In "The Running Legs and Other Stories," Mary Beth attempts to recall a traumatic experience from her childhood, filtering it through children's stories told by her "wicked" stepmother. In "Lincoln's Face, A Resurrection," an African American make-up artist struggles with concepts of history as she transforms a former lover into Abraham Lincoln. The young narrator in "Under the World" grieves for his parents by losing himself in a worldwide subway system. And in the title story, the speaker describes a small room where everyone armed with a single gun waits with dread and anticipation for the inevitable first shot.
Anton Chekhov famously noted that if a story introduces a gun in the first act, that gun must go off by the third. Yet while weapons are often present in Southworth's stories, they are rarely fired, existing instead as a constant reminder of the power people can have over each other and the violent potential of narrative itself.
"Everyone Here Has a Gun took me on a roller coaster ride that I'd never been on before. . . . Every piece is strikingly different, and yet there's also a cohesion to the collection that plunged me deeply into this writer's alien yet weirdly familiar world, as if I'd been dreaming someone else's dream. There are images and moments in each of these stories that have lodged into my brain like shrapnel. A truly unique and memorable reading experience."—Dan Chaon, Grace Paley Prize judge and author of Stay Awake and Await Your Reply
"Lucas Southworth in his deep-dish, deadpan debut collection, Everyone Here Has a Gun, turns us on to a spinning world where something is always off. Oh, it all seems normal enough and quite matter-of-fact at the start. But then the stories turn and turn—twisted, worsted—the matter, in fact, gone dark and all anti-. Watch it and watch out! Of course the characters are weaponized along with the shape-charged plotting and the brilliant tracing rounds of language, illuminating the negative capability of suddenly stunning up-armored porcelain prose."—Michael Martone, author of Four for a Quarter
"I once took pistol lessons with the author Joy Williams, and our instructor told us that each person on earth has an individual attacker. Lucas Southworth is the one I've been waiting for all of these years—like that of your attacker, his brutal vision is aimed right at you in these phenomenal tales."—Kate Bernheimer, author of Horse, Flower, Bird
"Lucas Southworth's impressive debut collection is at once haunting and funny. There is a tender creature at work here who produces in these stories a feeling of menace impossible to locate or shake. Southworth offers no comforting haven, no buy-out, no lie. He renders sensation with indelible precision and keeps his people bravely alive to the world—its dark pleasures and vivifying dangers."—Noy Holland, author of Swim for the Little One First
"These stories are tense, gritty, and dark, full of sons raised to kill fathers and boys nailing chipmunks to walls. These characters hover at the edge of disaster. They exist in the unsettling shadows between innocence and violence."—Ploughshares.blog
"Sometimes [the violence] is merely a hum beneath the surface of the story, a sense of dread emanating outwards. . . . Southworth's fiction seems to have absorbed all the tropes we find in pop culture, particularly in film, particularly in horror movies, chewed them up and spit them back out in new, compelling forms--it takes all our anxieties about living in the contemporary world and makes them into ghost stories and fairy tales."—Origami Zoo
"The characters really drive the collection with their extreme aggression and twisted motivations. The lack of names—the anonymity—paradoxically allows the characters to be developed and displayed in a deeper manner. . . . Southworth creates surprising characters and unique narrative structures that stimulate intense thought and emotion. Everyone Here Has a Gun is a short story collection crafted in a new way, with at least one story for every different kind of reader. Everyone may have a gun, but this is not a hostile read."—Colorado Review
"Southworth's choice to utilize a variety of narrative styles, including fairy tale, folk tale, episodic, and traditional linear forms, is brilliant. It heightens the tension while at times serves as an escape valve. Everyone Here Has a Gun aims directly at the reader with precision and beauty, and embeds itself into the brain, where it lingers long after the book is closed."—Mid-Atlantic Review