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The Devil All the Time [Kindle Edition]

Donald Ray Pollock
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From the acclaimed author of Knockemstiff—called “powerful, remarkable, exceptional” by the Los Angeles Times—comes a dark and riveting vision of America that delivers literary excitement in the highest degree.

In The Devil All the Time, Donald Ray Pollock has written a novel that marries the twisted intensity of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers with the religious and Gothic over­tones of Flannery O’Connor at her most haunting.

Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrifi­cial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.

Donald Ray Pollock braids his plotlines into a taut narrative that will leave readers astonished and deeply moved. With his first novel, he proves himself a master storyteller in the grittiest and most uncompromising American grain.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2011: With The Devil All the Time, author Donald Ray Pollock has crafted an exceptionally gritty, twisted page-turner. This follow-up to 2008's Knockemstiff is set in the Midwest during the mid-century, but reads more like a gothic Western. Lawlessness roams the rural, god-fearing landscape of Ohio and West Virginia, inhabitated by the likes of Pollock's deranged-yet-compelling cast of characters--a husband and wife who take vacations to murder hitchhikers, a faux preacher and his crippled accomplice on the lam for manslaughter, and an orphan with a penchant for exacting violent justice. Needless to say, The Devil All the Time is a brutal novel, but Pollock exacts the kind of precision and control over his language that keeps the violence from ever feeling gratuitous. The three storylines eventually converge in a riveting moment that will leave readers floored and haunted. --Kevin Nguyen


Advance Praise for The Devil All The Time:

"If Pollock’s powerful collection Knockemstiff was a punch to the jaw, his follow-up, a novel set in the violent soul-numbing towns of southern Ohio and West Virginia, feels closer to a mule’s kick, and how he draws these folks and their inevitably hopeless lives without pity is what the kick’s all about.  Willard Russell is back from the war, on a Greyhound bus passing through Meade, Ohio, in 1945 when he falls for a pretty waitress in a coffee ship.  Haunted by what he’s seen in the Pacific and by the lovely Charlotte, he finds her again, marries her, and has a son, Arvin.  But happiness is elusive, and while Willard teaches his only son some serious survival skills (“You just got to pick the right time,” he tells him about getting back at bullies. “They’s a lot of no-good sonofabitches out there"), Charlotte sickens, Willard goes mad—sacrificing animals and worse at his altar in the woods—and Arvin’s sent to his grandmother Emma in Coal Creek.  Emma’s also raising Leonora, the daughter of a timid religious mother who was murdered, possibility by her father, Roy, the visiting preacher at the Coal Creek Church of the Holy Ghost Sanctified, who along with his guitar-playing, crippled cousin, Theodore, in a wheelchair after drinking strychnine to prove his love for Jesus, has disappeared.  And there’s on-the-take sheriff Lee Bodecker, whose sister Sandy and her perverted serial killer husband, Carl Henderson, troll the interstates for male hitchhikers he refers to as “models.” Pollock pulls them all together, the pace relentless, and just when it seems like no one can ever catch a break,  a good guy does, but not in any predictable way."—Publishers Weekly (starred)

"The God-fearing hard-luck characters who populate Donald Ray Pollock’s debu...

Product Details

  • File Size: 496 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 038553504X
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 12, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004J4WM9A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,300 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars YOU EVER HITCHHIKE? June 4, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)

Fasten your seat belt, stop the world, you will want to get off and read this book in one sitting, then you'll be sorry when you are finished. Donald Ray Pollock's writing slams into your mind and soul and will not let you go. Ever.

This book is intense, frightening, wonderful, poignant, alarming, and magnificent. The characters you will meet -- and I wouldn't want to meet many of them in a dark alley -- are bizarre, menacing, church-going, God-fearing, alarming, and sometimes loving folk. The people in this book are so fleshed-out and real and the types of human beings you pray you will never actually have the pleasure of meeting.

The setting is in West Virginia and Ohio, the backroads of rural America. Folks are poor and down-trodden, homes are ramshackle and filthy. We meet Willard Russell who has served his time in the South Pacific and can't get over the brutality of war. The war leaves him wounded in his mind but he hopes to put all of that behind him when he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Charlotte. Willard and Charlotte have a son, Arvin Eugene. We also meet Carl and Sandy Henderson, married psychopaths who have a terrifying and disturbing hobby. Two other stand-out characters are a preacher, Roy, and his wheelchair bound partner, Theodore; both are on the lam.

All of these lives become jumbled and tangled together, making for one heck of a story. The plot is fast paced and I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough. Pollock's descriptions of the characters were so vivid and dynamic you can almost see their greased back hair, smell their cheap perfume, and taste the whiskey and/or coffee they are chugging down.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like this genre, you'll love this book June 6, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are some quite slimy characters that seem completely unrealistic until you think about the real stories of evangelsits, Appalachian living conditions, and serial killers during the 1940s through the '60s. The author does an excellent job of using this time period as one of the story's background features instead of a history lesson.

There are times I was reading the book that I couldn't believe that a particularly horrific aspect to a crime warranted only a breif sentence - often the last sentence of a chapter. My mouth would drop open, I'd say, "Ewwww, that's sick," out loud, and then quickly turn the page to start the next chapter.

I was very pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this book as much as I did. I started it yesterday morning after finishing a very long, tedious read (1,100+ pages) and just finished this afternoon. I did not expect to find this story as absorbing as I did. There was no point in the book where I could comfortably take a break, so I read through meals, laundry, and while I should have been sleeping. I was always too anxious to see what was going to happen next to put it down. Nothing in this book is predictable.

If you like this book, I also suggest "Sweetheart" by Chelsea Cain.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When Terry Gross interviewed Donald Ray Pollock on "Fresh Air" (NPR), the author, in his down-home voice, said that he often would type out published stories he liked for the purpose of studying how the author wrote them. I don't recall his mentioning Flannery O'Connor. But almost from the moment I started reading this novel, the voice of Ms. O'Connor was like an overlay of Mr. Pollock's. That is meant as a compliment. Let me cite a passage from the novel--and if you have ever read the haunting "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by O'Connor, you must see what I mean:
The couple had been roaming the Midwest for several weeks during the summer of 1965, always on the hunt, two nobodies in a black Ford station wagon purchased for one hundred dollars... The man on the passenger's side was turning to fat and believed in signs and had a habit of picking his decayed teeth with a Buck pocketknife. The woman always drove and wore tight shorts and flimsy blouses that showed off her pale, bony body in a way they both thought enticing. She chain-smoked any kind of menthol cigarettes...while he chewed on cheap black cigars that he called dog dicks...
These are not people you want moving into your neighborhood although that wouldn't be a problem since they have an interest in hitchhikers. Why? Well... I'm not telling although I will go back to O'Connor and remind you that the grandmother was just a little too trusting. Stupid and too trusting, just like the characters in this wonderful novel.
These are not cartoon-ish characters although some might think so when first meeting them. They live in an existential world--our world--where many of them are totally clueless about the horrors occurring around them but go to prayer believing that prayer will bring them better lives.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best novel I've read this year May 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Donald Ray Pollock's new novel The Devil All The Time is so remarkable and engrossing that I would like to share it with all of my reader friends. However, the characters and subject matter are often so nasty, I hesitate to share this book because of what it might make them think of me. As in, what kind of person could enjoy a book like this? For example, this book has two different cringe-inducing preachers, one who uses various bugs (spiders and otherwise) as part of his sermonizing - eating some, getting stung by others - and the other who has a taste for pubescent girls. But I digress.

The Devil All The Time is set in the years after WWII, up to the '60s, and features a cast of mostly rural, down on-their-luck losers and drifters. Each of them seems doomed in one way or another, some by circumstances, others by their own nature and/or decisions. Among the most striking characters are Carl and Sandy, a husband-wife team of serial killers. The wife is a somewhat unwilling participant in the killings, but she is definitely complicit. As for Carl, he is one of the more twisted killers seen in modern fiction. The details of his methods of killing are left somewhat vague -- a rare case of author Pollock sparing us the gruesome specifics -- but what we get is unsettling enough.

So what makes this novel so good? For me, it was partly that feeling of horrid fascination; you don't want to look, but yet you can't turn away. The things that happen to these people are undeniably absorbing while often revolting or shocking at the same time. Then there was Pollock's gift for describing places. With relatively spare prose, he really made some of the places he talks about seem real.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully disturbing
Pollocks second novel holds hands with his first, Knockemstiff, without feeling like a sequel ; but another great tale spun with the immoral fabric of a sub society. Read more
Published 2 days ago by kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars Twisted!
Great book if you like the bizarre.
Published 19 days ago by R. Weinberg
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read - dirty, grimy, depressing, and amazing
A great book. Dark and depressing with a tightly woven plot from various POV characters. Many times, when I read books from multiple POVs that span time there is one character or... Read more
Published 27 days ago by Brandon
5.0 out of 5 stars Great novel, dark characters
Dark, very much southern gothic, If you like McCormick you will love this story.
Published 1 month ago by philip
4.0 out of 5 stars yet sad the book is over
A brutal, nasty page turner. I'm still scarred by the images, yet sad the book is over. Does that make me a bad person???
Published 1 month ago by BGold
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 2 months ago by john stelle
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thoroughly enjoyed this read.
Published 3 months ago by silentspring
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read.
Published 3 months ago by Alan
4.0 out of 5 stars All dark and twisty inside.
So - I read this book on the reccomenation of a man after an amazing first date.

With no idea of what to expect I dove right in. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Vegasgrl83
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Depravity and humanity
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

Donald Ray Pollock grew up in Knockemstiff, Ohio, and quit high school at seventeeen to work in a meatpacking plant. He then spent thirty-two years employed as a laborer at the Mead Paper Corporation in Chillicothe, Ohio, before enrolling in the MFA program at Ohio State University. His first book, a collection of stories called Knockemstiff, won the 2009 PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship. His novel, The Devil All The Time, is forthcoming from Doubleday in July, 2011. Though pretty much a Luddite when it comes to most computer stuff, he is now on Facebook ( and also has a website at

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