The Voice Of Talking Books

"not simply a reader but an artist of the spoken word"Audiofile Magazine
Compilation of pictures presenting Gordon Griffin.

HELLO
I'm Gordon Griffin

Hi. I’ve been an actor for over 50 years and I’ve performed in everything from Shakespeare to rock musicals but what impresses people the most is that I was the voice that told you to ‘Mind the Gap please’ on the London Underground!

Other claims to fame: I was once a presenter on PlaySchool; I spoke the very first line of the very first episode of Byker Grove. And in my very first film I had a scene with Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren! But for the past number of years I have recorded nearly 700 audiobooks and this website will concentrate on those.

It’s a wonderful job for an actor. I get to play all the parts and I am also the director and casting director!!! And I love going around the country talking about recording books. The talk (called Speaking Volumes) is fun (I hope) and anecdotal and it explains how an audiobook is prepared as well as how I got to be the person who recorded more books than anyone in Europe! I also read extracts from books I have recorded.

If you’d like me to come and talk to your group, society or library, please contact me here. Enough of the chat. Enjoy!

How books are recorded Audio Interview

Default Audiobook Cover.
This is an article I wrote for the November 2004 edition of Audio News, the newsletter of the Audio Publishing Association.

At the beginning of July 2004 I recorded my 300th audiobook. Almost all of those books were unabridged. Someone (with nothing better to do!) worked out that if you started to play the first book I ever recorded at 12.00 midnight on January 1st and then played the rest of them non-stop, one after the other, I’d still be chuntering on in May!!! Ghastly thought!

The industry has changed such a lot since I started twenty years ago. When I recorded my 50th (the excellent Wall Games by Michael Dobbs) the company I recorded for gave me a party with champagne and a cake in the shape of a book. By the time I got to my 100th the company’s two studios were working flat out and the place was abuzz with activity. The boss came up to me in the corridor as I headed for the studio. “I understand it’s your 100th” he said. “It is,” I beamed, thinking perhaps there’d be more champagne. “Well done,” he replied as he headed off down the corridor.

It’s a wonderful job, of course. Like being in a radio play where you get to play all the parts; where you are the director, casting director and, in a sense, the set-designer. A friend once told me what a cushy job I had “sitting in front of a microphone all day telling stories.” The job is lots of things but I wouldn’t have thought “cushy” was one of them although once you get to the microphone a lot of the work has been done.

For me the secret of good narration is simple: Preparation! Preparation! Preparation! I’m always amazed that the question I’m most asked when I go around the country talking about what I do is: “Do you have to read the book first?” It’s rather like going up to an actor after the first night of a play and asking:“Did you rehearse?”

Preparation is time-consuming (time we are not paid for, incidentally) : a Patrick O’Brian book, for example, can take days just checking pronunciations. And writers don’t exactly make it easy for us. Recently I’ve had to track down people to help me with Cornish (the language not the accent), Anglo-Saxon and Norwegian. When I realised that I was going to get a series of Donna Leon’s Brunetti books to record, I decided that rather than check the Italian pronunciation every time, it was best to do a basic course in Italian. Likewise with the Alvarez books, set in Mallorca. Since recording them, my Catalan has improved no end!

I know some readers rely on their producers to check pronunciation but I find that if I have Greek phrases to read, say, as I do in the next book I’m to record, then it’s best to practise them so that, when I come to record, those same phrases trip of the tongue.

I have only once had to admit defeat: In one of the earliest Alvarez books, the murderer uses a mushroom-like fungus that’s only found on Mallorca. The word started with a double l and was, to me, unpronounceable. I phoned the Spanish tourist office; a friend in Mallorca who works in the catering industry, and finally the Mallorcan Chamber of Trade. No luck. No one knew how to pronounce the word. In the end I had to phone Roderic Jeffries, the writer of the book, who lives on the island. I reminded him of the plot, spelt out the word and waited with pen poised. “How do you pronounce it?” “I’ve no idea,” he said. “I made it up!”

As I head for my 307th, I remind myself how lucky I am. In the last twelve months alone I’ve recorded books by (among others): Gogol, Thackeray, Chris Ryan, JG Ballard, Donna Leon, John Harvey, Beryl Bainbridge, Adam Baron and David Lodge. Where else would an actor get such a variety of roles? Roll on 400!

Gordon's Signature.
Gordon Griffin 2004

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Compilation of pictures presenting Gordon Griffin.

Q&A

I came across a Victorian Confessions book where you had to state your favourites things. I’ve used some of the questions from the book and added others. There’s a huge opportunity to come up with some naff and embarrassing answers but they may also be revealing.

Favourite colour?Blue (though I am NOT a Tory)
Beauty in nature?The sea. A bluebell wood.
Favourite animal?Human
Flower?Cornflower
Musical instrument?Piano, cello
What makes you happy?Sunshine. travel
Unhappy?Mice, rats. It’s a phobia I have.
Heroes / Heroines?Those who dedicate their lives to the less fortunate. And Desmond Tutu.
Villains?The usual suspects: bigots, hypocrites. Tony Blair has done good things but he’s my chief villain because those who of us who voted for him all those years ago had such hope in him. Boy, did he let us down. Instead of the better place we expected, the world (thanks to Blair and Bush) is a much worse place.
Favourite film?Brief Encounter, Il Postino, The Third Man
Play?Almost anything by Shakespeare.
Song?I only have eyes for you. Somewhere. Moon River.
Actor / actress?Impossible to say.
Theatrical experience?Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake; Jerry Springer, the Musical; The first production of Hair; Olivier in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Fonteyn and Nureyev dancing together etc etc
Favourite composer?Mozart. (I love chamber music so I’ll include Schumann and Schubert) Leonard Bernstein. Richard Rodgers.
Musical?West Side Story. (and Pacific Overtures, Fiorello, Carousel)
Singer?Sinatra.(and Streisand, Ian Bostridge)
Opera?Cosí Fan Tutti. Peter Grimes. Billy Budd. Amahl and the Night Visitors. L’enfant et les Sortilège. Eugene Onegin.
Favourite novelist?Of the books I have recorded I particular loved Oxygen by Andrew Miller. The novel that’s given me the most pleasure in recent years that I HAVEN’T recorded is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The funniest book is Michael Simpkin’s What’s My Motivation? A brilliant and true account of an actor’s life. Favourite classic book: Dickens. “Great Expectations which I haven’t recorded. A Tale of Two Cities which I have.
Artists?Matisse (Bonnard, van Gogh)
Qualities in men/women?Tolerance, compassion, humour
Most overrated quality?Patriotism
Most underrated?Punctuality
Sport?Football. I’ve supported my home team Newcastle since I was a lad. Through thick and thin. Mostly thin!
Favourite food?I love root vegetables. And pulses.
Least favourite?Crisps.
International cuisine?British. Nothing is quite like a Sunday roast with all the trimmings.
Favourite meal?Cauliflower cheese (homemade of course)
Sandwich?Bacon (MUST be unsmoked)
Newspaper?Don’t get much time to read the papers. I guess I am a Guardian/Observer man. I try to catch up by reading The Week but I don’t get much chance to read that either!
Magazine?I have always been fascinated by the interior of other people’s houses. So, design magazines and I try not to miss the Homes and Property magazine in Wednesday’s London Evening Standard.
Favourite city?London. (Plus New York and Venice and of course my home city, Newcastle)
Wonders of the world?The Taj Mahal, Sydney Harbour, New York skyline and Venice all took my breath away the first time I saw them!
What’s funny?Northern humour. Alan Bennett, Victoria Wood and the Geordie comics Bobby Pattinson, Bobby Thompson and of course my friend Sarah Millican. I also love the gentle comedy of Simon Amstell.
Not funny?Practical jokes.
Clothes?Uniqlo. Boss
Hair?Jamie @ Rock, West Hampstead
Smell?Paul Smith Man/Sunshine
TV radio turn on?Don’t watch much TV except for news, University Challenge and Match of the Day. Or documentaries about current affairs and the arts.
Turn off?The Archers.
Religion?I’m a born-again atheist.
Hated phrases?Sorry for any inconvenience caused, 24/7.
Regrets?Wish I’d learned to dance.
Heaven is….?eating (al fresco, if the weather’s good) overlooking beautiful countryside or the sea. Great food, fine wine and lovely friends. Or simply a meal at home. Relaxed and relaxing. Perfect!
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Picture of the 'Mind The Gap' statement from The London Underground.
Compilation of Audiobook covers narrated by Gordon Griffin.

Over 650 titles and counting!

698.BLOOD MONEY by Roy Lewis
697.IN SEARCH OF MURDER by Roderic Jeffries
696.A COUNTRY GENTLEMAN by Ann Barker
695.THE NEW WOMAN by Charity Norman
694.THE MOTH SNOWSTORM by Michael McCarthy
693.ANTIDOTE TO VENOM by Freeman Wills Crofts
692.MONSIEUR PAMPLEMOUSSE AND THE TANGLED WEB by Michael Bond
691.LAST WRITES by Catherine Aird
690.THE MONEY TREE MURDERS by Roger Silverwood
689.THE DEATH SEASON by Kate Ellis
688.THE SHADOW OF THE HANGMAN by Edward Marston
687.BANDAGING THE BLITZ by Phyll Ross and ID Roberts (intro only)
686.TIGHTROPE by Simon Mawer
685.VILLAGE RUMOURS by Rebecca Shaw
684.THE FLOATING BOOK by Michelle Lovric
683.NINETEEN-EIGHTY-FOUR by George Orwell
682.CROOKED HERRING by LC Tyler
681.LUCKY JOHNNY by Johnny Sherwood
680.DEEDS OF DARKNESS by Edward Marston
679.THE FRUIT GUM MURDERS by Roger Silverwood
678.A FULL CHURCHYARD by Nicholas Rhea
677.THE IRON MAN OF MARS by Lindsey Davis
676.THE LAST FOUNDLING by Tom H Mackenzie
675.THE BIG FIDDLE by Roger Silverwood
674.LONGSWORD by Victoria Thorne
673.EARTHLY POWERS by Anthony Burgess
672.PLAGUE CHILD by Peter Ransley
671.CROMWELL'S BLESSING by Peter Ransley
670.ODE TO A BANKER by Lindsey Davis
669.ONE VIRGIN TOO MANY by Lindsey Davis

Compilation of Audiobook covers narrated by Gordon Griffin.

The things people say...

  • Sometimes, rarely, you finish an audio book and wonder if you will ever hear such a perfect combination of voice, text, and mood again. Gordon Griffin won an award for his reading of Oxygen I'm not surprised.

    • Sue Arnold
    • The Guardian
  • Narrator Gordon Griffin speaks with an educated British accent, differentiating each character in this mystery through a slight alteration in pitch and cadence. His pace is measured, and his tone is grave. This is not to criticize, however. One must not forget that the topic is murder. Griffin's delivery also enhances the story's setting [...]

    • AudioFile Magazine
    •  
  • Gordon Griffin narrates Miller's beautiful writing with full understanding and sensitivity. His British accent supports the English characters well, his Hungarian and French accents are convincing, and his American is spot-on. [...]

    • AudioFile Magazine
    •  
  • Sometimes, rarely, you finish an audio book and wonder if you will ever hear such a perfect combination of voice, text, and mood again. Gordon Griffin won an award for his reading of Oxygen I'm not surprised.

    • Sue Arnold
    • The Guardian
  • Narrator Gordon Griffin speaks with an educated British accent, differentiating each character in this mystery through a slight alteration in pitch and cadence. His pace is measured, and his tone is grave. This is not to criticize, however. One must not forget that the topic is murder. Griffin's delivery also enhances the story's setting, the Solent area of the south coast of England, with its atmosphere of mist and the scent of the sea. As gruff Inspector Andy Horton uncovers fact after fact concerning the mysterious deaths at a nursing home, the scope of the crimes only seems to grow. Griffin makes us feel the pain and terror of hidden violence. It's a moving portrayal.

    • AudioFile Magazine
    •  
  • Gordon Griffin is without doubt one of the true unsung heroes of the UK audiobook industry.

    Not only has Gordon narrated quite possibly the largest number of audiobook titles when compared to his peers over a long and successful career, Gordon’s voice has entertained and brought pleasure to countless people.

    Respect for Gordon by recording studios, publishing companies and all those connected with the UK audiobook industry is widespread. Having had the pleasure of working with Gordon in the studio I’m sure I am in a long line of producers and engineers that continuously marvel at the ease of his ability to bring characters to life.

    From a professional standpoint I respect his ability to consistently perform to an extremely high standard in what can be a very pressured and sterile environment, whilst also retaining humour, humility and a healthy respect for all those that work with him.

    Gordon has seen the industry change immensely throughout his career. From a niche market bringing ‘Sight and vision’ to the blind through his extraordinary voice acting talent, to the modern day where the popularity of the medium has extended beyond providing joy to just the visually impaired.

    As the industry undergoes immense change, I believe that Gordon’s role within its history should be marked with official recognition. Whilst doing honour to him, this would also encourage both aspiring voice actors and the general public to see the potential of this growing UK industry, and remind us that Britain still leads the way in entertainment of all kinds, with Gordon at one of its many helms.

    • Richard Woodhouse
    • Director, Electric Breeze Audio Productions Ltd
  • Gordon Griffin narrates Miller's beautiful writing with full understanding and sensitivity. His British accent supports the English characters well, his Hungarian and French accents are convincing, and his American is spot-on. In addition, his female characters are skilfully done. Griffin is not simply a reader but an artist of the spoken word.

    • AudioFile Magazine
    •  
  • Gordon Griffin captures the tone of the text impeccably while imparting a sense of identity to each character. His low voice lightens considerably when portraying Anna or her young son and hardens to steel for the convict Samarin. Griffin's grim stoicism fits the story perfectly.

    • AudioFile Magazine
    •  
  • Gordon Griffin's narration makes the story shine as he exerts control over the flashbacks, the foreshadowing and the dizzying swirl of events. Griffin provides unique voices for a brash 20 something Australian mathematician, a former seminarian who suffers from manifestations of stigmata, a blacksmith with a Viking swagger and a host of quirky, devious villagers. Even at a hefty 16 hours this audiobook left this reviewer wanting more.

    • AudioFile Magazine
    •  
  • I'm writing to thank you for your masterly reading of my novel.....your reading of the quotation at the end brought tears to my eyes. It is strange how listening to a good reading lifts the whole thing into a different dimension so that one feels actually there with the characters. Of course, it is so dependent on the reader who can uplift or ruin the whole thing but yours was so sensitive that I forgot I had written it myself...

    • Joanna Dessau
    • Book Author
  • I though Gordon was so interesting and entertaining so please do pass on my thanks to him too. I heard a number of people who were there saying the same. One of our regular customers that I had suggested came along told me afterwards that it was the most enjoyable author event he had been to!

    • Wendy Hudson
    • Central Lending Library, Sheffield
  • A superb performance, fine and sensitive.........Thank you for bringing it alive so skilfully.

    • Roger Harvey
    • Book Author
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