February 14th, 2011

there!, Hello

Monsters With Mouths on Their WHAT?

Twenty years ago, my high school chum John Petrik showed me a battered paperback and said, "You've got to read this book! It's a horror story where the monsters have mouths on their dongs! It's fucking weird, man. Weird!" High recommendation among my high school circle... The cover was nothing to write home about. A woman's hand pushing open a door under a splashy-tacky title and above a blurb about the author using "a typewriter ribbon soaked in cold blood" (cute!). The novel's author was Richard Laymon.

That book turned out to be The Cellar (1980), and yes the monsters (Beasts, that is) had mouths on their dongs. But the real monster turned out to be a sicko father pursing his on-the-run family with the intent to murder his wife and rape his twelve year old daughter. Light reading. Actually, dark and bleak beyond description, but it was a fast paced book--the literary equivalent of a nasty 70s exploitation horror film.

In fact, that description pretty nicely sums up the author's output. The titles aren't terribly grabby--Once Upon a Halloween, Funland, The Cellar, The Beast House, The Traveling Vampire Show, etc.--but they were uniformly fast paced, nasty, cinematic horror adventures. Lots of sex, more violence (and plenty of sexual violence for that matter), monsters and maniacs (oh my!)... I didn't enjoy everything he wrote, but I connected with a few of his works. Never met or contacted the man who wrote them, though.

Valentine's Day 2001, the author died from a heart attack. Richard Laymon was an American author, but for the longest time he was better known and his work was more readily available in the UK. I actually used amazon.co.uk to order several of his titles. In the ten years since his death, Laymon's back list made its way onto American mass market horror shelves (due to regular reissues through Leisure Books). Unfortunately over the last few months, with that company's transition from print publication into e-books, that back list has once more vanished from America's mass market paperback shelves (though e-editions remain available).

Last week, I reread the Beast House Chronicles (a loose series that started with The Cellar and carried through The Beast House, The Midnight Tour, and Friday Night at Beast House) as I prepared to write an article about the author for Dark Scribe Magazine. I'm still working on that article, but today while the other kids pass hearts and candies around the classroom, I thought I'd take a moment to tip my hat to Laymon's shade. Thanks for the entertainment...

...and the monsters with mouths on their dongs.
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