Ginger Nuts of Horror
Well, this was an unexpected delight. ‘Of Foster Homes and Flies’ is one of those real treats that comes down the pipe and manages to get you all excited about reading again. Protagonist Denny Newman is a big part of why - a bright, lonely twelve year old with ambition and one hell of a tough situation.
I really fell for this kid. Lutzke absolutely nails the voice - the prose is simple and uncluttered, but the kid is bright enough to be able to communicate his situation clearly and well. There’s a lightness of touch in the writing and characterisation the belies the darkness of the tale itself, taking something that could have either been unbearably bleak, or worse, comically cynical, and instead weaving a tale of genuine tenderness and pathos. Denny’s journey, his quest, and his circumstances are utterly believable, and the tension in the story came very much from my concern for his safety.
Another bear trap with this kind of narrative is mawkish sentimentality. Lutzke deftly avoids this, again mainly through just how brilliantly he draws the lead character. Denny is enough of an adult to understand some of the dangers he’s facing, but still just enough of a child to have that suppleness of mind to not think too deeply about it, to find a way through.
And the whole thing is just beautiful. It’s a touching snapshot of small town blue collar childhood. The relationships Denny has ring utterly true, as do the characters. The book itself is as long as it needs to be and not one word longer, and again, praise is due to Lutzke for not trying to pad it out, instead wisely understanding this was the essence of the tale he wanted to tell.
It’s not spatterpunk, blow your brains out, adrenaline fueled whatever. But if you’re looking for note perfect characterisation, deep rooted realism, and a creeping sense of anxiety and dread, ‘Of Foster Homes and Flies’ is a must read. Excellent work.
When I am promised weird tales, I want weird tales...with this collection by Christopher Slatsky, I was given weird tales. Some of them really weird.
Opening with the beautifully bizarre, "Loveliness Like A Shadow," we are immediately immersed in a pool of unease and disorientation. A pool that we stew in until turning that final page of this collection. This story about a lonely woman haunted inwardly and outwardly, reminded me of Polanski's The Tenant. only in tone. "An Infestation Of Stars" mines some Lovecraftian ore with its theme of a girl and her family's research of an old cult and what follows. "Making Snakes" was a very odd exercise in bizarre and unsettling territory. In it, girls discuss an entity known as "The Powdery Man" who, I must admit, haunted me.
In the gorgeously titled, "The Ocean Is Eating Our Graves" we walk a tightrope between cosmic horror and sea monster tale. It's enough of both to warm the dark hearts of horror lovers but possesses enough character to appease those who want a sliver more. "This Fragmented Body" is the disturbing story of a man and his doll. "Tellurian Facade" concerns an inheritance and the horror that goes with it. "Film Maudit" is the story of a horror film nut, the kind who lives for that obscure film that no one has seen. He gets his wish and the consequences are devilish. this tale was ripe with a Clive Barkeresque quality and was one of my favorites in the collection. The stories I chose not to point out are no less brazen in their off-kilter images and themes.
Honestly, I am running out of ways to sum this book up. Weird is overused but goddamned if it isn't applicable here. These tales are strange-weird-whatever other terms you can dredge up with your Thesaurus. But they are also pretty good. Many have images that will linger behind your eyes for a while.
Alectrymancer and Other Weird Tales is available though Dunhams Manor Press.