Book three of the exciting Christopher Marlowe Cobb series of historical spy thrillers will be coming your way on audio this October. If you haven’t already discovered these terrific books by Robert Olen Butler, go grab a copy of The Hot Country, the first in the series, and give it a listen. It’s brilliantly narrated by veteran audiobook professional Ray Chase. (See the review on this site for more about this one.) The Hot Country was followed by The Star of Istanbul, also read by Chase, in which the venue shifts from Mexico’s Civil War to Turkey in the early days of World War I. The newest thriller, The Empire of Night, puts Cobb smack in the lion’s den—Berlin—as he tries to discover the identity of a mole inside the British government. These books are not only exciting espionage thrillers, they’re extremely well-written and researched, with three-dimensional characters, intriguing plot twists, and fascinating historical settings. Now that you know, you’ve got plenty of time to catch up on the first two books before The Empire of Night arrives this fall. Go for it!
March 6th, 2014 by Steve · Acquisition News
March 3rd, 2014 by Frank · Frank's Picks
Quietly, movingly, hidden among their many programs dedicated to Oscar nominated actors, country western singers, and political talking heads, public radio’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross has provided a platform for candid reflections from a diverse group of guests on the subject of faith. The impressive variety and depth of these conversations is made clear by an expertly curated audio collection entitled FAITH, REASON, AND DOUBT, which gives voice to an incredible array of religious perspectives, from conservative to radical, individual to institutional, Christian to Jew, and Muslim to atheist. Guests from as far afield as Bishop Gene Robinson (the first openly gay leader of the U.S Episcopal Church), Moral Majority co-founder Tim LaHaye, Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed, evolutionary biologist (and atheist) Richard Dawkins, geneticist (and evangelical Christian) Francis Collins, and author Reynolds Price each offer their honest, personally relevant views on faith. When considered together, these and others form a dynamic representation of the ongoing, universal debate we have as individuals with the place we save in our lives for religion – or it’s opposite.
Having sought answers in multiple religions, author and ex-nun Karen Armstrong finds that “the golden rule is the essence of religion” and its ultimate goal is the achievement of “practical compassion.” Skillful memoirist Shalom Auslander reflects on his ultra-Orthodox Jewish upbringing, and his attempts to comprehend a terror-wielding god of vengeance, to “get the character out of my head and move on.” With the help of his father, Khaled Abou El Fadl makes a difficult journey from the Islamic extremism of his youth to become a powerful voice of moderation. Belief.net founder Steven Waldman debunks many of the myths that have grown around the US founding fathers’ limited dedication to religious freedom. Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor recalls wanting “to move in with God on a full time basis” but ultimately, for her, “becoming a professional holy person set up some walls between me and God and me and other people that ended up not being good for my soul.” Author Michael Wex explores the often humorous legacy carried forth via remnants of the Yiddish language for contemporary Jews, including the ability “to complain their way through satisfaction.” Black Liberation Theology proponent James H. Cone attempts to unite the motivations of both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, “teaching us how to be both unapologetically black and Christian at the same time.” Pastor John Hagee believes “New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were the recipients the judgment of God” in the form of Hurricane Katrina. No subject is taboo at this particular convention of religious thinkers, and Terry Gross is fearless in her examination of the motivating factors behind each perspective.
Perhaps the highlight of the collection is an interview with comic-turned-Catholic-turned-atheist Julia Sweeney. She gives an account of her personal journey through religion that began with an Irish Catholic upbringing and fairly traditional application of religion as a balm to ease her family’s pain when they lost her brother to cancer. Later as an adult, she delves more deeply into her religious life when her long-time relationship ends. At the time, this mid-life religious reawakening provides her with buoyancy, and then focus, as she decides to embrace Catholicism with renewed passion through the lens of added experience. But the critical thinking she applies in her reading of the bible is not only rebuffed by religious leadership, but leads her to embrace an understanding of her moral life outside of Catholic boundaries. She finally sees herself as an atheist who recognizes the utility of religion, and the value it has for people, but ultimately, she sees that value as a limiting one. For her, the freedom to “have internal thoughts that are completely my own” outweighs the benefits of adhering to a behavior-prodding scripture that is continually in conflict with itself. As Sweeney states, she “became a more moral person after I stopped believing in God because I saw myself as a member of a community that had certain responsibilities… to be trustworthy… compassionate.” She doesn’t claim that this phenomenon is impossible within the context of religion, but that a moral life is at least equally attainable without a belief in God. Through the many phases of her journey, Sweeney builds perspective with all of the sharp-eyed observational skills that come with life as a comedian: The ability to laugh through pain and find a greater understanding of your place in the world.
At surface, this assemblage of seemingly incongruous beliefs might seem impossible to reconcile. However, its one unifying quality is a triumph for all involved: The consistently inspired pairings of Terry Gross with intelligent, thoughtful, and often conflicted individuals who have clearly wrestled with big questions in their lives, sometimes as a result of devastating events. The resulting conversations offer some of the most revelatory dialogue heard on public radio, or anywhere else for that matter. Gross and her interviewees bring out the best in each other, while encouraging internal responses from us, the listeners. As equal partners in the ongoing debate, we’re inspired to reactions that we might find surprising: Predictable points of agreement for some, disturbing corners of conflict for others, but there is no doubt in my mind that the listening experience found here is a rewarding one.
→ 1 CommentTags: Akbar Ahmed·audiobook·Barbara Brown Taylor·Danny Miller·Francis Collins·fresh air·Gene Robinson·HighBridge·James H. Cone·John Hagee·Julia Sweeney·Karen Armstrong·Khaled Abou El Fadl·Michael Wex·Reynolds Price·Richard Dawkins·Shalom Auslander·Steven Waldman·terry gross·Tim LaHaye
February 26th, 2014 by Josh · Author/Narrator News
HighBridge is pleased to announce that the new short story collection from Joyce Carol Oates, High Crime Area, will be narrated by an all-star cast: Julia Whelan, Ray Chase, Donna Postel, Luci Christian, Tamara Marston, and Chris Patton.
Julia Whelan will narrate the title story, “High Crime Area,” as well as “The Rescuer.” Julia is a former child actor who has appeared in numerous films and television shows, perhaps most notably in ABC’s critically acclaimed series Once And Again. After majoring in English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College and Oxford University, Julia returned to on-camera acting while simultaneously branching out into voiceover. She has now recorded over 100 audiobook titles, garnered multiple Earphones Awards, been repeatedly named one of AudioFile Magazine’s Best Voices, and won an Audie.
Ray Chase will narrate “Craigmillnar” and “Last Man of Letters.” Ray has narrated a number of audiobooks for HighBridge. In addition to audiobooks, Ray’s voice can be heard in commercial spots played nationally as well as numerous video game releases.
Donna Postel will narrate “High.” In addition to dozens of audiobooks, Donna Postel’s has voiced hundreds of commercials and corporate narrations.
Luci Christian will narrate “Toad-Baby.” Luci is a prolific voice actress who in addition to audiobooks has voiced a vast array of animation programs.
Tamara Marston will narrate “Lorelei.” Tamara has been an actor, singer, and director for over 30 years.
Chris Patton will narrate “Demon.” Chris’s voice can be heard on a number of audiobooks, commercials, video games, and eLearning software projects
Donna Postel, Luci Christian, Tamara Marston, and Chris Patton also provided narration on Joyce Carol Oates’ previous release from HighBridge, Evil Eye.
High Crime Area is a collection of eight stories in which author Joyce Carol Oates deftly tests the bonds between damaged individuals—a brother and sister, a teacher and student, two strangers on a subway—in the fearless prose for which she’s become so celebrated. In these biting and beautiful stories, Oates confronts, one by one, the demons within us. Sometimes it’s the human who wins, and sometimes it’s the demon.
High Crime Area will be available on CD and digital download this May.
February 24th, 2014 by Kay · Kay's Picks
When I first watched the documentary An Inside Job, which is about the global financial meltdown, I remember my sense of disbelief at the essentially willful self-deception on the one hand and the sheer willingness to put personal gain ahead of massive destruction to the entire world economy on the other. And the world has yet to recover from its effects.
It took me a while to finally sit down and watch it—it hardly seems like a jolly evening’s entertainment—but once I finally did, I found myself watching it multiple times. It was horrifying yet overpoweringly fascinating and informative.
Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming by McKenzie Funk; read by Sean Runnette, has the same effect, it’s just about a glacial meltdown rather than a financial one. Funk takes listeners around the globe, from the Artic to Greenland to Israel to California to the Sudan and beyond. The theme in every location: Climate change is having a massive effect on the earth’s ability to sustain life, but the main response from governments and businesses and individuals seems to be finding the profitable short-term silver lining, and ignore the long-term consequences.
Funk slips innumerable bits of science, sociology, economics, and public policy into each stop on this global journey, told mainly as “ride-alongs” he takes with everyone from the Canadian military to a Sudanese general to the head of a “firefighters for hire” business.
Narrator Sean Runnette plays the story straight. Windfall is written very much as a simple narrative, told from the author’s perspective. He avoids “documentary voice” as well as “drama voice,” striking an appropriate conversational tone, so you really do feel as if you’re riding along with Funk as he meets these people who seem to be if not actively deciding the future of the planet at least attempting to profit from the present situation.
One reviewer described Windfall as “a lot more fun than books about ecological catastrophe are supposed to be.” That would be my assessment as well. Funk captures a certain gallows humor in his storytelling, achieved often enough merely by repeating matter-of-factly (as then does narrator Sean Runnette) the absurdities uttered by those who earnestly state their case for profit-taking from global warming without actually doing anything to address it.
Given that in the US the public debate until recently has still been merely on if there is human-made global warming rather than what are we going to do about it, what all everyone has actually been up to (and for many years already) in governments (including the US) and companies, Windfall is eye-opening to say the least. You may be alarmed by it, but you will also certainly be educated and enthralled.
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February 14th, 2014 by Josh · Josh's Picks
Lion Plays Rough by Lachlan Smith, read by R. C. Bray, is Smith’s second entry in his Leo Maxwell Series, and proves that the series definitely has staying power. Publishers Weekly called the novel a “finely paced mystery” and went on to say it is “full of intelligent plot twists and should appeal to any fan of good writing.” Booklist said the book was full of “. . . polish in its blend of ironic narration, classic noir overtones, and artfully drafted characters.”
I couldn’t agree more with these reviews, but feel compelled to mention that the addition of narrator R. C. Bray on the audio version elevates the story even that much more. Bray, who I admit is personally one of my favorite audiobook narrators, delivers a perfect performance. To me, R. C. Bray is Leo Maxwell, and his range of voices for the other characters in the narrative is nothing short of phenomenal.
Lion Plays Rough picks up right where Bear is Broken left off—young criminal defense lawyer Leo Maxwell is still living the shadow of his older brother, Teddy, who was once San Francisco’s most ruthless and effective criminal defense lawyer, but was shot in the head, leaving him disabled and dependent on Leo, and now unable to practice law. Leo is working for Teddy’s ex-wife, Jeanie, who has taken over Teddy’s practice and clients.
Eager to strike out on his own, Leo stumbles onto what he believes to be career-making case. However, he soon finds out that nothing is what is seems, and he has inadvertently placed himself smack-dab in the middle of a scandal that threatens to rock the entire city of Oakland. He quickly becomes a target of both police and gang members, and finds it impossible to know who is telling the truth, and who he can trust.
As if dodging bullets and attempts on his life wasn’t enough, Leo soon finds himself trying to perform a delicate balancing act with his commitments to Jeanie’s practice, his new potential case, and caring for his disabled brother.
Lachlan skillfully weaves plot threads and characters together into a complex and compelling story that is full of action, mystery, intrigue, and tension. It’s an extremely intelligent story with several twists and turns that keep you guessing all the way through. I look forward to additional installments in the Leo Maxwell series from Lachlan Smith, and definitely look forward to R. C. Bray narrating them.
Lion Plays Rough is now available on audio CD or digital download.
February 12th, 2014 by Josh · Author/Narrator News
HighBridge is pleased to announce that Award-winning audiobook narrator Simon Vance will be reading The Zhivago Affair by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée.
The Zhivago Affair is the dramatic real-life story of how Russian poet Boris Pasternak’s first novel, Doctor Zhivago, became a CIA secret weapon and the centerpiece of an ideological battle between East and West.
A former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, Simon Vance is a celebrated narrator who has won numerous Audie Awards and more than two dozen Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine. Author Neil Gaiman has called him “the gold-standard of narrators.” Vance has narrated over twenty audiobooks for HighBridge, which is just a drop in the bucket considering he has recorded more than 700 titles in his 30+ year career. Visit his website of follow his Twitter at @SimVan.
The Zhivago Affair will be available on CD and digital download in June.
February 11th, 2014 by Peter · Peter's Picks, Uncategorized
According to the Radio Hall of Fame, Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were a comedy team of early radio and masters of deadpan satirical dialogue. They hailed out of Boston and started in radio news. Famous for their comedy sketches from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s they were known throughout America for their fake serious broadcasts. To this day, they are much-loved, and remembered as comedy gold.
This 4-CD collection from HighBridge (96 comedy routines, spanning 5 hours) features great moments from their broadcast careers including such hits as: the Slow…Talkers… of… America, Mary Backstayge Noble Wife, Wally Ballou, the Komodo Dragon, and many more.
This set is a great gift for anyone who is a fan of today’s Daily Show and Stephen Colbert comedy. Bob and Ray have inspired countless writers and comedians and they will be certain to entertain listeners for years to come.
The four discs come packaged in a beautiful gift box that also contains producer notes and an informative essay by cultural critic, Kerrie Mills. The collection is curated into the following categories: Classics, Soap Operas, Features and Commercials.
There are many great comedy CDs available today for audio fans, however this set is perfect for radio and television history buffs, and a must-have for tomorrow’s comedy collectors.
Whether you are heading out on a long car trip or just a short commute, get ready for the dry humor and wry wit of Bob and Ray. Pick up this great collection on CD, and laugh along with royalty, comedy kings from yesteryear.
February 10th, 2014 by Kay · Author/Narrator News
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin has certainly struck a chord with many advance readers of this Algonquin title, available from HighBridge on audio April 1—and one of them happens to be the audiobook’s narrator, AudioFile “Golden Voice” Scott Brick.
HighBridge always strives to select only those stories that really speak to us in the hopes that they’ll speak as strongly to our listeners. In the process we also hope to provide some quality writing for our narrators to sink their teeth into. So it’s always great to hear a resounding endorsement like this one from a narrator of Scott’s caliber:
“I was told up front that The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was a beautiful book, but I was still completely unprepared for just how beautiful. I was absolutely stunned by the experience of narrating Gabrielle Zevin’s latest book. It drew me in from the very first page. It was the kind of book that I might ordinarily find myself finishing after only three days in the studio, yet I found myself stretching it to four, then five, simply because I hated the idea of it being over. I wept while recording it, more than once. I’ve been blessed to narrate over 600 audiobooks thus far, and this book instantly pushed its way to the top of my list of absolute favorites. I told someone recently that I wish I could redo the book, and they asked, ‘Why, did you not like the way it turned out?’ I said ‘No, I just wish I could have that experience of reading every word again over and over again.’”
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February 6th, 2014 by Steve · Acquisition News
I’m excited to announce that HighBridge will produce the audio edition of The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn & Petra Couvée, a story that is part Cold War spy thriller, part mesmerizing literary biography, part secret history of the blockbuster book that shook the world—and all true. The Zhivago Affair is forthcoming from Pantheon this June; the audio edition, narrated by the great Simon Vance, will appear simultaneously. Finn, a national security correspondent for The Washington Post, and Couvée, a scholar, writer, and translator, take us inside the literary world of Stalinist Russia, where you could be a celebrated poet one day and disappear to the gulag the next, to bring to light the previously untold story of the 20th Century classic novel Doctor Zhivago: how it came to be written, why it was banned from publication in the Soviet Union, and how, after it was eventually smuggled out and published to wide acclaim throughout the world, it became a weapon in the ideological struggle between East and West. They render a vivid and intimate portrait of Boris Pasternak’s life and world, revealing what it cost him to write Zhivago and all that he risked in allowing it to leave the country. If you’re interested in literary history or Cold War history or Russian history or lives of the poets or just a ripping good tale with larger-than-life characters and cloak-and-dagger intrigue, this will be a must listen. Look for it this summer.
February 3rd, 2014 by Frank · Frank's Picks, Uncategorized
The life of Nelson Mandela – a life that faced oppression, sparked revolution, survived prison, rebuilt a nation, and transformed the world’s view of justice, continues to inspire. Upon his death in December of 2013, at age 95, the world celebrated his unwavering dedication to “the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities.” HighBridge continues this celebration with an updated and expanded edition of the award-winning production from Radio Diaries, Mandela: An Audio History. The ideals for which Mandela was “prepared to die” at the time of his trial in 1964 are given full voice through interviews with Mandela himself, Desmond Tutu, fellow political prisoners Ahmed Kathrada, Eddie Daniels, Sonny Venkatrathnam, political opponents P.W. Botha and F.W. De Klerk, and a host of others that offer a level of observation that only living witnesses to history can provide.
Producer (and Radio Diaries founder) Joe Richman spent extensive time in South Africa in 2003, researching an epic, multi-faceted story that was as personal for many of its participants as it was of historical importance to the world at large. Richman, along with co-producer Sue Jaye Johnson, miraculously turned fifty hours of archival recordings, plus contemporary interviews with more than fifty participants from the anti-Apartheid movement, into an impressively concise, moving, and ultimately rewarding hour of listening. The mosaic of perspectives presented here captures a South Africa still reckoning with the lessons of reconciliation and reeling from recent wounds. And yet it is clear from the hard-earned wisdom in these accounts that some healing for that nation has already begun as the participants each share their piece of a collective history – one as turbulent and thrilling as any adventure novel.
Many of the voices offer details that would normally be lost in a typical history. We hear vivid recollections of historic moments with the level of detail that throws a spotlight on the humanity – and inhumanity – of unforgettable events: Protest organizer Bongi Mkhabela’s flashback to the children “with shining black shoes and little white socks” that marched peacefully – and joyfully – in protest of the imposition of Afrikaans as a national language, only to face deadly violence. Co-defendant Denis Goldberg’s recollection of his unexpected reaction when handed life sentences by the government: “We turned to each other and laughed because we expected to be hanged.” P.W. Botha’s incredulity and unexpected sense of admiration for Mandela, who startled him by showing up with at the government negotiating table offering reconciliation after 28 years in prison: “He didn’t come up with a statement of bitterness, retribution. There’s no way you can argue against that.”
In addition to the array of first person testimonials, Richman makes use of archival materials that provide multiple “Wow! How did he find this stuff!” moments. While superficially as quaint as most government propaganda, the abundance of newsreel footage throughout the program accurately – and eerily – tracks South Africa from the 1940s through the 1980s as a society that would be hard for modern sensibilities to comprehend otherwise: A thoroughly segregated state, denying basic rights – both human and political – to the majority of its people. Then, when faced with its untenable fate, resisting change at every turn.
Even more powerful are recordings of pivotal moments that were thought to be lost. As Richman shares in his introduction, unlabeled tapes discovered in the basement of the South African Broadcasting Corporation turned out to contain original recordings of Mandela’s now-famous “I am prepared to die” speech. The sounds of the courtroom, the tension in government voices, and the voice of Mandela, adamant in its conviction that the government should be on trial instead, are the sounds of history resurrected. Equally dramatic is the clearly audible shock in the reaction of a disbelieving parliament 27 years later when President F.W. De Klerk makes the surprise announcement that “the government has taken a firm decision to release Mr. Mandela unconditionally … the time for negotiation has arrived.”
Some audio experiences educate and inform. Only the best effectively transport you to another time and place while doing so. Rarely do they convey the emotional impact of a complete, regime-shaking, freedom-seeking, and ultimately triumphant social history featuring some the most inspiring civil rights heroes the world has known – all on a single CD. For pure storytelling power, archival exactitude, and a multi-dimensional combination of perspectives from those who were there, Mandela: An Audio History achieves the highest level of art and authenticity an oral history can possess. Mandela’s voice could not be silenced during his lifetime, and thanks to Radio Diaries, the collective voice of Mandela and his generation will live on in the form of this excellent audio documentary. For those who care about the depth of human experience, and the power of the human voice to transform lives, this is essential listening.
→ No CommentsTags: Ahmed Kathrada·Bongi Mkhabela·Denis Goldberg·desmond tutu·Eddie Daniels·F.W. De Klerk·HighBridge·joe richman·Mandela: An Audio History·Nelson Mandela·P.W. Botha·radio diaries·Sonny Venkatrathnam·South Africa