It is the end of an era for the ZBS Foundation and their long-running, full-cast audio series, Jack Flanders. In January this year, lead actor Robert Lorick passed away, ending more than four decades of playing the title character.
Jack Flanders began life in 1972 with the daily bite-sized radio serial The Fourth Tower of Inverness. It launched a forty-four year mystical adventure told over 25 serials and several spin-offs. The series introduced many much-loved characters, some of who remain in the series today and, despite the death of the lead actor, they may appear once more in the new Jack Flanders adventure that is due to be released later this year.
Jack without Jack? Creator Meatball Fulton has earned his stripes over the decades and consistently come up with the goods for both of ZBS Foundation’s flagship serials – Jack Flanders and Ruby: The Galactic Gumshoe. Jack without Jack will no doubt be a fitting conclusion or re-invention of the series.
Jack Flanders is an adventurer of grand and unique proportions. He not only travels the world, but astral plains and other metaphysical realms. His placid and curious nature leads him into mystical adventures that take over his everyday life.
For his adventures in foreign lands, the soundscapes are often real, with Fulton travelling to many exotic locations with Fritz, his 3D recording device, to record the environment and ambient sounds that will later be used in the plays. India, the Amazon, Morocco and Rio are just some of the lands visited over the decades.
What makes Jack Flanders a success is a perfect blend of mystery, comedy, spirituality, abstract observation and quirky characters. The stories are never dull, despite the sometimes-leisurely pace, because there is always something happening and some event unfolding in an unusual way. Fulton keeps the listener on their toes by never quite knowing what to expect…other than the unexpected.
Fulton’s vivid imagination is boundless. He takes us from old castles to flying sailing ships. His spirituality is equally as alluring, introducing his hero to the writings of Ram Dass, the philosophies of Buddha, Hinduism, regression therapies, and self-awareness techniques. Listening to the Jack Flanders stories is a lesson in self-improvement almost as much as it is a lesson in unbridled imagination. The tales are, by no means, a cloaked spiritual lesson, but there are learnings to be had within several of the adventures.
The music of Tim Clark is an exceptional bonus to the production values, with some of his music available separately for purchase. Clark’s music is frequently an additional character in the plays, not just an underscore to the action.
The entire series of Jack Flanders, and most of the spin-offs are all still freely available for purchase from ZBS.org, with samples or complete stories often offered as free downloads from their homepage. Of the thousands of audiobooks and radio plays I’ve enjoyed over my own 40-plus years, the Jack Flanders series remains a firm favourite and one of the most replayed in my personal collection.
Each listening offers something new and exciting. It hasn’t dated and it doesn’t lose its appeal. The progression of the characters and their relationships are evident over the years but never take the primary focus away from any one story. Each adventure can be enjoyed separately or in the order they were made. I discovered Jack with the seventh adventure in the series, Dreams of India, and was compelled to look for more.
The Jack Flanders audio series:
01 The Fourth Tower of Inverness 1972
02 Moon Over Morocco 1973
03 The Ah-Ha Phenomenon 1977
04 The Incredible Adventures of Jack Flanders (Green Velvet Chair 1) 1978
05 Dreams of Rio 1987
06 Dreams of the Amazon (Travels with Jack 1)1992
07 Dreams of India (Travels with Jack 2) 1992
08 Dreams of Bali (Travels with Jack 3) 1992
09 Dreams of Sumatra (Travels with Jack 4) 1993
10 The Mystery of Jaguar Reef 1996
11 Midnight at the Casa Luna 1998
12 Return to Inverness 2000
13 Dreams of the Blue Morpho (Travelling Jack 1) 2002
14 Somewhere Next Door to Reality (Travelling Jack 2) 2002
15 Do That in Real Life? (Travelling Jack 3) 2003
16 The Eye of Van Gogh (Travelling Jack 4) 2006
17 Orchids and Moonbeams (The Fantastic Voyages of Captain Jack Flanders 1) 2005
18 The Ghost Islands (The Fantastic Voyages of Captain Jack Flanders 2) 2006
19 Tropical Hot Dog Night (The Fantastic Voyages of Captain Jack Flanders 3) 2007
20 The White Castle (The Fantastic Voyages of Captain Jack Flanders 4) 2008
21 Steam Dreamers of Inverness (released over 4 parts) 2010 & 2011
22 Do Angels Really Have Wings? 2012
23 Dreams of Tiffany Blue 2013
24 The Secret of the Crystal Maidens 2014
25 The Green Velvet Chair (Green Velvet Chair 2) 2015
26 League of the Green Velvet Chairs (Green Velvet Chair 3) 2017
01 The Adventures of Rocket Pierre (A Little Frieda adventure series in the ‘Stars & Stuff’ collection) 1977
02 Little Frieda’s Life Lessons 2001
03 The Case of the Disappearing Witch (Mojo Sam and Little Frieda) 2005
04 Land of Enchantment (A Mojo Sam story) 2006
05 The Wee Weaver (A Little Frieda Mystery) 2007
06 Mojo’s Vest Pocket Voodoo Adventures (A Mojo Sam story) 2009
The Music of George Schutz:
01 Mojo Plays Morocco 1977
02 Mojo’s Concert at Inverness 2001
Review first published 22 June 2016 on Glam Adelaide.