I read a lot, and almost entirely fiction (the truth behind the lie). When driving I listen to audio cd recordings of books read by actors, and I drive a lot. I keep a book in my car for reading at coffee shops and a book by my bed for nighttime reading. Audio cds are problematic as only the most mainstream books can afford the cost of hiring and recording a reader. I often read books a second time due to the low quality of available fiction. But I love stories and tolerate this.
Recently, just in the month of November, I listened to three audio books that were disappointing. In each case I had read a lot by the author; their track records were stellar and my expectations high. The dearth of good fiction means that I eagerly await the release of new work by proven authors.
The first book was Lethal White by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame. The three preceding books in this series about a London detective (Cormorant Strike) and his partner were superb. The fourth book, Lethal White, was not terrible but simply and disappointingly ordinary.
The second book was an oldie by Michael Crichton. Early on I read him as a guilty pleasure; he was formulaic but good at what he did. I believe I have read at least half of his oeuvre. Crichton’s Jurassic Park was disappointing from beginning to end; it was as if it was his first novel and he was stumbling through it, but it was not his first and paled next to the earlier works I have read.
The last book was another guilty pleasure; the author does not rub shoulders with John Fowles or E. M. Forster. The author is Lee Child (Jim Grant) and this was his eighteenth book in a series focused on the character Jack Reacher. It’s typical superhero stuff along the line of Sherlock Holmes, but for me the stories are like pure candy (likely almost all his readers are men). This 18th book, Past Tense, is read by a new reader who falls short of Dick Hill’s work on the previous 17 novels, but much worse than this was the writing. It does not even seem like the same writer. I am so disappointed I will be writing the publisher to convey how terrible this book was.
The read these three books consecutively, all in the month of November. What they have in common is the authors are hugely successful. When they sit down to type they know beyond a doubt that they are about to make hundreds of dollars per minute of typing. They know that vast swathes of readers will be buying their latest release. Naturally this creates pressures to produce whether or not inspiration is present.
The Christmas marketing season begins the day after Halloween. I guess this is the risk of buying audio books designed to snag Christmas sales (Lethal White and Past Tense). I have been perusing the used audio books on Amazon and elsewhere, but I quickly run into the problem of rare editions. A new author I am enjoying is Rex Stout who wrote about detective Nero Wolfe from 1934 until 1974. I have a number of used audio books by him, but am stymied by the exorbitant price tags on his hard-to-find material.