Thursday, September 1, 2011

Coming in October: 'The Orphan Palace' by Joseph S. Pulver

Back in my second year of college, when I was in the full grips of the lunacy of youth, fed by childlike artistic optimism and mountains of hallucinogens, I decided I wanted to change my major from pre-law to English Lit.  I had decided to become a professional writer, so I needed to become a collegiate reader.  Well, not so much "professional" writer, as I cared not a whit for legitimization or money.  What 20 year old, moon-eyed moron does?  But, I knew I wanted to be a writer, and more specifically, a poet.  I wanted to grow a (pre-Hipster/Walt Whitmanesque) beard, rent out an attic from a kindly octogenarian, and write poetry that no one wanted to buy, but that I couldn't stop writing, because it burned through my skin from my soul, etching itself onto page after thick-fibered journal page like the finger of God.

Why such an irrational yet vastly (Big "R") Romantic life change?

The Beatniks, that's why.

The mad, howling writeniks of the Beat generation caught me in mid-pivot, and pummeled me to the floor, bloodying my knees and tearing open my skull.  I loved the energy, the rhythm, the raw and wild fuckoffedness of their storytelling, structure, and prose.  Of their lifestyle in general, which was all based around writing, music, expression, experience...  This is what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be a Beatnik writer.

Of course, I didn't know at the time that I couldn't be a Beatnik writer because that era was long past, narcotics and driving safety laws were far more stringent, musty old octogenarians charged rent for their musty old attics, and people read even less poetry in the early 90's than they did in the late 50's.  So, after coming to grips with needing a day job and reassessing that beard (settling on a Chris Cornellian soul patch instead), I reckoned I could assume the style of a Beatnik writer, but that soon seemed less and less desirable, the further and further away I traveled from that last gasp of childlike artistic optimism so particular to university, and especially that leering mountain of hallucinogens.  Stuck without a literary rudder, I didn't know what sort of prose writer I wanted to be.  So, I never became one.  Instead, I became a music writer, then a satire columnist, then a screenwriter, then dangerously disgruntled.  None of the former engage in much prose, and prose was what I wanted to do.

But what sort of prose?  I loved reading Lovecraft, but I never dared attempt write like him, nor write THROUGH him.  I didn't even think people did that back then, and that style of horror literature was so gloriously stodgy, standing in direct contrast to the Beatnik energy that I was still feeling in my bones when I finally stared down my path, clotted with so many narrow, distracting forks.

I wish, all those years ago, I would have stumbled across Joseph S. Pulver, just as he was thundering onto the scene.  If I did, I would have had a 20 year head start on my real writing career, and spared the planet a forest's worth of shitty screenplays how hopefully recycled into the toilet paper that they truly were.  Had I read Joe - and he insists on me calling him Joe, instead of the "Mr. Pulver" that he's due - it all would have been different.  But, just as Blood Will Have Its Season, and just as the world can always be boiled down to Sin & Ashes, everything always seems to happen for a reason. 

Joe writes like a modern day Beat after spending a week locked up in an unhallowed mausoleum, adding an extra edge of madness to the zig zagging, tea lid poetics.  He's a gritty amalgam of neon noir scuttling beneath shadows moving in the uncaring skies above. He's a traveling salesman huddling in a cheap, semen stained motel, clutching a rusted canning knife in a blood drenched suit.  He's the third day of a speed binge, when the commonplace things of the sunlight world become strange objects of terror, and death seems better than one more hour of this itching horror.  He's an acid trip inside a charnel house.  A peyote bud shot from a musket into the soft side of your willing skull.  He's gristle.  He's grizzle.  He's dangerous beauty.  Tentacles and lipstick.  Stink and incense.  Joe Pulver is like no other writer out there - a true singularity in a malevolent cosmos vast and often repetitively mirrored.
Now, Joe is ready to unleash The Orphan Palace this October, which threatens to take him - and us - to new heights of weirdish wonder anchored by the cold depths of depravity, all set in that patented Pulververse that has become his boot-heeled trademark, bringing poetic prose into the 21st century at the head of a murdered-out Ford Mustang, bristling with spikes and belching fully righteous Hellfire.
And as excited as I am to dig into the guts of this book, I have to comment on the cover of The Orphan Palace, as artist Peter Diamond seems to have set a new standard for book covers.  Look up, gentle readers.  This is an EXTRAORDINARY piece.  Worthy of Joe. Worthy of each other.

As for the more on what lies within that amazing cover, please note the official press release from the Chômu Press website:

"Cardigan is heading east through the night-bleak cities of America and back to confront the past he has never escaped, as a resident of Zimms, an orphanage-cum-asylum and a true palace of dementia, presided over by the ‘Chaos Lord’, Dr. Archer. His odyssey is one of haunting flashbacks and disorientating encounters on the road as he leaves a trail of fire and destruction behind him. In the circles and dead-ends that make the maze of his madness, Cardigan meets bounty hunters, ghosts, ghouls, a talking rat, even a merman, and struggles to decide which will lead him to damnation and which to salvation.

With The Orphan Palace, Joseph S. Pulver takes the ‘weird fiction’ mythologies of Robert Chambers, Frank Belknap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, melts them in the crucible of his own unique noir poetry and cooks up a hallucinatory road-trip that is utterly unexpected."

Joe was kind enough to provide a bit of background and context for The Orphan Palace, brought to you in 1930's Courier, as Joe seems like a thick forearmed, bang the typewriter through wisps of cigarette smoke sort of guy:

"TOP was written in 90 days (a complete draft -- 80+% of which was never changed in any way, excepting typos) . . . It poured out at a pace I found astounding, and at times taxing. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t turn off the words . . . I had the opening and had penned the ending 1st, the rest, connecting the dots, was just steering the car from one coast to the other while trying to keep the wheels on the car as the byways turned into black tickets to nightmare.

TOP is nighttime! Whiskey and madness, hate and pain as fuel, driving a man to dream his DARK dreams, and in them, perhaps find the revenge he believes will be a bridge to a land of quiet.

Years ago, Michael Cisco recommended Marcel Bealu’s The Experience of the Night and Alfred Kubin’s The Other Side. I quickly read them. And came away with this lust to discover the “nature of night”. 10+ years later, TOP is my look at what lives and walks in the Blackness of the “American Night” Cisco sent me in search of. Cisco by the way, did the forward for TOP. Talk ‘bout honored and humbled!!!

My only rule going in was Night (and nightmare - as the mask of madness) is both a road and a forest, a jungle, so you better run (that was pretty much my plot) . . . No stopping, no looking back, run . . . You know where you want your feet to go, but can they take you there? Having read Last Exit To Brooklyn, Rechy’s CITY OF NIGHT, and On The Road, years ago, I felt each seethed. That’s what I wanted. A mad dash, take my poetics off the leash."

This is one of the most anticipated works of 2011/2012.  Pre-order now from here.

You can often tell the much about a person based on the company they keep.  In Joe's case, he and his decorated company sit tall at the Big Boy's table, populated by the best of the best in Weird, Dark, and Lovecraftian fiction.  Indeed, the rogue's gallery that has lined up to issue praise for The Orphan Palace in particular, and/or Joe in general, includes the following:

“Joe Pulver is like the answer to some arcane riddle: What do you get when you cross one of Plato’s Muse-maddened poets with a Lovecraftian lunatic, and then give their offspring to be raised by Raymond Chandler and a band of Beats? His work caters to a literary hunger you didn’t even know you had, and does it darkly and deliciously.”  --  Matt Cardin

The Orphan Palace is not a story. With this novel, Joe Pulver wants to press your face right up against the horror, the crime, the sheer madness and absurdity of the cosmos, and rub your nose in it. He wants you to eat it like a dog eats its own vomit; he wants your face to be covered in black-shining stars and rainbow-filth when you’re done; he demands that you be changed by what you have consumed. This is not a novel. It is a unique literary experience.” --  Gary McMahon

The Orphan Palace kicks you in the face and doesn’t stop. Pulver’s prose sees the world through a cracked lense of 60’s hedonism and 70’s grit, with a side order of unshakable terror. A serial killer novel that explores the dark side of America via Kerouac in a shell of cosmic horror. What he does is electrifying. I’ve never seen anything like it. My hair is still standing on end.” --  Simon Strantzas

“Joe Pulver’s poetic prose is hypnotic and intoxicating, so beautiful and strange that it transports the reader. Yet it does the work of creating fascinating characters and telling story. Story-telling is an art, and none are more accomplished than Pulver. Weird fiction’s primal duty is to fuck [alternative word: debauch] your brain and kiss your sense of wonder. This book has done that for me, as few horror novels have. Absolutely brilliant.” --  Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire

“The prose of Joe Pulver can take its place with that of the masters of our genre – E.A. Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti – while his imaginative reach is something uniquely his own.” - S.T. Joshi

“While everybody else in horror is still aping the shallow visual palette of cinema, Joe Pulver calls down a storm of psychotronic nightmares charged with the evocative depth and relentless pulse of the Devil’s music.” - Cody Goodfellow
"Mad, malevolent, and incantatory, The Orphan Palace reads like the hagridden fever dream of one who has not only stared the Abyss in Its black and fathomless face, but welcomed Its gaze in return . . . and become Its living embodiment. It is a journey to be taken by none but the bravest of readers, and by souls with an ardent desire to savor their own damnation." --Robin Spriggs
Joe, paying homage to his hero Robert W. Chambers

All those years ago, at that crucial time, had I read Joe, it certainly all would have been different...  Now it's your turn, to gaze deeply into the swirling, aching dark conjured in The Orphan Palace.  Now it's your turn to change your tomorrow by burning down your today.

Fear not, the coming of night.  Joe warned you how it would be...


  1. Excellent write-up, Herr Grau. I cannot wait for this book and I to devour each other.

  2. You and me both, Brother Marc. This is going to be an epic work.

    Thanks for reading, and the kind words.