America seems fascinated by the Devil. Rock musicians sing about him, which alarms some parents, which in turn makes for good conversation on “Geraldo” and “20/20.”

Of course, the church has always known about the Devil, but until just a few years ago we generally ignored him (except when bad things happened). Then came This Present Darkness and its sequel, Piercing the Darkness, Frank Peretti’s best-selling novels about Satan and his minions. Now it’s okay, it seems, for evangelicals to talk about the Devil.

Who should CT turn to, to learn more about the Great Deceiver? Assistant editor Mickey Maudlin, who also serves as our book-review editor (and thus sees practically every book written about the Devil), suggested we contact Jeffrey Burton Russell, a history professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, and author of five (count ’em) books about the Evil One.

The idea of a history professor at a state university spending 20 years studying the Devil struck us as a bit odd—especially when he concludes that the Devil is a real force to be reckoned with. So we called Professor Russell. As you will read on page 20, he may know more about the Devil than anyone else in America. (Who else could tell you what the Devil smells like?)

Russell couldn’t tell us what Lucifer looks like, so we did what others have done through the ages: We asked an artist to conjure up a suitable image of Beelzebub, and Michael Annino put his talent (and a photograph) to work. If you don’t like the cover, perhaps it’s because Michael did such an excellent job. The Devil may disguise himself as an angel of light, but to us, he isn’t pretty.

LYN CRYDERMAN, Senior Associate Editor

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