Posted in Short Stories

Arthur P. Davis: How John Boscoe Outsung the Devil

Deal Me In 2021 – Week 26

Now this John Boscoe, no doubt about it, was a singing fool. John was a bass singer, and he had the sweetest and the deepest bass anybody had ever listened to on this earth. There ain’t never been no voice like it before nor since.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good “deal with the devil” story and Arthur P. Davis’s “How John Boscoe Outsung the Devil” is one of the best. In these types of stories, the devil usually doesn’t win and I’m not giving anything away by saying he doesn’t in this one, either. It kind of gives that away in the title.

Pride being one of the seven deadly sins, John Boscoe’s amazing singing voice goes to his head which of course brings on the devil’s challenge to John in a singing contest. For a brief period of time in the story, we get to see things from the devil’s perspective which gives the story both humor and a little bit of depth and realism (within the context of the story).

John win’s the contest (as the title states) not through sheer determination, skill and talent. How he wins provides the secret of the story. It provides the curiosity to keep reading even though the writing is so wonderful, I didn’t really need more of a reason to keep going. The story is a folk tale without being too folksy and even knowing the outcome makes it one well worth reading.

This story is included in Black American Short Stories: A Century of the Best edited by John Henrik Clarke I read it when I selected the Jack of Spades for Week 26 of my Deal Me In 2021 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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