Aural Noir Review of Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. Westlake

Aural Noir: Review

Somebody Owes Me Money is book number 044 in the Hard Case Crime library. and BBC Audiobooks America audiobook - Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. WestlakeSFFaudio EssentialHard Case CrimeSomebody Owes Me Money
By Donald E. Westlake; Read by Stephen Thorne
Audible Download (or 6 CDs) – 6 Hours 37 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America /
Published: 2008
ISBN: 9780792754534
Themes: / Mystery / Crime / Murder / Humor / Gambling / The Mob / New York /
Cab driver Chet Conway was hoping for a good tip from his latest fare, the sort he could spend. But what he got was a tip on a horse race; which might have turned out okay, except that when he went to collect his winnings, Chet found his bookie lying dead on the living room floor. Chet knows he had nothing to do with it – but just try explaining that to the cops, to the two rival criminal gangs who each think Chet’s working for the other, and to the dead man’s beautiful sister, who has flown in from Las Vegas to avenge her brother’s murder.

If I’m looking for a fun read, something that entertains on every single page, I can always rely on Donald Westlake. The folks at Hard Case Crime know it too. The only author they’ve published more of than Westlake is Lawrence Block. Like Block, Westlake is a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master – and, they’ve both been writing steadily since the 1950s. This particular novel was first published in 1969, and was released in June 2008 by Hard Case Crime, with it’s awesome new cover art. BBC Audiobooks America, as they’ve are doing with far too few of the Hard Case lineup, has released it as an audiobook.

Westlake says he’s “always had a soft spot” for Somebody Owes Me Money, the novel came to him out of the common introductory phrase, “I bet…” – Westlake figured if a guy was going to say that as the opening lines of a novel, he’d be a gambler, and being a gambler, he’d have a tale of woe. Somebody Owes Me Money is the result. And what a result! This is another classic Westlake “nephew” story.

The hero, Chet, is a poker playing New York cab driver who lives with his retired father. Chet’s a little short of cash right now, so when he’s fairly pissed when an uptown fare stiffs him on the tip. The customer instead only drops him a ‘line on a horse.’ Frustrated, but thinking about it on his way home, Chet decides to give his bookie a call and the horse a shot. The next day, to Chet’s surprise, he ends up winning a bundle on the longshot horse! But, when he goes to collect from his bookie, he finds the guy dead, himself without the cash he’d won, and inches away from being charged with the murder. To clear his good name, collect his winnings and recover his money he’ll not only have to find the murderer, but also keep the cops from knowing he’d been illegally gambling. As the mystery progresses Chet finds himself mixed up with a gun toting moll named Abbie, getting shot in the head by persons unknown and playing a few more hands of poker. This is a fast paced, cleverly plotted mystery with an old time New York ambiance. I loved it.

Narrator Stephen Thorne has a voice and range like that of audiobook hero William Dufris. They share an amiable, lighthearted, voice that makes perfect the narration of first-person light comedy mysteries. In other words, this book. This is a letter prefect reading, bright, shiny, fun, solid. SFFaudio Essential listening.

Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. Westlake
Somebody Owes Me Money - Doug Johnson illustration from Playboy, July and August 1969

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Voice from the Edge: Midnight at the Sunken Cathedral by Harlan Ellison

SFFaudio Author of the Month

The Voice from the Edge: Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral by Harlan EllisonThe Voice from the Edge: Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral
By Harlan Ellison; Read by Harlan Ellison
5 CDs – 5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Fantastic Audio
Published: 2001
ISBN: 1574534157
Themes: / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror / The Mob / Dreams /

Harlan Ellison will talk your ear off. After listening to the man perform 11 of his stories over the better part of five hours, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is not the type of guy that you’re going to be able to get away from easily; not once he’s started talking. But would you want to? Ellison is like the guy you sit down next in a bar only because it’s the only seat open, praying that he’ll leave you alone, but, sure enough, he turns to you and immediately begins to regale you with that “Car Talk” voice of his about his latest exploit. “Terminator? My idea. That sumbitch James Cameron tried to pass it off as his own, but I wasn’t having it.” Or, “I tell you I never met anybody more uptight than those guys over at Disney. I make one little joke… it was stupid, yeah, but just a joke! Of course nobody would really ever draw Tinkerbell doing that, but try telling those guys that you were only joking. Nope; there’s ol’ Harlan, out on his ass the same day he was hired.” Ellison seems to be one of those guys that are vastly entertaining to listen to, and to watch in action, but only as long as his perpetual low-level rage is never directed at you.

Which is what makes this collection perfect. You get to sit in your car, office, wherever, and hear Ellison tell you some of his best stories without ever worrying that you’re going to get more involved than you want to be. But, maybe you should be worried, just a little. While there are a few stories in this collection that are pretty light-hearted from beginning to end, most of them begin innocently enough, but then slowly become more and more disturbing until it’s almost impossible not to feel some sense of unease and trepidation, and then, when they end, almost palpable relief. “S.R.O.,” for example; what starts out as a cheery little tale of off-center entrepreneurship, read in Ellison’s best 1920’s gangster voice, begins to drift into a much more solemn treatment of beauty and the lengths to which people will go to experience it.

Then there are the stories which begin creepy and stay that way. “The Function of Dream Sleep” begins with the image a mouth opening in a man’s side, which is disturbing enough, but Ellison keeps on turning the “dread” knob up until even driving along an interstate in broad daylight seems somehow sinister and unreal. I’d be interested in reading these stories in text form to see how much of this sensation comes from the actual writing and how much comes from the sheer desperation Ellison puts into his performances. I wasn’t surprised to see that Ellison has a few acting credits to his name, (most awesomely, “man at orgy” in Godson); the range of character and emotion that are present in these readings rivals that of any “professional” reader. At times it’s apparent that Ellison’s familiarity with the stories allows him to enhance his performances by adding laughter, stutters, and other little bits of paralanguage that only he would be able to get away with. The postscript to “The Function of Dream Sleep,” in which Ellison explains some of the elements of his most autobiographical story, is also told in this extemporaneous manner. It’s like the old guy at the bar has finally started to wind down and is going casually toss off one last bit of terror that will keep you up for weeks before he empties his drink, slaps you too hard on the back, and starts shuffling for home.

Review of Tales with a Twist by Jerald Fine

Fantasy Audiobook - Tales With A Twist by Jerald FineTales With a Twist
By Jerald Fine; Read by Jerald Fine
2 CD’s – 2 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tales with a Twist
Published: 2004
Themes: / Fantasy / Horror / Short Stories / Alamo / The Mob / Nature / Aging / Ghosts /

This audiobook by Jerald Fine delivers what it promises: five tales in the tradition of The Twilight Zone. The tales:

“Twilight of Youth”: A man who loathes old people gets his.
“The Hit”: A cautionary tale for any future employee of organized crime.
“The Wave”: The world’s greatest surfer tries a tidal wave.
“Return to the Alamo”: Could modern paratroopers make a difference at the Alamo?
“Fog Encounter”: A headless phantom stalks a community.

The stories capture the feel of the old Twilight Zone series, and each tale, as the title promises, ends with a twist. The audio is narrated by the author, who has a great dramatic voice. That voice in combination with some of the underlying music creates a few points that are TOO dramatic, but overall the balance is very good. There are places in the book where Fine is joined by a female voice, and I was heartened to see that the he saids/she saids were removed, and the actors were allowed to act where appropriate.

The result is a very good audiobook by Jerald Fine. Tales with a Twist is five stories with a classic feel read with good tone and energy. This book can be purchase on the author’s site at:

A note on packaging: I do not have in my hands the final package – the author informs me that the final package will include “a completed cover with barcodes in a double jewel box case.”