Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Laymon Month: Guest Post by Neal Hock

Recently, I had a “routine” surgery and suffered some complications from it. I became discouraged and one of the things that I’m passionate about no longer interested me: reading. I literally stopped reading and no matter what I tried I couldn’t break out of my funk. Then I went to a used bookstore a couple weeks later and found a book edited by Robert R. McCammon: Under the Fang. Intrigued and curious, I pulled it down from the shelf and opened it to the table of contents. At the bottom of the first page of the table of contents, a name jumped out at me like it was a neon sign: Richard Laymon. I closed the book and put it in my basket to buy. I didn’t need to see anyone else’s name or the price. When I arrived home, I immediately pulled out this collection and started to read Laymon’s entry, “Special.” Turns out that for $1 I reignited my passion for reading and I rediscovered my love for Richard Laymon’s work.

Richard Laymon. The name is polarizing. On the one hand, you have rabid fans that eagerly devour everything the man created. On the other hand, you have folks who say he wrote smut and decry his books. I guess there’s probably a middle ground too, but I haven’t come across many people who fall into that category.
I would fall into the first category, for the most part. I say for the most part because I don’t eagerly devour everything the man wrote for one simple reason: sadly, there won’t be any more books from Laymon due to his untimely death. So while I could plow through all of his books and have a Laymon marathon, I’m consciously choosing to space them out to enjoy them over time.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t a rabid fan of Laymon from the get-go. When I first decided to try out Laymon’s writing a couple years ago, I went to Amazon and picked out the highest-rated book of his to start with. That book was The Woods are Dark, and while I thought it was a decent story, I wasn’t crazy about it. However, because I continued to come across rabid Laymon fans, I decided to give another one of his books a try a couple months later. I found The Beast House to be much more appealing to me, but I still wouldn’t classify myself as hooked on Laymon at that point.

And then In the Dark came along. I had picked up a used copy at a library sale a few years ago and it sat on my bookshelf, untouched since. Once I started reading it, I was hooked from the very first page. What happened next was one of those magical moments every book lover looks forward to: I couldn’t put the book down. Literally, every spare moment I had was spent reading In the Dark. It was exciting, thrilling, and most importantly scary. It is one of the few books that has literally creeped me out. Since reading In the Dark, I’ve been a die-hard Laymon fan, scrambling to get my hands on a copy of everything he has written.

I’ve spent some time wondering what it is about Laymon’s writing that appeals to me. Besides the efficient prose and dialogue that are trademarks of Laymon, I think the bottom line is his books are fun. Plain and simple. Are they for everyone? No, most certainly not. There’s sex, violence, and every other form of moral repugnance throughout his books. But if you look just a little deeper, below the repulsive and offensive surface, you’ll find a talented writer who had a knack for telling a compelling story with a lean, spare writing style.

Besides, if you read any amount of Laymon’s work, you’ll never see the word "rump" in the same light. That in and of itself is reason enough to become a Laymon connoisseur.

Neal Hock is one of the good guys.  His enthusiasm toward the genre is utterly infectious.  He runs a fantastic review site over at Bookhound’s Den and is a fantastic proofreader.  Stop by his site and show him sove love.


  1. I was introduced to Laymon years ago by a Brit and I'm a fan, though I wouldn't call myself a fanatic. There's at least one book of his that I didn't really care for. Not because of violence or sex. It just wasn't my cup of tea. But the first couple/three I really enjoyed.

    I think you're right. They're fun books. I don't think they're meant to be anything more than that. And he still manages to tell a fairly engrossing story. That's a huge part of the appeal to me. When I read fiction, it's to be entertained & Laymon generally pulls that off quite nicely.

  2. Well, first of all, hope you're feeling well, Neal.

    Secondly, I like Laymon's work, but I almost feel like I'm missing out by not taking a hardline stance on his work. I've definitely seen the sentiments from both ends of the spectrum and just wonder how the guy inspires such strong emotional responses--both good and bad.


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