Simon Green (writer) and Stuart Blinder (narrator),
The Man with The Golden Torc (Audio version) (Audible, 2008)

You know what? It's all true. Everything that ever scared you, from conspiracy theories to monsters under the bed to ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggity beasties. The only reason they haven't taken over the world is because my family has always been there to stand in their way. We guard the door, keeping you safe from the big bad wolf, and you never even know our names. Of course, there's a price to be paid. By us, and by you. The name's Bond. Shaman Bond. Well, no; actually that's just my use-name. When your job description involves going one-on-one with creatures of the night on a regular basis, you have to find your humour where you can. My real name is Eddie Drood. Licensed to kick supernatural arse. My family is one of the oldest in England, perhaps the oldest, and we've been protecting humanity from the forces of darkness for more centuries than even we care to remember. There are those who say Drood is just a derivation of Druid. The job of a shaman is to protect his tribe from outside threats, and that's what I used to do. I loved my job. Until it all blew up in my face.
-- opening words of this adventure

Shaman Bond is not John Taylor of the Nightside series and the narrator here is not Marc Vietor, but rather is the more than capable Stuart Blinder, who has his own distinctive style. If you enjoyed the Nightside series, you will find much to enjoy in this series of audioworks. The first two works, The Man with The Golden Torc and Daemons are Forever, are now available from Audible with the third work, The Spy who Haunted Me, most likely out in the Fall of '09.

(Yes, the titles are puns on Ian Fleming's James Bond series. The fourth book, which has no current date of release, is tentatively titled From Hell With Love, an homage to Fleming's From Russia With Love. Shaman Bond is indeed a secret agent. Beyond that, they are not at all like.)

The other difference is that the stories in the Secret Histories are much longer than the Nightside stories. The Man with The Golden Torc has a running time of over seventeen hours compared to just under six hours for Something from the Nightside, the first book of that series. That does not mean a more leisurely pace as this story positively gallops from scene to scene, and within each scene as well, barely allowing the listener to catch his breath!

I said that Stuart Blinder is not Marc Vietor so I was curious as to how he came to do voice work. This is his illuminating answer:

I've done VOs for commercials and TV shows but have most fun in audio books.

Got the theater bug in the UK but spent most of my career acting being a manager in the corporate world! Been in the US 22 years, the last 4 professional VO actor.

Heard George Guidall give a talk on his art and caught the bug.

As for voices, I try to get inside each character, identify a defining voice element and then think of people I've known or heard that would fit.

He certainly gets into each character, like Marc Vietor, with a great deal of fun. And it's worth noting that The Man With The Golden Torc is a rather successful attempt to mesh together the spy genre with the supernatural which means that some of the characters are fresh spins upon old themes. Imagine his voicing of this passage:

And finally, there was Mr. Stab. I didn't need to be introduced to him. Everyone knew Mr. Stab, if only by reputation: the notorious uncaught serial killer of old London Town. He'd operated under many names, down the long years, and I don't think even he knew for sure exactly how many people he'd murdered since he started out with five unfortunate whores in the East End in 1888. He gained something, some power, from what he did then. A ceremony of blood, he called it; a celebration of slaughter. And now he goes on and on and no one can stop him. When he was just being himself at the Wulfshead, he still dressed in the formal dark clothes of his time, right down to the opera cloak and top hat.

When he voices Mr. Stab, you can feel the cold touch of awful death in the way he voices him -- a true chill is present in his voice. I will note that not every voice is perfect -- his voicing of the wild witch Molly Metcalf ('a delicate china doll with big bosoms') just is somehow a bit off for reasons that I can';t put my hand on. Eddie Drood on the other hand is perfectly voiced -- an individual who was sure of his place in the universe who's now not sure of anything, Certainly he has done as good a job as Marc Vietor does with the Nightside series in taking a written text and making it come alive.

(A slight digression . . . The Wulfshead mentioned in that passage is the bar where a great deal of the action here takes place. Green shares an obvious love with another British writer, Christopher Fowler of the esteemed Bryant & May mystery series, for bars. But Fowler uses real bars whereas Green invents really cool bars -- the gleaming, modern Wulfshead in this series and the the grungy, millennia old Strangefellows with Merlin Satanspawn buried in the cellar in the Nightside series. Taverns play a role in the Hawk & Fisher series as well, but no place of a specific name is mentioned. End of digression.)

The bottom line is that for any lover of good contemporary fantasy, The Man with The Golden Torc is a must listen. I certainly found it to be even better than I expected and I expected it to be very, very good. I'm certainly looking forward now to experiencing the pleasure of hearing Diamonds Are Forever, errr. Daemons are Forever.

[Cat Eldridge]