Fiction editions


History of a Pleasure Seeker

Richard Mason,

author and Orson co-founder 

Richard Mason was born in South Africa and lives in London.

He was 21 when his first novel, The Drowning People, was published. It sold more than a million copies in 28 languages and won Italy’s Cavour Prize for best first novel. After his second novel Us, he began a collection of interconnected works that now include The Lighted Rooms, History of a Pleasure Seeker, and Who Killed Piet Barol?

The foundation he established in memory of his sister has transformed the lives of hundreds of young people in Cape Town. It currently sends over 100 students per year to the city's best secondary schools. Find out how it works and why Archbishop Desmond Tutu chose to be its patron by visiting The Kay Mason Foundation.


Dan Stevens, narrator

Dan’s star quality in Downton Abbey won him roles on Broadway (The Heiress, opposite Jessica Chastain) and the silver screen as David in The Guest. Feature films include The Ticket, Oppenheimer Strategies, and Beauty and the Beast. He presently stars in the FX network's series Legion.

Richard introduces the first stand-alone digital edition that inspired the Orson app bookshelf.

The Great Gatsby (UK only)


F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

In the early 1920s, Fitzgerald was known primarily as a satirical novelist, and Gatsby is, in large part, a satire of modern America, as its first readers clearly saw. “It is doubtful whether richer satire on our bootlegging, jazzing, wasting age, is being written,” declared the Chicago Daily News on May 27, 1925.

One reason Fitzgerald decided to set his novel of modern America in 1922 (he wrote it over 1923 and 1924) is that he wanted to signal his allegiance to the annus mirabilis of literary modernism, the year that began with the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses and ended with the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. 

Fitzgerald’s original title for his novel was “Among the Ash Heaps and Millionaires”. He always conceived it as a novel about inequality, and the ash heaps were a perfect symbol of modern American waste and desolation. 


Sarah Churchwell

Professor Sarah Churchwell is the Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities and a Professorial Fellow in American Literature at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby (2013).

In the Orson essays, she answers questions like the meaning of the green light, and in her lecture shorts, she covers contemporary readers' reactions, Tom Buchanan's racism, and whether or not Jay Gatsby was really "great".


Shawn Carter Peterson

Shawn graduated cum laude from Vassar College with a dual degree in Drama and Africana Studies. His appearances on television have included ABC's Castle, FOX’s House, and CBS’ How I Met Your Mother. He has shared the silver screen with Miley Cyrus and Faye Dunaway and most recently appeared in Pitch Perfect 2 , and Please Come with Me.

He is married to the soul singer, Sy Smith.

When I Come Around


Benj Hewitt, author

Benj Hewitt is an award-winning writer from Los Angeles who has written political essays for The Huffington Post. A self-contained chapter from this novel won the John Steinbeck Short Story Award and was included in The California Prose Directory, an anthology of the best California writing of 2014. Benj’s other short fiction has appeared in the literary magazines Reed, The California Prose Directory, and The Rattling Wall.


Sam Riegel, narrator

Sam Riegel has been a voice and animation actor for over 100 films, games, and anime series. His roles include Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Phoenix Wright.

Benj on the Orson of his novel

The Belly of Paris


Émile Zola (1840-1902)

Émile Zola was born in Paris in 1840, the son of a Venetian engineer and his French wife. He grew up in Aix-en-Provence, where he made friends with Paul Cézanne. After an undistinguished school career and a brief period of dire poverty in Paris, Zola joined the newly founded publishing firm of Hachette before embarking in 1871 on the creation of his Rougon-Macquart series.

Rougon-Macquart is a staggering achievement - a cycle of 20 novels about the influence of heredity and environment on several generations of a fragmented family in the Second Empire of Napoleon III. Only with the publication of the seventh novel L’Assommoir, a study of alcoholism in the working classes did Zola win wealth and fame. The last volume of the Rougon-Macquart series appeared in 1893.

Zola died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1902 after accusing the French military of antisemitism in the trial of Alfred Dreyfus. Foul play was never proven.


Ian Sklarsky, illustrator

Blind contour artist Ian Sklarsky creates his ink and watercolor drawings with a single continuous line, never taking his eyes off the subject. He has developed an adult coloring book for Yotel and demoed for TED audiences. His 1,000+ portraits include commissions from the Oslo Freedom Forum.


Tim Campbell

A classically trained opera singer and stage actor, Tim Campbell is the voice of multiple USA Today and New York Times bestselling authors and series. He has narrated nearly 150 titles for Audible Studios, Harper Collins, Recorded Books, and others. He performs regularly with the Fresno Grand Opera, Pacific Opera Project, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Los Angeles Opera Chorus.

Slideshow of Zola set to Mozart's "Non più andrai" (The Marriage of Figaro)



William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Shakespeare is responsible, through his pen and via collaboration with others, for 39 plays and 154 sonnets. He composed his Tragedy of Macbeth during the reign of James I and based it on 11th Century Scottish kings. 

Macbeth was first performed in either 1606 or 1611 and first published in 1623. According to legend, Shakespeare sourced some of the witches’ incantations from an actual coven. Their utterance or misuse—and the failure to cast real witches in the roles—has led to disasters in production. Superstition, therefore, prohibits the utterance of the word Macbeth in a theater.


Daniel Aitken, illustrator

Daniel is a Scottish filmmaker, graphic designer, and artist. He received a BA from the Glasgow School of Art in Fine Art Painting & Printmaking, and Historical & Contemporary Art Studies.

In addition to directing music videos, he has hosted a late-night show for Subcity Radio.



L.A. Theatre Works

L.A. Theatre Works’ mission is to record and preserve great performances of important stage plays, maximizing the use of new technologies to make world-class theatre accessible to the widest possible audience and to expand the use of theatre as a teaching tool.

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