|Voice of the Fire
There are many pitfalls that face an artist who attempts to leave his or her chosen medium and work in another. This is particularly true when the artist is trying to struggle through the creation of a novel and make it out the other side in one piece. Almost universally, the first casualty is concrete detail. Actors, musicians, and comics writers can write good novels (just look at Steve Martin, Nick Cave, or Neil Gaiman) but their weakest point is that they tend to pay short shrift to the realm of the senses. The result is often like a film script or a lyric that has been padded out with expanded stage directions. Alan Moore has made it through these pitfalls and come out with a book, Voice of the Fire
, that is not just a real live novel, it's a novel as good and frequently better than anything he's ever done in comics.
The book is a collection of stories about the author's hometown of Northampton, England, each narrated by a different character living in a different period in the town's history. These glimpses into the lives of Northampton people begin in 4000 BCE, with a halfwit nomad boy expelled from his tribe, and continue through the ages with the tales of a Bronze Age murderess, a madman, a Roman auditor, a visionary nun, a war-battered Crusader, a spineless conspirator, a lecherous judge, an unrepentant witch, a delusional poet, a philandering nihilist, and finally, the master ventriloquist, Alan Moore himself. Perhaps the only thing these characters have in common is that they are extraordinary misfits, chafing against the confines of the world around them. Moore has chosen to tell Northampton's story through the eyes of its in-between people, those who become the scapegoats of history, invested with the sins that their neighbors won't acknowledge. The book is full of sacrifices — victims, martyrs, and madmen whose blood is offered up to the devouring spirit of the town.