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The Devil in Silver

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  4,029 ratings  ·  672 reviews
The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • Publishers Weekly

New Hyde Hospital’s psychiatric ward has a new resident. It also has a very, very old one.

Pepper is a rambunctious big man, minor-league troublemaker, working-class hero (in his own mind), and, suddenly, the surprised inmate of a budget-strapped mental insti
Hardcover, 412 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by Spiegel & Grau
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Average rating 3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,029 ratings  ·  672 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: black-studies, horror
I was looking forward to this horror novel, and—as often happens when I look forward to something—I was disappointed. First of all, the idea that it was written by a young black man—well, young as far as I’m concerned, he was forty when he wrote it—a fan of H.P. Lovecraft who wrote another book based on Lovecraft’s most racist short story (The Ballad of Black Tom, based on “The Horror at Red Hook”) intrigued me. Plus, the book has a first-class “elevator pitch”: think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s ...more
Edward Lorn
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"They just... opened him."

I'm on a good run of wickedly entertaining offbeat novels. First John Dies at the End and now this gem.

Other than the exceptional The Ballad of Black Tom, I've had a pretty ho-hum experience with LaValle's work. In my opinion, The Ecstatic, while decent enough, is his worst book. And The Devil in Silver is definitely his best. But even when he's not firing on all cylinders, he's insanely readable. There's something about the guy's writing that does it for me, man. His
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
3.5 Stars.

Pepper has entered the mental institute. No real reason why. He is not insane. Well not much. He was taking up for his sometime girlfriend against her ex-husband and assaulted 3 plainclothes cops. He is supposed to be confined for 72 hours. Yeah right.
These characters are so fully described that I felt like I was right there with them. Shut up. I know it's the nut house. Dorry! I have a thing for old broads and this one was spectacular!

I kinda think she might be me in a few years.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, 2019-shelf
For any of you fans of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, here's an updated and fully horrorized version, complete with updated (and unfortunately real) conditions in mental health facilities, updated standard practices for lazy law enforcement, and even a supremely depressing commentary on a modern Dead Souls.

I honestly think this works out just fine as a very nasty horror without adding the special patient that the inmates call the Devil. We don't even need him running around with a bull's head,
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Sometimes I will continue reading a book even when I know its hopeless purely out of a sense of loyalty to the author. This was certainly the case here. I appreciated all of Mr. LaValle's efforts, and I actually quite like the way he writes, but the plot was just all over the place, and the premise of the story, while initially really captivating, takes several strange turns and completely loses itself, eventually becoming unrecognizable. In fact, the novel I finished was almost a completely dif ...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
LaValle spins a unique horror tale with THE DEVIL IN SILVER. Pepper is a great character, and this story really keeps you guessing about exactly what the hell is going on in this institution. Portions of the book reminded me of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, but LaValle creates his own dynamic spin on sanity and psychosis. A wonderful, original novel!
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes a good story
Recommended to Katy by: Amazon Vine
Book Info: Genre: Literary Fiction (per publisher); Dark Fiction (per me)
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Anyone who likes a great story

My Thoughts: This was one of those books I picked up because there wasn’t anything else that really appealed to me, and it just looked strange enough that I would enjoy it. Pepper seems like the kind of character I would enjoy, and I also tend to like stories sent in mental institutions. But imagine my delight when I found descriptions like this one:

Glenn Williams
Sep 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
They said this was "literary horror." They was right.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to take that book and club the main character to death with it!

Meet Pepper, idiot par excellence. Seriously. He tried to help a neighbour whom he fancied, beat up her colleague/ex, was stopped by three undercover cops that he mistook for gangbangers, beat those up as well and - you guessed it - that didn't go so well for him. Due to a technicality, he wasn't booked, but sent to New Hyde Hospital’s psychiatric ward for a 72-hour observation period. But since he really is an idiot, his beha
Jordaline Vulva
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's the society that's untethered yet we're institutionalized.
Anthony Vacca
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A joyous marriage of literary aesthetics and genre gratification, The Devil in Silver storms the thematic territory staked by Ken Kesey in 1962; but unlike One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest, LaValle's novel offers a more compassionate look at the human interactions between mental health professionals and their captive patients, that is, whenever the author isn't bringing down righteous fury on a publicly funded system that profits off of neglect, and how this relationship bears a troubling resembla ...more
Christopher Buehlman
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A super-sized Theseus takes on external and internal monsters within the vividly rendered walls of a mental institution in Queens. Always surprising, full of three-D characters, a little bit scary (for unexpected reasons) but even more poignant. Most importantly, Victor LaValle's prose is just plain fun.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbr-2017
I am just as shocked that I found "The Devil in Silver" to be a three star read. This was a tough one for me to get through. I almost DNFed it at one point because I just found myself getting bored with this book. I think the reason why is that it started off as kind of a potential horror book that turned to thriller/mystery than a dialogue of sorts on how persons in our country are treated with mental health issues, to the current state of prejudice that exists in the U.S., to immigration, back ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm undecided about putting this on my horror shelf. I sometimes thought that the most frightening thing about this book/story is that it was turned into a novel. Slow moving at times almost pedantic we get this story (ending up with the rat's point of view about the whole really, rats. We're talking the actual 4 legged rodent here not some monster called "a rat".) Still we get an interesting "point" to the story. It is there. Really, just keep looking.

The opening of this story and th
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
A sketch-ily run mental hospital in Queens with Dickensian characters, and a devil with a buffalo head terrorizing the patients. What more could you want?

LaValle's imagination is only matched by his narrative daring. There are times when--seemingly--the plot meanders, or there is not plot, and times where he goes metafictional, or into the POV of a big rat, and yet, somehow (still not quite sure how he did it) it all fits together and the story is about the lost and the found, so, you know, it'
Rachel Bea
This book is good stuff. Awesome writing style, interesting premise, love the themes he's exploring, and it's always a good thing to see mental illness explored in a book that's NOT ableist!

I'm new to this author and now I want to read everything he's done.

I guess my only complaint is that it could have been a little shorter? Nonetheless I enjoyed it immensely and it made my commute into Manhattan much more enjoyable everyday.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bipoc-author
It’s October—time to scare the pants off ourselves!

I have been planning my creepy fall reading list for several weeks now. As soon as the daytime temperatures start flirting with the 60s (even if they boing back up like they’re attached to a bungee cord a few days later), it’s like an alarm goes off in my head. For some people, that alarm signals pumpkin spice time, but for me it means I start inhaling all the scary shit I can get my hands on.

First up: The Devil in Silver. I have wanted to rea
Mostly while I read this, I just kept asking, "Why?"
Why does the narrator break out and speak to the reader directly every so often?
Why doesn't anyone, including Pepper, care that there's this guy in a mental facility for no apparent reason?
Why am I listening to this?
Why did it take so long to get to the title of the book?
(view spoiler)
Michelle {Book Hangovers}
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, thriller
This was my first Victor LaValle book and it will certainly not be my last.

I found LaValle to be quite cleaver and remarkably comical. At first I thought this book was going to be a horror but even though it was at times scary, I found it to be more of a modern day thriller/mystery. This book intertwines elements of madness, friendship, and courage. A story challenging readers to consider the monster within us, the "devil" inside us all.

This book was suspenseful, creative and at time bizarre. Bu
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
**Review coming soon!**
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Many authors love to set their novels in mental hospitals - think of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Greenberg's I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, Lehane's Shutter Island, McGrath's Asylum, and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The reason, of course, is that the setting allows the author to explore how life inside the cloistered walls of an institution is often indistinguishable from "real" life outside. And so it is with The Devil in Silver.

Pepper (so-called becaus
Jan 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
I really disliked this book. Great premise, poor execution -- by the end, I was forcing myself to pick it up and finish it. The characters are one-dimensional, the situations and setting are absurd and unrealistic, and the writing was amateurish. I'm honestly shocked this was published -- and I'm irritated that I bought this one in hardback. The author is an award winner -- hopefully his other work is much better than this, but I won't be checking it out any time soon.
Gawd damn is this book good.
I will flesh out this review, promise.
In the meantime, add this to your to read list💜
Trust me it's not to be missed.
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
"Literary horror" is a category I find unnecessary and a bit snotty. What is that supposed to mean? Is this somehow more "worthy" than genre fiction, something more intellectually respectable than a mere horror novel?

The novel itself is not so pretentious. It is an enjoyable, suspenseful, and occasionally touching novel about mental illness and captivity. Its metaphor is accessible and not overwrought. The setting is a hospital for the mentally ill that focuses less on treatment and more on sed
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I received this book as an advanced reading copy and as such it had many errors, typos, fairly sizable glitch in describing the main character and a bit of continuity with timing, all of which I presume is going to be taken care of for the actual print edition.
I haven't heard a thing about the author or the book prior to reading it and I was very impressed with it. There were a few minor things that were off, particularly and most noticeably racist slip ups and semi slurs, to the point where th
Jessica Sullivan
I think I came into this book expecting something different: I wanted something scarier, something more surreal and thought-provoking. What I got was a fairly unoriginal story about a mental institution, relying on common—and at times, frankly offensive—tropes and stereotypes.

When Pepper is admitted to the New Hyde mental hospital in Queens, New York, he’s knows he doesn’t belong there. But as he soon finds out, convincing those around him that he isn’t crazy is the least of his problems. There’
Gregor Xane
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Victor LaValle has a real gift for describing authentic "stage business," character gestures, ticks, and body language. These aspects of his writing seem to be drawn directly, and relayed expertly, from observation. This book is frightening and sad and very funny, too. The humor works so well because it's organic to the story, the characters, the situations. I had a few minor quibbles with this book (but they are things that are like personal pet peeves more than anything), but not enough to det ...more
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
3.5 Stars
This was an excellent piece of literary horror that provided social commentary on racial prejudices and mental health. While not particularly scary, this is the kind of horror that would appeal to a wider audience of readers. The characterization and writing in this novel was well done. However, the narrative was quite slow. Personally, I felt that the novel could have been shorter. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the story as much if I had read a physical copy. The audiobook version
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Pepper is a fortysomething blue collar wise guy from Queens, New York, a big man whose height and girth are exceeded only by his unfiltered mouth, naïveté, and unique ability to make every bad situation much worse. His reverse Midas touch lands him in the psychiatric unit at New Hyde Hospital, after his chivalrous attempt to protect a neighbor causes him to engage in a brawl with three men, who unbeknownst to him are undercover NYC police officers. The cops drop him off at New Hyde, where he is ...more
Any book about the iniquities of the mental-health system in the US, and how this is a microcosm of the larger society, has to contend with the legacy of Ken Kesey. One of LaValle's characters not only references One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, but offers a half-baked critique of the book as not being about 'real' people. Well, would you believe that one of the inmates in LaValle's New Hyde is actually the Devil?

Neither did I. This is the weakest aspect of this novel, which could have happily d
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Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book Victor LaValle's DESTROYER.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Whiting Writers' Award, a United

Articles featuring this book

Victor LaValle knows his way around a scary tale or two. He's the author of the horror novels The Ballad of Black Tom...
78 likes · 25 comments
“That’s the funny thing,” she said. “Men always want to die for something. For someone. I can see the appeal. You do it once and it’s done. No more worrying, not knowing, about tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I know you all think it sounds brave, but I’ll tell you something even braver. To struggle and fight for the ones you love today. And then do it all over again the next day. Every day. For your whole life. It’s not as romantic, I admit. But it takes a lot of courage to live for someone, too.” 19 likes
“If you haven't caused a scene in a psych unit, it's just because you haven't been inside long enough.” 6 likes
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