Friday, June 3, 2011

Blasts from the Past, Day 3

Today we move forward to my long association with Books On Tape, which began when Flo Gibson negotiated a contract to produce recordings for them around 1985, and ended shortly after Random House purchased the company in 2000. Since there was only one booth at Flo's, Sigrid Hecht of BOT asked several of us if we would be willing to record at home. In order not to upset Flo, she suggested that perhaps we could narrate under different names. Thus began decades of confusion over who was actually narrating many of the hundreds of books produced by Books On Tape each year. It didn't matter to us--who ever thought you'd become famous narrating audiobooks? Heh! In the end no one was really fooled by this arrangement, but it kept the peace.

Unfortunately, the bulk of things I recorded for BOT (as Grover Gardner and alternately, "Alexander Adams") have disappeared from their catalogue. They reside on the shelves of their Los Angeles studio, but it's doubtful any of them will ever see the light of day again. Either the audio rights have expired or the recordings were too dated to consider digitalizing. Just to give you an idea of what's sitting there collecting dust: John Gardner's October Light and The Sunlight Dialogues; nearly all of Elmore Leonard's books; the entire Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant (yes, I recorded all eleven volumes, or about 11,000 pages); Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, The Burden of Proof, Pleading Guilty and The Laws of Our Fathers; the entire Fletch series by Gregory MacDonald; Gore Vidal's American history epic, beginning with Burr and ending with Hollywood (I was especially fond of Lincoln); The Glory and the Dream by William Manchester; Cormac McCarthy's Border trilogy; John Grisham's A Time to Kill; and dozens of others. I also recorded most of David McCullough's books, including the marvelous Truman, but some of these have been re-recorded with Ed Herrmann, and you can't ask for a better replacement than that. Some of them aren't things I would weep over, but others I was very proud of and wish they were still available.

But what's the use crying over spilt milk? A few things have survived, including the one of the last recordings I made for Books On Tape before we parted company: William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. Talk about a labor of love! I had to keep the Cliff Notes handy in order to navigate this dense and challenging work. Especially difficult is the first section, in which Benjy's consciousness flips back and forth in time, with very few written cues as to what is happening when, and italicized passages to top it all off. But I think I made it about as clear as it could be. Jason's acidic rantings in the third section were especially enjoyable to perform. All in all it's one of the recordings I'm most proud of, and it's still doing service on Audible and, mirabile dictu, in retail.


  1. You've hit upon a point that I, purely as an audiobook listener, find supremely frustrating. The titles that have disappeared from audio publisher's catalogues due to "the audio rights have expired or the recordings were too dated to consider digitalizing". There have been more than a few I searched for (because I know they once existed), but they sit on someone's shelf "collecting dust".

    It's too bad there isn't an effort in the audiobook trade like there is for the motion picture industry and their film restoration efforts. I realize not everything can be saved, but no effort results nothing. BTW, I'm very much enjoying your series, Grover. Thanks for this.

  2. I'm really sad to hear the John Gardner books are no longer available. He's been one of my favorite authors for a long time, and just recently I was lamenting that more of his work wasn't available in audiobook format!

  3. I’m hopeful Audible will add all of Durant’s Story of Civilization as narrated by you. How do we make that happen? Ask John Little to help make them available.

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