Now a Netflix film starring Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson
A dark and riveting vision of 1960s 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
From serial killers to animal sacrifices, Donald Ray Pollock’s grisly novel takes a long, hard look at violence in rural Appalachia. And we mean hard—the blood never stops flowing in this contemporary Southern gothic. The Devil All the Time centers around Arvin Russell, following him over the course of two decades starting in the 1940s when he’s nine and later as he tries to escape the violence that’s burned into his soul. The book reads like a creepy fusion of Stephen King and Flannery O’Connor, with characters that include a shell-shocked veteran obsessed with killing animals and a preacher who’ll take a life just to prove he can perform miracles. We were impressed with Pollock’s absolute fearlessness in depicting his characters’ depravity without ever descending into cheap, horror-movie hillbilly stereotypes. Whether they’re acting out of revenge, religious faith, or desperation, they act like monsters, but the most chilling part is that, in the end, they feel totally real.
If Pollack'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 shop. 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, possibly 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." Pollack 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.
Really really dark.
So excited to read this book in it's entirety. The sample was so good I bought his first book knockemstiff immediately. Big fan of chuck palhunik and Pollock looks to have a very similar style.
Just finished...and it was really a great story, a book that you can't put down. Can't wait for the next book to come
Slow slow slow
The story is slow - very slow. The characters are not likeable or relatable and the whole theme of the book is gratuitous violence and nothing else.