“I think you work harder if you’re haunted by some small darkness,” says John Darnielle. And if the work he’s produced is any indication, Darnielle is one haunted man.
Across several albums with his band, The Mountain Goats, Darnielle has written distinctive lyrics that are gloomy and full of wry humor. Lately, his storytelling has taken a different form: novels. His latest, Universal Harvester, takes place in the late 1990s in a small town in Iowa. Its main character, Jeremy Heldt, is still grieving for his mother, who died six years earlier in a car accident. He’s working as a video store clerk when he makes an unsettling discovery: Someone has been splicing weird, dark and sometimes violent home movies into the store’s videos.