“All or Nothing”, by Preston L. Allen


While this is a good—but not a great—story, there’s something engaging about it nonetheless. The main character, known only as “P”, is a school bus driver and compulsive gambler who spends virtually every free minute in casinos. The story could have come across like a case study of the dangers of gambling. But narrator Mark Nelson captures P’s conflicted emotions and transforms him into a surprisingly likable character. Nelson’s calm, measured tone also allows listeners to empathize with the dark characters who populate the casinos. When P’s life tragically impacts his family, Nelson excels in depicting every ounce of emotion in the story. 

D.J.S. © AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2011]

“Worst Seat in the House, by Caleb Jenner Stephens

Narrator Harry Shaw adopts an intriguing mixture of wise professor and newscaster to deliver this rare look at Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris, who accompanied the Lincolns on the night of the president's assassination. As Rathbone attempted to aid Lincoln, he was cut from elbow to shoulder and spent the rest of his life regretting his failure to help. Stephens recounts the compelling story with the right combination of historical language and modern terminology, such as "PTSD," to explain the tragedy that ultimately befell the Rathbone family. Particularly moving is Shaw's compassionate rendering of Clara's many letters in which she shares her grief, especially after the assassination. Listeners will be gripped by this sad piece of history. 

S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2014]