Out behind The Barn is my first encounter with Boden and Lutzke and what an encounter it was, a tale that is dripping with sorrow, hope and brotherhood / sonship with a side portion of loneliness. The book is short coming in at just 100 pages but sometimes as the old adage says ‘the best things come in small packages‘ and that is right when it comes to this book.
Out Behind The Barn is layered with some beautiful poetic prose that showcases the remarkable talents of these two writers and helps to make the tragedy in this touching and haunting story strike home like a rattlesnake bite. This is horror, but like nothing you’ve read before. The conventions are there; creepy farm, even creepier barn, strange old woman and secrets that are uttered as to not be overheard. But it’s the delicate prose and the stunning way that these lives are rendered with beautiful imagery and a sense of place that bring this tale to the fore.
‘Talk gave way to heavy lids and tired tongues, and sleep came while the night was a quiet quilt stitched together by the old woman’s singing, the crickets, and the dull hum of the barn lights.’
Boden and Lutzke have many tools at their disposal here and one of them is the setting, this place, this barn, in the backend of nowhere, the dust, the bugs, the crops, everything about this place is put across in astonishing clarity; and given how short the book is, you get a real sense of place for this tragic tale. I also enjoyed how Boden and Lutzke drip feed small pieces of information into their prose (akin to a beat in a film) which then have the reader picking up on these little tidbits of information and longing to know more, developing an unquenchable thirst to find out more.
“Dirt is the closest thing to a womb that a person can hope for…”
Our story centres around two young protagonists Davey and Ronny and we have the secondary character of Miss Maggie. The boys are sleeping one night when Miss Maggie comes home in the pickup truck, she parks in front of the barn and the boys watch her reach in and pull out a long bundle. Miss Maggie takes the bundle towards the barn and the light cast reveals an arm fall from the canvas-wrapped parcel. This isn’t a spoiler, it’s on the back of the book – so breathe easy, I’ve not ruined anything for you.
The tension in this opening scene is palpable and what we are about to discover; this ritual, this thing that happens in the barn is going to drive us through the story. It is our beginning, our middle, and our end.
You can tell that Boden and Lutzke love their horror and it’s always a winner for me when books talk about books and this one is on fire with references – we have Poe, Shelley and Bradbury making appearances and with a climatic scene that incorporates the best from all of these major talents you have a book that packs one hell of a gut punch as you read the final pages.
I particularly enjoyed the budding relationship of Davey and Miss Rose (a secondary character that pops up early in the book) there was an innocent adolescent infatuation here that I felt Lutzke and Boden nailed, it’s sweet whilst also being awkward, just another part of the book that for me was totally believable and well executed.
For me personally I felt that the twist (if we should call it that) of the book could have been hidden a little longer, the characters pretty much speak this reveal into being (quite early on), but I’d already guessed this a lot earlier in the piece (and seeing as the book is only 100 pages long, it came quite soon); but if this had of been kept back, the little drip feeding of information pulled back on – I feel that the reveal would have been earth shattering to readers. I also found some issue with the pacing of the piece, sometimes it lagged and a few pages went past without anything actually happening – but was this foreboding dread, who knows, but for me it just needed a little more pace injected at times.
But after reading the author notes at the back I realised that this was originally a short story and expanded into a novella – so maybe this is why the pacing of the reveal seemed to come too soon, nevertheless, I bloody loved it.
Dealing with themes of loneliness, sonship, fatherhood and told with such a poetic style of prose that make the horror beautiful ‘Out Behind The Barn‘ is a book that you need to discover and two authors who need to be on your TBR list. A touching and haunting tale of love, hope and obsession that showcases how the power to love is sometimes stronger than the pull of the grave.
Out Behind The Barn is published by Shadow Work Publishing and is available here.
John Boden lives a stones throw from Three Mile Island with his wonderful wife and sons. A baker by day, he spends his off time writing or watching old television shows. He likes Diet Pepsi and sports ferocious sideburns. He’s a pretty nice guy. His work has appeared in Borderlands 6, Shock Totem, Splatterpunk, Lamplight, Blight Digest, the John Skipp edited Psychos and others. His not-really-for-children children’s book, DOMINOES has been called a pretty cool thing. His other books, JEDI SUMMER WITH THE MAGNETIC KID and DETRITUS IN LOVE are out and about. He has a slew of things on the horizon.
Chad lives in Battle Creek, MI. with his wife, children. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. His fiction can be found in a few dozen magazines and anthologies. In the summer of 2016 he released his dark coming-of-age novella OF FOSTER HOMES AND FLIES which has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, James Newman, and many others. The release of FLIES began a trend of heartfelt, yet dark, novellas with WALLFLOWER, STIRRING THE SHEETS, and his most recent, SKULLFACE BOY. Chad can be found lurking the Internet at http://www.chadlutzke.com.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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