Friday, May 18, 2012

A long drive made short -- on the road with the "Blue Heaven" audiobook

Yesterday, Cheyenne writer Karen Cotton's blog featured a Q&A with best-selling writer C.J. Box that included news about the upcoming film of "Blue Heaven." It made me think about the long drive across Wyoming last summer that was made shorter (and much more fun) with the accompaniment of the "Blue Heaven" audiobook.

A long drive made short. That may be the best way to describe the effects of a great audiobook. "Blue Heaven" is that kind of experience. This was Chuck's (that's how most Wyomingites know C.J.) first stand-alone novel, the first outside of his best-selling Joe Pickett series. It came out in 2008 and was a big hit. It was selected by the American Library Association as a 2008 Reading List award winner in the category "Adrenaline." The action is intense as 12-year-old Annie and her younger brother William witness a murder in the Idaho woods and now have to escape pursuit by a group of retired L.A. cops who have big secrets to hide. Some unexpected heroes help them, but readers are kept guessing all the way to the end.

One of Chuck's gifts is his ability to portray "us," those of us who live and work in the Rocky Mountain West. He's adept at showing the clashes between Old West and New West. In "Blue Heaven," rancher Jess Rawlins, one of the main characters, is beset by realtors and bankers and clueless newcomers from "The Coast." While the setting is northern Idaho, this could be Anywhere, Wyoming, those places Chuck knows so well -- Rawlins, Cheyenne, Sheridan, Encampment, even the mythical Saddlestring, Game Warden Joe Pickett's home base. This authenticity has earned the author many fans who aren't necessarily big readers. His book signings features teen boys, retirees, ranchers, bikers, teachers, and diehard Baby Boomer book-buyers like me. His audience is broad and deep. They like him in Germany, France, Japan, the U.K. and 20-some other countries, too.

My preferred delivery system for a good story is the actual book that I can read on a summer afternoon under the shade of a high plains cottonwood. Reading and long-distance driving (especially when you're the driver) aren't a good mix, which led to the invention of audiobooks. Last summer, I listened to the Laramie County Public Library's copy of "Blue Heaven." They may now have multiple copies, or soon will, and copies of the book. Read or listen to it now, before the film comes out and there's a big rush to see what the fuss is all about.

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