planet of the Apes" (for which he was credited.) Much of what he wrote has relevance for today, such as this quote: "Poverty, hunger, racial tension, pollution are here and now. These are the things that scream for a response. And if we don't listen to that scream…and if we don't respond to it, we may well end up sitting amidst our own rubble, looking for the truck that hit us, or the bomb that pulverized us. Get the license number of whatever it was that destroyed the dream, and I think we will find that the vehicle is registered in our own name." My interview with Anne is here:

Clive Barker, the evil genius behind movies such as Candyman, Nightbreed and Hellraiser (which was based on his novella The Hellbound Heart), and novels such as Abarat and Imajica, has had the first volume of his debut horror story collection BOOKS OF BLOOD released on audio for the first time. Narrators include Chris Patton, Jeffrey Kafer, Dick Hill, Peter Berkrot, Simon Vance, and Chet Williamson. The narration is stellar, and the mix eclectic both in tone and range. After the original introduction by Ramsey Campbell and a new intro by David Niall Wilson, the frame story is presented (a useful device; I once did this for the CD "Oscar's Hijack.") Then come stories like "The Midnight Meat Train" (set in the NY subway system, this grisly story was made into a movie starring Bradley Cooper.) "The Yattering and Jack" is a funny demon story given the kind of twists only Hill can convey. If Dick were on The Voice, Blake and Adam would be talking about his wicked nuances of character construction. (Actually, there should be a show for storytellers called "Story Star." It would certainly be more interesting than singing worn out pop songs.) Other stories are"Pig Blood Blues" (a missing boy ghost story,)"Sex, Death, and Starshine" (a satirical zombie story set in a theater), and finally "In the Hills, the Cities," a Lovecraft-like story, with all the power and command of language which that author conveys, (and it's also one of the most unusual horror stories you'll ever hear.)

DETROIT - An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff chronicles the state of Motown after the roller-coaster ride of carmakers like GM and Ford. Written with dark wit and confessional bravery, the book outlines corruption with case studies of politics and law enforcement gone wrong. Is Detroit a microcosm of America? Maybe or maybe not, but you decide, after hearing astonishing instances in which failures of management are augmented by apathy. As read with a subdued, ironic chagrin by Eric Martin, this is a cautionary true tale told by a former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the NY Times, now working for Fox News in Detroit (and what a delicious irony that is for a writer, considering that South Korea now has the largest auto plant in the world, while the Big Three in America have abandoned Detroit to work out of city or out of state.)

GUN MACHINE by former graphics novelist Warren Ellis is a pulp police thriller with the gritty feel of the movie Sin City. In this case the city is New York, specifically Manhattan, with the added dimension of what the author refers to as "ghost maps," a kind of I.T. shorthand for the informational grid that secretly forms boundaries between jurisdictions, related in part to camera surveillance and to computer response time (as well as historical relevance.) Amid the highly charged debate going on in Washington involving gun violence, the story has been released on audio with a plot involving a detective named John Tallow who stumbles upon an apartment containing a mountain of weapons, each one involved in a different unsolved murder. That this should be in New York, where carrying guns is banned, adds to the novel's intensity. Now there's a killer he's trading wits with called "the hunter," a man-devil whose presence has aided powerful Wall Street despots, and who has secret motives of his own. Reg E. Cathey is the ideal narrator for the story, with his harsh nicotine voice and ability to charge the characters with believable voices. For at least the first half, it's more of an acting performance than a reading. By the end he's back to what might be typical of a more prolific reader, presumably because you've got the picture by then. If you like James Patterson, with his characteristic short sentences and punchy dialogue, you'll love Gun Machine. Not everything is totally believable about the story, including the ultimate motive of the hunter, but you'll be willing to suspend disbelief for the duration. It's not literature (for that you have James Lee Burke), but if you're looking for weird, zany, gutsy (and don't cringe at the F word), it is an original twist on the overworked serial killer theme.

2013 Past Columns