When Juli and I go on a road trip, we take a ‘talking book’ with us. It’s an excellent way to help pass the time. The choice of title in these circumstances is crucial, of course, and we have had some occasional disasters. For a start, the quality of the narration is crucial. Anyone with a tendency to boring monotones should be avoided. And an actor who can create characters’ voices and maintain them throughout is a definite plus. A recent trip started with an American narrator trying to do several voices in a Cockney accent. If I tell you that he was worse than Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins,” then you may get some sense of how bad it was.
A very complicated or convoluted plot is also a no-no. For the person driving, there are bound to be points where it’s heads-up. Come to think of it, the driver really should have her or his head up throughout. The passenger, on the other hand, is likely to be drifting in and out of sleep (especially as our road trips tend to start at stupid o’ clock) and cannot be expected to cling to all the plot nuances involved. This can lead to tricky discussions.
(Pauses the disc) “Who’s the woman with the triplets and the wooden leg? She seems to have appeared from nowhere.”
“Sorry, haven’t a clue. I must have been negotiating the George Washington Bridge at that point. I’m struggling with the role of the dwarf and the Russian guy caught with the llamas in his trunk.”
All of which leads to Dean Koontz. For a couple of trips, well-narrated versions of his stories provided the perfect accompaniment to the unrolling of the Interstates. We thought we had struck a productive seam and selected him again for our next trip. Error. Your Heart Belongs To Me turned out to be a swollen, knotted mess of a novel, an example of what happens when a talented writer gets to like the sound of his own writing voice so much that it plays havoc with his judgement.
I’ve since discovered lists on the GoodReads website which separate the good Dean Koontz novels from the clunkers. I’ll take that with me, next time we go to the library.