The SFFaudio Podcast #152 – READALONG: The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #152 – Jesse talks with Trent Reynolds and Paul Westlake about the AudioGo and Hard Case Crime novel The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake.

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.

AudioGo - The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake

Posted by Jesse Willis

Recent Arrivals: Hachette Audio

Aural Noir: Recent Arrivals

Here’s another pair of recent arrivals. Ummm… 2008 is recent right?

The final book in Rankin’s long running Inspector Rebus series. “Gritty Scottish urbanism” and “tartan noir” never get old right? Right?

HACHETTE AUDIO - Exit Music by Ian RankinExit Music
By Ian Rankin; Read by James MacPherson
6 CDs – Approx. 7.5 Hours[ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: September 2008
ISBN: 1600244548
It’s late autumn in Edinburgh and late autumn in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he tries to tie up some loose ends before retirement, a murder case intrudes. A dissident Russian poet has been found dead in what looks like a mugging gone wrong. By apparent coincidence a high-level delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, keen to bring business to Scotland. The politicians and bankers who run Edinburgh are determined that the case should be closed quickly and clinically. But the further they dig, the more Rebus and his colleague DS Siobhan Clarke become convinced that they are dealing with something more than a random attack – especially after a particularly nasty second killing. Meantime, a brutal and premeditated assault on local gangster ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty sees Rebus in the frame. Has the Inspector taken a step too far in tying up those loose ends? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, inglorious career, will Rebus even make it that far?

Author George Pelecanos wrote for The Wire, narrator Dion Graham was an actor on The Wire. Perhaps Pelecanos asked Hachette to get Graham to do the narration after seeing the fine actor, in a scene from one of the best episodes (below) – be the only actor in the room without a line.

HACHETTE AUDIO - The Turnaround by George PelecanosThe Turnaround
By George Pelecanos; Read by Dion Graham
5 CDs – Approx. 6 Hours [ABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: August 1, 2008
ISBN: 1600242367
On a hot summer afternoon in 1972, three teenagers drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood and six lives were altered forever. Thirty five years later, one survivor of that night reaches out to another, opening a door that could lead to salvation. But another survivor is now out of prison, looking for reparation in any form he can find it.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of A Galaxy Trilogy Volume 2 – A Collection of Tales from the Early Days of Science Fiction

SFFaudio Review

A Galaxy Trilogy, Vol. 2A Galaxy Trilogy, Vol. 2 – A Collection of Tales from the Early Days of Science Fiction
By David Osborne, E.L. Arch, and Manly Banister; Read by Tom Weiner
11 CDs – Approx. 13 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2009
ISBN: 9781433291081
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / First Contact / Politics / Cold War / Russia / Washington, D.C. / Colorado / Amnesia / Prophecy / Sociology / Iowa / Teleportation /

Back in the 1950s at the dawn of science fiction, writers were turning out wildly imaginative stories for the pulp magazines. Robert Silverberg, writing as David Osborne, estimates he wrote over a million words in one year. Here are three more exciting stories from those heady days from the pioneers of science fiction.

Discs 1 – 3: Aliens From Space by David Osborne (Robert Silverberg)

First published in 1958, under a pseudonym, this Robert Silverberg short novel is set in a fascinatingly futuristic 1989. It is in a period of relative peace on Earth since the recent collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. With this new détente in the offing only an outside influence could disrupt the path to global harmony. And that is exactly what happens when an alien spacecraft lands in an Iowa cornfield. It seems that these aliens have been watching Earth for millennia, and now we are on the cusp of ‘regular interplanetary travel’ these alien beings wish Earth to accept their hand/tentacle in friendship. This aid would be especially needed too as it seems there is another alien species out there in the galaxy – one which would likely destroy the Earth, and all humans, given half a chance. A team of diplomats and scientists from around the world is quickly assembled to negotiate a treaty and alliance. Among them is Professor Brewster, a prominent scientist of psychosociology. He thinks the aliens are hiding something. But could it just be their very alienness? He points out the advanced technology they offer comes with its own problem; receiving technology from an technologically advanced civilization doesn’t advance the recipient’s own culture – it merely makes the culture dependent upon the giver’s civilization. But is that a small cost compared with annihilation?

A friend of mine pointed out that Greg Bear’s 1987 novel The Forge Of God has a similar premise. There are many terrific ideas in the gloriously short novel. Aliens From Space is a kind of cold war apologue, a prisoner’s dilemma situation. Wrong action invites destruction or at the very least, great loss. In a way the Brewster character reminded me of Jared Diamond (of Guns, Germs And Steel fame). Diamond and Brewster, by asking interesting questions, find interesting answers.

Discs 4 – 7: The Man With Three Eyes by E.L. Arch (Rachel Cosgrove Payes)

The Man With Three Eyes is not a terrific Science Fiction novel. But, it is a fair meta-Science Fictional story. It works well as a quasi-period piece/alien invasion story/Agatha Christie-style mystery. It’s set in 1967 New York, more specifically in Greenwich Village. It’s protagonist, I won’t call him a hero, is an Irishman, Dan Gorman. He works as a Science Fiction magazine illustrator and lives in Mrs. Mumble’s boardinghouse. That’s the central location for the plot, as it’s a virtual United Nations of ethnically diverse characters. There’s an Afghan, a German, a Mohawk, a Welshman, an Eskimo (not an Inuit), an Ethiopian, and a refugee from Hong Kong. They all seem to get along pretty well until Dan accidentally places himself in the middle of an alien espionage ring operating out of a dead drop joke shop. There, he picks up a “third eye” and takes it to a party to impress a girl. It doesn’t work like he expects (but then I can’t imagine it’d work at all), and instead acts like the titular object in H.G. Wells’ short story The Crystal Egg (giving the user a vision of aliens on another planet). Dan then leaves the party and looses the eye in his own apartment. The next two thirds of the novel feature everyone hunting for it.

Sound confusing? It is, at least a bit. I found myself wondering how fast E.L. Arch had written The Man With Three Eyes Or if he had written it on a bet. But, like I said, I think it kind of works anyway. It’s not really a good Science Fiction story, but it ain’t a bad story and can probably tell you a lot about how Science Fiction stories were written in the mid 1960s New York. It felt quite a bit like what I imagine time travel to Greenwich Village in the 1960s would feel like.

Discs 8 – 11: Conquest Of Earth by Manly Banister

The aliens came to earth more than two ice ages ago. Now, under millenia of domination by these invaders, one Man amongst a small cadre of six Men with mental powers, elite combat training and a deep education in all things human, can manoeuver to throw off the chains that have sapped Earth of most of its precious resource, water.

Like the Bene Gesserit from Frank Herbert’s Dune, Manly Banister has created a far future quasi-planetary romance with and especially compelling depiction of what it would mean to be trained to detect and interpret every nuance of human physiology. In fact this whole short novel is like a pocket version of Dune – what with all the quasi-religious/scientific ideas, the overlords, the secret societies and the deserty planet-ness. Conquest of Earth may have more ideas per hour as any other audiobook I’ve listened to in the last decade. When Kor Danay (aka the Scarlet Sage) graduates from his training he begins a quick journey across Earth that leads to scenes of assassination, disguise, mind reading and later an unusual trip off-world with a quickly romanced wife named, get this, Soma! One reviewer called the plot “aimless” and “desultory” and I can see that. The whole story feels disjointed in a way that cannot really be understated. Kor has many abilities the set him apart from other people, and even his fellow “Men.” First up, he has the ability to speed up the molecules of his body so as to, from his perspective, stop time! This trope, by the way, was probably first proposed in the The New Accelerator by H.G. Wells, and later by Star Trek in an episode called “Wink Of An Eye.” One lengthy later sequence features another quasi-Star Trek fore-echo too, namely in “The Paradise Syndrome.“ Did I mention that Kor also has a ”Divisible Mind” which may be the key to defeating the enemy Trisz? He does!

In terms of the style of writing, well, there is a nice soliloquized-style explanation of why the Trisz should not be thought of as actually evil despite being insidious energy beings or a being who rule (or rules) the Earth with an iron fist. There is a lot of other zany stuff going on in this novel: teleportation, trickery, a prophetic computer, and a dose of amnesia (for good measure). I will admit Conquest Of Earth comes off as if it was plotted by a mish-mash of meth’d up aliens in order to win a stream of consciousness contest, but somehow it really didn’t seem to bother me. And, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it had won.

David Osborne is an acknowledged pseudonym of Robert Silverberg. E.L. Arch was a pseudonym of Rachel Cosgrove Payes (being an anagram of her first name: “Rachel”). But it is entirely unclear to me who Manly Banister is or was. There is some discussion of the improbably named Manly Banister HERE, but no Wikipedia article currently exists on this person. Even the narrator name, Tom Weiner, is an alias.

Narrator Tom Weiner’s voice lends depth and presence to the three novels – he adds an appropriate alien lisp to some of the alien speakers, plays around with accents and delivers it all a gravitas and seriousness that doesnt mock this fun material. Listening to A Galaxy Trilogy Volume 2 felt very rewarding!

A minor issue with this collection includes the distinct lack of markings on the discs. 11 CDs are in the set, with three short novels, but none of them is marked with which novels are on which discs. On the other hand, all three novels begin at the beginning of a CD.

Posted by Jesse Willis