Okay, I admit it. I’m a charlatan. I promised to do a real review of this month’s feature and not beg off with some lame excuse for not reading it, followed by a smokescreen of tangentially-related blather and referrals to other, more responsible reviewers.
Instead, I’m three-for-three in the last quarter of the year. Pathetic.
I wish I had read it. By all accounts, Jonathan Rogers’ The Charlatan’s Boy is a wonderful story, written by a master, suitable for all ages.
Thirty Second Summary: Young Grady works for his guardian, Floyd, in a traveling medicine show that for some years has profitably emptied the pockets of the good folk living on the mythical island of Corenwald. However, the payoffs are dwindling, and Grady’s getting restless. He wants to search out his real parents, but he can’t count on Floyd to give him a straight answer. To make matters worse, Floyd’s latest scheme might get them both killed, or worse–but it also might give Grady the clue he’s been looking for.
Sigh. On to the smokescreen. Nothing up my sleeve…
Of all the criminals who have plied their trade across recorded history, the charlatan, confidence man, con-artist, fraud, hokum, flim-flam, snake-oil salesman, huckster, grifter–the labels go on and on–holds a special place in our hearts. If you’re his victim—mark, shill, sucker, rube, et cetera–you hate him with a volcanic rage. He’s not only stolen your property, he’s made you look stupid in the process. The casual observer watches him with an odd blend of fascination, admiration, and disgust. The guy’s a rotten crook, but he’s so doggone slick, smart, and charming. It’s like watching a master craftsman at work, and if the mark happens to be a rich narcissist, seeing that overfed ego carved into julienne fries by a keenly-honed wit is a vicariously satisfying experience.
Oh, and just because I’m defaulting to the male personal pronoun doesn’t mean that women can’t be effective in the bunko racket. Quite the contrary. Some might say all women are charlatans at heart, but that’s another discussion for another day, by somebody else, with me far, far away in a reinforced-concrete bunker.
The con man has an added charm: we know he could be an incredible force for good, if only he would apply his intelligence and charisma to the cause of righteousness. He doesn’t have a bad heart, he’s just misguided. Maybe he had a troubled childhood. Perhaps he wasn’t adequately challenged in school. His parents might have planted a target on his back by giving him a name that was way too easy to rhyme with some bodily function. At any rate, love him or hate him, what we really want to do, deep down, is turn him around and bring him over to the side of truth and justice. Preferably, working for us.
You only need look at popular culture for evidence. The flim-flam man is a staple of literature, cinema, and television. From The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, to The Music Man, to more modern examples such as Ocean’s 11, The Grifters, The Mentalist, and Psych, we can’t get enough of these folks who can sell igloos to Eskimos, carry coals to Newcastle, charm the feathers off a duck, and get out of town one step ahead of the lynch mob.
Tomorrow, I’ll attempt to divert your attention with some sparkling patter about patent medicine, curiosities of nature, and other lures of the traveling huckster. Keep a tight grip on those wallets and purses, ladies and gentlemen.
UPDATE: Jonathan Rogers has risen from the audience and issued a challenge! See his comments below. Return tomorrow to witness the terrifying spectacle! Adults, $1.00, Children 5 years and older, $0.50. Infants and pets free. Liability waivers required of expectant women and persons of delicate constitution.
In the meantime, please consider the more substantial and legitimate offerings at the other stops on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour:
Thomas Clayton Booher
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Donita K. Paul