The third novel from John Darnielle, the creative force behind the band The Mountain Goats, draws on the surprisingly fertile combination of freeway towns, goth teenagers, Le Morte d’Arthur, and Chaucer. Devil House follows true-crime writer Gage Chandler, who, at the urging of his editor, moves into the newly renovated “Devil House” of Milpitas, California, once an abandoned porn shop and the site of a grisly, unsolved double murder on Halloween in 1986. News clippings about the crime point to disaffected teenagers who transformed the old shop into a kind of clubhouse, replete with pentagrams, video art, and schlocky monsters, but no arrests were ever made. Gage struggles with the nature of his work and how to tell the story of Devil House fairly: “What happens when somebody tells a story that has real people in it? What happens to the story; what happens to the teller; what happens to the people?” Darnielle joins the podcast to talk about Devil House, a novel less about the crime than the search for truth.
Go beyond the episode:
- John Darnielle’s Devil House
- Dip into The Mountain Goats’ discography (our host’s go-tos are usually Tallahassee, All Hail West Texas, and The Sunset Tree)
- Mentioned in the interview: “Unicorn Tolerance” from the album Goths, Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (read it all online or try your hand at deciphering the British Library’s 15th-century manuscript)
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek. Follow us on Twitter @TheAmScho or on Facebook.
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