A mystery with s dash of Sherlock Holmes’ flavor. Love it, and the cover.
State of Treason (Book 1, William Constable Spy Thrillers) by Paul Walker, narrated by Edward Gist released in May (paperback), and in February this year as audiobook.
London, 1578 William Constable is a scholar of mathematics, astrology and practices as a physician. He receives an unexpected summons to the Queen’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham in the middle of the night. He fears for his life when he spies the tortured body of an old friend in the palace precincts.
His meeting with Walsingham takes an unexpected turn when he is charged to assist a renowned Puritan, John Foxe, in uncovering the secrets of a mysterious cabinet containing an astrological chart and coded message. Together, these claim Elizabeth has a hidden, illegitimate child (an “unknowing maid”) who will be declared to the masses and serve as the focus for an invasion.
Constable is swept up in the chase to uncover the identity of the plotters, unaware that he is also under suspicion. He schemes to gain the confidence of the adventurer John Hawkins and a rich merchant. Pressured into taking a role as court physician to pick up unguarded comments from nobles and others, he has become a reluctant intelligencer for Walsingham.
Do the stars and cipher speak true, or is there some other malign intent in the complex web of scheming?
Constable must race to unravel the threads of political manoeuvring for power before a new-found love and perhaps his own life are forfeit.
Publishing State of Treason as an Audio Book – views from author and narrator
Author – Paul Walker
Audio books – should I bother? I was a new author of historical fiction with three books published in fifteen months. Paperback and Kindle sales were going well and I had been asked by readers and potential listeners when the audio version would be published. My wife had been a fan of audio books for a while and during our first lockdown was getting through at least two every week. I knew audio books were the biggest growing sector of the publishing market, but I wasn’t completely convinced. The contract with my publisher, Sharpe Books, was for printed and e-books only, and at that time they showed no interest in expanding into the audio market. That meant I would have to find another publisher or, as may other authors had done, go down the D.I.Y. route.
I knew a local author who had embraced audio, set up his own recording studio and was working his way through a series of ten books as narrator and author. He had started on number seven when I made contact asking for advice. His guidance was conflicted. On the one hand, he enjoyed creating the audio books, which brought in useful and significant additional income each month. But, despite becoming more proficient, he found them more time-consuming than expected and they had become a distraction from what he really wanted to do – write more books. His experience, together with listening to other instances where the author doubled as narrator, decided me on one aspect; I would not be the narrator. Excellent narration was essential to the success of audio, and I knew I was simply not good enough to add value to the writing.
My research into the possibility of reaching an agreement with another publisher for the audio version was half-hearted and quick. It soon became clear that, even for books that sold well, publishers considered handling the audio version only as not an especially attractive proposition. Publishers value the opportunity to cross sell with other versions and to market titles and versions as a family of products. I sought out the opinions of other authors in a similar position to me – writers of historical fiction who had released audio versions either independently, or with another publisher. The feedback I received was useful and decisive. I would use the Audible / Amazon software (called ACX) to advertise for a narrator, with whom I would then form a partnership to publish the audio version.
Using ACX to find narrators for State of Treason was surprisingly easy. I selected three passages for applicants to read for audition, specified the type of narrator I was looking for, put the proposal out there and waited. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I receive any interest at all? Fortunate is not a good way to describe the circumstances in the middle of 2020, but the restriction of work opportunities for actors undoubtedly contributed to numbers who auditioned for State of Treason. The response of eager narrators could not be described as a flood, but I was surprised at how many and how quickly they came in. I closed the project to new auditions after only a week. Many good auditions had been received and it was not going to be straightforward to choose a narrator.
William Constable is the main protagonist in State of Treason and the other books in the series. He is a young man, in his twenties, but not a typical swashbuckling hero. He is a physician and mathematician of the stars; a scholar of some reputation, who uses his intellect to overcome peril and difficulties. The books are written in the first person, present tense, so identification with William’s character is vital to the enjoyment of the book by reader – or listener. The choice of narrator would be the one who came closest to my imagining of William. There were several excellent auditions, but the one from Edward Gist was a remarkable fit to my conception of William Constable’s voice and manner of delivery. I knew Edward would do a great job as the narrator.
Narrator – Edward Gist
As Paul has said, the lockdown of summer 2020 was a tough time for actors; it’s very hard to act when no-one is allowed in a theatre. As a graduate, fresh out of acting training, this was one hell of a blow to what I had hoped would be the start of my career. However, time and tide wait for no man, and the question of employment loomed. I knew that the only practical way forward was to engage more closely with audio work; radio plays, voice overs and of course audiobooks. I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, and I’ve absorbed a lot of genres, from Bernard Cornwell to Darren Shan and from Terry Pratchett to H.P. Lovecraft. It seemed, therefore, that audiobook producing was a logical, and personally rewarding path to start my career on.
After a bit of fiddling with the electronics of it, getting the right set up and figuring out how the software worked, I was ready to go. I was recommended ACX as a source of good work by a fellow actor on the set of my first feature film, The Suppression of Hannah Stevenson, and it was certainly a good recommendation. I found a wealth of opportunities to produce work from many authors and I got to auditioning right away. I was lucky enough to be chosen as the narrator for the first two books I auditioned for, one of them being State of Treason by Paul Walker. After I read the initial passages, I was immediately enthralled; mystery surrounds even the first chapter of the book and I found myself slipping into the character that I would be called on to play, very naturally. Being a fan of Bernard Cornwell, I have a great love for historical fiction, and this felt like a great opportunity to perform with a work at the same standard as the books I had loved reading.
As a fan of audiobooks, having practically worn out the CD copy of Mort by Terry Pratchett that I keep in the car, I had a very good idea of how one should record an author’s work. My acting training has also been, in no small part, a reason for my confidence going into narrating, sight reading of scripts, rehearsed reading and acting in general, all give one a great deal of experience for performing work in this medium. The actual recording of the book itself, is the most rewarding and enjoyable part, giving me a chance to act where I would not have had the chance otherwise in the uncertain times that we find ourselves in. William Constable is a character that I was very able to sympathise with. I’ve had a keen polymathic interest in academia and knowledge of all sorts throughout my life, one that William mirrors in his extensive knowledge of mathematics, medicine and astrology. He genuinely cares for people, and the deeper three-dimensional aspects of his personality make him a joy to play.
However, the book not only allowed me to portray one character, but a multitude, all rich and complex in their creation, giving me a chance to really flex my acting muscles and exercise my range. The editing, which I choose to do myself, while at times tedious, gives me the greatest amount of control of my finished performance. No-one knows how my voice sounds better than me, and I can carry the rhythm of my own speech forward through the editing to give a smooth flowing and connected sound that complements the narrative. At the end of the process, one feels a great deal of accomplishment, as a performer and a director, of sorts.
It has been a wonderful privilege to perform State of Treason for Paul and the audience who will listen to our work. We are very proud to show the world what we have created and I hope you all enjoy my performance.
Paul is married and lives in a village 30 miles north of London. Having worked in universities and run his own business, he is now a full-time writer of fiction and part-time director of an education trust. His writing in a garden shed is regularly disrupted by children and a growing number of grandchildren and dogs.
Paul writes historical fiction. He inherited his love of British history and historical fiction from his mother, who was an avid member of Richard III Society. The William Constable series of historical thrillers is based around real characters and events in the late sixteenth century. The first three books in the series are State of Treason; A Necessary Killing; and The Queen’s Devil. He promises more will follow.
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