Aural Noir Review of Drive by James Sallis

August 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aural Noir, Reviews 

Aural Noir: Review

Blackstone Audio - Drive by James SallisDrive
By James Sallis; Read by Paul Michael Garcia
Audible Download – 3 Hours 26 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2007
Provider: Audible.com
Themes: / Crime / Noir / Los Angeles / Hollywood / Arizona /

“Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake. Later still, of course, there’d be no doubt. But for now Driver is, as they say, in the moment. And the moment includes this blood lapping toward him, the pressure of dawn’s late light at windows and door, traffic sounds from the interstate nearby, the sound of someone weeping in the next room…”

Drive starts with an important dedication. “To Donald Westlake, Ed McBain and Larry Block.” If an author is going to choose any three modern crime writers as inspiration for a book they could pick no better three than these dudes. Drive starts off with an opening sentence that could have been written by Richard Stark (a pen-name of Donald Westlake), proceeds to punch-out clean and clinical prose like McBain’s 87th Precinct novels and punches the story along like Lawrence Block at his best. Drive stars “Driver”, a nameless Hollywood stunt driver by day and a criminal getaway driver by night. We get how he started in the business of stunt-driving, a few scenes of him pulling off those incredible feats of automotive control, and how he got involved in the punishing business of criminal getaway driving. It’s fast, but it ain’t furious, it’s more of a simmering sizzle.

Blackstone narrator Paul Michael Garcia, who I last heard as the reader of Starman Jones, has a young voice – I knew I’d enjoy his reading of something in this genre. Garcia’s narration made it an incredibly solid listen. What’ll keep it from being a classic of the niche is that same anonymity of the protagonist. I enjoyed the ride with the guy, the “driver”, he has an incredible story to tell, but it was like I got hypnotized by the road somehow – I got to the end, refreshed and exhilarated but not particularly aware of what route we took. Perhaps this makes Drive the ideal summertime, top down, high-gear audiobook? It’s a novella so it’s short and you’ll zip through it practically before the commute is over. I think its worth giving a try.

Posted by Jesse Willis

MIND SLASH MATTER AUDIOBOOK at AUCTION~check it out

May 13, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

I’ve put this very rare audiobook up to auction. It’s our very last copy (perhaps the last sealed copy on Earth). It got an excellent review from my son Jesse Willis…

See the review HERE – then please go bid on it at:


http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=370200836661

THIS IS AN EXTREMELY RARE AUDIOBOOK. It is Out Of Print and very hard to find, the publisher is also out of business so it won’t be reprinted. This audiobook was published in 1995 and is amazingly STILL SEALED IN ITS ORIGINAL PACKAGING. It is in absolutely perfect condition. This is a 2 cassette audiobook and is UNABRIDGED (approx running time of 180 minutes).

And to quote Jesse’s review:

“For a straight reading – no music, no voice effects – this is perfect. Cover art is a little hard to decipher but is adequate. To top it all off, Mind Slash Matter was, until recently, only available only as an audiobook. Such an amazing story and straight to audio!”

Posted by Elaine Willis

Review of Mind Slash Matter by Edward Wellen

August 3, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

Mind Slash Matter
By Edward Wellen; Read by René Auberjonois
2 cassettes – 3 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Durkin Hayes Inc. [Audio Exclusive]
Published: 1995
ISBN: 0886463890
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Computers / Artificial Intelligence / Hollywood / Disability /

[His mother] should have died then, at that moment, but she lasted five terrible downhill years longer. Doctors were small help, they couldn’t cure or even treat Alzheimer’s. But they could tell him it seemed to run in families. So during those years, in between looking after her and meeting his deadlines, he put his mind to the matter of insuring that he would not end up mindless and helpless. That he would end up in the middle of a slasher case was farthest from his mind

Depending how you look at it, there are either one or two people named Rush Lightbody. The first Rush was an award winning screenwriter, who is respected in Hollywood. The second Rush is in physically the same body, but this Rush has a terrible secret. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive and irreversible brain disorder with no known cure. The effects upon him include extreme memory loss, disorientation, and impaired judgment. But he is able to cope because he anticipated it. Rush saw his own mother disabled by this horrendous disease and knowing that it can run in families he wrote a complex computer program to manage his daily activities for him. It can respond to questions and give instructions to the housekeeper. But most importantly it can help Rush with his daily routine; the program does everything from reminding him who he is and what he’s accomplished to telling him where the bathroom is. It can even answer the phone in Rush’s voice! The program provides constant reminders, telling Rush, “P.J. Katz called Rush, he’s your agent.”

P.J. Katz, like everyone else Rush knew has been fooled into thinking Rush is normal, so he’s isn’t reluctant to call with a new writing assignment – the biography of an aging film star. The biography of Iris Cameron will require Rush to physically visit her and his agent and thus to venture outside the bounds of his home and routine. So the computer program gives Rush a pager with a digital display readout and calls a cab. Disoriented and out of sorts Rush somehow manages not to screw up either the meeting with his agent or Iris Cameron, but when he returns home, Rush’s computer has recorded a death threat from an anonymous caller – if Rush doesn’t stop writing the biography of Iris Cameron, he’s a “dead man.” This threat eventually leads to something the first Rush Lightbody, the young man who wrote the computer program, could never have expected – Rush becoming the prime suspect in serial killer murder investigation! Its now up to a dementia suffering screenwriter and a few lines of code in a PC to both keep Rush alive and discover the real killer.

The plot as detailed above may remind you of a combination of Christopher Nolan’s independent film Memento (2000), and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. (1950). But while Mind Slash Matter is certainly inspired by the latter, it precedes the former by a good five years. And as a big fan of both those films I am pleased to announce the resemblance in plots is also duplicated in the quality. Mind Slash Matter is one of the most riveting audiobooks I’ve ever heard! Upon finishing it I immediately attempted to track down more audiobooks by Edward Wellen, but unfortunately he wrote only two novels, and only one other story has been recorded as an audiobook – a short story I highly recommend you track down called “Mouthpiece”. But back to Mind Slash Matter, this is suspenseful, unpredictable, thought provoking and even funny novel with a mentally disabled detective solving a murder mystery. And frankly this story amazes me. Wellen has done the impossible. He’s written something completely and undeniably original. Wellen’s portrayal of what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s disease is insightful and frightening, and his ideas as presented are almost a meditation on the boundaries of the human mind, a recurrent theme in Wellen’s fiction. The sum is a very powerful tale – and an unforgettable audio experience.

René Auberjonois, the reader, will have a familiar voice to many listeners since he played Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His performance here is excellent, using different voices for each character and particularly able to inject emotion into Rush’s thoughts – fear, anger, frustration, and confusion. For a straight reading – no music, no voice effects – this is perfect. Cover art is a little hard to decipher but is adequate. To top it all off, Mind Slash Matter was, until recently, only available only as an audiobook. Such an amazing story and straight to audio!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Hollywood Fantasies: Ten Surreal Visions of Tinsel Town

July 16, 2004 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Science Fiction Audiobooks - Hollywood FantasiesHollywood Fantasies – Ten Surreal Visions of Tinsel Town
By Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, John Jakes, David Morrell, Michael Reaves, David Schow, Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg and Henry Slesar; Read by Susan Anspach, David Birney, Harlan Ellison, Jamie Farr, Laini Kazan, Steve Kmetko, Harley Jane Kozak, Favid Madden and John Rubinstein
4 cassettes – Approx 6 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Dove Audio
Published: 1997 – hardcopy out of print (available for download at Audible)
ISBN: 0787109460
Themes: Fantasy / Hollywood / Movies / Television / Westerns / Witchcraft / Virtual Reality / Magic /

Learn the truth behind the mask of Hollywood in these ten bizarre tales of dreams and dream weavers, movies and movie-makers, by some of the most respected fantasy writers of our time.

This disappointing collection has a few redeeming tales, but few must-listen gems. The majority of the stories feel like filler – many feature tacked on twist endings that are less than stellar. Apparently Harlan Ellison’s reading of his own story, “Laugh Track,” has been modified in the performance – with the addition of a few lines here and there – if anybody’s gonna mess with a story it best be the author. The cover art is utilitarian but colorful, packaging for this audiobook is however very poor, most examples of these 4 cassette plastic cases with cardboard covers have become unbound as the glue holding the two together was not up to its task. Another minor annoyance, the mislabeling of cassette 4, Ed Gorman’s story “Gunslinger” is said to run through all of side 7 and onto 8, when it is the reverse. “Dead Image” starts on side 7 and runs through all of side 8.

Stories Included:

“The Never-Ending Western Movie” by Robert Sheckley
Jamie Farr’s gruff cowboy voice successfully narrates this 1976 short story, which posits an alternate world in which the old-fashioned movie serial westerns and reality television have merged. This is hard enough on the actors, who now have to do their own stunts, but when the prop guns fire real bullets acting scared isn’t too tough.

“One For The Horrors” by David Schow
A run-down movie theater shows prints of lost movie masterpieces like The Man Who Would Be King starring Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable? The only thing that could top that is what’s playing tomorrow night! This one really is fantasy! Strictly for film connoisseurs – it held my interest but could have exited the stage a little more interestingly. Author David Schow must have done some fascinatingly fun research for this one. Reader Steve Kmetko works some magic of his own in the theater of the ear.

“The Man Who Wanted To Be In The Movies” by John Jakes
George wants to be in movies, so he visits his local licensed witch to cast a spell that’ll do the job. Harley Jane Kozak, the narrator, is fine – but the story itself is absolutely pointless and uninteresting.

“Laugh Track” by Harlan Ellison
Have you ever wondered where the laugh tracks from television sitcoms come from? Meet Wally Modisett, the Phantom Sweetener. Originally appearing in “Weird Tales” Magazine in 1984, this overly lengthy tale is almost made up for in part by Ellison’s enthusiastic performance, told in first person.

“Reality Unlimited’ by Robert Silverberg
Virtual Reality movies. Neat idea, but that’s all it is, the idea is there but the story is M.I.A.. When this tale was written in 1957 it might have had some point to it, today it’s barely a curiosity. A disappointing story by the usually reliable Silverberg. But on the other hand Susan Anspach reading of it was fine.

“The Movie People” by Robert Bloch
Movie extras have been in Hollywood films since the silent era, but just because they have no lines doesn’t mean we can’t read between them. Adequate and with a modicum of originality this tale would have benefited from a few more drafts before publication – it wanted to be a better story. John Rubenstein takes his time with the telling – a laconic voice that doesn’t detract from the story.

“Werewind” by Michael Reaves
A serial killer and a lonely howling wind may be connected. The only question is how. Marginally listenable, Michael Reaves’ story isn’t predictable, but neither is it comprehensible. It feels like a refugee from a Danielle Steele novelization of A Nightmare on Elm Street – and that doesn’t make any sense to me either! David Madden’s reading is far better than this short deserves.

“The Movie Makers” by Henry Slesar
Henry Slesar’s ode to 1950’s science fiction b-movies succeeds – in disappointing the same way those bad movies do – minus the cheesy special visual effect. The twist ending is also predictable. Lainie Kazan’s serviceable reading is adequate to the story’s requirements – though consider the predominant male characterization a female narrator is a questionable choice.

“Gunslinger” by Ed Gorman
In the early Twentieth century cowboys were heading away from the range and towards Hollywood, where they’d take on roles in the burgeoning western film frenzy. One man however is has a score to settle with one of these cowboys turned film actors, and its gonna be real bullets that’ll fly. “Gunslinger is illogically placed in this collection – it is not fantasy. It is set in Hollywood, but isn’t particularly fanciful. David Birney doesn’t have much to do here, but neither does he fail to achieve what’s required – to tell the story.

“Dead Image” by David Morrell
A thinly veiled tale about movie rebel James Dean, that asks the question: If Dean had a second chance at life would he do things any different? This very interesting tale depends upon a listener’s knowledge of James Dean’s life and death – also neat was the appearance of a Dennis Hopper type. Morrell’s tale isn’t likely to be turned into a film itself, but it’s full of neat ruminations on destiny and fame. Jamie Farr’s deep voice makes a second, and very welcome, appearance in this collection. He’s becoming one of my favorite celebrity narrators.

Posted by Jesse Willis