John Darnielle Explores The Eerie Side Of Iowa With ‘Universal Harvester’

Feb 21, 2017

Musician and writer John Darnielle of the Durham-based folk band The Mountain Goats sets his new novel "Universal Harvester" in the cornfields rural Iowa, where he once lived.
Credit Brandon Eggleston

In his new novel “Universal Harvester” (Farrar, Straus, Giraux/2017), writer and musician John Darnielle revisits an era about 20 years ago when video rentals were in high demand. The book features a young man named Jeremy Heldt who works at a video store in rural Iowa. Heldt discovers that somebody is splicing mysterious footage into some of the tapes.

The scenes are ominous, and Heldt decides to search for the culprit. The character and stories stem from Darnielle’s experience living in rural Iowa. Along with being a writer, Darnielle is also the band leader of the Durham-based folk band The Mountain Goats. Host Frank Stasio talks with John Darnielle about his new novel and why the cornfields of Iowa make a good setting for a thriller.  ​