Kemper's Reviews > The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
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Mar 12, 12

bookshelves: 2012, crime-mystery, modern-lit, rednecks, sky-cake
Read from March 04 to 12, 2012

Hey, parents, having problems getting you kids to behave in church? Let them spend a Sunday with Willard Russell. Willard isn’t a preacher, and he doesn’t have one of those big mall-like mega churches. What Willard has is a log in the woods. That’s right, a damn log in the woods. A prayer log if you will, and he’s hung up some crosses around it, and he makes sure that his son Arvin is out there all the time praying with all he’s got. Don’t mind all that dried blood and animal bones. Willard thinks the Good Lord needs a sacrifice if you ask him for something big, like curing his wife of cancer. Send your little ones with him for a full day of log prayin’ and blood sprayin’, and I’m sure you’ll never hear another peep out of them at your regular service again.

Willard and Arvin live in the area of Knockemstiff, Ohio, which should be familiar to those who read Pollock’s previous book. Some of the characters reappear here as he tells a story that extends from Willard’s return from the horrors of Pacific combat in World War II into the 1960s with multiple characters who all have blood on their hands in one form or another. We’ll meet a murderous husband and wife as well as a corrupt sheriff, and a bug eating holy man wannabe with a crippled sidekick.

Pollock again depicts a rural lifestyle where dreams die quickly, and the only people with any hope are the religious who remain convinced that God will someday reward them despite all evidence to the contrary in their miserable lives. As the years pass, all the characters act in ways that put them on an eventual collision course.

Another winner from Pollock who is right up there with Daniel Woodrell in depicting how harsh the rural lifestyle can be. It had a few too many coincidences in the end for my taste, but this is still a book that’s gonna be on my mind for a good long while.
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Stephanie I'm increasingly afraid to drive south in my own state.


Petra Xtra Crunchy Brilliant review. A lot for the book to live up to!


Kemper Petra X wrote: "Brilliant review. A lot for the book to live up to!"

Thanks. This guy's two books impressed the hell out of me.


Kemper Stephanie wrote: "I'm increasingly afraid to drive south in my own state."

You should be. What is wrong with you people??


message 5: by Anthony (new) - added it

Anthony Chavez I don't have Knockemstiff, but did get this one as a gift for Christmas. Should I get and read the other first?


Kemper Anthony wrote: "I don't have Knockemstiff, but did get this one as a gift for Christmas. Should I get and read the other first?"

It's not critical. You don't need to have read Knockemstiff first to enjoy this one. Both books together kind of make a larger picure but I don't think it would really matter which order they were in.


Mike Pollock is a winner. So is your review. I hope it brings more readers to a guy who deserves to be read. He's going to be at the Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville in October. I'll be there. Good job Kemper.


message 8: by Anthony (new) - added it

Anthony Chavez Thanks Kemper, I look forward to this read. Great review.


Mike Stephanie wrote: "I'm increasingly afraid to drive south in my own state."

Yep. Several years back I was driving to Cleveland to interview three kids in preparation for a child abuse trial. I'd crossed over the Ohio line and was just North of Cincinatti. There were two guys in pickups ahead of me. They were racing. When one pulled ahead of the other, the lead would slam on his brakes, causing the backman to swerve into the other lane. To make the game more interesting they began cutting their headlights out. It was one of the most dangerous variations of "Chicken" I've ever seen. I pulled off and called the Troopers. Don't know if either of them ever got pulled over. I waited for a while before heading on towards Cleveland. No signs of blood and whiskey on the highway. And I didn't hear anyone pray. Enough to even creep an ADA out.


Trudi Great review Kemper! I have Knockemstiff in my possession, and can't wait to get to it. I'm taking a breather first though ... these hick lit tales are going to be the death of me!!!

@Mike: Yowzers! o_O


Kemper Mike wrote: "Pollock is a winner. So is your review. I hope it brings more readers to a guy who deserves to be read. He's going to be at the Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville in October. I'll be th..."

Thanks. I don't know whether to be jealous or frightened that you'll get to see him.


message 12: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Mike wrote: "Pollock is a winner. So is your review. I hope it brings more readers to a guy who deserves to be read. He's going to be at the Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville in October. I'll be th..."

October ehh. Send me the dates when you get a chance Sir Michael. Maybe the Kansas and Alabama bibliophile chapters can meet up.


Stephanie Jeffrey wrote: "Mike wrote: "Pollock is a winner. So is your review. I hope it brings more readers to a guy who deserves to be read. He's going to be at the Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville in October..."

Same here Mike, send info....Nashville is a drive I've made before....I like that city. I read up on the author. Worked in a paper mill in Chillicothe for years then got his MFA from Ohio State, still lives there.


Stephanie Mike wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "I'm increasingly afraid to drive south in my own state."

Yep. Several years back I was driving to Cleveland to interview three kids in preparation for a child abuse trial. I'd ..."


Oh hell ya. Diving I75 can be an adventure. It is a straight line from Miami Florida to Detroit, so a lot of drug running happens along that highway. I lived in Cincinnati and Dayton, so I have had my share of near death experiences on I75.


Stephanie Kemper wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "I'm increasingly afraid to drive south in my own state."

You should be. What is wrong with you people??"


Hey now....the lake is about half a block away from me. If I were any farther north in Ohio I would be Canadian.


Kemper Stephanie wrote: "Hey now....the lake is about half a block away from me. ..."

Don't blame me. Pollock is the one portraying your whole state as being like the lost footage from Deliverance.


Mohammed I thought Pollock had more even prose than Woodrell. Tense prose that fit his story well. I hope all his next works is this type of book.


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