The dark, forbidding alleys of our ruined cityscapes; the hopeless lives of brutalized whores, amoral hit-men, and vengeful victims of violence-these are the landscapes and characters that fill the stories, poems, and prose-poems of Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. in his first collection. And yet, there is a strange and intoxicating beauty to Pulver’s creations, for they transport the reader out of the mundane and into the unearthly by the effortless stroke of a dazzling metaphor. Many of Pulver’s stories are innovative riffs on the enigmatic mythology of The King in Yellow, pregnant with the demonic witchery of the original. With this collection, Pulver has placed himself in the forefront of contemporary fantasy and horror literature.
“The prose of Joe Pulver can take its place with that of the masters of our genre-Poe, Lovecraft, Campbell, Ligotti-while his imaginative reach is something uniquely his own.” -From S. T. Joshi’s Foreword
Jeffrey Thomas: “In this innovative, hypnotic collection, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. has proven himself to be a perversely masterful sculptor of our dreams.”
Wilum H. Pugmire: “Joe Pulver is a dark star is the merciless cosmos of weird fiction. His work is as brutal as it is beautiful.” –
Robert M. Price: “In an earlier day I feel sure Joe Pulver would have been arrested for writing some of the stuff in this collection. Maybe he will be yet! How can he write, with such intricate delicacy, thunderous prose that fairly rips up the pages it is printed on? I wish I knew!” —
Rick Kleffel’s The Agony Column: “Whatever your expectations may be, check them at the door. Pulver has a truly unique style for the horror genre, and this collection of short stories is a perfect vehicle for this sort of style . . . Pulver is an original.” –
Publisher’s Weekly: “While some may find scholar S.T. Joshi’s claim in his introduction that Pulver “can take his place with that of the masters of our genre” (including Poe and Lovecraft) a trifle hyperbolic, all will agree that Pulver is a writer to watch. (Dec.)”
Thomas Ligotti: “Some writers one admires and others make one want to do as they do, or try. For me, Joe Pulver is of the latter type. His imagination is so vile so much of the time that it makes me giggle with amazement. And the prose so deadly visionary. I’m grateful that the pieces in this collection are those of a fellow horror writer who has raised the ante on what it means to be such a creature.”
Table of Contents
Carl Lee & Cassilda
A line of questions
I, like the coyote
Blood will have its season
mr wind sits
an american tango ending in madness
The songs Cassilda shall sing, where flap the tatters of the King
The night music of oakdeene
Dogs begin to bark all over my neighborhood
But the day is a tomb of claws
In this desert even the air burns
and she walks into the room
A certain mr. Hopfrog, esq. Nightwalker
The Black Litany of Nug ad Yeb
An engagement of hearts
An event without knives or rope
One side’s ice, one’s fire
A spider in the distance
A night of moon and blood, then Holstenwall
Under the mask, another mask
Yvrain’s Black Dancers
No Exit Sign
Midnight on a dead end street in noir city
The Master and Margeritha
Hello is a Yellow Kiss
The faces of She
Good night and good luckj
Patti Smith, Lovecraft and I
The collector and the Hand Puppet
The only thing we have to frar ….
Stone Cold Fever
Foreword to “Blood Will Have Its Season” by S.T. Joshi
I first met Joe Pulver at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon, in early October 2007. In all honesty, I was a bit apprehensive at the meeting: some years ago, I had written a far from charitable review of his Cthulhu Mythos novel, Nightmare’s Disciple (1999), and so I would not have been surprised if Joe had greeted me with a swift right hook to the chin—as, indeed, I perhaps deserved. Instead, the gracious Mr. Pulver wanted nothing more than to sit down over some beers and shoot the bull about matters weird, Lovecraftian, and so forth.
At that festival, Joe took the opportunity to give a public reading of some of his newer work: he had recently turned to short fiction of a sort very different from his novel, and I for one was interested to see how he would work in this new medium. The story he read was, I believe, a version of “Carl Lee and Cassilda.”
I was—in the parlance of the streets—blown away.
Joe Pulver had found his voice. Not only does his imagination work best in the short form, but his prose is also perfectly suited to the kind of grippingly intense, take-no-prisoners pungency that he displays throughout this book. The subject matter of his stories may be at times almost unbearably grim—the shattered lives of crack whores; the hard-bitten anomie of serial killers; the hate-fueled relentlessness of those who seek to avenge, and avenge with extreme prejudice, the grisly murders of their loved ones—but Joe has a remarkable talent for lacing his cheerless scenarios with an unexpected flash of poignant metaphor or prose-poetry that suddenly infuses a scintillating beauty into what would otherwise be merely depressing. Every single work in this volume—whether it be an orthodox narrative, an avant-garde experiment, or a delicately ephemeral vignette—is endowed with this kind of prose-poetry, and it is this that provides the thread of unity to what might seem a bewilderingly diverse array of themes, subjects, and approaches.
Lovecraft remains a key source of inspiration for Joe Pulver, but the alert reader will also observe another literary figure lurking in the background of many of these tales—the Robert W. Chambers of The King in Yellow. And yet, Joe’s tales of Cassilda, Cordelia, and the other characters whom Chambers invented for the mythical play that structures his 1895 collection are very far from the originals, and the tales themselves are anything but mechanical homages: Joe seems to have penetrated to the heart of the inscrutable mystery that Chambers has created in this deliberately mysterious play, so that every mention or allusion carries a wealth of implication that spreads far beyond the overt narrative. (The second time I met Joe Pulver, at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in early November 2007, I was granted the high privilege of being led by him to Chambers’s grave in the nearby town of Broadalbin.)
This volume comprises a kind of re-introduction of Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., to the fantasy and horror community, and it shows what great results can be achieved by a sensitive writer who draws not only upon the inspiration of his literary predecessors but upon his own experiences in the hardscrabble world of our day and transmutes them by the alchemy of his imagination into something transcendently beautiful in spite—or, paraodoxically, perhaps even because—of its chilling subject matter. The prose of Joe Pulver can take its place with that of the masters of our genre—Poe, Lovecraft, Campbell, Ligotti—while his imaginative reach is something uniquely his own.
—S. T. Joshi
Wilum H. Pugmire reviews Blood Will Have Its Seasoon