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All We Need of Hell: A Novel Paperback – April, 1988

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Crews's 10th novel (after Gospel Singer describes the frustrated rage that possesses inept lawyer Duffy Deeter, who seeks heart's ease through a bizarre physical fitness regimen. His life is further complicated by a gum-chewing mistress, once a Woodrow Wilson Fellow; a wife with naturally silver hair who is as glacial as the North Pole; an overweight adolescent son; a law partner who has been making time with Mrs. Deeter; a mother whose belfry doesn't have 12 chimes for midnight; and a black professional athlete. What binds these aberrant types together in a compelling narrative is a remarkable gift for incisive language: Duffy's father, a World War II fighter pilot, "bit the big bagel"; "gold was good, a commodity that always gave the same answer"; and, "In the nation of the heart, there's war enough for everybody." That Duffy finds salvation is the most surprising twist of all.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Crews once wrote in Playboy about the joys of getting beaten up. Now comes Duffy Deeter, also of Gainesville, Florida, also husband and father, also believing "there was nothing so refreshing as getting your ass kicked." Deeter's athleticism would seem to offer little prospect of reconciling him with his distracted mother, his boy ("a huge, soft, white slug"), or his wife, who has become frigid (except with Deeter's law partner). Luckily, Deeter gets into a fight with black pro-footballer Tump Walker; they become fast friends and Walker is soon putting things to rights in the Deeter household. Crews and Deeter are to be congratulated for their suspicion that there might be a better way to live, but sincerity undermines satire and slapstick. The result is not likely to please Crews's old audience nor find him a new one. Hugh M. Crane, Brockton P.L, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; Reprint edition (April 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060914602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060914608
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on December 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
Having just reread All We Need of Hell, I am struck by what I think Harry Crews accomplishes better than any other contemporary - he creates real bodies. His characters are built on a particular fleshy foundation and in his prose, more than that of any other author, one senses the tension in the muscles, the rhythm of the heart, how it feels to pick something up and carry it, what physical 'balance' actually feels like and how deeply somatic are the emotional states routinely experienced by human beings. No matter how they try, most writers come at the physical self from the outside, through descriptions of what a body looks like or with descriptive abstractions of what one 'feels'. Crews starts with the fact of the body. What is it like when it is angry - what are its characteristics? His description and dialogue seem to be built out from this basis.
That being said, All We Need of Hell is one helluva physical book. Not only is he main character (like Crews himself) a lifelong amatuer athelete with a self destructive bent, but much of the action is purely physical and centers around running, handball, sex, fighting and some clearly 'slapstick' physical humour.
This is a rich and satisfying book. Short and bittersweet, it is perhaps more 'fun' than many of Crews's books. At least everyone doesn't die or get mutilated (much) as is typical of his earlier work. I found on rereading it, just as I had on my initial reading more than a decade ago, that the book is strangely optimistic and envigorating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 2, 1998
Format: Paperback
Of all the books and stories Harry Crews has written (and I've read) this is my absolute favourite. The tight and extremely economical prose contrasts beautifully with the weird world of Duffy Deeter and the outrageous, twisted events that make up this story. For ten years I've been waiting for Crews to outdo himself and although he hasn't really disappointed, he has never been as good as in this book. Granted, "Body" came in as a close second place favourite for all the same reasons I liked this one. But enough chitchat, go ahead and read "All we need of hell" yourselves if you can find it...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
The perfect book for beginners. If you've never read a Harry Crews novel before, read this first. At under 200 pgs. it is a quick read but no less taut, brutal, incisive and humorous as his earlier works. At 1st morose and tragic then oddly funny until at the last almost spiritually uplifting. I love this book. If you do as well, take the plunge into hardcore Crews and try A Feast of Snakes. After that, you will be hooked.
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Format: Paperback
This was my first Harry Crews book and I absolutely loved it. Although this story is set in the 1970's South the characters and settings are timeless. Aside from all the maddness the story is more about mundane and unfilfilled life than handball and smoothies. Deeter, the main character, fights tooth and nail to hold on to his youth while at the same time feels saddness for not accomplishing enough. His struggle to find and maintain perfection hits close to home for men in particular. Do yourself a favor and check out this book, you'll be glad you did.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By trainreader on April 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a huge Harry Crews fan, I was somewhat disappointed with "All We Need of Hell," which can easily be read in under four hours. Here, we are introduced to the main character, Duffy Deeter, a forty year old husband and father, who can best be described as an incredibly repulsive and self-centered human being. Everything about Duffy is about "bettering" himself, whether it be lifting more weight, running a faster mile, thrashing his opponent in handball or karate, or lasting longer sexually (by thinking of Hitler and concentration camps!).

Duffy is a cheating husband and absent father who basically has no regard for his wife and son, and spends most of his free time with his lover Marvella, a self-destructive cocaine addict, whom he seems to despise. Duffy forms an intense friendship with Jerome "Tump" Walker, after he intentionally kicks Tump in the head while playing handball. Tump, a cocaine addict, is a star pro football player, but seems to have a way to bring disparate people together, and improbably bonds with Duffy's son (and later, Duffy's lover, wife and mother). Running throughout the story is Duffy's dealings with his two-faced law partner, Jert MacPherson, who matches Duffy in repulsiveness.

Usually Crews offers the reader at least one character who tries to stand on higher ground. Perhaps Tump Walker is that person in this book. However, every character is addicted to one thing or another. By the end of the book, Duffy apparently trades his addiction of self-centeredness for whisky and vodka. Is the reader supposed to believe that this is an improvement? I just never accepted that any of the characters actually bettered themselves or really learned anything. Of course, the best Crews novels (e.g. "The Knockout Artist," "A Feast of Snakes," "Body," "The Scar Lover"), have many of the same elements. I just think these books are more compelling and provide a stronger and clearer moral message.
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By Chad A. Hasler on January 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book, I am using Amazon to track down more Crews for my reading pleasure. My library doesn't have a single book of his, and that is a travesty. My first experience with him was A Feast of Snakes, which I think is still my favorite, but All We Need of Hell is right up there.
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