Listen Up


By Rinker Buck

Read by the author

Bantam Doubleday Dell, $23.95

Four cassettes, 6 hrs., abridged

Rinker and Kern Buck, two teenage brothers from New Jersey, flew a Piper Cub airplane across the country in 1966. Now a reporter for the Berkshire Eagle, in western Mass., Rinker Buck had plenty of opportunity to chronicle the flight, but his own daughter's interest in flying spurred him to this chronicle. He recounts not only the flight, but the break the brothers made from the dominance of their charismatic, eccentric father who instilled a love of flying adventure in the boys with his "barnstorming blarney."

Buck draws a wonderful, vibrant picture of the two boys - penny loafers, jeans, cowboy hats (after they'd flown through Texas), windblown and exhilarated by the adventure. These quintessential American boys, who reminded onlookers of the Kennedy brothers, did something quite extraordinary for the 1960s or even today. They had no radio, only a simple compass and slept under the stars wherever they landed.

Buck vividly re-creates the flight and in the narration he's a natural raconteur. He weaves the events and reflections with the animated conversations between the boys. Buck projects an energy and professionalism seldom found when author's read their own work. He regales listeners with his imitation of an Arkansas accent, and the airmen mocking the boys' New Jersey accents. Animatedly he describes the "thwunk," "whap," and "pow" of air turbulence. "Flight of Passage" is a perfect choice to introduce a family with teenagers to great listening.


By Marcia Muller

Read by Jean Reed Bahle

Brilliance Corporation, $23.95

Four cassettes ,10 hrs., Unabridged

(Also 2 cassettes , 3 hrs., abridged ,$16.95)


By Marcia Muller

Read by Bernadette Dunne

Books on Tape , $13.50 (rental)

Six cassettes ,6 hrs., unabridged

Marcia Muller's San Francisco-based P.I., Sharon McCone, is almost ageless. The series has more than a decade of titles that follow McCone from her early days as an investigator at All Soul's Legal Coop, where we find her in "The Cheshire Cat's Eye," to her own detective agency in "Both Ends of the Night." In the latter, the renovation of stately Victorian houses, the "Painted Ladies," is the focus of McCone's investigation into the death of a friend. Muller appealingly uses the San Francisco setting noting the city's landmarks and neighborhoods. In "Both Ends of the Night" the focus is on flying and airports, while McCone tries to unravel the tragic death of her flight instructor.

A consistent group of characters unifies the stories even though they were written 14 years apart. There's also consistency in the narrative style of the two readers. Both Jean Reed Bahle and Bernadette Dunne allow Muller's story to guide the audio presentation. Their characterizations have little dramatic flair, but serve mainly to distinguish voices. This style of narration, sometimes called "neutral," is prized by listeners who like a narrator to be a simple vehicle for the author's words, rather than a dramatic interpreter.


By Dick King-Smith

Read by June Whitfield

Listening Library, $16.98

Two cassettes , 2.1 hrs. Unabridged

Fans of Dick King-Smith's "Babe, the Sheep-Pig," know of his affinity for animal tales. His gentle, kindly way with family situations, whether animal or human, has an endearing charm without overdoing it. The wry British touch is perfectly applied. Listeners (especially families) will delight at this newest story about Henrietta Hickathrift who runs away from home - the old-folks home - on her birthday. Through June Whitfield's perfect narration we're introduced to the Goode family of five red-headed children, who adopt Henny. She carefully unfolds the growing bond between Henny and the Goodes and affectionately expresses the delight Henny gets from her new life in an English seaside town.


Presented by Jack Perkins, and others

A&E Audio Books, $9.95

One cassette , 90 min. audio program

General George Patton is one of the individuals profiled in a new audiobooks series, "Biography," adapted from A&E Television Networks series of the same name. These original audio programs, which also profile Harry Truman, Jesus, and Nostradamus, are made to inform and entertain and make no pretense to literature or a book-based origin.

In the tradition of Ken Burns's "The Civil War," or "Baseball," these biographies draw a picture with time-lines, spoken quotations, and recollections from authors or acquaintances. "Patton" begins with his family tree and the military ancestry that instilled his sense of destiny.

Jack Perkins, host from the television series, guides listeners through the program. Patton biographer Carlo D' Estes and historians construct the portrait of Patton through their comments. Several men who served with Patton add to the mix of voices chronicling his rise through the military to his triumph as commander of the 3rd Army in 1944. The program is very effective, much like a TV documentary, but here listeners must concentrate more on the events and reflections of the characters.

* Robin Whitten is editor of AudioFile, a monthly magazine of reviews and information on audiobooks. Call 800-506-1212, or e-mail, for more information.

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