Timothy Schaffert: Great Plains Gothic
Friday, June 17, 2011
Timothy Schaffert’s new book isn’t a typical mystery novel. It’s got an ominous crime set in a small town rife with intrigue, but the narrator isn’t a hardscrabble police detective or a noirish gumshoe. Instead, Schaffert’s story is told by an 83-year old grandmother.
Schaffert’s choice of the elderly Essie Myles as the narrator of his fourth novel, The Coffins of Little Hope, gives the reader a a rare look at an unusual occupation. Myles is the obituary writer for her hometown Nebraska paper. She’s lived in the same place long enough to know just about everybody in town — living and deceased — and so when a little girl is abducted (or is she?), Myles relates the proceedings with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Myles’ job matters. As Schaffert told Kurt Andersen, the obituaries page in a small town “was where the drama was. There weren’t crimes to report. There weren’t scandals. You took the pulse of the community by looking at not just who was dead, but who was surviving them.”
Lois Smith provides the voice of Essie Myles in our story.
Write your own obituary: Kurt asked Timothy Schaffert for the first line of his own obituary, and Schaffert provided a doozy: “He only faked his death and is living comfortably in an exotic locale.” How do you want the first line of your obituary to read? Leave a comment and tell us — just one sentence only, please. In the coming weeks we’ll read our favorites on the air.