Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

SEPT 2013
by Jonathan Lowe

A recent article in the The Wall Street Journal discusses the rise of audiobooks, due in large part to the availability of titles and the fact that smart phone users have instant access via Audible directly to their devices, much like ebooks. The article, by Alexandra Alter, is titled "Can You Hear Me Now? The New Explosion of Audio Books."

(For those of us in the industry, "audiobooks" is not two words; however the emphasis here is that reading patterns are changing from print books to downloadable titles.) Sales are up in multiple digits to $1.2 billion. Some points made in the article are:

* Publishers are spending more on production, including with multiple (famous) actors (as with World War Z which included Alan Alda, John Turturro, and Martin Scorsese as readers.) Colin Firth, Anne Hathaway, and Annette Bening are profiled, but film actors do not rate as highly with listeners as do professional storytellers (Scott Brick, Juliet Stevenson, and George Guidall are profiled.)

* Some film actors have switched more fully into audio production, not just as part time projects between films. (Stacy Keach, Alan Cumming,

* Some novelists are bypassing print and writing directly for audio. (David Hewson, Orson Scott Card. My own novels Awakening Storm and Fame Island were first produced as audiobooks.)

* Since Amazon owns Audible, there has been a crossover technology where the ebook and audiobook can be read (or heard) alternately. You pick up on one device where you left off on the other.

* Audible is doing research into how people are affected by listening as opposed to reading. One finding is that men are more emotionally engaged by listening to an audiobook than by reading a print book.

If you haven't tried audiobooks, you're missing out on an experience that can enrich you life while saving you time and eye strain!

Frederick Forsyth adds his own homage to the war on terror with THE KILL LIST, read by the inimitable George Guidall, who may be the most prolific of all audiobook narrators. The list refers to a secret file of names which Technical Operations Support Activity (TOSA) keeps of terrorists they would like to eliminate. The agency actually exists, as does the list. Forsyth, the author of The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File, has done his homework. The plot is simple: one terrorist named The Preacher (because he trains young Muslim recruits to assassinate Americans) has killed the wrong general---the father of a man who is now known as The Tracker. So it's a top gun sniper versus an elusive Al Qaeda operative. What the novel is really interested in showing is not so much a stereotypical two-dimensional rendering of action sequences in the style of Brad Thor, (exciting though those made be), or even the lovingly descriptive essays on high tech weapons systems in the style of Tom Clancy, but rather an insider's look at the mechanics of how terrorism operates. The human element is most important to Forsyth, as he recounts the thoughts of hostage negotiators in Somalia during a piracy standoff, or how a terrorist eludes the scrutiny of NSA hackers, or from drones tracking him invisibly from 60,000 feet. If you're expecting mindless slam-bang action without letup, such as what Hollywood delivers to the lowest common denominator, this is not your book. If you'd like to see inside the minds of both terrorist and hunter, it is. Guidall is up for the job of exploring the characters, his steady, sonorous voice maintaining an air of mystery, punctuated with suspense, which have served him through almost a thousand titles over the past decades.

Roald Dahl was one of the most original and popular children's writers in the world, producing many offbeat stories that resonate with readers worldwide. Kate Winslet is one of the rare talented screen actors whose voice acting skills mirror her stage presence. She offers a charming and sensitive performance with MATILDA, jolting to life the characters of Dahl's book with nailed accents and depth of delivery.

Other Dahl books given new performances on audio recently in this series are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (read by Douglas Hodge), The BFG (read by David Williams), and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (seven stories read by Andrew Scott.) I predict that this audiobook will be up for an Audie award next year, and will win the Grammy (which is judged by

The prolific and talented voice actor Barbara Rosenblat is back with another Linda Fairstein mystery, DEATH ANGEL. Central Park in New York City is the setting for murders being investigated by Assistant DA Alex Cooper and two detectives. With scandal brewing on the side, Alex and Mike Chapman plumb the depths of evil linked to the history of the park, with a special focus on the enigmatic icon of the Bethesda angel, as well as CSI techniques. Fairstein is former chief of Manhattan's Sex Crimes Unit, and is an expert on domestic violence and assault. Rosenblat has been featured on page one of the NY Times for her exceptional abilities as an interpreter of character and her many voices. The combination make this a must-hear.

Narrator Jonathan Davis is the best reason to order KENOBI by John Jackson Miller. It's the latest Star Wars novel, and there are plenty.
In fact, the Empire of Star Wars can be likened to the war between Coke and Pepsi (Pepsi being Star Trek.) The novels fill out the movies and animated features within no less than seven distinct eras, from the Dawn of the Jedi, the Old Republic, the Age of the Empire, the Rebellion, the New Republic, the New Jedi Order, and finally to the Legacy. There are many writers for these novels, a current one being Miller, who also authored Star Wars: Knight Errant, Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories, and fifteen Star Wars graphic novels. "Kenobi" hails from the Rebellion era, and is over 13 hours long as it engages Obi-Wan in a battle on Tatooine between the Sand People and local farmers. Tusken Raiders are out of control, and only Obi-Wan, emerging from the shadows with the power of the Force, can level the playing field. Davis is a three time Audie award winner with a panoply of vocal tricks up his sleeve. Older listeners wishing to hear more original science fiction than that presented within the Coke vs. Pepsi universe should turn elsewhere. Which is not to say that this novel isn't well written. It is. It's just that I don't drink soda personally, and try to avoid empty calories since I'm nearer, now, to that age of ultimate doom, slowly becoming more susceptible to the evils of a ravaging horde of dark side diseases. In short, my own opinion holds that Star Wars and Star Trek are for mass audiences who may not be familiar with the works of...but that's another story.

For those who were alive in the 1960s, or have an interest in politics, try JFK'S LAST HUNDRED DAYS by Thurston Clarke, as read by the always easily followed and resonate-voiced Malcolm Hillgartner.

The subtitle is "The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President." It's a week by week account of John F. Kennedy's life, the opposite of what is usually examined, (a president's first hundred days.) Reagan's "evil empire" challenged Kennedy in nuclear showdown, but JFK later enjoyed the summer of 1963, his last. An elusive man with many facets, Kennedy gave some of the best speeches ever, including one called the greatest speech ever given by a President on foreign soil. This is particularly notable after considering Khrushchev's "we will bury you" speech, and our current faceoff between Obama and Putin, in which Obama plays the Kennedy role (including being called a traitor and socialist as Kennedy was,) and Putin the Khrushchev naysayer "Age of the Empire" role. Some questions the book raises and attempts to answer are "Would the Vietnam War have happened, if JFK hadn't been assassinated?" Kennedy challenged advisors about Vietnam, and would have withdrawn advisors from South Vietnam. "How would civil rights advances and the war on poverty have played out?" and "Who exactly was Kennedy, given that he showed different aspects of himself to different people?" Clarke reveals that this question is more important than conspiracy theories about who shot him or was behind the shooting. It is the main question the book seeks to answer, sparking a tantalizing extrapolation of where America might be today had he survived. JFK's death was equivalent to killing Obi-Wan, causing "a great rift" in the Force (which was JFK's personal charisma and powers of positive and visionary leadership.) The audiobook is a fascinating journey back to that time, maybe not to the dawn of this flawed New Republic Jedi Knight, but to incidents within his nearly royal family which are less known to the public than is Queen Amadala's in Star Wars.

Jonathan's romantic suspense story/script Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac
can be downloaded as a free PDF here:

(Making news is someone in Florida winning over half a billion dollars in the Powerball. Coincidentally, my novel THE INSTANT CELEBRITY is about a $552 Million Florida Powerball winner who disappears, buys a Caribbean island, and finances an attack on a corrupt dictator so that he can reemerge a hero. The audiobook version is "Fame Island," read by Emmy winning film actor Kris Tabori.)


2013 Past Columns