Coming June 6th…

Coming June 6th…
The Mercy Chair
"John Banks is one of the UK's most prolific audiobook narrators, working for the likes of Big Finish, Audible, Random House and Games Workshop.

He is a true multi-voice, creating everything from monsters to marauding aliens.

He is also an accomplished stage and TV actor." 2018


...I'm John Banks - welcome to my website.

The majority of my working life has been spent in the theatre with companies including
York Theatre Royal, Cheltenham Everyman, Sheffield Crucible, Bristol Old Vic, Manchester Royal Exchange and the National Theatre in London.

Television work includes Emmerdale, Coronation Street, and 'Allo, Allo!'. I have also worked on a number of radio drama and comedy productions with the BBC.

Since March 2009, I have enjoyed playing a huge variety of characters in more than 270* audio-drama stories with Big Finish Productions, together with The Black Library/Games Workshop, details of which can be found in the postings below.

There are also details listed here of the 214* audio books & stories I've recorded since March 2013,
including the unabridged New Revised Standard Version of The Bible, for companies including, Hachette, Audible Studios, Podium Audio Publishing, HarperCollins, RNIB, W.F. Howes, Little Brown Group, Penguin Random House, Games Workshop, Orion, Fantom Films & Ladbroke Audio.

(*figures at April 2021)

I hope you find something of interest here and come back soon for further updates.

For all posts, reviews and audio samples, please scroll down...

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Tuesday 10 September 2019

The House of Niccolò

Good morning! Over the past year or so, I've occasionally alluded to the project which was 'The House of Niccolò', details of which appear below. Recording of the first of the series, 'Niccolo Rising', began on 26th June 2018 and the final book, 'Gemini', was completed on 8th October. 

During that 'busy' fifteen week period, I recorded the eight books of Niccolo, together with three other audio books and a further three audio dramas. That kind of recording schedule is punishing indeed and there was precious little time to prep the Niccolo books. The reality of such a schedule meant that prep had to be done the night before recording; so after a full day in the studio, my evenings, nights - and early mornings! - were taken up by reading and marking up for the following day's work. I remember hearing the milkman arrive one morning as I was still prepping and thinking to myself, that within a few hours, I'd be back in the studio and really ought to get some sleep before then - prepped or not!

The scheduling meant that we had to record all eight books in as short a time as possible in order to meet the publishing deadline, which was set for the 11th November. Editing, proofing and any required pick-ups also had to be done well before that date to ensure there would be no delay to the hugely complex production process. 

I'm sure you can imagine how much pressure producer Neil Gardner and I were under to meet the deadline, particularly given my other recording commitments (three other audio books and three audio dramas) and the fact that the Niccolo books are not an 'easy read'; they are complicated, densely written, require voice characterisation from all over the 15th century world (Bruges, Venice, Florence, Geneva, and the Hanseatic League; Burgundy, Flanders, Poland and Muscovy; Iceland; the Iberian Peninsula and Madeira; the Black Sea cities of Trebizond and Caffa; Persia; the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Rhodes; Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula; and West Africa, Timbuktu and the Sahara.) ...and are very long! 

Total running time for the eight volume series comes in at a hefty 215 hours; the equivalent of 20 or so 'standard' length audio books and features 1,473 named characters...

After such a huge effort to complete recording, I can only express a sense of 'disappointment', that for reasons unknown and completely out of my control, actual publication did not occur on 11th November 2018, but instead, on 5th September 2019. 

I recently met someone from The Dorothy Dunnett Society, who invited me to speak and 'perform' extracts from the books at next April's convention in Edinburgh. Of course, I'm flattered to have been asked, though for a number of practical reasons, I have declined the offer. Instead, I have agreed to write a short article for the Society's 'Whispering Gallery' magazine, set for December publication. 

Here is a link to the Society's web site should you wish to know more about the series: The Dorothy Dunnett Society and here are details of the audio books, now available to download:

The time is the 15th century, when intrepid merchants became the new knighthood of Europe. Among them, none is bolder or more cunning than Nicholas vander Poele of Bruges, the good-natured dyers apprentice who schemes and swashbuckles his way to the helm of a mercantile empire.


The House of Niccolò


Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett, read by John Banks.

Niccolo Rising, book one of the series, finds us in Bruges, 1460. Street smart, brilliant at figures, adept at the subtleties of diplomacy and the well-timed untruth, Dunnett's hero rises from wastrel to prodigy in a breathless adventure that wins him the love of the strongest woman in Bruges and the hatred of two powerful enemies.

Niccolo Rising combines history, adventure and high romance in the tradition stretching from Alexandre Dumas to Mary Renault.

 Length: 23 hrs and 28 mins 

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett, read by John Banks.

In 1461, the mysterious, enigmatic Nicholas is in Florence. Backed by none other than Cosimo de'Medici, he will sail the Black Sea to Trebizond, last outpost of Byzantium, and the last jewel missing from the crown of the Ottoman Empire. But trouble lies ahead.

Nicholas's step-daughter - at the tender age of 13 - has eloped with his rival in trade: a Machiavellian Genoese who races ahead of Nicholas, sowing disaster at every port. And time is of the essence: Trebizond may fall to the Turks at any moment.

Crackling with wit, breathtakingly paced, The Spring of the Ram is a pyrotechnic blend of scholarship and narrative shimmering with the scents, sounds, colors and combustible emotions of the 15th century.

Length: 23 hrs and 55 mins  


Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett, read by John Banks.

This is the third book in the House of Niccolo series. 

Set in 15th-century Cyprus, this novel continues the saga of Nicholas van der Poel, international mercenary who started out as a dyer's apprentice, as he plays for the highest stakes with the greatest superpowers in Europe.
Length: 26 hrs and 54 mins


Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett, read by John Banks.

The year 1464 finds our hero Nicholas in Venice. Plagued by enemies bent on dissolving his assets and smearing his character, he sets sail for Africa, legendary location of the Fountain of Youth and the source of gold in such abundance that men prefer to barter in shells. He will discover the charms of the beautiful Gelis - a woman whose passion for Nicholas is rivalled only by her desire to punish him for his role in her sister's death.

Erotic and lush with detail, Scales of Gold embraces the complexity of the Renaissance, where mercantile adventure couples with more personal quests behind the silken curtains of the Age of Discovery.

Length: 24 hrs and 22 mins 

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of The Unicorn Hunt, by Dorothy Dunnett, read by John Banks.

The fifth title in the House of Niccolo sequence, re-creating the perilous world of trade, war and banking in Renaissance Europe.

Niccolo has returned to Venice from Africa - richer, wiser yet ever unpredictable. He journeys to Scotland, closer at hand to the secrets of his birth.


Length: 29 hrs and 20 mins

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett, read by John Banks.

Merchant-banker Nicholas de Fleury, having wrested his infant son from the boy's formidable mother, pauses en route to the land of golden light to set in train a deception that will ensnar nations in the triumphant ruin of his enemies. 

This is volume six in the House of Niccolo.

Length: 28 hrs and 29 mins

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett, read by John Banks.

January 1474, in the deep cold of an ice-bound Danzig: a man is spending a frivolous winter not facing up to his responsibilities.... 

It is the merchant Niccolo, diviner, soldier, banker to kings; shunned by all who know him after revelations of his murderous mischief-making. But his talents are too great to be squandered, and a subtle political dance ensues as rivals in Poland, Venice, and Persia bid for his services in trade and war and diplomacy. Niccolo has lost his family, but he will discover a new purpose in life....

 Length: 26 hrs and 41 mins

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett, read by John Banks.

Gemini represents the final appearance of Nicholas de Fleury, who opened this series as a carefree, clumsy 18-year-old apprentice in Flanders. Now he is in his 30s. The culmination of this amazing series sees Niccolo face his toughest battle yet, against an enemy who will tax every skill he has acquired over the course of the last few years....

 Length: 31 hrs and 47 mins


* * * * *

Should you wish to invest both time and money in this series, you might also wish to look at the two volumes of 'The Dorothy Dunnett Companion', written by Elspeth Morrison, which provide "... an encyclopaedic guide to the world Dorothy Dunnett describes, illuminating the tapestry of fact and allusion, of historial personages and places, events and politics, literary references and music that colour her books. It covers both her "Lymond" sequence, which explores the intricacies of 16th-century history, and the "House of Niccolo" series, set in the 15th-century world of trade and war and banking."

As usual, Audible has attached 5 minute samples taken from each of the audio books as an 'appetiser' should you wish to get a pre-purchase 'flavour' of the stories. For reasons unknown, the samples selected from books 4 to 8 are identical and are in fact, taken from Judith Wilt's lengthy introduction to the novels rather than extracts from Dunnett's narrative; an odd decision I think!

...all for now; more just as soon as it happens!

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Reviews & comments:

The Malazan Empire

Over the course of this 8 book series, the amazing John Banks has had to create and voice 648 distinct characters!

Neil Gardner - producer

The Door In The Wall & War of The Worlds

Not often I buy another version of an audiobook I own, but after hearing John Banks' narration of The Door in the Wall by Ladbroke Audio, I had to buy their version of The War of the Worlds. Banks has a great reading voice.

Andy Frankham-Allen - writer

The Books of Babel: Senlin Ascends, Arm of The Sphinx & The Hod King

Mr. Banks does superb work, and I recommend the audiobooks wholeheartedly!

Josiah Bancroft - writer

Mervyn Stone: The Axeman Cometh

John Banks is a voice genius...

Nev Fountain - writer

Mervyn Stone... played by the note-perfect John Banks.

Matt Hills - Reviews in Time and Space

Dr. Who: The Sleeping City

I also must draw attention to John Banks who is an exceptional voice artist and in this one story performs more characters that I can count. ... it is listening to episodes like this one that really do let his talents shine through.

Tony Jones - Red Rocket Rising


...playing several parts, was the brilliant Big Finish regular John Banks - it was as if there were about 40 different actors in the other booth.

James Moran - writer

I went for the best of the best and brought in voice artiste extraordinaire John Banks.

Paul Spragg - producer


...also features the mind - bogglingly versatile and reliable John Banks

Jonathan Morris - writer

Dead Funny:

The acting is first rate… wonderfully played by John Banks as Richard – his impersonation of Eric Morecambe is worth the admission money alone.

Beverly Greenberg: Bolton Evening News

Mr. Happiness:

This early and unfamiliar play by David Mamet is a character study of a 1930s radio counsellor, dispensing suave advice to his devoted listeners. John Banks brings out the wry comedy of this – comedy quite unappreciated by the character – with a clever range of gesture and vocal tone.

Jeremy Kingston: The Times

All My Sons:

This is a beautifully crafted piece ...and it affords a wonderful opportunity for John Readman* to do his All-American Boy act as Chris Keller. This most polished and well observed performance as the blighted son of a blighted father must rank as one of his finest accomplishments yet. ( * see Profile)

The Stage

The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes

Kudos should also go to John Banks. Lestrade can be a thankless part, but Banks rose to the challenge, playing a pivotal role in this decades long arc.

Raissa Devereux - SciFiPulse

The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes

John Banks is multi-tasking, both as the superb Lestrade and also the villainous and no doubt moustache twirling Sebastian Moran. They sound completely different and I bow to his talent.

Sue Davies - SFcrowsnest

Further reviews and comments are included with specific postings throughout the site.

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