Murder, He Wrote

John Darnielle on the fiction of true crime

Detail from the cover of <em>Devil House</em>, courtesy FSG
Detail from the cover of Devil House, courtesy FSG

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:

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.

Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast

Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)

Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up