Someone Should Pay for Your Pain
By Franz Nicolay

A “Best Music Book of 2021” in Rolling Stone


Someone Should Pay for Your Pain by Franz Nicolay follows singer-songwriter Rudy Pauver, his conflicted relationship with a successful former protégé, and a young niece who wants to travel with him and whose surprise appearance forces a reckoning with himself and his past.

Someone Should Pay for Your Pain
By Franz Nicolay

“Finally, the great indie-rock novel. . . . A heart-bruising story — like Dostoevsky in a DIY punk space.”

— Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone

“Nicolay’s pitch-perfect observations make his story intriguing and all too true, zooming by like trees on the side of the highway.”


“I love this for novel for its sensitivity to the tenderness and absurdity of human after human, city after city, year after year. Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is a marvel, and when I finished it, my first emotion was to return to the opening pages and read it all over again.”

— Rivka Galchen

“Wise, brutal and funny, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is a bruising and beautiful glimpse of the endless tour of broken dreams some of us call life. But as Franz Nicolay shows in this stunning fiction debut, there is still hope. You just might have to fight yourself for it.”

— Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask and Hark

“Franz Nicolay’s poetic takedown of a musician’s extended adolescence goes down smoother than a drink ticket beer. Read it before you get in the van.”

— Chris L. Terry, author of the novels Black Card and Zero Fade

“If you’ve been waiting for the great rock and roll novel look no further. Franz Nicolay’s Someone Should Pay for Your Pain smashes Don Delillo’s Great Jones Street against a chaste Lolita. Nicolay’s book focuses on the illusion of stardom and the reality that most musicians play mainly in dingy clubs to sparse if passionate fans. Rudy, the book’s hero, lays down insights into art making as well as the wide variety of hangovers all the while moving fitfully toward a great dilation of care.”

— Darcey Steinke

“Rudy Pauver is a middle-aged musician with mid-level talent, still out there on the road, still grinding, still trying, but he’s not quite sure why. In this beautifully and brutally honest novel, Franz Nicolay challenges our romantic notions of freedom and the working artist’s life. He crafts a story that any reader, mired in the daily disappointments of what their life was supposed to have been, can embrace.”

— Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day

Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is a poignant and powerfully honest meditation on aging, art-making, and failure. With a sharp ear and an unsparing eye, Franz Nicolay has reinvented the road novel, stripping it of wide-eyed, Kerouac-ian grandeur to expose the frozen landscapes—both external and internal—that are part and parcel of a rootless existence. It’s a book that will haunt me for a long time to come.”

— Adam Wilson, author of Sensation Machines

“Nicolay’s ear goes beyond music. There is confidence and grace in these pages, characters that feel pulled from daily life, none of their rough edges sanded down. A debut novel not just for artists, but anyone who’s ever felt like they’ve grown up and distorted, uncomfortable moving through the world.”

— Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl

“The life of an artist is really about giving. That’s especially so for the musician. You give all of yourself to your art and it’s likely you won’t get much back in return. It’s a tough world, but few can write about it as beautifully as Franz Nicolay. With Should Pay for Your Pain, Nicolay gives us the sort of fully-realized, there’s no going back kind of story that’s hauntingly reminiscent of Denis Johnson, but filtered through the lens of somebody who has actually gotten in the van.”

— Jason Diamond, author of Searching for John Hughes and The Sprawl

“A brutally funny and heartfelt novel about the creative process, failure, endless wandering, and uncensored perspective of life for most musicians.”



In the doldrums of a career as a cult figure, singer-songwriter Rudy has been overshadowed by Ryan Orland, to the point where Rudy is now identified as an imitator of the younger man. Ryan is generous and supportive of Rudy, but Rudy finds it hard to be grateful. Forced to confront the limitations of his own talent and ambition, his resentment triggers a confrontation that ends in their estrangement. When Rudy’s niece, a teenage runaway who admires the freedom of his lifestyle, turns up asking to join him on the road, he has to come to terms with the nature of his obligation to family and accountability for his past.

Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is an exploration of the nature of creativity and popular success; artistic and ethical influence; the pathos of the middle-aged artist; changing standards of sexual morality; and guilt and penance in a post-religious society.

Franz Nicolay is a writer and musician, a member of The Hold Steady and other projects. His first book, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar, was named a “Season’s Best Travel Book” by the New York Times; his second, the novel Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, was called “a knockout fiction debut” in Buzzfeed and named one of Rolling Stone‘s “Best Music Books of 2021.” He has taught at UC Berkeley, and is a faculty member in music and written arts at Bard College. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.


5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ * Fiction/Coming-of-Age; Fiction/Literary * August 2021 publication
$16.95 US/$22.95 CAN * ISBN-13: 9781948721134 * Original Trade Paperback
Also available in ebook formats

Trade distributorPGW
View on Edelweiss

Publicity contact: Mary Bisbee-Beek, [email protected]

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