My second book (and first novel) Someone Should Pay For Your Pain is forthcoming in August 2021 on Gibson House Press. Buzzfeed put it on a list of “great books to read this spring” and called it “a knockout fiction debut.”

Here is what some people I respect a lot had to say about it:

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

“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, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

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, author of Suicide Blonde

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 Someone 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 something between Denis Johnson and Nick Hornby, but filtered through the lens of somebody who has actually gotten in the van.” —Jason Diamond, author of The Sprawl

“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

“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 Terry, author of Black Card

4/10/21

I had a great chat with Willy Vlautin for the launch of his new novel, The Night Always Comes, hosted by POWERHOUSE Arena.

2/19/21

The new Hold Steady record, Open Door Policy, is out now. It debuted at #6 on Billboard’s album charts (#2 rock record behind Foo Fighters), our first top ten. We played “Family Farm” on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and a short set on NPR Live.

10/17/20

I wrote about Alex Ross’s Wagnerism for Slate.

8/31/20

Good morning! My second book and first novel SOMEONE SHOULD PAY FOR YOUR PAIN is coming in spring 2021 on Gibson House Press. PRE-ORDERS HERE or wherever you buy your books.

It’ll be followed in 2022 by BAND PEOPLE, a non-fiction study of the working and creative lives of musicians, on the American Music series at University of Texas Press. More info soon…

6/26/20

I wrote about Randy Newman for Vol. 4 of Hyped On Melancholy (“smart words about sad songs”).

6/10/20

I wrote about Glenn Gould’s radio documentaries and the fantasy of solitude for Moistworks.

OLDER NEWS…