Richard Laymon's Night in Lonesome October


Not so much a novel as a collection of surreal tinged horror vignettes strapped together around the semblance of a plot, this book gives off the vibe that it started out as a collection of short stories that was deemed more bankable in longer form. When Ed Logan's heart is broken, he sets out on a series of night-time adventures in the space between his college campus, his apartment, and an all night donut shop. Logan, whose description as a writer with a taste for the lurid pretty much means that he is Laymon in-story, encounters a bizarre menagerie of mostly disjointed horror trophes: cannibals, rapists, stalkers, old women on bicycles, prowlers, arabs with scary dogs, kidnappers in black vans, horny homosexuals, homeless people with dark secret, husband killers, clowns with melted faces, and crazy old men who sit on their front porch in the middle of the night. While several of the scenes are scary by themselves (the melted clown being a thumbs-up highlight), the sheer volume of unconnected terror makes the whole thing come off like a parody of a horror writer's mind.

By the time a dinner party amongst friends and enemies sets the stage for the last hundred pages of the novel, which includes the closest this book ever gets to a cohesive plot, the thing has dissovled into a series of "it's-in-the-script" moments. Plausibility of character reaction has seeped out of the window. All that remains is to sit back and enjoy the strange, funhouse ride. Unfortunately, the final quarter, with the heaviest plot, is the weakest. A few hinted at characters are explored deeper, and rarely to their overall benefit, and a few mysteries are waved aside. The book becomes torn between outright homophobia and merely suggesting that gays are lecherous predators who are the victims of childhood abuse. A couple of rapes are thrown in, to the benefit of neither plot nor character nor horror, and are then brushed off. One of them is suggested as being a distraction to hold the rapists attention. The whole climatic set-up reeks of some deleted scene of an exploitive Phantom of the Opera movie.

Laymon is at his best when he explores the modern concept of masculinity going awry, the terror of male sexuality, and this book definitely has that. It also has his signature ability to suggest that real horror lurks underneath the everyday world that we depend upon. When one adds in this book's sense of fun, with a copious amount of horror in-jokes and English major humor, the final result is a frustrating package. Split up into short stories, or held together by a tighter string, this book would have been his magnum opus. As it is, it comes across as a beach book for horror fans, forgettable except as a quick read with a few good scenes.

The final rating for this book is Eh.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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