If you could buy only one piece of Ellison audio fiction, this would be it: an incredible story fantastically delivered. (Ellison has probably read this one live more than any other.)
There's a minimum of production tricks on "Paladin." Although there's a slight echo on his voice when he reads the title, Ellison does it all thereafter: a mean chuckle and extra curses from the cemetery thugs, a small snorting laugh, a very audible puff on a cigar, additional verbal endearments and stuttering from both protagonists. Gaspar is rough and crotchety, yet warm; Billy more even but edgy. As Ellison intended, one could picture either as a black or white man without difficulty.
There's a whole new sentence -- "I'll make an exception in the case of Meryl Streep, but you buy the popcorn" -- and following the reading along with the text alerted me to a number of typos in the Angry Candy edition ... most egregiously, the British Parliament is said to switch to the Gregorian Calendar 170 days after the Vatican, instead of 170 years.
Ellison discarded his formal Jewish background many decades ago, but the theme of responsibility hammered home by Gaspar resonates with Tikkun Olam -- to repair the world -- a Jewish concept that originated with Kabbalistic mystics who postulated that the Earth (or life as it was meant to be) was shattered into many pieces and it is the duty of human beings to put it all together again; that the work of Creation is ongoing.
There are not one but two dramatic peaks in this story. If you have ever lost someone dear to you -- a parent, a spouse, or a close friend -- you will cry in the middle of this reading as well as at the end, guaranteed.
This recording was reissued in 1999 by Dove Entertainment (later Audio Literature), as part of the collection, The Voice From the Edge: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.