Here Be Dragons

Retro Pulp Monsters

The Bleakest Books

Hell by Robert Olen Butler Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, the prince of darkness - call him what you will, but the devil is a such an intriguing force of evil that countless writers across many centuries have woven a devil, the devil or simply demonic themes into their work.

The Faustian pact has been reworked many times – from Christopher Marlow’s Doctor Faustus, which popularized this age-old German legend, to Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray – while temptation is also a common reoccurring theme with John Milton’s Paradise Lost being the classic example.

Dante's Inferno (which has recently been turned into a video game), C.S. Lewis, Washington Irving, and, of course, the king of the occultists, Aleister Crowley, have all ventured into this dark territory. Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, also takes a trip through hell with his new supernatural thriller Horns. Devilish writing veers from straight horror to anarchic humor to the completely unexpected.

Get to know the devil in literature.

 

Twenty Devilish Books

Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert Heinlein

Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984)
Robert Heinlein

One for atheists as Heinlein shows unexpected visions of Satan, heaven and hell.
The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain

The Mysterious Stranger (1916)
Mark Twain

Some Austrian boys meet an angel called Satan, who educates them – a satire on religion.
The Sorrows of Satan by Marie Corelli

The Sorrows of Satan (1895)
Marie Corelli

The devil comes to London and helps a starving novelist – a satire on Victorian life.
The War Hound and the World's Pain by Michael Moorcock

The War Hound and the World's Pain (1981)
Michael Moorcock

A fantasy where Lucifer asks the hero to do God’s work and find the Holy Grail.
The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Master and Margarita (1966)
Mikhail Bulgakov

Satan brings hell to Moscow. Written during Stalin’s show trials. Suppressed for years.
Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin

Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
Charles Robert Maturin

A reworking of the Faustian pact – an example of classic gothic literature.
Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary's Baby
Ira Levin

Levin’s vision of satanism in suburbia. Should not be read by mothers-to-be.
The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by João Guimarães Rosa

The Devil to Pay in the Backlands (1956)
João Guimarães Rosa

One of the best novels to emerge from Brazil – the devil is just part of the story.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Good Omens (1990)
Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

The world is coming to an end – a very funny book indeed.
I Lucifer by Glen Duncan

I, Lucifer (2003)
Glen Duncan

It’s not easy being the fallen angel, who takes over the body of a depressed writer.
Me and the Devil Blues by Akira Hiramoto

Me & the Devil Blues 1: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson (2008)
Akira Hiramoto

The life of blues guitarist Robert Johnson, who sold his soul to the devil, is re-imagined.
Hell by Robert Olen Butler

Hell (2009)
Robert Olen Butler

Definitely not Dante, a TV presenter endures a novel but hellish experience.
The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

The Witches of Eastwick (1984)
John Updike

Devilish Darryl Van Horne sets up his own little coven on Rhode Island.
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg

Falling Angel (1978)
William Hjortsberg

The Angel Heart movie is based on this novel - Louis Cyphre wants a debt settled.
Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey

Butcher Bird (2007)
Richard Kadrey

A San Francisco tattoo artist journeys to Hell after being wounded by a demon.
Needful Things by Stephen King

Needful Things (1991)
Stephen King

Leland Gaunt is an evil scheming shopkeeper, who turns a small town on its head.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian (1985)
Cormac McCarthy

Many see the Judge Holden character as demonic in this Western novel.
The Monk by Matthew Lewis

The Monk (1796)
Matthew Lewis

A Spanish monk is tempted by Matilda, an agent of the devil, into ungodly crimes.

Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison

Deathbird Stories (1975)
Harlan Ellison

Written between 1960 and 1974, a collection of 19 scary stories of myth and evil.
The Devil in Love by Jacques Cozotte

The Devil in Love (1772)
Jacques Cazotte

An occult romance – Satan falls head over heads in love.

Which devilish reads are we missing?


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