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

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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New York Times Sunday Review – Feb 23rd, 2014

AUDIOBOOKS AND THE RETURN OF STORYTELLING

Click on the link above to read this delightful piece and although it doesn’t mention me by name it’s clear that the author has listened to and enjoyed Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel.

 

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Memnoch The Devil by Anne Rice

memnoch_the_devilThe fifth volume of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles is one of her most controversial books. The tale begins in New York, where Lestat, the coolest of Rice’s vampire heroes, is stalking a big-time cocaine dealer and religious-art smuggler–this guy should get it in the neck. Lestat is also growing fascinated with the dealer’s lovely daughter, a TV evangelist who’s not a fraud.

Lestat is also being stalked himself, by some shadowy guy who turns out to be Memnoch, the devil, who spirits him away. From here on, the book might have been called Interview with the Devil (by a Vampire). It’s a rousing story interrupted by a long debate with the devil. Memnoch isn’t the devil as ordinarily conceived: he got the boot from God because he objected to God’s heartless indifference to human misery. Memnoch takes Lestat to heaven, hell, and throughout history.

Some readers are appalled by the scene in which Lestat sinks his fangs into the throat of Christ on the cross, but the scene is not a mere shock tactic: Jesus is giving Lestat a bloody taste in order to win him over to God’s side, and Rice is dead serious about the battle for his soul. Rice is really doing what she did as a devout young Catholic girl asked to imagine in detail what Christ’s suffering felt like–it’s just that her imagination ran away with her.

If you like straight-ahead fanged adventure, you’ll likely enjoy the first third; if you like Job-like arguments with God, you’ll prefer the Memnoch chapters. –Tim Appelo (Amazon.com review)

From Publishers Weekly

Rice has made a career out of humanizing creatures of supernatural horror, and in this fifth book of her Vampire Chronicles she requests sympathy for the Devil. Having survived his near-fatal reacquaintance with human mortality in The Tale of the Body Thief (1992), the world-weary vampire Lestat is recruited by the biblical Devil, Memnoch, to help fight a cruel and negligent God. The bulk of the novel is a retelling of the Creation story from the point of view of the fallen angel, who blames his damnation on his refusal to accept human suffering as part of God’s divine plan. Rice grapples valiantly with weighty questions regarding the justification of God’s ways to man, but their vast scope overwhelms the novel’s human dimensions. God and the Devil periodically put on the flesh of mortals, and too often end up sounding like arguing philosophy majors. Meanwhile, the ever-fascinating Lestat, whose poignant personal crisis of faith is mirrored in Memnoch’s travails, becomes a passive observer, dragged along on trips to Heaven and Hell before being returned to Earth to relate what he has witnessed. Though Rice boldly probes the significance of death, belief in the afterlife and other spiritual matters, one wishes that she had found a way to address them through the experiences of human and near-human characters, as she has done so brilliantly in the past. One million first printing; BOMC and QPB main selections.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

 

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When Shadows Fall by Paul Reid

when_shadows_fallStill haunted by the British army’s treatment of soldiers during World War I, Lieutenant Adam Bowen returns to Dublin in 1919—and discovers a new war destroying his hometown. When his well-bred family ignores the violence between Irish revolutionaries and the British government, Adam turns his back on Britain and secretly aligns with the Irish Republican Army.

Then Adam meets golden-haired, blue-eyed Tara Reilly, and finds himself drawn to her quiet beauty. Yet Tara works for the British government at Dublin Castle, a job that could expose Adam and his secret IRA activities to the police. But like Adam, Tara harbors secrets. She lost her entire family to the IRA when a vicious operative named Larry Mulligan slaughtered them. And she vows vengeance, no matter the cost.

In this sweeping work of historical fiction about the Irish War of Independence, danger lurks around every corner…and deception hides behind every smile.

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The Keys to the Realms by Roberta Trahan

keys_to_the_realmsIn this sequel to The Well of Tears, the last bastion of magic standing against the dark forces threatening the prophecy of the Ancients has narrowly escaped destruction—wrought by the sorcery of one of its own.

Reeling from loss and betrayal, the Stewardry at Fane Gramarye is in chaos. The young acolyte Glain is called to replace the traitor as Proctor and serve the new Sovereign. It has fallen to Alwen to lead the order and find the remaining Guardians of the Realms and their keys of power. Only then will the king of the prophecy win his throne.

When assassins breach the protective veil surrounding the Fane, an unexpected evil is revealed. The renegade mage Machreth has garnered new allies and his agents might already have infiltrated the ranks of the order. Glain must discover where the treachery lies before Machreth bends destiny to his will, but the truth is shrouded by secrets. Though her visionary powers are strong, there are things Glain can’t foresee. Can she still trust those she calls her friends—or her own heart? For even Glain has something to hide…

 

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