Review by Shawn Conner
"Noir doesn't get much bleaker than in Clint Hutzulak's first novel, The Beautiful Dead End. Without giving too much away, the story involves a murder, some twisted sex scenes, and a protagonist named Stace who, no matter what, probably won't be walking away with the money and the girl at the end. In the tradition of James M. Cain and Jim Thompson, the prose is tough as a two-dollar hooker in a rainstorm. Characters speak in flat, rueful tones, as Stace's new, mysterious acquaintance Emmett does when giving a reason for killing himself: "When you know why it is that people don't kill themselves, why they keep on, you'll also know how it is they can kill themselves." Likewise, Hutzulak's mournful descriptions — a "road holding murky bowls of sky in its potholes" and "a drowned face like sorrow surfacing" —aren't likely to be plundered by Hallmark any time soon. But out of that bitter soil grows a black humour of the sort that leads one character to tell two others who are already dead, "Try not to kill each other."
This short (200 pages), sparely written novel takes a number of sharp turns on its way to a resolution that, while not wholly satisfying, leaves the reader in just the kind of limbo its protagonist faces. If you think of two movies, Memento and Mulholland Drive, both released in the months prior to the novel's publication, that also turn noir convention on its head, you'll have a pretty good idea of the kind of company to be found in The Beautiful Dead End.”