Table of Contents
A Line of Questioons
The “Carl Lee & Cassilda” Triology
Carl Lee & Cassilda
An American Tango Ending in Madness
Hello is a Yellow Kiss
The Last Few Nights In A Life Of Frost
(previously unpublished version)
Last Year in Carcosa
An Engagement of Hearts
Saint Nicholas Hall
A Spider In the Distance
Under the Mask Another Mask
Epilogue For Two Voices
Yvrain’s “Black Dancers”
The Songs Cassilda Shall Sing, Where Flap the Tatters of the King
The Sky Will Not Fall
Tark Left Santiago
Marks and Scars and Flags
Long Stemmed Ghost Words
In This Desert Even the Air Burns
Mother Stands For Cmfort
A Cold Yellow Moon
Supremely glad that
this is only
It is bad form to review a work
wherein the last story is a
collaboration with your-
self, but this is a
rare case. I asked.
The favor was
Ah, Beast, teacher, Boogeyman, the father I actually found,
Sensei, dark midnight thunderer over metaphysical canons,
This collection, this chance, this great thing that
Mike Davis did, and everyone who proofed and dare
I say peopled its pages with dank cyanide Easter-
eggs: Mike Cisco. Kat Pulver. Brandi Jording.
Karl Edward Wagner. Laird Barron. Scott
Nicolay. David Lynch. But none of them
are big enough for Beast to hide
behind, even with false modesty,
homage, canonical Jazz and Ska
when all the stops come loose,
This series of etudes in every key,
This— Ah, Beast, the drunken
night behind the ropes at a
Tuscan restaurant while
the cooks paid back the
favor they owed the
Tuscan beauty on
my arm and we
this good. It almost
held this much weight, but
I don’t have to put it
down after every story
and process what I
just read. Me.
You never cease to meditate on
Chambers, but never stayed
there, only jumped off
from there. Every time
I think you’ve cheated,
you rope-a-dope both
eyelids and I go
back one page and
Beast don’t cheat. The reader
is his mouse. We get moved
back and forth on the
page. SWAT. SWAT. A
little blood, but
more to the field
* * *
‘The King In Yellow reigns over the labyrinthine crossroads between the grand indifference of the cosmic Outside, and the inner wasteland of the tormented mind, so it’s no surprise to find Joe Pulver’s saturnine face so frequently behind the Pallid Mask. Joe plies the fathomless depths of existential nightmare breathing music and poetry, and brings back strangely beautiful salvage. That he has so lovingly and deeply explored Chambers’ bizarre pocket universe without destroying the merest scintilla of its mystery is ample testament to his painfully sharp craftsmanship and terrible wisdom.”
Cody Goodfellow, author of “Radiant Dawn” and “Unamerica”
* * *
“I picked up King in Yellow Tales: vol 1 with zero expectations. I’d never read Joe’s work before, so I had no point of reference—good or bad.
This collection is not a breezy afternoon read. By that I mean that many of these tales do not follow a traditional narrative structure. The language, the formatting, and the unease that results when these elements combine whisper madness in your ear. Often, there are no (easy) answers, and one must read between the lines to decipher the yellow text just waiting to be revealed.
Among my favorites were:
The Carl Lee & Cassilda Trilogy (Carl Lee & Cassilda; An American Tango Ending in Madness; Hello is a Yellow Kiss)
A Cold Yellow Moon (with Edward R. Morris, Jr.)
With each of these tales I was swept into a dreamworld of ashy daylight and jaundiced shadows, and despite having never traveled these roads before, there was a familiarity to it all. Like returning visit to your hometown after time and memory have rendered it unrecognizable, but still there is that pull…
You belong here.
These are stories to be experienced, not consumed. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to read, pages that can be opened and closed in an afternoon and then tossed back onto the pile without a second thought, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in something deeper—if you’re willing to burn the torch, venture into the shifting darkness, and risk glimpsing something not of this Earth—then I highly recommend this collection. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your friends. Hell, buy it for your enemies because you just never know…”
* * *
“I just finished Joe Pulver’s “The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1” published by Lovecraft Ezine Press and I strongly recommend this book! As someone who loves reading Lovecraftian and Cthulhu Mythos tales, I frequently want to move beyond Lovecraft and read from other branch of the “Weird Fiction” family tree. Robert Chamber’s collection of loosely connected stories about The King in Yellow has always fascinated me and Mr. Pulver is obviously Chamber’s leading disciple or successor to this line of fiction.
Before reading Mr. Pulver’s “The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1” I strongly recommend seeing the recorded Panel on Robert Chambers and the King in Yellow from the August 2015 NecronomiCon on YouTube. I was fortunate enough to attend that panel. All of the contributors were great to listen to but Joe’s input was the most mesmerizing. His interpretation and subsequent conveyance of the “weird” associated with the King in Yellow is absolutely fascinating and will only enhance your reading of “The King in Yellow Tales, Volume 1.”
In summary, the collection of tales about the King in Yellow, Camilla, Carcosa, the lake of Hali, and the Phantom of Truth are beautiful and haunting. What impresses me the most about Mr. Pulver’s writing is how he can get you to care about characters with the use of only a few words. In one tale I felt so bad for what was happening to the female protagonist I had to put the book down for a bit (of course I picked it back up). That demonstrates the power of Mr. Pulver’s writing.
I must admit there were two tales that I had difficulty in understanding and following but I think that was primarily due to my training and experience in scientific writing, which tends to be very linear and literal. The King of Yellow and the associated concepts are anything but linear and literal.
Peter Rawlik has a very amusing Afterword in this collection and has a quote that best describes Mr. Pulver’s writing as, “These are not your father’s weird tales. These are tales that will claw at your reptilian brain and keep you waiting for the sun to beat back the darkness.” Again, I HIGHLY recommend this book and look forward to Volume 2! Fred.”
Fred S. Lubnow. author “Journal of Lovecraftiann Science”
* * *
“Joseph S. Pulver is the King in Yellow –sorry True Detective fans; the Yellow King does not reside in Louisiana where he drives a power mower. No; this particular bEast resides in Berlin where he writes a form of Weird Fiction that seamlessly blends Noir, Beat, and Decadence with a cosmic kind of horror which can in turns wash over you with deliciously off kilter poetics before filling you with a dread that works its way into the darker, most hidden, reaches of your psyche.
The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories in the French Decadent tradition written by an American, Robert W. Chambers, in the 1890s. Pulver has been producing work which riffs off of the King in Yellow the_king_in_yellow_t_cover_for_kindlestories for decades and he is the person most responsible for keeping the yellow flame alive as a field of literary exploration in its own right for all that time. During the 20th Century Chambers’ work was brought into the mythology created by H.P. Lovecraft and the strange denizens that wreak havoc in Chambers’ work were turned into ancient and terrible alien gods by the acolytes of Lovecraft, even though he only made passing reference to them in his own work. Pulver has all but severed these ties to Lovecraft and instead seeks to explore the maddening influence of the more mysterious aspects of Chambers’ work: the titular play which drives mad any who witness or read the second act, and the Yellow Sign which casts a baleful influence over all who are unfortunate enough to encounter it.
That’s not to say that Pulver has abandoned all Lovecraftian elements; the first story proper in this collection, ‘Choosing’, is a post apocalyptic nightmare merging both mythologies into a bewildering scream of frustration and pain. Frustration at one’s powerlessness to resist horrors heaped down upon us by those protected by power and tradition; pain at the suffering inflicted upon those about whom we care by those stronger than us. To me this story seemed to speak of the way in which women, as a body of people, are abused and maltreated by society and the powerlessness of individuals to confront and challenge this maltreatment. Of course the story is also a brilliant horror tale and it’s testament to Pulver’s skill as a writer that his works can be read in different ways and to varying depths.
“To no particular where, just went. Stepped right into August like it was a voyage or a baptism. Stopped in his cheap room, grabbed his stuff and left. Somewhere down the road he’d find her. The wind would take him to her”
-‘Carl Lee & Cassilda’
Pulver’s hard-boiled, noir infected, prose in the ‘Carl Lee & Cassilda’ triptych of stories takes Chambers’ creations and places them firmly into America’s bourbon soaked underbelly of hustlers, hookers, lunacy and bloody murder. This dark sensibility and affinity for the broken refugees and cast-offs of society permeates much of Pulver’s work and his characters reflect this darkness. You will not like some, or many, of the characters in this book but then: you’re not supposed to. These are the stories, after all, that lurk in rain drenched alleyways waiting to seize an unsuspecting passerby and to turn their world upside down.
Joe Pulver is no a fearful writer and his prose in this collection illustrates this eagerly as he experiments with the form and function of the English language. Happily jumping from beat infused noir to decadent stage plays and poetic verse. His playing with form suggests to me that the printed page is going to give the reader the greatest appreciation for his work –though a regular e-reader may render the prose as it was initially meant to be read, I read this on my smartphone and the reflowing of some of his more poetic tales has guaranteed that I am also going to seek this collection out in paperback.
In ‘Saint Nicholas Hall’, dedicated to America’s Kafka –Michael Cisco, Pulver takes his creative muse and uses is as a scalpel to hone a beautifully realised modernist(?) prose poem that again plays with the form of the written word to fashion a phantasmagoric Carcosan cityscape through which the protagonist travels towards his confrontation with loss.
These are just a handful of the stories that make up this first volume of Jospeh Pulver Sr.’s collected King in Yellow tales. I highlighted these few as I feel they illustrate quite how deep a literary well Pulver is drawing from. This collection is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the renaissance of weird fiction which has been underway these last few years. Pulver is a master of his art and you deserve to read him.”
Andy W. Baader
* * *
“These are stories to be experienced, not consumed. If you’re looking for something that’s easy to read, pages that can be opened and closed in an afternoon and then tossed back onto the pile without a second thought, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in something deeper—if you’re willing to burn the torch, venture into the shifting darkness, and risk glimpsing something not of this Earth—then I highly recommend this collection. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your friends. Hell, buy it for your enemies because you just never know…
“The King In Yellow Tales is a collection of stories, vignettes, and poetic prose that is as dreamy and moody as the reality warping fictional play it takes its title from. Many of these are unconventional in form, but are nonetheless successful in delivering an all important sense of tone.
Pulver offers a dedication to each piece, and many of which are to Karl Edward Wagner author of my all time favorite King In Yellow story, “The River of Night’s Dreaming.” While none of the stories in The King In Yellow Tales are going to take over the top spot from Wagner, they all built upon a similar and wonderfully twisted sense of mood.
Speaking of mood, Pulver also lists music that inspired him or pairs well with the pieces in this collection. The man must have an eclectic and excellent range of taste in music to go from suggesting such a diverse assortment of music from Neko Case to Bob Dylan to Patti Smith to Eric Burden to Kevin Shields.
Overall, if you’re looking for a collection of short stories told in standard form, this is the wrong place. If you’re looking to open up your mind to a dreamy delivery of concept and mood, this is a perfect collection.”
Ian Welke (Amazon review)
* * *
“Joe Pulver’s collection from the Lovecraft eZine Press, The King in Yellow Tales vol. 1, is a widely variable collection of short stories, prose poems, and outright poems dedicated – at varying depths – to Robert Chamber’s creations from his King in Yellow short series of stories. Pulver is working with the ideas and themes of Chambers, but he goes beyond, and far afield, to what the original King in Yellow tales laid out.
If I’m very honest there was much in Pulver’s tales that went beyond me, or ran parallel to what I might normally read and what my reading-patience is capable of understanding. There were some pieces in the book that I found difficult to get into or to grasp and much of it comes from Pulver’s dis-jointed, poetic style. I am not saying that these pieces were bad, and I would definitely not suggest that they committed the worst offense of fiction and ever became boring, but that they were evidently aimed at someone other than me with a different set of experiences and interests; though the book itself was worth me giving some of the more difficult pieces a second read-through.
But when the pieces did get to me, when I did find the beginning thread and follow it all the way to the end, they really hit me and hit me hard. His more plot-based pieces such as “Carl Lee & Cassilda” and “Hello Is a Yellow Kiss” were right up my alley with grim, grand obsessions and a driving plot that kept me hooked until the end, wishing I could sit down and write some echo of it to make Pulver’s effort worthwhile as the inspiration it deserves to be. Then there is the dream-like piece, “My Mirage”, that is also very real and very personal and dragged my attention back to the work with as much passion as I’ve felt from any fictional work. Topping off the book is the more horror-themed “A Cold Yellow Moon”, that delivers an apocalyptic vision of madness and death that has been attempted numerous times before, but no one succeeding quite like this.
The times when this collection really jived with me made the purchase fully worthwhile, and are the reason I can justify giving it a full five stars despite a handful of stories that I couldn’t get into quite as easily. Most of my issues centered on what I’ve already described as Pulver’s poetic style of writing that shucks all written rules and plays back and forth in whatever fashion its master desired at a whim. At the worst, I struggled through it feeling very disconnected and lost, and at best it burrowed into my mind until I am actually finding myself making sure I focus on logical writing for this review, lest Pulver’s literary insanity seep in and I start writing in spurts and chopped up pieces, punctuating wildly.
All in all, I would highly suggest this book to anyone who has a flavor for noir fiction, poetic prose, and obviously anyone fascinated with The King in Yellow in any fashion. Little of it could be described strictly as horror, but definitely with a heavy vein of weird fiction and the macabre.”
Alex Kreitner (Amazon review)
* * *
Review [poem] by Edward Morris