In Laymon’s Terms Edited by Kelly Laymon, Steve Gerlach, and Richard Chizmar

From Cemetery Dance:

This massive, oversized tribute anthology for Richard Laymon features short fiction and personal remembrances from dozens and dozens of the biggest names in horror and Laymon’s biggest fans.

In addition, there are more than one hundred pages of “Rarities and Fan Favorites” from Richard Laymon’s personal files — stories, interviews, and more, including a 17 page photo album personally selected by Ann Laymon. Several of these rare pieces were scanned directly from Laymon’s original manuscripts and contain his handwritten corrections.

Featuring more than 600 pages of fiction and essays written in honor of the man, author, and friend, In Laymon’s Terms is personal, moving, and wildly entertaining. This is a unique hardcover that would have made Richard Laymon proud.

Richard Laymon is the most respected author in the genre.  This is a very simple and a very bold statement but it is also a statement that I believe to be completely accurate.  Listening to authors talk about Laymon is like listening to veterans talk about a sergeant who saved his entire platoon because of his selfless devotion to the cause.  The love they have for Richard Laymon is genuine and boundless.  I’ve even spoken to authors who may not necessarily care for his style but they are quick to add that, as a person, Dick was in a league of his own.  His love for the genre and his peers was unparelled and the man never took his success for granted.  Simply put, he was a class act.

Cemetery Dance did a fantastic job with this book.  The look and  feel of the book is absolutely breathtaking and it does the memory of Richard Laymon supreme justice.  The amount of material presented within the covers is staggering and every word of it drips with the love and adoration for a man who was criminally underrated by a few and insanely loved by many.

The beauty of this wonderful Cemetery Dance release is that it will appeal to Laymon devotees, as well as non-fans equally.  Sure there are stories here that could have easily come directly from Laymon’s pen (Keene’s Castaways and Smith’s Pizza Face) but there are a great abundance of tales that channel the spirit of Laymon without bearing much resemblance to his style (Ed Lee’s Chef).  A great deal of credit should be given to Kelly Laymon, Steve Gerlach and Richard Chizmar.  These are the editors who realized that there are genre fans out there that may not care for the Laymon style but are very curious about his impact on the genre and they did a wonderful job putting that on display in this collection. The stories range from despicable in the case of Torres’ Bestiality, to humorous in Piccirilli’s New York Comes to the Desert, to flat-out brilliant with Little’s Meeting Joanne. Every story really seems to take a theme present in Laymon’s work and exploit it to the fullest.  The quality of work in this collection is amazing, as every story is memorable and executed impeccably.  This is one of those rare collections where there really isn’t a weak spot to speak of.

Then there are the remembrances.  Ah yes, the remembrances. There is no way I can adequately explain the emotion evoked in these heartfelt essays.  For many of these writers, this was the opportunity to formally say goodbye to a friend that was taken from them too early. The magnitude of emotions displayed here will have your heart in your throat and tears streaming from your eyes.  There is no way around it. The recollections range in tone but all are a testament to the fact that Richard Laymon was a great mentor and friend to many. The reader will feel slightly voyeuristic as these authors lay their souls on the paper.  These essays are really that powerful.

As a complete Laymon nut, the real highlight for me was the inclusion of actual Laymon works that I have never read.  Reading Laymon’s dedication to pipe smoking in his short lived zine, ‘Smokers Blend’, was an absolute treat, while dissecting some poems from a college aged Laymon was more fun than I’ve had in awhile.  These are the real draw for the Laymon fan and make this collection well worth the price.  It adds a certain sense of validity to those years of clamoring about in used bookstores trying to find the Headline edition of In The Dark or selling various organs to afford that copy of A Writer’s Tale on eBay. This collection proves that we weren’t the only ones going crazy over the writings of Richard Laymon.

This is a most fitting farewell to a man who deserves to be appreciated in the same way that people appreciate names like King, Barker and Bloch.  His writing was mean and gritty with a subtle undercurrent of brutal humor which made his style so damn unique.  More than any other writer, Richard Laymon sucked me into the world of genre fiction and, based on the brilliant display of emotion in this gorgeous collection, I am not the only one.

Nasty Little Things: Meli’s Thanksgiving Day Gross-Outs!

 We enjoy all the diversity horror fiction has to offer here at Dreadful Tales, from a deliberately paced, atmospheric tale to a balls-to-the-wall action piece. While our bookshelves boast eclectic taste, we do love a nasty bit of fiction. The type of reading that not only pushes you out of your comfort zone, but refuses to acknowledge that such a thing exists. This is why we’ve decided to dedicate a monthly column to the nastiest, most brutally extreme gore in the genre in a new feature called Nasty Little Things. Each month could bring something different, but it will always offer examples of the most transgressive, sick, and twisted shit in horror fiction lit. For the inaugural post, I’m flying solo to bring you a list of the sickest gross-out scenes in horror fiction to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. For me, this day is all about food and that euphoric tryptophan-induced coma that sweeps over you right after the first meal. A holiday that celebrates eating ’til a near bursting point is the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be terribly uncomfortable and full of regret. Once I’m past the third or fourth helping I just stand at the fridge nibbling right out of the Tupperware. But this year, not to worry because I’ve got a full-proof plan, and full-proof list, to kill even the strongest appetite. For the first edition of Nasty Little Things, I present “Meli’s Thanksgiving Day Gross-Outs,” my picks for the nastiest gross-out scenes in horror fiction that are sure to keep you away from the leftovers with your dignity in tact. Declaring what’s the sickest, grossest, and most depraved in horror lit can be problematic. A lot depends on the reader’s interpretation of the writer’s words or the reader’s own personal phobias etc., so keep in mind these are the scenes that I found to be the nastiest. You can play along at home by leaving your sickest scene in the comments section. Bon appétit!

Book / Author: Pressure by Jeff Strand
The Scene: Cactus Neck Tumor
Why it’s gross: Among the top picks for worst ways to die, I think choking on your own blood (say, from a stab wound to the throat) is pretty high up there. Not only is gagging on your own blood really gross, but you get just enough oxygen to keep you alive and struggling to breathe for hours. OK, that last part may not be scientifically accurate, but it’s definitely a slow, agonizing, and disgusting death. Worse than that? How ‘bout impalement by cactus in the freakin’ neck! The death of one of Strand’s fated characters in Pressure isn’t directly caused by cactus impalement, but it makes their last moments especially horrific. The thought of feeling thousands of little pinpricks in my neck is enough to make the bile rise in my throat because sometimes pain can be so excruciating it’s vomit-inducing. That’s why Strand’s Cactus Neck Tumor scene had to make my Thanksgiving Day Gross-Out list. Because “a large piece of bloody cactus…embedded in her neck” just makes my stomach turn. Big ole nasty, bloody piece of cactus hanging from her neck like a barnacle from another world. Yuck!
Best Served With: Gazpacho

Book / Author: Endless Night by Richard Laymon
The Scene: Pan-fried Finger Foods
Why it’s gross: Laymon has all kinds of nasty bits to choose from, but I have a particular aversion to cannibals. People eating people, people wearing people, it all gives me the creeps and seriously kills my appetite. To this day, I can’t forget what I was eating and drinking the first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Doritos with water! In this particular scene from Endless Night, we find one very disturbed character frying up faces and fingers in the skillet like a macabre breakfast only a sicko can appreciate! He even compares the fingers and thumbs to “stubby little sausages.” As if that wasn’t bad enough he continues to muse, “They were browning up nicely except for the nails, which had curled oddly.” Finally, without any regard for the weak-stomached readers, Laymon has this psycho eat a finger tip! Taken out of context, it may not sound so bad, but it was enough to keep me away from the franks for a while. That little detail about the fingernails helps make this scene particularly cringe-worthy.
Best Served With: Fried bologna sandwiches

Book / Author: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
The Scene: An Intimate Moment with Worms
Why it’s gross: There’s plenty in The Strain to challenge the reader’s gag reflex. These vampires are not the romantic and mysterious figures that daintily nibble your neck, sipping your blood while caressing your bosom. They’re nasty, violent, and ugly. Their curse spreads like a virus, literally. When you try to damage these vile creatures, their wounds secrete a milky white substance writhing with infectious worms. In one of the most unsettling scenes a woman finds herself being invaded by these creatures through every orifice of her body, and I mean every orifice. “There was then a most unnerving wriggling sensation around her crotch – and then a sudden, twisting discomfort in her rectum.” Being violated by capillary worms is a top tier kind of nastiness. Waves of nausea run through my body just thinking of it.
Best Served With: Rice Vermicelli

Book / Author: The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker
The Scene: Out with his tongue!
Why it’s gross: Barker is a master of brilliantly twisted worlds and boundary-pushing prose. The Midnight Meat Train is an apt example of his complex storytelling, but also his proclivity for pushing the limits of perversion. Blood flows freely and the innocent are slain with impunity in this story, but it’s the cannibals that come back to haunt me. At the climax of this gruesome tale, one man finds himself up against a great evil, an evil that wants to silence him forever. “Suddenly his tongue was seized tight and twisted on the root… Blood was in his throat, he heard his flesh tearing, and agonies convulsed him.” Tongues being cut, ripped out, or violated in any manner gets my stomach in tumbles, but what happens next tops that. This malevolent force “stuffed the tongue into his own mouth, chewing on it with evident satisfaction.” The texture of a tongue, all slimy and rough, is more repulsive to me than any other body part. Cooked well it might be an appetizing little dish, but raw and right out of a living man’s mouth!? No way.
Best Served With: Blood sausage

Book / Author: Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Scene: The Unstoppable Libido of A Monster
Why it’s gross: Lindqvist is unabashed at representing a truly violent and brutal world full of human monsters. This is a beautiful, sometimes whimsical, tale of a charming friendship amidst a cruel and terrible world with plenty of scenes to make you gasp, wince, and gag. But probably the most disturbing and gut-wrenching is the self-inflicted acid bath one character takes in an effort to obscure his identity. His face is completely disfigured. Melted pieces of flesh hang from bone “as if the head had been replaced by a mass of freshly killed and butchered eels.” His mouth is melted shut, and one eye is melted down onto his cheek. It’s not just his horribly disfigured form that is so grotesque. Driven by a healthy dose of vampire venom and a sexual obsession, we’re treated to this mutilated man enjoying a rather enthusiastic five-knuckle shuffle! His “hand pulled the foreskin aggressively up and back, up and back, and the head of his penis appeared and disappeared, appeared and disappeared like a jack-in-the-box while he uttered a sound of pleasure or suffering.” That ain’t like no jack-in-the-box I ever had as a kid! That’s just plain sick!
Best Served With: Open-faced tuna melt sandwich

Book / Author: Slither by Edward Lee
The Scene: Parasitic Semen
Why it’s gross: No gross-out list could be complete without the maestro of morbid, Edward Lee. He knows how to warp minds and upset stomachs. When I think of gross, Slither is one of the first books that comes to mind. Plenty of nastiness in this book to chose from, but one scene stands out – the parasitic semen! First, a brief explanation, the island in which this sci-fi horror mash-up is set is overrun by worms. There are large ones, chitin-penetrating ones (that means they can penetrate shells), and even small parasitic ones, like those that star in this grossest of gross scenes. A nice gentlemen ejaculates in an equally nice lady’s mouth upon which she immediately spits it out due to the disgusting taste. But this isn’t because it’s her first time and the taste of splooge is foreign to her. It’s because it really tastes awful. And there’s no wonder why because “roiling amid his spat-out semen were hundreds of tiny yellow beads, smaller versions of the ones he’d plucked off his body the other night.” Now that is seriously sick!
Best Served With: Egg drop soup

So, those are my favorite gross-outs, what’s yours?

All Hallows Read (Day 28) A scary book for…..

………your favorite teacher.

Darkness, Tell Us tells the tale of Professor Corrie Dalton and a few of her best students. Professor Dalton may be one of Laymon’s most vibrant characters.  She is a total bad-ass and would be the dream teacher for any college aged kid.
All Hallow’s Read is a book-giving tradition thought up by author Neil Gaiman. We’ll be making book suggestions all month long in case you need ideas!

All Hallow’s Read (Day 23) A scary book for…

…someone who loves movies

We’ve gotta hand out more love for Laymon during this month’s festivities, and especially for this little treat of a book.

Packed with more blood, action, and excitement than any of Laymon’s other books, One Rainy Night will surely satisfy not only the bloodlust that most horror movie enthusiasts experience, but it also remains one of the quickest reads you will ever experience from a full length novel. This book is not only 100% Dreadfully Approved, but it sits in Colum’s list of the top 3 Laymon books you must read. One Rainy Night is perfect for anyone who digs movies and would argue that they don’t have enough time to read a book.

All Hallow’s Read is a book-giving tradition thought up by author Neil Gaiman. We’ll be making book suggestions all month long in case you need ideas!

Night Show by Richard Laymon

Our loyal readers know that the Dreadful Tales family are a bunch of Laymon fanatics, hence the homage to him in our title, but this review comes with a little confession. I wasn’t always a Laymon fan. In fact, I was disappointed and highly critical of my first Laymon read The Cellar. Without getting into specifics, let’s just say I could’ve never guessed I would be devouring every piece of nasty Laymon fiction I could get my hands on this past summer. Luckily, my brothers in horror wouldn’t let me quit with just one try and after receiving a Laymon care package from Colum and giving him another shot I was officially converted over to the darkside. Now a loyal follower, possessed by the demon cry of the master of splatterpunk, imagine my surprise when I found the title you see to your left, Night Show (Tor Books 1986), at a local coffee shop / used records & bookstore. It’s little place in Bowling Green, Ohio called Grounds For Thought (clever, huh?). They have coffee, of course, sandwiches and other pastries. They also have a section of used comics, records, and an ever-growing stock of used books with a few shelves marked “horror” in red drops of blood. Well, not real blood I hope. But I digress. I must’ve perused this shelf dozens of times throughout the summer and although I’m sure I saw Night Show among the stacks it wasn’t until I had an itch to scratch for this infamous writer that it finally caught my eye. The cover has a great 80’s vibe enticing the reader with plenty of blood, some scary thrills, and the essential babes-stalked-by-mad-killer thread. While Night Show doesn’t quite deliver on as much blood as the cover suggests, all Laymon’s other signature elements are there; non-stop action, tough babes, and crazed killers!

There are two different summaries of the story depending on which edition of Night Show you pick up. The Tor Books edition that I scored at the coffee shop is as follows:

Dani Larson is the Queen of Horror Movie Special Effects. Grisly murders and mutilated corpses are her stock in trade. Nothing scares her – not even watching herself shotgunned into fragments of butcher-shop gore.

But now the gore is real, and the woman without fear is in terror of her life. She is being stalked by the Chill Master, a psychopath who first wants to be Dani’s apprentice, then her lover, and finally: her replacement.

Can Special Effects defeat a madman, or is a movie come to life too much for the Queen of Horror?

The Headline Book edition simply reads:

High-school prankster Tony Johnson kidnapped school beauty Linda Allison and locked her in a haunted house for the night. Linda didn’t see the funny side. Now Tony is in Hollywood and has forgotten all about Linda. But she certainly hasn’t forgotten him.

Either synopsis is a glaring reminder of how much I misunderstood Laymon. Both summaries exemplify a common theme in his work; women who defy horror stereotypes. I’m not proud to admit that I made a snap judgement about Laymon’s relationship with women based on their representation in The Cellar, but I am glad that I had an opportunity to finally see the error in my initial impression. If you browse Goodreads for reader reviews on Night Show you will find many that open with the explanation that this is not Laymon’s best work. I would even say this is a pretty weak entry when pitted against my favorites, but considered on its own Night Show is still a highly entertaining, fun and thrilling ride. And this story is made better than average with the strong female leads. In an industry dominated by men (especially when this book was originally published in 1984), Laymon throws an interesting curve ball by casting Dani as the Queen Horror Movie Special Effects. Not only has she garnered great success and admiration for her work, but she is also beautiful. Double threat! You also have the beautiful Linda who sets out to prove that she won’t take an ill-fated prank lightly. All the famous slashers have a final girl who uses her will to survive and clever methods of combat to defeat her killer, but Laymon’s books are filled with kick-ass chicks! And as Laymon proves in Night Show, they’re not always the stereotypical goodie goodie who refrains from sex, drugs, and alcohol. Taking Dani for example. She’s just a regular chick with a healthy libido who likes to party and won’t be pushed around. And she creates the best special effects in the biz. Now that’s my kind of final girl!

Speaking of libidos, there is a ton of sex in this book. Laymon books are often filled with sexual content, but for some reason the sex scenes in this book were a little overkill. Not because they were over the top or too explicit, quite the contrary. They just seem to drag on and became repetitive at times. A minor grievance for a story that delivered most of the time. I was more interested in the plot development and the intimate lover’s moments seemed like meaningless intermission between the action.

Night Show is not a book that solidified Laymon as a master of gore. This book is more toned down in graphic content compared to his other works, but the story definitely doesn’t suffer for it. Even though he is more frugal with the blood and guts it doesn’t make the chills and thrills any less jarring.

Overall, Night Show is a satisfying jaunt into subdued Laymon country. Not quite as gruesome as Laymon fan favorites and veers slightly off course at times, but a fun little horror nugget to snack on if you have some time to kill.

Keep your eyes peeled at the local garage sales and used bookstores and you just might find the vintage Tor Books edition. Otherwise, you can pick up the Headline Books version at Amazon.com here.

The Traveling Vampire Show by Richard Laymon

The Traveling Vampire Show may be the perfect novel. Not the perfect novel for everybody but the perfect novel for me. In case you were not aware, I am a complete sucker for a well told coming-of-age story. Boy’s Life, Dweller and It sit firmly atop my ‘Best Novels of All Time’ list. I’m also a fan of over-the-top Looney Tunes brutality and gore. The Traveling Vampire Show has all of that and more.

The story follows three 16-year-old best friends: the eternal Boy Scout Dwight, a well read tomboy Slim and dim witted Rusty. The novel takes place in a single day as this trio attempt to get into a road show called The Traveling Vampire Show. The show is strictly an adult affair but these three are determined to get in. This is the backdrop for one of the best coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read.

There are elements in the story that bring me back to the magic of childhood. The type of magic that made monsters real and dreams attainable. When Laymon conjures up the image of an enormous man gliding down the center of the street while wearing a ghost costume- I can see myself as a kid, believing with all my heart that what I am seeing is real. I could feel Dwight’s pain as he battled with longing and turmoil that only a 16 year-old boy can know. I felt like Laymon was describing my youth. Sure the events weren’t the same, but the emotions sure were. He was able to tap into the universal emotions that each of have felt at one time.

Then as I am getting all warm and fuzzy Laymon decides that he wants to take the reader to The Traveling Vampire Show. At this point the story takes a complete 180. The tender emotions of youth are replaced with razor sharp spears and unspeakable horror. Things get COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL. I have never been so blindsided by a book and it was absolutely brilliant!

The Traveling Vampire Show may not be representative of Laymon’s typical work but it is a reflection of his best work.  This is a book that will be enjoyed by life-long Laymon fans, as well as those who may have been put off by his earlier offerings.  In short, this is a novel that every genre fan needs to read.

Friday Night in Beast House by Richard Laymon

Ever wonder where hormonally charged youth in Malcasa Point take their dates on a Friday night?  Maybe they take in a movie and grab some dinner or it could just be a simple walk on the beach?  Nope.  In Malcasa Point, the kids get their thrills on Friday night by sneaking into the infamous Beast House and having the time of their lives.

From CemeteryDance.com:

Return to Malcasa Point… two young lovers meeting at midnight for a very special date… meeting at the Beast House… after hours… in the dark… it’ll be a night they never forget!

 The premise of this novella is quite simple.  Mark is a typical young man who will do anything for a date with the most attractive girl in school, Allison.  After finally mustering up enough courage to ask Allison out, Mark is elated when she agrees.  The only problem is that Allison insists that the date take place in the Beast House…… after hours. Not one to let logic (or his sense of personal safety) stand in the way, Mark agrees to the date and formulates a plan to sneak into the Beast House and hide out until the staff has left.  Mark’s plan is executed flawlessly and the two teenagers spend a night together that will change them forever.

 This novella was released 6 years after Richard Laymon’s untimely passing and the final result is a work that feels like it is not quite finished.  The characters are entirely one dimensional and there are elements of the plot that don’t seem to be thoroughly fleshed out.  Take Mark for example- there are times when he seems innocent and sincere and other occasions when he comes across as a malicious little snit.  In one scene he is fretting over the prospect of lying to his parents and then a few chapters later he is frightening young children who are taking the Beast House tour by mimicking the sounds of the beast. The audience can never “get close” to him because there is no consistency with his characterization.  As a reader, this is a very difficult thing to overcome when trying to get caught up in a story.

 The other aspect of the story that didn’t sit right with me was the scene with the beast.  In an attempt to keep the spoilers to a minimum, I will say that the beast engages in activities that are consistent with previous encounters but it just didn’t seem right here.  Maybe it was the age of the children or maybe it was the reaction to the beast’s attack but the scene did not really flow with the rest of the story and completely took me out of it.  A more fluid and realistic ending probably would have served the story a little better.

 It should also be noted that there were some strong similarities between Friday Night in Beast House and Laymon’s final novel The Traveling Vampire Show. These two stories tell the tale of a young man coming into his own in very bizarre settings while grappling with the inner conflict of good vs. bad.  The difference is that The Traveling Vampire Show’s Dwight is a much more emotionally developed character than Mark.  This is what makes the coming-of-age angle work so well in The Traveling Vampire Show and, conversely, what makes Friday Night in Beast House a bit of a “ho hum” affair. As a bit of trivia, in both The Traveling Vampire Show and Friday Night in Beast House we find the protagonists hiding out atop a refreshment stand when they have unique run-ins with a canine. 

 The story is an entertaining little romp through the world that Laymon superbly created with The Cellar but it is far from his best work.  The sensuality and gore that define the Best House Chronicles are present but the strong characters and cutting narrative seem to be sadly absent.  If you’re willing to look past some poor characters then this story is a fun little voyage into that crazy placed known as Laymon Land.