THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME by Donald Ray Pollock Reviewed
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub date: July 2011
I’d like to suggest an alternate title for this book. I’m thinking of something along the lines of Whiskey Tango Hell (“whiskey tango” is phonetics for white trash, hell should be self explanatory). Donald Ray Pollock, author of short story collection Knockemstiff, has created a truly disturbing world in the novel The Devil All the Time. I consider myself a connoisseur of disturbing literature, but this one was so dirty and depraved that, while reading it, I felt dirty and depraved myself.
The story is set in rural Ohio and West Virginia in the years between 1945 and the late 60s. The characters include a PTSD ridden vet of the war in the Pacific, a husband and wife team of serial killers, a crooked backwoods sheriff, a spider handling preacher with a pedophile paraplegic sidekick, and many more. The lineup in this book is a rogues’ gallery of grotesque humanity. These people wear their perversions on their chests like scarlet A’s. They commit horrible acts over and over again. This is a story of disgusting lives lived in anarchy.
This was not an easy read for me. I felt like I was being molested while reading it. Parts of the story made my skin crawl. I wanted to see the lives in this book torn apart. That’s how much I hated them. Their world scared the shit out of me. I’ve had some bad experiences in rural areas in my life. You know, the ones that should have a sign at the city limits saying, “Woe betide the motherfuckers who enter here.” This book should have a sticker saying that on the cover.
I feel that this book should be read. Pollock is a true talent. If a writer can provoke these kinds of feelings from me…all I can say is, nice work. Like I said before it’s not easy getting through it but if you do, more power to you.