Sympathy for the Devil by Joe Schwartz

 

Nobody gets rich just by selling their soul to the Devil. If that were true, everyone I know would be loaded. The thing that happens is opportunity not only knocks, but it comes to sit down every night with you to have supper. Imagine, every day, driving to work and never sitting at a red light again. And I mean never. Always being in the right place at the right time, and despite being a real son of a bitch, getting anything and everything you ever wanted. Sounds great, right? Sure it does. That’s what I thought, too.

Another little thing you cannot get horse-trading with the dark side is talent. Like the old carnies used to say, either you got it or you don’t. That, however, is the least of my concerns. The people I represent are good looking and young. Its inevitable those things will disappear, they are finite resources, precious as gold, and once they’re gone, I can only hope they’ve been saving all that fucking money I’ve been helping them make ‘cause they sure as hell are going to need it.

I’m not an attorney or a psychic to the stars, hell, I’d be lucky to get shift work at Pizza Hut delivering pies. No, what I do is manage bands. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Getting people to places on time, talking on the phone with promoters and booking agents, occasionally getting free shit like tickets to ballgames I never go to or real expensive booze; nice things but rarely what I want and hardly ever what I need. Of course, I just pass those things along to bus drivers and limo drivers, security guards and bartenders. Fuck, I once gave balcony box seats for Les Miserables to a waitress just because I didn’t have cash for a tip. Best blowjob of my life.

I’ve booked bands all over the world, shitty bands you never heard of and never will. Doesn’t matter. I got paid. I always get paid. Tonight won’t be any different.

My boss is not The Devil. His name is Roger, which I always thought is somewhat tame for a heavy hitter. Everybody calls me Captain. Who the fuck has any respect for a Petey or a Danny? Nobody calls me by my name. Sometimes I get called Mr. Captain by bellhops or doorman and that’s cool, I know they mean it respectfully. It’s the little weasels, like the those know-it-all record company A&R punks who think they are king turd of shit mountain, calling me Cap or Old Cap, while trying to press their soon to be trashed business card in my hand. Unless it comes with a couple of Ben Franklins tucked underneath, nuns will be handing out rubbers in convents before I call them back.

I’ve got this new band called Shelf, techno-metal or some shit. I don’t care. They are all under twenty-five, hairless, sweaty, and shirtless 99% of the time on stage. I’m going to make a ton of money off them. That’s the rub in this business. If a band is popular enough, they might see a million dollars, or so, net after grinding it out playing shows for eighteen months in a row, recording a couple of albums in between gigs, and getting at least one video in heavy rotation on MTV-2. A guy like me, though, for every dollar some quartet of egomaniacs make, I make ten. That’s right, if they make a mil, I make ten mil. But that’s not fair? Fuck fair. We all make our deal in this life. Read the fine print asshole! Being famous is what they wanted, and good or bad, it’s what they got. It’s a natural presumption to assume rich and famous naturally intermingle like PB&J on white. That would be a big, fat wrong. God, it’s great when one of these used up, thirty-somethings comes to find me, indignant, self-righteous, about how I’ve been ripping them off. That, of course, wasn’t the song they were singing a couple of years ago, getting drunk and high for free and fucking girls like they were Barbarians plundering a village. I truly enjoy watching that twinkle go out of their eyes when they realize its game over, they’re fucked, and there’s not a goddamned thing anybody is going to do about it to help them.

 

 

My phone rings as I glide along in my Hummer doing eighty-five. Fuck the environment. Let the tree huggers and the Vegans figure it out. We’re all going to die anyway. Might as well be comfortable before we go.

“What’s up, Billy?” I ask, using the speaker phone. Billy is the bass player for Shelf. He’s never called me before. This can’t be good.

“We can’t find Gabriel,” he says. His voice is high, pubescent with worry.

“Have you tried his cell?”

“Yeah, Captain, everything. He’s off the grid, man.”

“Stay cool,” I say. “We got some time. I’ll figure this shit out, but you call me if he comes around. If there’s one thing I can’t stand is somebody wasting my fucking time.”

I hang up on him as he starts to thank me, or say goodbye, or tell me about his feelings; I wouldn’t know and I most especially do not care. There’s one thing on my mind now, finding that little prick Gabriel.

When these guys were nobody, I saw them playing at the grand opening of some laser tag, rock climbing warehouse. There must’ve been an entire army of high school of kids there screaming their brains out for them. I paid the ridiculous twenty dollar cover charge, bought a lemonade to cure juvenile diabetes which tasted fucking awful, and watched a mediocre cover band kill like they were pros on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday night.

Gabriel stood out from the others with an Elvis snarl and long black hair that turned blue under the fluorescent lights. Girls were practically pissing themselves when he stared at them. He slammed into the jocks and stoners never losing his voice as they passed him prone above their heads, trusting they would never drop him. He was a golden god among them, the androgynous boy nymph of mythology, to be revered and protected. This kid had it, that something, undefinable and unmanageable. He was going to make me a whole lot of fucking money.

The problem with the kid was that he was a flake. That’s okay, the best ones usually are. I’ve got the shit down to a science now. The hardest part is finding the genuine article, an honest-to-God star. In the meantime, any kid with a good smile will do. You ever wonder why in the hell there have been so many one hit wonders? Because guys like me have been representing talented, yet clueless musicians since Grog first realized banging a rock against a hollow log made Jane wet between the thighs. The dumber they are, the richer I become. Girls fuck them because they have seen them in magazines and TV, boys buy their records because girls want to fuck the guys who are in the band, and girls fuck me because I’m rich. Everybody wins. That’s the formula, and it works like magic, except when it comes to goddamn Gabriel.

Gabriel is what this current society would deem a pedophile. A thousand years ago he would have been awarded an entire bath house of teen-age boys by decree of an even more depraved king. That was then, this is now. Everyone expects you to keep shit behind closed doors ever since Constantine got religion. That’s called being polite. Its hypocrisy at its finest, but hey, I don’t make the rules. I just learned to roll with the punches a long time ago. There was a time you would be put on the rack for adultery, real or imagined, and beaten to within an inch of your life if you were lucky. Of course, this was all sanctioned by the moral police of history, The Church. Please, don’t get me fucking started.

All the “artists” I’ve ever had in my stable were prone to some vice. As long as I made a ton of cash with a minimal investment, I’ve made sure they all got what they wanted. It’s inevitable, given enough time, no secret is safe. I’ve learned audiences must be able to ultimately destroy those that they love so that they can finally worship them like gods. If the fans or the media won’t do it, these cultural messiahs will do it to themselves. It’s the natural order. Sex, dope, alcohol are the unholy trinity or rock-n-roll, fuel for the inexhaustible furnace of pain, joy, and mental illness which sounds fucking fantastic when roiling in a hurricane of drums, bass lines, and squealing guitar riffs. The biggest of them all, though, can’t be bottled. That narcissistic overdose is called applause. No matter how much anyone gets, it is never enough.

I check the GPS tracker app on my phone. All the guys I manage have a phone. A Trojan horse if there ever was one. I make sure it’s the greatest and the latest. ‘Do whatever you want with it,’ I say. Nobody has ever given one back to me. Shiny rocks and plastic beads for sure. According to my trip estimator, I’m less than ten miles from finding Gabriel’s punk ass. I’m debating on whether I should smack him around a bit to teach him a lesson for doing this shit so close to having a show when I get a text message.

It is from Murder, Inc., a wrestling promoter I had worked with back in the ‘90s. Fucking wrestlers. All that muscle yet more sensitive than high school girls listening to Goth. Those were the fun days of grunge, when looking like you were homeless inspired hundred dollar flannel shirts to be sold at Macy’s. Murder had come up with the idea of shoving mumbling, greasy-haired, depressed freaks into a ring with guitars in between matches of his guys with shiny hair, bulging-biceps, and nut hugger spandex pretending to beat the piss out of one another. It was a great idea.

“What you think of Ricin?” he texted.

I balanced my phone on the steering wheel and texted back, “Nasty shit. You taking things to the next level? >)”

“LOL… it’s the name of my new boy. You think people will dig it?”

“Who fucking knows? LOL Peoples is crazy!!!”

A horn bleats like a sick cat and I realize I’ve been drifting to the left. I palm the cell phone and use my wrist to correct course, getting my monster back in its lane, while giving the self-righteous prick in the Prius my middle finger thank-you.

“Going to Miami,” Murder, Inc. texted. “Roger sez wants 2 see me.”

That was a curious thing. Roger wasn’t often in touch, and when he was, it is usually by phone to rip you a new asshole. An invitation to the Sunshine State was no joke. Murder is young, but he had a hell of a work ethic. I joked with him once not to text and fuck. He didn’t laugh. Could Murder be up for a promotion? It instantly made me jealous. I’ve been grinding this shit out with these pimpled, cocaine-insomniacs for ten times as long. Vainly I checked my messages for a missed text from Roger, my voicemail, even my e-mail. There wasn’t shit. His invite to Murder pissed me off. I sent Murder’s bragging ass a nice, passive-aggressive text back.

“That’s cool. Be careful.”

That should keep him in check for a while. Murder thinks the whole goddamn world is going to give him something. You would think he’d realize that I’d fuck him over in a second if he stood between me and what I wanted. Then again, maybe he does. It’s like being a fucking rat in a giant maze you know has no exit. The harder and longer you think about this shit, the crazier it makes you.

Murder texts back, “It’s all good.”

Now what the fuck does that mean?

 

 

The GPS leads me to a long, blacktopped driveway connected to colonial that must run in the high eights, maybe a mil. My game has just gotten all fucked up. This kid is from a middle class white family in a town that loves guns, Jesus, and NASCAR. I have no idea what he is doing here in this place and not downtown at a sound check, jerking off to an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue in the green room, but I have already resolved there will be no talking about it. I’m going to grab his skinny pale ass by his over-dyed pointy black shock-locks and drag him to the Hummer. If he refuses to get in, then he is going to get a lesson in tough love, as I bash his skull into the all steel door four or five times, until he shuts the fuck up and does what he’s told.

The front door opens as I come around the hood. A white man dressed in a purple velour Adidas track suit with matching Kangol hat and velvet Nikes stands in the doorway. He is as bald as a baby’s ass. No wonder he wears the hat. His neck and chest are deliberately exposed and bare where a knotty chain attached to a golf ball-sized golden nugget rises and falls on his hairless chest. He is obviously strong despite the loose fitting suit. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was balls deep into martial arts, too, and could break cinder blocks with his hard on. He puts his hand out friendly enough and I take it pretending to be civilized. We stare at each other making direct eye contact sizing one another up making mental notes, chess players waiting for the first piece to be moved.

“Myron,” he says. He has a vice-like grip, but I could give good as I got. “I presume you’re the captain.”

“Just Captain,” I say.

“Sure thing, Captain,” he says. We mutually let go of each other, but never lose eye contact. Myron reminds me of someone I used to know. Couldn’t be. That guy had been a hundred pound weakling in high school. This guy looked as if he could bench press a Toyota. Then again, weirder shit happens all the time.

“Where’s my boy?” I ask.

“We have to talk about that,” Myron says.

“Ain’t shit to talk about Kojak. He’s mine and I want him back. Now.”

He didn’t have eyebrows either. It made his face look almost inhuman. I couldn’t help but smile when he furrows his missing brows. It looks like the rumpled skin of one of those disgusting hairless cats. I had heard about this shit, but thought those fruitcakes were only in Cali. I guess if you give anything long enough, it finally gets to the Midwest.

“You’re a Metzorite?” I ask.

“It’s called many things, but yes.”

“I didn’t realize Naaman the Syrian had a church.”

“No different than your following of Simon the Magician.”

“Guess we all have to believe in something.”

“You can’t have him,” Myron says. “He’s renounced the world.”

He switch flips in me. A memory rusty with age, but it cleans off easy enough.

“How ya been, Mikey? Long time.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says.

“That’s cool. Play crazy all you want, Mikey, but if that kid doesn’t come the fuck out, we’re gonna have a problem.”

A flash of light hits my eyes, blinding me. I double over when Myron hits me in the stomach, swift and clean, in and out, a mechanical precision. My fat ass goes to the ground hard enough to make my teeth clack together. I squint up through my splayed fingers trying to shield my eyes. There is Gabriel in the window. The ungrateful little fucker is shooting a cannon sized light at me while putting his savior Myron in a black shadow. A glint of silver rises through the air in a practiced arc. The unmistakable sound of steel rings in my ear with the certainty piano tuners know the middle C. I kick straight out and connect firmly with Myron’s kneecap. The heel of my engineer boot crushes the soft cartilage of his knee. I could drive a nail with the hard sole of this boot and never feel a thing. Myron, however, screams like he is on fire.

Gabriel drops the light. The look on his face is priceless. When I get done fucking around with Myron, his chicken ass is next.

I look around on the ground. The knife has a black handle made of industrial grade rubber. It has to be at least eight inches long and is shaped like a scimitar. There is a little button on the side. When pushed, it flips open the blade from the handle like a switchblade. Underneath the button is a grooved nickel slide I presumed unlocks the stainless steel knife, allowing it to fold in half. A folding scimitar, now I had seen everything.

“Happy trails, Mikey,” I say.

“Run!” he screams toward the house. “Run child!”

I drop my entire two hundred and seventy pounds into my knee and drive it into his chest. His sternum snaps in two. That shut him up. I ram the knife in up to the hilt through his left eye. His body bucks under me but I hold on to the handle like a cowboy riding on a wild bull. Twisting and pushing up, I scrambled Mikey’s brains, carving and stabbing through his cerebral cortex. When he stops kicking, I stand up, leaving the knife in his eye socket. Even by my standards I found it gruesome. Still, I have to leave a message for his buddies. Fuck with me, take from me, and I’ll do shit to you that makes it look like the Old Testament is back in town.

I march toward the house. Before I get to the door, Gabriel opens it and comes out. He is wearing skinny jeans and an ironic XXXL black hoodie, his skull sticking out of it like a sun bleached turtle’s head. He still has his eyebrows, but he has shaved his head damn near to bare skull. A dark, round shadow of stubble is all that remains of his formerly long, teased coif. I think it makes him look menacing, far more than that imitation tribal head-dress he has been trying to grow. The anger in his eyes is real now, and so is Gabriel.

“I should’ve known better,” Gabriel says. “I’m sorry, Captain.”

“Let’s go,” I say. We left without saying another word.

 

 

I show my ID to the security guard at the gate. The guard glanced at it, then at me, then at my freshly shorn passenger. Gabriel looks shell shocked, practically comatose. If the guard hadn’t been so keenly aware, I might’ve slapped Gabriel like they do in movies. Somehow, I doubted it would have been effective. Or worse, over effective, making him cry like a baby. Forced to choose between a zombie and a blubbering idiot, give me the zombies any day.

“What’s with him?” the guard asks.

“What?” I say. It was an old dodge, pretend not to understand when you know and the man with the badge knows; everyone is in full bullshit mode.

“He looks like he’s seen a ghost.”

“That’s just his process, you know,” I say. In a last ditch effort to slide by, I sigh, “Fucking musicians.”

“Tell me about it,” the guard says. “Some motherfucker has an Ostrich in there. A fucking Ostrich, man” He gives me back my ID with a conspirator’s smirk waving me on to his partner at the other door. The next guard didn’t as much as blink as I park the Hummer and we walk up the stairs. We each tale an all access backstage pass that hang by lanyards from hooks putting them around our necks. No one will question us again in this place. It is highly unlikely anyone will even notice us again.

Billy and Ryan are waiting for Gabriel in the green room which is not green or really a room. This is basically a four-foot wide by twelve-foot long closet with a stained couch that is perforated with random cigarette burn holes. A quarter-inch thick frameless mirror six-feet long and three-feet wide has been glued directly to the adjacent cinder block wall. There ae no fruit baskets, no mini-bar, no TV, and definitely no windows. This is nothing more than a pen to keep bi-pedal cattle inside while waiting for their turn to play rock star. It’d be funny if it weren’t so fucking sad. Billy and Ryan leap up when they see their disheveled leader. Gabriel begins to sob while his fellow co-dependents place him in a group hug, I have to leave. I desperately need a drink.

I leave the arena on foot. Shelf could play the greatest show of their shitty little lives or they could commit ritual suicide on stage. I no longer care. In two days they will be in Lincoln, then Wichita, and Phoenix, then on to Sacramento, Reno, Idaho Falls, and so on and so forth. It is my learned opinion that this problem has been nipped in the bud. Gabriel is my slave now. He will jump when I say jump. He will never dare even try to shit on me again as long as he lives.

There is a good bar a few blocks north of the Savvis. Before gentrification came to downtown St. Louis on its white horse turning old shoe factories into million dollar lofts, I used to like coming down here. Now it is becoming like every other place. The Bar sits in between the soon-to-be renovated Randolph Building, once home to the offices of the biggest fake flower importer in the U.S., and a boutique clothes store simply known by its calligraphic gold letter G, hand painted on the store’s front window. There is no pretentious neon lights or thumping music inside The Bar. It is a square box with a baker’s dozen stools set at the century old tavern rail. Along the wall, there are six booths comfortably oblivious, submerged in between the six-foot high mahogany dividers.

I take a seat on a stool and order a Bud with a shot of Canada’s finest. The dark brown whiskey matches the stained wood floor. The alcohol burns like swallowing a lit matches, but the beer flushes the heat away making me gasp for breath. I’m not much for the taste of booze, but the pureness of the void it offers is a temptation. I haven’t gotten drunk in a long time. It feels like I am doing something special, a celebration necessary after day like today. They call liquor spirts because it was believed by the Puritans drunkenness is actually a form of demonic possession. I’ve heard stupider theories. When a bon-a-fide hell-raiser actually appears, one shouldn’t really be all that surprised.

A cold chill plunges down my spine when I hear Roger’s voice summoning my name.

“O Captain, my Captain,” Roger called. He is grinning at me from the booth farthest away. A votive candle in a ruby red pebbled glass holder casts Roger’s pale skin in a fiery ochre complexion. How appropriate, I think, sitting down with another beer, hold the whiskey back. He pushes a pack of cigarettes over to me in a plain brown wrapper. I pull one from the pack. The cigarette is red with a double banded gold ring that seperates the filter from a small, black coffin printed on the paper. Roger lights a match for me and I touch the tip of the cigarette to it, pinching the filter between my lips. I inhale deeply. Unlike Roger, I didn’t smoke often. The strong taste invades my mouth and lungs overpowering me for a moment, getting me a little high. As I let the smoke out through my nose, I even out again. Roger has fired one up, too. Our mutual cloud of smoke hangs over our heads, a dense fog concealing us from the world, smoky halos if such things existed.

“They heard about that shit you pulled today,” Roger says.

“Had to be done,” I say.

“Myron was on his way up in the organization. We had big plans for him.”

“You should have told me.”

“Would it have mattered?”

“Maybe,” I say. “But Myron brought it on himself. If anything, you should’ve told him about me”

“I suppose, but where’s the fun in that for me,” Roger says. “How’s the boy?”

“No worse for the wear. I expect he’ll still make me money.”

“If not, there’s a million more where he came from.”

“Amen,” I say.

“There was a meeting this afternoon,” Myron says.

“O’ yeah,” I say. “Good news or bad news?”

“Depends on who you are,” Roger says.

“Okay, Roger enough with the games. I do my job and I do it very fucking well. If you got something to say, spit it out.”

“What is it that keeps this world from splitting apart and letting chaos reign supreme?”

“The Rules,” I say.

“Yes, right, The Rules,” Roger says. “And what are the only two rules that exist?”

“The Golden rule,” I say. “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”

“And?”

“There are no rules for the wolves, only the sheep.”

“This world is a fragile balance between the haves and have nots, the powerful and the weak, where men pray for the strength to become better slaves.”

“Yeah, it’s real fucked up. So what?”

“I’ve been authorized to make you an offer,” Roger says.

“You can’t sell your soul twice, Roger,” I say.

“So true, but what if you could buy it back?”

“I don’t want it.”

“Here’s the problem,” Roger says. “Myron was something special. For you, there is nowhere to hide. They want put you into a pit shoveling shit until you’re so deep, it’s as if you had never been born.”

“Or?” I ask.

“Or you take Myron’s place,” Roger says.

I have spent my life trying to forget my life. Standing in blood up to my ankles watching men as they kill other men has desensitized me to violence. It is a means by which battles are won, the bodies left rotting where they lay. I have watched terrified through a slit in a wall, biting my fist until blood ran down my fist to remain silent, as chains were cinched around my best friend arms and legs. They laughed revving their Harley’s while he screamed in terror. He died almost instantly when they pulled him apart dragging his limbs behind their modified war cycles like junk cans behind a newlywed’s limo. The next morning I found his frozen faced torso and closed his eyes. It was then that I decided I’d had enough.

It seemed surreal when I met Roger. Here was this guy, neat as a pin, telling me all about how I could join him and how society could go fuck itself. In exchange for all this, my soul. I would never exist. No name, no hometown, no mother or father, no rival gangs coming for vengeance in the middle of the night. For damnation, I could have a second chance at the only redemption I ever hoped to find anyway, honor.

I went into this deal knowing nothing is forever, but I’d been having such a good stretch, it never occurred to me my time would ever end. It didn’t take me long to figure out, that once again, Roger was offering me a deal on a silver platter. Sure, it has strings attached, but nobody rides for free.

“Goddamn it, Roger,” I smile. “What the hell do I have to do?”

“That’s a smart fella,” Roger says.

 

 

I wasn’t aware how good it is to be a god. Roger putting the screws to me for nailing that piece of shit Myron was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Turns out it was for Gabriel, too.

Shelf imploded not long after getting out on the road. Ryan got a girlfriend that Billy somehow wanted, also, and she decided to give it a try with them both, which made for some real fun fist fights before shows. The press was terrific, though, as band mates came on stage with freshly blackened eyes and gushing bloody noses, but something that good is bound to end abruptly. The booking agent for the headliner called me personally. He was going to leave them high and dry in some-fucking-where North Dakota due to liability issues, you know, like the bass player murdering the drummer live in front of five thousand people. Shit happens, I said, immediately calling Gabriel on that trusty cell phone I had given him. I didn’t expect him to take my call, but I was more surprised to learn how relieved he was to hear from me. Things couldn’t be worse, he said. All he ever wanted to do was play music, what was he going to do now? ‘Today,’ I said, ‘is your lucky day.’

Nowadays, Gabriel commands a choir of like-minded delusional fucks who basically view me as lord and savior, master and commander of their spiritual ship. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Religion is the biggest scam ever. It controls war, marriage, commerce, and eventually death. A big tobacco lobbyist, despite all their millions of dollars, can’t compete with a tele-evangelist willing to endorse some senator’s bullshit bill from his pulpit. The power the sheep give to religion is more potent than junkies addicted to coke, heroin, and opiates combined.

All anybody really wants is to be told what to do. That is as long as you are willing to crawl through broken glass and over razor wire, you too can get to Heaven. If you give everything you got, your money and your time; if you’re willing to give absolute blind obedience without so much as a thought to your own well-being, then all are welcome. I have watched parents shun children, husbands and wives turn against each other, entire families split ferociously, and never once have the faithful been tempted to consider any opinion counter to this institution. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but at the end of that road is a gigantic fucking church, gilded in gold and diamonds, locked to the starving masses outside begging to come in as some fat prick inside bathes in luxury.

And you know what the sad part is? Nobody stops it. Every religion wants so badly to be right, it has never occurred to any of the sheep that they are all wrong. Of course, being a tax-exempt, religious organization in the wealthiest country ever conceived since the Roman Empire does have its advantages.

So here I sit, on my throne, as thousands adoringly gaze upon me. I am taking each and every one of them to Hell with a song in their heart and a smile on their faces. Then again, I’m not twisting anyone’s arm, am I? I’m just the guy who they believe has the answers. A guy who loves sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, a man who has never opened a Bible except to tear out a page and use it to roll a joint; a first-class Philistine if there ever was one. But that’s okay because when I get high, and spout all the ludicrous shit that pops into my head, people believe it. I read back the transcripts sober, and even I have to admit, that the shit is just so crazy it could be true.

But it isn’t. Not a word.

At times like these I must remember what Roger told me to do.

“Just smile and tell them they have nothing to worry about.”

Works every time.

 


Meet the Author

My name is Joe and I write stories for men. Of course, some of my biggest fans seem to be women who find my writing insightful, even a bit shocking as to how men really think. I assure you no matter how awful an idea I’ve produced for my reader’s entertainment, worse things have been done by your friendly, next-door neighbor.”

Joe Schwartz’s stories happen to people in and from the City of St. Louis. According to Joe, you can walk in any direction for eight blocks in this city and everything will change. ‘It is not the evil men do that I find fascinating,’ he says, ‘but the dire, almost predictable outcomes they suffer through.’ It is common for fans of Joe Schwartz to describe reading his work akin to “a sharp punch in the gut” and “like a sunny day in Hell.”

In the tradition of Bukowski and Pete Dexter, Joe Schwartz’s darkness is as funny as it is chilling. Schwartz puts the thrill back into reading again, making it seem dangerous and decadent as it should be, holding your hand in the dark as you grind your teeth while you read.

All of Joe Schwartz’s work can be found for free on the shelves of your ST. LOUIS PUBLIC LIBRARY and is available for sale on Amazon. For further info or to make a request for Joe to personally visit your book club, bowling alley, barroom or tattoo parlor, please email stlwriter5228@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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