Little girl gives devil a heck of a time
“God Bless Mr. Devil,” by Andrew Davis. Moonscape Publishing. 253 pp. $22.95.By Deirdre Parker Smith
A novel idea for a novel: Write a story about a little girl who prays for Satan’s salvation.
Author Andrew Davis said God gave him the message for “God Bless Mr. Devil” and the book ó or its characters ó wrote itself.
Davis found and lost a few agents, got what he described as 400 rejections and decided, since he’d been given a mission, he would publish the book himself. That was in 2000. He ordered 2,032 copies and is coming here Friday to sign some of them at Literary Bookpost from 7-9 p.m.
“I learned in three months I’m not a publisher. I’m a writer,” Davis said. Among his rejections were ones that gave him advice and praised his work. Some rejections said the book didn’t fit into a set genre.
“It could be young adult as well as adult,” Davis says. “People told me it would make a good cartoon, a Broadway play.” He’s gotten good reviews from 10-year-olds and 90-year-olds.
“God wanted me to publish this book, that’s why he gave it to me. The characters chose me to write it. Good fiction writes itself. I just follow characters around and listen to them.”
He had the main character first, Katie, the villain, the 8-year-old who decides, after listening to her preacher say prayer is the answer, to pray for the devil. She has perfect logic. Pray for the devil, all the bad things in the world will stop.
Mr. Devil is the hero. And what a devil he is. He smokes cigars, swills beer, is losing his hair and has a problem with swelling in his legs. And get this, he doesn’t have horns.
But he’s a busy guy ó that’s why his age is showing. He’s got this diabolical control room full of computers and computer geeks to keep track of plague, wars and other fun stuff. In his living room is a large screen, the overlook to hell that doubles as a giant TV screen, where he can watch the nightly news or the buffalo roam. Buffalo have nice horns.
Davis says “a lot of parts in the book I never had anything to do with.” For example, when God intervenes at the critical moment with Satan. A gift, he says.
He’s not religious, he says, more spiritual. “I never found a religion that made sense to me. I do believe in something, a higher power, ’cause it sure is on my side.”
Mr. Devil talked to Davis a lot during the process. “Everytime I’d go somewhere with him, he’d talk about the buffalo. … He just kept coming to me as someone like all the rest of us ó he’s got the world by the tail, then problems start and it gets old and we just want to get out but we can’t because we’re too far in.
“Today after he’s burned a few billion souls, so what? He just wants to roll in the snow. He’s just tired.”
In the book, the devil has no friends ó his minions obey because they’re scared of him. “Then along comes this little girl who gives him a chance, has faith and she actually cares. And that just takes him out and he doesn’t know how to deal with that. The one thing he can’t have has come along.”
Katie shocks the adults by praying for Mr. Devil, and even her faithful pastor is afraid she’s possessed. That’s just fine with Satan. Things are getting uncomfortable in hell, and he’s feeling decidedly sick.
He’s got to stop Katie ó but everything he tries fails. It helps that Katie’s uncle is Satan’s right-hand man. He was unscrupulous in life, but he loved that little girl.
The story plays out with plenty of suspense ó will the world, through Satan’s influence, stop Katie? Will the devil be redeemed? What is the ultimate power, good or evil?
Remember, Davis says, Satan doesn’t have control over life and death ó only God can do that.
The ending plays out well, though it may be a stretch to think about what will happen next.
The book would be appropriate, indeed, for a young adult. Even some children might grasp its true meaning.
As for Davis, it’s been a learning experience. “I thought I would publish it and I’d be rich. After about five years and 250 rejections, I realized the publishing industry was one of the most ridiculous places to make money.”
He’s been working on a sequel for about five years, one involving Satan’s diary. “I had no idea about the diary. He showed it to me and I almost passed out; he showed me where he started writing in red.
“I wondered, ‘What if the diary got loose in the real world?’ “Davis says he had never even read a novel, much less written anything, when he got started. That proves this was a gift.
Now living in Salisbury running a business that provides music for special occasions, he and his wife met at the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. She was his teacher. He worked at The Nashville Network for a while and decided Salisbury was a great place to retire and live as writer.
“I expect to see that dream realized some day.”