Needles has been around for almost thirty-five years. In 1979, it was the winner of the $50,000 Seal First Novel Award. And justly so. Characterisation and plotting are original and gripping: the novel is brim full of bizarre, twisted unforgettable characters and the storyline is a stylised satire.
There is so much to admire in this that it repays more than a single listen. And you will find yourself looking forward to returning to such a fine piece of audio theatre. The dramatised performance of the book by Steve Scherf and Maggie Scherf is simply spectacular. When great actors come to a great narrative the results are unforgettable.
The plot centres on the heroin trade in Vancouver and a legal fight between the failing, drug-addicted lawyer Foster Cobb and the sadistic Dr Au, head of the Chinese drug trade in the Canadian city and its murky hinterland. Au has always in the past managed to avoid prosecution, mainly through blackmail, torture and murder. He is unswervingly cruel: a vindictive and despicable nemesis. Peopled by bent cops, criminals, hoodlums, pushers and prostitutes, Needles is tough, uncompromising, and brutal with a thoroughly unsavoury world view.
No one can escape from his or her flaws and peccadilloes, which stalk and haunt everyone, and provide evidence to threaten and to undermine surface respectability. Will Cobb’s marriage survive his job and its lifestyle? Can the justice system finally nail the recalcitrant hoodlum? Will justice be done and be seen to be done?
Unrelenting and dramatic, this is postmodern crime writing at its best.
In another characteristic Deverell case of corruption, intrigue and politics, Mecca is an astounding tour de force of fast-paced drama and black humour. The complexities of the plot are too convoluted to summarise, but there is plenty here to intrigue, to surprise, to amuse and to entertain.
Slack Sawchuck realises his life in Cuba is at an end. A former member of a political pressure group, he attempts to sidestep an American arrest warrant by flying to Canada. On the plane, relaxing with his second drink, Slack falls into confident conversation with the guy in the next seat. His nonchalance comes to an abrupt end, however, when he realises the man is on the plane to take him into custody.
But, in typical Deverell style, it turms out that Slack’s lawyer has swiftly managed to organise a full pardon for him, with pension – if he agrees to help the Feds and infiltrate the Rotkommando to find out what the so-called Mecca operation is all about. Then the fun starts.
Once again, Steve Scherf and Beverley Elliott put in bravura performances – breathing new life into sometimes forgotten or neglected works. I’d like to hear this couple tackle some hard-nosed pulp detective stories. Their approach to the audiobook genre is genuinely groundbreaking – producing more a radio performance than a simple narration. Talented and enterprising, this is exactly the way the medium should be moving in the twenty-first century.
Buy William Deverell’s Mecca. You won’t be disappointed.
The Last Israelis provides a rollercoaster nine hours of suspense as the Israeli Prime Minister lies in a German hospital bed after falling into a coma having just ordered his Defence Minister to make ready a retaliatory nuclear strike against Iran.
The cast of characters in The Last Israelis makes for an interesting drama: thirty-five crew members in a nuclear-armed submarine who enjoy a very brief and unexpected dockside party with family and loved ones prior to embarking on their deadly final mission. As the party progresses, no one knows their orders and no one can realise the fates of either those left ashore and those in the lethal vessel, The Dolphin.
The submariners are diverse in terms of their backgrounds, political views and sexual orientations, thus making for lively and significant interactions and debate. Add to the drama some sexual jealousy and social conscience and there is fine material for conflict and resolution as events unfold above the water line.
Read with breathless urgency by Jeffrey Buckner Ford, this is excellent audiobook drama which will keep you guessing and urge you to think about the very real tensions still at work in a conflict-torn Middle East.
There are high stakes in this clever and fast-paced ‘crackpot’ crime caper. Three hundred million dollars worth of Colombian sensemilla – very potent marijuana derived from the female part of the plant – is on a boat sailing from Colombia to a little-used cove in Newfoundland, an operation organised by Peter Kerrivan, a self-styled latter-day Robin Hood. Unknown to Kerrivan, the vessel is being tracked by a US government satellite, under the authority of Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigator Harold Mitchell. And, as everyone knows, the Mounties always get their man.
It’s not quite that simple, of course. Mitchell has asked for help from a rabid anti-Communist ex-CIA thug Rudy Meyers who is putting together a Cuban reinvasion force. He has traded drugs himself and is responsible for various deaths, including that of Kevin Kelly – a crime currently under investigation by Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Theo O’Doul and DEA Special Agent Jessica Flaherty. The Canadian government is not happy that the plot was hatched in the first place. And Kerrivan’s Canadian lawyer, James Peddigrew, is concerned first and foremost with coke-snorting stewardess Marianne Larochelle.
What ensues is a sensational and complex wise-cracking drama, hilarious at times, and superbly brought to life by the very talented Steve Scherf and Maggie Scherf. The repartee is exceptional, the twists and turns bewildering. You will want and need to listen to High Crimes more than once, but this is a tour de force presentation – exactly the kind of production that is winning audiences in all parts of the globe and makes the audiobook one of the most exciting mediums of the present time.
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