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  • gilwilson 9:14 AM on June 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , scooby doo, thriller   

    “Meddling Kids” By Edgar Cantero 

    32905343Meddling Kids
    A Novel
    By: Edgar Cantero
    Narrated by: Kyla Garcia
    Length: 12 hrs and 53 mins
    Release date: 07-11-17
    Publisher: Random House Audio

    What a fun book. If you love Scooby Doo, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King’s “It,” then you are gonna have fun with this book.

    4 Teenagers and a dog investigate a haunted mansion mystery and uncover a man’s plot to steal a legendary stash of gold. His plan is to wear a suit and rubber mask to scare folks off an island, but he doesn’t get away with it, thanks to the meddling kids. Case solved…or is it?

    13 years later the kids having gone their separate ways and now adults are being haunted by something from their past. So haunted that one committed suicide, another is committed into Arkham insane asylum. To find what is wrong they have to revisit their past and find the real culprit.

    The constant Scooby Doo references throw in a lot of fun into this haunting mystery.  Zoinx river and more provide enought comic relief to keep you from being too frightened.

    Kyla Garcia delivers the narration of this book so perfectly that as the listener you are riding in that van with the kids.

    Publisher’s Summary
    With raucous humor and brilliantly orchestrated mayhem, Meddling Kids subverts teen detective archetypes like the Hardy Boys, the Famous Five, and Scooby-Doo and delivers an exuberant and wickedly entertaining celebration of horror, love, friendship, and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn.

    Summer 1977. The Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley) solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster – another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

    In 1990, the former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask. And Andy, the once intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, is tired of running from her demons. She needs answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the onetime kid genius and budding biologist, now drinking her ghosts away in New York with Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the club. They will also have to get Nate, the horror nerd currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their team leader…which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years.

    The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.

    A nostalgic and subversive trip rife with sly nods to H. P. Lovecraft and pop culture, Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids is a strikingly original and dazzling reminder of the fun and adventure we can discover at the heart of our favorite stories, no matter how old we get.

    ©2017 Edgar Cantero (P)2017 Random House Audio

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  • gilwilson 8:56 PM on January 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , daniel suarez, , jeff gurner, kill decision, , , , , tech, thriller   

    “Kill Decision” by Daniel Suarez 

    kill decision

    “Kill Decision”
    by Daniel Suarez
    read by Jeff Gurner
    published by Penguin Audio
    13 hours and 6 minutes.

    When I first found out about this book I knew it was a science-fiction novel and because that is my favorite genre, I knew I had to give this a shot. As I was listening to the audiobook I kept hearing more and more news reports about drone aircraft in action around the world and I realized that this piece of science-fiction is not too far from science-fact which is a bit scary.

    Before we get to the plot of this book the term “Kill Decision” may need some explaining for the non-military lay-person. The kill decision is what keeps the human touch in modern warfare. While many forms of drone (unmanned) aircraft are used today the actual decision to fire on targets is made by a human, usually a high-ranking military person. This decision to fire on targets is the “Kill Decision.” This book focuses on the idea of what happens if we leave that decision to the machines.

    The author, Daniel Suarez, definitely did his homework and covered all bases when creating a technology that sounds like it could logically happen today. We already know about the militaries of the world using drones and doing so with remote control using onboard cameras. Suarez explores not only the possibility of what would happen if someone were to try fully automated drones that pick their own targets, he takes it even further by explaining how all of this technology could come together. From facial recognition software, to graphic analysis software, to hive mentality of insects used as a model for numerous drones working together. Suarez then goes even further to explain how the spin doctors would use social media to create positive views of unmanned warfare. Altogether this creates an in depth sci-fi techno thriller that sounds like something that could be happening right now.

    The reader of this audiobook, Jeff Gurner, deserves some sort of an award for this production. He was able to present every little detail of the story with some masterful voicework. He presented each character with subtle voice changes that made it so each character, even the minor ones, came to full three dimensional life. Even when two of the major players were free falling from a plane being bombed by drones, through Gurner’s voice work I could see the Earth getting closer and I found myself holding my breath until chutes were pulled. Actually thanks to his delivery and the excellent writing I found myself holding my breath several times throughout this book.

    This book takes the listener from Iraq, to Stanford University, to Africa, to Pakistan, to Kansas City, to Utah, to Mexico to China and numerous other places in tracking down who is creating fully automated drones and using them to start a war.

    A group at Stanford have created code that allows computers to have their own vision and use video feeds to alert users of strange occurrences. Just as they are about to publish and make millions their lawyers inform them that the code is already on the internet and cannot be patented. Just as the group is discussing what to do about who stole their code their building is destroyed by drones.

    Linda McKinney is in Africa studying the swarming behavior of weaver ants when her camp is attacked by drones. Luckily (maybe) for Linda she is saved by a government agency whose members are buried so deep in the secrecy of government operations that they actually don’t exist. The group’s leader, Odin, tells her her study in the swarming of ants is being used as a prototype in creating automated drones. Not believing this Linda escapes and is captured by the FBI. When she tries to explain her story the FBI do not believe her, but once Homeland Security becomes involved Linda thinks someone is about to believe her.

    Through thrilling stops around the world the team try to track down the manufacturer of the drones and attempt at preventing a war in which all killing will be done by the drones and all of humanity is in danger. In what is an excellent mix of several science-fiction and espionage genres of storytelling, “Kill Decision” will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last word and after that will keep you looking over your shoulder.

     

     
  • gilwilson 10:18 PM on September 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , big brother, , , , hacking, homeland security, little brother, san francisco, , , thriller, totalitarianism,   

    “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow 

    “Little Brother”
    by Cory Doctorow
    Read by Kirby Heyborne
    Produced by Listening Library
    11 hours 53 minutes

     
    I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started this audiobook but It turned out to be a fun ride. This book was offered as a free summer read from AudiobookSync Young adult summer audiobook program. This program always has great weekly free audiobooks and they pair up a modern YA literature with a classic piece of literature. When this book came out it was teamed up with George Orwell’s “1984.” The books are always teamed up with a theme and knowing that I loved “1984,” I thought I’d give this book a try.

    The target audience would probably be a freshman in high school or older, but I started listening with my son who was in 5th grade at the time in the car with me on a trip. He got so engrossed in the story that he insisted that I only listened while he was also listening and only on long trips. So here I am a year or so later and finally finished this book. I had to actually finish it up on my own, because I was eager to find out what happened to, Marcus a.k.a. W1n5ton a.k.a. M1k3y.

    The subject matter of this story, at the time of its release, was very topical. After terrorists strike, the question arises, “How much of our freedom are we willing to give up to be safe?” All the time I was listening to this book the Benjamin Franklin quote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” kept coming to mind. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 here in the U.S. many of our liberties were taken away under the name of freedom and that controversial P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. So the events in this book parallel the real world events of the early 21st century, and while you never know what is going to happen, you will keep saying, “hmmm…that could happen.” The big question is, “Did it already happen?”

    Okay, before I go and try to demystify this book I do have to say that the reader, Kirby Heyborne was the perfect voice for this audiobook. His voice captured the emotions and spirit of the main character Marcus perfectly. He was also able to perfectly alter his voice just enough to signify changes of characters’ dialogues and keep it consistent through the book.

    The beginning of this book introduces to the tech savvy high-schooler Marcus who already has experience “fighting the man” in his high school, by being able to deceive the gait recognition software on the school’s surveillance system and able to do all sorts of tricks with his public issued phone. This story takes place in the near future and cell phones are a must and in order to make sure everyone has one they are sponsored by corporations. Marcus hacks his phone and does things that the average user cannot do. One of the things he does is search for wi-fi networks to play the game Harajuku Fun. Harajuku Fun is a type of role-playing game where while skipping school the kids can get clues through various wi-fi hotspots.

    One day while skipping school and playing this game with his friends in downtown San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge is bombed. At the time the kids don’t know what is going on and the same goes with the rest of the population. While fear grows everyone makes their way to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system) to try to head home they are jostled by the crowd. Knowing the overcrowding of the subway stops is not going to be the safe way to go Marcus and his friends head the opposite direction. In going against the grain they look suspicious. Homeland security finds them and sweeps them up and into the unmarked van.

    The friends are kept separate in a prison area and question about their motives and reasons for being in the area. When Marcus refuses to give the officials his password to get into his phone they see him as a terrorist or at least working with the terrorists, and you may remember the great quote from the U.S. president at the time of 9/11, “You’re either with us or against us.” This puts Marcus on the “against us side.” After weeks of torture with no contact with the outside world Marcus breaks and gives his password. Eventually he and his friends (except for one) are taken home. The problem is where’s Daryl? the one left behind. Marcus and his friends are warned to never speak of their imprisonment or they will be brought back in with no hope for release.

    Soon Homeland Security begins taking away the populations few liberties by monitoring where everyone is at all times and when something seems strange average citizens are arrested. The department uses the toll passes that people use in their cars to travel the many toll areas in the Bay area, monitoring BART passes and all public transportation passes. If someone looks like they stray from the norm the local police sweep in and incarcerate the suspects. The department even starts monitoring private citizen’s internet usage.

    As a bit of rebellion, Marcus combines the gaming system of the X-Box with a linux operating system to create an anonymous web experience called the X-net. The X-netters soon organize under Marcus’ online identity of M1k3y and create RFID spoofers and change the data stored on toll passes, BART passes and create total anarchy with the average citizen having no idea of what is being done, thus keeping Homeland Security busy arresting nearly everyone, creating a bottleneck of investigations.

    Homeland Security gets wise and is now out to catche M1k3y, unaware it is Marcus. Marcus soon has to become more paranoid than the government and try to find a way to find out what happened to his friend Daryl.

    In an exciting cyber-adventure this story will keep you enthralled until the climactic ending. Great story and nice anarchist mixed with hippies attitude about keeping us in a free world.

     
  • gilwilson 1:42 PM on December 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , forensics, kate burton, kay scarpetta, , , patricia cornwell, red mist, , thriller   

    “Red Mist” by Patricia Cornwell 

    “Red Mist”
    by Patricia Cornwell
    Read by Kate Burton
    Produced by Penguin Audio

    Dr. Kay Scarpetta has been a staple in Patricia Cornwell’s novels since 1990 and this latest novel brings Kay to Georgia.  Dr. Scarpetta is a Forensic Examiner/Expert and in this 19th novel featuring her as the protagonist, she has agreed to meet with an inmate at the Georgia Prison for women.  The inmate is a convicted sex offender and mother of a vicious killer.  The woman is convicted of molesting then 12 year old Jack Fielding Scarpetta’s former deputy chief.  The daughter is the result of that relationship and is also the murderer of Jack Fielding.  Scarpetta’s quest is personal, but soon she finds herself roped into an investigation that could clear a woman, now on death row at the same prison, of murder.

    The author, Patricia Cornwell is a founder of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine, a founding member of the National Forensic Academy, a member of the Advisory Board for the Forensic Science Training Program at the office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City, and a member of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council where she is an advocate for psychiatric research.   With these credentials you know you are getting an author that knows what she is writing about.  The science and techniques used in this book not only have that real feel, but Patricia Cornwell has not forgotten the general public and writes so that any person will understand even what could be the most technical jargon.  She keeps the science real but easily understood.  Not only that but Cornwell’s writing involves some unique techniques that capture the surroundings so all clues can be observed in this mystery.

    And example of this is when the people investigating the facts of a case over a dinner all are talking about the case throughout, but at times the listener/reader only hears thoughts in Kay Scarpetta’s head, while at the same time, we hear parts of the conversation and at other times we hear off-hand comments from her friend and detective Marino.  Marino comments on how he hates artificial sweeteners, which have nothing to do with the case but puts you in a very realistic scene. Very well done to make the story real.

    The reader of this audiobook, Kate Burton, does a superb job of vocalizing all the different voices and attitudes of each character, from Boston accents, Southern, New York and even an Australian, all performed clearly and effectively.

    “Red Mist” will engross you in a full investigation that may clear the woman on death row, but the possibilities of what may have actually happened may solve a spree of murders across the country, alert Homeland Security to possible terrorist activities and solve some burning questions from tragedies in Kay Scarpetta’s past.  I don’t usually start a series late but this time around I was curious and jumped right in.  Patricia Cornwell did an excellent job explaining the past histories of all the personnel involved and this novel serves well as a stand-alone piece in the Kay Scarpetta series.

     
  • gilwilson 10:39 PM on December 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , columbia university, , , diabetes, george guidall, investments, medical thriller, , , , , robin cook, stem cell research, thriller   

    “Death Benefit” by Robin Cook 

    “Death Benefit”
    by Robin Cook
    Read by George Guidall
    Produced by Penguin Audio
    Approx 11.5 hours.

    Back in the ’70s Robin Cook had a huge best seller with his book, “Coma.”  I remember everyone just had to read this book (I was still into just monster books at the time).  Then the movie came out and again folks were excited.  Dr. Cook then went on to write many best sellers but “Coma” was the first one that came to mind.  I got the opportunity to listen to this book, “Death Benefit,” his latest creation, and had to ask myself, “Why haven’t I read anything by this guy before?”

    So here I plunge into a medical thriller, written by the man who pretty much perfected the genre, and I’ll tell you first hand, Dr. Robin Cook can keep you in suspense, while spinning a tale that involves science that could be happening now, and a story that could almost come out of today’s headlines.  I think I may have been intimidated before, knowing that he is an actual physician, I had assumed his writing would get real technical.  Well, I was right it does get pretty technical, but Dr. Cook has a way of telling the story and the science behind the story that becomes educational as well as entertaining.  The science behind this book involves  stem cells and the growing of human organs, and, well, let’s just say, I followed along pretty well.  I don’t consider myself a biology know-it-all, but I’m also not uneducated.  When it comes to biology I sit right about in the middle of that knowledge scale.  But, and here’s the good part, listening to the story told by Dr. Cook the science came easy and he wrote in such a way that anyone could grasp the ideas.

    Before I go into the story, I would like to talk about the reader, George Guidall.  Mr. Guidall did a nice enough job reading the book and even did some nice vocal changes to match the characteristics of each character.  However, I think if I were the one casting a reader for this book I would have gone with someone with a 20 something female voice.  He did a nice enough job to keep the book interesting, but i just think it might have been better with a younger and female voice since the book centered around Pia Grazdani a fourth year medical student.  And many of the characters were younger.  Guidall matched perfectly with some of the older professors and the mobsters, but some voices just would have worked better otherwise.

    The story comes at you from two fronts to start out with.  First with the story of two financial investors that have come up with the latest scam since the bubble burst on sub-prime mortgages.  That scam being the buying up of life insurance policies of folks who may have a short time to live.  The person gets 15 percent of the policy value and the investors collect on the policy when the person dies.  These two investors go out an purchase policies of those with fatal illnesses, especially those with diabetes.  Knowing they won’t live long the investors make money off the dying.

    The second aspect of the story is that of Pia Grazdani, who through a troubled past has worked her way through college and is now on her 4th year of Med School at Columbia University.  Pia is taken under the wing of Dr. Tobias Rothman who sees Pia as he was and convinces her, that she is cut out exactly for research.  He gives her the chance to work with him and Dr. Yamamota on something that will revolutionize the medical industry, using stem sells to grow human organs that because the come from the tissue of the person needing the organ will not be rejected.  Thus creating a pancreas, for example, from a diabetic’s own cells and transplanting it and extending the life of the patient.

    When the investors get word of this research, they realize that 75% of their policies are on diabetics and that this could financially ruin them.  Soon Dr.s Rothman and Yamamota contract a rare strain of salmonella and die.  While it is written off as carelessness, since they were both working on research involving the salmonella strain.  Pia, however does not buy into this and she begins investigating on her own.  Her investigation leads to death threats on her self and a path that leads to a part of her past she has tried to put behind her.

    This non-stop thrillride will take you from the campus of a prestige medical school, to the offices of shady investment bankers to a new crime syndicate without taking a breath until the very end.

     
  • gilwilson 4:24 PM on November 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , kevin d. anderson, , , , sam stall, , , star trek, thriller, trekkies,   

    “Night of the Living Trekkies” by Kevin D. Anderson and Sam Stall 

    “Night of the Living Trekkies”
    by Kevin D. Anderson and Sam Stall
    Published by Quirkbooks(2010)
    253 pages

    Okay folks it’s time to put your “Geek” pants on and get ready to “Go where no man has gone before.” We are talking about combining the worlds of Star Trek with a Zombie Apocalypse, Okay actually just a bunch of fans of Star Trek and a Zombie Apocalypse at a Star Trek convention.  Being a huge fan of the Zombie horror genre and a sci-fi nut, this book just screamed at me.  I picked up the book and from page one I was hooked.  The Star Trek references were excellent and the authors even strategically through in some Star Wars references that make this survival from the flesh eaters fun and exciting.    On top of the intelligently placed references the authors even have thrown their own spin into the creation and world of zombies.  In this book there are 3 ways to kill them, but let me tell you the Klingon bat’leth is the coolest in this book.

    Another aspect of this book is the mult-genre appeal, the authors have combined Sci-Fi, Zombies, Comedy and adventure to create a quest for survival novel.  This book takes the best of all these worlds and creates a mashup that seems like it wouldn’t work but does and with a lot of fun.  To quote one of the characters from this book, Jim Pike (former soldier fresh from Afghanistan), ”
    Star Trek is all about applying the Federation’s high-minded ideals to difficult situations.  No matter how bad things get, you’re supposed to play by the don’t-shoot-first, don’t-mess-with-pre-warp cultures, don’t-alter-the-timeline rules. But in the zombie univers it’s all about jettisoning everything- morality, sentimentality, weaklings – that might keep you from seeing the next sunrise. Because no matter how impeccably you behave, you’ll never bring the other side around to your way of thinking.  They don’t think.  They just kill.”  But by using the rules of the Federation a rag-tag group of Trekkies in costume, a hotel security Guard, an exo-biologist, a videogame creator, and even a woman in a Princess Leia slave costume that spouts out Star Wars references, all battle zombies hoping to make it to the next day before Houston is nuked.

    Jim Pike is a bellhop for the Botany Bay Hotel in Houston, the Botany Bay is the home of GulfCon, now in its 5th year, which is billed as the largest Starfleet convention in the Western Gulf Coast Region.  He used to be a big Star Trek fan but after two tours of duty in Afghanistan the what-is-it-all-about question has set in and Jim just wants to get by in life not responsible for anything.  Jim’s sister is a Trekkie and she’s bringing her new boyfriend, a videogame creator, to GulfCon to enjoy the festivities and see her brother.

    Meanwhile an accident at a military underground bunker near Houston has released a strange virus that animates the dead.  Many people are calling in sick and the convention is just beginning to go full force with all sorts of activities.  Jim is now being forced to act as security for the Botany Bay and with his un-erring intuition Jim begins to suspect that the world is coming to an end.  When the nightfall comes the zombies begin taking on their prey with more fervor and Jim is forced to lockdown the hotel and gather the few survivors and fight to escape the brain-eating zombies.

    With tons of sci-fi/Star Trek and comic book references this book is full of hilarious moments and with tons of zombies it is also full of some thrills that will keep you anxious to read the whole book in one night.  Some  of the fun in this book, if you are a fellow Trekkie are the names used and who they are used for, for example Jim Pike, the lead character, get’s his name from Captain Pike, the first captain of the Enterprise (in the original series) and Captain James T. Kirk. And yes there’s an awesome “Dammit Jim,..” quote or two.

     
  • gilwilson 10:11 PM on November 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , berserkers, , , , , genetics, , , , josef mengele, , , , thriller, unicorns   

    “The Dragon Factory” by Jonathan Maberry 

    “The Dragon Factory”
    by Jonathan Maberry
    Read by Ray Porter
    Produced by Blackstone Audio
    16 hours and 11 minutes

    I love it when an author creates a character that is so strong that it constitutes a revisit or even a series based on the character.  But only when it is a Strong Character.  Jonathan Maberry has created a Strong Character in Joe Ledger.  In the first book, “Patient Zero,” Ledger is a Detective wanting to get into the FBI, what happens is Ledger is recruited to join a new branch of law enforcement called the DMS (Department of Military Science) in which he leads a team to fight off terrorists who have devised a disease that creates zombies.  The DMS is the branch that keeps the country and the world safe from evil that is beyond the scope of reality.

    The second novel in Maberry’s Joe Ledger series starts very soon after “Patient Zero” left off, with Joe visiting the gravesite of one of his oldest and dearest friends. The problem is, the DMS has suddenly been targeted by all the other alphabet soup agencies with the search and seizure order issued by the Vice President of the United States. All the DMS offices and teams soon find themselves under attack from their own government.  Forced to fend off NSA and CIA agents alone, ledger escapes and eventually regroups with the DMS to find that while the President is getting open heart surgery the Vice President is officially in charge and has taken this time to shut down the DMS.  The V.P. as it turns is really a puppet and a mysterious group pulling the strings wants 2 things, 1.) The DMS shut down long enough to institute their plan to destroy the world, and 2.) Mindreader, the DMS computer system that can find anything anywhere.

    The DMS soon learns that the evil afoot is 2 groups of genetic scientists that have genetically created mythical creatures, Dragons, unicorns, centaurs and more.  One of the 2 groups creations are a fighting force which are called Berserkers due to their complete loss of control and destructive chaos the creatures go into when a battle begins.  The Berserkers are super strong, and have a very unique body armor that just cannot be real.  The real threat runs throughout the book in the form of a countdown clock known as the Extinction clock which counts down to when a group of genetic diseases which are prevailent in certain races have been turned into viruses which when released will destroy 6/7ths of the world population leaving most of the Earth’s inhabitants to be whites only.

    From the first word spoken in this book the action begins and never lets up creating a super action story mixed with some horror and some psychological horror.  For the most part the book is told in First person and Ray Porter owns the role of Joe Ledger.  He also creates the voices of the other characters that not only keeps it clear who is talking but he is able to create through superb voice acting a complete persona for each person capturing perfectly their personality and history.  Porter rocks this book, as he did in the first book, “Patient Zero.”  I don’t think I could listen to these books read by anyone else.

    Maberry writes the perfect action/horror novel.  Really! with Nazi clones, genetically created mythical beasts, the perfect evil mad scientist and his 2 mad scientist children (albino twins) (who are pretty creepy in their own right), ethnic cleansing and a race against time this novel will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout every second of the book.  On the good side a team of soldiers that are too cool for words and a young boy hero that shows what pure goodness is all about.

    Now let’s see if I can find the next book in the series “The King of Plagues.”

     
  • gilwilson 10:38 PM on September 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , black mask, , , , , , , thriller   

    “Black Mask 1: Doors in the Dark -And Other Crime Fiction from the Legendary Magazine” Edited by Otto Penzler 

    “Black Mask 1: Doors in the Dark -And Other Crime Fiction from the Legendary Magazine”
    Edited by Otto Penzler
    read by Eric Conger, Oliver Wyman, Alan Sklar, Pete Larkin, and Jeff Gurner
    Produced by High Bridge Audio
    Approx 7 hours

    When I say the words “Pulp Fiction,” what comes to your mind?  Maybe the movie of the same name?  Keep that in mind because I’ve got a surprise for you.  For me the movie was the first thing that would come to mind, but recently I’ve been listening to audio books of stories from the days of the Pulp Fiction magazines.

    This latest audio book is a real gem.  “Black Mask 1” is the first in the series of stories turned to audio books from the “Black Mask” pulp that was printed between 1921 -1950.  These stories all have that great film noir/gumshoe detective feel and make for some great short stories.  In its hey day, “Black Mask” printed stories from some prominent authors of the day, and this first edition starts out with a bang with some great and fun stories.   Before we talk about those, remember the movie “Pulp Fiction?”  The movie was, in its early days, actually titled “Black Mask,” because Quentin Tarantino drew his inspiration from the pulp magazine.

    Each of the stories is read by a different narrator and each one does a superb job of reflecting the story’s emotion and the sound of the time.  If you close your eyes while listening to “Black Mask 1…” in your mind you can easily visualize a film noir gumshoe detective movie from the same era of these stories.

    The introduction to the audio book is written  by Keith Alan Deutsch and read by Eric Conger.  It gives a very nice history of the age of the pulps and especially that of “Black Mask” magazine.

    The stories included in this collection are:

    “Come and Get It” by Erle Stanley Gardner; read by Oliver Wyman.
    Erle Stanly Gardner was a self taught lawyer who took on the extra job of writing for the pulps to make up for the lack of money he earned as a lawyer, after a few years he turned his writing into full time and created the character, Perry Mason.  This story “Come and Get It” ran in the April, 1927 issue of “Black Mask” and features the character, Ed Jenkins.  Ed Jenkins is known to many as the Phantom Prowler, because he can never be caught.  This time around Jenkins is warned by a crook that a woman with a mole on her hand will try to kill him.  In trying to track down this woman, Jenkins discovers a plot by the local crime boss to steal the city’s best jewelry.  Jenkins sets out to foil the plot of the crime boss and the lady with a mole.

    “Arson Plus” by Peter Collinson (Dashiell Hammett); read by Alan Sklar.
    Peter Collinson (Dashiell Hammett) worked for the Pinkerton Detective agency and was one of the folks that brought down actor Fatty Arbuckle.  Published originally in the October, 1923 issue of “Black Mask,” and tells the story of a detective that comes in to investigate a shady arson which the local sheriff has considered the case closed.  The best part of this story is the reader in this case.  Alan Sklar’s voice fits the story perfectly and keeps you listening with what his cigar and gin soaked voice.

    “Fall Guy” by George Harmon Coxe; read by Pete Larkin
    George Harmon Coxe wrote in the sports, romance and sea stories but his best known works are his detective stories.    This story first appeared in the June, 1936 issue of “Black Mask,” and tells of newspaper photographer “Flashgun” Casey who gets called on to deliver ransom money for an old gal pal who had some photos taken when she was younger that she doesn’t want released.  You know the story, she was young, needed the money, so nude photos were taken.  Casey helps her out but finds out things are not all on the up and up.

    “Doors in the Dark” by Frederick Nebel; read by Pete Larkin
    Frederick Nebel created the stories featuring the tough detective Steve McBride and the wisecracking Newspaper reporter Kennedy.  Warner Brothers bought the McBride series and made nine films, in the movies Kennedy was turned into a woman by the name of Torchie Blaine and the object of her affections was McBride.  This story was originally published in the February, 1933 issue and tells the story of an apparant suicide of one of McBride’s friends.  But something doesn’t sit right with McBride so he investigates deeper even though every single clue only leads back to suicide.

    “Luck” by Lester Dent; read by Jeff Gurner    Introduction by Keith Alan Deutsch; read by Eric Conger
    Lester Dent created Doc Savage under the name of Kenneth Robison and was very successful with this series.  After Savage, Dent created the loner boatman Oscar Sail who is the subject of this story.  Originally published in the October, 1936 issue and is an earlier draft of one the Oscar Sail stories.    In this story Sail sets out to find some seedy characters, all the while setting up slot machines to pay off to some lucky gambler, never himself.

    Each one of these stories has its twists and turns that keep you guessing as to what happens next, which is what makes them so fun to hear. I know I’m looking forward to the next edition.

     
  • gilwilson 9:21 PM on September 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: golde age of radio, , , , otr, , radio archives, , radioarchives.com, , the unexpected, thriller   

    “The Unexpected: Volume 1” released by Radioarchives.com 

    “The Unexpected: Volume 1”
    released by Radioarchives.com
    Multi-cast Old time Radio Shows
    Approx 5 hours

    Being a 25+ year veteran of Radio Broadcasting I may be a little biased here, but I love old time radio, or as is commonly referred to as “otr.”  OTR has that classic theatre of the mind feel that is nearly forgotten.  Today’s radio is ruled by top 40 pop songs or talk radio and these lack the creativity that the early years of radio represented.  The stories were told on the air and the audience created the images in their mind.  Today I try to keep this up with every commercial I write or produce, when you feed off the audience’s imagination, you have an unlimited supply of material.

    Radio great, Stan Freeburg, once drained Lake Michigan and filled with hot cocoa, whip cream and had U.S. Air Force jets top it all off with a giant cherry.  He then said, I’d like to see you do that on television.  Sure now with CGI we could do it, but it would take hours and I could do that in a radio studio in just a few minutes, so still a win for radio.   The old time radio shows used to be the main source of entertainment and had to keep the audience coming back each week.  This was usually done through simple great entertainment, and sometimes cliffhangers that the listener had to come back next week to find out what happens next.

    Radioarchives.com has recently released a this series of “The Unexpected” radio programs
    that were originally aired in 1947.  Each time the audience would keep coming back with some great stories that would not end with the expected.  With this release you don’t have to wait a week for the next mystery.  Volume one contains 20 of the 15 minute episodes that have been restored from the original transcriptions from what were probably acetate pressings.  Radioarchives.com have restored these recordings to perfection, the sound quality is superb and equal to any modern audio production.

    Every episode begins with: “Who knows what drama may happen tomorrow…or an hour from now…or in just a moment? Who knows what destiny has in store for the lady down the street, the fellow at the next desk, or you yourself? Who knows?”  Each story is then presented  with superb acting from actors of radio/screen and stage of the time.  Some of the actors that rang familiar with me were; Barry Sullivan, Lyle Talbot, Marsha Hunt, & Jackie Cooper.  The story genres range from Mystery & Suspense, to Drama, and there’s even a bit of comedy thrown in.  And just when you get to the end of the story, a voice comes in and says, “You think the story is over, don’t you? But wait! Fate takes a hand. Wait…for the Unexpected!”  then the story continues with an ending that is unexpected.  Great title and great gimmick to be different in the golden age of radio.  For today’s listener this is a treat of nostalgia and original storytelling at it’s best.

    Some examples of  the stories include; a man convinced that an old prospecter has struck silver in a ghost town, a woman who embezzles money from her company to buy a fur coat, a boxer who throws a fight to make some quick cash, a woman whose horoscope warns her she will kill a man and many more, but they never end as you’d expect.

    At this point I feel I need to point out or re-emphasize that these are restored directly from the original transcriptions.  The shows were originally meant to be sent out to radio stations and the radio stations would insert commercials in the allowed sections.  This is a good and bad feature.   Good in that you don’t get the commercials, unless you are a fan of the old time commercials.   The bad is that you get a minute or two of dramatic organ music in the place where the commercials would have gone.  At first I loved the old dramatic organ that helped push the story, but after a while I found myself fast forwarding through the  commercial insert areas, glad to have had that luxury.

    This collection is perfect for any fan of mystery, thrillers, suspense and old time radio.  If you are just plain curious, check them out they are a lot of fun, especially because the end of each story is Unexpected.

    Just to help out here are the titles and the lead actors of each episode  in Volume 1:

    #100 Mercy Killing
    starring Barry Sullivan

    #101 Birthday Present
    starring Marsha Hunt

    #102 Solid Citizen
    starring Tom Neal

    #103 Finale
    starring Lurene Tuttle

    #104 Cargo Unknown
    starring Lyle Talbot

    #105 Find the Man
    starring Binnie Barnes

    #106 Revenge
    starring Barry Sullivan

    #107 The Cripple
    starring Marjorie Riordan

    #108 Fool’s Silver
    starring Barry Sullivan

    #109 Horoscope
    starring Marjorie Riordan

    #110 Eavesdropper
    starring Barry Sullivan

    #111 Legacy
    starring Lurene Tuttle

    #112 Museum
    starring Jackie Cooper

    #113 Understudy
    starring Lurene Tuttle

    #114 King Champion
    starring Jack Holt

    #115 The Mink Coat
    starring Lurene Tuttle

    #116 Easy Money
    starring Steve Cochran

    #117 Free Passage
    starring Lurene Tuttle

    #118 Re-Match
    starring Jackie Cooper

    #119 Sweet Sixteen
    starring Lurene Tuttle

     
  • gilwilson 4:37 PM on May 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: craig wasson, full dark no stars, , jessica hecht, , , , , thriller   

    “Full Dark, No Stars” by Stephen King 

    “Full Dark, No Stars”
    by Stephen King
    Read by Craig Wasson and Jessica Hecht
    Published by Simon & Schuster Audio (2010)
    Approx 15 hours

    Okay, off the top here I’ve gotta admit, I’m a HUGE Stephen King fan, I would read a grocery list if he wrote it.  That’s the big reason I picked up this audiobook.  Stephen King is the master of horror, and can always bring me to dark places and allow me to leave unscathed.  This collection of novellas was no different.  In fact this collection will take the reader/listener to some pretty dark places, but you will come out ok, trust me.

    “Full Dark, No Stars” is a collection of four novellas  dealing with the theme of retribution.  In all cases someone gets retribution, in one case I’m not so sure if the retribution was steered toward the rightful person but it was there.  This collection also explores the human psyche in its darkest corners.   King always asks the question “What if..?” and can create some startling stories.  Sometimes in King’s novels the what if may be “What if an alien landed? What if a giant spider/clown thing lived underground and fed on children?”  This time around, however, he takes on a trek through some dark realities; What if you were married to a serial killer?  What if you dumped your wife down the well?  What if you escaped a serial killer? What if you could be cured of cancer?

    The four novellas are tell of murders of some sort, two of which from a male point of view and two from a female point of view.  This is why there are two different narrators, one male and one female, both do a superb job of presenting these dark stories.  I think Craig Wasson shines best in his presentation of the first story “1922,”  he creates the down home feel in his vocal presentation, making it sound as if we are listening to Wilfred James actually talk out his confession.

    Now, let’s talk a bit about the four stories:

    “1922”
    Wilfred James, the story’s narrator, writes a lengthy confession for the murder of his wife, Arlette, in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, in 1922.  (King fans will recognize the town as being the center of the psychic magnet for the “good guys” in “The Stand.”)  Wilfred owns 80 acres of farmland that have been in his family for generations. His wife owns an adjoining 100 acres willed to her by her father. Wilfred loves his farm and scorns the thought of living in a city, but Arlette is hates the farm life and wants to move to Omaha, (Insert “Green Acres” theme song here.) She wants to sell her land to a livestock company for use as a pig farm and slaughterhouse. But if she does so,  Wilfred’s farm will smell like pig shit and the water will become disgusting, as he lives downstream from it. Arlette wants Wilf to sell his land to the farmers as well so they can all move to Omaha, while Wilf wants her to use the land to farm crops. They cannot agree, so Arlette decides to sell her land, divorce Wilf, and move to Omaha herself. Wilfred, who is very attached to his land, can’t stand to have it be laid to waste in this way, and manipulates his reluctant 14-year-old son, Henry/Hank, into helping him murder his own mother, by convincing him of how awful and selfish she is, and how terrible their life in Omaha will be, particularly since it will take Henry away from the girl he likes.

    They do the deed and then dump her body down the well, at first this seems like the deed is done, but soon the rats come.  The rats used to live in the well and seem to have become Arlette’s minions.  Haunting and torturing Wilf and his cattle.  To top it off Hank gets a neighbor girl pregnant and soon his doom is unveiled.  Wilf does not come out on top like he hoped and the rats follow him everywhere.

    “Big Driver”
    I’ve always heard that when you write for a living write about what you know best, I’ve noticed King takes this to heart in that a lot of his main characters are writers, this story is about yet another writer.  Tess is a successful mystery writer who appears at a speaking engagement for the group Books & Brownbaggers at the Chicopee Public Library in Chicopee, Massachusetts. After the event, the head librarian, Ramona Norville, who had invited Tess to the library for the event, tells Tess to avoid Interstate 84, which she believes to be dangerous. Instead, she gives Tess the directions to Stagg Road, a presumably safer shortcut to Tess’ home in Connecticut.  However, as Tess takes the shortcut, her Ford Expedition rolls over pieces of wood with nails that lie across the road, giving her a flat tire. The place where the incident happens is by an abandoned store/gas station.

    Shortly afterwards, an enormous man in a pickup drives by and offers to assist Tess. However, when Tess looks in the truck’s bed and notices pieces of wood similar to those that punched out her tires, the hulking man knocks her out. She returns to consciousness as the man is raping her inside the abandoned store. This begins a horrific ordeal in which Tess is repeatedly assaulted, both sexually and physically, finally being choked to unconsciousness. Tess plays dead while the man dumps her into a culvert, where she sees the rotting corpses of several previous victims, indicating that she has encountered a serial killer.  Tess manages to find her way home but is a changed person and seeks revenge.  King says he got the idea for this story while going to a book signing himself and stopping at a rest stop and seeing a woman with a flat tire getting help from a friendly truck driver.  Of course, King turns this into a darker story with a darker ending than what probably happened with the good samaritan at the rest stop.

    “Fair Extension”
    On his way home, Dave Streeter sees a man with a roadside stand by the road to the Derry airport (here King brings back the town of Derry, Maine, which has gone through all sorts of different hells). Street goes out and talks with the man, George Elvid, who tells Streeter that he sells extensions of various types. Streeter, who is dying of lung cancer, thinks Elvid might be a mental patient escapee after he claims to have existed for centuries. Elvid offers Streeter a chance to live for approximately 15 years if he pays 15 percent of his salary for every one of those years… and transfers the “weight” of his misfortune onto someone he knows, but not just someone he knows, it has to be someone he hates.

    Streeter selects Tom Goodhugh, his best friend since childhood, whom he has secretly hated for years. Streeter has done everything for Goodhugh, including doing his homework. Later, Goodhugh stole Streeter’s girlfriend in college and married her. Goodhugh founded a successful million-dollar waste removal business with Streeter’s assistance and now lives a lavish lifestyle, has three children on the fast track to great lives, and doesn’t look like age has caught up with him, unlike Streeter.

    A couple of days later, Streeter goes to his doctor, who tells him his tumors are shrinking. Four months later, Streeter is declared cancer-free, which perplexes his doctor. The good luck continues in subsequent years, as Streeter is promoted several times at work and his marriage becomes joyous and rich with lavish lifestyle improvements. His children begin a long line of career successes: his son creates two bestselling video games and his daughter gets her dream job as a journalist at the Boston Globe right out of college after graduating from the Columbia School of Journalism.

    At the same time, Goodhugh’s wife develops breast cancer, one son has a heart attack and lives but suffers brain damage, his daughter’s husband dies, she gives birth to a stillborn baby (due to same heart defect that caused the heart attack in his other son).  Streeter wins a longer life but at what cost.

    “A Good Marriage”
    Darcy Anderson has been married to Bob, a partner at a Portland, Maine accounting firm, for 27 years. They have two children, Donnie and Petra, who have left home for college. They also have a mail order business selling and appraising rare coins. But one night, while Bob is away on a business trip, Darcy goes into the garage to search for batteries. When she rummages through Bob’s belongings, she stumbles across a pornographic magazine showing images of sadomasochism. Unnerved by the magazine—and the fact that it is in Bob’s possession—Darcy finds a secret compartment behind the garage’s baseboard and makes a more horrific discovery: a small box containing the ID cards of Marjorie Duvall, a victim of a serial killer called “Beadie.”  Once Darcy has discovered this and then she researches and finds that all of Bob’s out of town trips correspond to other murders by “Beadie.”  What will Darcy do with this information?  If she tells the cops what will the neighbors think?  She and her children’s reputations will be ruined, after all, how could she be married to him and not know?  What she does may surprise even the most avid fan of King’s work.  Stephen King wrote this after hearing the news reports of the “BTK” murderer caught in Kansas a few years back, and his exploration of how the wife of BTK could not know is what makes this story so realistic.

    Definitely a good dive into the dark side from Stephen King.

     
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