Reviews: e-books and audiobooks - Elmore Leonard, E.L. James, Mitch Cullin
This is a collection of 15 stories by one of the most distinctive and influential crime writers. Leonard's imprint is seen everywhere from Quentin Tarantino to Martin Amis to David Foster Wallace. In the introduction, his son, Peter (also a writer), notes that most of the stories were written in the 1950s while Elmore wrote Chevrolet ads at the Campbell-Ewald agency. Some like the title story, Charlie Marzt, are westerns, Leonard's first love. It is fun if conventional: "Howdy, mister. You sure pick a hot time of day to come callin'. You come far?" Leonard did go far, a long way from these enjoyable but imitative tales of Americans abroad, Civil War parables and by-the-book genre pieces such as Siesta in Paloverde: "If you'd asked all of the boys in the Four aces that afternoon if they had a feeling that something out of the ordinary was going to happen, you'd probably have gotten some pretty sour replies with a few colourful ones thrown in."
Extras: an introduction by Elmore Leonard's son, Peter.
Charlie Martz and other Stories (e-book) By Elmore Leonard (Orion)
Sherlock Holmes is everywhere, it seems. There's the handsome, A-list Hollywood version starring Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law. There's the slightly more awkward, A-list BBC adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Now there's a slightly awkward, but very A-list Hollywood Mr Holmes, starring Ian McKellan and inspired by Mitch Cullin's 2005 novel, originally titled A Slight Trick of the Mind. It is 1947. Sherlock Holmes is 93, retired and keeping bees in Sussex. Old, tired and, following Dr Watson's death, alone, he is growing forgetful and knows it. His fading and failing faculties are tested by a tantalising unsolved crime from 1902, The Case of the Glass Armonicist. This ties up Cullin's main themes: memory, love, friendship and nothing less than answers to the meaning of life. Simon Jones, whose cut-glass tones will be familiar to all fans of The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, reads with humour, a raised eyebrow and confidence that is quickly made to seem fragile.
Mr Holmes (audiobook) by Mitch Cullin (read by Simon Jones) Canongate
Has there ever been a more predictable, if unlikely blockbuster series than Fifty Shades? I write this not to do EL James down, but to wonder at her chutzpah in nicking Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series (itself a misreading of the Bronte sisters), including this rewrite. Meyer turned Twilight on its head, viewing the action from Edward Cullen's nasty and violent perspective. It made for a more thrilling, if less romantic read than the original. James has followed suit, rewriting Fifty Shades of Grey from Christian Grey's nasty, violent point of view. If only Grey's sexual cruelty was matched by similar emotional froideur and Anastasia's dream of him as romantic hero was merely a dream. Instead, he is a boring romantic hero, rescued from a dull life by the winsome Ms Steele. How Zachary Webber reads lines such as "My mood is as flat and grey as the weather" without asking someone to lash him to a high-class joist is beyond me. But along he rumbles like an oversexed bullet train through a tunnel.
Grey (audiobook) by E.L. James (read by Zachary Webber) Random House