If you’re reading this in July of 2014, you are among the first visitors to my new audiobook narrator site, VoiceOfTheDamned.com. When you look at the home page, you’ll see one of the audiobooks listed is, appropriately, Sharecropper Hell by Jim Thompson. His twisted characters were about as damned as you could get. Nobody got into the first person criminal mind as effectively as he did.

Thompson’s book (originally titled Cropper’s Cabin upon its initial release in 1952) is closely followed on the home page by David Goodis’ The Secret Squad. Goodis, also quite familiar with those who are damned, was himself a somewhat tragic figure, leaving behind a wealth of literature that has at long last taken its place alongside the best noir writings ever.

I was thrilled to have been selected to narrate and produce Three Early Stories, a collection of “lost” short stories by JD Salinger. They were among the first things he ever published, appearing in obscure magazines back in the early 1940s. They have not seen the light of day since. This is the first time they’ve appeared in audio form AND it’s the first legitimate publication of any Salinger work in 50 years, and I’m honored to be part of this historic event.

Then, there’s Borderline, a steamy noir tale by Lawrence Block. He wrote this under a pen name back in the 1960s and it has recently been re-released by Hard Case Crime. This is the first audio version ever. It’s a terrific noir novel about four individuals who, for their own troubling reasons, move back and forth across the Rio Grande between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, México. Also included in this package are three short stories, also penned by Block back in the day.

In addition, you’ll see books by Janette Anderson (Sons Of The Father), Karlos Prince (Glimmer), and Dana King (Grind Joint), each of whom has explored in his/her own way the dark side of the human condition. I’m very proud to have been a part of all these books. I want to say right now — and I’m sure other audiobook narrators will agree wholeheartedly — that my job as a narrator is made infinitely easier by having a well-written book to work with. These books I’ve mentioned, while they only represent a fraction of the titles I’ve completed — are a good representation of the high quality of writing any narrator would desire.

Also, I want to take a moment to express my deep gratitude to the great Leslie Michaelis, who designed and built this website. Without her cognitive mind and computer prowess, I’d be out in the cold, my nose pressed against the frosty windowpane.

Well, that’s about it for this initial post. Thanks very much for checking out my site, and I hope you’ll be a regular visitor.

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.