Sunday, March 27, 2011

My First Audiobook Continued: L.A. Outlaws

Title: L.A. Outlaws
Author: T. Jefferson Parker
Read by: David Colacci and Susan Ericksen
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2008)

I've decided to report from the trenches. So...

(Post, the First can be found here.)

Location: Disc 6, Track Very beginning
Chapter: 25??

I've lost track of tracks now that I've moved this to my iPod. However, I like being able to listen as I cycle to work or when I'm cooking, landscaping, etc.

Very short summary: Suzanne Jones, high school teacher and mother by day, thieving Allison Murietta (sp?) by night, has just got herself in a heap of trouble by taking a lot of diamonds from a botched gang pay-off.  Hood is investigating the botched-and-full-of-dead-bodies pay-off and is looking for Jones as he considers her a witness.

I'm doing much better at not getting annoyed at the readers. It's not their fault (mostly) that I don't always like their interpretation. Anywho, I'm learning to let go. It's all very zen and philosophical so this must be good for my mental development or something. With the caveat in place that I really am impressed with all the voices the readers are incorporating, it still irks me when they get one mixed up at first (or just plain lose it) and I feel like Ericksen defaults to combative and petulant for the women and Colacci defaults to earnest and apologetic for the men. That, I very much dislike. They can't, every one of them, have the same attitude methinks.

So what about the actual content? My clumsiness with the audio format definitely affects the level of immersion I can feel in the story. On the other hand, I'm not really loving the story or the characters overmuch so I don't think I'd get very immersed even if I was reading. It's certainly not a book that merits the reading of every word so I am impatient sometimes. The actions and feelings of the characters are really easy to figure out in every scene so I would be doing some major skimming in the set-up portions of the scenes but that's not an option with audio. I'm also beginning to understand what Apprentice Writer meant when she said she's more likely to finish a book in audio than she would be if reading (see comments in Post, the First).

One thing that is keeping me interested in where everything is going is the two main characters. They are doing some really stupid stuff sometimes and it makes me wonder: is there a reason for this? Am I a part of their lives when they are working on getting smarter? Anyone who becomes really good at anything is going to experience some growing pains so is this story part of their growing pains? If not, why does the author think I'm going to want to stick with these guys through the stupid? Craft-wise, this interests me.

Another interesting craft choice is that, as the reader, I know a lot more than Hood. However, I'm still subjected to a lot of his investigation (if I was reading I would have skipped these parts). As in, while he is investigating I already know the answer. Ok, so why make this choice? As a reader, why do I want to be there for that? Heheh, well I guess I don't since I just said I would have skipped those parts if I was reading but I'm still interested in why the author thinks I would want to be there as the reader.

If I'm learning anything at all from this experience it's how much I'm willing to skip while reading. Additional examples: pretty much all of Hood's Anbar (sp?) Province mentions after the first two, almost the entire scene with the guy Jones had originally planned to sell the diamonds to, the repetitive descriptions (both situational and characterizational). The thing with these types of scenes is that I can construct them quickly and easily by reading about two words/line. So why oh why are there so many words used?

Since I also tend to skip dialogue tags I had a friend ask me if I really thought all that stuff could be left out of books. Like, could what I actually read be a good book. The answer is definitely no but if the same material was written more skillfully I would read all the words. I don't skip them out of laziness, I skip them out of boredom, I skip them because they are not providing me with new information or because I can see the next page and a half detailing something I have put together in the first paragraph.

Parting questions:
Have any audiobook listeners out there discovered that maybe they don't read every word?
Any readers of this book feel I'm being too harsh in my assessment of "too many words?"

Next time...
thoughts on the villain 

more thoughts on the experience


  1. It's great to hear your thoughts as you take this first audiobook in. I get the feeling this is your first Jeff Parker novel, as well? Certainly the way TJP crafted the story, through the eyes of the two leads who become intertwined, takes a buy-in by either reader or listener. If that doesn't happen, I can see it being oft-putting. Add to that the Brilliance Audio studio managers decided to use two narrators for this production (effectively splitting up the narration along the male Hood and the female Allison perspectives). BTW, if you didn't already know this, David Colacci and Susan Ericksen are professional audiobook readers, and married to each other.

    Interesting that you'd skip reading certain parts of a novel (Hood's investigation) since you know Allison's connection. Normal course for you, or is it only because TJP's story is not a draw in this instance? Aren't you afraid you'd miss something the author would have planted there that Allison wouldn't know? I don't feel you're being too harsh here, but refreshingly honest. It doesn't happen too often, but there times I feel I could fast forward certain passages. But that tells me I may find the book is not working for me. It's rare, but I have abandoned some audiobooks because of this.

    Parker is exploring his fascination with the bandit mentality (in general, and specifically with some real-life historical characters that are distinctly Californian. His narrative style, or these characters, just may not be what works with you. Perhaps, the next audiobook you might try might be one you've already read and enjoyed. The reader might make it different enough that it is a new experience (and one that'll make the audio event more to your liking). Just a thought. Thanks.

  2. You're quite right, Michael, this is my first Parker and probably my last. I just don't think we're right for each other. BUT! You'll be happy to hear that it hasn't been off-putting to the audiobook in general. I will be having a go at a second round.

    I didn't know that about the readers but I am not surprised. I know I'm pissing and moaning a lot but they are actually quite good. I can't imagine the challenge of keeping all the voices straight and maintaining a cohesive interpretation.

    Re skipping parts - I'll answer in two parts: It is specific to this story because me and the story are not getting along. I begin every book with the intention of reading it thoroughly. I'm a generally optimistic person and I like to assume every book will be awesome. It's only when the book does not meet my expectations that I either put it down or start skipping parts. I prefer to call it The Final Edit wherein I make the book better and so enjoy it more (am quite sure authors are currently poking needles into the Rachel doll but there it is:).

    Part, the second: I'm actually not worried about missing stuff. (warning: own horn tooting eminent) This is about the only thing I'm good at. I redefine Jack (Jane?) of All Trades in that I am competent at quite a few things but excellent at none EXCEPT sifting through written material. A book has to be really bad for me to literally skip entire chunks (but I have done it), it's more likely that my "skipping" is some form of skimming. In the example of this investigation I'm probably picking up about 3 key words/two lines. That's my skill, an almost pitch-perfect ability to scan and pick out key words. If any of these key words denote new information I put on the breaks and read as much as I need to to pick up the new info, if no new info I keep skimming.

    And to the points of your last paragraph! Yes, yes, yes! I totally agree and I'm loving that but I'm going to save it for my next post re this audiobook adventure of mine.

    Thanks, as always, for your insight and thoughtful questions that help me to see new perspectives!