Audiobooks give you two bangs for the buck. You get the written story in all its glory, but you also get a performance of the written material by talented readers who pour their heart and soul into the story. One of my favorite readers is Ron McLarty, who is also a good friend of mine.
Ron has been in tons of movies and TV shows and he has a voice like few others—once you hear it you will never forget it. He’s read many of my novels and if he’s available, I always ask for Ron to read my books.
The best audiobook readers bring the books they dramatize to another level, says novelist David Baldacci.
I was on a plane going somewhere when I was listening to one of my books (then on cassette tape if you can believe it), Last Man Standing. This was my first experience with Ron’s reading style. There was a character in Last Man Standing called Big F. He was an NFL-sized dangerous drug kingpin, who also had a soft side. When I heard Ron inhabit the character of Big F and that voice shot over my headphones, I would have come out of my seat on the plane except for the handy-dandy seatbelt. I did yell out something like, “Holy s—.” It was a miracle the air marshals didn’t tackle me. But Ron’s voice for Big F came from his toes and up his legs, passed through his torso and exploded out of his mouth like a howitzer. It had all the nuances you would want to have in the delivery: the underlying lethalness, the fact that Big F is not someone you can ever fool. But there’s also that soft side, the humanity buried deeply within a bear of a man who has had to fight his entire life, kill or be killed, in order to survive.
As a novelist, try as I might, I could never bring that experience to the reader because I don’t have the tools to do it. I put the words on the page, as well as I possibly can. But they’re still simply words. Readers like Ron McLarty, exceptional actors really, can deliver that experience. It’s like watching a movie without the pictures. You just hear it all. It’s the reverse of the old silent films. It will catapult you beyond the pages, and into another entertainment world.
When Ron read another book of mine, Stone Cold, I sat in my garage with the car running listening to the last five chapters of that story over and over again because I was mesmerized by Ron’s performance. And I knew how it was going to end, since I wrote it.
Another reader I discovered recently is Orlagh Cassidy. She read my novel Hell’s Corner along with Ron. He did the male voices and the narrative and she did all the female voices, including a number with accents. Now I am a big Orlagh Cassidy fan too. Like wanting to see a favorite actress on the screen in every scene, I waited eagerly for Orlagh’s voice to come on the CD. She nailed every performance in that book.
So, audiobooks. You laugh, you cry, you get angry, your pulse pounds, your heart skips—all from the voice speaking those words. It’s a ride for the reader and I can tell you it’s a ride for the author.
Next time you want a ride like that, pick up an audiobook, buckle in and prepare to be enthralled by that voice speaking those words.