Includes “Expectations of the Needy” Winner of the Fiction International Emerging Writers Competition, nominated for the Pushcart Prize
Collected fiction, Afterbirth Books, 2005
This collection highlights dark surrealism at its most experimental and absurd depths. The texts are perception-altering and soul-poisoning, humorous in the way that accidental amputation and spontaneous combustion are. From the man who works at the foot fungus factory to the man who lives in a giant rectum, Pocket Full of Loose Razorblades will leave you wondering where you misplaced your sanity.
Out of print!
What they’re saying about Pocket Full of Loose Razorblades:
“Any time spent reading Lawson is time well spent. The tone of each story, if you feel comfortable generalizing these premonitions of what an apocalypse in hell would probably be like as stories, are an experience unto themselves. Lawson’s writing really does transport the reader to a different place; that place being a different state of mind….this collection of diamond bullets is for people that like to read. People that like to be challenged and enjoy being misled and confused and surprised and aroused and abused. It’s for people that enjoy the writing of William Burroughs and Donald Barthelme and J. G. Ballard and Clive Barker that have already read all of that and are looking for something new and challenging.”
“John Edward Lawson is probably a perfectly nice, balanced, reasonable guy who just happens to write hilariously soul-diseased paranoid horror fantasies like Ray Bradbury and Walter Tevis crossed with William Burroughs. Maybe the incubus of grotesquely irreverent creativity just happens to follow him around on his ordinary way and temporarily possess him to erupt with magnetic stories of anguished interiorised demon legions shrieking to get out of the tortured heads of his very badly disturbed characters. Maybe he’s the Nicest Guy on Earth who is only pretending to be a badder kind of brain-raping butcher boy than Shaun Hutson or James Herbert? Maybe, but if I ever see him crossing my street I’m digging myself a premature grave and staying there. JEL is the psycho motormouth from Hell; his characters terminally zonked out on sizzling psychological and psychic torment that is as mega-foul and macro-funny as his inventive twists of logic in their brain-clasmic adventures. It isn’t easy to transfer the inner free-association mental ranting that most people experience under prolonged stress or exhaustion, but JEL does a brilliant job of taking us into a disrupted and disintegrating mind to explore their reality, and using this to provoke heartfelt vicious and really fun satire of the stupidities, indignity and grinding fakeness of the workaday world. JEL attacks the soulless and mindless with characters who might themselves be zombies or half-human poltergeists, but we really see through their eyes and feel their explosive worlds with them. ‘Less than Lickable’ and ‘Why We Don’t Do It In The Road’ are both really effective and scarily funny stories about how far fantasy can go before spilling disastrously into reality, ‘Consumable Leftovers’ a real cringer in the best sense about an intelligent rectal parasite with human memories, ‘Mouthful of Dust’ a great picture of the alpha male’s vamp-demon castration phobia made real and my personal favourite ‘When We Wore Underwear’ which is about the ultimate adult nightmare: the local ice cream truck, a purveyor of evil, contamination and obesity in already greedy, monstrous mutated children. Clearly at some drug-crazed period of his life JEL has been haunted, like me, by an ice cream-mobile resolutely churning out clunky-tinny perversions of ‘Dr Zhivago’ and ‘The Godfather’ and assorted other movie theme tunes and following him around just out of sight; waiting to pounce on unwary younglings. I identify with his primal scream completely. JEL loves his movies too and cleverly works the full canon of horror videos and obscure European lesbo-trash into parallel with his scenarios, giving a knowing nudge to the reader every now and then to let you know he is exactly in control before rounding off with a shock ending or smash-your-head satirical twist. His stories end often so unexpectedly or with just the right ironic kill-point that I laughed out loud many times. Or grossed out. Or both. ‘APOLR’ is all short stories, about half of them previously published in various magazines and I hope he is working on a novel to bring his twisted imagination to the full scope of cranium-crunching possibility that these ultra-freakout stories promise. Skullfuck me again JEL – I love it!”
“Bizarro author John Edward Lawson’s first short fiction collection is a messy affair. Messy in the pulsing, spurting, purple toxic sludge pit kind of way. Messy like those moments when Cronenberg decides to show you wet things writhing. For those jumping into this collection, invest in some wet-naps; you’re going to feel dirty by the end of the affair.
Lawson’s tales here, many of which are experimental in a way that defies standard storytelling, are uniformly strange. For example, the best story of the batch, ‘Consumable Leftovers,’ involves a man who leaves behind his cubicle life for the wilderness. What starts as an entertaining attack on modern culture takes a grotesque (or is it just gross?) turn when the narrator finds himself encamped in the warm and fruitful bowels of a giant. I’m not kidding. But Lawson manages to take what could have been a juvenile exercise in ass humor and turns it into a funny and entertaining metaphorical rumination.
Other stories of note are “Fabricating Opiates” in which three characters roam a labyrinthine house and are forced by old men to remove garments for reasons unknown, and “A Blight in the Darkness” about Urban Decay Specialists working in a corroding future to make sure the world continues to fall to bits. And the author has an obsession with ice cream trucks that can only be described as “unhealthy.”
Not every strange bird in this collection takes flight (as in sections 2-4 of “Less Than Lickable,” a lengthy piece about the obsessions of a mentally ill man) but when Lawson’s firing on all synapses he’s got a gift for the surreal that makes you follow him into the weirdest, wettest places with a smile on your face. And for those looking for an escape from werewolves, serial killers, and vampires, Pocket Full of Loose Razorblades offers a nice vacation—as long as you don’t mind venturing into a gigantic bowel now and then.”
“This collection is an excellent introduction to the work of John Lawson. His stories conjure up worlds that are like cover songs of our reality, where the original version is recognizable, but its absurdism, grotesqueness, humor, and refusal to adhere to the laws of physics make it into something entirely different. There was this feeling that I kept getting as I read this book, something difficult to communicate without sounding a little silly: something alien-like and gooey, like I was spending time in a radically different headspace.
My favorite story in the book was ‘Less Than Lickable,’ which is novella-length. This one is a little different from the rest. Instead of using a world of the bizarre, Lawson chooses to use a more familiar setting while sucking up all the strangeness of his other stories into the body of the mentally unbalanced protagonist, who manipulates his environment in many amusing ways.”
“The thing that surprised me most about Pocket Full of Loose Razorblades was not its quality, but its intensity. The absurd, obscene images and scenarios that make these stories so original do not in any way distract from their intelligence and emotion. No matter how bizarre, Lawson writes with a deadly seriousness appropriate only to the book’s title.”
“Knowing that John Edward Lawson is loose in the world not only makes me nervous, but whips me into a hot lather as well. His characters are hopelessly ensnarled in a world they never made…so they remake it in their own twisted images. If you like fiction that gropes into your psyche and rearranges the chromosomes, then this is for you. If you’re into Jane Smiley and her ilk, you better go somewhere else”.
“Once again, John Lawson takes a jackhammer to the crotch of mainstream fiction. This collection of beautifully-crafted stories is more disturbing than a wet fart in a crowded elevator, and prettier than a whore three weeks dead. His razorblade candy will render you a godless gibbering heathen, and you’ll enjoy every last minute of it.”