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.
©2011 Donald Ray Pollock (P)2011 Random House
"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." (Publishers Weekly)
"The God-fearing hard-luck characters who populate Donald Ray Pollock’s debut novel, The Devil All the Time, 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" (Lisa Shea, ELLE magazine)
“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)
A musician and songwriter from the Boston area. I like "Regular Guy" books. No chick Lit, no zombies, or vampires please. No politics.
Surprising, stunning, unsettling.
I wouldn't say there was a single character in this book who I would ever want to know. A terrifying collection of creeps and killers. But I found myself just wanting to know what was going to happen next, and the writing was dark, but unique and powerful. This is not a happy smiling story. Nobody has a nice day in this tale. This is not a book for the faint of heart or the squeamish. If you mixed Cormac McCarthy with Truman Capote and Stephen King...well, that would be one ugly but fascinating kid. That's what this book is like. This is a book for people who slow down and stare at accidents. I'm stunned by it. It was damned good!
The narration was simply the best. Reading a book is great, but having a good storyteller tell you a story is better. A narrator can make such a huge difference in the enjoyment of a book, and Mark Bramhall did his job on this one. Splendid narration.
It's very good, but I wouldn't recommend it to the timid types, people who scare easily, or most women I know who expect romance and cute endings. This is a hard-edged scary book.
All the characters in this book are not only flawed humans, they are very damaged. It was difficult to find someone to cheer for. It took me a month to complete this book. Very sad, very violent, incredibly sadistic individuals.
Prayer log scenes. The desperation of husband to save his beautiful wife.
Favorite? Hmmm... I enjoyed the antics of Theodore & Jesse.
Not suitable for for depressed persons. Should not be viewed during cold grey rainy season. THIS FILM IS NOT INTENDED FOR THE MENTALLY OFF BALANCED.
Not a good bed time read. I found this book interesting, the characters were well developed... But damn its dark.
Tell us about yourself!
Donald Ray Pollack is a master of the Southern-grotesque. His characters are cleverly engineered backwoods brilliance, not the dumb hicks you may come to expect from some ahem, other, authors. The story focuses on Arvin, the son of Willard Russell, whose childhood is consumed with sacrificial blood spilling on a "prayer log." No animal is safe from Willard sacrificial log, and Arvin soon learns no human life is safe either. As the story progresses we are introduced to more characters, each sick in their own way, and the story unfolds as each encounters the son of Willard Russell... The performance can be a bit flat at times, but overall a very entertaining read. If you like Danny Woodrell, or James Lee Burke, you will probably enjoy Pollack as well.
This story grabs you right from the start and doesn't let go. It is not for the faint-hearted or the easily offended. It is very gritty and violent and graphic. Bad language, sex, killings, beatings, etc. The writing is good. Not flowery, but it is clear and tight and it flows well. Good dialogue, too.
I liked this book quite a bit, but I thought the plot line about Roy and Theodore (the preachers on the run) could have used more development. The ending was also maybe a little abrupt and left me feeling somewhat hollow or unsatisfied. I don't know....after such a wild ride, I thought it ended kinda quick and quiet.
Most of the characters are horrible people with no redeeming qualities. Arvin is definitely the most likeable character....he's not violent unless he has to be. Because of the characters and because there is so much death and so many horrible things that happen, it can be a little hard to listen to at times. I agree with the other reviewer who said it can make you feel dirty or like you need to take a shower. Still, it is gripping and entertaining and mostly enjoyable - - if you can take it.
Mark Bramhall did an outstanding job reading the story.
" I have my mind... & a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." -T.L.
I say madmen covering both women & men, so there is no gender discrimination for sure. I have to say this was an excellent book but at the same time I'm really not sure who I would personally recommend it to except reviewing it overall. The reason I say this is because I do not want the person who reads this book thinking I have some attraction to the absolute depravity a human soul can travel into & why the psychological minds of the characters were so interesting to me.
The book is obviously a very graphic book from the brief description above but the author does such a phenomenal ability weaving all these random lives of people from what we would probably call the 'cess pit' of humanity & in the beginning u are thinking how all of this can possibly relate to each other or if they do? But apparently the author believes in 'Karma', a spiritual essence I have strong attractions to as well. The story recounts the morbid tales of multiple killers who all carry out they're deeds for different purposes, along with a protagonist that isn't immediately apparent because at the level of twisted thought these groups of humans all have small congruencies in the person I would label as a protagonist could be labeled as otherwise in my opinion & argued that there is no real protagonist but a story written about the darker parts of cosmic karma as the 'circle of life' continues to touch everyone involved voluntarily or not in my opinion
Considering the subject matter & the depth of many of the persona's the authors ends up creating a wonderful book about ultimate karma as I see it... what goes around surely comes around & no good deed goes unpunished. If u have a strong stomach & are interested in this type of journey I would say to satisfy ur thoughts on this novel. If taken into a movie context it could easily fall into a horror section but it's not, its written in a form of poetic justice to some & that life is ultimately just an unknown except that death is the only thing we are truly sure of. The narrator did an excellent job with the material & the two together brought this book alive for me & burrowed into my brain like a earwig... I just hope it didn't lay any eggs while it was in it....
I found this as a recommended book for Stephen King lovers. This has been the best so far among the list. Not too complicated, good visuals, interesting and exciting throughout. As a lover of dark, suspenseful, and unique stories, I got everything I wanted.
Cormac McCarthy's books...........darker, but every bit as well written.
I have not; he's an excellent narrator.
All of it........
Deeply disturbing to the point I've considered not finishing it. One wonders how anyone can imagine the things Donald Ray Pollock describes. His writing is almost too good. I wonder if he's written anything less unsettling.
I didn't read the print version, but the reading of this book was artful. The narrator's voice, combined with Pollock's storytelling, made everything in the story's world frighteningly real. I also enjoyed his performance of Arvin. Arvin seems to find the devil at every turn in this story. In his family, in the woods, in the law, on the road.
The closest I can come to this would be Flannery O'Connor's
I loved to hate Carl! Bramhall's performance of this character made him so believable to me.
Roy and Theodore would probably appreciate the free meal, and would, no doubt, provide an entertaining evening in exchange! I'd also like to meet Charlotte, and ask her more about herself. She was a bit of a mystery in the whole scheme of things.
I heard about this book when Pollock was interviewed on NPR. I had never even heard of him before. I knew then that I had to have it. I was not sorry. Pollock is clearly disturbed in a way that allows him to see the darkness in the hearts of men, and the occasional good.
Certified bookworm since 1962
I did not love this story. Maybe I missed some subtlety that other reviewers picked up on, but for me, the novel was relentlessly filled with misogynists, perverted religious believers, sociopaths, and violence that went nowhere and served no purpose. The book was disjointed and felt more like a series of short stories or novellas that were too neatly tied together at the end. The violence and perversion seemed to serve no other purpose than to shock.
The narrator was excellent. Great performance.
I really enjoyed this story. Pollock sets the pace early and it doesn't let up throughout the story. There are a lot of grotesque displays of behavior, and some beautiful ones as well. Each character is interesting and they are interwoven very well. The narration was also great, it was a fantastic story to listen to.
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