At 27-years-old, Josh Weiss has done something many people aspire to but never quite manage: He published his first book, “Beat the Devils,” on March 22 via Grand Central Publishing.
“Beat the Devils” is a crime thriller set in an alternate historic reality version of the United States in 1958. The book deals with the paranoia during the Red Scare and antisemitic sentiments, which ran high at the time.
Weiss has advice to share with other Jewish authors.
“Don’t feel like you have to water down your Judaism for the audience,” he said.
Weiss was born in Philadelphia but moved to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home and attended Politz Day School. He was bar mitzvahed at Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill. For high school, he attended Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion and now attends synagogue at Mekor Habracha in Center City.
Weiss started writing his book during his fourth year at Drexel University, where he studied communications with a focus on public relations.
Weiss has always had a love for reading and writing, but he said he was inspired to write his book by “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon, “The Manchurian Candidate” by Richard Condon and, most importantly, by stories told to him as a young boy by his father about his grandfather, Elias Weiss, who was a Holocaust survivor.
Elias Weiss, who was born Elias Mendolovich, survived three concentration camps, one being Auschwitz, and a late-war death march. In addition to losing his whole family, save one cousin, Elias Weiss suffered from epilepsy after being hit on the head by the butt of a German guard’s rifle; that affected him for the rest of his life.
Due to the resulting seizures, he was discharged from the U.S. Army and had his driver’s license revoked after a severe car accident.
“I can’t speak for his mental health prior to the outbreak of World War II, but there is no doubt that the Holocaust warped him in ways my family and I will never truly understand,” Josh Weiss said.
Weiss wrote “Beat the Devils” in part to try to gain a better understanding of what happened to make his grandfather so detached. The book’s main character, Morris Epharim Baker, is also a Holocaust survivor who suffers from blackouts due to a similar incident and faces resulting challenges.
Weiss also had advice about the publishing process.
“The process was slow, and you get a lot of rejection,” he said. “Don’t give up, don’t shy away from it.”
“Beat the Devils” can be found in Barnes & Noble, Target, other bookstores, online and even as an audiobook.
A sequel to “Beat the Devils” is already written, and Weiss hopes to have it out on store shelves next year.