An early exchange of Christmas presents leads to a violent outcome for a young drunk couple. A schoolboy finds himself at the centre of a cruel playground bullying ritual. A teenage girl lies to her mother about a sexual assault involving her little sister. A father ruins grand final day for the son who idolises him.
The thirteen stories in Luke Johnson’s debut collection of stories do not shy away from life’s brutalities. Nor do they overlook those moments of genuine intimacy, humour and revelation that imbue the tragic with purpose and with pathos. Set in regional Australia in an era before mobile phones and the internet, these stories will remind you of who and what we are beneath all the cool digital interfaces: animals, burning with ferocity for a mouthful of life’s flesh.
“Luke Johnson’s Ferocious Animals introduces a refreshing voice working with the art of the short story. The stories gathered in the collection are written with wit, compassion and a dedication to the craft of writing. I love the emotional heart at the centre of Ferocious Animals. It is a book of great energy and tenderness.” Tony Birch
“Johnson’s meticulously wrought prose evokes a world that is by turns tender and harsh, both haunted and bathed in a sharp hallucinatory light. These stories of childhood, lost lives and missed opportunities can shake you to the bone just as easily as they move you with their restrained lyricism. This is a deftly executed set of stories that, for all their stylistic variety, never lose sight of what matters most: the complexity of human nature.” Anthony Macris
“From the confusing world of childhood, to the regret-fuelled world of adulthood, via the dysfunctional state of adolescence, in Ferocious Animals Luke Johnson probes what it means to be part of and yet feel apart from others, those close to you as well as the rest of the world. Playful and inventive with voice and language, stretching the boundaries of realism, but always snapping back to an uneasy familiarity, these stories are compelling and memorable, every single one of them.” Debra Adelaide
“At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, the stories in Luke Johnson’s collection are marked by restraint, the hallmark of the finest short-form writers. While the reader lives on the edge in these stories, Johnson wields the narrative with the steadiest of hands. This is an ACE collection, alive with characters and scenes that become ingrained in the reader’s memory.” Julia Prendergast
‘Reading Ferocious Animals made me want to walk out into the street and cry on the shoulders of strangers. Johnson’s collection offers readers a series of encounters with the short story at its most profound and affecting: capturing those moments of unendurable heartache and ecstasy that punctuate ordinary life. Each of the thirteen stories in this collection are testament to the power of finely-wielded short fiction to transmute immense evocations of loss, grief, brutality and tenderness into the very ‘shocks and flashes’ we readers need to keep us sane. Australian short fiction should be this good more often – more Australians would read it.’ Luke Carman
“The stories in Luke Johnson’s Ferocious Animals are a joy to read. They are so skilfully crafted that you are moved by the seemingly ordinary, punched in the gut by the banal. Then you realise that it’s what Johnson doesn’t tell us that make the stories powerful. A story about horses is really a moving meditation about masculinity; a story about childhood is really about the moment before the knowledge of inescapable grief. Johnson lucidly, deftly, offers a few narrative breadcrumbs, enticing the reader to immerse themselves in the interior lives of his characters, until there is nothing to do but to finish each story at all costs and then to wish that this book would not end.” Roanna Gonsalves.