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John Darnielle Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Wolf in White Van (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Universal Harvester (2017) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Black Sabbath's Master of Reality (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Author John Darnielle was born on March 16, 1967 in Bloomington, Indiana. He grew up in Southern California and had an abusive step dad that he lived with. He lived in Portland, Oregon after high school and he developed an addiction to hard drugs, one of which was methamphetamine.

After that, he went back to California and worked as a psychiatric nurse in Norwalk, California at Metropolitan State Hospital. He lived on the grounds for awhile, playing guitar and composing songs when he was not working. Using a boombox, he recorded some of the songs.

After he left the hospital he went to college from the years 1991 until 1995 at Pitzer College (later getting an English degree), all the while, still working on recording music. A friend put together some of Darnielle’s music and released in 1992 under the name of “Taboo VI: The Homecoming”. Some of his music, deals with certain things that have happened to him in his life.

He also writes certain series that have titles or story lines that are similar to each other. There is the series about going to different places with the idea being that running from a problem is not going to be very helpful in the end. There is also “Alpha” that deals with a couple and their history; there was an entire album done about this couple.

John has been named one of the best living songwriters by Paste magazine. He usually sings, plays guitar and piano, usually with the Mountain Goats.

His first book was called “Black Sabbath: Master of Reality” and was part of the “33 1/3” series of books that focus on the legacy or making of an album. Different installments in this series are written by different writers. In 2014, “Wolf in the White Van” was released, which was his first novel.

He has lived in different cities in such states as: Oregon, Iowa, Chicago, and California; as well as Durham, North Carolina. He has two kids and his wife (named Lalitree Darnielle, who played banjo on Mountain Goats’ “New Asian Cinema” EP).

“Master of Reality” is the first stand alone novel and was released in the year 2008. This book is about Roger Painter, and through him, we hear Sabbath’s third album. He is locked in an adolescent psychiatric center in southern California and the year is 1985.

He has no Walkman and yearns for comfort. He describes the music of Black Sabbath in way that you would describe something foreign to someone. Like air to a fish or something. He hopes that by doing this, his captors will give him back his tapes.

“Wolf in White Van” is the second stand alone novel and was released in the year 2014. Trace Italian is a strategy and survival game. Sean Phillips is disfigured and has been since he was seventeen and makes up imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. In his tiny apartment located in Southern California, he makes up grand adventures where anything, both bright and dark, are possible; whether they are real or not are another matter.

The game is a text based adventure role-playing game that you play through the mail. Sean is able to guide his players from all over the world around his intricately made up terrain. They can explore and make their way through turn by turn as they seek safe haven in the future America that is pretty bleak.

Lance and Carrie are in high school in Florida and explore Trace. They take the game into the real world and it ends disastrously. Sean has to answer for it. It pulls him back through time, back to the moment of his departure from the reality that most people live in. He left this world in a self inflicted way.

“Universal Harvester” is the third stand alone novel and was released in the year 2017. Things get morbid in a small town when the footage on VHS tapes turns up at Video Hut.

In Nevada, Iowa, Jeremy works at the counter. It is in the middle of the state and the name is pronounced “Nev-ay-da”. Set in the late nineties and before DVDs. Over in Ames, there is a Hollywood Video that threatens the Video Hut. It has got its regulars and the predictable rush during the late part of afternoon. Good enough for Jeremy, after all, it is a job that makes him money. He gets to watch any movies he wants, it is quiet and regular; not to mention, he likes Sarah Jane, the owner and it gets him out of his house. In the house, him and his father try to keep themselves from missing his mother. She died six years back in a car accident.

Stephanie Parsons comes in to return “Targets” (an oldie but goodie that stars horror icon Boris Karloff), one that Jeremy got for the store. She has a weird complaint for him. She says that something is on the tape, but does not say what. Then, another woman (named Lindsey) brings back a new release; she says that a whole other movie is on the tape.

He finally takes a look and in the middle of the film, the movie goes away and an image of a barn pops up with the sound of someone breathing. Same with the store’s copy of the movie “Targets”. It is creepy and created by the same person. The barn looks like the one that is located outside of the town. It freaks Jeremy out and does not really want to look deeper.

Sarah becomes obsessed with the whole thing; there is no denying the creepiness of the videos. There is a disturbing feeling now, in what was a quiet town. Life will never go back to being normal after this.

This author wrote a novel that is simply a work of art; it does not offer an explanation about itself at all. It is a peculiar book that some will be unable to understand. Fans of the novel found the story here to be clever, and is well written with characters that are vibrant, clear prose, and a creepy enough story to engage the readers. Here is an author to watch, as he is just going to get even better the more he puts out novels.

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