Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Author Spotlight: Donald Ray Pollock

As far as author bios go, Donald Ray Pollock's is pretty interesting. He was born in 1954 and raised in Knockemstiff, Ohio. Already sounds interesting, right? Knockemstiff is a tiny town in southern Ohio that, in the 50's boasted three stores, a bar and a population of about 450 people. Pollock says most of those people were "connected by blood through one godforsaken calamity or another," in his interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. He couldn't wait to leave Knockemstiff. And leave he did. Thirteen miles away, to Chillicothe. He worked in a meatpacking plant, then a papermill for 32 years. Notice no writing yet? At age 45, he quit his job at the mill to go to graduate school. His first book, Knockemstiff, a collection of short stories was published in 2008. 2009 had to be an exciting year for him. He received the 2009 PEN/Robert Bingham Award and the 2009 Devil's Kitchen Award in Prose for his first work. Quite impressive! He also graduated from the MFA program at Ohio State in 2009.
His second novel, The Devil All the Time was published in July of this year.
In The Devil All the Time, Donald Ray Pollock has written a novel that marries the twisted intensity of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers with the religious and Gothic over­tones of Flannery O’Connor at her most haunting.
Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrifi­cial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.  
Donald Ray Pollock braids his plotlines into a taut narrative that will leave readers astonished and deeply moved. With his first novel, he proves himself a master storyteller in the grittiest and most uncompromising American grain.

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