“A wild ride” “WOW!” “gripping to the end”
“Prepare yourself reader, for having your mind blown is just the beginning.” –James Garcia Jr
The Book of Paul by Richard Long
“Never alive…and never dead.”
In the rubble-strewn wasteland of Alphabet City, a squalid tenement conceals a treasure “beyond all imagining”—an immaculately preserved, fifth century codex. The sole repository of ancient Hermetic lore, it contains the authentic alchemical rituals for transforming thought into substance, transmuting matter at will…and attaining eternal life.
When a lusty, East Village tattoo artist has a torrid encounter with a battle-hardened loner, they are overwhelmed by the intensity of their feelings. Rose and Martin soon discover they are unwitting pawns on opposing sides of a battle that has shaped the course of human history. At the center of the conflict is Paul, the villainous overlord of an underground feudal society, who guards the book’s occult secrets in preparation for the fulfillment of an apocalyptic prophecy.
The action is relentless as Martin and Rose fight to escape Paul’s clutches and Martin’s destiny as the chosen recipient of Paul’s sinister legacy. Science and magic, mythology and technology converge in a monumental battle where the stakes couldn’t be higher: control of the ultimate power in the universe—the Maelstrom.
When I bought the book I had no idea what I was getting into. As I do with most books, I didn’t read the description. It didn’t matter, my friend said I should read it so I did. After all, this is the year of reading outside of my genre. But enough about me!
Richard Long is a master of suspense, thrills and chills. The book is fast paced with chapters that cut straight to the bone. He had gore and religious lore, love and lust, and psycho crazy killers who once you get to know them, maybe aren’t so psycho anymore. The story is captivating, and vivid; at times horrid and scary but with equally beautiful parts sprinkled in. This book is the true definition of a thriller.
There were a few times where I found myself fumbling over the some of the concepts and cult names. Mr. Long seems to have infinite knowledge on the occult, religion, history and physics. And at times he seems to forget that the reader might not be as versed in these areas. With that said, I still give the book 5 stars. Because that’s how good it was! Never have I read a book with so many aspects. Prophecies, treasure, blood, and power, hate, and love all sewn into a beautiful masterpiece called The Book of Paul.
Interview with Richard Long
LIT: So before I jump into the darkness, I would like to get the formalities out of the way. Thank you very much for taking the time to do an interview with me.
Richard Long: Thanks so much for asking me, Jessica.
LIT: Seriously, I was afraid you would say no! After reading your book, I place you up there with Steven King and Dan Brown. Your book is so damn good, great, excellent!
Are you one of those people that walks around knowing everything about everything? Or do you just know everything about religions, occult, folklore, Celtic tradition, physics, and The Singularity.
Richard Long: When I was a kid, I got teased for knowing about a lot of different subjects. They called me "encyclopedia.” The truth was, I actually used to read encyclopedias all day long, cover to cover, alphabetically. I had a near-photographic memory back then, so I probably would have been good on Jeopardy. That ability is gone now, but my thirst for knowledge has always remained. I read about 20-30 books at any given time on the topics I'm researching for my writing.
LIT: One can tell you really did your homework, and the way you stitched everything together, mind blowing!
The Book of Paul is so dark yet tender at times and dirty it's like a tug of war between the good and the bad. What do you like writing more: the mythological side or the dark sadistic stuff?
RL: I like both, but in different ways. I like the visceral material because I feel so present when writing it. I really want to feel the emotions of the characters, so that's really exciting. The historical material is more challenging because a lot of it is expository, so I have to reveal the information in such a way that it’s as entertaining and compelling as the action taking place.
LIT: Did you ever have any challenges? I mean, you wrote 500 pages, filled with suspense, secrets and grandiose plans, feeding the reader little bites at a time and managed not to spoil the end. I guess what I am asking is, did you ever have problems putting the puzzle together?
RL: I don't know if I'd call it trouble, but I don't outline when I write. I like the information to be revealed to me as I go along, but I'm always conscious of how the sequencing needs to work in order for the parallel storylines to properly mesh and keep those pages turning. I want to maximize the mystery, and the thrill of discovery, so with 6 to 7 different timelines being addressed, it becomes a little like conducting an orchestra.
LIT: My favorite character is Paul. Do you have a favorite?
RL: Yes, Paul is my favorite too.
LIT: He is just a wonderful madman, never met a character quite like him. Where does Paul come from? When Paul is on the page, sometimes I have this feeling that I have a bit of Paul in me. Did you do that on purpose or am I just crazy?
RL: That's interesting. I wonder how Paul got under your skin like that! Well, yes it's intentional, but true of all the characters, probably most so with William and Paul. I shift back and forth from every character's viewpoint, so if I'm doing that well you should feel like you're inside them or they're inside you as the case may be. I also keep narrative scene description to a minimum intentionally so the reader is more actively engaged in projecting their own vision into the scenes and most importantly, their own feelings.
LIT: Yes, but where does Paul come from? Is he an extension of your mind, or a moment in your past. Or an experiment that went, terrifyingly well?
RL: As to where Paul "came from" I would say that it’s a very, very dark place. I started with the character Martin, who had been so traumatized that he could no longer feel emotions like most people. So then the next question became: Who traumatized him? Paul emerged from that darkness. I wanted to create the most evil and yet most entertaining villain of all time!
LIT: I think you achieved your goal, definitely in the top 10. Is this your first published book?
RL: Yes, this is the first volume in a seven volume series, tracing the mythology of Hermetic and Gnostic traditions and the Celtic druids of Ireland.
LIT: Wow, so you have your work cut out for you! You are working on a YA book now, The Dream Palace. Could you tell us a little bit about that? And how different is it going from a mature audience to a younger one.
RL: The YA book is like the sunlight vs. the darkness of Paul. It's very exciting and mysterious and also addresses some of the BIG questions I like to ponder such as: What is this thing we call reality? Are dreams real too? It has a lot of sci-fi elements and a steam-punky historical back story. I wrote it so my kids could actually read something I’ve written- as well as older people. It’s very different from Paul.
LIT: When is your YA book coming out?
RL: I’m hoping to finish it very soon. Then it goes into the publishing cycle, so we’ll see when it’s actually available, though I am going to be looking for some beta readers. Maybe some of your readers might enjoy that.
LIT: I’m sure they will, I know I'm looking forward to it! I really want to delve into The Singularity which is a topic that I love, being a sci-fi chick myself, but sadly we will have to save that for a different interview. It has been a lot of fun doing this interview with you and I hope that one day I can address all these other questions I have about your writing and your style and your amazingly, mad, evil character I have come to love! (Love in a hate way, of course.)
RL: Paul certainly is a charmer isn't he? Thanks so much again Jessica, it was a pleasure talking with you.
A small tease from The Book of Paul
Paul bumped his shoulders into as many of the hustle-bustlers choking the aircraft- carrier width of Fifth Avenue in front of St. Paddy’s as he possibly could. Bump. Wump. It was morning rush hour on the sidewalk, and some of the more pissed-off jostled pedestrians gave him the old “ fists clenched like they’re really going do something” look. A few of the ballsier women gave him the old “Hey, watch where you’re going!” shout of indignation. Once they got a load of Paul, they kept on walking.
Paul looks even scarier than he is, if that’s possible. He has that longshoreman, teamster, biker, ’Nam-Vet, might-be-homeless, might-be-crazy, definitely-dangerous look down to such a T that the entire crowd would have collectively walked across the street to avoid him if they had seen him coming. Wump. Bump. Too late.
Paul walked up the cathedral stairs in his big clunky boots, making as much noise as he could with each thudding step. Whomp. Clomp. He went out of his way to thud into two more tourists on their way out the massive bronze doors, quickly erasing their “Wow, what a great big fancy place!” grins with twin shakes of their heads that said, “See, it is true what they say about these goddamn New Yorkers!”
Paul sneered with equal contempt. People. Can’t live with ’em…can’t kill all of ’em.
He paused in the vestibule to soak in the candlelit, incense drenched air and gulped down as much of the musky scent as he could manage. He stuck his bald fingertips into the Holy Water and half-expected to hear it hiss and bubble. It was crowded today, as he expected. The altar was draped in purple. There were flowers everywhere. He made the sign of the cross, gave an inch-deep genuflection and clomped down the center aisle to his regular seat, a pew three rows from the front on the left-hand side.
Someone was sitting there. Paul took a deep breath and stared down at the small gray-haired lady, with her white lace shawl and black shiny rosary beads. She didn’t seem to notice. Her tightly combed bun and happy-sad, creamy-puffy cheeks were bobbing rhythmically in deep prayer, her lips moving in a whispery quiver, mouthing out the time-honored blur of sound that passes for The Hail Mary in marathon rosary specialists: “HailMaryfullagracetheLordiswitheeblessdrthouamongwomenanblessdisthafruitathywombJesusHolyMaryMothaGodprayforusinnersnowanatthehourofourdeathamen.” Pause. Repeat.
Paul was having none of it. “That’s my seat,” he rumbled in a low, raspy grunt that only a gawking T-shirt-clad couple walking down the aisle took any notice of. They quickly rolled their eyes and waddled away, but the little old lady, her eyes seemingly welded shut, showed no sign of acknowledgment whatsoever and wheezed in enough wind to motor her way through another black bead.
Paul stuck a chisel-hard finger in the square of her hunched back and pressed it in like a fleshy harpoon. “Ow!” she said, her eyes fluttering open in fear and dumb surprise.
“That’s my seat,” Paul repeated.
The poor sweet frightened lady was torn between feelings of fear, rage, shock and disbelief. She felt like running, but her fear and proud anger kept her rooted on the spot. “No sir, this is my seat,” she finally managed to croak with all the courage she could muster, her voice trembling like a butterfly’s wings.
“Darlin’, you can move now or I’ll wait here all day and then follow you home.”
She moved. But only enough so Paul could sit next to her.
“Hhmmph!” Paul hmphed with more admiration than he cared to admit. He scrunched his beefy bulk up snug against the still-trembling saint and gave her a shy smile and sidelong glance as he humbly lowered his head, knelt down and clasped his hands in pious prayer.
“Dear God,” he began, muttering in a barely audible voice. Barely audible that is, to anyone except the shrunken figure next to him, who twitched with fear at the sound of it.
“Dear Gawd,” he repeated, louder this time, his brogue more exaggerated than ever, hoping to get another rise out of her. She was steadier this time as he continued:
“Bless da little bunnies in the forest and all da hungry children wit doze great big bellies over dere in Africa dat doan have all dis yummy good food we have over here like da Ray’s pizza and da Slim Jims and da tater chips and da big tick juicy steaks you can cook up in your nice warm oven by da fridge. And bless all da kiddies here too dat be suckin’ on da crack pipes all day long. And damn deir dirty feckin’ parents all to hell dat send ’em out to live on da streets and fend for demselves while dey sit at home and suck on deir own crack pipes and watch da telly an’ tink up more nasty ways dat dey can get more money to neglect dere little babies wit. And bless all da poor Mick cops dat have to put up with all dis stinkin’ filth and shit and hopelessness so dat it’s no wonder dat dey doan just go out and gun down every last stinkin’ one of dem. And most of all…bless poor dear Martin who’s gone and turned away from his lovin’ Da for the sake of a dwarf harlot dat’s got him all mixed up in da head so dat now wit da hour of reckonin’ near, it seems I’ve but one last chance to convince him of da error of his ways, else I’ll be left with no other choice dan to take him out behind da shed and put him down like a dirty mongrel dog, amen.”
Paul let out a deep, long sigh and slowly opened his eyes, still keeping his head bowed and his hands folded. He looked at the cross and the poor sad Christ with all the beautiful red dripping holes in his hands and feet.
“Tsk. Tsk. Such a shame about that,” he sighed, shaking his head. “If only you’d listened, we could have spared you all that misery. And you ours.”
He slumped back into his pew and gave his murmuring partner a warm crinkly smile as he listened to her mumbled prayers that were faster and more urgent than ever. He watched her pray for a long time, sitting motionless, smiling while her eyelids fluttered open from time to time to make sure he was still there with her.
“You’re a good ole bitch, grandma,” Paul said, nudging the old lady in the ribs with an elbow of genuine kinship.
Her eyes snapped open, filled with a little less fear this time. She was about to speak when Paul held a thick fat finger to her old wrinkled lips and said, “Shhhhh…don’t tax your sweet breath, my darlin’, you’ll be needin’ it for that next round of Hail Marys.”
She opened her mouth to speak again, but then her face froze in place when she saw the nail was missing from Paul’s still poised fingertip. “Say a little prayer for me, sweetie,” he whispered in his perfect Irish lilt, “and say a great big one for Martin.”
Then he pinched her cheek, made the sign of the cross, stood up and walked away.
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