by Jonathan Lowe
Audio Book Reviewer
In the Louvre museum, people are seen walking past great masterpieces to huddle in the hallway around that most famous lady, Mona Lisa. After all, the masses can only remember so many names like Stephen King. The King of Fiction knows this, as well. His Royal Majesty earns far more than number two, as is usually the case. And as Seth Godin says in “Unleashing the Idea Virus,” (Simon & Schuster Audio ISBN: 0-743-50422-4) number three earns far less than number two, and number four earns far less than number three, and so on down the line. So why does King appear on the cover of Writer’s Digest, telling everyone how to write for profit in a dying print book market? Is it the trickle down theory, or is it that he can’t stop trickling? And why earn all that money if you don’t spend it, since he can now afford to buy his own luxury cruise ship and sail the world with his 900 top fans instead of toiling at the keyboard every day? Hmmm . . . what’s your theory?
Having said this, King’s latest, “Dreamcatcher,” is a pretty good book, despite its flaws. Especially good are the opening chapters, before the recurring themes begin their endless recyclings. The novel combines “The Stand” with “The Tommyknockers” and “Sometimes They Come Back,” although King’s “kitchen sink” syndrome soon kicks in, and then we get endless rephrasings of past themes, and a repetition of colloquialisms and funny profanity. King wants a big, thick, expensive book, which he already knows will be a bestseller. The key word here is knows. The King of Fiction knows where the story is going, too, he just doesn’t know when or where it has arrived. And not unexpectedly, one of King’s characters has been hit by a car, and many spout Jesus references, which seem unnatural in those characters’ mouths. The main mouth – who is dead on target – is narrator Jeffrey DeMunn, a gifted actor who was seen in King’s miniseries “Storm of the Century.” DeMunn is so natural and believable, we forget this is fiction – and what the story he’s telling means – and just go along for the ride. It’s a long-winded ride that ends in a cul de sac, but I can’t say I’m sorry for having taken it, thanks to DeMunn’s narration. (23 hrs.; Simon & Schuster Audio; ISBN 0-7435-0444-5)UUU
“Calculated Risk” by Denise Tiller is an award winning mystery about a female actuary in Newport Beach, CA, whose life comes unraveled when dead bodies start turning up and she comes across a living rape victim on the beach. Then Liz finds out that she has a half sister, and that her sister is missing. The connection between her sister, the murders and the serial rapist is a Mardi Gras mask, and Liz, who owns a “black belt in mathematics,” uses her analytical skills to calculate what’s going on here. The best thing about this production is its full cast and sound, a combination of narration and acted dialogue with Kathy Garver at the helm. Garver evokes a familiar no-nonsense style of telling this enhanced story, and is therefore believable as Liz, while the supporting cast and publisher each deserve kudos for their work at making an interesting story sound more interesting than it is in print. (6.5 hrs. on 6 CDs; Timberwolf Press; ISBN 1-58752-017-6)UUUUU
Two curious autobiographies are “Son of A Preacher Man” by Jay Bakker (son of Jim Bakker), as the infamous preacher’s son takes up the mantle of his father’s whining (Harper Audio ISBN 0-694-52512-X), and “Voice Of An Angel: My Life So Far” by Charlotte Church, read by the gifted and naive 15-year-old prodigy who may become the next Kathy Lee . . . albeit one who can actually sing! Unfortunately, Charlotte doesn’t sing on this audio book, as fame is the name of this game. (Time Warner Audio; ISBN 1-58621-047-5).@
P.T. Deutermann is author of “Sweepers,” a bestselling novel about an elite CIA task force trained to track down rogue agents. Deutermann’s latest is “Hunting Season,” about an ex-Sweeper whose daughter disappeared near an abandoned military complex, and who the FBI has dismissed as a “runaway.” When the ex-Sweeper begins to uncover a plot involving religious fanatics bent on revenging Waco, using a hydrogen bomb (as in hydrogen gas), special agent Janet Carter is reassigned to the case. Having written a novel that includes an abandoned military complex and a bomber fanatic (“Postal”), I was fascinated by the story, and was happy to find another great read by narrator Dick Hill, who conveys all the characters’ emotions with consummate skill. Am I prejudiced? You decide. (17 hrs.; Brilliance Audio; ISBN 1-58788-120-9) &
“The Last Time They Met” is Anita Shreve’s latest, a literary romance by the author of “The Pilot’s Wife.” Here’s a story that plays with time itself, moving backward from the point of two lovers meeting again, after years apart, to show each earlier encounter (as in Africa), giving us a different perspective on how relationships develop and change. Linda Fallon and Thomas Janes are writers at a literary festival, but their meeting now is a takeoff point into that romantic past. Actress and singer Lainie Cooke narrates in a breathy, sensitive style, just above a whisper much of the time. Unfortunately this is more appropriate for only sensitive moments. A more listenable and robust reading is by actress Blair Brown on the abridged version – ask for that. (10 hrs.; Time Warner Audio; ISBN 1-58621-101-3)UUU
For rent or sale of most audio books, visit Earful.com, or call 1-800-532-7385. Reviewer Jonathan Lowe’s next novel will be “Dark Fire,” a suspense novel about a dying coffee shop employee – plagued by vivid nightmares of hell – who must drink gallons of the dark brew to stay awake. For rent starting in June from Books in Motion, 1-800-752-3199.