ALL WE NEED OF HELL by Harry Crews


Duffy Deeter is a lawyer who is getting a divorce. His chunky son embarrasses him. His wife is banging his law partner. He spends the night in his Winnebago listening to inspiring speeches by Adolph Hitler. Life is not good.

Enter football player Tump. As Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s player helps bring light to cold, rich, white agent Jerry Maguire, Tump begins as a problem, but becomes Duffy’s ally. We follow Duffy’s life for a couple of days and nights as he tries to work out his issues with his late dad, his wife, his kid.

Harry Crews had a brief moment in the sun in the eighties/early nineties, and then vanished again. On his death, he’d gone back into being one of the many good American novelists most people have never heard of. That’s too bad. He had a compelling personal story, up from horrific poverty to

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ALL WE NEED OF HELL is a novel I’ve read several times over the years. Crews was one of those people unafraid to say non-P.C. things because he came from the kind of background that gives him the right to complete honesty. That shows how censorious we are based on people’s backgrounds, or their perceived ‘privilege.’ He doesn’t view his hero as an evil person because he’s a white man of means, and that doesn’t prevent him from using this character to talk about a man in the midst of a divorce and separation from his somewhat embarrassing kid. He can get past the facts of his own life, that he was born dirt-poor, and society’s ideas about men and money, so he can get at something else, about how no matter how rich you are you can still be plagued by pain from unresolved feelings about…your father. Writing about a rich guy who couldn’t deal with pain today is commercial suicide. But Crews pulled it off, without being preachy.

I’ve spent too much time on this aspect of the book, which is not a long drone about daddy issues by a rich guy. It’s a light, fun romp through a man’s mess as he climbs back into the driver’s seat of his own life.

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ALL WE NEED OF HELL is a quick read, fewer than 200 pages. It came after a ten-year hiatus, and is a light read, the way THE CRYING OF LOT 49 is the “light” Pynchon novel. It came before the more substantial THE KNOCKOUT ARTIST, and while it’s not one of his major books, it’s a very enjoyable, laid-back story of an American man trying to get his bearings. It’s not too heavy, it doesn’t

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John Stephen Walsh

Writer of neo-noir (The Ruthless Son), end of the world/quasi-zombie horror (The Year of Silent Light), humor (Ebollionaire), and a short story collection (Love Has A Taste) on Kindle. Have worked in social services, retail, video, etc. etc. I love movies, film scores, and painting poorly.