I first heard about this years ago, as a piece of music, a call and response song or spiritual but can't recall the artist. Maybe Son House, maybe Leadbelly, but it was a scratchy old recording. There were many versions, and I bought a Gillian Welch album on the strength of its name, Time The Revelator, but it wasn't even close, though a really good album. JTR sticks in my mind anyway.
It's a gospel piece about the Apostle John and the book of Revelation, a powerfully written apocalyptic book of the Bible, from which authors and singers have borrowed for eons. Spooky preacher movies come to mind, guys in flat top hats and long black coats, crazy eyes. Vengeance swooping down.
Johnny Cash singing "When the Man Comes Around." lyricizes scenes from Revelation, as do any number of songs, books, movies and stories. Pale horse. Vengeance is mine sayeth Robert Mitchum, Clint Eastwood, Walter White.
Anyway something serendipitous happened to bring JTR to the recent forefront for me: I heard a snatch of John The Revelator from the album Songs of Anarchy (music from Sons of Anarchy) by Curtis Stigers & The Forest Rangers, so I hunted it down, got the CD. Pretty nice. Maybe a week later I got an email from Black Lawrence Publishing about a book titled John The Revelator by TJ Beitelman. Looks like I'll have to get this book, being hooked solid by a high-octane poetic excerpt. And the hook was set by a review that said it was "a little Tom Sawyer. a little late Barry Hannah, Oliver Twist via Quentin Tarrantino." The juxtaposition of Barry Hannah, a hero of mine, and Tarantino promises Southern Gothic black humor and a heap of crazy-ass smackdown, and who can resist that?
Beitelman is a poet/novelist and can be found online at www.tjbman.com and www.try101.org The book is available at Black Lawrence Press www.blacklawrence.com, and also, of course at Amazon. His website is worth a visit and a look at his impressive accomplishments. And it looks like he's working on the screenplay for the book.