Editor's Note, Mike's story, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Eyes, will appear in season three.
And what a story it was! Well, for me, anyway. Since my latest reinvention of myself (and there have been many over the long years) as an audiobook narrator, I was hot to move up the ladder. Of course, I didn't kid myself. I knew I had to have a worthy product ¾ skillful storytelling, quality sound production, and knowledge of my own strengths and weaknesses as a narrator ¾ if I was to achieve any success at all. The first thing I learned was the learning curve is steep.
So after a couple of years, I get a handle on sound crafting and I hone my natural ability to tell a story. Then one day in the summer of 2014, I was trolling Amazon and came across Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury. The cover was typical Spillane: a gorgeous doll coming out of her clothes while a guy holds a gun on her. Then ¾ whoa! ¾ I noticed there was no audiobook attached to it.
Positive I had made a mistake, I looked again. No audiobook. I went to Audible.com and typed in the title. No results. There was an audiocassette on Amazon dating back to the Paleolithic Era for sale by a third party vendor, but no modern downloadable audio version. Could this be true? I, The Freaking Jury, the first Mike Hammer novel and the biggest selling book of Spillane's entire career, does not appear in audiobook form?
Well, it was true, all right. I looked up the other Hammer books. Nearly all of them were available as audiobooks and those were all narrated by Stacy Keach, who played Mike Hammer on TV for years. I mean, the guy is Mike Hammer!
I set out to become the narrator for this novel. First, I had to find out who held the audio rights. I wrote to my friend Max Allan Collins, novelist and Spillane collaborator, and he essentially told me to forget it. Simon & Schuster had the audio rights to all the Hammer novels, he said, and they had released them with Stacy Keach's powerful voice driving them. He said it would probably be just a matter of time before they got around to I, The Jury.
Okay, not good news. But I kept after it, anyway. Fruitless efforts at contacting Simon & Schuster yielded nothing. After a lot of digging into the bowels of their website, however, I turned up the name of the head of their audiobook division. I called S&S, asked for him, and to my surprise, I had him on the line.
Once I collected myself, I explained who I was: an audiobook narrator/producer operating out of my home studio in Key West, and I wanted the chance to narrate and produce I, The Jury.
Now, this is the point where a guy like him would tell a guy like me, "We don't work with home studio narrators," or "We use movie stars to narrate our audiobooks," or "Buzz off, kid." And you know, you couldn't blame him if he did. Not even I could blame him. But instead, he said, "Do you deliver a finished product?"
Knowing that I had now arrived at my date with destiny, I said "Yes. But how about if I send you a brief recorded excerpt of I, The Jury? That way you can not only get an idea of how I would approach the material, but also of my sound quality." He paused for what felt like forever, then said, "Okay." And he gave me his email address.
I carefully prepared a recorded piece from the novel and sent it off to him. Frankly, though, I was sure that the minute he hung up the phone, he was shouting into his intercom, "Get me Stacy Keach!"
A couple of months went by. I was certain the game was over. But one day I opened my email to find a response. He had sent my sample to the head of their production department for her opinion. My God, I still had a shot!
Two more months go by (they sure move slowly up there in New York), and one day I get an email from the head of S&S audio production. She liked my sample, but she asked if I wouldn't mind submitting a finished version of the entire first chapter, so they could get a better idea of my sound and my consistency, as well as how I would handle more dialogue. I really couldn't believe it!
Of course, I did the first chapter, laboring over it lovingly and with great precision. Another month later, she writes back and offered me the job. We agreed on the terms and I narrated and produced the audiobook. It'll be released in unabridged form Wednesday, July 28. And you know, I still can't believe I'm actually the voice of Mike Hammer.
Available for pre-order now on Amazon. http://tinyurl.com/p6et4qp