Skullface Boy: Chad Lutzke (Kendall Review)

Skullface Boy: Chad Lutzke

Reviewed by Brian Bogart

Look at that cover. That would fit perfectly on my Trapper Keeper folders when I was in school.

My name is Levi. I’m 16. I’ve got a skull for a face. And here’s how shit went down.”

That, my friends, is the opening we are greeted with. I immediately thought of Joe Lansdale when I read that. There is just something about the simplicity of it, the bold honesty. Him being a fan of Lansdale (who the hell isn’t?) I wonder if that crossed his mind when writing it. Even if not, one thing is for sure: it got my attention.

Levi packs up his empty bag and sets off on a trek to Hermosa Beach. While his life in Gramm Jones Foster Care Facility is all he has ever known, hints of someone with his same facial uniqueness spurs him to seek out this person, who he believes to be his father. I mean- a skull face? Pretty much has to be, right?

Do not let the simplicity of this story fool you, though. Chad’s writing flows easily, with smooth transitions from scene to scene that read almost like heartfelt and earnest journal entries of his misadventures.

Along the way, he meets a cast of characters culled from the ugliness and beauty the world can offer a young hitch-hiker. Some are crazy, some just trying to get by. Levi weaves his way into and out of their lives as needed, his words or actions effecting them in different ways. It is this approach that really shines with his writing- it isn’t overly wrought with flowery descriptions or deep musings about human existence. Oh, that stuff is there, beneath the surface. As a writer, he is fully in Levi’s head but he doesn’t feel the need to bombard the reader with an essay about it. Sometimes, that can actually pull you out of a story when overdone. You empathise with Levi easily because of that approach and are along for the ride.

I found that refreshing. In a world where books often devolve into jarringly verbose character studies- and let’s face it, some books only work BECAUSE of that kind of writing- Chad’s style and Levi’s adventure brought to my mind Huck Finn a bit. If you had told me that I would say that after reading the first few lines, I would have laughed. But, there. I said it. Glancing at another review online- I wasn’t the only one.

All in all, this is a very unique tale told smoothly, making you actually care for the main character. You care that he makes it to his destination in one piece. The flow from beginning to end never waivers and moves you right along. When the waves of the beach are in sight, you sincerely hope that things don’t go south.

I will definitely have to read more from this author. Reading his interviews, he seems like one of those authors you’d blast some good music and share a beer with. Some of that is credited to writing a very sincere coming-of-age tale of a boy with a skull for a face. The author can write a young character effectively. A bone white skull with a heart of gold.

It may not be “horror” exactly and might not be for every horror reader- but I’ll be damned if it didn’t pull some heartstrings out of nowhere. I may dream darkly and revel in shadows tempered with snark- but a good story is a good story, damn it. And guess what?

Chad Lutzke has written a damn fine one.

Star Rating (out of 5): 4*

KR: You can read the Kendall Reviews interview with Chad here

“My name is Levi. I’m 16. I’ve got a skull for a face. And here’s how shit went down.” 

Having never been outside the walls of Gramm Jones Foster Care Facility, sixteen-year-old Levi leaves in the middle of the night with an empty backpack and a newfound lust for life. A journey that leads him into the arms of delusional newlyweds, drunkards, polygamists, the dangerous, and the batshit crazy. His destination? Hermosa Beach, California where he’s told there is another like him, with the face of a skull.

A coming-of-age road trip filled with surreal Lynch-ian encounters exploring the dark, the disturbing, and the lonely in a 1980s world—an epic venture for one disfigured boy struggling to find his place in the world.

You can buy Skullface Boy from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Brian Bogart

Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.

Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.

You can follow Brian on Twitter @DreamsDarkly

To find out more about Brian please visit his WattPad page DreamsDarklyWattpad

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