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.