The Orphan Palace by Joseph S. Pulver. Book review

THE ORPHAN PALACE by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. Chomu Press, p/b, £12.50,

Reviewed by David Brzeski

I had to describe this book for a friend recently.

This is what I came up with…

Think in terms of an unfilmed noir movie script, revised by H.P. Lovecraft, who worked in references to the work of several of his friends & influences (Robert W. Chambers, Frank Belknap Long etc.). Then it remained, untouched, until Alan Ginsberg was commissioned to pen a script treatment, which then languished in development hell, until it landed on the desk of David Lynch.

Frightening concept isn’t it?

It really shouldn’t work at all…

… but it does! The gorgeous prose sweeps the reader along on an hallucinogenic  ride into madness… a road trip (back) to bedlam.

Cardigan, the serial killing, arsonist anti-hero heads east, back to the institution, where the mysterious Doctor Archer inflicted cruel & insidious treatments on his charges. On the way he encounters ghosts, ghouls & a merman & is regularly advised by a talking rat, named D’if. He stays in many identical hotels, all with identical rooms, each one with a book on the night stand. A book with no ending. One of a hundred variant versions of the same book, written by various authors for the mysterious Shadow House press. The TV in the rooms always shows the same movie, an adaptation of one of the books.

This wonderful novel is a roller-coaster ride of lunacy & pop-culture references. There are few books, in my experience, which have off the cuff references to the work of Bulwer-Lytton & Funkadelic in the same chapter!

I read this book until I was too tired to read any more. Then I’d lay, with my eyes closed, unable to sleep, my mind too busy mulling over what I’d just read, theorizing, wondering… until I gave up, put the light back on & started reading again.

If this extraordinary book isn’t at least nominated for a few awards, I’ll be astonished & disappointed.