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The Devil All the Time
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on June 21, 2015
I heard Terry Gross interview Pollock on Fresh Air sometime ago, and as someone who is from Ohio and lived for nearly a decade in Southeastern Ohio I knew I had to read what he'd written. I intended to read "Knockemstiff", his collection of short stories first but this was suggested to me by a friend and I picked this up to read a short time ago. I just finished the book moments ago and the thought that popped into my head was "Pollock is a masterful storyteller" He does a great job of immersing you into the characters and does it very quickly. That in itself is pure art. I read constantly and do know the books that do not hook me quickly are because I find I do not care about the characters since the authors fail to let you know them, to develop them, so give you reasons to care what comes next. At one point in the book I was concerned that as much as I love dark and twisted it may be just a little too much of that. But he let us glimpse into Sandy and Carl's world enough to get to know their darkness, but not so much that we were overwhelmed with it. He moves the story along so adeptly, even moving between characters the way he does in this story, but given it was so well crafted I knew exactly where we were with all the characters and their story lines. I do highly recommend this book (it was compared with "No Country for Old Men" by McCarthy which I did not read given the extreme darkness of the movie, but now may have to read it) and hope Pollock rewards us soon with another novel!
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on September 30, 2016
For the first third or so the writing is truly amazing. The imagery is indeed grotesque, but there's usually a deeper meaning to it. The author's actually making a point. It's not just for shock value, gross-out porn, or a misguided attempt to be "gritty." The affect is very striking. By the end, the level of darkness and violence does get to be exhausting. Maybe to some extent that's the point, but it's not as clearly the point as in, say, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. The fact that there are fewer amazing writing moments as the novel goes on is a bit of a problem though. If you don't like the first few chapters, you probably won't like the rest of the book so you might as well stop reading before it upsets you too much (I don't mean that to be patronizing, it did trigger my anxiety a bit but I enjoyed the writing enough to make up for it. If you don't like the writing in the first few chapters, it's not worth the stress to continue because it will only get worse).

There are scenes in this book that I would definitely show to friends as an example of good writing. It's a good example of haunting imagery with layers of meaning and there are lots of times when striking images are juxtaposed in interesting ways. I'm not sure I would explicitly recommend reading the whole book to anyone who wasn't already considering reading it. I definitely wouldn't recommend it to anyone sensitive or squeamish.
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on October 7, 2015
This was an absolute great read...I was vacationing in Kentucky and Tennessee and wanted something that wasn't too deep, but would keep my interest over the holiday. This was perfect. I was driving through areas depicted in the book, I liked the characters, I understood them, and I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

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.
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on July 17, 2016
I recently finished Knockemstiff and I cannot get enough of this author. I didn't want this book to end. Set in rural Ohio, it is largely the story of Arvin Russell. He is left an orphan after his mothers cancer death and his fathers gruesome suicide shortly thereafter. He is then raised by his prayerful Grandmother and his kindly Uncle. Arvin is decent, moral and always does the right thing. He eventually commits three justified murders and this is a tale full of twists and turns. You will meet a crooked and ambitious small town sheriff, a street preacher who eats insects and his wheelchair bound sidekick, a scrawny, snaggletoothed bartender whose husband acts as her pimp and who is also a party to something much darker. The writing is excellent, this book kept me entertained, enthralled and I was sad when it ended. I hope there is a sequel. I would like to read more about Arvin Russell.
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on September 13, 2016
We chose this for a book club, which was a departure from our usual nostalgic, war drama's...I was a little nervous about how this choice would be received. Most people enjoyed the book and said it wasn't something they would generally choose, but they found it to be quite good and were glad they read it. There was one person who refused to even start reading it, based on the synopsis. Another who started reading it and deleted the book in it's entirety. So clearly, not for everyone! I think I will read the next one in the series though, as I am hoping it explains a bit more about what happens with the lead character.
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on December 15, 2016
My first time reading Pollock and I am super impressed. It is like the Grapes of Wrath loaded with dynamic, miserable, poor, violent and lost human beings. Consider these quotes. "Some people were born just so they could be buried" and " Only in the presence of death could he feel the presence of something like God". The plot is multifaceted, filled with truly unique people and loaded with violence necessary for the plot and the characters who are limned perfectly. It is truly hard to put down.
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on September 17, 2016
This is the type of book I am often recommended because of the generally dark and twisted stuff I like. Unfortunately, it really isn't my cup of tea. While extremely well written, this story is not only dark but bleak. Any character with even the slightest hint of redeeming qualities is quickly murdered. The rest are dirt poor in ways that don't include just money. Some, like Carl are physically repugnant. Others just haven't seen a bar of soap in a few millennia. It's just too depressing for me. I am glad to have read it, but I wouldn't recommend it as a good read.
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on February 23, 2017
What a tale. Fascinating horrible riveting characters. Highly recommended!!! The novel includes murder, photos, suicide, religious fever, crooked cop, sex, children, chicken livers, and much more. It does trash Republicans, but that is the way to get published now. As a former resident in the area, the only way to be employed there was to be a registered Democrat. The book and story has some truly horrible characters and I could not stop reading it. The book deserves an A++++++++
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on December 6, 2012
It's difficult to believe that this book is rated among the "best" on any list other than, perhaps, an American best-seller list. It is gratuitously-salacious, it has subplots but no main plot, and its point seems to be to determine how many disgusting details details an author can haphazardly string together before he wears himself out.

Sex, check. Murder, check. Fetishes, check. Substance-abuse, check. Child-abuse, check. Christian-bashing, check. Racism, check. I could go on, but you're probably already calling me names or are highly-stimulated.

With that said, I'd recommend the book if you love a story that is 80% "great" writing. What is missing is why any of the details matter at all, and there was a cavernous spot for "purpose" in there somewhere. This book amounts to a well-delivered non-story, from its ending all the way back to its poignant, pregnant beginning.

The maladjustment characters are absolutely maladjusted, and if the point was that people are duplicitous or somehow always actually two people inside, mission accomplished...but we got that point in the first fifteen pages.

Because Pollock is a crafty and accurate writer, and because he has mastered the gritty end of grit, it was worth reading. I read probably read a book every three or four days, and have been doing so for years, and perhaps this sort of story speaks to an entire genre of books I've only now come across. If that's the case, Amazon needs to create a name for such a genre and sequester the hell out of it so that the dedicated reader doesn't just stumble in by accident!

I am a mainstream reader, and when efforts like this begin to plague the top 100, I'll take up whittling or something. If this is what a "normal" citizenry likes to read, it speaks volumes about such a citizenry in terms of the condition of their hearts and minds.

I am not an old man. I am not inordinately "religious." I am a book-buying consumer with a very active Kindle account, one curious to know how we got where we've gotten such that this book resides at the top of any mainstream book list.
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on September 25, 2016
I read this book in one day, a testament to how compelling it is. Now I feel like I need to go to confession or do something cleansing to rid myself of all the awfulness, ha. This is a twisted tale of some depraved characters for sure but it's the writing that keeps you going. Controlled and spare with great pacing. I only wish that Pollock had included a bit more emotional conflict within the characters. He tends to show us the bad parts with just tiny bits of humanity thrown in and it gets a little exhausting.
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