Another charity shop bargain, as expected. I can’t imagine too many people buy Richard Laymon books new, or if they are available anywhere.
There has been a brutal racially motivated murder of a young man in the town of Bixby. The following night there is a storm. Black rain falls, and anyone who comes into contact with it becomes a homicidal crazy psychopath. Just your regular Richard Laymon splatterpunk special.
That’s about it really. Different groups of people huddle together and try to survive, fighting off the crazies. There’s one group in a local restaurant. Another consisting of a babysitter, her boyfriend and the girl she is sitting. Finally, a group with one of the local policemen, who are actually trying to put an end to it.
The book does feel quite dated as it was first published over 30 years ago. However, there is plenty of gore, plenty of shocks, a few surprises and a couple of people who were already homicidal psychopaths before the rain fell. What more could you ask for?
I have mentioned that Richard Laymon’s books are a weakness of mine. They are trashy to the extreme, but if I see one of his books in a charity shop I can’t refuse. Almost a year ago I picked up another two of his books at Bygone Times near Wigan. We also picked up an amazing copper framed mirror for our front room.
First up is Night in the Lonesome October, where a lonely English student can’t sleep so goes for a long walk through the town to a far off donut shop which is open 24 hours a day. On the way he meets a fellow student, who drives there and meets him, as well as bumping a bunch of nocturnal strangers. He becomes hooked on his night time excursions and befriends a young woman who likes to break into random homes, but doesn’t steal anything. He also meets a murderous psychopath, although he doesn’t realise that he is at first. Our main character and his girlfriend also get attacked under a bridge by a bunch of cannibalistic trolls who live there. The police show no interest in looking into the matter.
Next up is No Sanctuary, which has two separate story lines running throughout the book. We have a young couple who are looking to go on a hiking trip for a few days, and a young woman who likes to break into strangers houses and live there for a few days, snooping around. She makes sure that whoever lives there is away for a week or two before breaking in, whereas the young woman from the previous book breaks in for less than an hour when the family are all asleep. Anyway, the couple on the hiking trip meet a murderous psychopath and the young women thinks that the house she has broken into is owned by a murderous psychopath, who likes to prey on people out hiking in remote locations. The plot is fairly well signposted from an early stage in this book.
As with all Richard Laymon’s books, the plot is often convoluted and contrived, and populated with random characters who are almost red herrings. In the first book there are two sisters who used to be professional wrestlers until one of them lost an arm, and now drive around at night for no apparent reason. In the second book we meet other hikers who stay with the story for much of the book, but in the end don’t add a great deal.
I gave both books three out of five, which is maybe a little harsh, but neither of them warranted a higher score. Their average on Goodreads are 3.7 and 3.8. While my rating is fairly poor, this definitely won’t stop me from reading more of his books, guilty pleasure.
In my late teens that only books I would read were from the horror section, much like the only music I would listen to was heavy metal. One friend introduced me to the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, and another friend introduced me to the band Half Man Half Biscuit. Within a few years I was reading and listening to a wide spectrum of books and music.
This got me think about how authors become pigeon-holed in a specific genre, and that many authors definitely don’t stick with that initial genre. Dean Koontz has written many out and out horror books, for example Phantoms or Watchers, but he’s also written some out and out thrillers, for example Dark Rivers of the Heart or the Jane Hawk Series.
Continuing my thought process, what actually is ‘horror’? At the classic level you might suggest good old fashioned monsters, with Vampires and Werewolves. What about Cujo? One of Stephen King’s early novels with a large rabid dog. There isn’t anything supernatural. It is just a large dog that’s gone crazy. I would still suggest that the book would be classed as ‘horror’. I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell mostly because how horrible the situations her main character would find herself in. The books might be thriller or crime thriller, but they were had far more ‘horror’ than many horror books out there. See also books by Tess Gerritsen, specifically The Surgeon.
Richard Laymon is always classed as a horror writer, even though it is very rare for anything in his books to be supernatural. I would class him in the Splatterpunk genre, along with Shaun Hutson, although some of Shaun’s books have plenty of supernatural elements. What is Splatterpunk? I watched one of the Hostel films and again one of the Saw films. I didn’t particularly enjoy them and haven’t watched any of the many many sequels. These type of films have been dubbed Torture Porn, which is fairly apt and possibly a way to describe Splatterpunk. However, not all Splatterpunk books are the same. I will read reviews and if the book is simply trying to be as gross and nasty as possible with very little reason or plot, I will give it a pass.
One final thought. Do you buy or read books solely based on Genre? I definitely look at the list of books in the Post Apocalypse and Dystopian genres, but I don’t for Horror or Splatterpunk.
I think what I’m trying to say, is that the boundaries between genres is very fluid, with plenty of crossover, and that I don’t believe in sticking to one genre, as anyone who has read some of my book reviews can attest.
I’m slowly reviewing all of the books that I’ve read over the last six months, and I appear to be starting with a selection of horror novels. This time I am reviewing a pair of books from the American equivalent of James Herbert.
First up is In the Dark.
Jane is a quiet librarian in a quiet town where nothing exciting ever happens, which is fine with her. One day she finds a $50 bill with a note. The note is a clue to another book in the library. Inside the book is $100 and another clue. Both clues are signed by the Master of Games. Curiosity gets the better of Jane as she starts following the clues, each with a doubling of money. However, each clue slowly becomes more dangerous. How far will she play this ‘game’.
It’s an interesting premise, and towards the end there are a couple of good twists, although the very end wasn’t in the least bit surprising. As with most of Laymon’s books it isn’t the most believable, and the secondary characters are very two-dimensional. In its favour is the fact that the book was a bargain from Bygone Times, a large antique/second hand warehouse full of dozens of different stall holders near Wigan.
I gave the book 4 stars as it moved along nicely and was good fun in a Friday the 13th kind of way.
Next up we have Savage, which is a completely different book, again also by Richard Laymon, and again bought cheaply from Bygone Times.
The book starts off in Victorian London, 1888, and Jack the Ripper is on the loose. 15 year old Trevor has had to run an errand for his mother, but has been waylaid, robbed and beaten. As he is recovering his wits, there is a shout that there’s been a gruesome murder. Trevor runs, but a mob chases him, thinking that he was the one that dunnit. He breaks into a tiny house and hides. While hiding the real Jack the Ripper brings a woman back to the same house and kills her. Trevor confronts him and in the ensuing fight ends up biting Jack’s nose off, before being knocking unconscious. He wakes up on a boat with a young woman and her father, trapped, and moving towards the ocean.
With no chance of escape Trevor helps Jack to sail the boat to America. In sight of shore he escapes before Jack can kill him. From here the story gets even more unbelievable, as Trevor hooks up with a young woman and they set off in search of Jack, ending up in the wild west. They get separated and meet up numerous times, and characters pop up with no rhyme or reason, and then promptly disappear.
In truth the book was a mess. Maybe it sounded like a good idea, but I’m sorry to say that this was a dud from Mr Laymon. The average score on Goodreads is 3.92, but I gave it 2 stars, which I think is a fair score. One to avoid and a book which will be heading to a charity shop soon.
I have a soft spot for Richard Laymon. His books definitely aren’t ground breaking or innovative, but they do have a certain amount of readability, as well as being extremely trashy (in a good way). A few weeks ago I cycled over to Morecambe for a browse around The Old Pier Book Shop, one of the craziest 2nd hand book shops in the country. It is packed to the rafters with nooks all over the place, as well as being fairly unorganised. Anyway, I came away with the above book, hard back, £2, along with a few other gems.
Back to the book review, and Island is a horror tale all about a group of people stranded on a desert island being stalked and killed. Three sisters, their parents and partners rent a yacht to celebrate an upcoming birthday. While visiting an island the boat blows up, killing one of the husbands.
We get to read about the story from one of the group, an 18 year old who is dating the youngest sister, who writes everything in a journal. This part is very well fashioned. However, there are some HUGE plot holes. For example, if you were stranded on a desert island one of the first things you would do is explore and possibly walk around the whole island to see if anyone else does in fact live on said island. Plot spoiler, there is a large house on the island that is only ‘discovered’ in the last quarter of the book. Coupled with that the book becomes more and more farfetched, unbelievable and less plausible as we go along, before one last twist right at the end. That, however, is a neat little twist.
I gave Island 3 stars on Goodreads, which might have been a little generous. As expected, the reviews are all over the place but mostly 3 or 4 stars.
As an aside, what places a book into the horror genre. Obviously Stephen King, even though he objects to that, and obviously James Herbert, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker. The common theme for these four authors is the supernatural, while Richard Laymon doesn’t write about the supernatural. You could say that he is more in the thriller genre, but dark thriller. Almost all of the reviews for Island that have added a genre have placed the book in the horror category. 18 people have placed it in the Splatter Punk genre. I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell’s books 15 years ago because they were too horrible. The same more recently with Tess Gerritsen. For me, I like the escapism that comes with Richard Laymon (or other horror writers) in that you can’t really imagine it happening, while Tess or Patricia attempt to make their books and events as real as possible.
Anyway, next up for me is some classic 50’s horror from Dennis Wheatley and then maybe some more Richard Laymon.
When I first started to read horror novels back in the late 80’s, Richard Laymon was one of my favourite authors. He didn’t try to write literature (Stephen King), or try to be too dark (Clive Barker) or try to shock for shocks sake (Shaun Hutson). Instead Mr Laymon wrote good honest scary horror novels with a plot that moved along nicely, with the odd twist, and a good smattering of gore. It must have been at least 20 years since I read Quake. It was with sadness that I found out that he’d died in 2001, so decided to download one of his e-books, especially as many of them were priced at 0.99p.
The plot for Night Show is quite simple. A High School girl is tricked into visiting a ‘haunted’ house where someone else pretends to me a classic hockey mask wearing serial killer, scaring the hell out of her. She runs out of the house and into the street where she is hit by a car. After many months of convalescence she recovers with revenge on her mind. The other part of the story is a pair of lovers who work in Hollywood as special effects artists for horror films.
At times the book felt a little dated, however it was first published in 1984, and the story is probably more simplistic than what would be expected today. Despite this, I enjoyed the book and gave it 4 out of 5 on Goodreads. Next up I might look at reading something by Shaun Hutson, Graham Masterton or Peter Straub, among the many other horror writers that I used to read many years ago. Alternatively I could search out some of the best from the newer writers out there, possibly Joe Hill (who does look exactly like his old man), or maybe Oddjobs Part 2 (read my review of Part 1 here).
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