Richard Laymon, Ed Lee, Jack Ketchum: Triage

Triage was released by Leisure Horror Bookclub, which puts out a couple mass-market horror books per month.

This review was originally posted to my LJ. With minor edits, it is in generally the same shape and form as the original.


This afternoon I picked up Triage and read it through. It is, as a whole, a good sized time-waster novel. It splits up into a novella by Richard Laymon (90 something pages), a short novel by Edward Lee (160-170 pages), and a long short story by Jack Ketchum (about 40 pages), but the publishers wanted all three called novellas so there you go.

The premise is phenomenal. A guy walks into a place of business and tries to kill someone with no initially apparent reason. It's one of those real simple ideas that makes for great horror. Each writer takes it in different directions. Now, I assumed there would be some differences, but I was not expecting this.

Laymon's bit is the scariest by a long shot. A woman is trapped in her office building against a killer she does not understand and therefore cannot plan against. It is classic Laymon. This is not to say that it is over the top, because in Laymon's terms (haha. I've made jokes you people wouldn't believe...) over the top would mean that the killer showed up to your door and pulled someone's nipples off with pliers and then fed them to your dog, before cutting up your dog and feeding the intestines to someone else, before having sex with them or something. I kid, but really he is willing to go to brink of brutality in his horror to get the story told so "over the top" does not quite apply. Fairly depraved sexuality shows up toward the end, and then it goes right into the crapper as far as consistency goes. Which means you feel like shit for reading it becaused you started out pretty damned nervous and then you got nothing but a few quick "tie it up in a hurry" pages.

Lee's nearly double the length novella is science fiction with a big ole slice of religio-sexual imagery. It starts with amazingly identical scenes, despite the setting change, as Laymon's. Pretty much the whole summation of what makes it a horror novel is found in one scene (which is pretty graphic) and the majority of it is shots at the church, a brief sexual awakening, and a world view that is intriguing, if a bit predictable. The ending made me laugh more than anything, but I think that might have been the point.

Ketchum's is the best, though only half the length of Laymon's. Not really a horror story at all, it is something of a mostly humorous, if dark, tale of a man having a bad day in a life that seems full of bad days. You pretty much keep reading, waiting for him to snap, and find yourself sort of liking the jerk and getting ready to defend his actions. It is quite enjoyable, and the only one of the three that I would recommend to just about anyone.

This collection is only like $6.99, so that is pretty cheap, and should be showing up in stores right now (right now = Jan 4, 2008, originally). Probably under Ketchum. Worth it for the first and last story, alone, with the middle story entertaining filler.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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