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The Devil All the Time Paperback – July 10, 2012
All Books, All the Time
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"Brutally creative. . . . Pollock knows how to dunk readers into a scene and when to pull them out gasping."--The New York Times Book Review
“Fulfills the promise in [Knockemstiff]. . . . Invites comparisons to Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver.” –USA Today
"Finely woven. . . . [A] throat-stomping Appalachian crime story." –GQ
“For fans of No Country for Old Men . . . sure to give you goose bumps.” —Details
"Should cement Pollock's reputation as a significant voice in American fiction." —Los Angeles Times
"Will have you on the edge of your seat." —Christian Science Monitor
“A systematic cataloguing of the horror and hypocrisy that festers in the dark shadow of the American dream.” —The Portland Mercury
“You may be repelled, you may be shocked, you will almost certainly be horrified, but you will read every last word.” —The Washington Post
“Disarmingly smooth prose startled by knife-twists of black humor. . . . Expertly employs the conventions of Southern Gothic horror.”— The Wall Street Journal
"Reads as if the love child of O'Connor and Faulkner was captured by Cormac McCarthy, kept in a cage out back and forced to consume nothing but onion rings, Oxycontin and Terrence Malick's Badlands."--The Oregonian
"[Pollock] doesn't get a word wrong in this super-edgy American Gothic stunner."--Elle
"Features a bleak and often nightmarish vision of the decades following World War II, a world where redemption, on the rare occasions when it does come to town, rides shotgun with soul-scarring consequences."--The Onion, A.V. Club
"Mr. Pollock's new novel is, if anything, even darker than the Knockemstiff, and its violence and religious preoccupations venture into Flannery O'Connor territory."--The New York Times
“Donald Ray Pollock’s engaging and proudly violent first novel…suggests a new category of fiction—grindhouse literary. Subtle characterization: check. Well-crafted sentences: check. Enthusiastic amounts of murder and mayhem: check, check.”—The Daily Beast
"Beneath the gothic horror is an Old Testament sense of a moral order in the universe, even if the restoration of that order itself requires violence."--The Columbus Dispatch
"A smorgasbord of grotesque characters trapped in a pressure-cooker plot. . . . Brutal fun."--Esquire
"For a first novel so soaked in stale sweat and bright fresh blood, Pollock's sweat is well-earned, and his blood is wise."--Philadelphia Citypaper
"A gallery of reprobates and religious fanatics... are multidimensional, flawed human beings."--Dayton Daily News
"[The Devil All the Time is] a world unto its own, a world vividly and powerfully brought to life by a literary stylist who packs a punch as deadly as pulp-fiction master Jim Thompson and as evocative and morally rigorous as Russell Banks."—Philadelphia Inquirer
“Stunning . . . . One wild story . . . gives us sex, murder, mayhem and some of the most bizarre characters in fiction today.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
Top customer reviews
“It’s hard to live a good life. It seems like the devil don’t ever let up.”
There’s the husband with the makeshift alter, deep in the woods, where blood is spilled in the name of sacrifice. It’s the only way this devoted husband can see to save his wife from the painful end she’s staring down. And his son, forever changed by the bloody horrors he's had to witness, was the one and only character I found myself clinging to—rooting for some sort of redeeming end.
Creepiest of all, the traveling pastor that claims faith alone helped him to overcome his very real fear of spiders. Now he shocks congregations by covering his body with the eight-legged freaks (*cringe*) or eating them (*gag*) to prove his message. Have I mentioned how much I hate spiders? My fear runs so deep, my skin is crawling even writing this. And you can’t forget the pastor’s strange sidekick—a man that opted to drink poison to prove his faith, earning him a pair of shriveled legs and a bad attitude.
Then there’s the husband and wife that spend their ‘vacations’ trolling the highway for ‘models’. She's the bait for the next man deemed lucky enough to sate the disgusting photographer and his relentless quest for the perfect picture.
There’s a host of death, destruction and evil deeds connecting two small towns in Ohio and West Virginia, and the way the author pieces the multiple storylines together is shocking in all its perfection. Some might even say fitting, for this dangerously dark cast.
I'm obsessed with this genre....."Country Noir".......hope that term has not gotten worn out like "foodie". Although I grew up in the south, I was not exactly rural, although I was exposed to and knew people that were.....rural in all senses of the term. Some kind, some mean, some dumb, some genius, all generally poor, self-sufficient, interesting. But this fiction of the best and the worst kinds of people, when set in this backdrop of rural Alabama, or Missouri, or Tennessee.......just for some reason resonates with me. The imagery, the dialogue, the characters......
This one is a great one...it's a bit depraved and dark, but I guess that's where the "noir" comes in. Anyway if you a fan of Daniel Woodrell, William Gay, etc. you will not be disappointed. The pages fly by.
Let's get a little history here: He grew up in Knockemstiff, Ohio (yes, that's a real city name, and a terrible place from the sound of things), then lived his adult life in Chillicothe, Ohio, working at a Mead paper plant until he was 50 years old. He enrolled himself, this late in life, into the Creative Writing program at Ohio State, got his first work published, and then `blew up' a little bit because his debut set of stories had a standing-ovation quote on it from Chuck Palahniuk (ahem... you may have heard of him). It always makes me so happy to hear of `underdog' stories like this, or of someone so talented coming out of nowhere and getting to do something creative with their lives after doing manual labor for so long. And the attention he so quickly received was not just hype, but well-deserved realization of a highly talented writer.
This book, like his short stories, takes place primarily in 1960's Ohio, which isn't `Southern land,' but it sure as heck has a profoundly dark Southern feel. The landscape is dusty and dry, and you can feel the grungy heat and sweat on every page. It follows an ensemble of characters and carries you through two generations of a family, all the while letting you peek behind the curtains into some seriously depraved character's lives.
Pollock has an amazing way of putting you into these scenes because he paints the surroundings so well, and believe me, they'll make you so uncomfortable you can't wait to move on. There are many moments that have the quality of a nightmare, a surreal and terrible circumstance that seems only to escalate deeper into darkness. However, the novel has a very uniform feel because the setting and general attitude of the cast of characters is so richly expressed, even if it's unpleasant.
I've tried to rack my brain for a book I've read in which the main characters were so... unlikeable, and I really can't come up with anything. There are really no protagonists here, no morally upright. Everyone is basically despicable and seeking only their own good, no matter the cost, and the ones who are acting out of `love' for another do so with deeply twisted motives. To give you an idea of these folks; a man who sacrifices animals and hangs their carcasses in trees as a blood sacrifice while he wails to the Lord until hoarse that his cancer-plagued wife would be healed, a husband and wife who seduce hitchhikers, then kill them slowly on the side of the road and take photographs of the process, a new preacher who comes to town with the primary intent of sleeping with underage girls in the congregation, and a traveling guitarist/preacher duo that uses shock-tactics like eating spiders while shout-preaching for the sake of making serious cash off of the ignorant townsfolk.
The Devil All the Time hits like a hammer, again and again, and there are so many times when you'll finish a chapter and be left thinking, "Oh, man that's messed up..." Why read a book like this, you might ask? Well, you might not want to after what I've said I guess, but despite all the darkness, it really is an amazingly engaging novel. If you can stomach a Tarantino film, particularly one like Pulp Fiction where you can't take your eyes off the characters even though you're not sure exactly why, then you could probably get some decent enjoyment out of this too. The plot is good, if not terribly original, the writing is excellent and the characters, well... they're interesting in their own way.
If Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? had zero humor, a lot more swearing, no music and gritty bloodshed, it might look a little like this novel. Good old fashioned Southern-fried, back-woods dark fiction. YUM.