The Beautiful Dead End review by W.P. Kinsella

Books in Canada, October 2002
Review by W.P. Kinsella

What a pleasure it is to ready a novel that is highly original, clearly written and full of memorable situations and observations. The Beautiful Dead End, by Clint Hutzulak, in its first pages appears to be just another novel about lowlifes. Stace, a drunk, a druggie, and a murderer has an encounter in a parking lot, on a cold prairie evening, with a prostitute named Tanya who just happens to be taking reading lessons from his ex-girlfriend, Lillis Rae.

Stace has been away for a number of years and desperately wants to see Lillis Rae again. They go back to Tanya's motel room where Stace injects something evil and appears to die. No loss to anyone. Tanya and a friend, Wes, decide to get rid of the body. I was getting my lecture ready about drunks and druggies only being interesting to other drunks and druggies when suddenly, on page 40 something extraordinarily audacious, and truly imaginative happens. I'm not going to tell you what it is for it would spoil the surprise. What happens to Stace over the next 48 hours is part Twilight Zone, part ghost story, part a glimpse into hell. Mark Jarman has accurately described the story as "barbed wire noir." The language is clipped and precise, easy to read, full of frightening images — a family of smallpox victims stand watch over the valley where they once lived, "The faces of all four covered in large open sores." The cover is thoroughly unattractive and will not cause readers to pick up the book, there is also no reason for make comprehension difficult, the use of quotation marks would have simplified the problems with what is spoken and what is not. Still, this is an astonishing debut, powerful, scary, sexual, existential in scope. Hutzulak is a writer to watch, and possibly to fear.