The Devil You Know
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About the author
WAYNE JOHNSON is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Don't Think Twice and Six Crooked Highways. He was a Teaching-Writing Fellow of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is a recipient of the prestigious Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. His short fiction has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, and Story, among others, and has been featured in collections including Prize Stories, The O. Henry Awards, and The Norton Anthology of Literature. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
From the Hardcover edition.
When Max Geist plans a rugged canoe trip on the rivers of Northern Minnesota, fifteen-year-old David fears that dealing with his father--an opinionated, stubborn, novice outdoorsman--will be the roughest part of their journey. Little does he know that once he enters the unforgiving wilderness his life, and that of his family, will be irrevocably changed.
At the start of their trip, David's father and younger sister, Janie, briefly cross paths with a group of men who, unbeknownst to the Geist family, are on the lam. Fearing the family may have learned too much about them, the outlaws decide to track down the unknown man and his daughter and, if need be, silence them. When they find the family's campsite, David is away; he returns to find his father in a life-or-death struggle with one man and his sister being savagely attacked by another. David, extraordinarily strong for his age, saves Max and Janie's lives and, in the process, kills a man. But the second man escapes, and David knows he has a partner . . . and that it is only a matter of time before they come back to finish the job they started. The outlaws become the only predators to fear in the wild as the Geist family is hunted down like animals--and uninjured David is the family's only hope for survival. As they tread through the snow-covered rocky terrain in search of safety, what began as a family bonding trip becomes a test of David's mental and physical limits, a journey into manhood and the responsibilities that come with it.
The Devil You Know combines the breathtaking intensity of a first-rate literary thriller with the complexity and poignancy of a classic coming-of-age novel. This is a spellbinding suspense novel with heart and soul, a story that will keep you riveted until the very last page.
From the Hardcover edition.
; December 2007
432 pages; ISBN 9780307421944
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Title: The Devil You Know
Author: Wayne Johnson
All good things come to those who wait, goes the old saying, and David had been waiting now nearly thirty minutes under the entryway roof of Edina Morningside, the rain coming down in cold, rapid bursts, and that something he'd been waiting for, his mother in her beat-up Ford, hadn't come. His teammates had been shunted away long before, one after another, by parents in new Cadillacs, and brothers with hopped-up GTOs and 'Cudas, and sisters in new Toyotas and Volvos, and now it was only David under the roof, and it was with a certain freedom, and irony, that he stepped out into the rain, his books slung over his back in a canvas bag and the rain cool on his face.
He glanced down at his wristwatch, that old saw coming to him again, his mother was always saying it, All good things--and he did feel that, that something big was coming, life changing and, he assumed, wrongly, it had to do with what he'd nearly done today--and he checked for traffic and crossed at the light, happy to be outside and moving, to be able to collect his thoughts.
His mother had forgotten to pick him up again. Which was always a minor embarrassment anyway, her pulling up to the school in their old station wagon, and here he'd been given the opportunity to take a four-mile hike in the rain instead. Too stupid to get out of the rain. Well, he was in it, and it wasn't so bad, he thought, and he quickened his step, and for a time he was, even walking along the rain-glossy street, deep in a reverie. Saw himself running, pulling ahead of Terry McGovern, he would do it, beat him, had almost done it at the meet today, he should have pulled ahead of McGovern before that last hill, sprinted by him, even if the ground had been uneven there, and anyway, he was two years younger than Terry, just fifteen, and Coach had said his time was incredible, and it had been.
Push it, Coach said. Don't wait for anything. Push it now. You push it, you could take State next year, or at the worst, two years from now. You gotta push it, Davey, he'd said.
David shuddered in the cold. Still, thinking about it, he very nearly broke into a run, for the joy of it, but he was wearing his hard-soled boots, and that stopped him. He came to another light and, taking a long step from the curb, further distanced himself from school and what was really troubling him there.
And just then he decided to tell no one about that, or about what he'd done today in track.
Striding toward the highway fence he had to climb to cross the highway, he thought of his father, and what he'd said the last time they'd talked.
What do you have to go out for a pansy sport like that for? Running. That's for losers who can't take football. You can throw the ball. I taught you. You should be bucking for quarterback.
Even thinking of his father now put a frown on David's face. Because what he always seemed to be implying but never said was: David was small. Which he wasn't. He was just under five-eleven, and one fifty-five, which for his age wasn't small at all, but his father made him feel small.
Small. When he could run ten miles across uneven ground faster than almost anyone in the state.
You're fucking rawhide, kid, his coach had said. What is it that gets into you?
David never told Coach that when he ran he thought of all the slights his father had tossed at him, thought of the beatings that had gone on before his mother had forced his father out, all in well-to-do Edina. Things like that didn't happen in Edina, and God knows, if they did, you didn't talk about them.
And it occurred to him that Max made all of them feel small--even now when he'd been out of the house almost three years.
David was thinking that when he crossed the service road bordering Highway 62, went down the grassy slope in the rain toward the fence that ran along it. He traversed the slope, the grass slick under his feet, and the smell of exhaust ashy in the wet air, his thoughts going now from his father to another bully, Rick Buddy, who, since he'd thrown the ball that morning, seemed determined to break him, even though David would never give in, didn't cower, or sidle away from him. He had no idea why he didn't--though he hadn't with his father, either. But it was going to come to something bad, this Buddy thing. Because now the other Hornets were teasing Buddy that David had gotten the best of him.
That's really what was waiting for him. Buddy. What troubled him now.
David tossed his book bag over the cyclone fence, then climbed over it, careful to avoid the barbs on top.
The traffic on the highway was moving at a good seventy or so, and it was dark, and raining, and he knew he'd have to be careful.
It was a little after evening rush, and he stood on the shoulder, his stomach rumbling. A car sped past in a hissing rush and David bolted across the north 100 exit ramp, the pavement slick under his feet, a car that must have been doing ninety honking and barely missing him, and David felt himself kick, and he was flat out running across the westbound lanes, a second car coming on, the driver laying on his horn, a smeary, harsh, red sound, and then David was standing in the grassy median.
Cars passed behind him, and in front of him, most of them with their lights on.
He wasn't so much worried about being hit as he was about Officer Diehl showing up. He caught his breath, then felt his bag on his back, which seemed lighter, and he got a sick feeling, didn't even want to look to see if he'd lost something.
From the median he could make out the house alongside the highway, just up the rise from the entrance ramp and in back of the cyclone fence, the lights on, and the car in the drive, that old Ford.
She'd forgotten him big time, and he wondered what he'd say to her when he got in.
Then he bolted across the two eastbound lanes and entrance ramp, went up the hill and fast--Officer Diehl had stopped him right here a few weeks ago, and even though David had explained he'd have to walk an extra two miles if he went south, to the crossover, Diehl hadn't been sympathetic.
I see you out here again, he'd said, I'll take you into the station. No ifs, ands, or buts. Got it?
As he bolted up the hill to the fence, it occurred to David that he didn't care.
From the Hardcover edition.
In the press
“A gripping life-or-death tale. . . The Devil You Know deserves to be Wayne Johnson’s breakout book.” —Chicago Tribune
“A fiercely gripping thriller with an elegance of craftsmanship that transcends the genre.” —Madison Smartt Bell
“Think Deliverance, written in the style of William Faulkner. . . . Johnson creates fabulously evil characters and others who are fabulously endearing.” —Charlotte Observer
“[Johnson’s] muscular, impressionistic prose artfully insinuates the reader into David’s fears and anxieties. . . . A chilling, compelling novel that explores the human capacity for violence—even in decent people—but also the capacity for compassion, forgiveness and redemption.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The descriptive writing is as crisp as a Minnesota morning. . . . This novel works on every level, echoing its similarly themed predecessors but never in the slightest derivative.” —Booklist (starred review)
From the Trade Paperback edition.