The story takes place in Gary, Indiana – a blue-collar town in decline from the economic collapse of the steel mills. It is here that the white junkie writer, Johnny, faces writer’s block and an abusive relationship with his black junkie prostitute girlfriend, Tanya. Together they struggle with heroin addiction and the advances of Tanya’s pimp and dealer, Bobby T.
Johnny and Tanya are holed up in a housing project where they face the racist attitudes of both blacks and whites over their integrated relationship. Fueled by the race riots of 1968, the city is split into factions, leading to segregation and “White Flight”. The departure of the white people to the suburbs. They both struggle with being forced to take sides, as they reflect on their friends and family’s attitudes in assimilating new socio-economic roles.
To overcome writer’s block, Johnny makes a pact with the devil, “Polyuectus” whom offers him the chance to be published in exchange for his soul. Contemplating the consequences, Johnny is demonized by human like cockroaches and his typewriter that comes to life as an antagonist in accepting the contract for future fame and fortune.
Forced into making a decision, Johnny turns to organized religion and evangelical preachers, who promise him redemption in exchange for charitable donations. Not satisfied with their commercial messages, he turns to the streets where he engages with hustlers, pimps, dealers and his old neighborhood friends, Joe and Mr. Pete, in search of an answer that will save his soul. It is here, where he learns about Tanya’s child, Barbara.
Johnny and Tanya learn that Barbara has been sexually abused by her father, which leads to Tanya’s mental breakdown and Johnny being forced to make a choice on the Devil’s bargain.
A secret is at last revealed, leading to a suspenseful surprise ending.