Patty Nieman, an accomplished veteran of stage and screen—and trapeze—has added a new role to her resume: True-crime narrator.
If you “read” audiobooks, you’ll hear Patty’s voice in the audio edition of “ShadowMan: An Elusive Psycho Killer and the Birth of FBI Profiling,” to be released on March 1 by Penguin Audio (actor Chris Berger narrates the book’s Afterword).
Patty has narrated several books, but never a true crime.
“I’m an actor by training and a lover of words by nature,” she says. “I want to build the bridge that travels from the author’s intent, through the text, to the reader’s imagination. I want to give full embodied life to the characters and worlds, whether fictional or real.”
And “ShadowMan”—the chilling true story of a series of shocking crimes in 1970s Montana that prompted the FBI to create its first-ever criminal profile—is definitely real.
“In the case of ‘ShadowMan,’ I was delighted to have a generously collaborative conversation with Ron before I began recording,” she says. “While reading the manuscript, I was struck by the shifting points of view as different pieces of the story came to light. That conversation made a world of difference as I approached my studio to tell a tale that is at times intense and dark — with care.”
When I heard Patty’s audition with Penguin Audio (part of which you can hear below), I was immediately drawn to the obvious depth in her voice. She seemed to hear the words as I had first heard them in my own mind.
There’s a reason for that. Patty is a music graduate of Carleton College in her native Minnesota. She has appeared in many professional film and stage productions in New York City and elsewhere, including “The Music Man,” “Vanishing Point,” and “Scott and Zelda.”
She’s nothing if not an adventurous learner: For “an all-too-brief time” she was a trapeze artist — a skill she learned for the title role in a New York City show, “The Awakening of Angel DeLuna.” She has also co-written a one-woman musical called “Secrets of the Little Yellow Diary,” based on her own writings as a 13-year-old girl.
“My aim when narrating is to connect to the heart and mind of the listener,” she says. “I drop into the story and feel it deeply, then I adjust my pace and tone to deliver the nuances of the characters, relationships and settings.”
If you’re an audio-reader, you’re not alone. The audiobook market is over $1 billion and the number of titles has doubled in the past 10 years. According to studies, more than 45 percent of American adults says they’ve listened to an audiobook in their lives, a number likely to grow as more titles are published for listeners. Print books remain significantly more popular than electronic or audio editions, but digital editions are offering more options for consumers.
Patty’s narration of “ShadowMan” promises to be a moving, provocative experience. Her voice is strong and agile, her mind is curious. My story presented her with a number of complicated challenges, but she seems to have surmounted them. Click on this sample and hear for yourself.