Thursday, May 8, 2008

Trailin'! by Max Brand (unabridged audio book read by Rowdy Delaney)

As a fan of author Max Brand (under that and whatever other pseudonyms Frederick Faust chose to write) for a few years now, I am ever on the lookout for more books of his to read. As a fan of audiobooks for nigh on decades, I am especially fond of hearing Brand's books read to me.

But audiobooks are expensive, and libraries never seem to have the selection I'm looking for. Luckily, I recently discovered that Librivox, an online producer of audios of public-domain texts read by volunteers, has added (at this writing) two of Brand's books to their catalog: Trailin'! and Ronicky Doone.

When I got over my surprise that some of Brand's books had slipped out of copyright, I immediately downloaded the former, the second book he published (The Untamed was the first). Here is a portion of the summary submitted by the audio's reader, Rowdy Delaney:

Trailin’! (1919) tells the story of Anthony Bard [...] who sees his father murdered in the yard of their home. This starts young Anthony on a trail of vengeance that leads him to the far West. Here, Anthony, a tenderfoot with a knack for survival, must track down a legendary outlaw who waits for him — not with a gun, but with a story. Along the way he braves the elements, resists a band of cold-blooded killers, and finds love. A classic western revenge plot ... with a twist.

The classic revenge story became a specialty of Brand's. But, unlike later books like Luck and the superlative Beyond the Outposts, in Trailin'! there is nothing special that sets it apart from the work of writers with more typical aims. This would change as Brand wrote more books, but — apart from a surprise revelation at the end — it remains a little disappointing to read a Brand Western that is so ... conventional.

But reading a weak Max Brand novel is still better than reading something by a lesser writer. Librivox volunteer Rowdy Delaney does a good job. She does not give her characters distinctive voices, but the story is not hard to follow. Her somewhat raspy voice certainly adds to the atmosphere. I enjoyed her reading enough that I have already downloaded Ronicky Doone (I've already read one of its sequels, Ronicky Doone's Treasure).

(Trailin'! was originally published in the legendary All-Story Weekly [and actually under the Max Brand byline, unlike numerous others that were only reprinted with it]. The story was filmed by director Irving Cummings in 1931 as A Holy Terror. That movie — which is also known as Wyoming Wonder — stars George O'Brien of Sunrise and a young Humphrey Bogart.)

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