Michael Poore had a devil of a good time writing his debut novel “Up Jumps the Devil” about John Scratch, a modern devil on the make for souls. The author will be at Schuler Books in the Meridian Mall tonight Thursday August 16 at 7 p.m.
Poore would be the first to admit that the devil is one hell of a popular character in literary fiction; after all he was inspired by a youthful reading of “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benet.
Discard the Bible, and the devil begins showing up in literature as early as the 1300s in works as varied as Dante’s “Inferno.” And through the ages there is no shortage of casting calls for the devil as a protagonist (and antagonist). He’s there in Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, Christopher Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” and later is exported to America where novelist and humorist Mark Twain drops him in “Letters from Earth.” Most recently, edgy writer Chuck Palahniuk (“The Fight Club”) cast the devil in his novel titled simply: “Damned”.
The devil and his dark doings have fascinated authors for millennia and it was a natural for Poore to continue this love affair with the devil.
“The supernatural always fascinated me” said Poore who is a seventh grade social science teacher in northern Indiana. The book is off limits for his class due to content.
Initially, Poore portrayed the devil in as a porn star with amnesia, but admits that was a bad idea.
He then turned to the sixties and a group of down on their luck musicians harkening back to blues great Robert Johnson’s midnight deal with the devil and Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
In Poore’s book the devil cuts the deal at the proverbial crossroads and fame, power and wealth are promised the trio of Memory, Zachary and Fish. After the devil promises one of the promoters a huge crowd, the band finds itself on stage at Woodstock until a biblical wind destroys the stage and their dreams. In the devil’s world not everything is as it seems and we will hear more from our budding musicians as their lives go in unsuspected directions.
Poore said he thought it was important to write about the “human side” of the devil.
But for a guy who has been around forever, John Scratch can still make some bad decisions like placing himself in Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. A guy could get shot doing that.
Poore who teaches American history in his day job has woven some memorable historic moments throughout his book. Always one to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves Scratch throws himself in with the Puritans.
The author describes the Puritans as a clumsy lot: “If the white people had a plan, he observed over time it was this: Come ashore, build a fort, and starve to death.”
Scratch makes some promises to the passionate Jenny Mather and with her under him Scratch helps the English climb out of their death spiral. The devil, later, works closely with Nat Turner in his race to fame, starts a reality TV shows, visits with JFK and finds himself in Alcatraz working with the Aryan Brotherhood while all the while pining for Memory who has a little problem with her lower case memory.
Poore believes that society has always been fascinated by the devil because they “are just a little bit jealous of him.”
The author said, “He represents freedom in a lot of ways and he does things in his own way. He’s a little bit scary and when he camps out in your soul, you don’t know where he will take you.”
Even though Poore said he isn’t much of a “believer” he cautions “that you don’t ever want to write about the devil casually.”
“Up Jumps the Devil” is an ambitious and gratifying work for a first-time novelist. Poore denies any attachment to the literary equivalent of the four corners and will measure carefully any of the fame and afterglow that comes with writing an audacious novel that can be both horrifying and humorous with touches of Vonnegut and Washington Irving spliced together.
As he writes about Memory:
“Fame is like an animal, too” It was like having a lion on a silver chain. It impressed people that you had it. It brought you good things, but it made demands, too. It had to be fed. It was phones that never stopped ringing. It was deadlines and miles to be traveled and hard work to be done.”
Oh, and don’t forget the road to hell is paved with good intentions.