Eye Witness and Other Stories
Ed McBain
Read by Jerry Orbach
Audio Cassette
Publisher: DH Audio (December 1, 1992) Durkin Hayes
Language: English
ISBN: 0886466261

The true skill of a writer is in the short story and the proof is in The McBain Brief. Short stories are the champagne of the writing profession all else is lesser writing. Ed McBain has long been considered one of the best short story writers in mystery fiction and this audio cassette proves that what is on the page can come alive for the listener.

Jerry Orbach, the late Tony award winning Broadway song and dance man best known for his role as Lennie Brisco on television’s Law And Order reads the stories on this cassette. As one might expect Orbach does an exceptional job with solid material. There are only 4 stories on this tape: one is good, two are very good and one is exceptional. A lot of the success of these recordings is in solid sound quality and the great voice work of Jerry Orbach.

Side one contains recordings of the stories Hot Cars and Still Life. Hot Cars is a slightly dated but nonetheless entertaining story told by a convicted felon sitting in a cell talking to his cell mate who is seemingly uninterested. There is a wonderful humours subtext to the story this self deluded con tells that keeps the listener hooked from start to finish.

Still Life is the weakest of the four stories on this tape but that doesn’t make it weak. This is a hardboiled police procedural. Procedurals are by their very nature a little weaker than other mystery stories because there is less room for improvisation of the story line since things do have to happen in a particular order. What saves this is the tone of the story. Fans of the classic Hammett or Spillane voice will enjoy Orbach’s reading of this story.

Hot is easily the class of these four readings. Orbach excels in this piece which is partly internal monologue and partly character driven story about a radar officer on a ship in Guantanamo Bay during a heat wave. McBains rich prose are laden with the heat of the situation and Orbach draws every degree of heat out of the story for the listener.

The final story is called Eyewitness. It is a very short story that is over quickly but has a nice little O. Henry ending that brings an easy smile to the listener.

This is a great little cassette at a reasonable price for those of us who still listen to cassettes.

Available on CD Ed McBain’s Fat Ollie’s Book Fat Ollie’s Book: A Novel of the 87th Precinct from Amazon  our review

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