Behind the Mic: The Greatest

Much of Muhammad Ali’s humanitarian work went unheralded, and you’ve probably never heard this story

 

The Greatest


In an exclusive extra,
AudioFile reviewer Mike Sangiacomo tells us about meeting Muhammad Ali—in Baghdad—in 1990.

I spent some time with Muhammad Ali in the most unlikely place: Baghdad in late 1990, just weeks before the U.S. and its allies bombed it in Desert Storm. I was there on assignment from my newspaper, THE PLAIN DEALER, and he was there to get hostages released. Both of us were there against the wishes of the U.S. Government, to say the least.

Ali’s mission to Baghdad was largely unreported at the time, but the story leaked out a few times over the years.

As a world-renowned Muslim, Ali was welcomed in the city of Bagdad, and through his power of persuasion, he was able to leave with 15 American hostages. You probably never heard about it—the story was kept quiet, though I reported it in my newspaper. My group was invited to spend some time with Ali in his room at the Al Rashid Hotel. When we got there, Ali was lying down on the bed. He looked drawn and tired—his Parkinson’s disease was taking its toll. His schedule in Baghdad was exhausting. When he was not in talks with leaders, he was entertaining Iraqi children, who followed him everywhere.

He sat up in his bed, half-clothed, and asked us to wait in the seating area of his room. I remember watching him struggle to stand up, a shadow of his former self. But when he emerged minutes later, he looked like a new man. He had put on a blue suit, white shirt, and a tie, in deference to his visitors. He could only speak in a whisper, his voice exhausted from days of negotiations. Amid the small talk and stories I have long forgotten, Ali asked to keep his private talks with Saddam Hussein a secret, at least until the hostages were released.

“We admire the man who has never stopped using his celebrity for good- the man who helped secure the release of 14 American hostages from Iraq in 1900,” Obama was quoted in USA Today. With all due respect to Mr. Obama, it was 15. I counted.

Ali surprised our group by asking if we wanted to see some magic tricks, something he also performed for the other “guests” (Iraqi code for hostages) in the hotel lobby. He even did his levitation trick. Ali’s mission to Baghdad was largely unreported at the time, but the story leaked out a few times over the years. George Bush and subsequent presidents ignored it until President Barack Obama talked about it this year after Ali’s death on June 3. “We admire the man who has never stopped using his celebrity for good—the man who helped secure the release of 14 American hostages from Iraq in 1990,” Obama was quoted in USA Today. And, with all due respect to Mr. Obama, it was 15. I counted.

In addition to sharing this story, Mike listened to Ali’s autobiography, THE GREATEST: MY OWN STORY for us and wrote, “It’s uncanny how much narrator Dion Graham sounds like Ali”. You can read Mike’s full review and listen to a sound clip here or check out what Dion had to say about recording Ali’s story below!

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Behind the Mic: Out of My League

Pitching against major leaguers comes alive in this first-person account

Narrator Robert Fass takes AudioFile listeners Behind the Mic and tells us about bringing alive the baseball classic, OUT OF MY LEAGUE, when George Plimpton went behind the professional baseball pitching mounds.

“I was a big fan of Plimpton’s exploits growing up and I read OUT OF MY LEAGUE as a teenage baseball fan.” -Robert Fass

Out Of My League
OUT OF MY LEAGUE
by George Plimpton, read by Robert Fass
Hachette Audio

We knew the new audiobook releases of George Plimpton’s journalistic participatory forays into professional sports would make great listening. Baseball fan Robert Fass is the perfect choice for OUT OF MY LEAGUE. Listen to a sound clip and read our full review here.

And if you’re as intrigued as we are—find more of Plimpton’s wry wit in ONE FOR THE RECORD, OPEN NET, and PAPER LION.

Robert Fass
Read about Robert’s foray into audiobook publishing 
or find more audiobooks narrated by him HERE.

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Behind the Mic: The House at the Edge of Night

Rich and beguiling storytelling will entrance listeners

Narrator Edoardo Ballerini transports listeners to the curious Sicilian island of Castellamara. He shares with AudioFile why this literary gem, THE HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT, affected him and stays with him in ways he did not expect.

I didn’t know the characters were going to get inside me and show me things about my own life. —Narrator Edoardo Ballerini

The House at the Edge of Night
THE HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF NIGHT
by Catherine Banner, read by Edoardo Ballerini
Random House Audio

This multi-generational tale full of loves and tragedies, lore and history attracted our attention early, and we echo Edoardo’s comments on the lasting effect of the story. His astute character portraits and sensuous storytelling have much to do with why listeners will be enveloped by the tale.  To listen to a sound clip and read our full review, click here.

Catherine Banner by Philip Hunton

Read our interview with Catherine Banner here.

Edoardo BalleriniFind more audiobooks recorded by Edoardo.

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Behind the Mic: How Women Decide

How do empathy, decisiveness, commitment, and memory play into your decisions?

Narrator Susan Boyce goes Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine and tells us a little of what surprised her in narrating HOW WOMEN DECIDE.

All the lessons I learned while narrating it, I think I’m carrying forward in my life—Narrator Susan Boyce

113516.jpgHOW WOMEN DECIDE
by Therese Huston, read by Susan Boyce
Dreamscape
Earphones Award Winner

We learned more about decision-making and gender and how to view decisions and their pitfalls in new ways. Narrator Susan Boyce engaged us throughout. To listen to a sound clip and read our full review, click here.

Susan BoyceTo find more books narrated by Susan, click here

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Behind the Mic: Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday

Let the Simone family’s love and heartbreak sweep you away

Talented narrator Julia Whelan shares her warm and heartfelt praise for Christine Reilly’s debut novel, SUNDAY’S ON THE PHONE TO MONDAY. As AudioFile Magazine goes Behind the Mic,  Julia lets us in on why she felt this project was truly a special one.

“It is a beautiful story. It is about family, love, mental illness, finding love in mental illness, and loss.”—Narrator Julia Whelan

Sunday's on the Phone to MondaySUNDAY’S ON THE PHONE TO MONDAY
by Christine Reilly, read by Julia Whelan
Dreamscape
Earphones Award Winner

Julia Whelan’s performance of beautiful lyrical writing, and a family story that connects so clearly with listeners, is a winning combination. Julia Whelan sweeps listeners into the lives of the Simone family until the final tearful moment. To listen to a sound clip and read our full review, click here.

Julia WhelanTo find more audiobooks narrated by Julia, click here.

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Behind the Mic: The Assistants

Bridget Jones Meets Working Girl and Holy Moly, Is It Fun

Narrator Jorjeana Marie goes behind the mic for AudioFile Magazine to tell us why it was fun to get to know the hilarious cast in Camille Perri’s THE ASSISTANTS. She shares the secrets of her balancing act of humor, perfect pacing, and the multi-accented New York characters. Just think what might happen when underpaid assistants take a Robin Hood approach to the distribution of wealth.

“I loved that this book was set in New York, and the cast of characters was amazing. It’s kind of an anti-hero story.” -Jorjeana Marie

The AssistantsTHE ASSISTANTS
by Camille Perri, read by Jorjeana Marie
Penguin Audio
Earphones Award Winner

We first spotted this title because of its setting within a New York media empire and the rich possibilities for satire. Jorjeana Marie dives into the performance much as any executive assistant would—savvy and smart, and willing to take risks. In a world of underpaid assistants with crushing debt among the richest executives, there are always opportunities. Have fun listening to this one! To hear a sound clip and read our full review, click HERE.

Jorjeana Marie
To find more audiobooks narrated by Jorjeana, click HERE.

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Behind the Mic: Version Control

Time travel in the 21st century. What version will you accept? January LaVoy tells us about Dexter Palmer’s new sci-fi novel.

AudioFile goes Behind the Mic to talk to January LaVoy about VERSION CONTROL. January’s enthusiasm for this story of science and science fiction draws us in. Listen to hear more about this blending of science and society.

“What surprised me the most about this book was that it is classified as science fiction but I would say that it is the definition of diversity.” Narrator January LaVoy

Version Control

VERSION CONTROL
by Dexter Palmer, read by January LaVoy
AudioFile Earphones Award
AudioFile Best Audiobooks 2016

Time travel has a powerful allure. January LaVoy propels the narrative drive and delivers all the subtle nuance of Dexter Palmer’s take that’s full of our modern technology. Phillip and Rebecca have survived personal tragedy. Phillip, a physicist, directs  a project creating a “causality violation” device—for most of us, that’s a time machine. Rebecca, who works for an online dating site, has a pervasive feeling that something is not right. Listen to a sound clip and read our full review HERE.

January LaVoy by Jordan Matter
January Lavoy by Jordan Matter

Explore January LaVoy’s audiography to find more audiobooks to love.


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Behind the Mic: Rise of The Rocket Girls

From missiles to the moon to Mars, listeners go behind the scenes with the women at JPL

Narrator Erin Bennett shares her fascination with the “rocket era” that intrigues many of us. Erin has a special connection to the space program through a childhood friend, now an astronaut, and lets AudioFile Magazine in on a very special “launch” of the RISE OF THE ROCKET GIRLS audiobook in this Behind the Mic video.

“Before there were computers, there were women who computed. The women at JPL.”—Narrator Erin Bennett

Rise of the Rocket Girls

RISE OF THE ROCKET GIRLS
by Nathalia Holt, read by Erin Bennett
Hachette Audio

The excitement of rocket launches and space exploration intrigues us—and makes for great listening. Most histories of the rocket era during and after WWII focus on the achievements of men. This audiobook corrects that bias by telling the stories of brilliant women, known as “human computers,” who worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and made our space and missile defense programs possible. Listen to a sound clip and read our full review here.

To find more audiobooks narrated by Erin, click here.

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Behind the Mic: Everybody’s Fool

A whole lovely mud-pit of flawed people

Narrator Mark Bramhall recently stepped into his dressing room between performances of Dancing at Lughnasa to give AudioFile Magazine a Behind the Mic perspective of reading Richard Russo’s EVERYBODY’S FOOL. Hear what it was like to encounter the crazy, wonderful, sad, bizarre community of North Bath, New York.

It was a huge privilege, and a wonderful learning experience, to find Russo’s sweet irony and live for a while in his crazy—but oddly heroic—community.” -Mark Bramhall

Everybody's Fool
EVERYBODY’S FOOL

by Richard Russo, read by Mark Bramhall
Random House Audio
Earphones Award Winner

Here at AudioFile we knew this audiobook would be an Editors’ Pick as soon as we pushed play! Mark Bramhall is superbly skilled and has a beautiful voice with amazing range, but what astonishes here is his humanity, not to mention sense of humor, as he brings Russo’s entire town of North Bath, New York, to madcap life. Russo has never been better than in this virtuoso revisit to the scene of his earlier book, NOBODY’S FOOL. Listen to a sound clip and read our full review of EVERYBODY’S FOOL here.

Narrator Mark Bramhall
Photo: Daniel Reichert

Find more audiobooks narrated by Mark Bramhall!

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Behind the Mic: As Close to Us as Breathing

An amazing, heartbreaking family story

Behind the Mic for AudioFile Magazine today, narrator Janet Metzger entices us into wanting to know more about AS CLOSE TO US AS BREATHING and to soak up the atmosphere of a beach cottage in 1948.

“Elizabeth Poliner’s genius is the way that she delivers throughout the book tiny bits of information. I could, through her descriptions, taste and smell the salt air and feel the warm sun of those lazy days.” —Narrator Janet Metzger

As Close To Us As BreathingAS CLOSE TO US AS BREATHING
by Elizabeth Poliner, read by Janet Metzger
Hachette Audio
Earphones Award Winner

We are delighted to discover this great summer listen, and we recommend it as an audiobook that will stay with you. Janet Metzger masterfully narrates Elizabeth Poliner’s captivating, nuanced story of a tragedy that strikes at the heart of a close-knit Jewish family. Metzger adopts the perfect tone of reflective meditation from the novel’s portentous first sentence: “The summer of 1948 my brother Davy was killed in an accident with a man who would have given his own life rather than have it happen.” Listen to a sound clip and read our full review here.

To find more audiobooks narrated by Janet, click here.

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