Commentary: SFSignal Mind Meld on the best of 2009

December 2, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Commentary 

SFFaudio Commentary

SFSignal.comJohn DeNardo of SFSignal.com recently asked me if I was “interested in participating in another Mind Meld.” I told him he should go back and audit a few more classes at the Vulcan Science Academy as he was obviously not mind melding with me well enough to know my answer would be: “Of course I would John!”

Here was the topic:

Q: What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows you consumed in 2009?

Here was my answer:

I expect to hear a few more audiobooks and audio dramas before the year is out, but at 11 months in I can already say 2009 has been a very good year for audio fans. Here are six genre audiobooks and audio dramas that I gave the SFFaudio Essential designation.

Audio Dramas:BBC Audio - The Adventures Of Sexton Blake

The Adventures Of Sexton Blake – A rival of Sherlock Holmes, Sexton Blake is an unbelievably clever audio drama series. It is also very, very funny!

Blake’s 7 – The Early Years (Volumes 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4) – this superior prequel series mines the back-stories of the titular characters. B7 The Early Years is intelligent social Science Fiction.

The Red Panda Adventures, Season 4 – A free podcast audio drama series about 1930s Toronto superheroes. It features top notch acting, fresh scripts and more heart than all the X-Men put together.

Audiobooks:Audible Frontiers - Starship: Rebel, Book 4 by Mike Resick

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper – A planetary romance about little aliens with a culture and language that borders on sapience. This Audio Realms edition features an able narration by Brian Holsopple.

Starship: Rebel by Mike Resnick – The penultimate chapter in Resnick’s galaxy spanning space opera. Narrator Jonathan Davis makes this audiobook version the ultimate way to enjoy this great series.

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak – A bucolic rumination on immortality, conflict, and human nature. Eric Michael Summerer’s clear narration makes Simak’s anachronistic grammar come alive.

You can read it |HERE| along with a bunch of other folk’s own lists, including Mike Resnick’s!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir Review of The Adventures Of Sexton Blake

November 6, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

Aural Noir: Review

BBC Audio - The Adventures Of Sexton BlakeSFFaudio EssentialThe Adventures of Sexton Blake
Based on the character created by Harry Blyth; Performed by a full cast
2 CDs or MP3 Download – Approx. 2 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks / Perfectly Normal Productions
Published: September 2009
ISBN: 1408410540
Themes: / Mystery / Adventure / Crime / Steampunk / Airships / London / Exmouth / Willesden /

Britain’s iconic and most prolifically chronicled sleuth explodes back into action in a brand new series of thrilling Adventures packed with incident and hilarity!

Back in 2006 we had a story about the new co-venture between Perfectly Normal productions and BBC Audiobooks. Audio drama legend Dirk Maggs was set to revive several “cult British comic characters.” This is the first of these. I hope there will be MANY MORE!

Sexton Blake, a renowned Baker Street detective, and his youthful assistant Tinker regularly face peril with deceptive disguises and flying fists. In between investigations they return to their Baker Street rooming house for endless lashings of tea and heaping plates of kippers. Their landlady, Mrs. Bardell, makes the food, debriefs the great detective, and commiserates with her neighbor, Mrs. H. (she’s also a landlady to another famous Baker street detective). The story begins aboard a runaway locomotive at the tail end of a kind of locked room mystery – after a few shootings by the various suspicious characters and a brief detour into the dining car’s wine cellar, the villain is revealed -only to escape by auto-gyro. When Blake returns to his Baker street residence he’s soon embroiled in a new investigation brought on by the arrival of a beautiful American actress. The investigation is both serpentine and ingenious, and it leads directly into the next – one in which an incredibly capable and amnesic woman saves Blake and Tinker from a false charge of burglary. Their investigation into her curious abilities and former profession lead Blake and Tinker into a house of deathtraps (or is that a deathtrap house). The action finally culminates in a thrilling saber duel atop a Zeppelin! At the beginning of each new episode there’s a mini-scene from an unrelated Sexton Blake adventure – each depicting Blake defeating either a rapscallious villain or a villainous rapscallion.

The Adventures Of Sexton Blake is jam packed with as much rib-tickling raillery as The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The script is unbelievably clever and funny. It features a kind of endless stream-of-consciousness wordplay that clearly follows in the tradition of Douglas Adams, Monty Python, and The Goon Show. What sets it apart from it’s forebearers is a strict adherence to the medium. The only possible way to tell this tale is as an audio drama. Perhaps the most amazing aspect is vaguely amazing feeling I got while listening to it. There’s this kind of general consensus by all the characters to LARP their way through the adventure. No one character has the final word on anything, and every character in the scene is constantly throwing new nuance on the mental pictures being created in the listener. It’s not so much a mystery you can solve by following the clues, it’s more of an adventure you can ride with a flashing smirk.

These adventures are brilliantly envisioned by a terrific combination of skilled comedic acting, an engaging theme song and thousands of layered sound effects. I’m betting the script was at least twice as thick, per minute, as a typical (or ordinary, or normal) one. The outstanding cast and crew has made The Adventures Of Sexton Blake a play that can stand shoulder to shoulder, chin to chin, and eye to eye, with the finest audio dramatizations ever produced – and not feel even the slightest weak in the knees. This is very highly recommended listening!

Crew:
Written by Mil Millington and Jonathan Nash; Directed by Dirk Maggs
Sound Design and Music by Paul Weir
Produced by David Morley

Cast:
Simon Jones ….. Sexton Blake, Adventuring Detective
Wayne Forester …. Tinker, his Plucky Assistant
June Whitfield …. Mrs Bardell, their Doughty Housekeeper
Graham Hoadly …. Professor Kew, a Spindly Cackler
Lorelei King …. Miss Elizabeth Mary-Louise Tarabelle Beauchamp
Simon Treves …. Inspector Coutts Of Scotland Yard
Felicity Duncan …. Miss Terry, Window-Leaping Adventuress
Susan Sheridan …. Mrs Hudson, Housekeeper To A Neighbouring Detective
Malcolm Brown …. Count Ivor Carlac, a Villainous Juggernaut
Philip Glassborow …. Cyril, A Grim Assassin
Oscar Sharp …. The Frantic Caller
William Franklyn …. The Mysterious Waiter

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC R2 / RA.cc: The Hunt For Sexton Blake

July 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Aural Noir, Online Audio 

Aural Noir: Online Audio

BBC Radio 2RadioArchive.ccHere’s a reminder that tonight sees the beginning of The Adventures Of Sexton Blake in a six week run on BBC Radio 2. But if you’re still not sure who this Blake bloke is, I’ve got the solution. Using my amazing skills of research (RadioArchive.cc) I’ve uncovered a July 28th, 2009 documentary about this Sexton Blake character. It’s called The Hunt For Sexton Blake and runs a full hour. Interested parties can find the well seeded torrent for it through RadioArchive.cc. It’s filed in the “factual” section there. Here’s the description:

BBC Radio 2 - The Hunt For Sexton BlakeWho exactly is Sexton Blake? People under the age of 45 might ask that question, but anyone older is likely to have read one of the 4000 stories by over 200 authors, or seen the films, the stage adaptations, the many TV shows, or listened to his adventures on radio.

Sexton Blake is one of the most famous and long-lived fictional detectives and adventurers of all time, who battled opium smugglers, bandit chiefs and the Kaiser. In his heyday he was more widely read than Sherlock Holmes – enjoyed by working people all over the British Empire – and whilst Holmes features in very few stories, Blake appeared in thousands.

In this hour long profile and exploration of Blake’s impact, David Quantick talks to author Michael Moorcock, who used to edit the Sexton Blake Library; Jack Adrian a former writer; and comic book illustrator Kevin O’Neil, who co-created The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other heroes.

That Blake didn’t have the same critical recognition, could be attributed to the fact the stories were published in cheap magazines, rather than in proper books. Or because the writers themselves didn’t move in the right circles, to make friends and influence people. While Ian Fleming had been to Eton and Sandhurst, the Blake authors were a rag tag bunch of eccentrics, whose own lives were worked into the tales. Michael Moorcock tells David that the Blake writers were puzzled at how James Bond was liked by critics, when the early novels were badly plotted and featured cartoon-like villains hiding in volcanoes.

David also hears about the Blake author who vanished under mysterious circumstances. The writer’s wife sent in his remaining Blake manuscripts without saying he’d disappeared, and then passed off her new partner’s work as that of her dead husband. It wouldn’t take Sexton Blake to tell you there was something fishy going on there!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Dirk Maggs and BBC Audiobooks UK to venture into Podcasting in 2007

December 4, 2006 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

Podcast - Perfectly Normal ProductionsThis should raise an interested eyebrow! It seems that BBC Audiobooks (UK), has made a deal with Radio Drama legend Dirk Maggs, and crew at the newly formed Perfectly Normal Productions to create “compelling, high quality audio entertainment for bite-size delivery direct to home computers, portable media players and mobile phones.” In other words, podcasts!

Dirk Maggs sez: “Podcasting should be so much more than a platform for stand up comedy and audio diarists. Video on a handheld devices will never rival the storytelling experience of a big screen. But we can fill the gap. In our hands mobile entertainment bypasses the optic nerve and hotwires the imagination, with a widescreen experience you can enjoy anywhere – in the car, the train, or on the sofa with your eyes shut.”

Perfectly Normal Productions‘ initial focus will be on original material by leading Science Fiction and graphic novel authors of today, mixed with “much-loved titles including cult British comic characters” such as The Steel Claw. Also resurrected in a new series of tongue-in-cheek adventures will be the legendary British detective Sexton Blake, featuring Simon Jones, the star of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

The releases are planned to start sometime in 2007.