On matters of horror fiction and what should or should not be defined as such, nobody gets the last word. For some people, a horror story is only as good as its ability to scare. For me, the horror genre is a spectrum, and feeling scared falls somewhere on that emotional spectrum along with a host of other feelings. Judging a book based on its ability to belong in a genre, employing the sole criteria of fear, is too subjective and limiting in my opinion.
Chad Lutzke’s new book, The Pale White, deals with the subject of sex trafficking and the emotional, physical and mental effects it has on its victims. I’ll let discerning readers decide for themselves if that sounds horrific enough to be considered horror fiction. For this reader, I find the subject matter terrifying. To be honest, in the hands of just any author, sex trafficking is taboo enough to be the kiss of death. I’m not going to enthusiastically anticipate a deep dive into the disturbing elements of what happens to victims who are sexually abused. But Chad Lutzke isn’t any author and his audience trusts him. I trust him.
And so I did anticipate this book because I know that Lutzke would handle this sensitive subject with respect and dignity.
The Pale White offers readers a short time spent with three main protagonists that you are immediately drawn to and invested in. This is the magic of Lutzke’s writing. What might take other writers the length of a novel to do, Lutzke manages in a novella of one hundred pages. It’s something about the authenticity of his writing style and the speed in which readers experience that empathetic connection through the dramatic events typically kicking off on page one.
Alex, Stacia and Kammie have been kidnapped, held captive and forced to perform sex acts to paying customers. They have been in one location for an undisclosed amount of time. Their captor is named Doc.
There’s a temptation to read too fast because the story is so compelling; the pages easily fly by but if you blink, you’ll miss everything. You’ll miss how each girl deals with her victimhood in remarkably distinct ways. You’ll forget to ponder the significance of vampires. The fact that a quaint beach house in an idyllic location is actually a prison…the prisoners enduring unspeakable tortures at the hands of their abusers.
I think that because this is a novella and it’s easy to read, one could hastily assume it felt rushed or should have been longer, but those assumptions do a disservice to the magic of good storytelling. It’s this reader’s opinion that Lutzke knows exactly what he’s capable of and how much time or how many pages he needs to accomplish what he sets out to do.
I loved this tale. I felt like it was perfect in every way and I especially loved the ending. Actually, correction: I needed that ending, and I’m grateful Lutzke gave it to his readers.
The Pale White is painful and soul crushing. But it’s also a story about resilience and hope in the face of unspeakable horrors. My favorite kind of story.