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He Stepped Through / Nate Southard

Bloodletting Press / April 2010
Reviewed by: Blu Gilliand

Nate Southard claims the FX cop drama The Shield as a major influence on He Stepped Through, his new chapbook from Bloodletting Press, and the first few pages do feel like they’re ripped from the script of that show. A couple of gangbangers gear up and head down to a local restaurant, and they’re not stopping in for fries and a Coke — they’ve got trouble on their mind. Trouble that’s outside the realm of the normal shenanigans they might get up to — trouble triggered by a cryptic line they repeat to one another: “He stepped through.”

Four pages in and blood and brains are pooling on the floor, and Southard absolutely does not let up for the rest of this short but intense tale. When two cops arrive on the scene, they’re more concerned about whether the troublemakers are their own inside guys than the fact that civilians are in danger. But once they are confronted with a scene far more horrific than anything they’ve ever experienced, they realize – as do we, the readers – that the usual cops-n-robbers drama is taking a backseat to something far worse.

Southard introduces a few new characters after this initial bloodbath, people operating on both sides of the badge. The pace is so quick and the page count so short that we don’t really get more than a sketch of the characters, but in this case that’s okay. Everything moves forward in a real-time march toward the madness that is spreading throughout the back alleys of Los Angeles. As the cops race to gain control of the spiraling situation, they discover that someone is planning to take the simmering violence and bad blood that fuels the area’s gang culture and turn it all the way up to boil — and the means they are using to do so is far beyond the boundaries of what they can handle.

Southard introduces some very Lovecraftian ideas into his realistically-drawn portrayal of a city teetering on the edge of gang warfare, and does so with a steady enough hand that he doesn’t upset the whole works. It’s a risky move, but it pays off, even if the explanation of how this supernatural influence has been brought in feels a bit rushed.  Southard writes dialogue that rings true for both the cops and the bangers without veering into the territory of the cliché, and he drops clues to the true nature of what’s going on in all the right places.

This is a story meant to be devoured in one gulp, and it’s a thoroughly entertaining diversion.  Quick, violent, and downright disturbing, it’s another success story for both Southard and Bloodletting Press.

Purchase He Stepped Through by Nate Southard.

Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 09:55AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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