By Richard Laymon (Leisure; 2001)
This, the first posthumously published novel by the late Richard Laymon, is extremely representative of Laymon’s work in many respects. Like quite a few (if not most) of Laymon’s novels, it pivots on horny young people, is related in startlingly immediate minute-by-minute fashion, and is a damn satisfying read overall.
The first person protagonist is twenty-year-old Ed, who’s trying to get over the fact that his girlfriend Holly has dumped him. One night in October, shortly after learning that Holly has taken up with another guy, the heartbroken Ed decides to take a nocturnal stroll. This, and the many subsequent nighttime walks Ed takes around his neighborhood, sets into motion a whole slew of unforeseen occurrences.
First there are the women, no less than three of whom wind up competing for Ed’s affections: Holly’s unpredictable friend Eileen, the mysterious night stroller Casey, and Lois, a maternal yet sexually alluring insomniac. There’s also Kirkus, a gay acquaintance who makes no secret of the fact that he’s hot for Ed. So too, it seems, is Randy, a pervert Ed meets on one of his nocturnal jaunts (sexual confusion is the book’s unacknowledged subtext) who provides much of the horror. Also in the latter category are a band of cannibalistic hobos who reside under a bridge.
It wouldn’t be fair revealing how the above characters interact, as a large part of the novel’s enjoyment is its impossible-to-predict narrative, but I will reveal that there’s a murder, at least two smoldering-hot fuck sexual encounters, a car accident, an agonizing torture sequence involving darts and a samurai sword, and an ending that may tie things up a little too neatly in light of the appealing unpredictability of the rest of the novel. Yet it all works, being fun, compulsively readable and delightfully unnerving–in short, pure Richard Laymon through and through.