The experience of having my first two Frank Merlin books, Princes Gate and Stalin’s Gold, which are set in World War 2 London, turned into audiobooks was very straightforward and enjoyable. Audible, Amazon’s audiobook arm, got in touch with me through my publishers in the latter part of 2014. There are different ways in which audiobooks are published on Audible. Sometimes the book publisher remains the main publisher but is given access to the Audible platform at various levels. Alternatively Audible themselves become the publishers. In my case it was agreed that Audible would buy the audio rights to the books from me and be the publishers. This, I learned, was the best outcome as my audiobooks would then have the full weight and support of the Audible and Amazon organisations behind them.
Once the audio rights deal had been agreed it was necessary to find the best narrator for the books. While a number of famous names were bandied around and expressed interest, Audible chose the up and coming Welsh actor Matt Addis as the reader. While not yet a household name, Matt is a superb actor with numerous stage and screen credits(recently a leading part in the stage production of War Horse). I learned that there is a niche world of actors and readers who specialise in, and increasingly dominate, the world of audio narration. Matt is part of that world. He is a very experienced and accomplished reader of audiobooks,with over one hundred book narrations to his credit. The authors whose books he has read include Susan Hill, Michael Innes, Alexander Cordell and J.P. Donleavy. When I saw him in action in the recording studio I immediately realised how lucky I was to get him.
The recording of the two books took place in a London recording studio off the Tottenham Court Road over four days. Audible found an excellent and experienced producer, Peter Borthwick, who supervised and managed the whole process. Matt sat in a booth while Peter monitored the recording in the studio, correcting any errors and providing direction and advice. I had not really thought about audio versions of my books when writing them. Watching Matt I realised that I had not made his job an easy one. The books feature American characters, Russians, Poles, Spaniards, aristocratic English characters, Cockneys, Geordies and more. I was particularly interested to see how Matt would capture my hero, the Anglo-Spanish Scotland Yard detective Frank Merlin. Matt did an amazing job with him and with all the characters, bringing them to vivid life while also ensuring, which is crucial in audiobooks, that the listener is able to differentiate clearly between all of them.
I did not sit in the studio for the entire production process as I did not want to be a distraction. However, I enjoyed sitting in for a few hours of each book. I was impressed and delighted with the end product and the initial reviews of the audiobooks have echoed my positive reaction, with Matt’s performance getting very high ratings.
I am currently writing Frank Merlin 3, as yet untitled, which is set in June 1941. I am afraid that I am making the narrator’s task a difficult one yet again-the cast of characters this time includes Frenchmen, Argentinians, Greeks, South Africans and the usual diverse mix of English and British characters. Audible are planning to bring the audio version out in conjunction with the print publication which is planned for Spring 2016. I look forward to listening again as Frank Merlin’s wartime London is brought to life.
Mark Ellis‘s Princes Gate and Stalin’s Gold are available now, published in audiobook by Audible. Here’s the synopsis for Princes Gate:
When a brilliant emigré scientist is killed by a hit-and-run driver and a young woman’s body is washed up in the Thames, Merlin and his team must investigate. The woman is an employee of the American embassy, whose ambassador at this time is Joseph Kennedy.
DCI Merlin’s investigation of diplomats at the embassy ruffles feathers at the foreign office – the American ambassador is a well-known supporter of appeasement, and many powerful and influential Britons favour the pursuit of a negotiated peace settlement with Hitler.
The death of another embassy employee leads Merlin into some of the seedier quarters of wartime London, where a corrupt nightclub owner, various high-flying diplomats, and the ambassador himself appear to be linked to the events surrounding the deaths.
Merlin has to pursue his detective work under the interfering supervision of an assistant metropolitan commissioner who is fearful about the impact of Merlin’s investigations on Anglo-American relations at a time when America represents to many Britain’s only hope of salvation.
Capturing the atmosphere of Britain in 1940 during the ‘phoney war’ when, although war rages on the continent, life continues relatively peacefully in Britain, Princes Gate is an enthralling detective novel.