Robert Olen Butler Official Website

Press Release





Advance Praise for HELL:

“Butler has been honing his profound empathy and wild imagination in electrifying collections of short fiction. He now unchains himself in this furiously detailed, harrowing, and gruesomely funny satire, taking on everything from genocide to advertising, journalistic ethics to marital bickering. The result in a scorching and cathartic novel of delusion, pain, crimes great and small, just desserts, and the capacity for change.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Prolific and Pulitzer winner Butler features a colorful cast of underworld dwellers in his latest novel, and . . . captures stream-of-consciousness in delicious, unleashed rhythm.”
Publishers Weekly

Praise for Robert Olen Butler:

“I’ll never stop believing it: Robert Olen Butler is the best living American writer, period.”
-Jeff Guinn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“No writer in America today can be said to surpass Butler in the eating-his-cake-and-having-it-too category: He’s literary and entertaining, serious and funny. Within his clear and fluent narratives, there usually nestles complexity, if you care to look for it.”
-Chauncey Mabe, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


A Pulitzer Prize winner for A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler has been called a “literary Houdini” for his ability to seamlessly mix humor and poignancy in his fiction. In his new novel, HELL (Grove Press, $24, 240 pages, September 8, 2009; ISBN 978-0-8021-1901-8), Butler delivers an uproariously funny, imaginative, and ultimately touching story set in the underworld.

Hatcher McCord is an evening newscaster who has found himself in Hell and is struggling to explain his bad fortune. He’s far from the only one to suffer this fate-in fact, he’s surrounded by an outrageous cast of characters including William Shakespeare, Humphrey Bogart, Richard Nixon, Jezebel, Judas Iscariot, Pope Boniface VIII, J. Edgar Hoover, and a panoply of present-day figures who will soon be in Hell. The question may not be who is in Hell but who isn’t.

McCord is living in the afterlife with Anne Boleyn; but their happiness is, of course, constantly derailed by her obsession with Henry VIII (and the removal of her head at rather inopportune moments). Butler’s Hell isn’t as much a boiling lake of fire-although, there is that-as it is a Sisyphean trial tailored to each inhabitant, whether it’s the average Joes who are struck by moving cars, die, and are reconstituted many times a day to do it all again, or the legendary newspaperman William Randolph Heart, doomed to obscurity as a blogger, mocked by his fellows because he can’t figure out CAPS-LOCK.

One day, Hatcher McCord meets Dante’s Beatrice, who believes there is a way out of Hell. Soon thereafter, by a twist of diabolical fate and his interviewer’s savvy, he learns a deep, dark secret of the underworld. From there Butler is off on a madcap romp about good, evil, free will, and the possibility of escape. Butler’s depiction of Hell is original, intelligent, and fiercely comic, a book Dante might have celebrated.

ROBERT OLEN BUTLER is the author of eleven novels, five story collections, and a book on the creative process, From Where You Dream. In addition to a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 and National Magazine Awards in 2001 and 2005, he has received a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction and an NEA grant, as well as the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches creative writing at Florida State University.

Robert Olen Butler
Grove Press
$24, 240 pages, ISBN: 978-0-8021-1901-8
Publication Date: September 8, 2009

For more information, visit the author at and follow his “tweets from Hell” on Twitter at TweetsFromHell.

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