Monday, April 4, 2011
Laymon Month: Guest Post by Jeff Strand
A couple of years later, I was browsing the horror section, and, hey, a book by that Richard Laymon guy! FUNLAND! I bought it, read it immediately, and though it's far from my favorite book of his, I was an instant fan.
From 1989 to 1995, I continually sought out his books. There were a few lucky used bookstore finds: TREAD SOFTLY, NIGHT SHOW, and RESURRECTION DREAMS. A couple of library finds: QUAKE, MIDNIGHT'S LAIR, and THE STAKE. A friend in college had BEWARE, THE CELLAR, and THE WOODS ARE DARK.
In the age of Amazon and Wikipedia, it's hard to even remember a time when you could be a huge fan of somebody's work and not really know what was available. (Much like when I first became obsessed with Alice Cooper--each CD or cassette I found was a surprising, wonderful new discovery!) But I really had no idea what was out there, Laymon-wise.
Then: the Internet. One of the very first sites I visited was Steve Gerlach's Richard Laymon Kills site, and--holy crap!!!--Laymon had published tons of books that I'd never even heard of! DARKNESS, TELL US! BODY RIDES! ISLAND! BLOOD GAMES! BITE! IN THE DARK! ONE RAINY NIGHT! And more!
I found a UK bookseller online, and with about two minutes of effort I suddenly went from having about a third of Laymon's books to having almost all of them. And I read them all, back to back. (Is that good for your brain? Probably not.) I was like a kid gobbling up his entire bag of Halloween candy, and I hadn't experienced this much joyous reading since my discoveries of King, Koontz, and McCammon.
(Okay, I didn't like ALLHALLOW'S EVE that much. But aside from that...)
And now, since nobody said "Your Laymon essay must have structure!" here are a few unconnected Laymon thoughts:
Laymon saved me at several conventions, because despite not having any particular fondness for vampires, I always seemed to get stuck on a vampire panel. Instead of admitting to the audience and other panelists that I really didn't know what the hell I was talking about, I'd talk about how Laymon did three vampire novels (THE STAKE, BITE, and THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW) that weren't really about vampires! THE STAKE in particular just flat-out shouldn't work. How do you do an entire novel (and a fairly long one) that's all about "Should we pull this stake out of the mummified vampire corpse?" Most people could barely get a short story out of the premise, yet this book is never less than gripping.
SAVAGE is one of my favorites. Skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read it, but if you have: am I the only one who was completely stunned by the cruelty of the ending? Our hero, Trevor, and his new girlfriend, on their way to confront Jack the Ripper, do a complete wuss-out and decide NOT to face him. Shortly afterward, we find out that his old girlfriend (who we assumed had moved on with a new guy) went after the Ripper the way they'd planned, and dies horribly. Trevor imagines that while she was being tortured to death, she held out hope that he was on his way. Ouch.
IN THE DARK is another one of my favorites. And, yes, I've seen the never-released movie version. Muahahahahaha!!!
I remember telling a friend about ALARUMS and (spoiler warning again!) being unable to convey why the book was so good. "There was never anybody stalking her. Nobody had actually stolen her panties--she didn't realize she was wearing them." "That sounds lame." "No, no, the book completely messes with your expectations, because you think it's about a stalker, but it's actually about the sister going crazy." "Lame." "Argh!"
If I may end on a rant, the very first limited edition book I ever bought was Laymon's A WRITER'S TALE. I ordered it the second I heard about it, and got copy #8. Read it. Loved it. Read it again and again. Then there was an online discussion with a bunch of writer's bemoaning the fact that this classic non-fiction book was completely unavailable.
This book was too good not to share. I set up a "lending circle" where I'd send it to the first person, who would send it to the next person, and so on until everybody got to read it. Yeah, obviously my copy would get banged up, and I could be without it for years (there were a lot of people on the list) but everybody should get the chance to read A WRITER'S TALE!
And...it didn't even make it to the third person before it went missing in action. Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! (So if you ever see copy #8, it's MINE!)
That's enough from me. Enjoy Laymon month!
Jeff Strand is the author of DWELLER, which just so happens to be the best book I have read in the last five years. It also happens to be nominated for a Stoker award this year.
Jeff recently released two fantastic novels in ebook form- THE SINISTER MR. CORPSE and WOLF HUNT are on sale right now for $2.99!!!!! I promise you won't be dissapointed.
Head over to jeffstrand.wordpress.com for all things Strand.