Theodore Weesner, Author of ‘The Car Thief,’ Dies at 79

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Theodore Weesner in 1972. Credit Random House

From The New York Times:

Theodore Weesner, a novelist who mined his wayward youth for the stuff of his celebrated first novel, “The Car Thief,” and whose half-dozen other books earned plaudits for their patient, realistic narratives and humanely considered characters, died on Thursday at a hospital near his home in Portsmouth, N.H. He was 79.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his son Theodore Jr. said.

Mr. Weesner’s conventional literary life of teaching and writing emerged from decidedly unconventional beginnings. The child of an alcoholic father and a teenage mother, he spent part of his youth with other children in an unofficial foster home, became a distressed and introspective teenager who turned to petty crime, never graduated from high school and lied about his age to join the Army at 17.

His 1987 book, “The True Detective,” which is set in Portsmouth and employs multiple perspectives in telling the story of the abduction and murder of a 12-year-old boy, received mixed reviews, but its admirers include the novelist Stewart O’Nan, who, in a radio interview, called it “one of the great, great American novels.”

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Book Fight – Episode 18: Theodore Weesner, The True Detective

Check out the podcast featuring Theodore Weesner’s The True Detective at Book Fight:

We welcome special guest Stewart O’Nan, author of The Odds, Last Night at the Lobster, A Prayer for the Dying, and many, many more, to discuss a book he calls “a great American novel no one has read.” Theodore Weesner’s The True Detective tells the story of a child’s abduction from multiple perspectives: the family of the victim, the kidnapper, and the detective attempting to break the case. But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill procedural; instead the book seeks to mine the the complicated emotional terrain of its characters, exploring how they’re affected by this web of tragedy.

[mp3] & [iTunes]