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Me and the Devil

Is Nick, the narrator of Me and the Devil, really Nick Tosches? There are resemblances: Nick's an aging writer who lives in lower Manhattan and is familiar with the same cultural undercurrents as Tosches, an acclaimed musical historian and novelist (In the Hand of Dante).

It starts when Nick picks up a woman in a bar. As they have sex, he bites her thigh and swallows a few drops of her blood. "It was as if I suckled on her very soul and the inmost mystery of her," he reports, and that experience, as well as the physical rejuvenation that follows, sets him off in pursuit of more young flesh. He gets involved with a college student named Melissa, though Nick realizes that their relationship won't work if he drains her completely, so he needs to find other victims.

Keith Richards (yep, Keith Richards) recognizes Nick's vampiric tendencies and warns him to stop while he still can: "From what I saw, kicking it makes kicking smack look like a frolic in the daisies." In addition, an eerie manuscript turns up, in Nick's own hand--yet he remembers nothing of writing it.

Just when you think you know where things are headed, though, Tosches abruptly changes gears. It's not just a plot twist, but an entire reframing--one that will likely frustrate some readers, but ultimately strikes closer at the novel's deepest psychological themes. Me and the Devil is a profoundly disturbing novel, even more so for refusing to disturb readers in the most obvious fashions. --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com