Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Night Show by Richard Laymon (1984): Master of Chills is Pulling Your Strings

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know I'm not much of a Richard Laymon fan. The two novels of his that I've read, Resurrection Dreams and The Cellar, struck me as dopey and lame, and in the case of the latter book, boring and stupidly repulsive at once. This puts me at odds with many horror fiction fans, since the late Laymon has become a cult writer with a large (and vocal!) following. Many think he is the ultimate horror writer, one who shocks and goes too far and cares not a whit for taste or restraint. Fine for his fans, sure, but my problem with Laymon is simply that he is, going by what I've read, a terrible writer. When it comes to putting pen to paper he cannot deliver. He writes like a rank amateur and it drives me fucking crazy, reading "prose" so lunkheaded and dull, so square and humorless.

Some readers agree with me and can't understand his popularity either. Cool. But I'm also kinda intrigued by what his fans see in him, so I have been open to giving him another chance. I found Night Show (Tor 1986, originally published in the UK by Futura, 1984) online for cheap. Always liked the cover (thanks Jill Bauman, a Tor regular), and it takes place in Hollywood and the main character is a female Tom Savini. All right, not bad, I thought, let's check it out, see if Laymon can do this.

Aaaand... he doesn't. He can't. His scenario is fine - weirdo horror-filmmaker wannabe wants to apprentice with female FX expert and so begins to stalk her - but Laymon's delivery fails in every aspect: it's all dreary, insipid hackwork, same as before. There's not one moment of believable human behavior in Night Show, not one second of fear, not one new twist, nothing to make it stand out among the hundreds of legit horror paperbacks already on my shelves. Laymon even pads out the novel with passages describing onscreen mayhem. Like, not-real mayhem he was tricking you into thinking was real at first. That's right, he actually relates what's going on in the various horror movies being made or being watched. God, now that's lame - hell, in a horror novel it's practically a fucking crime.

I had no sense that Laymon cared or was excited by what he wrote in Night Show (or in the other two novels of his I've read), unlike pulp writers such as Graham Masterton or Shaun Hutson, both of whom at least seem to be having a high old time creating dumb mayhem, which of course translates to enjoyable reading. I had a problem believing in any of the events occurring, and Laymon makes no effort to convince the reader of any truth. As for horror itself, there's virtually none. I had read reviews of the novel that noted this, so I wasn't expecting graphic splatterpunky horror - but when there is blood-spilling, Laymon describes it, more than once, as "red gore." Come on dude, really?

 Original first edition, 1984 Futura UK paperback

Beginning with the abduction of a teenage girl, Night Show is comprised of two interlocking story arcs with nutjob Anthony Johnson being the thread between them. Young bald Tony calls himself the Chill Master and gets off on scaring people. Not hurting them, mind you, but just freaking them out. Like grabbing them in the movie theater, or throwing them into a car and then tying them up in an abandoned house. Sure! But he wants more, so he moves to Hollywood to get close to Dani Larson, gore effects specialist extraordinaire (Laymon does an okay job detailing her FX work at least). He follows her in his hearse (duh) through the LA streets, then finally gets close enough to engage her. Tony wants to be her apprentice in horror but her partner in work and life, Jack, is getting in the way (poor stalkers, ain't that always the way?). The other storyline features teenage Linda, the girl kidnapped and tied up in a spooky old house. She's looking for her assailants - in her escape she runs into the road and is hit by a car - and she'll stop at nothing to get them. Her misadventures mingle Laymon's staple puerile sex and death in a couple ridiculous set-pieces till she ends up in Hollywood hot on Tony's trail.

1992 UK reprint (in the book both head and monster are fake)

Laymon sets everything up in the most banal, one-dimensional manner possible. Plodding along from one chapter to the next, riddled with corny tone-deaf dialogue, nothing in Night Show seems dangerous and nothing that feels real is at stake. Why do I care about these people? Dani deals with Tony in an entirely inappropriate, unbelievable way, inviting him to hang around and even sharing beer with him while Jack looks on bemusedly. And Dani has no strength whatsoever; how in the world did she make it in the movies? A female artist so successful in the horror industry in the 1980s who's not a scream queen is unique, but I had the feeling the character is only female so she can be menaced as the victim. And teenage Linda's storyline is simply a cheap, pale imitation of I Spit on Your Grave: abused woman goes after her attackers, using her sexuality as bait. Since I knew nothing about Linda, I had no reason to believe she had such fortitude to kill and kill again.

So Linda is the real psychopath, while Tony is a total twerp who needs his clock cleaned, but he never really hurts anyone. Was Laymon making an attempt at irony? Perhaps - and certainly not a bad idea at all - but his writing is so lazy, so enervated, that the irony seems more inadvertent than intended. There's no suspenseful build-up, and then when the two storylines do collide, the resultant climax - which is basically the same as a 1970s made-for-TV thriller or a by-the-numbers '80s stalk 'n' slash - goes off like a damp squib. Just... yawn.

I almost feel bad criticizing Night Show like this since it's such a lame little dud, no ambition in it, barely a wisp of an actual novel by and for adults. But I shouldn't. Here Laymon takes the tiredest horror tropes and puts no gloss or originality on them; I find no enjoyment in this kind of cynical exploitation of the genre. Fans make the argument that Laymon's books need to enjoyed in a sort of B-movie way, that they're fast reads that don't require any brain work, that he's raw and lurid, that he peels his prose to the bone and doesn't get bogged down in unnecessary details. I don't buy that argument, and contend that pulp schlock still needs to be competent and fun. I've read plenty of fast, pulpy, lurid horror novels that still have time to give me a unique character trait, an unsettling scene or three, a fresh writing style, a surprising plot twist. Laymon's lack of all that is what so frustrates me. To continue the movie metaphor: the camera's out of focus, the boom mic is visible, the fake blood is red finger paint, and somebody spilled coffee on the only copy of the script so the actors have to come up with their own dialogue on the spot. Yeah, B-movies are wonderful, definitely, but if Laymon's Night Show were a flick, it'd be grade-Z through and through.


Authorfan said...

Completely agree w/ you on this one, but you should try THE STAKE or THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW or BITE. I find them to be way better, and are all latter works in his career. As if he finally got it.

Kevin F said...

grabbing popcorn

Lincoln said...

Totally agree, have never understood the love for Laymon. Tried a few of his novels back when I first started branching out from the big names - King etc., but he wasn't what I was looking for. Also tried him again, more recently, and couldn't believe what a following he has.
There are also a heap of contemporary authors who worship Laymon, and they are just as bad, and have a similar type of following.

Adam said...

Weirdly, you do keep picking bottom-rung Laymon to read. Night Show was never a great novel and very hacky.
Now I feel like you'll never read his good-to-great stuff. Midnight's Lair, Stake, Island...

Well, fair enough. I can't really get into McDowell.

Adam said...

I also resent that what a reader gets out of Laymon is "gore and shock". That sounds like something people who don't like horror would level at every work with that genre label.

Will Errickson said...

I have a copy of MIDNIGHT'S LAIR (as well as OUT ARE THE LIGHTS)!

Tim Mayer said...

Thanks for doing us all a favor and suffering through this turd bomb. TO WAKE THE DEAD so disgusted me I never wanted to read anything by him again.

R T said...

Ah... ye olde "one man's trash is another's treasure" debate. I loved THE CELLAR and RESURRECTION DREAMS but found COLD MOON OVER BABYLON boring, commonplace and predictable. Laymon is pure fun, mindless trash, and when I read something like "red gore" I generally chuckle out loud. I like to think of his novels as grindhouse nonsense, stuff to entertain the big kid in me.

DJ Mike G said...

I like Laymon, but this is definitely one of his lesser books. "In The Dark", "Endless Night", "One Rainy Night", and "The Stake" would be his best. But yeah, all three of the books you've read by him are pretty bad.

Broonage said...

I enjoy reading your blog, one of the fun nostalgic ones out there. But when I read this sort of post, along with the one on John Saul (that was amusing, complaining about him without actually reading his work) makes me want to remove your blog from my RSS feeds.

Josh Caporale said...

Like the John Saul post, I will disagree on some of the criteria. I feel that Richard Laymon's work is light, but at the same time, so enjoyable to read. I read "Dark Mountain" and "The Cellar," with the belief that the former was better.

I feel that Laymon was serious about what he wrote and his advice for writers is one of the best and most brutally honest that I have read.

Griff said...

please give Body Rides a try at least before you give up completely on Laymon, that one is a pretty entertaining yarn

Ron Clinton said...

Before writing Laymon off entirely, please give SAVAGE and ISLAND (and i that order) a try, the former his richest, most nuanced and complex and ambitious novel of all, and the former his most successful of the lean and mean variety. If you don't like those two, you may as well give up on Laymon (if you haven't already...which would be unfortunate, given that your selections aren't his best and are likely giving you a skewed perspective of his work and talent).

Adam said...

Laymon is something of a litmus test to me. You either get it, or you don't.

"Not getting it" is no incrimination upon a person or a negative assumption of their intelligence or taste. However, to not "get" Laymon and be a fan of horror, genre fiction, or just plain ole' fringe entertainment seems to just not...Well, it feels like you guys are missing out on something.

It's been mentioned here in the comments already, but it is true that Laymon was an English professor. The man had a far better grasp and command of language and the form than I fear you're giving him credit for.

Short, sparse prose is not a negative aspect. In a time where all that seemed to exist in horror fiction were mass-market catch-alls that went on for hundreds of pages longer than their thin premises can sustain, Laymon was a breath of fresh air for me. The Cellar, in particular, punched me in the gut and reminded me why I read horror; it is trying to push limits. I don't even necessarily mean limits of taste or content, but form, structure, language. Myth-building.

I daresay that within the pages of The Cellar, the horrors are far, far tamer and conventional than most true-crime stuff you can see on TV, let alone read in the books. So what makes Laymon's use of atrocious real-life horrors (pedophilia, rape, incest, etc.) make people flinch and wag fingers at it?

Perhaps it has to do with the EXACT reason why Laymon's prose strikes a chord in me, as it does in others. It's so, so true. True to the things that you wouldn't want to admit.

That you DO leer a little too long at that girls ass. That some dark part of you would really enjoy killing that guy who cut you off. That you really are afraid of where your life has taken you and that you'd almost do any horrible thing to escape the mundanity of nine-to-five with the missus and the rugrats.

Adam said...

Laymon, by all accounts from his voluminous number of professional friends and fans, was a great, kind, and gentle man who loved his wife and daughter more than anything in the world. When asked and interviewed about that very dreaded question, "Was your husband/father really like his characters?" they always laugh and act as if, yep, he still fools them.

And that was his job. To fool us all with words.

Did the darkness exist within him? Surely. As it surely must exist within everyone, but he harnessed it. Used it. Took it in his hands and wrestled it to the floor and put it on his payroll. He exercised his demons on the page but here's kind of the trick to it, in my opinion: they weren't even necessarily his own demons.

Laymon was a hack, let's get that out of the way. When I say "hack" however, I mean it in kindest way. A hack is someone who performs a task over and over for the pay while knowing that what he's producing is not the finest product he could produce. Laymon was a writer for the pay. When he struck upon the knowledge that depravity and sex and violence were flying off the shelves (or at least being bought by every publisher) regardless of quality, he did what any man who loves his wife and daughter and used it to give them the things they wanted.

He wrote all of those terrible, awful things specifically for his family.

When Laymon was asked in interviews how he comes up with these things, he admits that he is a gigantic coward. Apparently, he would faint at the sight of blood and could become borderline neurotic if something were worrying him. He said it was easy for him; all he had to do was think of a situation and let his cowardly, frightful imagination do the rest.

I think he actually somewhat "feared" things like kinky sex and hormone ravaged men. Think about it, he had a young daughter and a wife. Rape, an element that pops up quite often in his novels was quite literally the worst thing he could imagine happening.

And the worst things that could happen are exactly what people wanted. That's what they wanted to read and he could supply it.

Really though, it's all the comments on his prose that are irking me a bit. I will take short, sweet, and to the point over something like, oh, King. While a guy like King can write and write damned well, he seems to love burying any actual point under mountains of navel-gazing.

How do you feel about Joe R. Lansdale or Donald E. Westlake? 'Cause I'll put Laymon right up there with them in the clarity of prose and character category.

There's a very, very good reason that Laymon is and was a "writers writer". Many an author finds themselves a bit jealous when confronted with his confident and clean prose.

Sure, not all of his books are fantastic and even a few of them can only manage "good", but when he was on, there was no other game in town doing what he was doing with the same wit, intelligence, and, yes, depth. Go read some Edward Lee or Guy N. Smith if you really want depths of depravity with wretched prose and characters. Laymon was leagues ahead of those guys.

Required reading:


The Stake


Broonage said...

What an amazing response Adam. Should be published as an article on this great blog. Come on Will, stop being so "aggressive" on his work and try some more. Take into account Adam's awesome response and try again. If it fails again, well sadly you just don't get the legend that he was, Dick Laymon! You're totally entitled to think what you think, but if it fails for you one more time I'll have to pull my hair out and begin to take this blog with a pinch of salt. Liking horror is great, liking Laymon is liking true horror, which great. Not liking Laymon and then writing about other authors, makes me a little cautious! :)
I still think, Laymon was new air in the horror scene, pulp, page-turning, nasty, sexy, cringing, and sometimes downright silly...but dude...I cannot find this level of fun anywhere else in horror. Except maybe Bryan Smith. As it is said in Total Recall: "Open your mind".

Will Errickson said...

Thanks for taking time in making all your comments everybody! Wow. But I kinda expected it (and Adam, thanks for reposting your thoughts from my review of THE CELLAR, I'd meant to get to them before). Now, I'm not actively trying to piss off Laymon's fans; I'm not! Actually I'm only trying to understand them. And the simple fact of the matter is, I don't. Even *after* I hear these defenses. I almost don't even know how to reply because how I feel is all there in the reviews!

All that truly matters about his - or anyone's - books is what's on the page. And what's there does not make me a fan. His writing and scenarios don't make me laugh like I'm watching a bad/fun horror movie, they make me cringe like I'm watching a terrible/boring horror movie by someone who has no understanding of what the horror genre is, knowing only how to exploit the tiredest tropes and shallowest scenarios. That is *no* fun for me! I've been reading horror since the early '80s and the 3 novels of his I've read are some of the lamest - there is no other word to use - I've ever read! Hope I can say that and not sound like a jerk, but it's true.

When I read other horror blogs or Goodreads comments and see how people don't like Lovecraft, or King, or Barker, Campbell, Straub, et. al., my mind boggles! That's what I understand horror is and can be and should strive for; those are the writers that I first read and enlarged my perception of horror.

Believe it or not, I recently bought vintage copies of MIDNIGHT'S LAIR and OUT ARE THE LIGHTS. Might read them, even still! If I read them and like one or both then I'll post a positive review. But I've read the excerpts available from Amazon on the various books recommended above, and others, and found nothing really to truly engage me.

As for Laymon's personal life and fears, well, so does every horror writer have them, and almost every horror writer, famous and not, that I've read has dealt with them more skillfully or at least in a way that didn't seem like they were voyeurs and secretly getting off on private little fantasies. Maybe that's what Laymon thought readers wanted, I don't know. Me personally I think he just wasn't a good enough writer to give a different impression.

*Anyway* guys, again thanks for the impassioned and thoughtful responses! Talking about horror is always one of my favorite things.

Adam said...

Hey, no ill will or anything. Hell, I'm not threatening to quit reading your blog or anything. I can't stand Straub, I find most King to be superfluous filler, and think it's kind of funny when you praise Gwen in Green while those sex-scene excerpts you posted felt sub Laymon to me. (And if you're only going to read one of the two that you have, make it Midnight's Lair, but Island is the way to go.)

I suppose this is where I feel that I need to mark myself out as NOT really a big fan of sex and grue for strictly exploitative reasons. My classic horror novels trend toward Dance of the Dwarfs, Fallen Angel, Ceremonies, etc.

However, I love the range of the genre and sometimes I want to drive a bulky, expensive, gas-hog that everybody admires and sometimes I want to tool around in dirty little beater that makes too much noise and "squares" park as far away from as possible.

When it comes to my "bangers", I put many a Laymon novel right up there next to The Nightrunners, The Shaft, or Carnosaur/The Fungus; some of my personal favorites in the deeper ghettos of horror fiction.

I dunno. I avoid a lot of high 70's horror for a lot of the same reason you don't seem to like much Laymon; tired cliches, lame writing and dialogue, gratuitous sex that isn't very sexy, sad attempts at being "shocking", and so on.

Again, this isn't even an argument or anything of that sort, I'm just truly intrigued that with the serious attention you put on certain novels you haven't found anything to enjoy in Laymon's catalog.

Next time, on Disagreements: Ramsey Campbell.

Lincoln said...

Funny how the vibe from Laymon fans seems to be 'how can you like horror, but not Laymon?'.
But, the same people are happy to criticise authors like Campbell - I read a comment/criticism recently that Campbell's work is 'too British' - what does that even mean?

Adam said...

Uhm, if you're referring to my comment, I actually love Ramsey Campbell to pieces and if I recall correctly it's Will who doesn't care for a lot of his work. So...y'know, labels and stereotypes.

Lincoln said...

No Adam, not directed at your post. A generalisation though, based on reading posts on various message boards over the years.
Good to see another RC fan - he certainly doesn't get the love he deserves!

Will Errickson said...

Campbell of course is one of the giants in the field, like him or not, but he is not well known at all outside the genre.

He was definitely one of the first modern horror writers I read in the '80s since all his books were in print thanks to Tor. I liked some of his stories while others were left me cold, his prose could be turgid, his allusions obscure. I never finished the Campbell novels I began, ANCIENT IMAGES and OBSESSION. I do recall liking the erotic horror collection SCARED STIFF.

His impact on this blog is twofold: around 2000 I decided I wanted to read more horror again (after years of college studies and literary fiction and general nonfiction) so I bought a copy of DEMONS BY DAYLIGHT, as well as Caitlyn Kiernan's debut SILK. Neither was impressive. I was especially disappointed with Campbell's collection bc I knew it was his first w/o HPL influence. So I went back to literary fiction and general nonfiction and also upped my crime fiction & SF intake.

2007, for some reason, the same urge hits me (it was near Halloween), and I pick up, yes, Campbell's DARK COMPANIONS. Guess I was feeling nostalgic for those old Tor paperbacks! I really got into this batch of tales, and it was one of the major springboards for beginning this blog a couple years later. I enjoyed DOLL WHO ATE HIS MOTHER and his various short stories in the '70s & '80s anthos I was reading, and have amassed about a dozen of his vintage titles.

Then last year I read his contributions to NIGHT VISIONS 3: THE HELLBOUND HEART, and loved them! Don't know what it was, but they all struck an unnerving chord in me. So while his output varies widely - he's incredibly prolific - I today count myself a fan. But I know other genre fans find him and other quiet horror writers too obtuse for their own good (the Por Por Books blog once referred to his prose as "clotted," which I guess I can see!).

Anyway, it's experiences like that which cause me to revisit some writers I've been ambivalent about or disliked in the past. Which is why I'm still giving Laymon chances!

Lincoln said...

I really think you need to 'find a way in' with Campbell, if you know what I mean? 'Dark Companions' is a good place to start, then work back to 'Demons...' and 'The Height of the Scream' etc.
His 90's collections are also very strong.

Authorfan said...

Love this blog. Just wanted to say it.

Kevin F said...

Ancient Images captivated me. I think it was the the classic Universal Monster films hook that did it for me. I don't think Campbell is what one would call an easy read, though I found Ancient Images to be a quick read.

On a strange aside, Will, I had the exact same Jaws t-shirt when I was a kid.

Unknown said...

Great discussion on Laymon. Will, I'm glad you gave him another shot.

As you know, I'm a serious fan of his work, and enjoy the majority of it quite a bit.

I mostly agree with Adam's comments, which are quite fresh, although I would not argue that Laymon was a "hack" who wrote for money and family. I've read A WRITER'S TALE several times, and Laymon does not come across as someone who wrote for purely pragmatic purposes. He had a genuine love for the genre, and was well read in a variety of genres.

I would add QUAKE to the required reading list, too.

He is/was definitely an acquired taste, but I love his work, and for mine, he was more often on his game than off.

It's all subjective.


Adam said...

Thanks, Unknown. As for the "hack" label, well...As I said, I meant it in the most sincere way possible. An artist is a tough thing to be, especially when there are very specific ideas or modes that you want to explore. I fear that there are many, many excellent works of art out there that are completely unknown simply because there's no market for them; we all know that quality is no assurance of purchase or dissemination. Laymon was a "hack" in that I feel he had to find a niche, a market, simply in order to be a "working writer" which was surely his dream. He was pragmatic in the sense that he couldn't let his family and practical concerns go by the way-side as he chased his romantic dream, as many other artists are wont to do. He had to find a way of being a writer of fiction while still paying the bills and sending his daughter to college. If that meant that he had to work in a genre that he probably felt hamstrung by at times, then he was realistic enough to put the real world first and not focus on his own ego or "artistic integrity".

I firmly believe that the man had a number of great non-genre novels he could've produced if he had more time and freedom from his publishers.

Hell, works like Island, The Stake, and The Woods are Dark, so far apart from one another, were already pushing away from being strict genre exercises and he was far more willing to go against or subvert genre expectations than many of his even more "hacky" peers.

P.S. I cracked open my copy of Out are the Lights yesterday and realized I hadn't read "The Tub" or couldn't remember having read it. Swallowed it down in one gulp and it just reaffirmed for me why it is that I saddle up to the bar and order a Laymon, straight-up.

Will, is your copy of OatL the Headline edition with the extra stories? If so, Bad News might give you some frisson and kick you back over to his side of the street, at least to look around again.

Adam said...

Ha ha ha, and Will, you know you keep giving Laymon another try 'cause every time you post about him you get hits like a mob button-man.

Will Errickson said...

My copy of OUT is the original Warner books paperback from '82 or so. Laymon's books are generally collectible, so I *will* by his first US editions for cheap if I see them. I even found a mint copy of the original CELLAR for $1 at a library sale!

And you're right Adam: Laymon posts are always super-popular... ;-)

Adam said...

^You've got to, at sometime, ask yourself, "Why do people leap to defend his work?"

The answer is: It IS defensible.

And, Will, you're on your way. I own at least 3 copies of The Cellar. I know you don't have much love for it, but...well...I suppose that's for a future comment thread. Keep up the evil work, there are some of us out there who truly appreciate the chance to open doors, comment on said doors, and to rip them off the hinges if need be. And if there IS a beast in your cellar, perhaps he be me.

highwayknees said...

The debate rages over Campbell still i realize,(not to mention Laymon), and I can see why. I am an admirer of his work -but only intermittently . While he is obtuse and boring sometimes, he can also be really good and ON at others. The last gamble I took with him that paid off in spades was with: The Darkest Part of the Woods. I picked it up in pb for the wonderfuly creepy cover alone. But it turned out to be one of my all time favorites of any horror novel! The last third of the book alone really is so moving that it resonates as Greek tragedy more than horror. It's based on the legend of The Greenman and boy does it deliver the goods!

Oh-and another thing... Id like to let you know about a new-ish writer who also "delivers". Her name is Mo Hayder. Im reading Poppet now and Wow! I think it's the 5th book of hers that I've read. All of which were equally great! She seems to be prolific too cuz there are more of them to savor
! I kind of relate her mysterious obscurity to another writer I enjoy: Michael Marshal Smith. They have a similar aura of modernity.

Fernando Brambila O. said...

I remember this one, more for an anecdote: in an interview sometime in the 90's Laymon himself, when the reporter mentioned the Fangoria magazine, he said, almost out of context "you should read 'Night Show', where I displayed my research on Fangoria". Like maybe he was so proud of the fact that he bothered to research something he absolutely had to brag about it. (And hey, like you said, maybe he didn't do it so badly in that at least the parts about how movie makeup is done don't sound improvised on the spot)
That aside, the novel itself? Eh, there's not really much more to add to what you posted, except maybe I think it's a little more hard to decide if the fact that Linda is the real sociopath here is unintentional. Early on, one of her first acts of revenge is to burn the abandoned house she was held in. When she hears on the news that two people died in that fire, she dismissed it with a blunt: "They shouldn't have been there, anyway!"
This would be chilling, except... from the way she's presented, and especially compared to how the leads in other Laymon books act, it really seems that the narrative intends for us to see her as sympathetic. Similarly, the revelation that Tony is actually quite incapable of killing people (but not incapable of whipping a woman with a rope because these books are just not ridiculous enough) seemed more a deus-ex-machina used to make sure the lead couple get a happy ending, which is actually far more common in Laymon books than one might expect.
I dunno, in the end this seemed to me yet another book that was much more interesting in concept than in execution. Oh, well!

Daniel S. Duvall said...

The first bit of Laymon fiction I ever read was a short story titled "Boo" in the book October Dreams: a Celebration of Halloween. "Boo" remains one of the finest short tales I've ever enjoyed, and I promptly acquired a few Laymon novels to check out. Alas, his long-form fiction ranges from just okay (Night in the Lonesome October) to really hard to slog through (lots of other titles). I stumbled upon your blog because I just started reading Night Show. I'll likely finish it since it's a short book set in a world I like (Hollywood), but I've lowered my expectations after digesting your thoughts.

Unknown said...

I don't have a ton of Laymon experience, so I can't strognly agree or disagree with you. I thought One Rainy Night was a fun book but a little repitive. The same with Island. However, After Midnight was a phenomenal read, and it's a very light horror read, more like a chaotic thriller that's as fast-paced a book as I've read. I like Laymon so far but I haven't read enough of him to deem him on of my favorites. I own 5 or so more by him, and I think I'm most excited by his short story collection Fiends.

Josh said...

Laymon is total rubbish, but therein lies the charm. The majority of his books aren't worth reading, though he's got a few hidden gems that are wildly entertaining.

After Midnight (must be read to be believed)
In the Dark

The rest? Blech. Read After Midnight, though. You're welcome.

Daniel R. Robichaud said...

I admit I'm a sucker for Out Are The Lights, which is a grisly flip side to Night Show. It's got the same workman level style, but the gruesomeness made it compulsively readable for me.

Kim Carroll said...

Wow, just found your blog and am now hooked! I was directed here while looking up Lets Go Play at the Adams (great review, by the way). Now 3 hours later I am still reading the posts and came upon your comments about Richard Laymon. Its really a shame you started with his "not so good" earlier works. Endless Night and Come out Tonight are a couple of my favorites. I like how his heroes are usually a little creepy and flawed themselves. I ask that you give these a chance and then if you still say you dislike him, I will respect that.

Padded Cell said...

Keep in mind that Laymon had a day job during the early '80s. He wasn't writing full time.

His later books tend to be better than the really old ones, although he still has a sort of A book / B book pattern even as a full-time writer. He was publishing two books per year, and one is usually a little better than the other.

Laymon gets more consistent around the time of "Midnight's Lair."

Most of his novels are pretty good, but if you're gun shy from the three you don't like, try some of the short stories in Madman Stan, Fiends, or A Good, Secret Place.

Also, avoid the novels "The Lake" and "Beware."

toomuchhorrorfiction said...

"Keep in mind that Laymon had a day job during the early '80s. He wasn't writing full time."

This seems to me a distinction without a difference. Lots of writers were part-time at first, probably most, and managed to turn out fiction that wasn't moronic tripe...

I have copies of MIDNIGHT'S LAIR and BEAST HOUSE, who knows, reviews might be forthcoming someday!

Padded Cell said...

I just meant it's no surprise that the books got better when he had nine months per book and wrote full time, compared to only six months per book at the same time he was also working as a librarian.