top of page

James A. Moore

To say a lot of people loved Jim Moore is quite an understatement, as the outpouring of love yesterday attests. If he lifted you up, if he encouraged you to write (or browbeat you into it), if he told you that you could do it, if he hugged you or made you smile with that booming laughter that was his trademark for decade, then you got the best of Jim. If you read his stories, if you were carried along inside one of his nightmares or adventures, then you enabled his addiction to telling them. If you read any of his Dinner for One blog posts, or the collection of them, then you know him better than the average reader. But the truth is, not many people knew the interior Jim.

            While he was growing up, his family moved constantly. He often said he’d gone to thirteen different schools in something like seven years. Despite the massive biker-looking guy many of us first met, he was a shrimp whose growth-spurt kicked in a bit later than most. You do the math. A constant “new kid” who liked science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and gaming, a little guy with hair too long...if you guessed he was bullied a lot as a kid, you’ve guessed right. When I say a lot, I mean a lot. Then he had a growth spurt like he’d been hit with gamma radiation, and suddenly the bullying lessened, but the isolation really didn’t. Jim developed a hard outer shell and he learned to fight, trained in martial arts, ready to demolish anyone who tested him.

            At home, raised by a single mother who worked around the clock to clothe and feed six children, Jim participated in what he once called the “blood sport” of growing up in the Moore family. Mostly that was because his late sister Rowanne would happily beat the daylights out of anyone who irritated her, siblings included. Jim and Ro were very close over the years, and they looked out for each other—a bond forged through sibling gladiator matches, apparently.

            Jim went to work after high school. Over the course of his life, he worked a series of retail jobs to support his writing habit. He was nominated for awards, won some of them, but mostly he just liked to tell stories. His time living in the south while growing up had taught him some old-fashioned southern manners that life in New England over the past eight years tried to beat out of him, but he held on to his “my dear” and “my good woman” because that was how his mother raised him.

            Not only did he always have a smile for everyone, but “keep smiling” was his constant signoff. But sometimes I had to ask myself how he managed it. When his mother became too ill to work, Jim cared for her until she died. His first wife, Bonnie, had complications from diabetes (as did Jim), and when that disease caught up to her, Jim became Bonnie’s caretaker as well. After Bonnie passed, a number of us close friends met up with him on the beach in New Jersey that had been her favorite place, and stood with him as he scattered her ashes into the ocean and then threw his wedding ring in with them, to stay with her. John McIlveen was there. And Brian Keene, and Mary SanGiovanni, and despite the reason for us being there, Jim’s main concern that night was trying to heal the rift between Brian and Mary. I like to think we set them back on the path that night, and Jim was a big part of that.

            I saw him cry only once. I’m an emotional person. I’m not ashamed of tears. I don’t think Jim was ashamed of his, but they angered him. During his youth, he’d built that outer shell to hide pain and sadness, because those were blood in the water and would draw predators. Bonnie had died and Jim and I had driven up to Toronto together for the World Fantasy Convention. He’d had a wonderful time, made new connections, gotten a new book deal, but mostly just enjoyed the hell out of himself. Driving home, we were talking about what a wonderful time we’d had, and he burst into tears of guilt. Bonnie was dead, and he had allowed himself to be happy, and it tore him apart. The tears were quickly wiped away, but I told him the truth—that this was what Bonnie would have wanted for him, both that he live a good and happy life, and that he also feel guilty as hell for doing it without her. That got him laughing again. That conversation was when I knew he was going to be okay.

            For years, Jim had talked about how he’d always wanted to live in New England. He wanted four seasons. He wanted to see the leaves turn in the autumn and to have snowstorms, all of it. After Bonnie passed, we talked about it, and he planned to do it, but I think he just needed a bit of time before he could leave Atlanta behind. One afternoon I got a phone call from Rowanne. It turned out she’d been diagnosed with a serious heart condition. The odds were that it would eventually kill her, she said, but she was calling to have a confidential conversation with me. I was not to tell Jim we’d spoken. He had taken care of their mother, and then Bonnie, and Ro was determined not to let him do the same for her. She was afraid she would change her mind eventually, so she wanted me to do everything I could to encourage Jim to get the hell out of Atlanta. She knew he wanted to move to New England and encouraged him to go, and so did I, and in—I think it was 2016—I went down to DragonCon, after which we packed up his belongings and I sat white-knuckled in the passenger seat while Jim drove the U-Haul fourteen hundred miles to Massachusetts.

            He was happy here, no doubt. Surrounded by friends, never without company for a movie night. But even with all of us here, I know that he was also alone, and sometimes lonely. He’d told me stories and anecdotes from his life over the years, including about the girl who’d been his best friend for a while—but also the great unrequited love of his life. She was the girl Bonnie grumbled about if Jim brought her up. It was a classic story, the boy who loves a girl who always seems to be in love with “the wrong guy,” because of course anyone but him is going to be wrong. Now, all those years later, Jim and Tessa had stumbled upon each other again. Decades had passed and both of them had seen their share of ups and downs. Finding each other again truly seemed like kismet. It moved swiftly after that, moving in together, and then exchanging wedding vows at Necon, surrounded by friends, with the eloquent, open-hearted Bracken MacLeod officiating.

            They had far too little time to enjoy the happiness of this reunion. Not long after, cancer entered Jim’s life. The years since then were brutally unkind. To save his life from cancer required massive doses of radiation aimed at his neck and throat, and that radiation did so much damage that it began a cascade of complications that would eventually kill him. He spent the last two months of his life in the hospital, fighting like hell to stay with us. He didn’t want anyone to know how dire the situation was, but those of us who went to see him knew the odds were getting worse all the time. I went to see him a few weeks ago and said, as always, “how you doing, brother?” Jim looked at me and said, “dying, brother.” We didn’t realize it was a total certainty at that point, but he and I had a frank conversation about it then. Some of the medical staff were too sunny for him, others too grim, so he was choosing to accept the middle ground, and to keep fighting, almost entirely because he didn’t want to leave Tessa behind. That was all that mattered to him in the end, fighting to stay with her.

            I have a thousand anecdotes. Funny moments, professional insights, the people who pissed him off, the woman who tried to seduce him at a convention when he was still married to Bonnie and how horrified he was. But since I know most people really only knew the Jim he wanted you to see—the Jim he wanted to be—I wanted to share with you some of the true story of Jim Moore.

One final thing. Jim loved music. Truly, deeply. While I was writing this, I started thinking about how he lived and what he wanted out of his life, and I thought of the lyrics to “Nature Boy,” most famously recorded by Nat King Cole. I read these lyrics, and I cried a little, out of grief but also out of love. If you want to really know Jim...this was him:

 

There was a boy

A very strange enchanted boy

They say he wandered very far

Very far

Over land and sea

A little shy

And sad of eye

But very wise was he

And then one day

One magic day he passed my way

And while we spoke of many things

Fools and kings

This he said to me

The greatest thing

You'll ever learn

Is just to love

And be loved in return.

 

 

Rest in peace, my brother. You will always be loved.

539 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

MVHBF 2019

The lineup for The 5th Annual Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival, which will take place October 12th, 2019 at the Haverhill Public Library in Haverhill, MA, from 10am to 4:30pm. (*indicates firs

Kommentit


bottom of page