In Hickman’s (The Years of Magic, 2011) comedy, a writer publishes a bestseller that agitates the devil himself.
Ted Granville works in the research department at a small-town newspaper. Unbeknownst to his colleagues, he’s written and published a nonfiction book called The Devil and the Id—an “assessment of the origins of evil in the human psyche.” In his comfy, suburban home, he eagerly reads a glowing review of his work in the morning paper, and he fantasizes about leaving his job, as his boss, Ed Murphy, treats him horribly. Then Ted remembers that he fibbed in his author bio, stating that he was an adjunct professor of psychology, instead of just a tutor, while attending college. Meanwhile, the wealthy Chester Ambrose peruses the same review, taking special note of a quote about the devil: “Such a being does not exist. Rather, it is only the...tortured thoughts of our most inner psyche, the Id.” Chester courts the fledgling author, offering him access to gorgeous women and celebrities in his club, The Other Side. Eventually, Chester and other diabolical beings hatch a plan to blackmail Ted into writing a second book—one that admits the devil is, in fact, real. However, a strange dog named Mac, who loves watching baseball, and a woman named Annette, whom Ted saves from a speeding car, will help him navigate various horrors orchestrated by Chester. In this novel, Hickman takes a wry look at fame and the glittering prizes that could cause someone to sell their soul. For the most part, though, the story maintains a light tone as it addresses such theological issues, only hinting at humanity’s darker impulses. That said, at one point the naïve Ted does explore The Other Side (alongside scantily clad escorts Mandi and Candi), which he soon finds to be a place of both pleasure and pain. Interestingly, the narrative often feels as if it’s set in a platonic ideal of 1960s America; for example, Ted’s co-worker Jessica is a “self-professed ‘groovy girl,’ who wore miniskirts, go-go boots, and the new perfume, Patchoulie.”
A clever fantasy featuring a protagonist guided by logic and his better angels.