I didn’t know what to expect when I dove into Richard Long’s debut novel, The Book of Paul, other than Stephen King endorsed it and the novel was billed as “ a paranormal thriller.” Based on the cover, I figured The Book of Paul was a mythology-based tale of pirates for young adult readers. The skeleton keys on the cover look like a skull and crossbones on ancient parchment paper, you know?
But by Chapter Four a tattooed Goth girl with labia piercings is blowing a big-dicked muscle-head, so I had to toss my assumptions out the window. This wasn’t young adult fiction.
I’m sure this happens a lot with The Book of Paul. It’s a wild genre-bending ride through mythology, magic, and white-knuckled action adventure.
According to author Richard Long:
The Book of Paul is the first of seven volumes in a sweeping mythological narrative tracing the mystical connections between Hermes Trismegistus in ancient Egypt, Sophia, the female counterpart of Christ, and the Celtic druids of Clan Kelly.
Long’s blend of mythology and realism is stylistically similar to Neil Gaiman‘s, but Long’s prose is leaner and meaner with more of a noir feel, for example:
The tiny .22-caliber bullet was ricocheting inside her skull like a pinball, lighting up old memories of love and cruelty as it whipped the spidery gray filaments of her brain into a six-egg omelet.
Sometimes the action slips into comic book-like mayhem.
The Striker punched him in the throat. “Aaack!” Paul gacked, hitting the floor with a thunderous boom!
The Book of Paul is fun, fun, fun, and Paul is one of the most delightfully wicked villains in modern memory. Evil, funny, and weirdly human (particularly strange for an immortal) Paul delivers some of the novel’s best lines and most powerful insights, like:
Sometimes I think evil is just loneliness with nowhere else to go.
Lonely or not, Paul is a man/demi-god who keeps his eye on the prize, in this case, the fulfillment of a centuries old prophecy.
Characters are the backbone of any good story, and Long has created an unforgettable cast in The Book of Paul. Brainwashed muscleman Martin, Goth princess Rose, in-and-out of the narrative narrator William, confused accomplice Michael Bean and a gaggle of tattooed, body-modified counter-culture superfreaks.
Paul’s backstory and the history of his clan is complex, but Long keeps it interesting with meaty philosophical asides:
“It’s no mystery why we hide from death. We hide because we fear it. The greatest mystery of life is death. What force engineered this necessity? What is this thing we call ‘food’? We eat life, William. We eat life! And we eat it every single day!”
The Book of Paul is a winning genre mashup. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino directed Highlander and you’ll have an idea of what Long has created. As much as I dislike serial novels, I’m looking forward to the continuing adventures of Clan Kelly. As The Man himself notes:
“Stories never end,” Paul grunted, “at least not the ones I tell.”