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Audio books turn car into mobile library

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Lindell John Kay

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

My vehicle has been transformed into a theater of the mind.

I'm well-known for listening to loud Rock-and-Roll in my car. And I love to jam to Tom Petty, Metallica, Springsteen, R. Kelly and even Taylor Swift. But lately, I've opted for a more enlightening use of my travel time.

In my lifetime I've read hundreds of books, maybe thousands. My reading slowed significantly once I started news reporting full time a decade ago. There's just not a lot of downtime for curling up with a good novel. However, recently, I've figured out a way to get my “reading” in while on the job.

Enter audiobooks.

I know, I know, audiobooks are nothing new. I listened to them back when they were “books on tape.”

In fact, the first audiobook I ever listened to was “Travels with Charley: In Search of America” back in the early 2000s. The book by John Steinbeck — about his 1960 road trip around the United States with his poodle Charley — was read by actor Gary Sinise. I listened to it while driving to and from my late night telemarketing job while I was in college.

I would have probably continued to use audiobooks except I owned a series of junk cars that lacked CD players and by that time most audiobooks were only available on compact disc. All that changed a couple of years ago when I purchased my first new car — a 2015 Hyundai Elantra. The car came with all the bells and whistles including a CD player, Bluetooth, an auxiliary jack and satellite radio.

After several months of wearing out satellite radio then music services like Amazon Prime and Apple Music, I began to check out audiobooks from Braswell and Edgecombe County Memorial Library.

My favorite author is James Lee Burke who writes an award-winning series of novels about Dave Robicheaux, a Louisiana detective. I highly recommend “Sunset Limited,” “Black Cherry Blues,” and “The Tin Roof Blowdown.”

But I've read all of Burke's books, some of them twice. So looking for someone new, I stumbled across Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. Thanks to the great collections at both libraries, both on CD and online downloads, I've listened to almost all of the nearly two dozen books in the best-selling Los Angeles police procedural series. If you haven't then you definitely should read or listened to “Echo Park,” “The Burning Room” and “A Darkness More Than Night.”

And check out the “Bosch” television drama — recently renewed for a forth season — on Amazon and watch “The Lincoln Lawyer,” a 2011 neo noir legal thriller adaptation of the Connelly novel of the same name starring Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe. After watching the movie, I read the book and first became aware of Connelly's universe of fascinating cops and crooks characters.

Connelly is a retired crime reporter who talks about his days covering killers in “Crime Beat,” which I recently checked out from Braswell and listened to while driving around Tarboro and Rocky Mount, chasing down crime stories of my own.

At the library in Tarboro I found a series of audioplays featuring new adventures of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, one of the original hard-boiled detectives. The audioplays star Stacy Keach who played Hammer in several made-for-television movies and three separate series.

I grew up watching Hammer, one of the few shows my father cared about besides Atlanta Braves baseball, so it was a real treat to find audiobooks starring Keach. The Hammer character has been around since 1947 and played by several actors in movies and a 1950s show, but Keach will always be Hammer to me.

I've also mostly caught up on John Grisham novels, an author I read religiously from his first novel in 1988 up until the mid-90s. My favorite from the old days is “The Street Lawyer,” and recent titles worth reading or listening to are “The Whistler” and “The Racketeer.”

Something you're never supposed to do in newswriting: I've saved the best for last.

“Serial,” is a PBS investigative journalism podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig, which narrates a nonfiction story over multiple episodes about a 1999 Baltimore homicide case. It's the cream of the crop.

The podcast can be downloaded from its website and listened to anytime without internet access, which makes for perfect listening in the car. Please try the first episode. You will be hooked.

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