Michael Boatman spends his days and nights pretending to be other people. For a living. He's acted in television shows - China Beach, Spin City, ARLI$$, Anger Management, Instant Mom, The Good Wife - films - Hamburger Hill, The Glass Shield, Bad Parents - and Broadway plays. After many years in his chosen profession he's decided to chuck it all and seek his fortune as a writer. (Just kidding. He secretly dreams of changing the world as a talkative mime.)

Who Wants to be the Prince of Darkness? by Michael Boatman

Lucifer is enjoying his retirement in an obscure corner of Limbo when he learns of a plot by Gabriel, the current ruler of Hell, to use humanity's greatest weapon against it ' Television! Cue the hottest reality game-show ever conceived: Who Wants To Be The Prince Of Darkness? Gabriel orchestrates an "Infernal takeover" of Earth by stealing unwitting mortal souls and sending them to a mostly empty Hell, hoping to reinvigorate the Infernal Realm.

Now Lucifer must find a living champion to seize control of Hell and free millions of stolen mortal souls before the theft becomes permanent. But who would ever want to be Hell's champion?


I'm a huge fan of Michael Boatman's acting (that legendary run on Spin City alone!), but he has also served his time in the horror small press for many years, culminating in this terrific novel from Angry Robot. – Lavie Tidhar



  • "Boatman's novel is witty, at times downright hilarious, and packed to the gills with every deity you could possibly imagine."

    – British Fantasy Society
  • "Michael Boatman writes like a visitor from hell. Someone out on short term leave for bad behavior. I love this stuff. He's one of the new, and more than promising, writers making his mark, and a dark and wonderful mark it is."

    – Joe R Lansdale
  • "I really could not put this novel down. Not for the internal questions that arise out of religious processes or the characters or the story line but it was just plain funny,"

    – Koeur’s Book Reviews



Prologue: Coup d'Etat!


As the fury of war exploded around the Palace Bulgathias, Asmodeus, Lord of Lust and Grand Minotaur of the Seventh Circle of Hell, squatted his bullish bulk atop the Obsidian Throne and girded his loins for the looming apocalypse. His loins were already annoyed, having repeatedly warned Asmodeus since the previous Tuesday that Gabriel's army of disenfranchised gods, twice-fallen angels, damned souls, demons and monsters was rapidly approaching the Capital. Asmodeus' spies had confirmed their warnings, as Gabriel's forces marched, crawled and soared ever nearer on their long road to conquest. The "Great Liberator" had already claimed the outer bolgias (the densely populated crevasse communities that encircled each of Hell's Nine Rings) and with every village, town and small city they conquered, the army swelled beyond its already gargantuan proportions until it had become glaringly obvious, even to Asmodeus, that Gabriel wasn't simply claiming territory... he was winning converts.

As Asmodeus glared out over the war-twisted landscape surrounding the palace, he cursed the one whose actions had brought his beloved Realm to its knees.

"Bless you, Lucifer," he snarled. "Bless your backstabbing balls to Heaven's highest hearth."

Asmodeus' blasphemy was taken up and repeated by his irritated loins. In a show of protest, they'd been sullen and uncommunicative all morning. Now they jeered at him even as he shoved them into his custom-built double-codpiece.

Just then, Lord Azazel the Dark floated into the war room.

"Still arguing with your genitals, I see," the black-clad wraith announced in his customary screech. "I shouldn't bother, if I were you. I suspect you'll be separated from them soon enough."

As if to punctuate the wraith's prediction, a thunderous explosion shook the war room to its foundations. Outside, a thunderous roar went up from the army gathered far below the palace's ramparts.

"You were ever the coward, Lord Azazel," Asmodeus rumbled, breaking off a nearby stalactite and using it to sharpen his horns. "So quick to transform yourself into a noxious fume and slip into the shadows, and always when the road runs rough. Even now, when the Realm Infernal needs its greatest warriors more than ever, the cracked armor of your failed faith reveals a craven crust."

If Azazel felt the slightest annoyance at Asmodeus' jab, his bony face betrayed no sign of it. Instead, he floated closer, his airy black substance wafting in the hot winds from the lava baths.

"The 'Realm Infernal' has been taken, you bovine clod," Azazel hissed. "The enemy stands at our door, accompanied by a multitude of Hell's unwashed masses. I hardly think they'll spare us Quintax once they find us cringing up here. With that."

Asmodeus nodded, forced to acknowledge the wraith's dark wisdom as he considered the object of Gabriel's quest for power.

"True enough," he admitted. "We have been duped and debased. Yet I have summoned the Quintax. For even in this, our final hour as Hell's legitimate rulers, I believe we may yet regain–"

Asmodeus was interrupted by a blast of magical force that shook the obsidian walls of the throne room, covering the floor with pebbles and flecks of dust. A moment later, an emerald crackle of magicks whirled into view in the center of the throne room. The swirling green tornado of malevolent force coalesced into the shape of a busty demoness with two faces, one indescribably beautiful, the other unspeakably hideous.

"They've broken through the barriers," the demoness said. "I've seduced hundreds of them, but it hardly made a dent. We're toast."

"You too, Lady Lilith?" Asmodeus rumbled. "I always believed that you, of all Lucifer's Quintax, would hold fast in faith."

The demoness tossed her heads, hawked and spat on the obsidian floor. Her acid saliva hissed loudly in the rock glow.

"You try dream-screwing ten thousand pissed-off demons," she snarled, massaging her ample rump. "See how far you get before you throw in the towel."

"No further than I got trying to trample them," a loud voice trumpeted. The three archdemons turned to greet the elephantine monstrosity that climbed out of a nearby lava bath. Lord Mammon the Greedy stomped toward them, flapping his ears and flinging droplets of molten rock across the walls. "No matter how many of them I savaged, the uppity little bastards just kept coming. I barely got out of there with my trunk still attached."

"Aye," trilled a tiny voice. Lord Mammon raised his head and honked loudly, and a small, glowing figure shot out of the end of his trunk in a shower of snot. "First they complained about better working conditions," Brother Leviathan the Incessant buzzed, his wings beating furiously. "'Less demonic taunting while swimming the Lake of Fire!' 'Fewer endless days tilling the Fields of Poison Stones!' Soon they'll be demanding magazine stands on every corner in Limbo!"

"Abomination!" Mammon roared. "Brother Leviathan speaks plainly. It's all a self-respecting archdemon can do to squeeze a day's torment out of them. And now our worst nightmares have come true: demons and Damned joining forces, sowing dissent and bringing chaos to our very doorstep!"

"Yet here is where we find ourselves, Lords and Lady," sighed Azazel. "Betrayed by the very citizens who we endeavored to rule, as we were commanded to rule by Lord Lucifer himself."

Azazel turned and faced Asmodeus, pointing one cadaverous claw at the Lord of Lust.

"Or perhaps Lord Asmodeus, with all his beefy eloquence, may find some soothing words to suckle us, with assurances that we are not soon to be captured, tortured, dragged screaming through the streets and utterly destroyed."

Asmodeus gritted his fangs and stamped one cloven hoof in frustration. It was no secret among the Quintax, and their armies of vassals, generals, slaves and spies, that Azazel the Dark was furious when Asmodeus was chosen to lead Lucifer's elite in the moments before the Morningstar abandoned Hell, some 559 years ago. As Lucifer's former Minister of Information, Azazel had, understandably, expected the reins of power and thus control of Hell's greatest resource, to pass into his hands. He'd publicly nursed his outrage ever since.

A volley of blasts shook the walls of the war room. Asmodeus stifled the urge to gore the black wraith where he floated. Instead, he turned to confront the object that had doomed them all.

"We have far greater matters to discuss, friends," Asmodeus said. "In the moments before Gabriel breaches our defenses, we must decide the final fate of Lucifer's bequest."

The five demons regarded the target of Gabriel's war.

In the center of the great throne room, a shining crimson gemstone floated, suspended above a needle-sharp spar of black stone. It was a ruby; a blood-red gem roughly the size and shape of an ostrich egg. Deeply faceted and polished to a blinding brilliance, the corundum flickered and dimmed, each pulse punctuated by a flash of Hellish power. The Hellstone's magic thrummed, reflecting a myriad colors in the shadows cast by the lava baths, its beat palpable enough that the Quintax could feel it stinging their flesh like a plague of hornets.

Secured within its clawed iron setting and defended by a miasma of the blackest magicks, Lucifer's talisman seemed to consider each of the Quintax in turn, scrutinizing them, probing their souls with its malevolent intelligence. Even wordy Asmodeus, who had once singlehandedly repulsed an invasion of rhyming revelators using only his talent for weaponized pontification, still found himself speechless in the glow of its awesome might.

"Lucifer's Hellstone," he sighed. "All His dark intellect contained within its darkling depths: power enough to fuel Hell and its operations for all eternity."

"And all for naught," Lord Mammon trumpeted. "Lucifer was a fool to abandon such might."

"Yet abandon it he did," sneered Azazel. "His decision to assume a mortal life led us to this disaster. Now the Stone – and the Power – must fall into Gabriel's hands."

"No!" Brother Leviathan buzzed. "Anyone but that insufferable prick!"

Azazel nodded. "It is the end of an age," he said. "Indeed, the end of all that we hold precious. For surely a new era must rise upon the ashes of the old."

"Perhaps not," Asmodeus rumbled, with grim self- satisfaction. "Of all the Quintax, it seems, only I remained faithful to Lucifer's virulent and vast vision. Focusing my faculties unflinchingly toward the future, I've spent centuries searching for a way to preserve our Hell, ever pondering the fundamental question: what would Lucifer do?"

"Lucifer abandoned us!" Brother Leviathan cried. "He became a mortal and left us behind to clean up His mess!"

"What good is it to ponder Lucifer's motives?" Azazel said. "He empowered us to rule Hell until the day of His 'victorious return.' A day that, clearly, will never arrive."

"Ahhh," Asmodeus said. "But perhaps Lord Lucifer never intended to return. Perhaps we misunderstood his greater purpose."

"Then Lady Lilith is right," Mammon blared. "We've been toasted! We must yield!"

"Not so fast," Asmodeus growled. "For after many sleepless hours spent seeking answers, I can finally reveal that my quest for solutions has borne the bitterest of balms: I have a plan."

Before anyone could scoff at the idea of Lord Asmodeus planning anything, a blast of angelic power threw them all to the floor. With a wrenching scream and a flash of blinding blue flame, the massive doors that sealed off the throne room from the rest of the palace burst open, and the voice of the Great Liberator rocked the great chamber.


"He's found us!" Brother Leviathan screamed. "The end is near!"

"Asmodeus!" Lilith cried. "Whatever you're planning, I'd say now is a good time to clue us in!"

"After these many centuries, you will finally face our righteous wrath," Gabriel chuckled, his face and form obscured by the blazing blue inferno. "Surrender the Stone!"

Asmodeus stepped forward, his horns raised in defiance. "Avaunt, Gabriel," he cried. "We are Lucifer's Quintax, blighted and bound to defend the Realm even unto our deaths. This power is too great for even one such as you to command!"

The fallen archangel's reply was a roar that melted stone and soul alike. "Traitors!"

A mighty wind blasted stalactites into powder. Then the searing blue glow rushed into the great chamber. When the Quintax saw the terrible form the Great Liberator had taken, even their courage failed them.

"Remember our charge," Asmodeus shouted. "We stand strong!"

With that, the Lord of Lust strode across the chamber. Muttering obscenities laced with dreadful power, he faced the Hellstone and drew his longsword from its scabbard. Lord Azazel, seeing what Asmodeus meant to do, flew toward the Stone, his claws outstretched.

"Asmodeus, you fool," he screeched. "Stop!"

But he was too late. With a shrug of his mighty shoulders, Asmodeus raised his sword over the great pulsing ruby.

"Look to the Morningstar," he roared. "We are bound!" Then he brought his sword down upon the Hellstone.

The blast of opposing magicks ripped the air. The shockwave that followed flattened every standing structure in the Nine Rings, even as it cracked the walls of the great palace, emptied the Lakes of Fire and blew out the lava pits. Then every light in Hell went out.