Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Laymon Month: One Rainy Night reviewed by Paperback Horror

Colum over at Paperback Horror is the definitive voice when it comes to horror fiction. His reviews are edgey, intelligent and just as entertaining as the works he is reviewing. The man is one of the true treasures of our beloved genre so it is with great pleasure I give you the Paperback Horror review of Richard Laymon's One Rainy Night!

One Rainy Night
Richard Laymon
Headline Press (1991)

One Rainy Night is one-hundred percent balls-out brutal. From start to finish, this novel reads like a mass murdering psychopath’s wettest dream. The gore is non-stop, visceral, and completely unapologetic, and leaves the reader with absolutely no room to breathe. This is Laymon at his most violent and chaotic, of that you can be sure.

The water drops like a shroud on the town of Bixby. Warm, viscous and unnatural, it coats the inhabitants in an unending torrent - and turns them into crazy, hate-filled maniacs. A helpful stranger at a gas station shoves a petrol pump down a customer’s throat and squeezes the trigger. A soaking-wet queue of cinema-goers smashes it’s way inside the movie house to slice up the dry people within. A loving wife attacks her husband, bouncing the back of his head on the marble floor until it sounds like sloppy, wet meat...

In what is (in this reader’s opinion) quite possibly the most violent novel this man ever released, One Rainy Night treats the reader to something that they’ve rarely seen from this author: Absolute chaos. Every single bit of this story just screams of Laymon’s creative release. A literary blitzkrieg, if there was ever a term like that. There is barely any room to actually sit down and rip this piece apart for a review, and that’s primarily because Laymon seems to have designed this story around his willful abandoning of the trappings that this genre relies on. This is the most un-formulaic story in his repertoire. If you’re familiar with the comic book gross-out of Garth Ennis’ Crossed (Avatar Press ’08 - ’10), you’re going to be quite at home with the sheer amount of depravity and violence present in this book. Further more, if you enjoyed the aforementioned comic series, you’re going to love this.

The story starts off with the murder of a young black man, and quickly spirals into some of the most violent scenarios I have read yet. Nothing is sacred in this piece of writing, and nothing is left unmarred. One Rainy Night really does satisfy the bloodlust in Laymon’s readers, bathing almost every character first in a messy film of black rain, and then in a generous helping of blood. Think the apocalyptic imprisonment of a town in Brian Keene’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town mixed with the insanity of Ennis’ Crossed, and a generous helping of...well...tried and true Richard Laymon bluntness.

Speaking of which, Laymon is at his utmost peak with detail and description in One Rainy Night. I’ve spoken before about the brevity that this author uses when crafting sentences that set up a scene, and then again with his action sequences; well, this is the best example that will prove that observation. In this novel, Laymon tells you only what he wants you to see. He lays everything on the table, and believe me...it gets really messy.

One of the main characters - Trev - embodies the most classic male character found in Laymon’s stories. He’s headstrong but unsure, tough but vulnerable, and most importantly, figures things out right before it’s too late, but right after the shit hit’s the fan. It is an absolute treat to read this character get his ass handed to him, and the resulting twists and turns add a bloody cherry to the top of the sundae. In contrast, the lead female character - Maureen - is one of Laymon’s least believable woman-in-peril types. The trials and tribulations that she is put through are enough to put any normal person into a catatonic state. Maybe that’s the most enticing part of Laymon’s female leads though: their sheer refusal to lie down and take it. Regardless, the interlacing stories (and by that, I mean that they really do interlace intimately at some points) prove to be a blessing to the story line. Laymon’s insistence on brutalizing everyone that steps under his pen couldn’t have gone very far without the subtle nuances that he lets out with these two folks.

There is one more character in this novel that I want to point out, but I really don’t want to ruin him for you. We’ll leave it at this: His name is John, and he is the most likable and strong character I have read in a Laymon book. Period. End of story.

I’m not going to pretend that this is the best Laymon novel you will ever read. While Savage, Endless Night, The Cellar, and In The Dark exemplify this author’s best works (again, in my opinion), One Rainy Night will “get you there” on so many levels.

Packed with more violence and utter brutality than you could possibly expect from a book, One Rainy Night is a whirlwind ride through the mind of an insane genius, and the best example of what it means to be blown away by a master of his craft.


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