This collection is a not-so-friendly neighborhood of stories. Chad Lutzke has crafted all the pieces in this collection around ordinary, everyday people, places, neighborhoods, relationships, and then taken them to strange, and at times very dark places. Often, it’s the matter-of-fact reactions, the unexpected ways the characters play off one another and interact, that are most disturbing.
Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? by Eric Powell and Harold Schechter
Albatross Funnybooks (August 2021)
224 pages; $26.99 hardcover; $25.64 e-book
Reviewed by Chad Lutzke
Why are so many of us fascinated by true crime, particularly when it comes to serial killers? While in the comfort of our homes, settled in a favorite chair and feeling content with a belly full of food, we make the oddest choices in the media we consume — subject matter that takes us out of our emotional comfort zone, like learning about people doing unimaginable things to other people.
We’re a strange breed.
After a man attempts a murder/suicide with his 13-year-old son, the boy survives, is orphaned, and goes through a heartbreaking journey into adulthood, where the meat of the book begins.
As an adult, Daniel Russel returns to his hometown, where he’s met with more puzzles than he has clues regarding his father and the town’s history, which ultimately leads to a DIY investigation with the help of one-time crush, Ronnie Candles, and a few unlikely locals.
The Neon Owl (Book I): When the Shit Hits the Van by Chad Lutzke
Independently Published (January 2020)
168 pages; $8.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie Hartmann
Showing up for a Chad Lutzke story is a resignation of emotional preservation. You come to engage with the words on the page with your heart fully exposed and a willingness to let Lutzke do as he wishes. More often than not, the book will end on a note that breaks your heartstrings and leaves the reader with a nasty bookish hangover.
The Neon Owl is a bit of a departure from the usual agreement and I loved it! This story manages to put a big grin on your face instead of streaking your cheeks with tears and I’m not mad about it.
Of the countles sub-genres of horror, body horror is one that I don’t often turn to. There’s just something too real, too personal about it. Sure, a madman wielding a weapon is scary, but you can (unless he’s teleporting Jason Voorhees) theoretically escape from that. You can’t, however, run from a horror that’s coming from within your very own bones, your blood. Author Chad Lutzke doesn’t have such reservations. As a matter of fact, he got into body horror as a kid, courtesy of the 1965 horror flick Curse of the Fly.
Chad Lutzke is a writer from Battle Creek, MI. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream. He is the author of dozens of short stories and books such as Of Foster Homes & Flies, Wallflower, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface Boy, The Same Deep Water As You, and The Pale White.
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.
In the 1800s, it’s easier to kill and get away with it—if that’s your thing. Walking into a saloon, collecting body parts, and leaving out the front door doesn’t exactly trigger sirens and a team of forensic scientists, but there’s always someone you’re likely to run into that’ll try and put a stop to your slaughtering ways.
Let’s skip the synopsis. The title and the cover say it all. And it was the cover that sold me.
Is the ’80s retro VHS/tattered book cover thing a dead horse? Not for me. I love nostalgia. I’m all about it. The ’70s, the ’80s. Anything that takes me back to carefree days, void of responsibility. Give me extra helpings please.
In 1990-1993 I was a skater girl groupie. I wore high-top Converse sneakers, ripped jeans, a flannel shirt tied around my waist and garage band tees. After school and on the weekends, the boys would skate and a few other girls and I would watch. They let us sit on their old boards and we would smoke weed or cigarettes and laugh when the boys ate it and cheer when they landed something.
We listened to The Dead Kennedys, NOFX, the Sex Pistols and the Pixies (theme song: “Where is My Mind”). So when I say that I could immediately relate to Chad Lutzke’s coming-of-age novella, The Same Deep Water As You, it is because I lived that lifestyle and in that same era.
Jonathan Janz’s name is everywhere lately. With Flame Tree Press sneaking up out of nowhere and snatching his back catalog, and his most recent effort The Siren and Specter making the rounds of Twitter feeds and Instagram posts alike, he’s hard to ignore. It was only a matter of time before I broke down and read my first Janz. The Nightmare Girl was the book that deflowered this Janz virgin.
Right up front, allow me to get past the part of the review where I’m forced to write something cliché—a statement proclaimed in reviews since the beginning of time. Well, since the beginning of Goodreads and Amazon at least:
This is my first by this author, and it won’t be my last.
I picked up this book for review at just the right time. Horror has bored me as of late. I’m seeing a lot of the same tropes. Blood here, blood there. Running from monsters, maniacal cannibals, and other dead horses. These things do nothing for me. They’re good on the screen when you’re in the mood for a body count, but in the written word, for me, it’s trudging through mud I’d rather have walked around. My eye starts to wander toward my small shelf of Nicholas Sparks and Louis L’Amour spines — none of which I’ve read, but have wondered if I’m missing a good time. I’m okay with losing horror points for that little confession. For me, there are no guilty pleasures. Just good books, good music, good movies.
Read enough horror, and you start feeling like you can predict where a book or story is going to go within a few pages or chapters. I’m not saying that all horror is predictable or formulaic; just that enough of it is that some reviewers (like me) might find themselves getting a little cocky after a few successful predictions. Then someone like Chad Lutzke comes along with a novella like Stirring the Sheets, and gleefully knocks you off your high horse.
Once in a while I’ll start a review with some poetic prose plucked from the pages to give the reader an idea of the skills the writer may possess. The Boulevard Monster has none of that. Instead, it’s a straightforward, entertaining story with a thrilling Koontz-ish vibe…and the best book I’ve read so far this year. There’s good reason it was nominated for a Stoker award. Hepler’s no-filler prose is designed to simply tell a story with no literary glitter, which makes perfect sense considering the protagonist.