Monday, January 17, 2011

Mondays With Richard: The Traveling Vampire Show

Every third Monday during 2011 I am going to review a novel written by Richard Laymon. I am a complete novice when it comes to this amazing writer so this will be a learning experience for me. For that reason I am going to take a more personal approach to my Mondays with Laymon reviews. Try and make it a bit more casual, ya’ know? Well without further ado…………………

The Traveling Vampire Show may be the perfect novel. Not the perfect novel for everybody but the perfect novel for me. In case you weren’t aware, I am a complete sucker for a well told coming of age story. A Boy’s Life, Dweller and It sit firmly atop my ‘Best Novels of All Time’ list. I’m also a fan of over-the-top Looney Tunes brutality and gore. The Traveling Vampire Show has all of that and more.

The story follows three 16-year-old best friends: the eternal Boy Scout Dwight, a well read tomboy Slim and dim witted Rusty. The novel takes place in a single day as this trio attempt to get into a road show called The Traveling Vampire Show. The show is strictly an adult affair but these three are determined to get in. This is the backdrop for one of the best coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read.

There are elements in the story that bring me back to the magic of childhood. The type of magic that made monsters real and dream attainable. When Laymon conjures up the image of an enormous man gliding down the center of the street while wearing a ghost costume- I can see myself as a kid, believing with all my heart that what I am seeing is real. I could feel Dwight’s pain as he battled with longing and turmoil that only a 16 year-old boy can know. I felt like Laymon was describing my youth. Sure the events weren’t the same, but the emotions sure were. He was able to tap into the universal emotions that each of have felt at one time.

Then as I am getting all warm and fuzzy Laymon decides that he wants to take the reader to The Traveling Vampire Show. At this point the story takes a complete 180. The tender emotions of youth are replaced with razor sharp spears and unspeakable horror. Things get COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL. I have never been so blindsided by a book and it was absolutely brilliant!

People warned me that The Traveling Vampire Show is not representative of Laymon’s best work but you could have fooled me. As I said in the intro, this may not be the perfect novel but it may just be the perfect novel for me.

What a way to kick off this little experiment!

Feel free to swing on over to Amazon and pick up The Traveling Vampire Show now.


  1. Great review of a fantastic novel. This is tied with NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER as my favorite Laymon novel.

  2. Thanks! NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER will certainly make its way to my TBR pile.

  3. This IS a fantastic read. I loved it. You're going to love some of Laymon's other stuff. Great review!

  4. I disagree with dissenters who would say this isn't some of his best work. Having read most of his novels I'd say this is absolutely the best thing he ever wrote. Reading TVS before his other work is a lot like reading Watchmen without reading other graphic novels before: it's all downhill from here. That's not to say that he hasn't written some other amazing novels (Darkness Tell Us, Bite, The Stake and One Rainy Night being my other favorites) but the others are just missing something...

    I'm a huge fan of coming of age horror as well. Dan Simmon's Summer of Night is right up at the top of my list next to IT and Boy's Life.


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