Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Elvis & Joe in Audiobook: Free Fall

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.

Free Fall

Robert Crais' fourth novel, Free Fall (print published in 1993 and pictured above - for the first time, we've gotten away from the Mickey Mouse image reference), the author returned Elvis, Joe, and the cast back to familiar L.A. ground, and into a tempestuous period here, locally. This book--clearly influenced by the earlier Rodney King case, trial, and the '92 riot aftermath--has Elvis and Joe dealing with a young woman looking to help her LAPD fiancé away from suspected dishonest conduct. Ironically, this novel actually pre-dates the real-life Rampart Division police corruption scandal that occurred later in the 90's.

James Daniels returns to the Brilliance Audio abridged audiobook release, circa 2003.  And, he doesn't disappoint. Daniels seems more comfortable in this his second stint as narrator in the series. For this run, he brings a good bit of more theatricality in his reading, overall. It's never bothered me, but some fans of the series have noted one trait in his delivery they find irritating. That is, how he pronounces the word, police. They say it sounds like one syllable when he says it. As in, "pleece". My abridged audio sample does not contain that particular word in the clip, so you'll either have to take my word for this or listen to the audiobook yourself.

The newer unabridged Free Fall version arrived in late June 2008, with Mel Foster returning as narrator for Brilliance Audio studio managers. One reason I selected this passage is to show listeners how each of these professional male narrators vocalize female characters within the context of an audiobook. They do this by varying volume and how they modulate the intonation (pitch) in their voice to infer a woman's voice to listeners. Some narrators are very successful in their technique. It's up the audiobook fan to judge how well each in this group does in this important aspect. Here's Foster's sample covering the same passage with Elvis Cole and his client, Jennifer Sheridan.

Chivers continued to use cityscape scenes for their cover art (released in 2005). If I'm anything, I'm opinionated. And, Foster comes in third by my listening (and judging) in this vocal gender category. The difference between his male and his female voices seem the smallest among the three readers, here. Not a good thing. Daniels' female voice work seems more subtle when you first here it, but there's more variation than Foster's. You'll see what our friend Patrick Lawlor brings to this category in the next post, I promise. Yes, Roberts is the more theatrical with his inflection and phrasing among all of them, but that's likely due to his work on the theater stage. Check out his passage.

Next up: Voodoo River

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

Powered by ScribeFire.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. I'm surprised to find myself saying I like Daniels' work the best in these three samples. Roberts is fine as a reader, but I just like a slightly deeper, less nasal voice for Elvis.

  2. James Daniels has a fine voice for this. And, there are audiobooks in the U.S. line I really, really wish he would have had the chance to narrate [and they're coming up ;-)]. Though, I don't know if we'll hear him again with any new books. The last I heard, he passed the bar and is now a practicing attorney. He came back to do Chasing Darkness because of RC and the series. But, as you know, he didn't come back to do the last one. I always appreciate your thoughts, Naomi. Thank you.

  3. O.k., I'm playing catch-up here. First I have to note that it made me smile to see your present audio book. George is my favorite narrator! LOL

    I would criticize all of these readers for their female voices in a review. Did I mention that in my Monkey's Raincoat with Roberts narrating? I can't remember. I know I mentioned his voice for Joe...

    But, I would say I preferred Daniels' voice for Elvis of the three.

    Naomi, that was my first reaction when I first heard Roberts for Elvis. Wasn't how I imagined Elvis, but when he gets into the really sarcastic funny lines, it is an absolute hoot! I just will never forget the sound of him doing the seal line at the end of TMR. Oh, priceless! And I also think that Roberts picks up on subtle things in Elvis' character better than the other readers. That's what I liked best. He interpreted Elvis closer to what I imagined Elvis' personality to be...does that make a lick of sense to anyone?

  4. It all makes sense to me, Jen. You know I agree with you on how Roberts interprets Elvis. I think when I close this series, I'll post a best of lines clips. And, that "...seal line at the end of TMR" will be among them. I'll take any requests for any book in the series. Thanks, Jen.

  5. Oh that is a VERY idea! LOVE IT!!