Now we get into the realm of the truly ridiculous horror fiction cover art. Let's parse this one a sec, shall we? Where do we begin? There is a skeleton driving a car. Not a rotting, pustulant, zombified corpse driving a vintage badass hot rod, but a simple, goofy, grinning Halloween-y skeleton, bared phalanxes at a sharp 10 and 2, careering off in a late-model sedan from what looks like a bordello of fellow active skeletons. And one of those skeletons has hair, quite feminine hair. Do you see the woman in the window? Second floor, middle. Ooh-la-la! Also, a skeleton pondering a noose and one swinging an ax. Huh. Skeletons are not scary; they're silly. And what about ol' mom jeans giving our skeletal pal the once-over twice? I do believe the fates have something in store for these two, putting them on a cover of a fairly lame '80s horror novel like Resurrection Dreams, Richard Laymon's agreeable but ultimately underwhelming and underwritten 1989 novel.
Richard Laymon, who died in 2001, has had most if not all of his old novels republished in mass market paperback editions due to his growing posthumous cult status in the field. I do not belong to this cult. He was the type of author I avoided in my horror-reading heyday of the late '80s and early '90s and this book confirms my suspicions: I was seriously judging his books by their covers and the only story I'd read of his, "Mess Hall" in Book of the Dead, seemed to me an artless mess of sexual violence and gore.
Evoking the film version of Lovecraft's Re-Animator, with a madman trying to resurrect dead bodies, Dreams is hackwork of the most inoffensive kind. Melvin Dodds is the high school nerd (you can tell that by his name) who, in a completely unbelievable moment just a few pages in, shocks the town with a horrifying experiment he displays at the school's science fair: trying to resurrect the body (with jumper cables!) of a popular female classmate, recently killed in a drunk driving accident. He ends up locked away in a mental hospital for 20 years; after he's released he heads back into town and operates a gas station. One of his former classmates, now Dr. Vicki Chandler, returns, and Melvin realizes he's loved her all along. The resurrection techniques he began in high school are now perfected, and if Vicki won't love him willingly, well....
I am certainly a fan of ladies resurrected from the dead and the unholy passion that will thus occur, but Laymon really misses out on a chance to explore this taboo. There are a couple rom-com moments when Melvin realizes he's in a relationship with a zombie woman, Patricia, his first victim, rather than the woman of his dreams; Laymon is too poor of a writer and scenarist to make something out of this. Resurrection Dreams is ham-fisted and obvious, gory in the dullest manner, lacking the wit or passion or intensity that could have made his somewhat intriguing premise memorable. Let's just turn off the lights and close the door, shall we, and never speak of this again.
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