Apr 272012
 

No, of course you don’t. But what I’m getting at, albeit circuitously, is that I always thought of reading as an activity one performs with one’s eyes. I’ve since learned that doesn’t have to be the case. Plenty of us get as much or more pleasure out of a book by reading it with our ears.

I, alas, am not geared that way. I absorb verbal information far more effectively through my eyes than my ears. When I try to listen to an audiobook, my attention flags and my mind wanders. If I’m driving, it’s a distraction. If I’m safe at home, it’s a nuisance.

And yet I’m a huge fan of audiobooks as a medium. I know people who never found reading enjoyable until they discovered audio; it opened the entire world of fiction to them. And I know others, lifelong readers, who’ve found that listening to the narration of a fine vocal artist adds a whole new dimension to a novel.

So I’m all for it. I want my books to be read. I don’t care if they reach you through your eyes or your ears or the soles of your feet. If they’re a source of pleasure for you, I’m delighted.

Over the years I’ve narrated a number of my own books. I welcomed the opportunity, and enjoyed the work, but much of it was back in the bad old days of abridged audio. That’s what my publishers—Penguin, Harper Audio—wanted to publish. I always felt abridgements were an abomination, and there came a time when I insisted on a clause in my book contracts enjoining the publisher from bringing out or licensing an abridgement.

It hasn’t taken long, I’m happy to say, for unabridged audiobooks to become the industry’s standard. A remarkable number of my books have been given voice by some of the most accomplished narrators in the game, and three of the medium’s leading audio publishers—Recorded Books, AudioGo, and Dreamscape—have kept things moving. If you want to own a physical copy of an audiobook, in cassette or CD form, you can check the publishers’ websites, where audiobook rental is often an alternative to outright purchase.

Increasingly, however, the audiobook market seems to be moving to downloads; rather than pay for a physical book, you can simply download an MP3 file for play on the device of your choice. Audible is the leader in this area, and the links that follow are all to the Audible website, where all of the following titles are presently available. They have various special promotions, including this one, which gives you a free audiobook and a free trial membership.

Here are the Audible links. The 10-book Bernie Rhodenbarr series is complete, but you’ll notice several gaps in the Matthew Scudder saga, and both Keller and Chip Harrison are missing a book each. Tell you what—if you make it all the way to the end of the list, I’ll tell you the story about the recording session that soured me on abridged audio forever.

(Oh, sure, you could scroll down and skip the list and go straight to the Extremely Amusing Anecdote. But when you look in the mirror, is that the kind of person you want looking back at you? The kind that would skip the list? No, I didn’t think so…)

THE MATTHEW SCUDDER NOVELS
THE SINS OF THE FATHERS
TIME TO MURDER AND CREATE
IN THE MIDST OF DEATH
A STAB IN THE DARK
WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES
A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES
EVEN THE WICKED
EVERYBODY DIES
HOPE TO DIE
ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING
A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF

KELLER’S GREATEST HITS
HIT MAN
HIT PARADE
HIT AND RUN

THE BERNIE RHODENBARR MYSTERIES
BURGLARS CAN’T CHOOSERS
THE BURGLAR IN THE CLOSET
THE BURGLAR WHO LIKED TO QUOTE KIPLING
THE BURGLAR WHO STUDIED SPINOZA
THE BURGLAR WHO PAINTED LIKE MONDRIAN
THE BURGLAR WHO TRADED TED WILLIAMS
THE BURGLAR WHO THOUGHT HE WAS BOGART
THE BURGLAR IN THE LIBRARY
THE BURGLAR IN THE RYE
THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL

THE AFFAIRS OF CHIP HARRISON
NO SCORE
CHIP HARRISON SCORES AGAIN
MAKE OUT WITH MURDER

NON-SERIES NOVELS
AFTER THE FIRST DEATH
ARIEL
COWARD’S KISS
DEADLY HONEYMOON
A DIET OF TREACLE
GETTING OFF
THE GIRL WITH THE LONG GREEN HEART
GRIFTER’S GAME
KILLING CASTRO
LUCKY AT CARDS
NOT COMIN’ HOME TO YOU
RANDOM WALK
SMALL TOWN
THE SPECIALISTS
SUCH MEN ARE DANGEROUS
THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL
YOU COULD CALL IT MURDER

BOOKS FOR WRITERS
TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFIT: A Manual for Fiction Writers

As noted, there are gaps. The Evan Tanner books were all available in audio once, but seem to have gone out of print. You may be able to find them in the aftermarket via Amazon or Barnes & Noble. At least one of the missing Scudder titles is due for release next month, and the missing Chip Harrison is on its way.

BUT I PROMISED YOU A STORY…

It was around fifteen years ago, and I was set to narrate an audio abridgement of one of the Burglar books for Penguin Audio. A few days before the recording session, Penguin sent out two copies of the abridgement, one to me and one to a fellow named Steve, who’d be directing the recording session and working the controls. He read it through; I didn’t feel the need, as I was as familiar with the material as I needed to be.

Steve and I had worked together before, and we got right to it, I in a more-or-less soundproof booth, he on the other side of the window. The process is demanding; if you don’t stay entirely in the moment, the performance goes flat as th energy drains out of it. After two or three hours, we were both ready for a lunch break. He called the deli downstairs, and while we were eating our sandwiches, he had a question.

“Larry,” he said, “Bernie seems like a regular guy, right?”

“Uh, right.”

“And Carolyn. She’s bright and perky, and I gather she’s attractive, too.”

“Right, Steve.”

“So I don’t get it. They’re together all the time, so how come he never puts the moves on her?”

“Um,” I said. “Did they manage to edit out the fact that she’s gay?”

His jaw fell. “You’re kidding,” he said. “Carolyn is gay?”

Oh dear. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that her lesbian nature would have been a sufficiently salient fact about Carolyn Kaiser to have made the cut. But evidently the artful surgeon who’d trimmed the book to a third of its original length hadn’t considered her sexual identity all that important. And I suppose readers already familiar with the series (and thus with Carolyn) wouldn’t have noticed the omission.

But a first time listener would be, well, confused. Darn it all, when are these cute and charming kids gonna duck behind a bush and get something going?

Yeah, right. Bernie and Carolyn, and a host of other characters, are eager to make your acquaintance in UNabridged audio. I hope you enjoy their company.

Thanks for listening!

LB