Mystery Monday: Audiobook Round-up for Black History Month

In recognition of Black History Month, some audiobooks featuring African-American themes, protagonists and/or authors. What are some of YOUR favorites?

February is Black History Month in the United States. A time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Americans. In recognition of the men and women who have played a central role in U.S. history–as well as the country’s future–I’ve put together a round-up of mystery and thriller audiobooks that have African-American themes, protagonists and/or authors.

Recent research indicates that when we read fiction, we’re able to identify with the characters, regardless of our similarities or differences, and ultimately improve our capacity for empathy. So take a look at today’s list and find a dynamic character to slip into with your next audiobook.

UNDERGROUND AIRLINES
by Ben H. Winters, read by William DeMerritt
Hachette Audio

underground-airlines

Ben H. Winters’ alternate history about a United States that never experienced Abraham Lincoln as its president, never had a Civil War and never completely abolished slavery is brilliantly narrated by William DeMeritt. DeMeritt’s efforts on this audiobook are being recognized with a 2017 Audie nomination for best male narrator.

DARKTOWN
by Thomas Mullen, read by André Holland
Simon & Schuster Audio

darktown

While Winters looked at a hypothetical world if history had been different, Thomas Mullen fictionalizes actual American history with the first black officers to serve on the Atlanta, Georgia, police force. André Holland also turns in an Audie-nomination-worthy performance for this powerful audiobook.

IQ
by Joe Ide, read by Sulllivan Jones
Hachette Audio

iq

Joe Ide delves into the world of a young, genius black man who takes on a Sherlock Holmes-type role in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood. Sullivan Jones gives voice to the myriad facets of this fascinating new character in crime fiction. Another 2017 Audie nominee, IQ is an all-around winner.

CHARCOAL JOE
by Walter Mosley, read by Michael Boatman
Random House Audio/Books on Tape

charcoal-joe

A list recognizing African-American crime fiction would never be complete without Walter Mosely and his beloved investigator, Easy Rawlins. Longtime series narrator, Michael Boatman brought this newest installment to life as Easy works to clear a black man accused of murdering a white man in 1960s Los Angeles. His efforts earned him a place on AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2016 list.

PLEASANTVILLE
by Attica Locke, read by JD Jackson
Harper Audio/ Blackstone Audio

pleasantville

JD Jackson narrates Attica Locke’s second audiobook featuring her Houston lawyer protagonist, Jay Porter. PLEASANTVILLE delves into the issues confronting race in politics as Porter takes on a high-profile murder case. Locke was awarded the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for PLEASANTVILLE.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in African-American crime fiction. Help us continue this list by sharing some of your favorites in the comments.

Browse more audiobook titles by authors WALTER MOSLEY, THOMAS MULLEN, BEN WINTERS, and ATTICA LOCKE

 

In the Studio: The Hero with A Thousand Faces

Recording Joseph Campbell’s exploration of universal themes in mythology.

Narrator John Lee will be AudioFile’s guest on GoodReads on Wed. & Thurs, Feb 15 & 16. Ask John questions about his audiobooks in this discussion.

Three narrators: John Lee, Arthur Morey & Susan Denaker were cast to record Joseph Campbell’s iconic work, THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.

john-lee
John Lee in the recording booth during the Joseph Campbell project. 

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” —Joseph Campbell

The Hero with a Thousand Faces_300dpi.jpgThe Hero with a Thousand Faces
by Joseph Campbell, Read by John Lee, Arthur Morey, Susan Denaker
Brilliance Audio

AudioFile spoke with director Tony Hudz about recording THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.

AF: What do you think a new generation might gain from being introduced to The Hero with a Thousand Faces?

TH: I hope they gain a new perspective on our history–not just of the Americas, but of humanity as a whole–a sense of the unity of humanity across cultures and societies. Chinese, Indian, African, American, European–look at this, guys! Look at all these wonderful stories we have in common!

AF: Did you have any connection to the book prior to your selection as director?

TH: There were two linkages. I first made Mr. Campbell’s acquaintance when I read Hero as part of one of my university classes. I was blown away. I watched this incredible dance of humanity spin before my eyes, and it was an awakening for me. Many years later, I directed an abridged version of the work–I wanted more, but at the time it was the best I could do. It was a wonderful experience, nonetheless. And then the third time, this time, was my personal charm. This time, I got to tell the whole magnificent story.

AF: Why three narrators?

TH: I think the three-voice structure was a brilliant way of helping listeners–as opposed to readers–keep track of what’s going on. Readers can always flip back a page and check out the story flow. Listeners can’t. So how do you keep things clear? In this case, you put Mr. Campbell’s narrative in one voice; then there are literal and psychological excursions that depart from the narrative, and those you give to a discreet voice to set them apart; finally, there are a number of first-person female narratives in the text, and/or text that I believe is more effectively expressed through a woman’s voice. I think the totality of those voices helps the book in its audio incarnation.

AF: What was your greatest challenge during the recording?

TH: First, identifying which text was to be read by which readers. I went back and forth on many sections of the book to apportion it to “the best” narrator. In the end, this whole process ultimately worked best when I stopped trying to figure out the book and let it tell me what to do. Linked to this, I had a four-page recording log to keep myself honest and make sure I actually recorded every word. The book was about a 250-piece jigsaw puzzle by the time I was done, and I had to be very careful not to lose a piece. Second, the work’s pronunciations. Many of which were ancient and/or arcane, and/or nearly impossible to track down. But I think that ultimately we got them all right. I thank my lucky stars for three really, really smart readers who already knew many of the words and allusions and could back up my homework. Related to this, consistency of pronunciation was also a challenge. Keeping hundreds of names straight through 400+ pages was often a daunting task.

AF: Anything else you’d like to share?

TH: I’ve always thought that four of the greatest words in the English language are: “Tell me a story.” And what I do, my vocation, my avocation, as it has been for so many years, is tell stories in the grand sweeping context of this wonderful, amazing thing we call The Oral Tradition. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to do what I do–and what I did here was to tell one of the grandest stories of all: us. And I told it by directing one of the greatest books ever written about us: THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. And reading the story are three of my favorite talents–Arthur Morey, John Lee, and Susan Denaker–with whom, cumulatively, I’ve probably recorded a hundred books over the years. How could it possibly get any better than that?

Tuesday Tease: Marriage Games

Impossible to stop listening until the last possible moment.

So there’s this little-known (ahem) movie in theaters, something about 50 Blinds, or Shades. I’ve only seen the trailer on TV about 50 times . . . this week. Anyway, if you’ve read the books and seen the movies, you might be looking for your next addiction. If that’s the case, we have a special treat for you, Audie Award Finalist MARRIAGE GAMESthe first book in The Games Duet.  Thanks to a commanding performance by narrators Sebastian York and Elena Wolfe, MARRIAGE GAMES is a must-listen BDSM audiobook. Adam and Diana face a marriage derailed by indifference and kept on life support with revelations of hidden desires. The narration encloses the couple and the listener in a private negotiation which feels urgent and essential.

124561.jpgMARRIAGE GAMES
by CD Reiss, Read by Elena Wolfe and Sebastian York
Flip City Media

Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review. And then be sure to queue up the second half of The Games DuetMARRIAGE GAMES ends on a cliffhanger.

View more Aude Award Finalists in the Erotica category here.

rt-2-audiofile500x148