Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1)
By Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham; Read by Kristen Bell
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 25 March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours, 42 minutes
From Rob Thomas, the creator of the television series and movie phenomenon Veronica Mars, comes the first book in a thrilling mystery series that picks up where the feature film left off.
Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case; the house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.
This is a book for Veronica Mars fans, to listen to after seeing the crowd-funded movie (I watched it last weekend and was not disappointed! While I’ve been watching Kristen Bell’s new show, House of Lies, I miss Veronica and her many mishaps). The story picks up a few months after the movie ends, and Veronica is still in Neptune when a college student disappears during the Spring Break season.
Logan is missing for the entire story (for reasons the movie details) but another person from Veronica’s past shows up that I wasn’t expecting to see again. I hope in the future we see more new characters because I personally am getting a little weary of some of the same old people, but maybe I do not fully appreciate the importance of repetition in a girl detective narrative.
The audio is great fun because it is read by Veronica herself, Kristen Bell. Her voice carried us through the narration of the tv show and movie, and having anyone else read the book would have been a real tragedy. She does different voices for the characters, as well as distinguishing the narrative voice from the character of Veronica Mars. I hope they continue to have her read the future Veronica Mars audiobooks (and I hope there will be future Veronica Mars books).
Here is H.P. Lovecraft’s novelette The Horror At Red Hook. The story was first published in the January 1927 issue of Weird Tales and later in the March 1952 issue (which is where I found the terrific Jon Arfstrom at the bottom of the post).
Red Hook is a mysterious slum in New York City, full of gangs, crime, and just perhaps a terrible cult. Detective Malone had a case that had tendrils extending into Red Hook. It seems that one Robert Suydam, a corpulent and scruffy recluse, has been looking younger, more radiant and prosperous. What does that have to do with the recent spate of kidnappings?
Lovecraft described his inspiration for the story in a letter written to Clark Ashton Smith:
“The idea that black magic exists in secret today, or that hellish antique rites still exist in obscurity, is one that I have used and shall use again. When you see my new tale “The Horror at Red Hook”, you will see what use I make of the idea in connexion with the gangs of young loafers & herds of evil-looking foreigners that one sees everywhere in New York.”
Talked about on today’s show:
Is The Comedy Is Finished going to be the last Donald E. Westlake novel to be published?, Memory (and our discussion of it), Charles Ardai, Max Allan Collins, Mickey Spillane, getting paid is a priority for professional writers, the 1970s, Honeydew, USO tours, Bob Hope, the audiobook experience, Peter Berkrot’s narration of the audiobook of The Comedy Is Finished, Koo Davis, Bob Hope as Red Skelton vs. Bob Hope as Gene Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Ricky Gervais, Koo Davis narrates his own POV in the present everyday tense sense, “Westlake is the master of sentence by sentence writing”, “in the moment”, “the god-damned Vietnam thing”, “the real Americans”, the redemption, healing vs. moving on, Ronald Reagan, “new normal”, “the Carter malaise” and “festering wounds”, Larry, Peter, Mark has daddy issues, Joyce, the Dortmunder gang if they were all psychotic, “doing a Westlake”, why do Koo’s boys not look like him?, the role of a father, the mirror scene, “genetics don’t matter in fiction”, fatherhood as a choice, leave the messages to Western Union, character arcs, Lindsey, A Sound Of Distant Drums, radio drama, “there are round characters and there are flat characters”, “oh this is a Westlake”, “Charo has become a bitter old woman”, “a romantic writer”, succinct description, taking plots from real life, The Score, “he can heist anything”, The Mourner, The Stepfather, “that’s pretty much how these work”, three Dortmunder ideas, Kahawa should be an audiobook, California, Burbank, Santa Barbara, Elizabeth Taylor’s biography, Under An English Heaven should be an audiobook too, Anguilla, an option has been taken out on Kahawa, the new Parker movie, Stephen King’s filmography vs. Donald Westlake’s filmography, The Hot Rock, Cops And Robbers (1973), The Split (based on The Seventh), Payback, Les Alexander, The Outfit, City Of Industry, The Sour Lemon Score, Made In U.S.A., the Criterion Collection, it’s Clint Eastwood with internal monologue, a Dortmunder TV series, The Limey, Terence Stamp, Idi Amin, Uganda, “the coffee train”, Enough, Ordo, A Slight Case Of Murder, A Travesty, it’s very hard to be a Westlake expert, the sound a girl makes when you’re kissing her, “it’s just a weird name”, Bob Hope was a knight!, Conrad Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, Westlake’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, Westlake’s renunciation of SF, Anarchaos by Curt Clark, “Rolf Malone is a precursor to Parker”, Theodore Bikel (the fiddler in The Fiddler On The Roof), The Risk Profession, Nackles (is great for kids!), The Twilight Zone, Harlan Ellison’s screenplay for Nackles, the Starship Hopeful series (available on DonaldWestlake.com), Lawrence Block’s fantasy story, SF is very allegorical (and that’s not Westlake), Humans, Westlake’s Smoke vs. Wells’ The Invisible Man, “and everybody’s an asshole”, “everybody one way or another is a jerkoff”, “Joyce goes crazy in the most wonderful way”, a survivor of Chernobyl, “is God really an asshole?”, “angels are assholes”, Milton’s Paradise Lost, The Sacred Monster, Get Real, ridicule in print, Money For Nothing, Westlake never lectured, interior thoughts that are so revealing about the shallowness of a character’s nature, Washington, D.C., “moving up the ladder”, “what does Ginger want?”, “it’s fun to play with fire”, “I’ve got to have something”, did Don hate rock and roll?, he liked classical and atonal jazz, “damn hippie”, 99% of politics is pointless, talking to death, Jimmy The Kid (a Parker novel inside of a Dortmunder novel), kidnapping, Help I Am Being Held Prisoner, Patty Hearst, Gangway, Brian Garfield, Spider Robinson’s Dortmunder homage, Lawrence Block, The Sour Lemon Score, Dashiell Hammett, Piers Anthony, Poul Anderson, Robert A. Heinlein, shiny spaceships, don’t read by genre, read by author, the genre label, Jim Thompson, The Grifters, Trent’s beef with Angelica Huston, a period piece, Paul had a problem with John Cusack, J.T. Walsh, Pat Hingle, Annette Bening, “I’ll never look at a bag of oranges the same way”, Donald Westlake: NYC Personified, The Violent World Of Parker website, Nick Jones, Westlake’s bibliography at DonaldWestlake.com.
By Tom Becker; Read by Colin Moody
6 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Bolinda Audio
Themes: / Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Crime / London / Werewolves / Vampires / Magic / Kidnapping / Evil / Jack The Ripper / Your home’s been attacked. Your dad’s in an asylum. You’re running for your life. And there’s nowhere to hide.
You’ve stumbled on the city’s greatest secret: Darkside. Incredibly dangerous and unimaginably exciting. Darkside is ruled by Jack the Ripper’s children – a place where nightmares walk the streets. You think you’re in trouble now, but your problems have just begun…
I usually do a fair mount of research about the books I plan to read. Before I pick one up I’ve usually either heard an author interview, read a review, discussed it with people who’ve already read it, or at least got a recommendation from an author whose work I already respect. But I also know these techniques aren’t a very good way to branch out beyond what’s already familiar to me, and so, every so often I just pick up a book, almost at random, and start reading. That’s what I did with Darkside by Tom Becker.
Maybe one of the initial appeals of Darkside, other than the terrific cover, was that it was from a publisher whose audiobooks I’d never heard before. Bolinda Audio is from Australia. And because of that it’s doing things a little differently. First off, it’s narrators are Australian. And second, they’ve got a lot of authors in their catalogue that I’ve never heard of. That’s cool!
Darkside is an interesting tale in itself. In terms of plot, it kind of falls halfway between two Neil Gaiman novels: Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book. It features Jonathan Starling, an unremarkable misfit fourteen-year-old with an ailing father and a deceased mother. He lives in London and is mostly taken care of by a kindly neighbor woman. Other than her, he’s nearly friendless and spends most days skipping-out of school and hanging out at one of the city’s many libraries. His father, an avid book collector himself, suffers some sort of recurring full body paralysis and perhaps it’s related to some of the books he collects. One day, right out in the open on a London street Jonathan is nearly kidnapped by a seemingly invisible giant and a woman with fluorescent hair. He quickly learns that London isn’t going to be safe for him anymore and so his father sends him away. He is to flee, for his own safety, into the arms of a protector. Jonathan takes with him a knife and a bullet. The knife is for protection from the kidnappers, and the bullet is for protection against his would-be protector, a mysterious old friend of his father’s, a man named Carnegie. Plot ensues.
Where the novel falls short is in comparison to the two Neil Gaiman novels I mentioned earlier. A hidden city within London isn’t really new. And neither is a young kid being protected by a paranormal monster-man. More importantly, Becker doesn’t have anywhere near the mastery of English fiction that Gaiman has. But that’s really not a fair comparison. For my money very few living English authors can compare favorably with Neil Gaiman. Apparently Darkside was written when Becker was just 25! When Gaiman was 25 he hadn’t written a single novel, comic, nor even Don’t Panic, his wonderful biography of Douglas Adams. As a result I think Darkside can stand pretty proudly on its own. It’s quickly paced, pretty fun and most of all it’s got a story that keeps your attention all the way through. Good job new guy.
Narrator Colin Moody, a talent stage trained actor, has an Australian accent, except when performing the dialogue of the characters. When in character Moody cowls him reading with various Londoner regionalisms. There are many sinister sounding villains in this novel and he voices all of them extremely well. If you’re a voracious reader looking for swiftly plotted urban fantasy novel (for the juvenile set), and you’ve already read both Neverwhere |READ OUR REVIEW| and The Graveyard Book |READ OUR REVIEW| do check out Darkside. Series fans will also be pleased to hear that four more Darkside novels follow this one, and that Bolinda has the “audio sequel forthcoming.”