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.