Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Elvis & Joe in Audiobook: Stalking the Angel

With this year's release of the 13th book (a lucky number for me), The First Rule, in the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel series by Robert Crais, this is another post in my continuation of a series examining each novel and the audiobook versions that came out of them. All of this traces back to when television writer/producer Crais turned away from Hollywood in the 80's to do what he always wanted, be a novelist. With that, he originated and began to write about a quirky, tough but tender, private detective with the unlikely name of Elvis Cole (and his partner, Joe Pike). That first book's success and uniqueness in portraying the genre with the author's mix of humor and pathos meant a standalone novel gave birth to a popular series that's working past its second decade.

Stalking the Angel

Robert Crais' second novel, Stalking the Angel (print published in 1989 and pictured above with one of my favorite cover art images), was the second in the now long-running series and brought back Elvis, Joe and the gang for another round. This time, they're exploring L.A.'s Little Tokyo. Elvis and Joe are tasked with finding a stolen, precious Japanese manuscript, and their job is complicated with the client's family, and the Yakuza's involvement. Crais continues the P.I. first person narrative and client introduction for the start of the book--that'll become the familiar setup for the first five novels of the series. It is a worthy and strong sequel to The Monkey's Raincoat, and it begins partner Joe's slow creep up to parity in the series. Heck, it had to start somewhere.

Again, Brilliance Audio published their audiobook of this work as an abridgment in late 2001. Their studio managers brought back David Stuart for another run with the characters. Stuart builds upon the vocal characterizations from the first novel and does a better job, here. Of course, having Pike more involved in the story-line only adds to the printed book and audiobook series. With that in mind, here's an appropriate clip of David's second turn with RC's cast.

Brilliance released the unabridged version of Stalking the Angel in follow-up of their full version of The Monkey's Raincoat almost one month later in early 2008. Again, unfortunately, with Patrick G. Lawlor as the narrator [and I did express my unhappiness to BA customer service via email over this selection]. While an unabridged treatment is better than an abridged one, especially for a writer as good as Robert Crais, Mr. Lawlor is the weakest of the series narrator's, I think. However, don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed his other vocal work. He was very good for David Morrell's Creepers. But here, in this series, his voice and intonations are not a good fit, at all. Here's his version of the same passage.

U.K. audiobook publisher BBC/Chivers brought the second book in the series out in 2002. Their unabridged version cover art is markedly different than their U.S. counterpart, but I've grown to appreciate their choice of graphics. Narrator Williams Roberts settles in with an assurance of his vocal work, and displays a gift for intoning Cole's demeanor and clever wit without making it, or him, irritating. Additionally, he's the only reader among the three to actually pronounce the Japanese manuscript of the story's, Hagakure, somewhat correctly. Check out his work with the passage.

Next up: Lullaby Town

The Series:
The Monkey's Raincoat
Stalking the Angel
Lullaby Town
Free Fall
Voodoo River
Sunset Express
Indigo Slam
L.A. Requiem
The Last Detective
The Forgotten Man
The Watchman
Chasing Darkness
The First Rule

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  1. I have the abridged version of this audiobook. I think I got it one time when I wasn't paying attention because I'm not a fan of abridged versions. I hate feeling like I'm missing out. So, anyway, I haven't listened to it because it's abridged.

    I do love the way Williams' handles Elvis' sarcasm. It's a completely different interpretation than Stuart's. I don't think Stuart brings out the sarcasm as well. However, I think I like Stuart's voice for Joe better than Williams. Still not exactly what I imagine Joe sounds like, but you can't have everything!

    This is so fun! :)

  2. I know what you mean with regards to abridged versions. When I first started with this (in order) journey with Elvis and Joe, that's all there was. Luckily, I found the U.K. unabridged eventually, and went through them again.

    Stuart does have a very smooth and pleasant voice. Roberts will refine his Joe vocalization further down the line. But, it's the listener who'll decide if it works for them. Glad you're enjoying this, Jen. Thanks.

  3. Roberts does do a better job with Elvis' sarcasm.

  4. This is so interesting. I have no experience with the audiobooks so I listened to the clips you linked to. They sounded all wrong to me! Yikes! Think I'll stick with the print books and only listening to Robert read passages at his signings because that's the only voice I can hear now.

    Regarding the cover art for this book, I love this one, too, but I have a hardcover with an entirely different design and color scheme (it's black with a heavily tattooed man in the foreground). Oddly enough, I couldn't find an image of it online I can link to, not even on Robert's site.

  5. I understand where you're coming from, Elyse. It is an interesting phenomena how people imprint a character's voice. I've heard others, too, say similar when they hear the audiobooks of the series for the first time. Those of us who did the audio route before the print one hear the narrator's voice in their head when we read the books, I think. I can attest that I heard narrator Joe Barrett's voice in my head when I read Sean Chercover's Ray Dudgeon short story in Killer Year. The audiobook experience seems to inscribe something on the listeners (the caveat being that it has to be a good audio encounter with the book).

    Have you ever read RC's interview with AudioFile Magazine (the audiobook publication) from a few years back? His is an interesting take [plus, I remember what he said at last year's FoB panel about who's his favorite audiobook narrator is ;-)]. Thanks, Elyse. I always appreciate your perspective.

  6. Also, I did one time see the book cover "with the heavily tattooed man in the foreground." Found it! It's the second (and fourth) from the left on the top row, here. That's one seriously cool cover art! HTH.

  7. Oh, you are good! That's the cover I have. It's funny how the tattooed guy is all badass but it looks like he's wearing a diaper.

    I haven't read that interview (thanks for the link) but have heard him say that about James Daniels, whom I've never heard. The only audio version I have of any Crais book is his own reading of Hostage (do you sense a pattern here?).