In July 2010 I was happily minding my own business at the great Thrillerfest convention in New York when Steve Feldberg, an old friend from the audiobook giant Audible, came up and said, ‘Have you got any ideas for original audiobooks?’ ‘No,’ I answered honestly.
But the idea followed me. I love audiobooks. They’re pure storytelling. That evening I found myself at a signing next to AJ Hartley who, as well as being a writer of some stature, is Professor of Shakespeare at the University of North Carolina. I asked Andrew if anyone had ever written Macbeth as a novel.
Modern language, eleventh century Scottish setting. We agreed someone must have. But we couldn’t think of any examples. The next day we met up with Steve Feldberg and… one year later at the following Thrillerfest the results were out. Macbeth: A Novel, narrated by that wonderful Scottish actor Alan Cumming, later to be nominated as audiobook of the year.
This is a very strange business sometimes. Our Macbeth is pure story, extracted from Shakespeare and told in a way anyone, we hope, can understand.
It’s the tale of a good man brought low. Clans struggle against one another. Foreign marauders try to steal what land and property and people they can. A figure rises from the battles: Macbeth, Lord of Moray. A brave man. A loyal servant of the Scottish Crown. But after one more battle where Duncan, the King, is absent, Macbeth meets three witches and finds he’s tempted by the idea of taking the throne of Scotland for himself.
Macbeth was conceived as an audiobook from the outset. But a year after its appearance a print edition was published by Thomas & Mercer. It’s slightly changed from the original (we can’t put music in a book for obvious reasons). But essentially the same story.