… in two hours and counting …
We were thinking about appropriate books for the end of the world (whether or not it’s happening) when a meteorite of enlightenment struck: this is a great time to revisit Ben Winters’ Last Policeman series! Set in idyllic Concord, N.H., the books center on upstanding detective Hank Palace is still showing up for work, even though the world is 70 days away from asteroid-induced annihilation. NPR’s Neda Ulaby spent some time walking around Concord with Winters for our Crime in the City series.
"You can’t get a cup of coffee anymore because of the slow disintegration of infrastructure and agriculture and international shipping, with everybody leaving their jobs and the world falling apart," Winters says.
Winters refashions noir tropes to suit his pre-apocalyptic stories. For example, now that the world is about to come to an end, nearly everyone’s started smoking. “The cigarettes, the mysterious women, the cops, late night at the diner,” Winters says with some relish. It’s all there.
He’s purposefully playing with noir archetypes: His hero, for instance, is the man who cares when everyone else has given up.
"That is a familiar type for mystery fiction," Winters explains. "But I was like, ‘But wait, what if really nobody else cares and what if there’s a really good reason for that? You know, what if no one else on the Concord police force cares because the world is ending?’”
What’s on your end-of-the-world reading list?