About Simon

Simon is an actor who found his way into audiobook narrating as a side-gig and seems to have made a success of it. With some training as an actor as a child (just a couple of hours a week, but it stuck) and 15 years working inside the BBC (ending up as one of the presenters/newsreaders on BBC Radio 4 in London) he found the ideal combination for an audiobook narrator. Found his way to California two decades ago and never left.
Author Archive | Simon

League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

With the acclaimed Temeraire novels, New York Times bestselling author Naomi Novik has created a fantasy series like no other, combining the high-flying appeal of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern saga and the swashbuckling derring-do of Patrick O’Brian’s historical seafaring adventures. Now, with League of Dragons, Novik brings the imaginative tour de force that has captivated millions to an unforgettable finish.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia has been roundly thwarted. But even as Capt. William Laurence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the retreating enemy through an unforgiving winter, Napoleon is raising a new force, and he’ll soon have enough men and dragons to resume the offensive. While the emperor regroups, the allies have an opportunity to strike first and defeat him once and for all—if internal struggles and petty squabbles don’t tear them apart.

Aware of his weakened position, Napoleon has promised the dragons of every country—and the ferals, loyal only to themselves—vast new rights and powers if they fight under his banner. It is an offer eagerly embraced from Asia to Africa—and even by England, whose dragons have long rankled at their disrespectful treatment.

But Laurence and his faithful dragon soon discover that the wily Napoleon has one more gambit at the ready—one that that may win him the war, and the world.

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Hour of the Wolf by Håkan Nesser

hourofthewolfA riveting story in show-stopping prose, the latest chapter of this internationally bestselling series is the Nordic noir superstar’s darkest tale yet.

In the middle of a dark, rain-slicked night, a young man is struck and killed by a car. The driver, drunk, abandons the body by the side of the road. Tormented with guilt the next morning, he struggles to put the death out of his mind—until a blackmail note arrives and sets into motion a devastating chain of events.

Reinhart, the new chief inspector of the Maardam police force, initially has few leads. But when the victim of a second, possibly related killing is identified as somebody in his inner circle, Reinhart realizes that this is no ordinary investigation. And as the killer becomes increasingly unhinged, former chief inspector Van Veeteren—a legend now in retirement—is called forth to face the most haunting and difficult case of his life.

 

Here is the Earphone award winning AudioFile magazine review:

This Swedish crime thriller sets the tone for its dark story with the hit-and-run death of a teenage boy. Narrator Simon Vance embodies the unnamed male narrator whose perspective fills most of the first half of the novel. Vance characterizes him with a neutral tone that is in keeping with his lack of guilt toward his crime. The policemen in the story are especially vivid as Vance picks up his pace to project their growing desperation to solve the rising number of deaths in their small town. Vance makes the most of a whodunit that mixes the intrigue of blackmail with an array of frustrated detectives. Listeners will lean in to see the villains get their due. M.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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The Drowning by Camilla Läckberg

drowningFrom worldwide bestseller Camilla Läckberg: a new novel from a reclusive Fjallbacka resident has enraptured the community?but what secrets and tragedies are lurking behind the pages and threatening to come to life?

Christian Thydell’s dream has come true. His debut novel, The Mermaid, has been published to rave reviews. So why is he as distant and unhappy as ever?

When crime writer Erica Falck, who helped Christian discover and develop his talents, learns he has been receiving anonymous threats, she investigates not just the messages but also the young author mysterious past. Then, one of Christian’s closet friends, Magnus, goes missing.

Erica’s husband, Detective Patrik Hedström, has his worst suspicions confirmed as the mind-games aimed at Christian become a disturbing reality. Christian’s group of friends?a “gang of four” from childhood?is a tangled web of relationships, love triangles, and family secrets that Erica and Patrick must unravel in order to discover what really happened to Magnus and who is still threatening Christian.

But, with the victims themselves concealing evidence, the investigation is going nowhere. Is their silence driven by fear or guilt? What is the secret they would rather die to protect than live to see revealed?

Here is the Earphone award winning AudioFile magazine review:

There will be no stopping once you start listening to Simon Vance’s performance of this riveting new mystery. Christian, a successful novelist and protégé of Erica Hedström, collapses after receiving another in a series of threatening notes. Christian’s friend, Magnus, has disappeared, and the police are stymied. After Magnus’s body is found, Detective Patrik Hedström and his wife, Erica, investigate, revealing a shocking secret going back decades and winding through the lives of the residents of Fjallbacka. Vance makes the listening smooth, pronouncing the many Scandinavian names and places with professional expertise. He removes all barriers between listener and characters, and as the puzzle grows more intricate, guides us expertly through the dark places just below the surface. S.J.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Mainered_earphones

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Icarus by Deon Meyer

icarusDeon Meyer, South Africa’s preeminent crime fiction writer, is internationally acclaimed for his razor’s-edge thrillers, unforgettable characters, and nuanced portrayals of contemporary life in his native country. The latest pulse-pounder starring Captain Benny Griessel, a lead detective in South Africa’s Priority Crimes Investigation unit, delves into a high-profile murder case and the country’s burgeoning tech and wine industries.

A week before Christmas, a young photographer discovers a plastic-wrapped corpse amidst the sand dunes north of Cape Town. It doesn’t take long for the police to identify the body as that of Ernst Richter—the tech whiz and founder of Alibi, an internet service that provides unfaithful partners with sophisticated cover stories to hide their affairs. Meanwhile, Benny Griessel is called to the scene of a murder-suicide involving a former colleague, and 602 days of sobriety are undone on the spot. He seems determined to drink away his career, but the take-no-sass Major Mbali Kaleni, now his boss, wants Griessel on the Richter case. The murder has already been the subject of fierce media speculation, with questions swirling about the potential for motive: could the perpetrator be one of the countless jilted spouses? An aggrieved client? Before the week is out, an unexpected connection to a troubled family winery comes to light, and Griessel must either quit drinking and close the case, or risk losing everything he loves. Mounting towards a startling conclusion, Icarus is another first-rate novel from the “King of South African Crime.”

 

Here is the Earphone award winning AudioFile magazine review:

The sublime voice of Simon Vance enhances this fascinating story, Book 5 of the Benny Griessel series, which takes place in South Africa. Two compelling scenarios are dramatically presented and merge only at the conclusion. Vance inhabits vintner François du Toit as he tells his riveting story; on his property was found the body of Ernst Richter, the founder of MyAlibi, a company that serves those who want extramarital “adventures” without the risk. Listeners will learn that the alcoholic Griessel is back on the booze after a traumatic incident, and his reluctant partner is covering for him and heading the murder investigation. Vance skillfully re-creates South Africa’s melodious voices and diverse accents as the police question multiple witnesses and suspects. The shocking climax is as timely as today’s headlines. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Mainered_earphones

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In Search of Thomas Browne by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

thomas-browneThe extraordinary life and ideas of one of the greatest?and most neglected?minds in history.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) was an English writer, physician, and philosopher whose work has inspired everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Jorge Luis Borges, Virginia Woolf to Stephen Jay Gould. In an intellectual adventure like Sarah Bakewell’s book about Montaigne, How to Live, Hugh Aldersey-Williams sets off not just to tell the story of Browne’s life but to champion his skeptical nature and inquiring mind.

Mixing botany, etymology, medicine, and literary history, Aldersey-Williams journeys in his hero’s footsteps to introduce us to witches, zealots, natural wonders, and fabulous creatures of Browne’s time and ours. We meet Browne the master prose stylist, responsible for introducing hundreds of words into English, including electricity, hallucination, and suicide. Aldersey-Williams reveals how Browne’s preoccupations?how to disabuse the credulous of their foolish beliefs, what to make of order in nature, how to unite science and religion?are relevant today.

In Search of Sir Thomas Browne is more than just a biography?it is a cabinet of wonders and an argument that Browne, standing at the very gates of modern science, remains an inquiring mind for our own time. As Stephen Greenblatt has written, Browne is “unnervingly one of our most adventurous contemporaries.”

Here is the Earphone award winning AudioFile magazine review:

This fine audio production illustrates the great appeal of audiobooks today, not just for mainstream titles but also for those pockets of interest that seemingly target only a narrow range of listeners. Essayist, stylist, and prolific word-maker Sir Thomas Browne is almost forgotten in literature today, but he’s a fascinating personality, and his life and writings prove highly illustrative of his age, especially its medical practices and beliefs. Simon Vance is adept at balancing the author’s contemporary approach with Browne’s famously baroque style. This reflective biography is probably not for everyone, but for those who love the unique and obscure and odd, as Browne did, this title offers many pleasures. D.A.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Mainered_earphones

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Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton

Eaters of the DeadFrom the bestselling author of Jurassic ParkTimeline, and Sphere comes an epic tale of unspeakable horror.

It is 922 A.D. The refined Arab courtier Ibn Fadlan is accompanying a party of Viking warriors back to their home. He is appalled by their customs—the gratuitous sexuality of their women, their disregard for cleanliness, and their cold-blooded sacrifices. As they enter the frozen, forbidden landscape of the North—where the day’s length does not equal the night’s, where after sunset the sky burns in streaks of color—Fadlan soon discovers that he has been unwillingly enlisted to combat the terrors in the night that come to slaughter the Vikings, the monsters of the mist that devour human flesh. But just how he will do it, Fadlan has no idea.

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The Independent (UK) May 8th, 2014

Here’s an interesting article from one of the major UK national daily newspapers – The Independent.  It’s based on an interview with Don Katz, the founder of Audible.com but Simon Usbourne also interviewed me and a few lines get quoted later on.

See the full article by clicking here

“…The process starts before recording with thorough reading. “Mantel makes reference later in the book to Henry VIII’s slightly high-pitched voice,” Vance, who’s 58, says. “I have to take that into account from the start because in my mind he had the voice of Richard Burton.” Some writers try to read their own works. “John le Carré is one of the great narrators,” Katz says. “Others try it and say, get me a pro!” Vance says great satisfaction comes with a good review by an author. “I’ve heard them say listening to their own book, it’s like someone else wrote it – they hear it in a different way,” he says…”

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Euphoria by Lily King

euphoria-book-cover-flatRead with the wonderful Xe Sands

From Booklist

Just after a failed suicide attempt, Andrew Bankson, English anthropologist studying the Kiona tribe in the territory of New Guinea, meets a pair of fellow anthropologists fleeing from a cannibalistic tribe down river. Nell Stone is controversial and well respected. Her rough Australian husband, Fen, is envious of her fame and determined to outshine her. Bankson helps them find a new tribe to study, the artistic, female-­dominated Tam. Nell’s quiet assurance and love of the work, and Fen’s easy familiarity, pull Bankson back from the brink. But it is the growing fire between him and Nell that they cannot do anything about. Layered on top of that is Nell’s grasp of the nuances of the Tam, which makes it clear that she will once again surpass Fen. Set between the First and Second World Wars, the story is loosely based on events in the life of Margaret Mead. There are fascinating looks into other cultures and how they are studied, and the sacrifices and dangers that go along with it. This is a powerful story, at once gritty, sensuous, and captivating. –Elizabeth Dickie

 

Here is the Earphone award winning AudioFile magazine review:

In a perfect marriage of words and voice, narrators Simon Vance and Xe Sands join author Lily King to produce an extraordinary audiobook experience. Inspired by events in the life of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, King has fashioned a haunting novel of love, ambition, and obsession, focused on three anthropologists off-map in New Guinea just before WWII. Delivering the alternating chapters of Mead’s stand-in, American Nell Stone, and Englishman Andrew Bankson, Sands and Vance perform the stupendous feat of creating memorable versions of the same characters. Their performances offer nuanced interpretations of the different personalities and echo, but do not copy, each other’s approach. Also, each uses a unique narrative pace that enhances the listener’s understanding of this unforgettable tale. A.C.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Mainered_earphones

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Slate.com – March 17th, 2014

Here’s a link to a great article on Slate.com that I worked on with the author of A Burnable Book, Bruce Holsinger.  The book is available for download on Audible.com.

The article is titled The Voice of the Poets: The life and work of an audiobook narrator. Click on that title to bring up the article.

There’s even a recording on the page of Bruce and me giving voice to the article!

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The Zhivago Affair by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée

zhivagoThe Kremlin, the CIA,and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book

Drawing on newly declassified government files, this is the dramatic story of how a forbidden book in the Soviet Union became a secret CIA weapon in the ideological battle between East and West.

In May 1956, an Italian publishing scout took a train to a village just outside Moscow to visit Russia’s greatest living poet, Boris Pasternak. He left carrying the original manuscript of Pasternak’s first and only novel, entrusted to him with these words: “This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.” Pasternak believed his novel was unlikely ever to be published in the Soviet Union, where the authorities regarded it as an irredeemable assault on the 1917 Revolution. But he thought it stood a chance in the West and, indeed, beginning in Italy, Doctor Zhivago was widely published in translation throughout the world.

From there the life of this extraordinary book entered the realm of the spy novel. The CIA, which recognized that the Cold War was above all an ideological battle, published a Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago and smuggled it into the Soviet Union. Copies were devoured in Moscow and Leningrad, sold on the black market, and passed surreptitiously from friend to friend. Pasternak’s funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands of admirers who defied their government to bid him farewell. The example he set launched the great tradition of the writer-dissident in the Soviet Union.

In The Zhivago Affair, Peter Finn and Petra Couvée bring us intimately close to this charming, passionate, and complex artist. First to obtain CIA files providing concrete proof of the agency’s involvement, the authors give us a literary thriller that takes us back to a fascinating period of the Cold War—to a time when literature had the power to stir the world.

Here is the Earphone award winning AudioFile magazine review:

This audiobook proves yet again that fact can be as fascinating as fiction, particularly when Simon Vance is the narrator. Although Nobel Prize-winning author Boris Pasternak believed that DOCTOR ZHIVAGO could never be published in his native country, the CIA thought differently, recognizing the book’s importance to the Cold War. In this eye-opening historical work, the authors document how the CIA smuggled the masterpiece into the Soviet Union, where it sold furiously on the black market and had a transformative effect on society. Vance’s adept use of accent and inflection complement the book, which is as exciting as a spy novel. Calling this a page-turner doesn’t do justice, however, to Vance’s elegant and memorable performance. D.J.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Awardred_earphones

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