After Edward, a rising young author, pens a savage review of the new novel by the world-famous O.M. Tyrell, he is surprised to receive an invitation to visit the old man at his villa in the south of France. The night of their meeting, Tyrell dies, and soon after, Edward’s career mysteriously starts to soar as he earns fame, fortune and critical acclaim. But despite his achievements, Edward seems haunted, even tormented. His friend, the narrator, begins to put together the pieces of the story: an ancient, inscrutable manuscript, a beautiful, ageless woman who attaches herself to whatever writer possesses it, and a bargain to achieve success at a terrible price . . .
Winner of Britain’s prestigious Guardian Fiction Prize, Alan Judd’s modern classic The Devil’s Own Work (1991) is, as Owen King writes in the new introduction to this edition, “a perfect novel about the demonic possession that is literary ambition.” This edition also features a new afterword by the author, in which he reveals the inspirations for this haunting tale.
“More chills in its little length than in a whole shelf of bestsellers.” – Stephen King
“At once moral fable, cautionary ghost story and inspired attack on the whole hellbent drift of modern letters, this is a splendid tale, splendidly told, which Ford or Henry James would have been glad to have written.” – Robert Nye, Guardian
“Wry and insightful . . . toys with the notion of demonic possession but becomes a thoroughly realistic and highly original story of revenge; a chilling cautionary tale.” – Elaine Kendall, Los Angeles Times
“A brief return to the world of Faust, Mephistopheles and the Devil pact. Mr. Judd . . . achieves a deep polish.” – Robert Grudin, The New York Times Book Review
“Elegantly succinct. . . . The secret of Mr. Judd’s success is instantly apparent; this tightly written story eloquently suggests more than it explains.” – Wall Street Journal
“It is seldom that a novel demands such attentive reading; and seldom that a reading is so amply rewarded. Ford would have been proud to have such a disciple.” – Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Judd’s creation is perfect in itself: totally true, totally real, totally right. And superbly written.” – Financial Times (London)
British novelist Judd's short, ambivalent fable on the hazards of creativity and fame is distinguished by a style as psychologically nuanced as that of Henry James. Moments before he dies, O. M. Tyrrel, reclusive octogenarian doyen of English letters, bequeaths to the protagonist, fledgling writer Edward, an ancient manuscript. This virtually illegible handwritten document bestows endless creativity on its owner, dictating ideas and themes to Edward as it takes possession of his soul. Achieving fame and wealth as a postmodern novelist, Edward is also possessed by Eudoxie, Tyrell's ageless, elusive mistress, who becomes his live-in companion. Eudoxie exerts a sinister force on him and also may be the wraithlike presence made visible to the story's nameless narrator, an English teacher and old friend of Edward's who envies his success. The action moves from London to the French Riviera, where Edward seduces the narrator's wife, Chantal. Judd, a biographer of Ford Madox Ford, pays homage to that writer and his novel The Good Soldier in this homiletic parable that supports the dictum that ``truth in art matters.'' He charges postmodernist fiction with betraying that principle by blurring the line between reality and fantasy, and he tweaks the British literary establishment for its cliquishness, pretension, inflated egos and embrace of style over substance--an accusation that apparently did not serve as a handicap when the novel won the 1991 Guardian Fiction Prize in England.