Long Range (A Joe Pickett Novel Book 20) by C J Box – An #Audiobook Review – #crimefiction

Editors' pickBest Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 

Long Range by CJ Box

Book Blurb:

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett must investigate an attempted murder – a crime committed from a confoundingly long distance – in the riveting new novel from number one New York Times best-selling author C. J. Box.

When Joe Pickett is asked to join the rescue efforts for the victim of a startling grizzly attack, he reluctantly leaves his district behind. One survivor of the grizzly’s rampage tells a bizarre story, but just as Joe begins to suspect the attack is not what it seems, he is brought home by an emergency on his own turf. Someone has targeted a prominent local judge, shooting at him from a seemingly impossible distance. While the judge was not hit, his wife is severely wounded, and it is up to Joe to find answers – and the shooter.

The search for the would-be assassin becomes personal when Joe’s best friend, Nate Romanowski – just as he’s adjusting to the arrival of his first child – falls under suspicion for the crime. It’s a race against the clock as Joe tries to clear Nate’s name and identify the real shooter, all while deciphering the grizzly encounter. Beset by threats both man-made and natural, the two men must go to great lengths to keep their loved ones safe. 

My Review:

The twentieth episode in the Joe Pickett (game warden) series, Long Range hooks immediately with the setting of the technical, sophisticated, and very expensive gear that successfully picks off a target a military sniper would be proud of. The shot pulls Picket from his participation in the search for the survivor of a grizzly attack in his district.

Long Range by CJ BoxMy second Joe Pickett (I also listened to The Wolf Pack). I was drawn to vivid descriptions of the people and the area of Wyoming along with the main characters. This installment understandably adds more characters, while subtly reminding us of the well developed protagonist and support characters from previous installments and will work fine as a standalone.

The long range shot hits the wife of the person who was considered the target, a judge. The search is on for the shooter and gets too close when Joe’s best friend, Nate, falls under scrutiny by the local sheriff. Nate is a well-known falconer and just recently became a new daddy. He is a strongly independent and uniquely forceful character. Descriptions of the training and abilities of his birds build a pulse-pounding visual.

The plot inserts layers of well-paced, complex hypotheses, builds tension, and twists. Many of the support characters are well developed sufficient either to engage and empathize or decry. You can’t stay neutral and uninterested. The narrative absorbs the reader’s attention, entertains, and posits thoughtful consideration.

The conclusion was a bit hurried, explanations, and resolution, but not wholly. There were a couple quibbles—the grizzly thread, was that actually answered? (Perhaps legally, but I never got a satisfactory reason for the bears’ action.) And the Nate thing, hmmm…just too pat. While I enjoyed the novel (the storyline never dragged), it seemed to fall back on an overused trope and I’ve tired of that one. Also, a little disappointed in the narrator’s delivery this time. I don’t remember that the previous one sounded quite that monotone. 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction, Mysteries, Suspense
Publisher:  Recorded Books
ASIN: B07ZJTW2XX
Listening Length: 10 hrs 35 mins
Narrator: David Chandler
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Long Range [Amazon]

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C J Box - authorThe Author: C. J. Box is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over twenty-two novels including the Joe Pickett series. He won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel (Blue Heaven, 2009) as well as the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, the Barry Award (twice), the Western Heritage Award for Literature, and 2017 Spur Award for Best Contemporary Western. The novels have been translated into 27 languages. Open Season, Blue Heaven, Nowhere To Run, and The Highway have been optioned for film and television. Millions of copies of his novels have been sold in the U.S. alone.

Box is a Wyoming native and has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor, and he owned an international tourism marketing firm with his wife Laurie. In 2008, Box was awarded the “BIG WYO” Award from the state tourism industry. An avid outdoorsman, Box has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West. He served on the Board of Directors for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and is currently serving on the Wyoming Tourism Board. He lives in Wyoming

The Narrator: David Chandler was born on February 3, 1950 in Danbury, Connecticut, USA as David Suehsdorf. He is an actor and writer, known for Hide and Seek (2005), Law & Order (1990) and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (1987). He is married to Janet Elizabeth Muir. They have two children.

©2021 V Williams

Wolf Pack (A Joe Pickett Novel Book 19) vs The Bitterroots (Cassie Dewell Book 5) by C J Box – #Audiobook Reviews #crimethrillers

Wolf Pack vs The Bitterroots - #audiobooks

I’ve tried a couple times to get an ARC from the publisher (through NetGalley) for one of this author’s Joe Pickett books. No, they said. Nuh uh. Nada. And then I discovered the series, or most of them, at my local library audiobook section and while some are on a waiting list, I managed to snag these two—back-to-back. Wow—same author, huh? But then I realized these aren’t the same series—not nearly (or the same narrator). And these two are apples and oranges—

Wyoming–the Cowboy State, Equality State and Montana–Big Sky Country

big sky country

Mountains and treacherous terrain, wild animals, desolation, and weather that can turn on a dime and leave you stranded. Common to both states. So, yes, I loved the descriptions of the locale, especially in Montana, having ridden my motorcycle through Lolo Pass—FUN road! It’s gorgeous up there. And frighteningly isolated. This my introduction to the author, plunked into the middle of both series, found either would work as a standalone as there is enough backstory slipped in to bring you quickly up to speed. However, as with all series, sometimes you can watch the evolution of the character(s) if you go back and start with the first.

Wolf Pack-Book Blurb:

Wolf Pack by C J BoxWyoming game warden Joe Pickett encounters bad behavior on his own turf–only to have the FBI and the DOJ ask him to stand down–in the thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author C.J. Box.

The good news is that Joe Pickett has his job back, after his last adventure in The Disappeared. The bad news is that he’s come to learn that a drone is killing wildlife–and the drone belongs to a mysterious and wealthy man whose son is dating Joe’s own daughter, Lucy.

When Joe tries to lay down the rules for the drone operator, he’s asked by the FBI and the DOJ to stand down, which only makes him more suspicious. Meanwhile, bodies are piling up in and around Joe’s district in shocking numbers. He begins to fear that a pack of four vicious killers working on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel known as the Wolf Pack has arrived. Their target seems to be the mystery man and everyone–including Joe, Nate, and others–who is associated with him.

Teaming up with a female game warden (based on a real person, one of the few female game wardens at work in Wyoming today) to confront these assassins, Joe finds himself in the most violent and dangerous predicament he’s ever faced.

Wolf Pack Review:

Joe Pickett is a Wyoming state game warden and he has his hands full dealing with unmonitored animal traps and drones driving herds of deer and elk to exhaustion, some to death.

Wolf Pack by C J BoxIn this case, the leg traps have initials on them—duh. Not too difficult then to find the owner and then discovers the drone’s owner as well. Joe has three daughters, the last of which is dating the grandson of the drone’s owner living out on a well fortified and secluded acreage compound.

One of the series main characters, Nate Romanowski is an experienced falconer and it doesn’t take much for the bird to bring down the drone—which doesn’t sit well with the owner. It’s not a pleasant confrontation and when he and Kate (another series regular) tries to corral his activities is brought up short by the FBI. Huh?

You know when the FBI gets involves, the case will go sideways, and it does. When bodies begin to show up, the case goes well beyond animal protection. The Wolf Pack is a far more serious threat than the four-footed fur-bearing animals and it’ll take some work to track them down. Can they really be more cunning than the wolves? Certainly more deadly!

It’s a dark and profane narrative, graphic at times, in a well-plotted novel, fast moving story on a collision course with an explosive conclusion. I won’t even mention the epilogue. I’m not sure I needed that. On the whole, a shocking introduction to the author’s writing style—glad I listened to this audiobook second!

Book Details:

Genre: Murder Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher:  Recorded Books

  • ASIN: B07JGB5PG9

Print Length: 381 pages
Listening Length: 9 hrs, 51 mins
Narrator: David Chandler
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Wolf Pack

Add to Goodreads4.39 average of 1,044 reviews

The Bitterroots-BookBlurb:

2019 Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year

The Bitterroots by C J BoxA riveting new audiobook from New York Times best-selling and Edgar Award-winning author C. J. Box.

Former police officer Cassie Dewell is trying to start over with her own private investigation firm. Guilty about not seeing her son and exhausted by the nights on stakeout, Cassie is nonetheless managing…until an old friend calls in a favor: She wants Cassie to help exonerate a man accused of assaulting a young girl from an influential family.

Against her own better judgment, Cassie agrees. But out in the Big Sky Country of Montana, twisted family loyalty runs as deep as the ties to the land, and there’s always something more to the story. As Cassie attempts to uncover the truth, she must fight against the ghosts of her own past that threaten to pull her back under.

With The Bitterroots, master storyteller C. J. Box delivers another audiobook featuring fan favorite Cassie Dewell from the Highway Quartet series.

The Bitterroots Review:

My first introduction to this author and the series, Cassie Dewell has separated herself from the police department, going out on her own as a private investigator. She is thinking this will give her some more latitude with her time as Ben, her son, and her hippie mother lives with her in Bozeman, Montana.

The Bitterroots by C J BoxHer last case left her with no small amount of PTSD and she still cringes whenever an eighteen-wheeler dusts her doors. She owes one to an attorney friend, so when she calls to pull in the favor, Cassie will grudgingly oblige—against every fiber in her being—the investigation into the rape of a fifteen year old. The attorney is playing defense and wants to know how strong the prosecution’s case is. Of course her client asserts his innocence. A quick perusal of the file has her convinced of his guilt—after all, look at all the evidence!!

But off she goes to Lochsa County to talk to his family and those officials connected with the case. The family appears to have a strangle-hold on their ranch and the area around them, including the officials. I got a strong sense of the more well known male dominated clans—and must say the mother of the girl is one hell of a character. No one wants to talk with her and she’s warned out of there.

In the meantime, her life continues to remain involved in her son’s activities as she continually referees issues between her mother and Ben. And then there is the big black semi who keeps showing up—to just sit and watch. Okay, he’s a creep.

After awhile, I had some sympathetic pangs for the accused and sorry that did not end well. I had a problem with the narrator, more than once, as she attempted different voices—the attorney in particular. And the mother of the victim…the way she handled the voice of the mother going into the conclusion was priceless. Did not see that coming!

Book Details:

Genre: Private Investigator Mysteries, Crime Thrillers, Police Procedurals, Women Sleuths
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio

  • ASIN: B07ND36RSR

 Print Length: 307 pages
Listening Length: 9 hrs, 49 mins
Narrator: Christine Delaine
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Bitterroots –
Cassie Dewell #4
The Highway Quartet #5

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4.02 average rating of 729 reviews

Overall Impression:

These will continue to be similar/dissimilar. While one is a great deal more established, i.e., long term main characters, locale-driven plots, atmospheric fast-paced and graphic (Joe Pickett), the other will build a strong female protagonist, character-driven plots, toned down language (somewhat) and exhibit more feminine issues and concerns. I didn’t care for the epilogue in the Wolf Pack but that same little ploy in The Bitterroots was a classic feminine “gotcha.” Oh, yes, that brought a smile to my face. But you know what? If I get a chance for another audiobook in either series, I’ll grab it.

C J Box - author

The Author: C. J. Box is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 24 novels including the Joe Pickett series. He won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel (Blue Heaven, 2009) as well as the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, two Barry Awards, and the 2010 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Award for fiction. He was recently awarded the 2016 Western Heritage Award for Literature by the National Cowboy Museum as well as the Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel by the Western Writers of America in 2017. The novels have been translated into 27 languages.

Box is a Wyoming native and has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor, and he co-owns an international tourism marketing firm with his wife Laurie. They have three daughters. An avid outdoorsman, Box has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West. He served on the Board of Directors for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. Box lives in Wyoming.

–from the author’s website

©2020 V Williams V Williams

One Good Deed by David Baldacci – An #Audiobook Review – Action & Suspense

Book Blurb:

The number one New York Times best-selling author David Baldacci introduces an unforgettable new character: Archer, a straight-talking former World War II soldier fresh out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit. 

One Good Deed by David BaldacciIt’s 1949. When war veteran Aloysius Archer is released from Carderock Prison, he is sent to Poca City on parole with a short list of do’s and a much longer list of don’ts: do report regularly to his parole officer, don’t go to bars, certainly don’t drink alcohol, do get a job – and don’t ever associate with loose women. 

The small town quickly proves more complicated and dangerous than Archer’s years serving in the war or his time in jail. Within a single night, his search for gainful employment – and a stiff drink – leads him to a local bar, where he is hired for what seems like a simple job: to collect a debt owed to a powerful local businessman, Hank Pittleman. 

Soon Archer discovers that recovering the debt won’t be so easy. The indebted man has a furious grudge against Hank and refuses to pay; Hank’s clever mistress has her own designs on Archer; and both Hank and Archer’s stern parole officer, Miss Crabtree, are keeping a sharp eye on him.  

When a murder takes place right under Archer’s nose, police suspicions rise against the ex-convict, and Archer realizes that the crime could send him right back to prison…if he doesn’t use every skill in his arsenal to track down the real killer.

My Review:

The year is 1949. Aloysius Archer is an Army veteran who has just been released from Carderock Prison. The parole board sent him to Poca City—located somewhere in the southwest I’d guess by the description of wind and sand.

First thing he is supposed to do is check in with his parole agent and get himself established, beginning with a job. His parole officer hands him a full list of do’s and don’ts—mostly don’ts—including booze, bars, and broads. (Hey, it’s 1949—the manner of speech was different then…and this is classic 40s noir.) Of course, the first thing he does is head to the local dive. He might not be looking for trouble, but trouble finds him.

One Good Deed by David BaldacciThe writing style is third person, short and unemotional. It’s impersonal—distant. Not an old TV black and white version of Friday, and definitely on the other side of the law, but close. Archer doesn’t speak a lot of himself but rather his observations. They are jaded, fashioned from the war and his term in prison for a crime of which he was innocent. And there are a lot of observations—telling—not showing.

Still, there is this “job” he’s had dumped into his lap. It’ll mean $100 and also keep him from having to do the job he was to be assigned (which will be described later and enough to turn your stomach). He goes about the investigation-collection cautiously, intelligently, during which we learn a great deal more about the support characters. By learning about the support characters and his interaction with them, we get to know more about Archer. The man. The Army veteran. The ex-con.

There is some rough language, although the reader is not accosted with the liberal use of the F-word like sometimes happens today. There is no sexual content—though it’s implied. It’s a slow burn and for some reason, keeps the reader (or listener) engaged. Like listening in on the neighbors on the other side of paper-thin walls. Gees!

There are some real mean men—a rather realistic, crude, and rude reality check to the way it was back then. The suspense continues to build and the whole storyline goes into a pre-conclusion with both barrels (over and under). Then, just as quickly, like a dispassionate epilogue, pulls all the loose threads together.

I don’t know what I expected. The narrator did an excellent job of keeping his narrative low-key, forcing you to listen to the story and the dialogue. This is a well known author. I’ve certainly seen and recognized the name. Perhaps this is a departure of his normal writing style. I wouldn’t know. This is entertaining but is Book 1 of the series and unless there is an Archer Book 2, may be the first and last. I will say, however, that even were it not, I would sample another of Baldacci’s novels. I’ve got to see if this is his normal writing style.

Book Details:

Genre: Action, Thriller & Suspense Fiction, Historical Fiction, Action, Adventure Fiction
Publisher: Hachette Audio
ASIN: B07STDLH47
 Print Length: 464 pages
Listening Length: 11 hrs, 41 min.
Narrator: Edoardo Ballerini
Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: One Good Deed [Amazon]

Add to Goodreads Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 stars

David Baldacci - authorThe Author: David Baldacci has been writing since childhood, when his mother gave him a lined notebook in which to write down his stories. (Much later, when David thanked her for being the spark that ignited his writing career, she revealed that she’d given him the notebook to keep him quiet, “because every mom needs a break now and then.”)

David published his first novel, ABSOLUTE POWER, in 1996. A feature film followed, with Clint Eastwood as its director and star. In total, David has published 41 novels for adults; all have been national and international bestsellers and several have been adapted for film and television. His novels have been translated into over 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries, with 150 million copies sold worldwide. David has also published seven novels for younger readers.

David received his Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, after which he practiced law in Washington, D.C.

David is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across the United States.

David and his family live in Virginia.

Edoardo Ballerini
Edoardo Ballerini – Photo courtesy Wikipedia

The Narrator: (From his website) Edoardo Ballerini is a two time winner of the Audiobook Publishers Association’s Best Male Narrator Audie Award (2013, Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter; 2019, Watchers by Dean Koontz). He has recorded nearly 300 titles, from classic works by Tolstoy, Dante, Kafka, Whitman and Camus, to best-sellers by James Patterson and David Baldacci, and spiritual titles by The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Black and Blue by David Rosenfelt (Author) Fred Berman (Narrator) – An #Audiobook Review #crimethriller

As promised, Book 3 in the Doug Brock Thriller series. (Hope you didn’t miss my review for number two: Fade to Black!)

Black and Blue by David Rosenfelt

Book Blurb:

Doug Brock hasn’t had it easy since his getting shot in the line of duty as a New Jersey state police officer. Between the amnesia and having to solve two murder cases, it hasn’t been the most restful recovery. 

Now, the cold-case department is checking evidence from a murder case Doug was investigating before the accident, but the DNA points to a man Doug eliminated as a suspect…and he remembers none of it. 

Doug begins to reinvestigate what turns out to be a series of unsolved killings and must retrace his steps to discover why he would have let the suspect go free. What he uncovers may be more dangerous than any case he’s faced yet. 

With Black and Blue, nationally best-selling author David Rosenfelt continues his thrilling new series featuring Doug Brock.

My Review:

As mentioned at my review of Book 2, Fade to Black, here is  #3 of the Doug Brock series, my sampling of a David Rosenfelt series outside of the Andy Carpenter series (which I totally fell in love with and you’ll get many more of those reviews). Doug Brock, a New Jersey state police lieutenant who was shot in the line of duty has returned to work, albeit missing ten years of his memory. He has gotten back together with his former fiancé, Jessie.

Black and Blue by David RosenfeltThis series is more serious in nature and, as I noted before, there were times I didn’t really care for protagonist Brock, although his fiancé, Jessie, is interesting, intelligent, tolerant, and patient. She owns a mountain of a dog named BoBo. Doug and BoBo have a kind of détente. He also is back with partner Nate Alvarez (a mountain of a man), and he and Nate seem to work effectively together, trading barbs from time to time.

Being a serious fan of Andy Carpenter, it was fun that he was incorporated into this storyline (although I wasn’t so thrilled with the person who did the narration for Andy–just not the same beloved voice).

Currently, Doug and Nate are working on a cold case. A dead body, shot through the heart by a high powered rifle. Not the first time this happened since there were more than one and ballistics confirm with the same gun. He was involved with the old case, although with his current condition cannot remember the details and has to go through the files. This isn’t the only problem they’ll have now though as Doug suspicions he may have interviewed him before and let him go.

I really like the series, but let’s face it, I’ve been spoiled by Andy Carpenter. This protagonist is not wholly sympathetic, although I can certainly connect with the support characters and if you aren’t used to the machine-gun hyperbole and tongue-in-cheek humor of that series, would probably find this one quite satisfying–enough male guffawing, sarcastic barbs, back-slapping, and beer to grease the plotline. The well-plotted mystery presents twists, turns, and red herrings, but it’s the characters that keep you reading and David Rosenfelt is great at developing good chemistry in his characters.

The conclusion ties frayed ends together very neatly. This novel could function quite well as a standalone as there are sufficient references to history to fill in the blanks. In any case, I’ll be tuning in to Doug Brock 4. Also, as mentioned before, I was approved by NetGalley for The K Team, Book 1, of a new spinoff series from Andy Carpenter featuring most of my favorite characters. (If you haven’t grabbed that one yet, better hurry.)

I received this audiobook download from my local library audio selection with no expectation of a review. But, you know I’m going to do it anyway.

Book Details:

Genre: Police Procedural Mysteries, Crime Thriller, Serial Killer
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio, Minotaur Books 

  • ISBN-10:1250133149
  • ISBN-13:978-1250133144
  • ASIN: B07KRGLYZJ 

Print Length: 304 pages
Listening Length: 6 hrs 22 mins
Narrator: Fred Berman
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Source: Local (Audiobook Selections) Library
Title Link: Black and Blue
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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point five of Five Stars 4.5-stars

David Rosenfelt - authorThe Author: [David Rosenfelt-Goodreads author page] I am a novelist with 27 dogs.

I have gotten to this dubious position with absolutely no planning, and at no stage in my life could I have predicted it. But here I am.

My childhood was relentlessly normal. The middle of three brothers, loving parents, a middle-class home in Paterson, New Jersey. We played sports, studied sporadically. laughed around the dinner table, and generally had a good time. By comparison, “Ozzie and Harriet’s” clan seemed bizarre.

I graduated NYU, then decided to go into the movie business. I was stunningly brilliant at a job interview with my uncle, who was President of United Artists, and was immediately hired. It set me off on a climb up the executive ladder, culminating in my becoming President of Marketing for Tri-Star Pictures. The movie landscape is filled with the movies I buried; for every “Rambo”, “The Natural” and “Rocky”, there are countless disasters.

I did manage to find the time to marry and have two children, both of whom are doing very well, and fortunately neither have inherited my eccentricities.

A number of years ago, I left the movie marketing business, to the sustained applause of hundreds of disgruntled producers and directors. I decided to try my hand at writing. I wrote and sold a bunch of feature films, none of which ever came close to being actually filmed, and then a bunch of TV movies, some of which actually made it to the small screen. It’s safe to say that their impact on the American cultural scene has been minimal.

About fourteen years ago, my wife and I started the Tara Foundation, named in honor of the greatest Golden Retriever the world has ever known. We rescued almost 4,000 dogs, many of them Goldens, and found them loving homes. Our own home quickly became a sanctuary for those dogs that we rescued that were too old or sickly to be wanted by others. They surround me as I write this. It’s total lunacy, but it works, and they are a happy, safe group.

Fred Berman - authorThe Narrator: [Fred Berman-Goodreads author page] Age & Hometown: 39 (“but in meerkat years, that’s 25!”); Manhasset, Long Island

Current Role: Entertaining Broadway audiences as the hysterical meerkat Timon in Disney’s long-running hit The Lion King.

A Familiar Voice: An accomplished voiceover actor on more than 50 audiobooks, Berman says the key is not to impersonate or put on voices. “I cast the book in my mind,” he explains. “I say, ‘Who is this person?’ So, in my head, Judi Dench is playing this role. I don’t want to do an impersonation of Judi Dench, but I am channeling her in that moment. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” Berman’s audio work ranges from children’s books to what he calls “fantasy romance novels”—and sometimes both in the same day. “One time, I went from the most ridiculously depressing book, The Painted Bird, about a kid wandering through the forests of Poland after World War II, to a romance book where I voiced the sexiest Greek man alive who always wears leather pants and no shirt in softcore porn scenes.”

The Dangers of Timon: Berman was initially cautious about taking his Lion King gig. “I have never gone into a long-running show, and I knew I couldn’t do [Nathan Lane, who created the role onscreen]. I wasn’t sure how much of it was going to be ‘This is a machine and you need to do it this way.’” Berman’s doubts subsided when he was given freedom to interpret the role his own way—though he still has one fear. “I tend to gravitate toward blue humor, so I always get nervous when I have to improvise,” he says. “Having kids [he has two] makes you check yourself more.” Instead, he says his mantra is, “Play the positive; play the love!”

Let’s Rock!: Though acting pays the bills, Berman’s true passion is music. The son of a bandleader, he began playing piano at age five and discovered the drums, which would become his main instrument, in fifth grade. “Until I got into The Lion King, I was playing in bands my whole life,” he says. His musical influences range from fellow Long Island native Billy Joel to Led Zeppelin. “I have a tattoo of [late Led Zeppelin drummer] John Bonham’s symbol on my left arm!” When pressed to choose between acting and music, Berman responds, “I love them both, but I have to be honest: There is nothing in the world like playing drums in a rock-and-roll band at a live concert. That’s what I thought.

©2020 V Williams V Williams