Slow Burn on Riverside is a beautiful little book that is set in the same universe as The Same Deep Water As You (it’s in fact a prequel) which Chad himself said can be enjoyed as a standalone and reading it this way round you will also get to see character development and a fuller picture of what he delivers in this offering and how it relates to The Same Deep Water As You.
Chad Lutzke is one of those writers that I enjoy spending time with, it’s a comfort to read his words, if I want to get re-energised about my own writing I disappear into one of his books and the worlds that he masterfully creates and spend some time with the characters that he populates his stories with.
Slow Burn On Riverside is a sprawling story about life, love, drugs and finding your way – our main protagonist and our secondary characters are all around the age of eighteen, they’ve left the family home and are trying to find themselves, whether that’s in hedonism, freedom, sex, jobs and all the other stuff that goes with being eighteen and trying to stand up under the weight of the world, fighting gravity and the pull of the grave with each day.
‘I don’t care who you are, every one of us has fought not to be alone. And when I say alone, I don’t mean that introvertive comfort some of us enjoy. I’m talking about those moments where you-verses-the-world has lost its adventurous appeal, and you’ve got no one to share good news with, no one to hold.’
The cast of characters that Lutzke has at his disposal in this offering are stunning, each one I wanted to know more about (however fleetingly they stay in the stories headlights) – we have Damien, Elliot, Bobby (who is obsessed with self-sabotage), Nicole (girlfriend), Sarah (a cougar of a landlady) and Jex our main protagonist.
What Lutzke is able to do here is channel that feeling of freedom so well, that feeling of being eighteen and free to make your own choices, however bad and destructive they may be, he’s nailed that period of time where your young and feel invincible, until your not, and where you don’t want to grow up and become carbon copies of what society begs us to be.
Jex is one such character, he’s just trying to find his way, he’s a broken young man sifting his way through life’s wreckage, pawing over the shards of self reflection, hoping to find the sharp pieces that will make him whole again however painful it may be.
What I love about Lutzke’s work is that the horror is so subtle, but when it drops it hits hard. I’d liken it to being stamped in a mosh pit, you’re bruised and battered, you take stamps to the chest that leave you breathless, your head rings like you’ve taken a boot or a closed fist to the face and you barely crawl out of the book alive, but you remember the time you had the life stamped out of you, that shit doesn’t go away when you close the book. But, the horror, the unease that wriggles through the prose is just done so well, so subtly, a phrase here, a short scene there and you’re just left staring at the pages like ‘what the hell just happened?’
The tone of this book reminded me of some of my favourite writers, it had elements of them all and I just bloody loved it, we have the brilliance of Bukowski (Women), Dan Fante (Chump Change) and Hubert Selby Jr. (Requiem for a Dream) – it’s a testament to how great a writer Lutzke is that these are the writers that spring to mind when reading this book, it’s Jex and his exploits and voice that really drive these comparisons home, he reminded me of Bukowski’s fictional character Henry Chinaski… Slow Burn On Riverside is just bloody brilliant and you need to pick it up.
There are two scenes in particular that just destroyed me, I won’t go into them in too much detail as you need to read them and be moved like I was, but all I’ll say is Fire Pit and Video Tapes – damn, when those dropped I was about to throw my Kindle across the room, not in disgust or shock, but more at how brilliant Lutzke is, how masterful his work is and I just wanted to be able to stand up and applaud him.
‘I needed to be done with her, but something held us together. A thin membrane of dying skin, stretched and ready to snap. One of us needed to slice it.’
Again with Lutzke his words are like a tonic, there is prose magic all the way through this story, I’ve highlighted so much in my Kindle it looks like my assignments from school, all red lines on every page, because this man has a way with words that is unmatched by every author I’ve ever read – one turn of phrase can be so good that I linger on those words, on the construction of them for far too long, I repeat them in my head and then speak them out loud like a mantra – I long to be this good a writer!
Slow Burn on Riverside is utterly brilliant.
Slow Burn on Riverside
is available here
Chad has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. He’s had dozens of short stories published, and some of his books include: OF FOSTER HOMES & FLIES, STIRRING THE SHEETS, SKULLFACE BOY, THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU, THE PALE WHITE, THE NEON OWL and OUT BEHIND THE BARN co-written with John Boden. Lutzke’s work has been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, Richard Chizmar, Joe Lansdale, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Massie and his own mother.
He can be found lurking the internet at www.chadlutzke.com
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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