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The Devil Fears Nigga Jones

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After years of horrific abuse in a Satanic cult, Buster flees looking for redemption on the streets of New York City.

Coming of age in a Satanic cult, Buster is drugged, raped, beaten, hunted, buried alive, banished to live in a barn, and told every day, “You’re a plug ugly boy unworthy of all that’s begotten.” Yikes. If ever anybody needed therapy, it’s Buster.


Chapter One of Brian Michels’s “The Devil Fears Nigga Jones” describing Buster’s arrival at, life in, and escape from this infernal community is as creepy as any of Shirley Jackson’s worst nightmares. The cult leader, known as Daddy, was a “dark maestro of seduction,” whose eyes – “a perfect pair made in Hades” – absorbed “the essence of his victims that had fallen into his stare.” Michels describes this evil milieu as if he’s bleeding while writing it.   


However, “Buster’s natural charm was incapable of absorbing total darkness.” Having escaped the upstate New York cult, Buster lands in the City and, while roaming Brooklyn on a rainy, frigid New Year’s Eve, he meets his first real friend while gleaning from a dumpster.


This encounter introduces Buster to a group of people toward whom he is equally wary and attracted. Michels populates the novel with quirky characters who have complex backstories, while endowing them with distinct flaws, secrets, and odd predilections. Buster’s benefactor, for example, is Shane Bishop, himself a victim of abuse, although one who took matters into his own hands by killing his father. Bishop’s business partner is Erasmus, a wheelchair bound veteran who hacks into the computers of “Deep State Military and Intelligence figures and financial giants.” There’s also Mrs. Fontaine, an acupuncturist and the matriarch of the Harbor Home for women’s health, and her daughter, Iris, who has wandered the world but accomplished very little in life.


In some cases, Michels writes in third person from a character’s point of view, and in others in the first person. While the handoff can be disruptive, the strength of the characters just being themselves carries the novel through the first five chapters. At that point, there is a big reveal.


Also at that point, the plots swerve abruptly. Unfortunately, the stories become contrived, sometimes bordering on ludicrous. Purpose is achieved. Wealth is found. Innocence is regained. Unlike the intricately wrought main characters, late appearing ones are hollow, like a young woman whose sole narrative function is to get murdered, and others who are mere parrots for born-again platitudes.


Overall, the unconvincing finale does not do justice to the novel’s characters. Its resonance comes from its honest poignancy, as well Michels’s artistic flair with language, not from a strained plot or shallow catechism.  


One final note, despite its ungainly title, this book has little to do with African American issues or identity.


Reviewed by

Gregg Sapp is author of the “Holidazed” satires. To date, four titles have been released: “Halloween from the Other Side,” “The Christmas Donut Revolution,” “Upside Down Independence Day,” and “Murder by Valentine Candy.” Previous books are "Dollarapalooza" and “Fresh News Straight from Heaven.”

About the author

A native New Yorker born and raised in the Bronx. While appropriating booze in iconic bars and restaurants all over Manhattan he earned a CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies: Philosophy and Social Criticism - followed up with a Master's degree in Writing: Critical & Creative. view profile

Published on June 09, 2020

Published by

140000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewed by