Nikolas Schreck's "Satanic Reader" is an anthology tracing the development of Satan as a literary character in fiction and poetry. Most selections are excerpts from longer works (novels, plays, epic poems), beginning with Dante's Inferno and culminating in Michael A. Aquino's The Diabolicon (1970). Short stories and poems are reprinted in their entirety.
As an anthology of old classics (Aquino is the only living contributor), the sole original content is Schreck's lengthy Introduction, which is instructive, if opinionated. Schreck provides historical context for each selection, but also critiques them from an iconoclastic perspective.
One senses that Schreck admires Satan — or at least the Satan concept. Schreck views Satan as a celebration of rebellion, individual liberation, courage, inspiration to artistic creation. And he argues that many authors and artists, throughout the centuries, have had "sympathy for the Devil."
"One of the means of access to the Luciferian vision is a profound sense of exile, a spiritual or physical dislocation that mirrors the Devil's own cosmic sense of banishment. It is not surprising that the majority of authors represented here experienced some form of exile during their lives, a radical disruption from the norm that allowed the effulgence of the black light to illuminate their work. It could be argued that no truly visionary achievement is possible without this sense of Luciferian estrangement, this liberating and individuating isolation that allowed the diabolical consciousness to flourish. ... Whether by dint of their social dissent, physical infirmity, socially disapproved sexuality, or simply their aesthetic or spiritual alienation from their respective eras, the one salient characteristic that most of the authors who speak in Flowers From Hell share is the nobility that separation from the common man often confers."
Where does one begin in tracing the Satan character's development? I'd have begun with the Book of Job, but while Schreck refers to Job in his Introduction, he does not include it as a selection. Neither does he excerpt the temptation of Christ in the desert, nor anything from the Book of Revelations. Schreck says the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) gives scant details about Satan, who first appears in Job as "a small-time emissary of Yahweh, obediently carrying out that wrathful tribal god's dirty work."
The first selection in Flowers From Hell is an excerpt from Dante's Inferno. Schreck credits Dante with establishing Satan in the Western imagination. (The phrase: "All hope abandon ye who enter here" was coined by Dante.) Seven hundred years of Satanic depictions (by sincere Satanists, Christian preachers, heavy metal bands, and horror pulpsmiths) owe a debt to Dante.