My friends and family will tell you that I know a disturbing amount of serial killer information. When I’m not reading or writing I’m scouring streaming services for new documentaries on the scariest humans the world has produced. My fascination has nothing to do with glorifying their behaviour, but more a morbid curiosity on how individuals can become internally broken to a point that they become something almost inhuman. So, when I saw Lee Allen Howard’s novel The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath, I had high hopes of falling down that familiar rabbit hole, and I’m pleased to say it exceeded all my expectations.
First off, this will not be a book for everyone. If you cannot handle subjects such as psychological and sexual abuse, homophobia, urination fetish, and animal abuse (to name but a few), then this is not a story for you. To give you an example of what level of uncomfortable you can expect, the novel begins with a dream sequence where the main character pisses on his naked mother to induce electrocution because she has electric hair clippers shoved up her vagina. And that’s only the first paragraph! However, for those of you who can handle these triggers, The Bedwetter is a transfixing read that gets up close and personal in the thoughts and actions of a serial killer in the making.
The entire story is told in a journal format, written by main character Russell Pisarek. He’s 26 years old, lives with his sister and young nephew. For the past few years his life has been fairly stable – his sister Becky helped him get clean from drugs, he works at an animal testing lab, and he adores taking care of his nephew Aiden. But everything is about to change. Becky is getting serious with her boyfriend and Russell doesn’t fit into her new life. These changes trigger Russell starting to wet the bed again, awakening memories of his abusive past and building his dark obsessive thoughts of shaving women’s pubic hair.
In no way does the author try to portray Russell as a sympathetic character, but by showing the reader Russell’s reflections on his own urges, we get a glimpse into his twisted logic. Everything the character does and says serves a purpose, sometimes to display his stunted maturity (like referring to his mother Melanie as Melanoma) and other times to show his connection with other people is merely to serve his own purposes. If you happened to come across an uncensored diary of killers like Edmund Kemper, I think it would bear an uncanny resemblance to this book.
The absolute honesty and mindset of Russell throughout the novel is what makes this such a compelling read. As disgusting and disturbing as he is, there’s such an authentic feel to the story that you can’t help but push through to find out what happens next.
Lee Allen Howard’s writing is exceptional, not wasting a single detail or line within the story. He even manages to make mundane experiences feel hyper-realistic, like Russell making grilled cheese sandwiches. In those moments you almost forget Russell’s monstrosity, and I think that’s part of the point – as reprehensible as killers are, they also do normal things, and outsiders don’t always see the monster lurking within.
The Bedwetter: Journal of a Budding Psychopath is an immersive and uncomfortable experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone captivated by serial killers.
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
About the Author:
Lee Allen Howard’s dark fiction spans the genres of horror, supernatural crime, and psychological thrillers. Howard earned a BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. He’s been a professional writer in the software industry since 1985. Howard is the founder and editor at Dark Cloud Press, which has published the horror and dark crime anthologies Thou Shalt Not… and Tales of Blood and Squalor. He resides in western New York with a lot of books.