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The Devil's Own Work

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  230 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Winner of the coveted Guardian Fiction Prize in England, The Devil's Own Work is a subtle, hallucinatory tale of possession. A world-renowned writer living in the South of France owes his extraordinary career to a mysterious literary spirit - is it a demon? - that controls him. The existence of this supernatural muse, and the price it exacts, remain hidden, until the famou ...more
Paperback, 115 pages
Published June 24th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1991)
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Average rating 3.45  · 
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Justin Tate
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A meaty 100-page novella exploring the seemingly supernatural (and spooky) elements of artistic inspiration. I think most writers—particularly those who are successful—feel perplexed by their own abilities. Maybe it's imposter syndrome, maybe it's demonic possession, but ask "where do you get your ideas" and you'll likely see a dark shadow fall across their face before receiving a vague response.

Where do ideas come from? Is a writer really the mastermind behind fiction, or are they merely servan
The Devil's Own Work is a beautifully written, subtly told Faustian tale, which the narrator performs perfectly.

A man relates the story of his friend, Edward, and how he became a famous and successful writer. A writer who, although he writes many words, ultimately has nothing of substance to say. Further along, we discover that Edward inherited a manuscript from a recently deceased author named Tyrell. With that manuscript he also seems to have inherited a beautiful, ageless woman named
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the old-school horror vein of an M.R. James, no outright gore just subtlety, atmosphere and suggestion. An invitation from a world famous author to the man who just penned a scathing critique of his latest work, is the basis of the story. As we move through the tale it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems and the authors' success is directly related to an ancient manuscript. Add in a mysterious woman who is associated with the author and the enigmatic story deepens.

I listened to the a
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Valancourt Books is turning out some truly great older forgotten or neglected works of fiction. Major kudos to them for brining back some of these rarer works that I may have otherwise missed.

I listened to this one on audio and as usual, Matt Godfrey nailed it. I don’t think I have ever listened to anything narrated by Matt that wasn’t done supremely well. Of course, it helps when the story is great as well but sometimes narration can elevate the experience. Well done, sir.

As far as the story i
The Devil's Own Work is exquisite in its precise delivery and command - I felt I was in the hands of a master. Matt Godfrey's narration is a compliment to Alan Judd's prose, capturing perfectly the tone of the story and adding nuance in all the right places. I loved every moment. I also found this story to be timely as hell with the assertion that evil is the destruction of truth (and the opposite of art). The Devil's Own Work, indeed. The commentary on literary criticism and the literary world ...more
Sep 20, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, fantasy
I don't really want to give this book a 1 star rating because I liked the writing style and it flowed in a great way, but the story was so forgettable to me that I just finished reading it and am not sure what happened. Two authors had some conversations. One of them might have had a magical pen??? ...more
Bonnie Owen
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novella is an interesting story of obsession told in the form of possession. The narrator is an observer to his friend, Edward's, demise. Edward is a rising author who wrote a not so favorable critique of O.M. Tyrrel's most recent novel. Edward is invited to meet with Tyrrel, who mysteriously dies that same night. Edward's career then skyrockets, but at what cost? Edward appears haunted, even tormented, despite his fame and success. The tale involves an old manuscript that appears written i ...more
Virginia Aronson
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
An odd little tale about the dark side of being a writer, this novella does what good novellas do best. It tells a memorable story quickly in the sharpest of prose, providing useful insights in a plot rich with metaphor. Highly recommended for writers who like to think about the dual nature of literary fame.
Cynthia L'Hirondelle
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Created subtly shadowed supernatural literary world and an intriguing tale in 100 pages on the nature of writing, books and losing autonomy for commercial success.
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
I didn't even really realize how much I had enjoyed this book until the very end which is strange considering how rocky my start with it was. For one thing this book is really, shall we say, un-intense? I started reading it in bed and I couldn't keep my eyes open, I actually fell asleep while reading it and after waking from my short nap I tried to tackle it again. The writing isn't perfect and sometime's the characters fall into the classic horror genera stupidity needed in order to progress th ...more
Tight, visceral, brilliant little novel with tunnel vision, in the best way. It knows what it is and what it wants to do, and it does those things and nothing more. If this sounds vague that's because it has to be. Don't even read the synopsis, just give yourself an hour or two and read it. ...more
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delightful gem of a book that engages as much by what it leaves out as what it includes. Recommended by Stephen King in "On Writing." ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, horror
Short and entertaining story written with care.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vintage-horror
This was an interesting, and very literary, take on Faust, with a bit of metaphorical vampirism thrown in. There is nothing explicit here, neither violence nor sex, but there is quite a bit of implied sex.
The narrator's friend, Edward, becomes a major literary figure after the death of a major author. That is the premise of this subtle chiller, which the author uses to skewer the literati and question the trade-offs of fame. His conclusion seems to be that artists need to be true to themselves,
Susan Rose
This is a Faust retelling that is partially about a review of a Faust retelling, I wanted it to be both deliciously meta and creepy. To that end, there are some early sharp foreboding moments like:

‘It was probably for only a few seconds that neither of us spoke, but quite suddenly the silence became oppressive. It changed with the rapidity of focus in a film and the effect on me was like one of those terrifying dreams from which you cannot free yourself; you lie, conscious and impotent, beneath
Ernest Junius
A neat little novella that's well-structured. It has predictable plot, but however still an enjoyable read. What I find lacking is in its list of characters, it's narrow and a little bit too few. Everything revolves around the protagonist and his friend, the others are practically ghosts. I'm not sure the author had considered to explore options that can go with the plot. There are loopholes that are unanswered, leaving me dissatisfied, somehow. It falls in the grey area. Not sure whether I shou ...more
Jay Rothermel
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Devil's Own Work (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) by Alan Judd (first published 1991) is about the torch-passing of such an ungodly and destructive pact between and old writer and an ambitious young writer. With this inheritance comes enormous sales, critical adulation, and decades of existential dread.
An unsettling fable that seems to want to say more than it can.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: my-library
A short Faustian retelling that is predictable and not nearly as well written as it thinks it is.
Jim Puskas
This novelette is a little gem! How to classify it? Perhaps a Faustian parable, comparable in some ways to Tolstoy's allegory How Much Land Does a Man Need
I seldom quote passages, but some of these are too good to omit: "He was the doyen of English letters. For decades he had squatted like a toad upon the summit of literary fashion, not suppressing new movements so much as rising with them, always on top." p15 An observation that immediately called to mind the status enjoyed at one time by Maugh
Troy Tradup
Audiobook, so no quotes ...

Meh. I took a short road trip today and needed something short and not too taxing. This audiobook fit the bill and was fine for a couple hours of country roads, but didn't really do much for me. Felt like I'd heard the story many times before (it's a take on Faust) and often better.

The writing is fine, the audiobook performance is fine, but ... well, they're fine.

The most interesting part of the book comes in the short afterword, where the author talks about his inspir
Bill Wallace
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes an author writes a book, but other times the book is its own author. Lots going on in this excellent short “strange story” (in the Aickman sense) —an exploration of the creative impulse, the erratic and erotic power of inspiration, a satiric commentary on postmodern novels, and a fine, creepy tale. Perfect October reading.
Joshua Thompson
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read of a novella about a writer who makes a Faustian deal. I really liked it, but the praise of how this is a "classic" and a "perfect novel" is praise only reserved for writers themselves, whom this story really hits close to home. ...more
Caleb Edison
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up because Stephen King reviewed it. While not scary, I'd call this book haunting. It reads like one long journal entry of a man watching another's plagued life. Alan Judd is a great writer if this work demonstrates his typical style. ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, horror
This reads like a classic horror tale. I think the premise is interesting but it wasn't spooky enough. The narration was never that captivating and the characters felt too distant to create any emotional attachment. Still an interesting story. ...more
Bonnie Odin
Stephen King recommendation from On Writing
Signor Mambrino
This was alright.
The only Faust retelling I've ever truly enjoyed was The Phantom in the Paradise.
There was nothing bad or wrong here but it wasn't my cup of ink, I only write long hand in ink.
Renny Barcelos
Interesting even if formulaic novella.
Kevin Jones
For a story with a book allegedly written by the Devil at its core, this felt pedestrian at best. Who knew a Faustian bargain could be so boring?
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Valancourt Books: The Devil's Own Work (1991) by Alan Judd 5 13 Jan 10, 2015 07:29AM  

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Alan Judd is a pseudonym used by Alan Edwin Petty.

Born in 1946, he graduated from Oxford University and served as a British Army officer in Northern Ireland during 'The Troubles', before later joining the Foreign Office; he currently works as a security analyst. He regularly contributes articles to a number of publications, including The Daily Telegraph, and The Spectator as its motoring correspo

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