52 Pick-up 2.0, #28, 7/21/2020
“I’m a long-distance truck driver and love your books, especially the audio versions. How did you get George Guidall as the reader for your books?”
I was once driving across the country alone and in need of a little entertainment. Stopping at the Flying-J Truckstop, I was standing in line and happened to peruse the bargain-bin of audio books and spotted the unabridged recording of Moby Dick. Now, I’ve got a love/hate relationship with the book in that I love it but most people hate it but figured with some marathon driving ahead of me, it would likely do the trick in keeping me not only awake but engaged for the next twelve hours. It was with great anticipation that I climbed back in the cab and slipped the first cassette (yes, it was back in the day), fastened my seatbelt, and pulled out what I’d hoped would be a transcendent adventure.
Well, that lasted about three minutes as I came to the painful conclusion that the reader was evidently a frustrated and very bad actor. We were only through the first page and this guy was howling and wailing enough to put John Gielgud in the penultimate scene of King Lear to shame, “Howl wind, crack cheeks!”
Boy howdy, did he ever.
It cost me $4.95 but it was a valuable lesson–a good audio book is a marriage between the words on the page and a performer, and if either are questionable you might as well leave it in the bin.
All that having been said, I was fortunate enough to have won the Tony Hillerman/Cowboys & Indians Award with a short story that appeared in the magazine; the most coveted aspect, however, was dinner with the great man, himself. I was in the process of negotiating my audio rights, and Tony gave me this advice– “Get George Guidall. He’s the best there is, and since I’ve had him, I’ve never looked back.”
The next morning, I was talking with the people back in New York and they said they were looking at a number of readers and that one of them was George Guidall—and I said, “Him.” They asked if I was sure I didn’t want to hear the others, and I said that if he was good enough for Tony Hillerman, he was good enough for me.
As the saying goes, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I truly look forward to not only George’s performances of my books, but his reviews whenever he receives the advance reader copy. He’s essential to my process in that I circle back around and pick up threads from previous books, and I do that by slipping the CDs (yes, I’ve graduated) in my truck player to listen to George’s dulcet tones.
I’m often asked to compare the relative power of different mediums–the only thing that compares to a good book is the audio version of a good book, and the key will always be the reader’s imagination, the words on the page, and a talented performer. I’m a big fan of radio theater, and I think audio is the living prodigy of that. We are hard-wired for stories from the times that our mothers take us in their laps and begin telling them to us.
It’s in our blood.
See you on the trail,