Monday, November 20, 2017

Roman Blood by Steven Saylor; narrated by Scott Harrison (1991, 2010)

Strong, good writing can overcome a mediocre audio book.  I did not care for the narrator of this at all but Steven Saylor's writing is so good, so crisp and clean; he is so good at plot and character, and historical detail that I forgave the narrator some faults (making Tiro sound like a 1980s surfer dude, for example; I can’t imagine this was on purpose, but once I got that picture in my head, I couldn’t shake it loose),  Saylor’s Ancient Rome has some noir-elements, which the audio (regardless of narrator) highlights even more - the mysterious gumshoe who’d definitely be packing heat if heat had been invented; several dames; a faithful female secretary/mistress;  a steadily growing sense of foreboding throughout the whole book.  Saylor’s historical series starring Gordianus the finder is one of my favorites; but if this narrator continues throughout the series, I will probably stick to old fashioned reading.

Roman Blood (Roma Sub Roma, #1)Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read Roman Blood once before, about seven years ago, and started my love affair with Steven Saylor historical mysteries and historical fiction. He's a superb writer; this series only gets better as the books progress. For a similar, equally enjoyable take, John Maddox Roberts has a mystery series set during the same time period.

I listened to the audio version of this book, and Saylor's good, strong writing overcame the mediocre narrator. The narrator wasn't horrible (he could read), but he made some characters sound like Sean Penn in Fast Times in Ridgemont High, which annoyed me. But not enough to stop listening: that is how good Saylor writes. Ancient Rome during the time of Cicero and Sulla becomes a noirish place with dames, a gumshoe in a toga who isn't packing heat only because heat hasn't yet been invented, and that noiry sense of foreboding and intense build up towards an exciting climax.

If the same person narrates succeeding books, I will abandon listening in favor of re-reading.

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