Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

The Gentlemen’s Hour Audiobook Review

Last week, author Don Winslow‘s long delayed sequel to his “epic, macking” novel of 2008, The Dawn Patrol, rolled onto U.S. shores. A few of us couldn’t wait for publisher Simon & Schuster to get around to releasing it in the United States, since they’d pushed forward his newer book, Savages, for a 2010 release, instead (which, ultimately, wasn’t a bad thing for those of us who loved it). So, after acquiring the U.K. paperback in 2009, a few of us read and enjoyed the hell out of the follow-up before its official début. Excerpts from those who caught and reviewed this early were pretty universal:

Elyse Dinh-McCrillis (from her review of the book):

“Readers should dive in even if they’re not surfing fans. Don Winslow is so skilled a writer, he could do a dissertation on dirt and make it entertaining. His style is conversational, like having someone in your living room tell you a really good story. His prose is as rhythmic as music, his dialogue crackles like fireworks, his characters are as real as your best friends. Winslow tackles serious subjects but makes you laugh before you realize you’ve been kicked in the heart.And Boone’s not a stereotypical, loner PI; he has great friends. Their bond is deep, making its fracture all the more painful. But that’s why we root for Boone. Anyone can do the right thing when it’s easy, but only a gentleman can do it when it’s nearly impossible.”

Corey Wilde (from his review of the book):

“And it is this complex overlay of work and friendships that is one of the major points of difference between this book and most other SoCal crime fiction. The only other book I know that thoroughly works this particular complication is Crais’s LA Requiem, and if a book can stand comparison to that particular classic then you know you’ve got your mitts on one heckuva story.”

Jen Forbus (from her review of the book):

“While the ocean may not look like it’s doing much in THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR, Winslow is making a huge splash with the return of “Boone freaking Daniels” and his surfing crew: “Dave the Love and War God, Johnny Absolutely Banzai, High Rolling Tide, and Hang Tough Twelve,” not to mention “Loco Ono.” If you enjoyed THE DAWN PATROL, you will love THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR. If you haven’t read THE DAWN PATROL, now’s the time.”

Naomi Johnson:

“Wonderful book.”

Alphonso Padilla:

“An amazing book!”

Brian & Christine McCann:

“Brian’s right, only surfbonics will do: EPIC. MACKING, CRUNCHY. :-) A real treat!”

Lesa Holstine (from her review of the book):

“Don Winslow’s powerful novel is a crime novel of society out of control. But, The Gentlemen’s Hour is actually the story of Boone Daniel’s search for answers. Petra Hall sees him as a complicated man, “A Tarzan-like surfer boy who reads Russian novels at night…A disillusioned cynic with barely concealed idealism.” Winslow has taken the detective as knight errant and turned him into a surfer trying to make his world right. Boone Daniels is an unforgettable man in a complicated, fascinating story.”

Now that it’s out, I can’t really add much to what my friends have written about the novel, but agree with their assessments. What I will cover is this listener’s perspective regarding the audiobook that accompanied the release. When I first read the sequel, the characters in the story pulled me right back in — almost as if I never left the sand and sea of good ol’ San Dog (San Diego for the rest of you). Thankfully, this stint with its audio version accomplished the same. As one would expect, the second book in the series didn’t require as much for character back story since it’s not an origin tale. The author’s comfort level with the various personalities immediately shined through and Winslow proceeded to build the story’s tension, suspense, and power.

I can’t help looking back, though. The Dawn Patrol (print published by Knopf ) enjoyed a wonderful unabridged audio adaptation, helped enormously by the production efforts of the Blackstone Audio folk and one stellar read by veteran narrator Ray Porter (who also performed marvelously with Winslow’s magnum opus, The Power of the Dog). So, to see if the continuation works, I re-did TDP and The Gentlemen’s Hour audiobooks in back-to-back sessions. However, before I press on, I recommend a break from the review for audiobook fans to dash over to another blog post because it’ll have relevance to what comes next. I refer you to Dog Eared Copy‘s (aka Tanya Perez) article regarding audiobook series that undergo narrator replacements in The Pink Chair: Changing Horses Mid-Stream . I’ll wait here…

“Audiobook publishers don’t want to do it. Fans of a series don’t like it. But it happens? Why?”

Back? Took you long enough ;-). I found Tanya’s studio manager experience on the subject matter really insightful. And as fate would have it with this review, timely. I guessed some, but the others she listed and detailed were eye-openers of what goes on in the background (most of which audio fans don’t see). Back to the subject at hand, you may or may not be aware Don Winslow switched book publishers and landed with Simon & Schuster a short while back. So Tanya’s last point in her piece came into play here. The series got “picked up by a new audiobook publisher” (Simon & Schuster’s own audio division, in fact). For the reasons stated, a new narrator was cast: Holter Graham (this being his second reading of a Don Winslow novel this year; Satori was the first for Hachette Audio). And whether he knew it for not, he was handed some big shoes to fill.

Sometimes on film, you have actors who really click with roles. Much like Samuel L. Jackson reading any of Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue, it feels like lightning in a bottle. Seemingly, a cosmic pairing with great results. Porter reading Winslow’s words made for that kind of tandem, IMO. Ray nailed the surfer vibe and speech rhythm as if he was born to it in his rendition. Plus, his vocalizations, across the region’s different ethnicities (which epitomize The Dawn Patrol‘s membership and the community represented), were remarkably distinguishable. It’s one of the strengths in the audiobook. Still, Holter held is own with The Gentlemen’s Hour production. But yes, moving immediately from TDP to TGH I did experience a bit of narrator shock which made the change quite clear. His narration of the second tale using Don Winslow’s characters from The Dawn Patrol does play differently. However, to his credit, he’s didn’t attempt to channel Ray Porter’s preceding work (a formidable task to overcome, had he tried).

Yet, like Porter, Holter Graham is an accomplished audiobook reader. While his vocal characterizations aren’t as distinct and varied, he knows how to convey the story at hand while showcasing the author’s unique wordsmithing talent and the SoCal dialect his fans have come to know and expect. Ultimately, that’s all you can ask of an audiobook narrator. Though I immediately noted the narrators’ dissimilar styles between these two books in the series, Graham managed to move me as a listener passed the changeover. He kept the story at the forefront with his smooth delivery (which made his narration of Satori a primary asset in that production). In my far-from-expert fan evaluation I believe this audiobook reader’s interpretation of Boone Daniels and company proved successful. And since it follows-up from another great narrator, that’s saying something. You may like one more than the other, but each did their material proud for fans of Don Winslow, I believe.

Earlier, when I first found out Ray Porter wasn’t going to do the sequel’s audiobook narration, given my fondness for The Dawn Patrol,  I admit I was prepared not to like the new audiobook. I’m happy to say Mr. Graham convinced me otherwise.

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17 Responses to “The Gentlemen’s Hour Audiobook Review”

  1. rtm

    Sounds interesting, has this been opted for a film yet? If so, who’d you see play the roles? I’ve actually never listened to an audio book before, though it’s a good idea especially if you have a long commute. I’ve been tempted to buy one that Timothy Dalton did the voice for, as when I heard the excerpt I just loved hearing his voice! :D

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    • le0pard13

      Not this one (or The Dawn Patrol), but last year’s Savages certainly is, and Oliver Stone is doing it. And, of course, I’d recommend the book or audiobook versions for either of these Don Winslow works. The man can certainly write (and I love the dialogue he puts down). I also advocate for audiobooks. True, the right one is perfect for listening to on long car rides. It’s a good place to start. I can recommend some, if you’re thinking about giving this a go. And if Mr. Dalton has performed book narration, that’s an even better invitation to you. Thanks, Ruth.

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  2. Novroz

    Impressive review, mike.

    I like how you put excerpt from many reviews,it gives better perspective. I have never heard of this author before. It always fun to find new authors

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    • le0pard13

      Very kind of you to say, Novroz. Well, as I mentioned to Ruth, Oliver Stone is doing the film adaptation to Savages (and Don Winslow himself has submitted a script toward the production). He is a unique wordsmith (one who also has a distinct backstory himself) and I always recommend him to readers who enjoy crime thrillers. Thanks :-).

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    • le0pard13

      I was so glad you could join in, Naomi. At last year’s tour stop for Savages, DW mentioned he knows where he’d like to go with this series, so more Boone Daniels & Company is forthcoming. Thanks.

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  3. Christine McCann

    It was a great surprise when I wandered into B&N looking for something else, and there was TGH…all bright and shiny new just waiting for me to purchase. ;) Of course, we had the benefit of the gracious le0pard13 library lending us the UK edition to read it early. Thank you for that and for the link to Dog Eared Copy’s post. Brave man you are listening to the audiobooks back to back with different narrators. Even if I like both narrators, that would be disconcerting to me. Your usual wonderful review, Michael! Thank you.

    To rtm and Novroz: My husband and I are also big Winslow fans and highly recommend!

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    • le0pard13

      You’re so kind, Christine. And wasn’t Dog Eared Copy’s post an interesting perspective to what happens with audiobook publishers and narrators? I find the AB industry very interesting the more I learn of it. I hope those who haven’t tried Don Winslow will give him a go. Thanks so much!

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  4. Pop Culture Nerd

    Naomi and Christine need to scoot over and make room for me on the Le0pard13 Appreciation Bandwagon. I was also grateful for having the chance to read this early. I don’t think I would’ve been able to wait this long to get my hands on it. Thanks also for linking to my review.

    I don’t know jack about audiobooks but it’s interesting to read your assessments of them. Glad to hear Graham won you over. It would have been upsetting if you’d said he ruined the book.

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    • le0pard13

      I’m honored with we could all get together over a long delayed novel and a group of unique fictional characters, Elyse. I should have enrolled the book in a mileage program, come to think about it ;-). Thank you very much!

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  5. Rachel

    Slightly off topic to what you’ve got here is that you will not believe what has recently occurred in my nascent audiobook career! I should preface this with the fact that I have diligently stuck with the audiobooks for my cycling commute to work after your wonderful intro back…er…however many months ago that was. It’s 20min each way so I hear books in 20min chunks. I finished THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO on Thursday a couple blocks from my house and I’m convinced I liked it better (yes, better!!!!) for the narration than I would have had I read it. That is a sentence I never thought I’d say. Thanks so much for turning me on to the medium!

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