Spoken Word

<i>Nathaniel's Nutmeg</i> Read by Stephen Thorne; <i>The Hank Williams Story</i> Read by Robin Clifford
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The Independent Culture

Nathaniel's Nutmeg Read by Stephen Thorne (Isis, 12hrs, £21.49 inc p&p by mail order: 0800 731 5637) Giles Milton's richly framed story of Nathaniel Courthope's heroic defence of the tiny spice island of Run in the early 17th century is in the great English tradition of hopeless stands in aid of doomed causes. It is also something of a shaggy dog tale - Courthope doesn't appear until more than halfway through and takes his final exit well before the end of the book. His supposedly immense historical significance is even more indirect than that of the horseshoe nail for want of which the battle was lost. But, in the course of immortalising him, Milton gives a panoramic and informative picture of the colourful times when European explorers were racing to establish routes and monopolies to profit from the spice trade. The English were, it appears, very popular among the native peoples of the East Indies; the Dutch were bullies who sailed more often, in greater numbers, and preferred c

Nathaniel's Nutmeg Read by Stephen Thorne (Isis, 12hrs, £21.49 inc p&p by mail order: 0800 731 5637) Giles Milton's richly framed story of Nathaniel Courthope's heroic defence of the tiny spice island of Run in the early 17th century is in the great English tradition of hopeless stands in aid of doomed causes. It is also something of a shaggy dog tale - Courthope doesn't appear until more than halfway through and takes his final exit well before the end of the book. His supposedly immense historical significance is even more indirect than that of the horseshoe nail for want of which the battle was lost. But, in the course of immortalising him, Milton gives a panoramic and informative picture of the colourful times when European explorers were racing to establish routes and monopolies to profit from the spice trade. The English were, it appears, very popular among the native peoples of the East Indies; the Dutch were bullies who sailed more often, in greater numbers, and preferred conquest to treaties. But the brutality of the "Hollanders" was in the end their undoing. The detailed descriptions of their actions rightly earn this tape a hazard warning - the squeamish should skip side 17.

The Hank Williams Story Read by Robin Clifford (Chrome Dreams, 4CDs, £15.99) Talking Business, the trade magazine of the audiobook industry, alerted me to the existence of a relatively new kid on the spoken-word block. Chrome Dreams, based in Surrey, has been going for around two years, and publishes an eclectic mix of interviews, studies of cults and biography, much of it linked to popular music. This connection and its CD format has meant that it originally sold in record stores and via the Web (at www.chromedreams.co.uk), but bookshops are now also offering its titles. The Hank Williams Story is one of its "Legendary Performer" series; others are Frank Sinatra, Woody Guthrie and Muddy Waters. The formula is simple: two CDs for the biography; two for music, which in this case includes rare demo recordings. The booklets are just excellent, giving summaries of the life and informative notes on the recordings. In this case, John Garton wrote the drink- and drug-dogged story of honky-tonk Hank's escape from life as an Alabama shoeshine boy to stardom as a country singer - and a tragically early death. Robin Clifford reads with enthusiasm.

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