Detour

Have you ever seen the movie Detour? It was thoughtlessly cranked out in 1945 by Producers’ Releasing Corporation (PRC), one of the bottom-feeders along Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” back in the day. Those places shoveled out low-budget fare to fill the screens (and some of the seats) in theaters on the other side of town, around industrial neighborhoods, where the faint of heart dared not venture. These were theaters where Casablanca never played, nor did Shane or Gone With The Wind. No, these theaters were low-grade joints, perfect matches for the movies that played in them.

Detour was no different. Directed by Czech-born Edgar G Ulmer, a veteran of two-reelers and exploitation flicks, it was spit out of Poverty Row into the bad-neighborhood theaters and soon disappeared without a sound. Years later, no one bothered to renew the film’s copyright, so it slipped unceremoniously into the public domain.

And there it sat until the explosion of cable TV, when stations scrambled for content. They trolled the public domain for whatever they could find and Detour lay there, awaiting rediscovery. After numerous showings on late-night cable, film noir enthusiasts quickly recognized its greatness and began to talk it up. Now, it’s considered a film noir gem, possibly the greatest low-budget movie ever made. Not only that, the Library of Congress included it in a list of 100 films most deserving of restoration and preservation.

But …

Before the movie, there was the novel.

Written by Martin M Goldsmith in 1939, the novel originates the fatalistic tone of the movie. The characters think they’re getting a raw deal from life, and take no blame in their own predicaments. They’re wrong, of course, but that’s noir, baby. They’re always wrong. Sure, they make foolish decisions, and sure, there are improbable coincidences, but the darkness of the story and the strength of the writing keep the reader’s eye on the page. Here’s a brief description:

1938. Alexander Roth is hitchhiking from New York to Los Angeles, hoping to reconnect with his self-absorbed, cutesy-poo girlfriend. A car stops to pick him up and he is soon plunged into a nightmare from which there may be no escape.

And now, for the first time ever, Detour is available as an audiobook. I had a lot of fun narrating this book, because I was so familiar with the characters, having seen the movie countless times and having read the novel twice.

It’s now available on Audible.com. Go here and buy it.

Sharecropper Hell

No one dives deeper into the criminal mind than Jim Thompson. He built his career on the twisted ambitions of his dark, frightening characters. In Sharecropper Hell (DeVault-Graves Agency, 2014), which was originally titled Cropper’s Cabin on its initial release in 1952, he drags the reader into the inhospitable world of white trash sharecroppers of southeastern Oklahoma in the mid-20th century. Sex, murder, racial paranoia … it all plays fast and hard in Thompson’s writing.

This is the first audiobook version of this noir classic and it’s unabridged, exactly as Jim Thompson wrote it. You can get it now on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Heaven’s Gun

Jacob is a small-time criminal who dabbles in everything from drugs to prostitutes to illegal weapons. When he finds a gun that seems to be of supernatural origin, he begins to dream of the big time. His dream turns into a nightmare when he realizes some supernatural beings want their toy back.

This is Heaven’s Gun (Harambee K Grey-Sun, 2014) a little story that carries a powerful message and a clear sense of intelligence, as well. The characters are all relentlessly dark and the police state into which society has devolved doesn’t give them much hope.

Now available on Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes.

Panama Takedown

Damian Wolf is framed for murdering his wife. As he languishes on death row, shadowy Washington types approach him with a deal: become an assassin for a supersecret agency not on the government books and we’ll spring you immediately. How can he say no?

Such is the basis for the new Damian Wolf, Assassin series, the first entry of which is Panama Takedown (Mike Pettit — 2013). By the time the book opens, Wolf has been in the assassination racket for quite some time, and his world-weariness is beginning to show. Page one finds him passed out on the floor of a rundown hotel in Panama City, the result of a rum binge the previous night. He gets a phone call from his new handler, ordering him to pick up a package the next day containing instructions for a new mission. Sobering up quickly, Wolf smells a rat right away, and the action begins.

Author Mike Pettit, a veteran of several other action series, has crafted a tense international thriller, as well as a solid character in Damian Wolf, who is clearly much more than an ass-kicking machine. Wolf has weaknesses, too, which Pettit reveals as the story unfolds. The character’s road to redemption on the gritty streets of Panama City is littered with treachery and death. The double-cross lurks around every corner, in every seedy bar, and in the eyes of every US Government agent.

I had a lot of fun narrating this audiobook, and I’m certain it will kick off what will be a very successful series. You can find it on Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes.

The Secret Squad

David Goodis must have led a pretty depressing life. Virtually all of his novels are set amid grimy urban surroundings, usually his hometown of Philadelphia, and they’re populated by characters who live lives of utter hopelessness. I like to think of Goodis’ locales as being where despair goes to die.

In any case, The Secret Squad (DeVault-Graves Agency, 2014) fits right in the heart of the Goodis catalog. Originally titled Night Squad when it was first published in 1961, it is set in an area of “the big city” known as “the Swamp”, block after block of seedy bars, filthy cafés, rat-infested tenements, and violent criminals on every street corner.

Unlike the protagonists of other Goodis novels, the central character in The Secret Squad, Corey Bradford, knows he’s on the down slope of his life and knows he has no one to blame but himself. A disgraced ex-cop who is offered one last chance at redemption, Bradford takes it and, like so many noir characters in literature, makes wrong choices at every turn.

This novel, under its original title, was released as an audiocassette in 1991, narrated by Kevin Spacey. It was heavily abridged, however, losing nearly half of the text. This new audiobook, which I’ve narrated, is unabridged, complete with full text as written by David Goodis, and is now available at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Glimmer

Ever wonder what it would be like to find yourself trapped in a coal mine? In writing Glimmer (Gregory Skilling, 2014), author Karlos Prince has constructed a very tight, very claustrophobic tale, in novelette form, of a man who has entered a long-abandoned coal mine and cannot get out. Ed Hackley has come to the remotest back country region of eastern Kentucky in pursuit of research on the history of coal mining, and before you can say “black lung”, he’s trapped with almost no hope of getting out. Prince pulls the reader straight into the sweaty, dark confines of the filthy mine, a place I never want to visit. He also offers a penetrating look at the ordinary folks who populate these far-flung precincts of Appalachia.

This audiobook is unabridged and is currently available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Sons of the Father

I wasn’t sure what to think of Sons Of The Father (BearManor Media, 2014) when I started the narration, but the deeper I went into it, the more attached to it I became. It has a way of pulling you into its own little world, which I like.

Written by Janette Anderson, it’s the compelling story of Philip Vega, a powerful American mob figure who is obsessed with a young British woman — a married British woman, at that. He’s ready to do whatever it takes to have her, but then — well, you’ll just have to listen to the audiobook. It’s currently available in unabridged form on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Soon to be a major motion picture (no kidding!).

Grind Joint

A “grind joint” is a small casino, usually aimed at a very local market, often blue-collar. No fancy showrooms or Asian billionaires playing baccarat at $100,000 a hand. Just slots, tables, whiskey, and second-rate food. The casino in the audiobook of Grind Joint (Dana King, 2014) is not even open yet. It’s under construction and eagerly awaited by many residents of Penns River, a fading mill town not far from Pittsburgh.

On the opening page, the corpse of a drug dealer is found at its front door, kickstarting King’s plot.There are plenty of goings-on surrounding the discovery of the body — police intrigue, Mafiosi, Russian mobsters, lots of tough talk, and more — but at the novel’s heart lie the personal ethics of the people of Penns River, not only of central character Detective Ben Dougherty and his co-workers, but of ordinary civilians as well.

This audiobook is in many ways really a display of solid small-town values, which have long formed the spine of America. I’m sure King didn’t set out to do it that way, but in addition to a page-turning crime novel laced with living dialogue and a potful of tension, he offers up a unique, back-door vision of good people faced with hard, dwindling choices while their hometown languishes on the ropes.

The unabridged audiobook is available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.