Imagine combining the black humor of Irvine Welsh and the gritty realism of James Ellroy in an unleavened form, and you’d have something like DUTCH. More of a novella than a novel, DUTCH is the story of Zak, a wanderlust-infused 18-year old who has been raised by his older brother after his parents died in a car crash. Confused, despairing, and in the midst of developing a nasty cocaine habit, Zak goes to Hong Kong to confront his pain head-on. As he gradually relives the beautifully visceral experiences of his life, including a nearly fatal encounter with a collapsing glass roof of a greenhouse and a soul-inspiring visit to a botanical garden, Zak’s tour through hell is equally horrifying and mesmerizing.
Although DUTCH is not a masterpiece, the spare, clean language and unsentimental yet resonant approach to the material makes it a gripping read. Most importantly, the characters feel real from the first page. No word is wasted in setting up character relationships; observations are vivid and memorable. “Across the port, giant skyscrapers sleep on their feet,” reads one casual observation, while Zak’s mother in her final moments is described as “smiling back at us. Offering reassurance. Even in death, she tried to protect.” While the introductory text and some sections are in danger of tumbling into purple prose territory, the overall tone and style of the book is immediately engaging. Jamie Christian Desplaces has talent and an unrelenting narrative thrust that makes the ugliness and the beauty of what follows intensely engaging.
Though a promising work from a talented new writer; DUTCH’S uncensored drug use and its grisly side effects will not be to everyone’s taste, but the pure force of the text demands respect and one hope that the author will continue to refine and practice his craft.
Reviewed by Julia Lai for IndieReader.