In the summer of 1969, Charlie Wilkins was a young man in search of a job. Turned down by a dozen potential employersincluding Shubang Used Tire and Dick’s Nifty Car WashWilkins landed an unlikely job at a vast corporate cemetery as a bone waxer,” handling bird-houses” (urns), and earning an invaluable education about life as a caregiver in death.
From reckless disinterments, to a mid-summer gravediggers’ strike, to the illegal shifting of bones from untended graves, In the Land of Long Fingernails is a coming-of-age story among extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It offers up a Barnum-esque cavalcade of slay carpenters,” dirt nappers,” mavericks and misfits, shifty plot salesmen, and drug-addled gravediggers, yet it also shows us their uncertainty and superstitions, and their relentless gallows humor amid the inevitable reminders of what it is, finally, to be human.
In the funny and dark spirit of Thomas Lynch’s best-selling The Undertaking, Mary Roach’s hit Stiff, and Six Feet Under, In the Land of Long Fingernails is a testament not just to unexpected friendship but also to late sixties culture, and to the art and power of storytelling.