Dennis Smith, retired New York City firefighter and best-selling author, volunteered immediately in the rescue effort at the Twin Towers. Report From Ground Zero (Highbridge Audio, $29.95, 7 hours, ISBN 156511678X), presented here in a multi-cast recording, is his collection of first-hand accounts from rescue workers and a few of the rescued. It forms an intensely moving tribute, shrouded in the grime and gray dust of Ground Zero.
David Halberstam's Firehouse (Brilliance Audio, $24.95, 6 hours, ISBN 1590863437), read by Mel Foster, profiles the 12 men of Engine 40, Ladder 35, who died doing their duty on that fateful, frightful day. In telling their stories, he takes us into the culture of the firehouse, a culture of courage, comradeship and uncommon dedication to saving lives. The Lessons of Terror (Simon ∧ Schuster Audio, $25, 6 hours, ISBN 0743524683), Caleb Carr's insightful consideration of warfare against civilians, puts the emblematic events of 9/11 in their full historical context. In so doing, he provides an introduction to the roots of modern, international terrorism, which he sees not as a new phenomenon but as the current stage in the evolution of violence and human conflict. History, he maintains, holds our only hope of understanding how we got to where we are and what we might be able to do about it. Fascinating and informative should be required listening.
Getting the bad guys Even in its 18-hour, 12 cassette abridgement, Robert Littell's Novel of the CIA," The Company, well performed by Scott Brick, is the longest spy-fi I've ever listened to and riveting all the way. Nimbly mixing fictional and historical characters impassioned patriots, bureaucrats both brilliant and blundering, double agents and moles who burrow in high places Littell gets into the inner sanctums and inner workings of the Company, as he examines how this country has conducted its covert and not-so-covert espionage activities over the last 50 years. Most of the action is in Cold War time and territory, though we do get Robert Hansen and glimpses of pre-power Putin. Sadly, what becomes all too apparent is how little we learn from our mistakes.
Dirty doings Tony Hillerman could probably have set his top-notch, well-plotted mysteries anywhere. But he chose the aridly beautiful Indian Country of the Four Corners, and he created characters who solve crimes while struggling to maintain their Navajo ways in an overwhelmingly Anglo world. The Wailing Wind (HarperAudio, $26.95, 6.5 hours, ISBN 0694523488), his latest, read here by veteran audio expert George Guidall, is vintage Hillerman. The members of the Navajo Tribal Police we've come to know, including the now retired but still legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, Sergeant Jim Chee and his incipient inamorata, Officer Bernadette Manuelito, are all here and they're all involved in sorting out a murder that may involve the dirty doings of Wiley Denton, a wealthy oil and gas man with an unhealthy desire for old gold mines. It's always a pleasure to spend time with Lt. Leaphorn and to learn more about Navajo sensibilities and human vulnerabilities.
All in the family When Ed McBain, principal perpetrator of prime police procedurals, writes as Evan Hunter (and vice versa) his avid readers and listeners know that this case of multiple personalities is certainly not a disorder. Evan Hunter's latest has no murders, robberies or crimes, unless denial and self-deception can be considered criminal. In The Moment She Was Gone (Simon ∧ Schuster Audio, $26, 5 hours, ISBN 0743526732), read by Dan Futterman, he skillfully dissects a family's need not to know, not to face up to the devastating reality that one of its members is mentally ill, a danger to herself and others. Annie, bright, beautiful and eccentric, has been disappearing to far away places since she was 16. But this time it's different; this time her devoted twin brother, Andrew, who tells the story, his mother and older brother finally have to admit to themselves, and to each other, that Annie is way beyond eccentric and then confront the reasons for their own complicity. Totally absorbing.