Advertisement

Book Review: ‘Voices After Evelyn’ by Rick Harsch


Voices After Evelyn

Rick Harsch — Maintenance Ends Press

In 1953, La Crosse, Wisconsin underwent a traumatic cultural upheaval as the disappearance of local teenager, Evelyn Hartley, led to grief, suspicion and social unrest, en masse. Former La Crosse resident and Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Rick Harsh has turned that chaotic moment in small-town history into the speculative mystery novel Voices After Evelyn. Harsh gives voice to those locals who encountered Hartley in the years, weeks and days before her disappearance, across a series of fictionalized interviews — and, in doing so, reveals the seemingly pleasant town’s rotten, Lynchian underbelly one insightful and often upsetting conversation at a time.

There is a pulpy, noir-ish quality to Voices After Evelyn, due in no small part to the inclusion of characters with names like Mitzie Skumsrud and Judge Hamilton Swiggum. In fact, at times the prose is so thick with snappy, almost combative, banter that Harsh seems to verge on parodying the dialogue of some of the mystery genre’s most famous authors, especially Mickey Spillane.

Unlike a Mike Hammer novel, however, Voices After Evelyn isn’t confined to gritty reality. Harsch is more than willing to venture into the rarer air of magical realism in order to keep exploring Evelyn. The inclusion of a Greek chorus and the Vampire of Dusseldorf himself, Peter Kurten, do the respective heavy lifting of omnisciently tracking Evelyn toward her fate and commenting on the dispassionate nature of true evil, even during acts of savage violence.

Images from ’53 Lines,’ Julie Russell-Steuart’s accompanying art book for ‘Voices After Evelyn.

In a bold, genre-defying move, Harsch collaborated with visual artist Julia Russell-Steuart to incorporate brief excerpts of Voices After Evelyn into a gorgeous and equally mysterious paper construct called a flexagon. The six-paneled 53 Lines bends, folds and reforms to reveal layers of previously hidden images and quotations from Voices After Evelyn. Russell-Steuart’s piece serves as a perfect tactile companion to the novel, adding depth to an already gripping story and finding real beauty in the face of something so awful and ugly as the disappearance of Evelyn Hartley.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 265.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene

STRENGTHEN
GROW•EVOLVE

Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.

Advertisement

Wed, Oct. 23, 2019

Hilton Garden Inn Iowa City Downtown University at 7:15 a.m. (program starts at 7:30 a.m.)

Keynote address by Dr. Melissa Shivers
Vice President for Student Life
University of Iowa

Buy Ticketes

(No tickets sold at the door)

2019 Award Honorees

Jesse Case
Elizabeth Bernal
Angie Jordan (South District Neighborhood Association)
Inside Out Reentry
Matthew Farrey
Kevin Sanders

Advertisement

VOTER’S GUIDE for the 2019 Johnson County Elections

Mark your calendar! Local elections for City Council and School Board on November 5, 2019. Polls are open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.