Offbeat Magazine, July/August 2002 edition
Review by Rob Pingle
Grit and Grace
I fell into this book by finding a bookmark for it at the Lucky Bar, and what intrigued me was that a soundtrack recording would soon be available. I visited his web page and found out that the CD wasn't going to be an audio book, but actual music to accompany the reading of the story. Well, this completely piqued my interest and I had to find a copy. When I got my hands on the actual book I dove right in and found a story well-suited for a soundtrack because the images and words produced were as vivid as a movie in my mind.
This is a tale of death. The story opens on a Friday night as our protagonist, Stace, comes back to town after a long time away. He has returned to reconcile with his ex-wife. Stace is not what most would consider to be a good man, as he contemplates his level of drunkeness and asks Tanya, a friend of his ex-wife who has scored him some drugs, to sleep with him.... So when he dies it would not be that much of a shock or disappointment — except that this happens on page twelve.
This is not the end of Stace's tale, though, as Clint Hutzulak takes us into the afterworld. When someone dies in Clint's afterworld they do not disappear or go to heaven or hell but rather to a lodge where they wait to be found. Stace is escorted to the lodge by Emmett, who will guide him through his days on the other side. Emmett is an attendant at the lodge and will never go anywhere else as he committed suicide. "All the dead here are waiting for their deaths to be discovered by the one who matters most to them... Some of the dead have no one; we've got some that go back more than a century. The oldest on record is a cartographer who travelled with an early mapping expedition from back east. Our archives aren't complete, but it seems they fade away, get transferred, after about a hundred fifty years, whether they're found or not. We don't know why... We do not know where the dead go when they leave here... You pass through here and all we have left are these photographs, these reports. We guide you as far as we can, but there is a point at which we can help no further." With this knowledge Stace resigns himself to the task he originally came back home to perform: redemption.
Upon finishing the book I found it much easier to understand the title The Beautiful Dead End, as through the story Clint Hutzulak writes with grit and grace, finding poetic beauty in his decrepit characters. Clint's writing contains such lyrical clarity that I found it hard to put his book down. The images he brought up still float in my mind as I write this.
Rob Pingle is a contributor to Offbeat Magazine.
Copyright 2002 by Rob Pingle