October 3, 2018 by T.E. Grau
After a “fluid” official release day dating back to June (timing issues), today – October 3, in this the year of our blind and faceless and imaginary lord 2018 – arrives as the official release date of my debut novel I Am The River.
Aside from the joy of putting another book into the stream of civilization, this is an auspicious occasion on a personal level for several reasons, the most superficial of which is the attainment of an arbitrary delineation of accomplishment – that of completing and publishing a novel-length work of fiction. In writing that sentence, I paused to briefly rewind to the beginnings of my work as a writer, and realized that I was first published in the public sphere just short of three decades (!) ago. That’s difficult for me to wrap my mind around (aging brain, and all). So the release of I Am The River: A Novel, nearly thirty years later, seems like a slow gestating sign of progress – a mark of growth and the ability to handle a longer narrative, and sustain it over the course of several hundred pages, giving it time to breathe and having the capability of keeping fresh air flowing into the lungs. From the outside, that might not seem like anything important or singular, and it certainly isn’t, as the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of novelists who have come before me can attest. But it’s not as easy as one thinks, as every writer or potential writer who has a novel burning inside them unquestionably knows: wanting to write a novel and actually completing a novel are two vastly different things. It’s a benchmark, not unique (or novel, if you pardon the pun) to me or any other author, but a touchstone that is both satisfying personally, and easily processed by the outside world. Either way, I’ll take both.
Today, I can claim the descriptor of “novelist,” and half-heartedly promise to never use it in any official capacity outside of this post.
On this day of release, I’m grateful to so many for the help I have received in plotting, writing, completing, and then getting this novel into print. I’m grateful to Paul Minor for trusting me to set this whole journey into motion. I’m grateful to my wife Ivy for – as she always does – supporting the hundreds of hours of writing time, offering guidance, editing, and ideas, and for – as she always does – creating the cover that framed the book visually through her extraordinary artistic eye, which in turn inspired a key scene in the book that provided a pontoon bridge to keep the mission marching forward into the Laotian jungle. Vision boards work, and she creates them all for me for everything I do, whether she knows it or not.
I am grateful to Steve Berman at Lethe Press for backing my work, and to Matt Cresswell for making sure I was happy with the look of the final result. Packaging matters. Design matters. People do judge books by their covers (it cuts to the core of the human reliance on the visual sense), and by how the pages look between them.
I’m grateful to those fellow writers that I know and trust and admire who gave up days out of their busy, hectic lives to read an early copy of I Am The River and supply blurbs, lending their names and reputations to something I had written. That’s powerful stuff, and incredibly generous. The real pros are always the nicest folks in the room. Remember that, especially when dealing with those who aren’t.
And I am ever and steadfastly grateful to those individuals who have and continue to read the stories I create, and to support them however they can, in whatever form and format they appear. In a purely practical sense, books are a luxury, an idle, an entertaining distraction in an over-saturated media and entertainment marketplace that offers endless diversions for free, or in far more conveniently absorbed mediums. In tough, exhausting times such as these, purchasing (and then actually reading) new fiction can quickly become an extraneous budgetary expense and scheduling cutback. But people (and libraries!) continue to buy my books, all over the world. It’s a humbling, stirring thing, met with perpetual amazement and appreciation.
I dedicated this book to Lewis Minor, and to all those who fought the brutal and tragic and complicated war in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 70s, wishing each and every wanderer created on those battlefields – large and small, public and private – a safe passage home. And I dedicated this book to Gene O’Neill, a fellow writer of dark things, a United States Marine, and Vietnam vet who is a fantastic horror writer and a great guy. I asked him questions a few years back at Stokercon on the Queen Mary about his time in Vietnam, when the book was still in just the planning stages. What he said, and especially how he said it, influenced the story, and gave me – an entitled, American, Gen-X soft palm who was born just after the war, and thus never had to fight it or any others against my will – confidence that I could do it, and hopefully do it justice. The latter will now be for others to decide.
All that stated, and in my effort to entice you, gentle and loyal reader, to purchase this bound work of ink-printed pages, pixelated words on a glowing screen, or uttered sentences through speakers, I give you the final assemblage of blurbs for I Am The River:
“With echoes of Peter Straub’s KOKO and Apocalypse Now, T.E. Grau’s blazing, immersive novel takes us on the hell-ride of the Vietnam War’s last days as its raging waters also carry us through the first of our last days. I AM THE RIVER is a hallucinatory tour de force.” — Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World
“A sense of being hunted, and haunted, hits you right from the start of I Am The River. That mood only grows in intensity as the scope of this novel’s nightmare takes shape. It’s supernatural and geopolitical and an unforgettable time. Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke comes to mind, the work of Peter Straub and Tim O’Brien, too. In other words T.E. Grau is writing the good stuff. Get some.” — Victor LaValle, author The Ballad of Black Tom
“I Am The River is the kind of thing that might happen if Algernon Blackwood had been brought in to do a rewrite of Apocalypse Now. A man barely holding onto his sanity in Bangkok remains haunted, stalked by a huge hound and undone by his own addiction. His only way out is through revisiting his past in the Vietnam War and the secret PSY-OPS mission he was involved in–and which he’s been running from ever since. A haunting meditation on war, death, addiction, and responsibility, with mindblowing forays into the weird.” — Brian Evenson, author of A Collapse of Horses and The Warren
“I Am The River is a horror novel, yes, and it never skimps on its mission to unsettle us. It is also a book that finds horror not only in blood and shadows, but in the very real abysses that separate us: race, culture, and the manipulations of people by governments and by war. It moves quickly and intelligently from its first page to its last, evoking its nightmares in gorgeous, evocative, disturbing prose. A must-read!” — Christopher Coake, author of You Came Back
“I Am The River moves with fluid grace, flowing between times, places, and perspectives as it carries us through its protagonist’s surreal experience of the Vietnam War and his part in a covert mission which refuses to loose its grip on him. Located at the hot, humid intersection of Tim O’Brien’s classic Going After Cacciato and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, this novel plunges us into war at its most extreme and insane, when the methods employed for defeating the enemy leave reason behind for terror and myth. Ted Grau’s writing continues to move from strength to strength.” — John Langan, author of The Fisherman
“A disorienting and devastating evocation of the horrors of war and PTSD. T.E. Grau has written infused the War Novel with dark mythic imagery that sears like napalm.” — Craig Laurance Gidney, author of Sea, Swallow Me and Other Stories
“Hallucinatory, gripping and haunting, I Am The River should rank as one of the best novels of 2018. The masterful point of view shifts and often stream-of-consciousness pacing makes for a riveting, oneiric read. In the author’s hands, this bleak, nightmarish and deeply unsettling tale is not only palatable… but delectable. Of course, I expect such quality from Grau. Everything he has written heretofore is bizarre, literary gold. That stated, this book represents Grau’s best work to date, and it is a must read.” — Jon Padgett, author of The Secret of Ventriloquism
“I don’t often say this, but here it needs to be said: I Am The River is a modern literary masterpiece, and one that will be remembered long after we are returned to dust. It’s a mind-bending, soul-destroying meditation on morality and despair and conflict, on the trials of the human spirit during times of war when the line between good and evil is intangible. Impeccably written, compulsively readable, I Am The River deserves every ounce of praise it’s going to get, and then some, and marks Grau as an extraordinary talent.” — Kealan Patrick Burke, author of The Turtle Boy and Kin
“Grau is our boatman on this psychedelic journey of ghosts and guilt, artillery and atonement. More than a war story, I Am The River forces us to confront the bloody aftereffects in a way that is both powerful and poignant. A cautionary tale for the soul.” — Ian Rogers, author of Every House Is Haunted
““I Am the River is a macabre journey through a hostile land where a soldier’s act of brutality haunts him, body and soul. With one remarkable collection under his belt, Grau now shows with his debut novel that he’s clearly at the head of the pack when it comes to compelling voices in weird horror fiction today.” — Christopher Slatsky, author of Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales
“T. E. Grau’s dark tale of suffering and the quest for redemption pushes the limits of psychological horror. Deeply poetic and disturbing, it reveals that even in the darkest corners of the soul, a faint humanity can be seen glittering and it’s simply beautiful.” — Seb Doubinsky, author of The Song of Synth and White City
Thus, with this my first novel set free into the current, I watch it drift downstream as blessed October overtakes the planet. There on the water, tiny candle flames dance and wink in the humid air of the Floating City, of my city, of yours and those nearby, and also those across vast oceans and gulfs. I like the way it moves, this new book, and am pensive about where it will end up, and how the journey will treat it. But either way, I’m glad it’s alive, and on the move.
As I watch, my thoughts also drift upstream, to the next bend in the river, and what waits there, ready to be unearthed, studied, and documented. But that’s for another day, another posting. Right now, I can’t take my eyes off the river, and the flames that seem to set the water afire.
While I am otherwise occupied, please enjoy I Am The River. I’m proud of this book, what it says and how it says it, and think it shows the best of me. It shows the writer I am now, at this moment, with still so much left to learn, to polish, to sharpen, and to do.
It shows me as a novelist, and I’ll take that, too.
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