Here’s what you need to know: while I generally am unable to be an audio book listener, audio is absolutely the best way to consume the Peter Grant series. Although I haven’t encountered a story about how reader Kobna Holdbrook Smith was chosen, I can tell you that he and author Ben Aaronovitch have since formed a fantastic artistic collaboration. The series is set in London and fully embraces the regional and immigrant diversity with recurring characters from Scotland, early 20th century upper-class Brit, a Fula from Sierra Leone (Peter’s mum), a Somali (Guleed). Note I’m saying ‘recurring,’ and nothing about the regular but intermittent appearances from my own favorites, the sarcastic Welsh pathologist, the Cockney Zachary Palmer and the hail-from-working-class-Manchester, Seawoll.
This affiliation is evidenced even way back in 2012, when Ben writes on his blog:
“Kobna Holbrook-Smith, acting god, will be narrating the book again and because he did such a good job with the multitude of accents in the last book(1) I’ve thrown in a couple of new ones just to stretch him a bit.
(1) His rendition of the Irregulars out for a night on the tiles had me in stitches.”
It’s occurred to me that a strange sort of synergy can develop like this, perhaps much like the writers of a long-running television show and the equally long-running cast. At times, it can even a case of mutual craft, as Ben states during an interview promoting The Hanging Tree: “I like listening – his Nightingale’s very good, I’ve started to think, when I write Nightingale, I’ve started to think with Kobna’s version of Nightingale, which is quite funny.”
Thinking more about this relationship between author and the reader in this case has me considering Ben’s history as a writer in television seriels (Dr. Who and Jupiter Moon) and musing on the Peter Grant series as being perhaps more akin to television episodes than a traditional ‘book’ series. Perhaps that’s why it can be challenging for some readers who are looking for a consistant and overarcing plot that connects books together. It’s worth noting that Ben continues this thought further in the interview:
I: – and also what is the biggest change in the audio editions, since Kobna started?
KHS: Well, the audio editions is just the books, aren’t they?
BA: Yes, the audio editions is just the books. But, but, I do actually now write a little bit with one ear on the audio sometimes, you know, I think “How will this sound when Kobna reads it?”, and I think “It’ll sound even better with a really obscure accent from somewhere.” Or “How many alliterations can I get into one sentence?”
And, actually – sometimes I go back and I think – I can’t leave that in, Kobna won’t be able to say that. You see, Peter has this tendency to run sentences into sentences into sentences, with lots of subordinate clauses, and I just think – and every time I try and change it I drop out of Peter’s voice. As long as he – I just feel really sorry for Kobna sometimes, going “Is there a full stop in the house?”
I’m convinced this synergy and playfulness is all to the good for listeners. In fact, knowing how the two have worked together, I haven’t even read this book yet. Eventually, I will–I did, after all, order my signed Waterstones copy (one of my last remaining autobuy series). But I might just listen to Kobna again before then.