“When I get a little money,
I buy Laymon books;
and if any is left,
I buy food and clothes.”
On the covers of Richard Laymon’s books, you’ll find tributes by the likes of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Koontz saying “”No one writes like Laymon and you’re going to have a good time reading anything he writes.” Where as King stated “If you’ve missed Richard Laymon you’ve missed a treat”. Another quote reads “In Stephen King books, the blood drips….in Laymon’s books it splatters!” and “Stephen King without a conscience”. SFX magazine said “This is an author who doesn’t pull his punches….A gripping, and at times genuinely shocking read.”
Quotes for and about Laymon’s books indicate that he is a larger than life author, and yet if you look on the all knowing Wikipedia, there is very little about the man, other than a list of the books that he wrote….information of pseudonyms or pen-names he used and that he died on Valentines day 2001 – supposedly of a massive heart attack. And that there is a back catalogue of manuscripts in the possession of his wife, to keep the publishers busy for a few more years to come. Add to this the “fact” that his “daughter Kelly” who just happens to do a bit of writing herself, has pieced together yet another old manuscript of an earlier Laymon book – The Woods are Dark – and had it re-released in 2008. How convenient! All of which makes me very suspicious that Laymon himself is actually someone else’s pseudonym.
His stories are of a sub-genre known as “Splatterpunk” – possibly a genre that more established and accepted writers would rather not be associated with….in their real names. His stories are filled with sexually perverse and violent themes – again something that more established writers would want to avoid tarnishing their good names with and yet may feel the need to write about in order to “scratch an itch that needs a very good scratch”. He tends to write like a horny teenage horror fan….over-dosing on Viagra.
However, real person or not, he has turned out a long list of titles and I am here today to give you my fabulous 4…..four of the best from Richard Laymon…..and why I have selected the following books.
Body Rides published in 1996 is my first choice because it was the first Laymon book I read and I was so taken by how different it was to everything else I’d read. It’s one of a few books that I will never part with. ( Actually that’s a great idea for another blog post….12 books that I will never part with). The story follows a guy who does a good turn by rescuing a woman from being assaulted (or worse)…and as a reward she gives him a bracelet with strange powers that enables him to feel, see and hear what someone else is thinking or experiencing….like hitching a ride in their body and mind. The person you’re transported inside of has no idea that they are being eavesdropped on in the most intimate manner possible. But it can only be done for a certain amount of time and over a certain distance until, like a piece of stretched elastic, you’re pinged back into your own body and consciousness. The thing is, until you are inside the other person you don’t really know who they really are. They could be an innocent choirboy or a crazed mass murderer, or anything in between. Of course in this story you’re going to bump into more murderers and perverts than choirboys. And while you are away from your own body – your body is vulnerable – unguarded. It makes for an exciting and unusual story.
Endless Night published in 1993 was the second book of Laymon’s I read and was recommended to me by a lady I used to work with. To look at her, (she looked like a prim and proper senior librarian) – she was not the type to read the likes of Laymon’s stories….but she did, and loved them. In this one the perverted murderers like to dress themselves in the skins of their victims while killing yet more innocents. I found it both disgusting and yet strangely fascinating. While murdering and skinning their victims….not to mention a little rape on the side for good measure, Simon and his friends get their perverted kicks, until Jody Fargo, a cops daughter witnesses their murderous rampage and rescues the 12 year old brother of a murder victim…killing a man in the process of making their escape. Simon’s friends make it his responsibility to track them down and tie up loose ends. Can’t have witnesses blabbing to the cops! And so begins an endless night of terror.
Island published in 1995 – I’ll let the blurb on the back of the book speak for itself. “When eight people go on a cruise in the Bahamas, they plan to swim, sunbathe and relax. Getting shipwrecked is definitely not in the script. But after the yacht blows up they end up on a desert island. Lucky for them, their beach camp location has fresh water and firewood, and enough food to last them out. Just one problem remains as they wait to be rescued – they are not alone. In the jungle behind the beach there’s a maniac on the loose with murder in his heart. And he’s plotting to kill them all one by one…” What it doesn’t warn you about is that the maniac in question also tends to run around half naked with a boner the size of a canoe….and when he sees the female shipwreck survivors he wants to do more than murder them. Does he succeed or do they scupper his evil plans? It’s a fast paced read.
Quake also published in 1995 is about…yes you guessed it an Earthquake. Our hero, Stanley or I should say our antihero as he possesses none of the morals of the white hatted hero’s of old – where the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black – is ogling a pretty female jogger, Sheila, through his living room window, 20 minutes before the quake hits. He has some very perverted fantasies about what he’d like to do to Sheila – who just happens to live near by. When the quake hits, she is naked in her bathtub, in her bathroom, as the building comes down and she’s trapped pinned in the tub by falling debris. Her husband and daughter are away from home for the day with no way of getting home quickly. The power lines are down, roads and bridges are wrecked and emergency services are stretched to the limit. The evil and lawless are already in the streets plundering and pillaging. Will someone rescue Sheila before the fat pervert Stanley gets his hands on her….pretending to come to her rescue? He won’t let anything stop him…..even if it means killing anyone who gets between him and his prey.
So that’s my selection of 4 of the fiendishly freakiest of Laymon’s works. Not for the fainthearted. If you can get past the apparent rush that the writer seems to get from fantasizing like a rampant horny teenager….they are fast paced horror / adventure stories that will keep you up all night (no pun intended!).