Source: Librivox MP3
Length: 22 min
Reader: Matthew Stewart-Fulton
The story: This story, set in Alabama during the Civil War, opens with the preparations for the execution of a Southern saboteur. Bierce fills his description of the immanent hanging with cinematic details, likely drawn from his own military career in the Union Army. The scene is a quiet, still tableau waiting for the action to begin.
As the story progresses, Bierce contrasts the genteel ideals of the Southern gentleman-spy with the brutality of war. Again and again, the civilian asserts that some event is unfair or improper. These expectations of justice are intermixed with minute details of cold reality. In this contrast, Bierce shows how the South's self-image of a genteel aristocracy came at odds with the war that sought to maintain this fantasy.
The reader: Matthew Stuart-Fulton has a deep voice that's full of expression. He sets a great balance between the action and the contemplative tones of the story. The biggest fault of his reading is a tendency to breathe into the microphone, causing loud noises on some consonant sounds. If this bothers you a great deal, there are other perfectly decent versions of the same story at Librivox that can be found through a catalog search. I selected this version because I felt it was slightly better than the others, even with the minor annoyance of the breath noise.