Pale Horse

Larry Kearney


ISBN 978-1-956005-17-2     256 pages      $20.00



“Now that’s funny. We used to have a big framed print of Death on a Pale Horse but Dad took it down, finally. It was my mother’s.”


“You’ve got to pick up some social skills. You show your boredom too easily.”

“I wasn’t bored.”

“Then you need to do something about your eyes. They fade.”


Kate, who has been put away for years in a hospital for the criminally insane, is out now and living by the railroad tracks in a furnished room. Phoebe, ostensibly Nancy’s mother, is running scared and putting out contracts with an Albany hit man. The Mayor of this same small upstate New York town is found dead in his office with knitting needles stabbed into his eyes. Lester Mather, community stalwart, is stabbed in the heart. A minor gangster named Nickie is found shot in the head by the river. Nancy’s father kills himself. The local psychiatrist is found in his garage with his neck cut through by a pair of shears. At times tender and abysmal, always engaging in energetic jumps from scene to scene, its many characters, their secrets, obsessions, and rich moments of eloquent madness makes Pale Horse a fierce event, perhaps where Dostoyevsky and True Detective meet and wrestle each other in the dark of night.

The Bay Ridge Novels of Larry Kearney weave their intensely enjoyable readability through a nostalgia premised in ’50s early ‘60s New York re-encountering the existentialism and rawness of perennial youth. As in his influential and much-lauded poetry, Kearney maintains an imaginative correspondence to his early citizenry, carried through fire and crime, straight forward out of the old American century. These unforgettably thrilling tales of precocious young lives thrown to their overlapping fates animate as yet untested characters—surprisingly adaptable and resilient—and anxiously pits them against the foreshadows of cosmopolitan struggle, the brutal claims of fallen obsession, last-gasp redemption, and ultimately, the possibility and poignancy of collective forgiveness.

Larry Kearney was Born in Brooklyn, New York. He moved to San Francisco in ’64 and became involved with the group of poets centered around North Beach and generally and inaccurately described as the San Francisco Renaissance—Spicer, MacInnis, Duerden, Duncan, Brautigan, Stanley, Blaser, Kyger, Meltzer, Hirschman et al. His closest friends in poetry were Jack Spicer and Richard Duerden, and Spicer’s insistence on being willing to, and capable of, saying what the poem wants to say when it wants to say it, endures for him as a working definition—poetry as the whole of the real—the seen and unseen, heard and unheard—the voices of the haunted living and the unsuccessfully dead. He currently lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Mouron-sur-Yonne, France.