Thursday, August 25, 2011

Under the sea

When we last saw Jacky Faber, she was sprawled on the sand in France after some misadventures on a German battlefield, awaiting a bullet in her head. Fortunately, fiancé Jaimy Fletcher and personal servant and friend John Higgins hustle her aboard the Nancy B. Alsop and hie across the English Channel to London. Jacky prepares to wed (finally!). But, oh no ... British Naval Intelligence believe she's still in service to them and Jacky and friends find themselves headed to the Caribbean for a little treasure hunting.

Yes, I'm at book the seventh: Rapture of the Deep: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Soldier, Sailor, Mermaid, Spy. The British have noted Jacky's excellent swimming abilities and they send her off, accompanied by the H.M.S. Dolphin (the ship upon which Jacky first sailed the seas), to bring up the golden treasure that sunk with a Spanish warship many years before. The British have a newfangled diving bell -- a device that hangs below the ocean's surface, but has a pocket of air held there by the pressure of the water. A diver can explore the ocean floor holding her breath, returning to the bell (rather than the surface) for air.

Jacky is reluctant to participate, and then she thinks about siphoning off some of the treasure. She rigs herself up a bathing suit and a pair of goggles for efficiency and gets to work. Of course, this being Jacky's story, a lot of other things are going on as well: several chaste nights of spooning with Jaimy, an alligator attack, buying (and freeing) a slave in South Carolina (who becomes the ship's cook "Aunt" Jemima, and who tells Brother Rabbit stories to entertain the crew), training a rooster for cockfighting, pirate mutiny, a sea battle or two, and several doublecrosses over the Spanish gold. Another satisfying outing.

Katherine Kellgren. Up to her usual great job. Excellent narration, terrific character studies (some Spanish pirates and sailors are particularly good), singing, laughing, crying, shouting. The cockfighting and battle descriptions are breathlessly thrilling, Jacky's moments with Jaimy tender and touching. Ho hum. I guess the surprise would be if she didn't perform to the very high bar she has set.

This audiobook concludes with a lengthy conversation between Kellgren and author L.A. Meyer. They sound so natural here, chatting like old friends. I learned that Lou's original inspiration came while listening to music while framing pictures in his studio one day -- all those ballads about young girls disguising themselves as boys began forming the idea in his head. He has written the final Bloody Jack adventure, but he's not ready to publish it. Katy has consulted with vocal coaches to get some of the accents right. She keeps the voices of recurring characters on her iPod and calls them up when she needs a refresher (I know that Jim Dale does this as well).

Mary Burkey recently posted a short clip of Kellgren narrating a bit of an upcoming Bloody Jack (book the ninth) at her blog, Audiobooker. With at least three more books to go (and probably more), I think I'll just take to posting that I listened to it and yeah ... it was great!

[The engraving of Edmund Halley's Diving Bell was retrieved from PortCities UK. The original engraving is held by the National Maritime Museum.]

Rapture of the Deep: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Soldier, Sailor, Mermaid, Spy by L.A. Meyer
Narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Listen and Live Audio, 2010. 12:20

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