And I already have plans to make The Charlatan's Boy our next project, which should be good news to the kids who last year really enjoyed meeting all the feechies and civilizers in the original three Corenwald books.
In addition to the rich story and the action, the read-out-loud-ability of the novels comes from the vernacular in which many of the characters speak, reminiscent of the American South, though with some phrases and words that I've encountered nowhere else: civilizer, for instance.
When I read The Charlatan's Boy, I "heard" Uncle Brascal (rhymes with "rascal", and very apt) or Grandpa or Uncle Roger (who wasn't even born in the South) or Uncle Doyle, even Dad, with their Arkansas accents and dry delivery of punchlines, albeit with a twinkle in their eyes, though they were just as apt to laugh before reaching the end of the story. Not gentle laughter, but knee-slapping, foot-stomping, lean forward in the chair, all over the body, tear-crying kind of laughter. So, for me, reading Rogers' work is almost like sitting in the family tall-tale circle on the porch and hearing someone conjure a fable on the spot or embellish a well-known "true" story.
Just as each of the family storytellers had his own style and voice, Rogers imbues his characters with distinctive characteristics: for instance, Short Fronie is warm, snappish, energetic, and caring; Grady is earthy, deep, honest, and a real boy (no relation to Pinocchio); Floyd is flamboyant, creative, dishonest, and abusive.
Rabbit trail: Ever notice how hard con-men and hucksters work in their efforts to make a dishonest living? Intelligent individuals will go out of their way and misuse their minds in order to scalp money from honest folks. It just plain boggles me.
Okay, back to the main path.
Here's an excerpt that has a tall-tale quality:
"You've seen miners. Miners is a heap uglier than farmers. I got a bad feeling, Floyd."
"Well, I don't. Do you know what I see when I look at you?"
"The ugliest boy in the world."
"You just saying that."
...When we got to Greasy Cave the next day, Floyd took enough bets to double our stake if we won -- or ruin us if we lost. I give the Greasy Cavers every bit of ugly I had.
It just wasn't enough.
When Floyd let me out of the box, I was face to face with the ugliest boy I ever seen in my life. How can I describe how ugly this boy was? I might as well describe how wet water is.
His ears was like plates glommed onto the sides of his head, and his teeth stuck out in every direction except straight. His nose must have been six inches long, but it curled up at the end like a pig snout. His eyes was two or three different colors, and his eyebrows met up with the hair on his head, which had so many cowlicks that no two hairs pointed in the same direction. On top of that, he was covered in coal dust. It made your eyes water to look at him.That boy, Melvern, shows up later:
"So what you been doing since I defeated you last year?" Melvern asked. Besides squinting the one eye, now he was sucking his bottom lip back so it looked like he was more bucktoothed than he really was. I'll say this for the boy: he was making the most of his God-given ugliness.But Grady's physical ugliness is not only a key to his origins but also a misleading face that hides the beauty of the person inside.
More about Grady and his compatriots tomorrow. Meantime, read more reviews of The Charlatan's Boy by visiting the other stops on the blog tour (list found here).