cover image Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul

Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul

James McBride, read by Dominic Hoffman. Random House Audio, unabridged, 8 CDs, 9 hrs., $35 ISBN 978-0-14-752276-4

McBride embarks on a biographical journey to explore the life of the hardest-working man in show business, even though the National Book Award–winning author admits up front that Brown remains a figure so enigmatic that newly discovered facts make the established public history more—rather than less—difficult to understand. McBride views the “Godfather of Soul” as an icon who embodies all the complexities and contradictions of American life. Veteran stage and screen actor Hoffman doesn’t miss a beat in presenting the dialogue, such that Brown’s larger-than-life raspy voice comes through with those same complexities and contradictions. Hoffman seems determined to get it right and ditch affected parodies and caricatures as a narrator, in the same manner that McBride seeks clarity in his writing. Hoffman particularly excels in his display of Brown—for all of his failed relationships and emotional demons—as an avuncular wise elder in the grooming of close friend and advisor Rev. Al Sharpton and in Brown’s tender bond with the one grandson with whom he consistently remained close. Rendered in such skilled hands, the many Brown catchphrases—including the book’s title—take on a moving testament of survival rather than just remaining catchy aphorisms. A Random/Spiegel & Grau hardcover. (Apr.)