Whether listeners prefer genre westerns or historical fiction set in the American
West, these genre blends, like Huck out West,
feature the interplay of landscape, character,
and action that appeals to fans of both.
By Norman Lock.
Read by Mark Bramhall. 2015. 6.5hr. Blackstone, CD, $69
Coming-of-age is a familiar theme in these genres. Bramhall’s
compelling and richly accented narration follows
Stephen Moran as his travels lead him from Brooklyn
during the Civil War, to Illinois with Lincoln’s funeral
train, and then farther westward, encountering historical figures—Walt Whit-
man, Sitting Bull, General Custer—and experiencing touchstone moments in
Barkskins. By Anne Proulx. Read by Robert Petkoff.
2016. 26hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, CD, $59.99
Petkoff’s captivating reading elevates Proulx’s mas-
terpiece from gorgeous historical saga to riveting
page-turner, chronicling the western expansion. Cen-
tered on the logging industry, the novel traverses virgin
landscapes and presents characters, both native and
immigrant, engaged in dangerous adventures.
El Paso. By Winston Groom. Read by Robertson
Dean. 2016. 16.5hr. Recorded Books, CD, $123.75
Gunplay, bullfights, raids, and battles figure in
Groom’s latest, and Dean’s convincing reading trans-
ports listeners from the cultured, rule-bound East to
the lawless wilds of Mexico and the West. Authentic
details about railroad history and the Mexican Revo-
lution, along with action sequences, should please readers of both genres.
News of the World. By Paulette Jiles. Read by Grover
Gardner. 2016. 6hr. Brilliance, CD, $59.97 (9781511356787).
Narrator Gardner proves the perfect companion on this
heartfelt but unsentimental odyssey, as Captain Jefferson
Kidd travels across post–Civil War Texas reading the news to
isolated communities. He agrees to return a young girl, once
a Kiowa captive, to her people, but their long journey through
the rugged, danger-filled terrain does not end as expected.
The Sisters Brothers. By Patrick de Witt. Read by John Pruden.
2011. 8hr. Dreamscape, CD, $59.99 (9781611201079).
This darkly comic, western-set historical-crime novel, filled
with old-fashioned language and picaresque adventures, is read
by Pruden at an appropriately ambling pace and in a manner that
contrasts violent scenes with those of heartwarming reflection, as
notorious hit men and surprisingly charming antiheroes Charlie and Eli Sisters pursue the
California prospector they’ve been hired to kill. An authentic historical setting, tracking
skills, and gunplay add to the appeal.
WESTERNS MEET HISTORICAL FICTION
BY JOYCE SARICKS
Huck out West.
By Robert Coover. Read by Eric Michael
2017. 9.5hr. HighBridge, CD, $34.99 (9781681683812).
In this imaginative sequel to Twain’s classic tales of Tom
Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Huck says, “Stories is stories
and got their own rules about the
truth.” Coover proves the validi-
ty of that claim in his memorable
re-creation of these characters
and their adventures after having
lit “out for the territory.” Huck
participates in key moments in
U.S. history—he rides for the
Pony Express; associates with
cattle rustlers and prospectors; is adopted by Indians; and
runs afoul of a crazy, unnamed, and hated General Hard
Ass, readily recognizable as George Armstrong Custer.
Summerer shows his narrative skill with delightfully apt
voices for the major characters. Tom speaks in a sly, devil-
may-care tone as he tells one “stretcher” after another; the
general blusters, grumbles, and rumbles as he orders his
men; Becky Thatcher speaks with a come-hither allure; and
Huck’s voice reflects his enduring and endearing naïveté.
But Summerer is at his best in mirroring Coover’s render-
ing of Twain’s idiosyncratic spelling and diction; listeners
don’t see the spelling that accompanies the fanciful speech,
but we hear it in every character’s voice. Summerer’s splen-
did reading offers an opportunity to spend time with Huck
and friends, new and old, in this amusing, nostalgic, and
colorful continuation that puts familiar characters amid
historical events and blends in enough social commentary
to do Twain proud. —Joyce Saricks
surprisingly well into audio. The professionally
acted narration by a full cast, ably portraying
characters of different stations and with subtle
but authentic-sounding accents, enhances the
story and makes the rural North Dakota set-
ting and its denizens feel genuine. Although
some of the sound effects work with the story,
others—such as road noise when the action is
occurring in a moving vehicle—are distracting.
Despite this drawback, this enthralling mystery
is made more enjoyable through the skill of the
various performers. —Diana Tixier Herald
By Amy Poeppel. Read by Carly Robins.
2016. 9.5hr. HighBridge, CD, $39.99 (9781681683751).
Following their graduation, college buddies
Chloe and Vicki opt to settle in New York City,
while Kate—dropping out of a distinguished
anthropology program—moves to Paris to
join her French fiancé of sorts. Instead, Kate’s
dumped at the airport and returns to NYC in
a deeply depressed funk that lasts a year. Then
her sister gets her an interview at the prestigious Hudson Day School, and, although
unqualified, Kate surprisingly lands the assistant director of admissions position and settles
into her new role, while her downstairs neighbor becomes a secret love interest. Chick lit at
its best, this is a delightful listening experience.
Robins adeptly paces her narration of this realistic observation of relationships among family,
friends, lovers, and colleagues. Emphasizing