For the past six months, a man named Ralph Cosham has been my traveling companion during my daily work commute. He doesn’t pay for gas, never offers to drive, and never buys me a Dr. Pepper. He doesn’t even thank me for the ride.
Instead, I thank him because what he has brought to my commute is far more valuable. He has brought the characters of my new favorite mystery series to life. He is the audiobook reader for Books 1-10 of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series.
For several years, I have not had much of a commute (if at all, since I had a few in there where I worked exclusively from home), so audiobooks were not much on my radar. Last year, I started a new job and now my morning commute is 40-50 minutes in the morning and about 30 in the afternoon – perfect for being able to still do one of my favorite things in spite of dealing with annoying traffic. It’s hard to get crabby with a slowdown when it means I can listen to yet one more chapter. I’ve had pretty good luck with books I’ve chosen to listen to, but then I finally started the Louise Penny series and Ralph Cosham took a seat and stayed there.
Obviously, the books have had something to do with it – they are beautifully written and I adore the characters. There’s something magical, though, when the right reader comes along – and is the one who gets to do all of the books in the series. He’s developed the characters in my mind right along with Penny. Cosham is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.
You know how when a book is so-so-so good that when you finish, you have that ache? It’s a little bit of sadness that it is over, even though it’s also contentedness about the ending? That book hangover? That’s what I had with finishing book 10, The Long Way Home. Honestly, that particular book is a little bit of a let down after her stunning How the Light Gets In, but still good and I savored it because I knew it was the last one that Cosham reads due to his death in 2014.
And while I was able to keep watching the Harry Potter movies in spite of the unfortunate choice in actors to portray Dumbledore after Richard Harris’ death, I don’t have it in me to listen to a new reader for books 10 and beyond of Penny’s. So, I’ve been sad.
Here is what Penny had to say upon Cosham’s death back in 2014:
Just received the desperately sad news that Ralph Cosham passed away yesterday. I’m so sorry to have to tell you – I know for many of you it is like losing Armand. For Michael and me, we’ve lost a cherished friend. I can barely bring myself to believe it. His wife Beverly and family and friends must be devastated. I tried to post a photo of him, but for some reason I couldn’t, so the best I can do is this link to the last interview he gave just over a month ago, to the Washington Post. Oh, Ralph – dear man. Our thoughts and prayers to Beverly and family. And our thanks, dear Ralph, for your kindness and warmth and intelligence, your passion for your work and life. Thank you for bringing Armand et al alive, forever. But mostly, thank you for your friendship. We love you.
“I know for many of you it is like losing Armand.” < — THIS.
And now I am reading, not listening to, book 11, The Nature of the Beast and doing my best to slow down – because that was another joy of listening to these good books, a slower pace to savor and enjoy – and not forget what Armand Gamache sounds like and eagerly await for Jean-Guy Beauvoir to say “Sure” or “Pretty sure” because Cosham had a way of saying those minor phrases for Beauvoir that just… fit.
Sometimes watching a movie that came from a book feels risky, for lots of reasons, but one of them is losing what a character looked or sounded like in your head, but in this case, I am almost worried that I’ll lose the sound of these characters going to print. Some might think I am abnormally attached to Cosham’s portrayal of these characters – I mean, a whole blog post about it? I don’t care. This is what reading is all about. Entering another world and these days, it sure is a needed escape. I appreciate an audio book reader who can make it happen just as well as if I read it on my own. It’s a gift I happily extol.
For all of you audiobook connoisseurs (pause for a moment to applaud myself for spelling that word right, the first time, all on my own), have you gotten attached to certain readers? Share in the comments!
Instead of a video, I think it’s more appropriate to have a sound file instead. An excerpt from chapter one of Cosham’s last Penny recording (link, in case the embed didn’t work below – https://soundcloud.com/audible/the-long-way-home)