…and I do mean insanely great, in more than one sense of the word. No one writes like Joe Pulver.
I envy anyone about to experience Pulver’s horrors for the first time. — Simon Strantzas
First, The Orphan Palace. Lovecraft fans who are looking for something different definitely need to read this novel. Cosmic horror? Check. The Hounds of Tindalos? Check. Noir? Check and double-check.
What’s it about, you ask? Like many great books, The Orphan Palace is difficult to summarize. From Amazon: “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. 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.”
There are so many things I could say about Joe’s work, but instead, I’ll quote a few others:
Matt Cardin: “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?”
Simon Strantzas: “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.”
Robin Spriggs: “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.”
Do yourself a favor and pick up The Orphan Palace. It’s available in print and for Kindle.
Which brings me to Joe’s collection, Portraits of Ruin:
“Pulver continues, as in his earlier work, to draw upon H. P. Lovecraft, Robert W. Chambers, and other classic writers for his inspiration, but he takes his cues also from rock music, avant-garde prose and poetry, and, most of all, from the spectacular phantasmagoria of life in the twenty-first century. With Portraits of Ruin Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. continue to gain new readers for his unique vision and the even more unique prose with which he expresses it.”
I like what David Brzeski has to say: “It’s not fiction as we know it, but somehow it’s never difficult to read. It flows organically in a way that gets under the reader’s skin.”
And Walt Hicks: “Sure, you’ve got your Lovecraft, Robert W. Chambers, Ramsey Campbell, William Burroughs, Richard Brautigan, Raymond Chandler—even T. S. Eliot—but jam them all together into Pulver’s psychotic centrifuge, and the resulting velvet-swathed, running-the-guts spatter pattern ends up as a collection like Portraits of Ruin.”
I cannot recommend these two books highly enough.