Commentary: The art of book (and audiobook) arrangement

SFFaudio Commentary

I’ve never understood the appeal of the art of flower arrangement – flowers are pretty, and I guess they’re full of symbolism – but other than that I don’t really get the appeal.

On the other hand, I find that whenever I visit someone’s home I’m immediately off and looking at their bookshelves. To me that’s where the real art of arrangement happens.

I happened to do a little of that myself today.

It started yesterday – when I spotted this perfectly good bookshelf being given away! FREE!

Free Bookshelf!

I snapped it right up, dusted it right off, and found a place for it in my apartment.

My New Bookshelf!

Then I policed up various books, and audiobooks, from various other overflowing shelves and arranged them in a handy and functional order.


They’re all basically grouped by author. Some of the books I’ve had for decades, others are quite new.

Here are a few details:

Blackstone Audio - Robert A. Heinlein Audiobooks

Blackstone Audio - Philip K. Dick Audiobooks

Robert E. Howard books and audiobooks

Top shelf - Robert Silverberg, Guy de Maupassant, Robert A. Heinlein, Mark Twain, Full Cast Audio, Edgar Allan Poe

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Releases: Ghoul by Brian Keene

New Releases

I don’t think there’s a perfect narrator for any particular genre as a whole. But there are some pretty close cases. For a first person POV story, with a crazy sounding narrator, there’s nobody better at narration (to my ears) than Mr. Pat Bottino (he narrated Home Is The Hunter). For unbridled passion, anger, and pathos there’s Harlan Ellison (his narration of Run For The Stars |READ OUR REVIEW| was stellar). And for horror set in the USA there’s only one voice I need: Wayne June’s.

In fact, I’d be satisfied with every single American horror audiobook being narrated by his wonderful voice. While he sounds nothing like Vincent Price, he works me like a puppet in exactly the same way. He’s scary, and scared, he’s creepy and creeped. I know he can do other genres – but for me I’ve got him completely typecast – he’s just Mr. American Horror to me. He’s absolutely wonderful at it. Take this recently released novel…

AUDIO REALMS - Ghoul by Brian KeeneGhoul
By Brian Keene; Read by Wayne June
Audible Download – 8 Hours 33 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: October 20, 2011 (on
Sample |MP3|
June 1984. Timmy Graco is looking forward to summer vacation, taking it easy and hanging out with his buddies. Instead, his summer will be filled with terror and a life-and-death battle against a nightmarish creature that few will believe even exists. Timmy learns that the person who’s been unearthing fresh graves in the cemetery isn’t a person at all. It’s a thing. And it’s after Timmy and his friends. If Timmy hopes to live to see September, he’ll have to escape the Ghoul.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #126 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Statement Of Randolph Carter by H.P. Lovecraft


The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #126 – a complete and unabridged reading of The Statement Of Randolph Carter by H.P. Lovecraft, read by Wayne June (from the Audio Realms collection The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft – Volume 3), followed by a discussion of the story. Participants include Jesse, Scott, Tamahome, Jenny Colvin (of the Reading Envy blog) and Mr. Jim Moon (of

Talked about on today’s show:
H.P. Lovecraft never played soccer?, Mr. Wayne June is the voice of Lovecraft, Michael Clarke Duncan has a swarthy voice, Pat Bottino’s voice might work for Lovecraft, Tama was a Lovecraft virgin until The Statement Of Randolph Carter, The Statement Of Randolph Carter is a good place to start with Lovecraft, forbidden writings, nameless things with many adjectives, Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart, a radical thesis: Harley Warren is a mean practical joker, Jesse renders the story meaningless, The Turn Of The Screw, Big Cypress Swamp, Florida, Imprisoned With The Pharaohs, alligator-men, secret places and cultists, legion (many – demons – The New Testament), The Lovecraft Vocabulary Challenge, necrophagous niter, The Cask Of Amontillado, did Randolph Carter cover up that tomb?, using The Statement Of Randolph Carter for vocabulary expansion, “hoary”, adding horror, The Silver Key, Randolph Carter is an occult thrill seeker, “we’re one lid away from total doom”, I don’t find books of forgotten lore in used bookstores, Harry Houdini’s book on the occult had an introduction written by Lovecraft!, Lovecraft’s letters, the Call Of Cthulhu RPG works differently than other RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons, From Beyond, Re-Animator, Herbert West Re-animator, it’s such a cute little horror, showing Lovecraft on screen may be best done humorously, dripping oozing ichor, China Miéville, piling on the connotations, bringing home the horror, “it was an eldritch night and I was feeling squamous”, night terrors, Tama had a nightmare that DC was going to relaunch all their comics, “Warren is calling”, what does a gelatinous voice sound like? it’s a rip-of from Poe, The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar, hypnotism, Warren’s theory about why certain corpses say fat and firm, Demons by John Shirley, The Unnameable, a funny riposte, “your giant zombie theory doesn’t work”, In The Mouth Of Madness, The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft, The New Cthulhu, Robert E. Howard, The Black Stone, Clark Ashton Smith, Conan lives in a Lovecraftian universe, Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, The People Of The Dark, Worms Of The Earth, Howard’s non-Lovecraftian horror, Pigeons From Hell, Howard was a collector of words and ideas, what’s the Mongolian word for sword?, Cimmeria was a real place, Lovecraft was a crafter of stories whereas Howard was a storyteller, Lovecraft’s poetry, yellow peril, The Horror At Red Hook, raging racist, respectable white folks turning into fish people, Clive Barker, “you’re one puzzle box away from doom”, dark fantasy, hidden secret magical worlds.

The Statement Of Randolph Carter by H.P. Lovecraft - illustration by Andrew Brosnatch

The Statement Of Randolph Carter

The Statement Of Randolph Carter scene in Providence, issue 8

The Statement Of Randolph Carter Illustration by Pete Von Sholly

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal by Robert E. Howard

SFFaudio Online Audio

If you’re looking to add a Robert E. Howard story to your reading library, but don’t want to get started down the Conan path, look no farther than The Fire Of Asshurbanipal. It was the cover story for the December 1936 issue of Weird Tales!

Weird Tales December 1936 - The Fire Of Asshurbanipal by Robert E. Howard

WEIRD TALES The Fire Of Asshurbanipal - illustration by J. Allen St. John

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal was sold posthumously to Weird Tales by Howard’s father, then the only surviving member of Howard’s immediate family. The story features a pair of adventurers. One is an American, named Steve Clarney, and the other is an Afghan named Yar Ali. They make a fun pair.

Eric Wilkerson‘s depiction of Clarney, for the Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game, makes Clarney look like Indiana Jones (minus the whip), and that’s not wholly wrong. But Clarney isn’t an archaeologist, though he and Yar Ali are treasure hunters, and the period and setting is pretty close.

Eric Wilkerson's depiction of Steve Clarney

It is available in print as a part of easily the Ballantine Del Rey collection called The Horror Stories Of Robert E. Howard (ISBN: 0345490207); there was also a pair of deluxe releases by Subterranean Press. And most importantly there is a wonderful professionally narrated audiobook edition available from Tantor Media (it’s read by the talented Robertson Dean):

Horror Audiobook - The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard by Robert E. HowardThe Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Robertson Dean
2 MP3-CDs – Approx. 24 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audiobooks
Published: 2010
Sample |MP3|

The paper editions feature two stunning images from the story by Greg Staples.

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal as illustrated by Greg Staples

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal art by Greg Staples

Interestingly, a different version of the same novelette, The Fire of Asshurbanipal, was published in more recent times as a straight adventure story (same characters but minus the supernatural elements). That fantasy-free version and can be found in another Ballantine Del-Rey collection entitled El Borak And Other Desert Adventures (ISBN: 034550545X).

El Borak And Other Desert Adventures

And that one includes wondrous illustrations by the master of comic book covers Tim Bradstreet.

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal illustration by Tim Bradstreet

The Fire Of Asshurbanipal illustration by Tim Bradstreet

And the version available on Gutenberg Australia’s website is, of course, the original Weird Tales version, complete with references to the Necronomicon, Yog-Sothoth and other sundry Cthulhu mythos details. And that’s the version which has recently been podcast by FNH’s Cthulhu Podcast.

Cthulhu PodcastThe Fire of Asshurbanipal
By Robert E. Howard; Read by FNH
2 MP3 files – Approx. 54 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Cthulhu Podcast
Podcast: June 2011
First published in the December 1936 issue of Weird Tales.
Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3|

I think I first read this story about twenty-five years ago, and remembered it as a gripping adventure yarn with a fairly strong Lovecraftian feel. I picked it up second hand, in a used bookstore in a handsomely covered collection of ‘weird’ Howard stories called Wolfshead (ISBN: 055312353X). In that 1979 book, there is an excellent introduction by Robert Bloch in which he argues that the “stylistic excesses” found in Howard’s stories, like The Fire Of Asshurbanipal, can be “easily excused” because within Howard’s writing “lurks a dark poetry, and the timeless truth of dreams.”

That still sounds right to me. The Fire Of Asshurbanipal is exciting, happily and ornately adjectival, and carries about with it a heft that most adventure fiction can’t really come close to matching. Listening to this podcast edition I’ll admit it possesses a raw power that I still appreciate even today, much later in life. What jars most, of course, is the prominent position given to race, the reliance on instinctual knowledge, and the repeated use of jungle cat metaphors (which feel particularly out of place in the Arabian desert setting).

Over on the Black Gate blog Ryan Harvey argues that The Fire Of Asshurbanipal is cut from the same cloth as H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. I agree.

If you’re looking for more stories like The Fire Of Asshurbanipal I highly recommend another novelette, of more recent vintage, that follows in the tradition very well – That’d be Charles Ardai’s Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye (available in audio as a part of the Audio Realms audiobook Hunt Through The Cradle Of Fear |READ OUR REVIEW| and as an |ETEXT|).

For those who are more comics inclined, check out Joseph Remy’s 40 page webcomic adaptation of The Fire Of Asshurbanipal which begins |HERE|.

And in case you were wondering, the Asshurbanipal of the title was a 7th century BC Neo-Assyrian king famed for the creation of the Library of Ashurbanipal which held among its collection the Epic Of Gilgamesh. It is reported that Alexander the Great, upon seeing the great library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, was himself inspired to create his own library and that one became perhaps the most famous library of all.

Detail from the Paul Lehr’s cover for Wolfshead:

Wolfshead cover illustration by Paul Lehr

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Hunt Through The Cradle Of Fear by Gabriel Hunt (aka Charles Ardai)

SFFaudio Review

AUDIO REALMS - Hunt For Adventure: Through The Cradle Of Fear by Gabriel HuntSFFaudio EssentialHunt: Through The Cradle Of Fear (#2 in the Adventures Of Gabriel Hunt series)
By Gabriel Hunt (aka Charles Ardai); Read by Jim VanDusen
6 CDs – Approx. 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: November 2009
ISBN: 9781897304761
Themes: / Adventure / History / Mythology / Fantasy / Hungary / New York / Egypt / Greece / Sri Lanka / Libya / Noir /

From the towers of Manhattan to the jungles of South America, from the sands of the Sahara to the frozen crags of Antarctica, one man finds adventure everywhere he goes: GABRIEL HUNT. Backed by the resources of the $100 million Hunt Foundation and armed with his trusty Colt revolver, Gabriel Hunt has always been ready for anything – but is he prepared to enter… The Cradle Of Fear? When a secret chamber is discovered inside the Great Sphinx of Egypt, the mystery of its contents will lead Gabriel to a remote Greek Island, to a stone fortress in Sri Lanka … and to a deadly confrontation that could decide the fate of the world!

Hunt Through The Cradle Of Fear is a fast paced, well researched, modern adventure tale in the vein of Indiana Jones or Jake Sampson: Monster Hunter. The adventure never flags or gets bogged down in the equipment porn many of the other adventure series I’ve read have. Instead, the story both figuratively and literally jets from scene to scene – with a narration that almost as velocitous. Adding to the fun is Sheba, a distressed damsel who is no mere mcguffin – she’s got skills that both Lajos DeGroe, the billionaire heavy, and Hunt both need. When Gabriel Hunt, the titular hero/author, isn’t stowed away on a private jet, chasing after Sheba to who-knows-where, he’s doing battle from the seat of New York taxi or jumping off ramparts into shadowy abysses. Spanning three-quarters of the circumference of the Earth, this story threads together a plot explaining the various archaeological connections between Greece, Egypt and Sri Lanka. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

In Chapter 19 there’s a delightful little scene that shows just how playful this book is. Gabriel Hunt, and his buxom companion, are set to meet a shadowy hacker in an Istanbul landmark when they bump into a pair of married writers – one is named Naomi, and she write historical fantasy, the other, her husband, writes adventure stories. If your a bit familiar with Charles Ardai, who wrote Hunt Through The Cradle Of Fear you’ll instantly recognize, as I did, that that was a cameo by both Charles Ardai and his wife Naomi Novik (author of His Majesty’s Dragon |READ OUR REVIEW|! Fun heh? Also promising is the serial but standalone nature of this book. Each book in the series stands alone, but offers callbacks to the earlier adventures as well as advancing the plot and/or revealing more about the Hunt family fortune. This is book 2 in a series, all attributed to Gabriel Hunt, but all ghost-written by various authors. One brief scene referring to events in book 1 Hunt At The Well Of Eternity, for example, made me want to pick up the first book in the series.

If you’re looking for painterly descriptive passages, or angsty characters, you’d do well to avoid this romp. Gabriel Hunt is an adventurer first and foremost. But, if you, like me, enjoy a little back-story – slowly revealed – between hard-fought gun battles and perilous plunges from high places – you’re in for a real treat. When I talked to Fred Godsmark, of Audio Realms, in SFFaudio Podcast #078 I asked him why he produced book 2 in the Gabriel Hunt series, rather than book one. He told me that its was what he was suggested he start with. If Hunt At The Well Of Eternity is half as good as Hunt Through The Cradle Of Fear it’ll definitely be worth picking up too!

Narrator Jim VanDusen is an absolute keeper. His voice perfectly suits the care-free Hunt. But he’s also able to voice the black-hearted villains, the variously accented henchmen, as well as the brainy but busty beauty Sheba (the female lead). It’s always a delightful surprise to find a new narrator, Jim VanDusen is one of these.

But that’s not all! Tacked on to the end of this novel is a bonus 83 minute novelette by Charles Ardai, also read by Jim VanDusen, called Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye (the etext for which is |HERE|). Nor Idolatry Blind the Eye is a terrific adventure tale set in post WWII Libya and starring a shattered mercenary named Malcolm Stewart who is looking for a reason to live. It reminded me of a cross between one of Robert E. Howard’s ghost stories and the 1943 movie Five Graves To Cairo. Like Hunt Through The Cradle Of Fear it is also well researched, fast paced and truly thrilling. Unlike Cradle it’s grim, a meaty noir tale, in the way that a series story never could be. Highly recommended!

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #079 – AUDIOBOOK: Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard


Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #079 – Featuring a complete and unabridged reading of Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard!

This is perhaps the greatest CONAN adventure ever written. It was first published in Weird Tales, May 1934.

It comes to us courtesy of Audio Realms and It can be found, along with a bunch of other great Howard yarns, in People Of The Dark: The Weird Works Of Robert E. Howard – Volume Two.

Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard

The Death Of Belit - illustration by Ernie Chan

Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard - illustration by Mark Schultz

Michael R. Hague illustration of Queen Of The Black Coast by Robert E. Howard

Queen Of The Black Coast - illustrated by Robert Kline

Stephen Fabian illustration of Queen Of The Black Coast

Jeff Easley illustration of Queen Of The Black Coast

Queen Of The Black Coast - illustration by Hugh Rankin

Posted by Jesse Willis