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Joe R. Lansdale's Lords of the Razor
edited by Bill Sheehan and William Schafer
Subterranean Press, 281 pages

Joe R. Lansdale's Lords of the Razor
Bill Sheehan
Bill Sheehan has written essays, articles, interviews and reviews for such publications as The Washington Post Book World, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Locus and The New York Review of Science Fiction. His book-length critical study of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, won the World Fantasy Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and was a finalist for the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award. He edited the original anthology Night Visions 11 and, with William K. Schafer, co-edited the anthologies Embrace the Mutation and Lords of the Razor.

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William Schafer
William Schafer is the publisher of Subterranean Press.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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Frankly, I didn't know what to expect from this book. Theme anthologies are tricky, especially when the subject is as narrow as the one generating the present volume: the horrific monster created about twenty years ago by Joe Lansdale for one of his early stories. Reproduced here at the beginning of the book, "God of the Razor" is a frightening tale of pure horror where the basement of an old, dilapidated house becomes the stage for the terrifying appearance of an evil creature apt to turn your blood into ice. Taking inspiration from this malevolent, superhuman character, a number of skilled genre writers have developed their personal nightmares.

Chet Williamson provides "Jeaves and the Deteriorating Relations," a truly delightful semi-humorous pastiche mixing horror and Chesterton-like levity. Although usually prone to deeply dislike humorous horror, I must admit I greatly enjoyed this little gem.

"The Butterfly Garden" is another top notch story by Stephen Gallagher. The nasty, terrible tale features a young girl staying for a couple of days in a rundown farm with strangers during her father's absence. In this masterly depiction of an oppressive environment, horror lingers in the air from the outset, but nothing is actually as it appears at first.

In "Old Schick" Gary A. Braunbeck takes the task very seriously and duly sticks to the original Lansdale's archetype by providing an unusually (for him) gruesome but extremely effective piece where the Lord of the Razor appears in a Vietnam war field then hunts down his victim back in the USA.

In Elizabeth Massie's dark fairy tale "Fence Line," a young girl trying to get rid of her newborn's body, a couple of old hags living in a house in the middle of a forest and a vicious wire fence are the main characters.

Thanks to Christopher Golden's "The Art of the Deal" we enjoy excellent storytelling in a tale where the Lord of the Razor is part of a complex tattoo covering the skin of a beautiful woman skilled in the art of intimate negotiations.

Ardath Mayhar contributes "The Edge," a brief, cruel yarn where the evil god tragically toys with a married couple to accomplish his own dark purposes.

"Brief Stay in a Small Town" by the late Hugh B. Cave is a cute, tiny story where the monster, tired of his game with knives and razors, tries out unsuccessfully other, more subtle deeds.

P.D. Cacek's "The Monster" is a brave but somehow unconvincing attempt to put the Lord of the Razor at the center of a more psychological plot, revolving around a girl's torrid hate towards her mother.

"Back in My Arms I Want You" by Thomas Tessier is a fair enough story, only marginally pertinent to the anthology's theme, about a loser with a violent disposition and a fondness for girls and knives.

Bradley Denton's most (in)famous character returns in "Blackburn and the Blade," much to the delight of any reader who appreciates superb storytelling and masterful dialogue.

Finally Joe Lansdale himself closes the volume with the novelette "King of Shadows," a very dark piece where the unmerciful god bursts into the life of two young boys with terrible consequences.

Thus, in spite of my initial misgivings, Joe R. Lansdale's Lords of the Razor proved to be of consistently high quality, including many excellent stories and no real misfires (no small accomplishment for any anthology). Announced without fanfare and maybe a bit under-publicized so far, this original volume bids fair to become one of the best genre anthologies of the year.

Copyright © 2006 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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