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J. Zak

Hollywood, California | Member Since 2014

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HELPFUL VOTES
  • 3 reviews
  • 9 ratings
  • 23 titles in library
  • 0 purchased in 2015
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  • Mickey Cohen: The Gangster Squad and the Mob: The True Story of Vice in Los Angeles 1937-1950

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Brad Lewis
    • Narrated By John C. Zak
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    This is the true story of Mickey Cohen, when he was pursued on a daily basis by the Gangster Squad, LAPD, and the FBI. The whirlwind years 1937-1950 provide a detailed personal and mob history of the famous Los Angeles gangster. Mickey Cohen, who died in 1976, was a colorful, feared West Coast gangster-gambler who knew the biggest names in Hollywood including the Rat Pack, was a confidant of Bugsy Siegel, a friend of Las Vegas' late Liz Renay and on first names with the biggest guys in the Mafia, plus Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon, and Billy Graham.

    J. Zak says: "Fascinating character, well researched book!"
    "Fascinating character, well researched book!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about Mickey Cohen?

    When I was offered the opportunity to narrate Mickey Cohen, I jumped the chance. I had already recorded THE BLOOMINGDALE CODE for writer, Brad Lewis, and knew that this book, like his previous works, would be overflowing with fascinating and little known facts about the wild and wooly Los Angeles of the 1930's up to 1950. Strange alliances developed between organized crime, police, politicos, business owners, and movie moguls; many of whom stole from each other by day, and supped amicably together by night. Right front and center was Boss man Mickey Cohen....dapper, well turned out, always striving for refinement and scratching to gain acceptance by the very folks he had no compunction about robbing or stabbing when backs were turned. If Cohen's story were a complete work of fiction some would scream to high heaven, calling it a big lie. But, the letters, memos, commentaries, eyewitness accounts, and photos snapped at auspicious or inauspicious moments tell much of the story. And Brad Lewis weaves it deftly together. As a narrator, I particularly enjoyed the open letter Mickey circulated amongst his Brentwood neighbors declaring the he would stay there right through whatever shootings and bombings were yet to come. The bad people would not cow him, and he expected his neighbors with high integrity not push him out of house and home and to take a stand against these "fiends."Listen to the book and you will never see Los Angeles the same way again. I know that I don't!John C. Zak


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I laughed often at the sheer brashness of some of these characters. Sometimes I even felt a twinge of poignancy for Mickey and his world of self delusion, sort of like Eva Peron..completely self serving but seemingly inwardly believing that they were doing good on a grand scale.


    Any additional comments?

    You will be smarter about hidden Los Angeles after you listen to this book and you will have a new repertoire of anecdotes to toss out at drinks parties, pachinko parlors, and when you find yourself seated next to Prince So and So on an 18 hour long haul flight, after you have already sat though three replays of Free Willy in dubbed in Farsi.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • God's Helix

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 40 mins)
    • By Bradley Lewis
    • Narrated By John C. Zak
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    When internationally known assassin Marco Wexler is summoned to a Las Vegas police station as a witness for the DNA tests of a suspected terrorist, he soon realizes that this is no ordinary stop. He will ultimately discover the unimaginable - a link to the past that has international think tank Ceptien calling for all its members to placate the Catholic Church. News of the mysterious DNA genotype has the world wondering if history is going to be changed forever.

    J. Zak says: "AN EPIC QUEST TO FIND THE TRUTH HIDDEN IN DNA"
    "AN EPIC QUEST TO FIND THE TRUTH HIDDEN IN DNA"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about God's Helix?

    The story is epic and quite plausible in light of new DNA science and emerging knowledge that even our own genetic information and history may no longer be our own. What if you found out you were linked to one of the most famous individuals in recorded history? What would you do? And what might others do when they found out?


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved narrating all the characters but particularly enjoyed Nino, the hard scrabble NYC hit man with a heart of gold!


    Which character – as performed by John C. Zak – was your favorite?

    Narrating Uber Mastermind and hit man, Marco Wexler, was also a pleasure....he's an epicurean foodie through and through, and he manages to enjoy what life has to offer no matter what global strife he may be dealing with.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I loved the moments when twin brothers, Jean and Devon, return to their ancestral home in Africa to reconnect to their ancient roots.


    Any additional comments?

    Brad Lewis always does his homework, deftly weaving history, science, current events, and ancient history into his novels. I had the pleasure of narrating THE BLOOMINGDALE CODE and MICKEY COHEN - THE GANGSTER SQUAD AND THE MOB and was delighted to be awarded the narration assignment for GOD'S HELIX. As ever more sophisticated testing using DNA evidence continues to solve serious crimes, incriminating some, and exonerating others, many other tantalizing uses of DNA information emerge, including finding and tracing one's own genetic ancestry back hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. I, myself, have done genetic tests and found the results fascinating, leaving a few enigmas yet to be solved.

    In Lewis's story, two Haitian brothers discover their own genetic links to one of the great personages in recorded history. Some influential groups and individuals who hold worldwide power are not too happy about this startling information, as much of history would have to be rewritten and age-old prejudices would have to be reexamined, creating upheaval on an international scale. In addition to this central story, Lewis explores other pertinent issues, including posing questions that affect each and everyone of us: Who owns our DNA information, and what are they allowed to do with it? Can certain institutions harvest our DNA information without our knowledge or consent? Are some entities already doing this?

    Another fascinating theme focuses on the ways television journalism has descended to new lows as serious reportage is trumped by scoops and news cycles driven by corporate and political self interest.I found God's Helix to be an intelligent, fascinating, and plausible ride. Every time I narrate or read one of Brad Lewis's novels I learn something and find myself pondering the questions he poses, often deep into the night.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Corryville

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By Brian Dobbins
    • Narrated By John C. Zak
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Wyoming Territory, 1886. Ethan Darny and his young cousin Ben Tyler are eking out a marginal existence as ranch hands when they find themselves involved in a violent bank hold-up. The robbery goes very wrong and two of the casualties are the town sheriff and deputy. Wounded and frightened, Ethan, Ben and Will Sully start off for the lawless town of Corryville to escape capture and to formulate a plan for their unsure futures. But their flight is marred by more violence.

    Jennifer says: "Made me a Western fan!"
    "Great listening and great reading."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up Corryville in three words, what would they be?

    GREAT, GREAT, GREAT! In Corryville, writer, Brian Dobbins, creates a believable world in which all of his characters must endure a hardscrabble existence in a remote part of the Wyoming Territory...no railroad, no telegraph, and no law. In this story, we are not presented with good guys in white hats and bad ones in black hats, but rather, we enter the minds and lives of people who must make crucial decisions that affect not only their own lives but, more importantly, the lives of friends, neighbors, and those they love. Every character must face decisions that could lead to self interest or nobility. I took this into account when narrating this audio book, and strove to integrate these contrasting elements into the portrayal of the characters.

    Though set in a long ago era, Corryville, in my view, takes a clear-eyed view of the culture of violence and its sometimes unintended consequences. Parallels may be drawn with issues we face today, as some individuals continue to demand their own brand of justice at the end of a gun barrel.

    Final chapters filled me with an aching poignancy, as characters revealed their humanity and, in some instances, fatal flaws. Ethan's letter in the final chapter, still has the ability to haunt, with its tinges of regret and hope; not unlike the ways in which most of us experience the events of our lives.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Ethan. He was a good man thrust into devastating circumstance, but he never lost sight of trying to do the right thing, against all odds.


    Which character – as performed by John C. Zak – was your favorite?

    Creating the voices of Kenney, the tough Irishman, and Pappy Miller, the stationmaster, was fun and rewarding.


    If you could take any character from Corryville out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I would ask Jim Cade and his wife out to dinner and ask them to talk about how their lives have changed since the massacre at Corryville. What are their hopes and dreams, now?


    Any additional comments?

    I absolutely love stories where ordinary people are thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and where they may have to turn a blind eye to certain things in order to protect themselves and those whom they love. Nothing for these characters is black or white...all shades of gray...today's saint might be tomorrow's sinner, but a return to sainthood can even be a possibility...and all in a place lacking in telegraphs, railroads, and law.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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