"The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Three First Names

Written by Lee Allen Howard
2019, 246 pages, Fiction
Released on 1st May, 2019


If you’re easily offended and pick up a book with the subheading Journal of a Budding Psychopath then you have made a big mistake. Lee Allen Howard’s The Bedwetter has very few filters and after spending 250 pages inside the head of Russell Pisarek, you’ll desperately want a hot shower to wash his stench of his urine from your skin. Most 26-year-olds who pissed the bed would probably prefer to keep the fact hidden under their hat, but as we’re listening to Russell’s internal monologue, we’re privy to his inner-most thoughts, warts and all, many of which are deeply unpleasant. Others are very amusing, but much will depend upon where your personal line in the sand, regarding taste, lies.

The opening erotic (and I use the term very loosely) dream sequence is probably the nastiest, so if you can get past this then you might last the pace. Even though it’s decidedly unsavoury, it does have a sick sense of humour laced into the undercurrents. Bedwetter opens with a woman being tortured by having electric hair clippers jammed into the most personal of areas and when the clippers are switched on, a man then urinates on her. When the piss hits the electric trimmer, everything goes mental and she catches fire and is electrocuted. But don’t worry, it’s only a dream. However, our hero Russell Pisarek wishes it wasn’t.

In the midst of the dream Russell awakens seriously aroused and realised he has wet the bed. This often happens around 3am, which he names “the pissing hour”. Soaked in urine he comforts himself by shrouding himself in a homemade rug made of cat skins and we quickly realise Russell has a lot of issues. There is nothing subtle about Bedwetter and it is very easy to predict where everything is heading, with the book focusing upon his unpleasant escalations. This journey in bad taste will not be what everyone wants to read, especially when his inner thoughts begins to grate with the repetition of phrases such as “LOLz”.

Russell lives with his slightly younger sister Becky and her son Aiden, who is the only character in the book Russell has a positive relationship with. Early in the novel, Becky announces her boyfriend will be moving in and Russell has to relocate to the damp basement so Aiden can take over his room.  Becky and Russell have a fractured relationship and she does not trust him, eventually she decides to buy a property with her partner, leaving Russell in the lurch and potentially homeless.

As the title indicates, he is “a budding psychopath”, but he also comes across as a walking A-Z cliché, ticking all the problem boxes and loaded with every issue under the sun.  These include in no particular order: conflict with his estranged mother due to childhood abuse, he enjoys killing small animals, buys knives, loves violent computer games, he bullies random people on buses, has issues with drugs and was a high school dropout who lied to land a job in an animal research centre in Pittsburgh. There are also lots of none-too-subtle hints about dealings with social workers, random thefts, dodgy treatment of women and drug dealing. Russell is top-heavy with residual anger and it is little wonder he is single.

Some of this anger is justified and is directed in particular at his mother. When he was a baby he had a damaged testicle and the negligence of his mother led to irreparable damage and life-long pain. When he was a boy, and he pissed his bed and as a punishment his mother shaved his head. As an adult this led to him an obsession with shaving women; everywhere, even if they’re up for it or not. As I said, there is no surprise this dude is single.  This shaving fetish becomes a key element of the novel, when he isn’t talking about masturbation, that is.

As Russell works in a science facility which experiments on animals, this allows him plenty of opportunity to continue his random acts of cruelty and he proudly proclaims, “You could say animals have paved the way to greater things for me”. His level of openness is both shocking and at times oddly enlightening; he happily chats freely about wetting the bed, which does eventually became repetitive, although talk of the “Mythical Piss Fairy” is really funny. A number of the non-PC situations he finds himself in are also very amusing; he uses Craigslist to try and find a new flatmate but is scared he’ll end up with a “carpetmucher” and requests photos of potential lodgers before his listing is removed for being sexist! He, of course, is outraged by the removal and sees nothing wrong with it.

Bedwetter certainly has its moments and although the ending is wild, it holds little in the way of surprises. Russell is a nasty character, but a small part of me still has some sympathies for his predicament and the long-term reasons. I mentioned earlier that this novel lacks subtleties and the reader is repeatedly hammered over the head with situations top heavy with bad taste; an interesting comparison would be The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, which tackles a very similar subject but with much more style. A teenager has murdered three people by the time he is sixteen and the novel is told from the point of view of the killer Frank, who is a very unreliable narrator. It is the perfect blend of shocking black comedy and absurd horror and is the sort of novel that, perhaps, Bedwetter aspired to be, but falls short of.


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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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