susan taylor chehak

Publications

Short Stories
Available now in Moon City Review
Read it online in Limestone
"The turns these stories take, structurally and emotionally, prove that Chehak is not only a daring literary artisan, but a connoisseur of human frailty. An acerbic, stirring collection from a master of the craft." -Kirkus Reviews
Read the whole story online, at Blue Lake Review.
Online at Conte
Included in a new anthology from SeedpodPress
Read it in the Winter 2013 issue of Permafrost
read it in the summer 2013 issue of Grey Sparrow Journal
Now available at Amarillo Bay
Now available at Necessary Fiction: Part One and Part Two
Now available at Juked
read it in the Spring 2012 issue of Folio by subscribing HERE
available online at Folly
read it in the Spring 2011 issue of Coe Review by subscribing HERE or read it online HERE
read it on your Kindle, or your Kindle App
Interviews
The novelist on what atheists and true believers have in common and how Mark Twain, Henry James, and “Sigmund-fucking-Freud” lack imagination. Read the whole interview at Guernica
Fiction
Told through alternating narratives—a portrayal of the last few days of Meena's life and an account of the events in the past that have brought her to where she is now—this is the story of a woman running away from home for the first time and the strong, nearly universal desire to shed one's identity to become somebody else.
“[Chehak's] ambitiously imaginative novel questions the very nature of reality… [a] diverting exploration of metaphysical concepts. Winsome and smartly playful.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Chehak's prose provides a seamless, calm flow to a novel whose elements of love and murder ripple enticingly, fully surfacing only gently, only eventually, in the most satisfying kind of storytelling." -Booklist
"Haunting . . . Clodine Wheeler is the bemused narrator who strings together brilliant beads of descriptive phrases as she sorts through her memories . . . Chehak skillfully depicts small-town meanness and ironic generosity . . . . Her mesmerizing tale has classic resonances." – Publishers Weekly
"A dark tale of obsession among the posh ranks of a midwestern town... Chehak's poetic style exposes the passionate longings beneath the mannered sterling-and-crystal patina of Cedar Hill life; she renders both violence and love with an unflinching eye and casts a mournful spell." -Vogue
"Chehak is a very accomplished storyteller, always in control of her narrative, which moves ahead with grace and speed. But it's not only the plot that matters to this writer. It's the telling little details, particularly of teenage angst and of domestic life that makes the novel rich... SMITHEREENS is a novel fully worthy of the title thriller. It's hard to put down. It has a kind of dark allure." - The Los Angeles Times
“In Susan Taylor Chehak’s skilled hands, Iowa becomes the seething, steamy setting for a tale of pure evil… This is a marvelous, creepy story.” -The Kansas City Star

What's New

What Happened to Paula, an e-book

February 17, 2014

Yesterday was my birthday. February 16th.

If you already know me, then you already know:

I live an insanely blessed life, filled with dear friends and beloved family, dogs and cats, a highly stimulating career, absorbing hobbies, travel, beauty, warmth, good health and (at least many moments of) inner peace.

I want you to also know: I'm deeply grateful for every little bit of it.

Around this time of year fifteen years ago, I'd published five novels and I was ready to write a new one. As is my habit, I went searching for a story to get me started. What I found was an unsolved murder, the death of a lovely girl, who I'd known only vaguely when I was in high school.

1970. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I remembered the story, but I wanted to know more.

So I wrote a letter and made an appointment and talked a judge into signing an order, effecting the release to me of a photocopy of the entire police file on the case. I remember thinking when I opened it and began to read: I have found my life's work.

And so it has become.

At the time of her death in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during the summer of 1970, eighteen-year-old Paula Oberbroeckling was a beautiful leggy blonde who dreamed of becoming a model. She disappeared in the early morning hours of July 11th, after she'd borrowed her roommate's car to go off on an unspecified errand. She was barefoot and dressed in a light blue nightgown with matching panties. The next morning, the roommate's car was found parked in a red zone near a grocery store, and Paula was gone. Four months later, two young brothers who were on a hike along the railroad tracks down by the Cedar River came upon some human remains and homicide detectives were called in. While rumors flew, the ensuing police investigation brought no conclusive answer to what had happened to Paula.

Although theories have been put forth, still all these many years later, the case remains unsolved.

In 2008, I brought a crew to Cedar Rapids with a plan to make a documentary film about Paula and my ongoing independent murder investigation. In the process I conducted interviews with Paula's family and friends, as well as two homicide detectives who were on the case in 1970, the doctor who was coroner at that time, and others who had been mentioned in the file.

In 2010, I conducted further interviews with several more people who were involved, including the roommate and the man who was believed to have dumped Paula's body in the woods.

In 2012, in an effort to raise the stakes by crowdsourcing further investigation, I published a website and posted there the entire police file, obituary, FBI reports and other documents, as well as news articles, photographs, and my own transcribed interviews, inviting readers to comment and consult. I also built a Facebook page, where we've posted updates and tributes and ongoing group conversations as well.

Next Monday, February 25th, would have been Paula's 62nd birthday, and now, on that day, in honor and memory of her, Foreverland Press will publish an e-book revealing what has come of my 15 years of research into the circumstances of her untimely death.

What Happened to Paula: The Anatomy of a True Crime doesn't mark the end of my investigation. It doesn't offer a solution to the case. It's neither a conventional novelization nor a nonfiction narrative rendering of what went down. Rather, it's a compilation of raw data, presented in such a way that it tells Paula Oberbroeckling's story, reveals the socio-political realities of that time and place, and invites you, the reader, to follow the threads, make the connections, imagine the scenarios, come to your own conclusions, and in so doing, join me and other readers in this murder investigation.

The e-book will be available in the Amazon Kindle store on February 25th, and it will be continually updated as additional data is added and new information comes to light. (Readers will be able to sign up for alerts to these updates as they're made.)

All proceeds will go toward funding what promises to become a powerful collaborative effort to discover and reveal, at last, what happened to Paula.

Together we'll come to the truth. Solve the crime. Close the case.

Let the girl rest in peace.

Comments

  1. October 25, 2016 1:37 PM EDT
    Where can I get this book???
    - Anonymous
  2. October 27, 2016 1:52 PM EDT
    I'm sorry, but the book is no longer available. If you would like me to send you a PDF copy for your own personal use, please email susantaylorchehak at gmail dot com
    - Susan Chehak