Interview Monday: Bob Reiss (The Guilded Earlobe)

Welcome to 2012! I’m hoping to provide an interview every Monday this year, ranging from authors, to narrators, editors, engineers, reviewers, and more.

To start this series off I couldn’t think of a better interviewee than Bob Reiss, one of the best audiobooks reviewers around at his blog The Guilded Earlobe, which I’ve followed since stumbling onto it last summer.

Q: I was thinking about setting a goal to do 52 (some short!) interviews in 2012, whether it’s authors, narrators, reviewers, whatever. And I thought who better to start with than you? Your blog has been just AWESOME to follow.

First off, before the questioning begins, I would like to thank Sam for all he does here at Audible SF/F. Anyone who is a fan of speculative fiction and audiobooks needs to check this blog. 2011 was a great blogging year for me, based a lot on the many wonderful people I have had the chance to interact with, and Sam has been a great supporter of my blog, and an asset to the community. 

 Q: How long have you been listening to audiobooks?

My first attempt to listen to an audiobook was made about 10 years ago, on a long Amtrak ride from New Orleans home to Philadelphia. I tried to listen to a cassette version of Dreamcatcher by Stephen King, and utterly hated it. It put me right to sleep. It was about 5 years ago that I truly began listening on a regular basis, and it’s been a heck of a ride. 

Q: What’s the first audiobook (or some of the first audiobooks) you remember that really stands out as making you think, “Hey, audiobooks are pretty darned awesome?”

I remember the first day that I started listening to audiobooks pretty well, because it coincided with a change in job position. The first day, I listened to the full cast version of Stephen King’s The Mist followed by World War Z by Max Brooks. Both I had read the print version, and enjoyed the audio, but still wasn’t convinced. Then I listened to Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer read by Adam Grupper and was sold, hook, line and sinker. Yet, the audiobook that truly convinced me that audiobooks ruled all, on earth and above, was Tim Dorsey’s Hurricane Punch read brilliantly by Oliver Wyman. I had followed that series from the beginning and hearing Oliver give voices to the characters I loved was truly a revelation. 

Q: You’ve been reviewing audiobooks and interviewing authors and narrators at The Guilded Earlobe for a while. When did you start the blog?

Surprisingly, I only started actively blogging about audiobooks January of 2011. I had been wanting to start an audiobook blog for a while, and I made it my New Year’s resolution. I had blogged in the past, going back to the good old days of AOL Journals. My old days of blogging was mainly about television, books, and my own attempts at really bad fiction.  

Q: While you’ve posted your favorites of the year for 2011 and 2012, what are some all-time favorites, maybe from before you started blogging?

One of my favorite audiobooks of all time, was given to me as a gift by a friend who was interning in London for a year. It’s the Isis Audio version of John Connolly’s Every Dead Thing read by Jeff Harding. Sadly, this version isn’t available in the US, and the only version of that novel available is an Abridged Version read by Titus Welliver, which is OK but not nearly as amazing as Harding’s version. So, a few alternatives.

 I love John Ringo and David Weber’s Prince Roger series narrated by Stefan Rudnicki for Blackstone Audio. Also, with all the hype around Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet novels, I actually prefer his JAG in Space series narrated by Nick Sullivan. Elegy Beach by Stephen R. Boyett is the follow up to his Post Apocalyptic Unicorn novel Ariel. JD Jackson reads it for Penguin Audio, and really does an amazing job. Both books in that series make excellent audiobooks.

 In Non-Genre books, Killing Floor by Lee Child narrated by Dick Hill is the first, and possibly best Jack Reacher novel. Lastly, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett read by John Lee is an amazing Historical epic. 

Q: You seem to lean more towards thrillers, crime fiction, and even horror than I do, safe from serial killers for the most part in the world of fantasy and science fiction. I remember you asking a very interesting question of a literary audiobooks blogger, something like, “What are one or two literary books that you would recommend to a fan of genre fiction?” So I’ll turn the tables on you a bit: What are one or two thrillers that you would recommend to a fan of science fiction and fantasy?

To make a short answer long, I would recommend a few gateway books and series. By that I mean novels that are predominantly Thrillers, but have Science Fiction elements or deal with topics that genre fans would like. I am a huge fan of genre blending novels, so books like this always have a special place in my heart. One such series is the Travis Chase/The Breach trilogy by Patrick Lee. I often describe this series as 24 meets The 4400. The finale of the trilogy was just released last week, and my review will be up in a few days (mad pimpin’ the blog). Audible has it listed under thrillers, but it also would be right at home among the science fiction category. Jeff Gurner, who did such a great job with Daniel Suarez’ techno-thrillers Daemon and Freedom (TM), also narrates this series.

The other book I would recommend, made my Top 20 of 2011 at the #4 position, which was amazing to me because this was a debut thriller author. That novel is Children of Paranoia by Trevor Shane. It’s about a secret war going on right in our midst between two waring factions. There really isn’t any scifi element to it, but it feels like science fiction all the same. It really is a wonderful novel, and Stephen Boyer, who handles the majority of the reading, does a really good job. Also, I should add, Trevor Shane seems like a real nice guy, and I’m hoping to interview him before the sequel comes out.

One last note, anything by George Pelecanos, especially narrated by Dion Graham, should be listened to.

Q: You listened to 165 audiobooks this year — as of your “best of the year” post, and that’s already a few audiobooks ago. How do you find time to listen to (and review!) so many titles?

Basically, I’m lucky. I do much of my listening at work. The work I do is more physical then mental, and listening to audiobooks keeps me distracted from the mind numbingly, soul killing aspects of my job. I also listen when I am driving, cooking, doing laundry, playing video games, walking the dog and shopping. Also, it helps that I’m single (that’s right, ladies!) and have no kids.  Now, if only I could figure out a way to read and listen to an audiobook at the same time, I could totally increase my productivity.

The reviewing is the tricky part. I tend to write my reviews after getting home from work, at about 1AM. I can usually write, edit, format, and post my reviews in about an hour and a half, leaving me some time for mindless television watching before I head to bed around 4AM.

Q: What are you looking forward to in 2012, audiobooks wise?

Oh, lots of good stuff. Mira Grant will be completing her Newsflesh Trilogy with Blackout, which will be released in May. Stephen King has a new Dark Tower novel coming out, despite finishing the series a few years ago, called The Wind Through the Keyhole. Myke Cole’s debut, Control Point comes out in the next Month or so, which I have heard a lot of buzz about and some wonderful early reviews. Dan Wells starts a new YA Dystopian series, the first book is called Partials, which according to the author is “super awesome.” Also, in a fantasy world, that only I exist in, I still hold out hope that the next Lie Lamora novel The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch will come out in 2012.

In Non-Genre titles, one of my all time favorite satirical thrillers, Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh will finally be getting a sequel, called The Exterminators, which will be read by Tom Weiner for Blackstone Audio. Also, Stephen White will begin the process of ending his long running Alan Gregory series with the first of a two novel swan song called Line of Fire. 

Q: Other than continuing your tour of post apocalyptic novels, grouped by the type of apocalypse, any special plans for The Guilded Earlobe in 2012?

There will be Zombies. In 2011, I had a month where I focus almost entirely on audiobooks of the living dead, which coincided with Audible’s first wave of releases of Permuted Press novels. This year, it will be more of an event. I’m going to have guess posts, interviews, and maybe even some zombie swag to give away. It will be my first attempt to run an actual blog event, so we’ll see how it goes.

Fridays on the blog will be dedicated to all things Post Apocalyptic. So, reviews, lists, interviews, all those goods things will be making appearances on Fridays. Also, last year the majority of my print reads were Classic Science Fiction novels from my paperback collection. I have an addiction to old scifi novels, and cannot go into a used bookstore without buying a few , mostly based on the covers. This year, I want to focus my print reading on current titles that seem unlikely to make it into audio form, then review them, with a “if I was king of the world” slant on who I would like to see narrate them, and whether I thought they would make a good audio.

Q: What are some books not in audio that you really wish were available?

There are two series that the latest novel in the series was not made into an audiobook. The first is the Urban Fantasy A Hundred Words for Hate by Thomas E. Sniegoski, a book in the Remy Chandler series. The other is Devil Red by Joe Lansdale, the latest Hap and Leonard book, which is the series that cemented my love for Phil Gigante as a narrator.

One novel I really want to see in audio is Rob Ziegler’s Seed. According to the author the chances of this happening is actually pretty good, so that is something we can look for in 2011.

We have discussed James Maxey. Bitterwood is my favorite all time novel about Dragons. It a wonderful, genre blending tale and I think that series would make wonderful audiobooks.

For classic Post Apocalyptic novels that I think would make great audiobooks, Neal Barrett Jr. tops my list. His novels Through Darkest America and Dawn’s Uncertain Light have stuck with me a long time. Barrett is a wonderful author who has gotten absolutely no audiobook love at all.

It always amazes me that a Fantasy great like David Gemmell has no audiobook titles available. The Drenai series, and The Stones of Power/Jerusalem Man series should be audiobooks.

I would love for Robert Buettner’s Orhanage series to come out on audio, since his current series a spin off of that and are available on audio narrated by MacLeod Andrews.  I know it’s not his most popular works of fiction, but I actually really like Charles Stross’ Merchant Princes series, and would love to see those as audios. Finally, I haven’t read but always wanted to read Paul Kearney’s Monarchies of God series, so, yeah, the audio versions would be lovely.

Q: Thanks Bob, it’s been wonderful following your reviews and I really appreciate the time and thoughts for the interview.

Thanks for allowing me to ramble on about one of my favorite topics. I have a great feeling that 2012 will be another groundbreaking year for audiobooks, and I look forward to experiencing it all with you. It should be fun!

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