In a Faustian Tradition
In The Devil’s Own Work, by Alan Judd, the narrator tells the story of his friend Edward, who falls victim to his own success after acquiring a manuscript from a recently deceased famous author. While Edward realizes literary recognition, fame, and wealth, the narrator can see the toll such recognition takes on the soul of his friend, on their relationship, and on the lives of those most dear to both men. A cerebral read in the vein of Henry James, this short novel originally published in 1991 masks the supernatural in favor of the physical effects of possession. One cannot ignore the corruption of the flesh on all involved once Edward makes the fateful decision to subvert the old author, O.M. Tyrrel and take on the demonic manuscript.
The book was the winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize for best novel. Judd is a British author who has also written for the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator, has written ten works of fiction and three nonfiction pieces. I searched online for a website and found only the briefest of references, a Wikipedia page and a brief biography on Fantasticfiction that contains basically the same information, along with a picture of the author. Like the elusive authors in this work of fiction, though, there is little more about Judd in the annals of literature or on the web.
I set my sights to traveling to the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, and hop a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, where my car rests in long-term parking. The flight is short – ninety minutes from terminal to terminal, and soon enough I’m driving through the Ozarks, skirting Rogers for a direct connect to Highway 62 and the winding, two-lane path that delivers hair pin turns along cliff faces before rising to the hilltop town of Eureka Springs. The Crescent sits on a ridge overlooking the town, directly opposed to the Christ of the Ozarks statue. Knowing the hotel’s history, they are positioned as two opposing forces with the town in the throes between them. My biographer writes something similar in his forthcoming novel, Samhain. I park and stare up to the hotel. Inside the general manager is expecting me. He knows about HALF LIT and about the 31 Days of Halloween. He knows about my obsession with this time of year, and welcomes the attention that is brought to his hotel.
This isn’t a flippant decision, on my part, linking this particular literary work with this real-life hotel. The darkness in the hotel’s history and its old world design invokes a lot of the same feelings for me as reading this novel by Judd. Armed with my laptop and my suitcase and my camera, I lock my car and think about how long it’s been since I’ve been home. Like the narrator in Judd’s own work. I am traveling now, drinking and visiting literary sites, working out of hotels and airport terminals, and like the narrator, as I return to the crescent, I am pursuing something dark, perhaps too dark for me to handle.