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The Devil All the Time Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 12, 2011
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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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
The Devil All The Time is one of GQ's Books of the Year:
"Flannery O'Connor's brutal Wise Blood looks like Sense and Sensibility next to this finely woven, throat-stomping Appalachian crime story."
Praise for The Devil All the Time:
"Pollock's first novel, The Devil All the Time, should cement his reputation as a significant voice in American fiction. ...[He] deftly shifts from one perspective to another, without any clunky transitions—the prose just moves without signal or stumble, opening up the story in new ways again and again...where any prime-time television show can incite nail-biting with a lurking killer, Pollock has done much more. He's layered decades of history, shown the inner thoughts of a collage of characters, and we understand how deeply violence and misfortune have settled into the bones of this place. The question is much more than whether someone will die—it is, can the cycle of bloodletting break? This applies both to the people Pollock so skillfully enlivens as it does to the place he's taken as his literary heritage."—Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
"The Devil All the Time...fulfills the promise in [Pollock's] 2008 short-story collection, Knockemstiff, named after his real-life hometown, where life as is tough as its name suggests. His fictional characters find ways to make it tougher. Devil, as violent as the bloodiest parts of the Old Testament...invites comparisons to Flannery O'Connor and Raymond Carver, who mined the grace and guilt in the hopeless lives of lost souls....But it's not so much what happens as how Pollock, with the brutal beauty of spare writing, brings it all together."—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
"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 debut novel, The Devil All the Time (Doubleday), move through the southern outlands of Ohio and the isolated hollows of West Virginia like figures in a collective nightmare of poverty, addiction, superstition, and crime. Sprung from their rough histories, they mostly prey on their own troubled, downtrodden kin and kind.
Pollock—who spent three decades working at an Ohio paper mill before his 2008 story collection, Knockemstiff (the name of his real-life hometown), garnered widespread acclaim—doesn’t get a word wrong in this super-edgy American Gothic stunner. Here are World War II combat vet Willard Russell and his young son, Arvin, at an outdoor shrine the father has constructed in a fruitless attempt to keep his beautiful young wife from dying of cancer: 'They knelt down and Arvin glanced over at his father’s skinned knuckles…the sounds traveling up the hill from the holler were especially clear that night…the wild hoots and jeers of the drunks reminded the boy of the hunter lying bloody in the mud. His father had taught that man a lesson he would never forget. He closed his eyes and began to pray.'
The flawless cadence of Pollock’s gorgeous shadow-and-light prose plays against the heinous acts of his sorrowful and sometimes just sorry characters, such as lawless preacher Roy and his wheelchair-bound, guitar-playing, pedophile sidekick, Theodore, who stay one scam ahead of the police; and Carl and Sandy, a husband and wife who pick up male hitchhikers and photograph them before dispatching them to a (no doubt) better world.
As Arvin grows up—The Devil All the Time’s narrative arcs from the end of World War II to the late 1960s—life’s twists and turns provide him with a measure of salvation from his own past, and from the people whose soul-damaged lives Pollock has set down so indelibly on the blood-red altar of his incendiary imagination."—Lisa Shea, ELLE magazine
"The Devil All the Time 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.”—Jeff Baker, The Oregonian
“For fans of No Country for Old Men and Natural Born Killers… [a] grisly Southern Gothic novel that's sure to give you goose bumps no matter how hot the weather gets.”—The Daily Details, DETAILS.com
“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.”—Taylor Antrim, the Daily Beast
"So humid is The Devil All The Time with moral grime that the characters seem always to be grasping for a breath of divine intervention—some through prayer, others through murder and creepy sex."—GQ
“Devil 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.”—Jason Albert, The Onion/A.V. Club
“Donald Ray Pollock has a flair for creating flawed characters you don't admire but can't help wanting to know more about…. His stories have the same quirky, Appalachian temperament found in the works of Ron Rash or Chuck Kinder, but Pollock defies comparisons.”—Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune Review
“The Devil All the Time is an expansive, decades-spanning slice of Americana … a systematic cataloguing of the horror and hypocrisy that festers in the dark shadow of the American dream.”—Allison Hallett, The Portland Mercury
"[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."—Tirdad Derakhshani, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Pollock has expanded on [his] storytelling gift for his debut novel, The Devil All the Time. A gallery of reprobates and religious fanatics flutter through these pages. These are multidimensional, flawed human beings. Some pray for better days. Others imagine a resurrection.... Inexorable fate draws these story strands into ever-tightening loops as Pollock’s characters circulate in Ohio, West Virginia and along desolate highways to the south and west....The Devil All the Time is a mesmerizing first novel. It could be cinematized into one heckuva motion picture."—Vick MicKunas, Dayton Daily News
"The world of The Devil All the Time may be geographically just a few dozen miles south of Columbus, but psychologically, it's deep in the heart of hell....The appalling acts these characters commit, and are subjected to, might be unbearable in other hands, but Pollock keeps a certain distance, not wallowing in the details and leaving most of the worst to the imagination. He doesn't extend forgiveness to the characters, but he makes even the most evil of them understandable. He also has the driest and darkest sense of humor. It both cuts through and sharpens much of the horror...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. As Pollock pulls the strands of his plot together, they reveal patterns both surprising and inevitable."—Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
“This novel fulfills the promise made by Pollock’s debut collection, Knockemstiff. He is a real writer, and The Devil All The Time hits you like a telegram from Hell slid under your door at three o’clock in the morning.”—William Gay, author of Provinces of Night and The Long Home
Praise for Knockemstiff
“Pollock brings grace and precision to colloquial language, and the ferocious integrity of his vision is flat-out stunning . . . I keep reaching for some other writer to compare him with—maybe a Raymond Carver with hope and vitality, or a godless Flannery O’Conner—but Pollock is no shadow of anybody else. This is a powerful talent at work.”
—Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
“This is as raw as American fiction gets. It is an unforgettable experience.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Pollock’s voice is fresh and full-throated . . . His steely, serrated prose . . . calls to mind Harry Crews.”
— New York Times Book Review
“The next important voice in American fiction.”
—Wall Street Journal
“More engaging than any new fiction in years.”
“Knockemstiff is an astonishing debut, reminiscent of when Larry Brown burst on the scene with Facing the Music. Pollock’s refusal to sentimentalize his characters and their world gives his book a fierce integrity. He’s the real thing, a new and important voice in American fiction, and a welcome relief from the timidity and preening self-absorption of so much contemporary fiction.”
—Ron Rash, author of Serena
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“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.
I found it extremely interesting how the author wove most of the characters together - everyone either knew each other or was related in some way (which you, as the reader, didn't learn a lot of this until further in the story).
There's is violence in this book. There are sickening deeds performed. There's a bit of religion thrown in for good measure. I'm definitely reading other works of this author based on this one alone. Good stuff, here.