Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elvis & Joe in Audiobook: Indigo Slam

With this year's release of the 13th book, 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.

Indigo Slam

Robert Crais' seventh novel, Indigo Slam (print published in 1997 and pictured above - and continuing with another classic view of L.A., the freeway and skyline, for the cover art), is an interesting work from the author. Crais continues to play the narrative change-up started in the last novel (Sunset Express). Moreover, you can see the changes coming to future books in the series with this tale of three children seeking help from Elvis to find their lone missing parent. In this tale, their father is a talented printer/counterfeiter on the run from Russian mobsters. The humor is somewhat downplayed in the novel as the case unfolds and winds through various twists in the story, some of it set in and around Seattle. As well, Elvis' continuing relationship with Lucy Chenier further evolves, and begins to complicate. All of this places the seeds of troubled families in and around both the P.I. and his partner. The concept of affected childhoods are potently planted with this book--to be revealed, powerfully, later.

Brilliance published the unabridged Indigo Slam audiobook, initially, as another Bookcassette® version--pardon me as I adjust the balance to the proper channel. Later editions would come out as Audio CD, MP3, pre-loaded player, and for download. Like the previous audiobook, this one was released the same year as the print version. Likewise, David Stuart returned for his second round as narrator (chronologically), but it would be his last stint as reader in the series where he does both the unabridged and abridged versions of a Robert Crais audiobook for the publisher. However, Mr. Stuart does stumbles a bit here, at least for those sharp-eared audiobook listeners who live in the City of the Angels. If you've spent any time here, you can easily pick up on the Spanish heritage of the city as seen in the names of the locales and streets (the author has noted this in this series). So, for us who have either grown up or come to live in the southland and learned to enunciate the spanish street names, it is painfully obvious when a narrator, like Stuart, really mis-pronounces them. And when they occur, it certainly jolts the local listener away from the Crais' story, and his narration (friends that I've lent these to can attest to this). I won't include anything glaring as that, though, in his audio sample.

As was done with Sunset Express, Books on Tape produced another (and hard to find, now) audiobook version of this novel for library user consumption. Michael Prichard is again the narrator. Though very proficient in the many non-fiction works he's recorded over the years (and with his very distinctive voice), his reading with these very established characters couldn't be more matter of fact in its presentation (think Dragnet's Joe Friday, and that's not a good thing). It's a take that is as curious as any in the series. His range with characters, compared to the other readers in the series, is limited; and the story is just not his style as an audiobook narrator. The BoT studio managers (whether they knew how temporary this gig was or not), just did not match up the right reader to the material. I say this because I have this audiobook on cassette. See if you agree with me. Here's his sample with the selected passage.

The U.K.'s Chivers audiobook uses the Seattle skyline for its cover artwork (although, the majority of the plot in the novel takes place in southern California). The seventh novel in the Cole/Pike series will be reader William Roberts' next turn with these characters. His experience shines through with another reliable effort. Check out his work with the sample. Perhaps, it is symbolic that this narrator's streak will end at 7. But, given what's coming, it just might be fitting for the series.

[Note: as I've stated, both Sunset Express and Indigo Slam novels serve as a preparatory bridge for the reader/listener to cross, especially with regard to the natural maturation of a talented author. That is evidenced with this pair of novels. These characters have ripened just to the point that makes what's coming that much sweeter. Though, one can read the next book without the preceding novels of the series and still enjoy it. But, from here on out, the landscape definitely changes.]

Next up: L.A. Requiem

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'm waiting in anticipation for your L.A. Requiem post since I have yet to read the book that all your Craisies rave about! Thanks for sharing, Le0pard!

  2. Prichard's version makes me glad I usually read rather than listen. Oh, brother!

  3. NW: very kind of you to say. Yes, us Craisies all share a special connection with L.A. Requiem. For many of us, it is what this series pivots upon.

    Naomi: Yeah, Prichard was ill-matched, here.

    Thank you, both, for your comments.

  4. It really can throw you off when they mispronounce names and places, can't it? If not for that, I think I could listen to either Stuart's or Roberts'. But Prichard? Yikes! Joe Friday is right. His reading also reminded me of the narrators of those health and science films we'd see in elementary and middle school.

    Anyone else wonder if we'll see any of the Hewitt children again? Of course, they'll be adults by now. As Elvis was named executor on their trust accounts, I figured it was a possibility.

  5. I agree. Plus, those Books on Tape versions are so darn hard to find! You'd think they were gold, instead of what they are. That's also a great comparison with the health & science films on these. Which reminds me. It was infamous in my day (graduated high school in '72), and they showed it to all students who took Driver's Ed/Training courses then. Did you ever see or hear of the film, RED ASPHALT?

    As always, thanks Christine for your fun comments.

  6. I don't recall any films in Driver's Ed. We did get shown a smashed up car they brought in to show us about drinking & driving. Oh, and the fact that our instructor would fall asleep when we got on the open desert roads leading out of Edwards AFB - seriously. I'm assuming with the title like RED ASPHALT that it had something to do with crashes? Sounds graphic.

  7. Oh, it was. It was one of those from the 'scare the kids sh*tless about drinking & driving' school of higher learning. Believe me, if you don't recall it, you didn't see it. I think they sent a warning or waiver home for your parent to read or sign off, IIRC.

    Ah... the good ol' days ;-).

  8. Gotta be on YouTube. Found this LA Times article from 2006. The subtitle made me laugh.

  9. Yep... that was it! And they have it correct. It was 'a rite of passage' in my day. Good catch, Christine.