BBCR4X + RA.cc: Topkapi by Eric Ambler

June 1, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Online Audio 

Aural Noir: Online Audio

BBC Radio 4 ExtraRadioArchives.ccAccording to the Wikipedia entry, BBC Radio 7 was renamed BBC Radio 4 Extra back in April. I’m not much for re-branding – it’s a grubby little idea that makes me think of scientific management, focus groups and meetings … endless … unproductive … meetings. The more I think about meetings the less I want to think.

Hopefully the new name will last a few years, and then perhaps BBC management can go ahead and arrange to have a meeting about considering the update of their antiquated delivery methods – perhaps they’ve already started as I hear they’ve finally dropped RealAudio (the web’s first big audio technology).

Speaking of delivery methods, I discovered my first interesting BBC Radio 4 Extra offering over on RadioArchive.cc. RA.cc is my favourite site for public radio, its chock full of great taxpayer funded programming. The site is extremely well organized and make even people who are wary of the word “torrent” comfortable with the technology. Files are, naturally, in the MP3 format, and when well seeded, a program the size of Topkapi will take only about TEN minutes to download. That’s service folks!

Topkapi, aka The Light Of Day, is a 1962 novel Eric Ambler. I’d heard about it – but until it showed up on RadioArchive.cc I never even thought to investigate it. Well, after investigating it turns out that The Light Of Day was an Edgar Award winning novel, 1964, and has a fair cachet in espionage and crime fiction circles. The name change, for this reading, was likely done to remind BBC listeners of the movie – Topkapi is pretty famous, the Ottoman Sultans used it as their personal residence as well as an “impregnable fortress” that housed its famous seraglio/harem.

the Topkapi Palace by night

The Wikipedia entry for Ambler has this gem:

“A recurring theme in Ambler’s books is the amateur who finds himself unwillingly in the company of hardened criminals or spies. Typically, the protagonist is out of his depth and often seems for much of the book a bumbling anti-hero, yet eventually manages to surprise himself as well as the professionals by a decisive action that outwits his far more experienced opponents.”

That certainly fits Topkapi.

I can’t say how much of the novel was excised for this abridgement, but I can say the novel definitely works as a quick listen. There are some unnecessary sound effects added, but when they show up they don’t overwhelm the text. The story is told in first person, by the clever, but unlucky anti-hero. David Westhead, the reader, is truly excellent in performing the lead character. He’s got a wonderfully subdued humor, and the voice and accent work he provides for the man supporting characters adds a lot of color.

Topkapi by Eric AmblerTopkapi (aka The Light Of Day)
By Eric Ambler; Read by David Westhead
Six 30 minute episodes – Approx. 3 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4 Extra
Broadcast: May 2011
Source: RadioArchive.cc
Small time operator Arthur Abdel Simpson is an illegitimate stateless half British half Egyptian pimp and pornographer. He makes his living fleecing tourists in Athens, Greece. When he picks up a likely looking pigeon at the airport he soon discovers that he’s the one in trouble. He’s then blackmailed into driving a car to Istanbul.

1/6. Minor crook Arthur Abdel Simpson spots a likely mark at Athens airport
2/6. Arthur Simpson is interrogated by Turkish security for unintentional arms smuggling.
3/6. Arthur is now seconded to Turkish security. He also has to work at the suspect’s villa.
4/6. Unwilling agent Simpson watches a group of ‘tourists’, while he works as their driver.
5/6. Arthur Simpson witnesses a vicious knife fight and waits for news of Fischer.
6/6. Arthur Simpson is still on the roof. He has just reluctantly robbed the Treasury.

Here’s the trailer for the film version:

I’ll try to find a copy of the film itself, and maybe see if its anything like the audiobook.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Heist Society by Ally Carter

August 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Reviews 

Aural Noir: Review

BRILLIANCE AUDIO - Heist Society by Ally CarterHeist Society
By Ally Carter; Read by Angela Dawe
5 CDs, 1 MP3-CD or Audible Download – Approx. 6 Hours 7 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: February 9, 2010
ISBN: 1441826734 (cd), 9781441826756 (mp3-cd)
Themes: / Crime / Caper / Heist / Grifting / Art / Europe / Romance /
SAMPLE |MP3|

Since she can remember, Katarina’s relatives have been grooming her for the family business – thieving. But when Kat tries to go straight and leave the “Life” for a normal life, she’s promptly kicked out of her new school for stealing the headmaster’s car and mounting it on the school fountain. Although she could have done it without breaking a sweat, ironically, this time, she’s innocent. In fact, she was framed – by another highly skilled thief. Her friend and brother-in-trade Hale, with his mischievous smile and limitless bank account, has appeared out of nowhere to bring her back to the Life, back to the family Kat tried so hard to escape. Hale has a good reason: A powerful mobster has just been robbed of his priceless art collection, and he wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have cracked this vault, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he IS the list. Now, caught between Interpol and a far more deadly predator, Kat’s dad needs her help. For Kat, a consummate thief in her own right, the solution is simple: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and maybe just enough misguided pride to pull off the biggest heist in history – or at least in her family’s (very crooked) history.

I can’t say there’s much more to this novel than the very detailed premise outlined above. It’s theme is as old as YA. A smart kid must save his or her parent from something. Mayhaps it’s not the most exicting theme ever, but it’s far more interesting than:

“Love conquers all, or love is the strongest force or something. Something about love being so strong to overcome anything.”

And as I value my time, and try to be pragmatic about these things, I find it hard not to recommend Heist Society as a breezy listen! It’s easily picked up, and just as easily dropped. I listened to it over the course of about four months – between more serious audiobooks and a forced reading of part of Twilight. Now, being a fan of practically every grifter/heist movie ever made, I can’t say I learned a single new trick or wrinkle while listening to Heist Society. But then again I didn’t really expect to. That isn’t to say, though, that I wouldn’t have liked to. And while all this probably doesn’t sound like a particularly ringing endorsement I’d much rather hand a copy of Heist Society to practically any kid than something far more popular with far more vapidity (like say something with a sparkly vampire and the teen who pines after him). See, the negatives with Heist Society aren’t particularly egregious. Sure Katarina’s and Hale are a pair of kids who act variously cynical and cool, innocent and dastardly, all while lusting (ever so gently) towards each other – but they do so in a slightly more realistic world, talking about slightly more realistic subjects, with slightly more interest in history, art and a lot more of the taking-charge-of-shit and a lot less of the lying-around-and-wishing-that a handsome-prince-whose-been-in-high-school-for-ninety-years would stare at her while she sleeps.

Bitter? Noooo, I’m not bitter.

Anyway, Ally Carter’s writing style is brisk, unobtrusive, and not wholly unsophisticated. It delivers a soft boiled tale that seems far more inspired by the Oceans 11, 12, 13, Entrapment, The Maiden Heist end of the spectrum than the The Silent Partner, The Great Train Robbery, Thief end. And if you’re an adult, in the mood for a YA novel that doesn’t have a single brooding vampire anywhere in sight (not even in the castles), this might just fill a few empty hours.

Narrator Angela Dawe performs Kat well enough, perhaps sounding a bit too adult. Dawe is not, however, quite able to fully sell me on the male characters. Her voice range isn’t particularly vast. Thankfully, as most scenes aren’t full of multiple characters, there isn’t much of a chance of confusing any of them. She’s certainly good enough for this novel.

Posted by Jesse Willis