Chris Walter probably doesn’t even care about reviews. He’s been writing for so long and through so many difficulties that things like a bad review probably just cause him to get another tattoo or write ten more stories. Thankfully, I have nothing but good things to say about Mr. Walter and his book, Shouts from the Gutter. This two-hundred plus page book has a myriad of short stories, some fiction, some taken straight from Walter’s life. There are short poems interspersed throughout the book, but the primary draw is the stories. Having lived a lot of his life on the streets around Vancouver, British Columbia, Chris no doubt uses things he’s seen with his own two eyes to fuel the tales he weaves. Many of these stories involve drug users, homeless people, punk kids, and broken relationships of all kinds. The gritty side of Vancouver is shown, warts and all. And yet there are moments of disconnect from that scene where the author weaves stories about clowns who are hunted in the Amazon in order to be used at circuses and a guy who writes companies to tell them how much he likes their products. The story about the guy who admired Henry Rollins and Rollins-era Black Flag had me smiling because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or been a part of the conversation regarding which Black Flag period was the best. However, the best tales Chris Walter tells are the ones that are his own first-hand experiences. Reading his own tales of poor ghetto life near the drug houses in Vancouver make for inspiring, entranced reading. Knowing that a particular story is straight from the author’s life draws upon a different set of emotions than reading a fictional yarn.
Primarily, though, it’s the street urchins that come out to be seen in Walter’s tales, coughing and hacking and bleeding all the way. There’s no doubt that the people in his tales are the dregs of society. With characters who are hooked on drugs, foraging food out of dumpsters and constantly ill, Walter speaks from a position of knowing what is what and tells these stories in a way that most would not. While his writing doesn’t have the refined elegance that might whip up a huge dramatic picture, it’s not necessarily what is needed for this type of material. Gritty environments need gritty writing to tell their story. Besides, there are not a whole lot of people telling the tales of the street people, the drug addicted (at least in a way that’s not romanticized), the homeless, etc. If someone is going to share with us what life is like on the street, why not a tattooed, former junkie who scrapes together whatever cash he can get to put out his own books? –Kurt Morris (GFY Press, #34-2320 Woodland Dr., Vancouver, BC, V5N 3P2, www.punkbooks.com)