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                                               Books in Audio

                           By Jonathan Lowe

Dave Cullen spent a decade researching COLUMBINE for release on the anniversary of the tragic high school attack. The effort shows, and with as much dispassionate authority as an episode of Frontline. How were two antisocial students able to plan and execute this act of terror, utilizing multiple guns and explosive devices, without attracting attention? How and why did the media get the facts wrong? Culler busts the myths prevalent at the time, exposing a complicity of ignorance in stereotyping the killers. They were not gang members or vindictive outcasts seeking revenge on certain school jocks. Dylan Klebold was a manic depressive consumed by self loathing, and Eric Harris a charming psychopath craving the destruction of society itself. Both kids wanted and intended to die in a blaze of “glory.” Planned as more than a mere shooting, the attack would have produced many more than 13 casualties had the boy’s bombs actually worked. Not satisfied with mere reportage, Cullen lays out all the ethical and sociological arguments inherent in the case. Narrated by Don Leslie to engaging effect, the audiobook version moves like an inexorable lawnmower, covering parallel ground from all points of view so as to cut down all the high grass and weed out the hidden bugs. Why do these tragedies happen? Because we fail to apprehend the hidden complexities of disturbed young people weaned on sex, violence, and apathetic materialism. (Blackstone Audio; 14 hours unabridged on 1 Mp3 disk)

Speaking of apathetic materialism, Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, has written a new novel excoriating the vain and idle rich. Titled THE WINNER STANDS ALONE, the book chronicles one day in the life of a mad Russian entrepreneur at the Cannes Film Festival as he murders people in order to attract the attention of his estranged wife, who has proved to be unfaithful. We use the word “mad” to describe him since no sane person would imagine that shooting a needle dipped in curare to kill a film producer would ultimately convince one’s wife that he’s a great guy with whom to spend the rest of her life. While the book is interesting to listen to, particularly given the understated performance of actor Paul Boehmer, it’s basically a reaffirmation that the rich are not like you or me, and that maybe we shouldn’t be so entranced by a lifestyle achieved through ruthless pragmatism. Ironically enough, Coelho is now a multi-millionaire with a film deal himself, inspiring awe among those so inclined. We’ll have to wait and see if he donates his money to charity or buys a yacht to park off Cannes. (Blackstone Audio; 12 hours unabridged on 1 Mp3 disk)

It has been said that a large percentage of the population would rather die than give a speech in public. Not Jeffrey Gitomer, for sure. In his new book is GETTING YOUR WAY, Gitomer advises joining Toastmasters, recording yourself, and offering to give presentations whenever and wherever possible. Subtitle of the book is “How to Speak, Write, Present, Persuade, Influence, and Sell Your Point of View to Others.” He says nothing about how to determine whether your point of view is the correct one to take. He assumes that you’re a thinking professional with a well defined agenda, wanting to persuade others to buy what you’re selling. This “Little Green Book” is a followup to the bestselling “Little Red Book of Selling,” and naturally it is narrated by the author, who uses his congenial persuasive ability to convince you to drop the fear and stand up behind that podium, soap box, or supervisor’s desk and lay out your case. Or get in the casket. Your choice—but just be sure that, if you do decide to give a speech, you don’t memorize it. Rather, know the material cold, anticipate questions or objections, interject humor, and understand your audience. Simple enough, right? Well, maybe you should keep an outline handy just in case you forget your own name. (Simon & Schuster Audio; 4 hours unabridged)

A former FDA commissioner has written a scientific explanation of why dieters find it so difficult to lose weight. THE END OF OVEREATING: TAKING CONTROL OF THE INSATIABLE AMERICAN APPETITE by David Kessler is read by Blair Hardman. This could be a thriller involving conspiracies within the food industry, since the method here is similar to what the tobacco industry did in duping the smoker, and so the truth is also more frightening. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we have been conditioned to overeat by those who want to sell the most highly processed, nutritionally vacant foods. Indeed, our brains set up patterns that are easily repeated. If sugar, fat, and salt are layered in just the right combination, our reward mechanism is triggered, while ads on TV call to us like siren songs. Can we restore our self regulating system, and regain control of eating? Kessler shows how with Blair Hardman’s help. (Simon & Schuster Audio; 7 hours unabridged)

In WICKED PREY by John Sandford a family in Wisconsin is murdered by the “Iceman,” a killer whose identity is a mystery blurred by the ice sheets of winter. Contrasts abound, as the killer also likes to burn things. Lucas Davenport, Sandford’s ex Minneapolis cop, arrives amid all the local buzz, and gets on the killer’s track while dabbling in a romance with a local doctor. Although the ending is something of a letdown, the novel is quite observant and multi-faceted, and as such lends itself to the careful appraisal inherent in the tone of longtime Sandford mystery reader Richard Ferrone. (Penguin Audio; 6 hours abrdiged)

Finally, Clive Cussler, with the aid of several co-writers, has been churning out adventure novels for over three decades. His thirty-eighth book is MEDUSA, a Kurt Austin suspense written with Paul Kemprecos (a professional diver and undersea mystery author). Depending on whether you prefer the bare bones action sequences or the full text (with more character development), you may choose the abridged version as narrated by actor Richard Ferrone, or the unabridged as read by veteran Scott Brick. The plot involves the disappearance of an undersea lab conducting experiments on a rare jellyfish that can provide vaccine for a deadly virus. The Chinese underworld is involved, and with all the plot twists of a James Bond film. Ferrone is used to narrating mysteries, and so is best suited for laying out those elements in a straightforward manner with an air of curiosity, while Brick conveys an element of awe to the proceedings in telling the full story. Either way, it’s typical Cussler, and an escape from the more mundane (if more relevant) aspects of real life chronicled by those with higher literary aspirations. (Penguin Audio; 6 and 13 hours, respectively)



LOWE:  Tell us about your collaborations with other writers.

CUSSLER:  They are spinoff series. I come up with most of the plotting and they’ll start the writing, and I’ll edit, that sort of thing. 

 

LOWE:  So you switch off with Craig Dirgo or Paul Kemprecos or Jack Du Brul.

CUSSLER:  Right. We did a fiction book which has nothing to do with NUMA or Pitt or anything. In one book, “Flood Tide,” I had this ship that looked like an old beat up tramp steamer, had all the exotic gear, and people who ran it were like corporate mercenaries, they go around the world, like a Mission Impossible plot.

 

LOWE:  Where did the name Dirk Pitt come from?

CUSSLER:  My son’s name. He was six months old when I started writing.  His name is Dirk, and I used it for fun, really. I was looking through an encyclopedia about the British prime ministers during the Revolutionary war, Pitt the younger and Pitt the elder. So I thought, well, that works, ‘cause I wanted a one syllable name. 

 

LOWE:  I was thinking, you know, like one letter less than James Bond, and easier to type than Brandon Tartikoff or something.

CUSSLER:  (laughs) Well, that’s it. It’s easier to say “Pitt jumped over the wall” than that. I think that’s why Fleming wanted a simple name. James Bond. There was an ornithologist by that name too.



(Jonathan Lowe has a new article on audiobooks in Costco Connection magazine in June, and his new novella “Who Moved My TV?” is available as a free serial at JustSayNoWay.com)