The first time I met Donald Ray Pollock was at a reading he did opening up for Chuck Palahniuk in St. Louis. It was a wild night, and I dragged my younger brother Bill out with me—he’d never seen Palahniuk read before. The event was packed, and the audience couldn’t have been more hip, more alive, more excited. I was there to see Chuck, but I’d picked up Knockemstiff a month before, the interlinked stories set in Ohio, and had been blown away. After Chuck got done tossing blow up dolls into the crowd, answering questions, and signing books, the crowd thinned out. When I was done getting my book signed, I wandered over to the short line in front of Don and had him sign my copy of Knockemstiff. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy, very kind and gracious. He was getting his MFA too—him at Ohio State University, and me at the low-res program down at Murray State University in Kentucky. I had no idea that he would go on to win many awards for that book, but it was the start of a conversation, a relationship, with one of the most talented and generous authors I know. Don has always made the time to support me and my work (he blurbed my story “Victimized” an esingle at Amazon, and would have blurbed my debut novel Transubstantiate if my press hadn’t screwed up). I was thrilled to get this from him:
“[‘Victimized’ is] as tough, ass-kicking and twisted as fiction gets. Imagine a Dear John letter that Hitler might have written to Lucifer right before he blew his brains out. Then crank things up ten notches.” –Donald Ray Pollock
The Devil All the Time builds on the rural depression and debauchery that is in Knockemstiff, taking these misfits out on the road where killing is a sport, and the various delinquents go about their dark lives with a sense of dread and desperation. Read the full review over at The Nervous Breakdown. Don is one hell of an author. Pick up both of his books, I recommend them highly.
I didn’t list other voices in my review of TDATT, but I thought of people like Benjamin Percy, Ron Rash, Willam Gay, Flannery O’Connor, Denis Johnson, and Daniel Woodrell, to name a few.