Saturday, July 16, 2011

When You're Smiling...

Jim Moore has been a friend of mine for a long, long time—and as long as I've known him, Jim has been a writer. I witness his career even before it was a career--when it was a dream that he was determined to make real. And with each book, Jim has become more skilled at his craft. Smile No More, his latest novel, demonstrates just what a powerful storyteller he has become. This novel brings back one of his most popular creations, Rufo the Clown. This is Rufo's story—a story of a quest for vengeance, of a bizarre bond between hero and villain, and of the strange interrelationship between life and death (a relationship that takes several surprising twists and turns in this tale).

Jim utilizes one of my favorite story structures in Smile No More; since I was a teenager, I'd described it as the "braided rope" approach, because that's the way I visualize it as I'm reading. He presents the reader with what seem to be three unrelated story lines; soon, he begins to braid these three storylines together until, by the end of the book, his story has become a single tightly-woven rope of a tale.

Jim also mixes narrative voices; one of his storylines is told in first person--narrated by Rufo himself, in fact. The others are told in third person, sometimes from differing points of view. It's a complex narrative approach that many could prove too challenging for many writers; Jim makes it work well.

The story follows Rufo as he sets out to find his sister, whom he hasn't seen since his death a half-century earlier. Rufo soon learns that there are multiple generations of family on his sister's side--but the discovery proves to be bittersweet, launching him on a mission of vengeance and discovery.

While there are portions of the book that will lead the reader to sympathize with Rufo, Jim never lets the reader lose sight of the fact that Rufo is inherently evil. There may have been an essence of goodness here once, but this is a being who found a way to escape death itself... but in doing so, he left his humanity behind.

Rufo fans will love the revelations that Smile No More offers regarding the evil clown's origins and the nature of his seeming immortality. And the book's final chapters establish a nemesis for Rufo--a man whose future seems inexorably linked to Rufo's, no matter how much he wishes it weren't.

Smile No More is currently available as a limited edition from Morning Star Books; I certainly hope that a mass-market publisher makes a mass-market edition available, because fans of Moore's Serenity Falls tales are most definitely going to want a copy of this dark, twisted tale.

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