Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

The podcast ‘prequel’ for those obsessed with S-Town

s town prequel.jpg

In search of a new podcast?

If you devoured S-Town as soon as the episodes dropped in March (and you probably did – the show from the makers of Serial was downloaded an unprecedented 16 million times in the first week of release alone) you may be interested in an earlier series – one that John B McLemore himself was a fan of.

KunstlerCast is a show featuring author James Howard Kunstler, who was named in S-Town protagonist McLemore’s suicide note, and who discusses themes of suburbia, urban sprawl and American culture – all topics McLemore was interested in.

And Kunstler says the horologist used to contact him regularly, resulting in the author even trying to persuade him to move away from Woodstock, the place McLemore had dubbed S*** Town.

Now the makers of the podcast say KunstlerCast, which ran from 2008 to 2012, serves as something of a “prequel” for those interested in McLemore’s perspective on humanity, revealing the topics he would immerse himself in.

“For those who really want to explore John B McLemore's world view and what shaped it – his fixation on climate change and economic collapse, his rants on sprawl and the built environment, and especially his disdain for tattoos – all the source material that inspired him is in James Howard Kunstler's podcast,” according to the creator and former host Duncan Crary.

Read more: 50 of the best podcasts to make you wiser, better read and more cultured

“In a way, the KunstlerCast is like the ‘prequel’ to S-Town that serves as a background to the kinds of thoughts and issues McLemore was clearly immersed in.”

S-Town’s Brian Reed, of podcast royalty This American Life, decided to tell the story of McLemore after McLemore contacted him believing there’d been a cover-up of a murder in his hometown.

While Reed found no evidence of a cover-up, he became fascinated with the highly intelligent yet clearly troubled McLemore, as well as his family and friends, and ended up working on the series for three years before it was released in March 2017.

While a runaway success, the series also proved somewhat controversial because it delved so deeply into the life and background of a man who had originally consented to be involved with the podcast but who died during the making.

In an interview with Pacific Standard magazine, Reed said the team had considered what to include “carefully”: “There are lots and lots that I learned in the reporting that I didn’t put in the story because we felt that what it added to the story wasn’t worth either the sensitive nature of it, or maybe it touched someone who was still alive, and we didn’t include it for that reason.

“But I also don’t believe that when a reporter is doing a story about someone who has died, that they can only include elements that the person consented to when they were alive. I don’t believe that’s an ethical problem, and there’s a whole world of journalism about people who have passed away. The whole enterprise of that journalism is to learn more about [those people] than we understand from when they were alive.”

Read more: Unearthing the ethical dilemma of S-Town

Kunstler recorded a new episode following S-Town and his discovery that he’d been named in McLemore’s suicide note as one of the writers he’d read.

He said of speaking to McLemore: “He was flamboyantly Southern and he sort of played up on it. And I enjoyed talking to him.

“Eventually he started talking to me about the town itself that he was living in and how he called it ‘S*** Town’. And how everything in it was busted, rusted, shot up, broken, deformed, messed up, ruined – you know, in some way that everything including the human personalities and families and relations in the town were all in some kind of terrible condition.

“It all seemed kind of emblematic of the ruined condition of the fly over heartland of America that ended up voting for Trump."

Main image: stownpodcast.org


reading sunset.jpg

These are the books you need to read, according to female TED speakers


Get ready for Netflix's gripping new cold case docu-series The Keepers


The modern bedtime story: 7 soothing podcasts to help you sleep


The best possible gifts for when flowers aren’t going to cut it

17 unusual and thoughtful gifts for when the s**t hits the fan

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This Battle of the Sexes legend wants you to STOP asking about McEnroe

“I would like to see John McEnroe win a Grand Slam tournament while pregnant”

by Susan Devaney
22 Sep 2017

“The real reason we should all be upset about Uber”

Grow up: your bank balance really isn’t what’s at stake here

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017

There's a huge sherbet fountain coming to London - and it's free

Bompas & Parr are planning a weird, wonderful and nostalgia-filled event

by Helen Brown
22 Sep 2017

Rick and Morty creator responds to sexist trolling of female writers

The show hired four women. Cue cries of “Worst. Episodes. Evah.”

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

Everything you need to know about Uber being banned in London

The taxi firm has had its license revoked by TfL

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

The new Baileys flavour you’ll want to drink well beyond Halloween

Perfect autumn cocktails ahead

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This unexpected town has been voted the best place to work in the UK

We didn’t see this one coming

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

Harry Potter fans, this epic Hogwarts goblet is actually magical

It's perfect for Butterbeer (or prosecco)

by Megan Murray
22 Sep 2017

The hidden meanings behind the nation’s most popular baby names

Prepare for lots of girls’ names ending in ‘a’

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017