Hidden Gems 11 – The Joy of Listening
June 05, 2013
I’ll admit, I used to be prejudiced about books. Only books in the traditional paper-bound format would do for me. I loved to read slowly, savoring the words and turning a page at a time. I knew audiobooks existed, but I considered them to be "second class" media, only to be used by the blind or otherwise physically impaired individuals. Over the years, though, I have seen the light and have come to appreciate the value of the audiobook medium.
I first became a convert about ten years ago when I took a job that involved a long, twice-daily, 35 to 40 minute commute. To make this boring drive-time bearable, I used to listen to National Public Radio or music. After a while, though, the interminable blah-blah-blah of pre and post-election NPR coverage and the fifth or sixth time playing through my music collection got to be pretty boring. As an alternative, I decided to try my first audiobook. I don’t remember the title of that first book, but it provided me with tremendous enjoyment and really opened my eyes (or ears, as the case may be). It led to me becoming a frequent listener. I also expanded my listening venues to include the treadmill at the YMCA and the parks where I frequently exercise.
Over the past ten years, I’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to the narrators of the audiobooks, preferring instead to select the books by their authors. A recent back-to-back rereading (relistening?) of books by two of my favorite authors (Tom Clancy and Nevil Shute) led to a strange case of déjà vu. I heard the same voice used for two different characters in Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October and Shute’s Trustee from the Toolroom. I went back, checked, and found that both books had been narrated by Frank Muller. With dozens and dozens of characters to portray in the two books, this actor-turned-narrator did a great job making the books come alive. Although he repeated one voice across the two books, he truly is a man of a thousand voices.
I did some checking and found that Muller had narrated over 200 books. He’s performed readings for authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice, John Le Carre, John Irving, Nicholas Sparks, and Robert Ludlum. I also learned that he had been in a motorcycle accident in November 2001 where he had suffered severe head trauma. He eventually was moved to an assisted living facility for those recovering from brain injuries but ultimately passed away on June 4, 2008. To help defray Frank’s medical expenses, Stephen King, John Grisham, Pat Conroy, and Peter Straub put on a benefit for Muller. At the tribute, in New York City in February 2002, the authors read from their own works. Their esteem for Frank Muller was quite evident.
Over the years, I’ve listened to a number of Muller’s narrations without being aware of his connection to my favorite authors. He has brought to me an awareness of the benefit that a good narrator lends to a book. Next time I look for something new to listen to, one of the criteria will be this "hidden gem" of a narrator. With all the books he narrated as a legacy, who knows? Maybe I’ll find a new author to add to my list of favorites.