The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Donald Ray Pollock

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DONALD RAY POLLOCK, recipient of the 2009 PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship, made his literary debut in 2008 with the critically acclaimed short story collection Knockemstiff. He worked as a laborer at the Mead Paper Mill in Chillicothe, Ohio, from 1973 to 2005.
 
Published July 12, 2011 by Anchor. 274 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Devil All the Time

Kirkus Reviews

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The unflinching, often hilarious stories in Knockemstiff (2008) drew considerable attention to a writer whose own story was as fascinating as his fiction.

Jul 12 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

The New York Times

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“It seems like the Devil don’t ever let up.” Unluckily for him and all the other inhabitants of “The Devil All the Time,” however, the only deity paying attention is Donald Ray Pollock, who is as unpredictable in his mercy as Christ crucified and as creatively depraved as any Satan summoned up by...

Aug 12 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

The New York Times

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Flannery O’Connor called Southern writing “Christ-haunted,” and though Pollock is strictly speaking a Midwesterner — his 2008 story collection, “Knockem­stiff,” was set in the same Ohio town where he grew up, and where some of this novel also takes place — there’s more than a little of O’Connor’s...

Aug 12 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

The Wall Street Journal

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Sam Sacks reviews "In Zanesville" by Jo Ann Beard and "The Devil All the Time"
by Donald Ray Pollock.

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The Wall Street Journal

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An early scene from Donald Ray Pollock's "The Devil All the Time" (Doubleday, 261 pages, $26.95) establishes the novel's macabre and outlandish atmosphere.

Aug 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

Book Reporter

Throughout a decade or so of my checkered vocational career, I found myself driving on a weekly basis to rural areas of southern Ohio into the hollers and four-corners and whistle-stops that pepper the northern edge of Appalachia and Donald Ray Pollock’s dark and brilliant new novel.

Aug 25 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

AV Club

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Hobbes’ famous quote about life being “nasty, brutish, and short” applies equally to the 20th-century Appalachian towns of The Devil All The Time.

Aug 10 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

Entertainment Weekly

After setting a celebrated book of short stories there, Pollock returns to the same geographic and metaphorical stomping ground with this unrepentantly dark debut novel about sexual violence, emotional violence, and plain old violence violence.

Jul 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

Los Angeles Times

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Pollock was a high school dropout and worked for 32 years in a paper plant — an unusual entry into publishing — before getting an MFA and racking up writing awards.

Aug 14 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

The Telegraph

Writing a novel based on one of the cornerstones of Western literature is an enterprise fraught with pitfalls, but in re-imagining Homer's Iliad, Madeline Miller treads the fine line between the invention of a new work and the desecration of the original with a sure foot, with only occas...

Dec 05 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

USA Today

As far back as he could remember, it seems that his father had fought the Devil all the time."In Pollock's world, the Devil often wins the battles, if not the war.Midway through the novel, my interest lagged in the serial killers, but never in the orphan, Arvin Russell, at the heart of the book.

Jul 11 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

Washington Independent Review of Books

Donald Ray Pollock describes his first novel, The Devil All the Time, as “gothic hillbilly noir.” Pollock’s other book, the short story collection Knockemstiff (Doubleday), represents another example of this particular genre.

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Oregon Live

Pollock also read a section from the novel he was working on, set in the same region.

Jul 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

Chamber Four

Any reader hoping that Donald Ray Pollock would branch out in his debut novel and leave behind the gloomy scum of Knockemstiff ought not to read even the very first line, which begins “On a dismal morning” and ends in “a long and rocky holler in southern Ohio called Knockemstiff.” But for those ...

Aug 02 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

Elle

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...

Jul 01 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

The Nervous Breakdown

His debut novel, The Devil All the Time (Doubleday) treads similar ground, spending most of its time in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia in the late 1950s and early 1960s, tracking and recording a wide range of psychopathic behaviors by a motley crew of misfits and delinquents.

Aug 17 2011 | Read Full Review of The Devil All the Time

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