The boys said it couldn't be done - knocking over a racetrack. Too much security. Too much money to handle. Too many obstacles. But Johnny Clay knew, if anyone did, how to mastermind a daring robbery. You just had to have the right people to work with, a few ringers on the inside who could keep their mouths shut, and a diversion. A big diversion. Like taking out the favorite horse on the most anticipated race with a high-powered rifle. Things can go right, and things can go wrong. But Johnny knew his plan could work. If only everyone did his part without cracking.
The Killing (originally titled Clean Break) by the master of capers, Lionel White, is what many people consider the greatest heist novel of all time. Stanley Kubrick liked the book enough to option it and make a classic noir film of it, co-scripted with the great Jim Thompson.
Listening to The Killing (originally titled Clean Break) is like listening to a fantastic crime noir movie from the 1940’s. It was written in 1955 by Lionel White and made into a film titled The Killing by Stanley Kubrick in 1956. I have never seen the film and probably will not. It cannot possibly top the audiobook.
The Killing takes place in New York City and on Long Island. It is a heist novel, meaning a huge robbery is central to the story. There are several characters who could be considered the main character because of the parts they play but I feel Johnny Clay is it. Johnny has spent the last four years in jail planning the perfect heist. Not only does he have the perfect plan but he has the perfect crew to pull it off. Johnny’s crew is made up of non-criminals. The beauty of his plan is that no one should be an immediate suspect by the police. Even Johnny himself has not a record that would make him a usual suspect for that type of crime.
The heist is to rob the cashier’s office at the track immediately after the start of the biggest race of the year but right before the armoured truck shows up to collect the expected 1.5 to 2 millions dollars. Everything must go off exactly at the time planned and every man must do his job exactly as planned. This is Mission Impossible with a clock and silencer on a rifle as the high tech. If it works, they split the money, each about a half million each. If it doesn’t, Johnny is probably the only one caught and sent to jail.
Johnny’s gang consists of:
Big Mike a bartender at the track clubhouse
George Peatty a cashier at track
Randy Kennan, a cop with a need for cash to pay off loan sharks
Marvin Unger, a court stenographer
Marvin is the respectable man who has never done anything wrong. He gives Johnny a place to live and hold the planning meetings. He also fronts the money needed to pay off individuals and buy weapons. Johnny’s motivation is his girlfriend Fay. Fay waited for him while he was in prison. His plan is to pull this one job and then for he and Fay to leave the country and start living the good life.
All of this is going great until Sherry Peatty, George’s wife finds a ticket stub with an address and time written on it in his jacket pocket. She suspects he is up to something based on his recent behavior. George is a poor soul who thinks he has somehow won the luck lottery by convincing beautiful Sherry to marry him two years ago. Actually, in the vernacular of the time, Sherry is a tramp looking for the easy life and lots of money. George keeps a roof over her head and all she has to do is be “nice” to him when it suits her. She uses her hold over him to find out the minimal details on the heist. She then goes to visit Val, her boyfriend. Val is a gangster who drives a Cadillac and has a real gang of hardened criminals at his disposal. He and Sherry plan to get the details of the heist, let Johnny do the work, and then rob the robbers.
Mike Dennis’s narration is first rate. He has a wonderful voice in just doing the descriptions. When it gets to the characters speaking, his talent really shines. Listen to the gravely voice of Randy the cop which conveys his large size. Marvin truly sounds like a fussy little man who alternates drooling over the thought of the money and regretting he ever got involved. Mr. Dennis brings all of those emotions out in his narration. The accents are fantastic. His command of the different shades of a New York City accent is incredible.
The novel does a great job of introducing each character and their motivation to join the heist or try to get it for themselves. The language is full of 1950’s slang. It really is addictive. I found myself listening every chance I got. Would they get away with it? Who would end up with the money?
Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.
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5 of 6 people found this review helpful
Originally released as Clean Break, this book has been renamed to match the Stanley Kubrick film.
It in essence a simple heist story. Racecourses takes in a lot of money from the bets, but are considered impossible to steal from due to the tight security and procedures. But with a plan and men on the inside Johnny thinks he might just be able to pull it off.
The story is quick, with a lot of characters and scheming fitting into a fairly short time. The pacing is great, with the tension continually building towards the climax. Its a quick, exciting ride.
Mike Dennis is great with the narration, providing voices to each of the characters. The main narration has a 'hard boiled detective' kind of sound to it, exactly what you would expect for a noir heist thriller.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
The Killing is probably best-known as one of the finest examples of the noir film genre ever made. Directed by a young Stanley Kubrick, it was adapted from the novel Clean Break by Lionel White. Starring Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray, it tells the story of a newly released con, Johnny Clay, and the crew he has patched together to pull off a race track heist which he’s been planning for years while cooped up in the joint. The plan relies on Clay finding a number of otherwise honest men with money issues who he can cajole into ignoring their consciences for just a few minutes during the biggest horse race of the year in order to reap a huge payoff.
Things go awry when one of the team’s members, George Peatty, a mild-mannered bet window operator with a wife too hot for him by several degrees, let’s slip to his unfaithful bride, Sherry, that he’s due to come into a big score. The story in the novel is told in third person, and the plot is slowly unveiled one chapter at a time until all of the pieces come together in the third act when the heist goes down without a hitch but somehow Johnny Clay’s dreams still manage to fall apart.
A huge Kubrick fan, I watched the movie years ago but had never bothered to read the book, even though heists and noir are among my favorite pastimes. Then I saw that Mike Dennis had released an audio version of the classic novel using the more familiar movie title, and I was in. Mike gifted me a copy, and I devoured it in three days.
Mike’s voice perfectly captures the mood. He has a somewhat classic tone in the narration, like a 60’s period news reader, his cadence is smooth and unclipped, but the pacing never drags. Meanwhile the nuances of Peatty’s meakness and Clay’s bravado shine through in the dialog. In fact, the entire cast comes off as individuals despite all being voiced with only subtle variation by the same narrator.
Mike has cleverly begun carving out a niche in the narration biz, finding old properties that fit his voice which the right’s holders haven’t bothered to give the audio treatment, and working out a deal. They don’t make movies like this anymore. They don’t write books like this anymore either. But thanks to talented and clever men like Mike Dennis who see the opportunity, an entire new generation can still be teleported back to the days when they did, and the world is all the richer for it. I seldom give full star ratings, but there’s really nothing in this nostalgic production to complain about.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of The Killing to be better than the print version?
In the sense that the excellent narration added to an already great noir book. Mike Dennis' delivery fit this like a glove.
What did you like best about this story?
It was gritty. And wasn't a knock off the race track payroll story. Unique. I'm going to rent Kubrick's 1956 movie because of how well written the story was and this audiobook production.
What does Mike Dennis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Mike's voice just works with the noir books narration. I've had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Dennis perform other classic mysteries on Audible. They've been consistently great.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
It got me INVOLVED and kept me so through the whole development of the plot. And I can't say that about some of the audiobooks I have listened to.l
Any additional comments?
Thanks for making this available.
This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBoom dot com.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Where does The Killing rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
My first of the crime, thriller books although I had seen the movie: I found it to be my favorite so far.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Killing?
The confrontation at the end between Val and the others waiting for Johnny.
Have you listened to any of Mike Dennis’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
Liked the others I've heard but like this one the best: he did an excellent job especially with the different character's dialog.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
although was already made into a film, my tag line would have been. "A 2 million dollar caper with 1 weak link"
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This audiobook was given by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom.”
I really enjoyed this book I hope the movie is as good as