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)
WOW! What a ride! Wonderful (if bizarre) characters, taut narrative, plot full of unexpected turns and extraordinary narration by Mark Bramhall (but then that is the only way he ever narrates -- extraordinary talent and skill)
Good Hell! If the devil himself crawled up from his fiery abyss and penned his own brand of comedy book, it would probably fall short of the grotesque violence and hopeless despair that chokes the pages of Pollock's very unfunny novel. If you have no taste for Natural Born Killers, No Country For Old Men, American Psycho, or the works of Jim Thompson or Quentin Tarantino, you are in the wrong section of the library. The Devil All the Time is gritty, hard-core, hard-boiled pulp fiction that pummels the reader relentlessly with perverse atrocities delivered by a most bizarre and pitiful casting that only a nightmare could imagine.
If there is any humanity that escapes the borders of Knockemstiff, USA, it is the central character, Arvin Russell -- and he grew up offering blood sacrifices at a*prayer log* (surround by crucifixes adorned with unfortunate critters) with his traumatized WWII vet father, praying that God would deliver his mother from the cancer eating her tormented body. Pollock's RFD route in Knockemstiff includes the team of a spider eating preacher and his crippled pedophile side kick, hiding out at a carnival after the preacher kills his wife so he can raise her from the dead at his next sermon; a sadistic sheriff that earns a little money on the side as a hired hit man; another preacher whose specialty is de-flowering young members of his flock; Carl and Sandy Henderson--she a waitress/prostitute, he a fat hygiene-deficient *splatter* photographer--a tag team serial killer duo that cruises the highways looking for *models* (men) to rape, torture, and photograph.
The saving grace with this kind of material is Pollock's obvious talent and smart, sharp, sparse style that is unapologetically raw. He entwines his novel with God, guilt, poverty, and violence, into a tight plot that ramps up the intensity as it propels this motley crew toward a climactic showdown. What is it that compels us to strain our necks to gawk at a pile-up? I couldn't look away, and couldn't put this down. In small doses, (maybe with some Disney in-between) I intend on devouring everything Pollock writes. I highly recommend BUT only to the truly iron-gutted veterans of dark fiction--you have to have the stomach for this kind of book. Between you and me, I'm a little disgusted with myself for liking it so much. [Disgust Level Comparisons: American Psycho, Dark Places, The Wasp Factory, Haunted.]
This is among the most captivating audiobooks I've listened to since joining audible. The narration by Mark Bramhall is outstanding.
I can compare this to
Mark Bramhall's narration was pitch perfect. He carried the accents and tone throughout that added to the written form. I never wanted to turn off the audio. The narration and stories were so captivating.
I loved the title as is.
I hope to see more from this author very soon....I'm hooked!
The other reviews already mention the bizarre cast of characters. The darkest of the dark. We follow them along their twisted and on-and-off converging paths. Horrified, mesmerized...and, one has to admit, very much entertained at the hands of an expert storyteller and an excellent narrator. Bravo!
I am a D-Bag.
This is the kind of book that never gets written because people want sunshine and happy endings. What ever happened to these kind of books. I recommend this all the way to people who want to listen to the raw dark under belly of America.
What an excellent story! The book is so well written, and the story so greatly performed, that the listener is thrust right into the depressing world the author created. The characters are so well fleshed out that I found myself rooting for most of them despite how awful they are. It was really hard to put the headphones down, and I'm sure to give this book another listen rather sooner than later.
I am always looking for something offbeat and different and my wish was granted with this book! This is a dark story with unexpected twists and turns. I truly enjoyed the narration as well, and found myself listening to the story long after my commute was over.
It’s a captivating story, hard to put down, but it’s also extremely rough. The dreadful & immoral element of man is pervasive in nearly every character, I felt dirty like I needed to clean my mind of the filth, however it’s very well written, and intriguing.
...AND I LOVE IT. This story is brutal and grisly, gritty and realistic, shocking, nihilistic, sarcastic and constantly amazing. Read by an obvious master...Mark Bramhall propels the listener deep in to this expertly woven world. Please-oh-please write more D. R. Pollock.
The narration was among the best that I have heard. The story is of the Southern Gothic variety. Not everybody like this genre, but if you do, this one is a real standout.
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