Robert Olen Butler

Robert Olen Butler portrait image to appear alongside the Robert Olen Butler biography.

Robert Olen Butler has published eleven novels and five volumes of short fiction, one of which, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  His Pulitzer book is comprised of stories in the voices of Vietnamese exiles in the United States and draws on the rich mythic storytelling traditions of the Vietnamese culture.  That was the beginning of his movement as a writer toward fantasy elements.  His book of stories, Tabloid Dreams (1996) is based on fantastic headlines of the sort found in certain tabloid newspapers. A story from that collection, “JFK Secretly Attends Jackie Auction” was chosen for inclusion in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Tenth Annual Collection.  Another story, “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot” was in Best American Short Stories and is very widely anthologized in classrooms.  The central character and narrator of his novel Mr. Spaceman (2000) is a space alien who has temporarily kidnapped a charter bus full of gamblers heading for a Louisiana casino in order to interview them in preparation for publicly revealing himself to mankind.  His collection of 62 very short stories, Severance (2006) gives voice to the last minute-and-a-half of lingering consciousness in 62 recently severed heads, many of which were prominently decaptiated historical figures.  And his new novel, entitled Hell, is set entirely in that very place with a central character who is the anchorman for the TV Evening News in Hell.  Butler teaches creative writing at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.  He lives in Capps, Florida, which has a population of one, if you don’t count the ghosts in his pre-American Civil War plantation home.

Robert Olen Butler books reviewed


  • Hell (novel) 2009
    Hatcher McCord is an evening-news presenter who has found himself in Hell and is struggling to explain his bad fortune. He's not the only one to suffer this fate - in fact, he's surrounded by an outrageous cast of characters, including Humphrey Bogart, William Shakespeare, and almost all of the popes and most of the U.S. presidents. The question may be not who is in Hell but who isn't. McCord is living with Anne Boleyn in the afterlife, but their happiness is, of course, constantly derailed by her obsession with Henry VIII (and the removal of her head at rather inopportune moments). One day McCord meets Dante's Beatrice, who believes there is a way out of Hell, and the next morning, during an exclusive on-camera interview with Satan, McCord realizes that Satan's omniscience, which he has always credited for the perfection of Hell's torments, may be a mirage - and Butler is off on a madcap romp about good, evil, free will, and the possibility of escape.
  • Intercourse (short short story collection) 2008
  • Severance (short short story collection) 2006
  • Had a Good Time (short story collection) 2004
  • Fair Warning (novel) 2002
  • Mr. Spaceman (novel) 2000
  • The Deep Green Sea (novel) 1998
  • Tabloid Dreams (short story collection) 1996
  • They Whisper (novel) 1994
  • A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (short story collection) 1992.
  • The Deuce (novel) 1989
  • Wabash (novel) 1987
  • On Distant Ground (novel) 1985
  • Countrymen of Bones (novel) 1983
  • Sun Dogs (novel) 1982
  • The Alleys of Eden (novel) 1981