Length: Approx. 10 hrs
Reader: Seth Harwood
The book: Sometimes you just need to have some fun being bad. This is both the theme and the best reason for reading Jack Wakes Up. Former action-movie star Jack Palms is stuck in a rut on his road to recovery from the nadir of drugs, divorce, and the implosion of his acting career. He has cleaned up and turned his life around, but has no direction and no income until his friend Ralph contacts him. Ralph is coordinating an agreement to supply some Czechs with cocaine to deal. All Jack has to do is help entertain the Czechs and impress them with his minor celebrity status.
Like Jack, the reader will have to check his scruples at the door. The language is harsh, with copious swearing. The plot, while fast paced and cinematic, is concerned with drugs, strippers and plenty of graphic violence. Jack himself is a likable character, but many of the others behave with stupidity, greed, or sadistic cruelty. This is not a pretty world that Harwood has drawn, but if you're a fan of Quentin Tarentino or Elmore Leonard, you'll enjoy this entertaining novel.
The reader: Harwood's reading of his novel is good. He provides voice characterizations using patterns of pauses, tone of voice, and accents. His narrating voice is straightforward and honest-sounding, fitting Jack's personality. My biggest problem with the recording comes with everything outside the book. The introduction and exit music is hip-hop, appropriate for the mood. But almost every episode begins and ends with clips from the previous episode and next one. This may have been necessary when the chapters were first podcasted, but now that they're collected, it becomes tedious. Also tedious is the swaggering "homie" attitude that Harwood adopts for announcements and self-promotion. He's trying to sound tough, but ends up sounding ridiculous. If you can skip over everything between the introduction and first chapter of each episode, you won't miss a thing.