The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil All the Time - Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil all the Time is a dark, gritty and downright dirty tale, yeah that's perfect for a story that I found pretty bloody enjoyable in places.


The Players.


Carl and Sandy Henderson are two killers that pick up hitchhikers and have their wicked way with them, photographed for all posterity in their final moments.


Roy and Theodore, lead a chequered existence, preaching the Lord's word while skirting the edge of decency and the law. To prove their faith they kill with all intentions of bringing back to life but are rocked when it fails.


And one young man who at the age of 8 witnessed the death of his mother and his father's daily battle with the devil, an unseen madness and a desire to never be separated from the wife he loved so much. We see Arvin’s life unfold, a calculating young man who could take his time enacting revenge on the bullies that plagued him and his orphan sister. Living with his grandmother, death follows this boy like an unrelenting nightmare and he certainly doesn't hold back when faced with the ultimate decision and vengeance.


These characters will meet at the end and not all of them will live to tell the tale.


Now there's a lot of movement in this story, by that I mean we switch between a number of characters over a number of years. Not all the characters we get to know, quite deeply in some cases, are in it for the long run or even the endgame. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, there's plenty of time spent developing characters that advance the story in most cases but are set purely for the metaphorical chopping block.


The thing I liked about this was the distinct lack of morality everywhere, there's very little light in any of these characters. Every one of them is deeply flawed, occasionally honest but there actions are of darkness, murder even for widely differing reasons is still murder, deserved though it may be in some cases. These kill, some as a hobby, others for necessity and this story is dark and dirty and riddled with death, unsavoury people where there really shouldn't be and you can't trust any of them.


So I did enjoy this but there was just something missing that stopped me giving it full marks. Difficult to put my finger on it, maybe the amount of attention given to Roy and Theodore, who didn't really grab me at all. Also it was fairly easy to guess where the story was going and the ending saw no great surprises but on the whole not a million miles away from being right up my dark little street.


I'll leave you with quote from Roy.


"Before I found the Holy Ghost, I was scared plumb to death of spiders. Ain’t that right, Theodore? Ever since I was a little runt hiding under my mother’s long skirts. Spiders crawled through my dreams and laid eggs in my nightmares, and I couldn’t even go to the outhouse without someone holding my hand. They was hanging in their webs everywhere waiting on me. It was an awful way to live, in fear all the time, awake or asleep, it didn’t matter. And that’s what hell is like, brothers and sisters. I never got no rest from them eight-legged devils. Not until I found the Lord".


And there is a one armed bootlegger nicknamed Slot-machine, quality.