ZORRO RIDES AGAIN

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Audiobooks—fiction - MEG NOLA

Johnston Mccul­ley, Naxos Au­dio­books, $28.98 (4.25 hours), 978-1-78198-019-4 Spell­bind­ing and rich, this re­turn to Mccul­ley’s orig­i­nal text re­veals Zorro at his most cap­ti­vat­ing.

Dash­ing swords­man Don Diego Vega, bet­ter known as Zorro, comes to life in Naxos’ au­dio­book Zorro Rides Again, read from the orig­i­nal 1931 Johnston Mccul­ley pulp novel. Though Don Diego had hoped to set­tle down and marry beloved fi­ancée Lolita, his rep­u­ta­tion and good name are be­ing tar­nished by an im­pos­tor. Rather than fight­ing for jus­tice, the false Zorro is in­stead at­tack­ing the in­no­cent, the el­derly, and de­fense­less fe­males.

By re­turn­ing to the unabridged Mccul­ley text, Zorro Rides Again min­i­mizes more stereo­typ­i­cal or comic per­cep­tions of the mys­te­ri­ous swash­buck­ling hero. Ac­tor Bill Home­wood’s deep Bri­tish tones al­ter­nate with or­nately Span­ish-ac­cented char­ac­ters such as Zorro him­self, Zorro’s fa­ther Don Ale­jan­dro, Fray Felipe, and Sargent Pe­dro Gon­za­les. Though women are not a ma­jor part of this ad­ven­ture, Home­wood voices them with a breathy and oc­ca­sion­ally in­dig­nant con­trast as they try to main­tain their highly val­ued fem­i­nine virtues.

Zorro Rides Again vividly recre­ates its set­ting of early nine­teenth cen­tury Los An­ge­les, be­tween Span­ish and Mex­i­can rule. Wealthy ha­cienda own­ers, Fran­cis­can fri­ars, re­formed pi­rates, and pompous mil­i­tary of­fi­cers pop­u­late Mccul­ley’s fic­tional land­scape, with its strong in­flu­ence of Old World colo­nial­ism amid Na­tive Amer­i­can set­tle­ments. The novel’s de­scrip­tive pas­sages and Home­wood’s rich nar­ra­tion em­pha­size this courtly and class-de­fined era of ca­balleros, Cal­i­fornios, and a gen­eral ob­ses­sion with honor and re­venge.

Ad­di­tion­ally, some of the fight scenes of Zorro Rides Again—whether sword­play or a truth chal­lenge among the Co­co­pah In­di­ans—have an al­most spell­bind­ing qual­ity. Deadly blades clash, clang, and cut, or bare-chested men gleam with sweat in a knife bat­tle by a flick­er­ing camp­fire. Th­ese in­tense details are bal­anced by qui­eter mo­ments, such as Don Diego’s serene al fresco break­fast of melon, wine, and “fish fresh caught in a dis­tant sea.” The au­dio chap­ters flow to­gether in se­rial-like fash­ion, each end­ing at an in­trigu­ingly sus­pense­ful point in Don Diego’s fierce quest to dis­cover who else dares to wear the famed black Zorro mask.

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