Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Return of The Stand

Well, it's out on Audible today--Stephen King's The Stand. This is not the edited version I recorded twenty-five years ago, it's the complete, uncut edition published in 1990, all forty-eight hours of it! It took four weeks to record, and I had to pace myself so I wouldn't sound fatigued or thread-bare at any point. I'm pleased with the recording, though I'll be interested to see how it holds up against the earlier version in the memories of King devotees. The old version was only available on cassette and has been out of print for a decade or more. I still get emails from people asking if I have a copy they could borrow and duplicate for themselves. Alas, no, I never got one. But now there's no need. The new version is complete, and in my humble opinion I'm a better narrator than I was twenty-five years ago, so I was delighted to have a chance to re-record it.

There are few better writers for audiobook narration than Stephen King. He gives you all the right cues, creates wonderful characters, keeps the story moving and injects emotional twists and surprises at every corner. Never a dull moment in the booth with this guy.

The odd thing is, as I read the uncut version in preparation, I found that I remembered very little of the story and the characters. The opening scene remains vivid--the clunky old Chevy containing the first victims of the superflu plowing into a lonely little gas station in rural Texas. And I remember Randall Flagg (who could forget Randall Flagg?). But beyond that most of the book felt completely new to me. Perhaps it was the added material that threw me off, I don't know. But it's just as well, since there was no temptation to replicate any voices or characters or moods from the earlier recording. What you hear is as fresh as last month, not a recycled rendition from 25 years ago.

I'll be interested to see what "the critics" say. The proponderance of male characters seemed to hail from the Midwest or Southwest, so there were an awful lot of "good ol' boys" to sort through and make distinguishable. The most difficult characters for me were Harold and Frannie. Harold is a pimply, overweight, pompous-sounding 16-year-old, not an easy person to replicate. And eighteen-year-old Frannie is the emotional core of the book, enormously smart and feisty, but extremely vulnerable--and pregnant. I played around with a Maine accent for her and it sounded just awful, so I let my native East Coast tones predominate. A fifty-five year old man is already handicapped in this regard, and I didn't want her to come off as a caricature. So she's voiced in a pretty straight-forward manner. I gave her father and some of the other Ogunquit characters a dose of down-east, so hopefully that will placate the die-hards.

My favorite character, of course, is Tom Cullen (who doesn't love Tom Cullen?). In the uncut version he really gets fleshed out, and it's truly wonderful to experience his transformation from a fool to a hero. In one critical scene I took a risk that, under normal circumstances, I would have avoided like...well, like the plague. But to do other than what I did seemed like such a cop-out that I took the plunge. I'm curious to see if anyone even notices--and whether they like it or hate it.

But by far the biggest, most overwhelming challenge, of all the challenges in a story so fraught with them, was that of coming up with seventy-plus ways of saying, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" It seems that every character, at some point in the book, shouts or screams or bellows or rasps the word, "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

Anyway, it was a terrific experience and it's great to have the story out there again for everyone to enjoy.


  1. Kudos! The only book of SK's I had to initially put down (I was actually home sick from school at the time, 1978, with the flu when I started it). A month later I got back to it. Read 'The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition' in 1990 when it came out. This will be only the third time with this cast of characters (outside of watching the miniseries a number of times, that is), but I'm really looking forward to this. Thanks for the heads and details, Grover.

  2. I'm listening to it now (I'm an Illustrator and I listen to a lot of audiobooks while working) I like your original reading just fine, but this is better, richer.
    You hit that sweet spot, where the characters are distinct and the narrative follows the mood, but neither are over-performed, getting in the way, of my interpretation. An audiobook narrator should enhance the flavor of the book, not add a new flavor. You're the gold standard.

  3. "pace myself."


    How many hours a day do you record?

    Do huge books ever intimidate you?

    I'm just listening to, "Master of the Senate." 72 CD's. It is a good book, with lots of riveting stuff about my time of coming of age, but still....

    I'm more than impressed.


  4. Nice review i was looking for its audiobook any one please suggest where do I get it?

    1. "Well, it's out on Audible today--Stephen King's The Stand."

  5. Great work. I have your voice in two books I have on the go now, The Stand and The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich. Both excellent!

  6. Hey, I just stumbled across your blog. Looks like you've moved on to other things but I did want to say that I listened to this one and as a narrator I consider it to be a milestone of great fiction narration. In fact it is hard to listen to critically because I keep getting swept up the story! Fantastic job, thank you.

  7. Just finished the stand on Audible and you were magnificent. I did the whole dark tower series before this and thought the George Guidall and Mark Muller was amazing but I have to say the job you did on this is up there with the absolute best of them. Thanks you!!!!!

  8. Mr Gardner, thank you for having done such a great job on The Stand and sharing your story. I truly look forward to books that you narrate. I would not have been able to make it through many books if a lesser narrator had read them -- The Making of the Atomic Bomb, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, or A Brief History of Time. Each of those books has helped change my worldview. Thank You.

  9. That was fun to reread after all these years, and I was giddy when I found it was narrated by you!

    You are my absolute favorite reader..and thankfully you've narrated at least 2 series I love, Miles Vorkosigan and Andy Carpenter.

    Luvs you muchly! And Thank You, Sincerely.

  10. Bit late to comment but I've listened to this performance 3 times over the last couple of years and love it. The Stand is one of my favourite books - certainly one of my two favourites of King's (the other being IT).

    I pay close attention to find audiobooks narrated by you on my audible account and am pleased to see Hitler's Monsters is narrated by you. Thanks for all your work.

    Mark (UK)

  11. I'm glad I found this web site, I couldn't find any knowledge on this matter prior to.Also operate a site and if you are ever interested in doing some visitor writing for me if possible feel free to let me know, im always look for people to check out my web site.
    How to NOT give a fuck