Richard Laymon and His Vampire Legacy

Richard Laymon and His Vampire Legacy
By Michael McCarty

Backstory: Just a few weeks before his untimely death, I had phoned Richard Laymon about doing an interview. The focus of the interview was going to be on his vampire books. I said something like: “It will be an up-close, in-depth look at all three of your vampire books.”
Dick chuckled and said, “Actually I wrote four. The first one was a young adult book that is no longer in print. But I wouldn’t want that title to appear in the interview.”
On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2001, Richard Laymon passed away. It was a tremendous lost to the horror community. He was a gentleman and a master writer of horror and humor.
This special report is my tribute to Laymon. Since we weren’t able to do that fateful interview, his books will do the talking. The books that make up Laymon’s vampire legacy – The Stake, Bite and The Traveling Vampire Show – are all still available in print and are well worth seeking out, as you’ll soon learn….

(The late, great Richard Laymon)

The Stake
by Richard Laymon

Publishing history:
Headline Books (UK), 6/13/1991, ISBN: 074723481, 6.99 pounds (paperback).
Zebra Books (US), 4/1995, out of print.
Pinnacle Books (US), 5/2000, ISBN: 0-7860-1258-7, $5.99, 507 pgs.

The review:
His name is Lawrence Dunbar. He is a writer of horror fiction, the author of such spooky books as Dead of Night, Cut, The Beast, Madhouse, and fourteen other thrillers. He is making a comfortable living writing fiction because he is selling his books in both the United States and England.
The Stake starts out with Larry and his wife Jean going on a day trip with their friends Pete and Barbara to the ghost town of Sagebrush Flat, California.
In this abandoned town, the two couples find, tucked away in the shadows of a hotel, the mummified corpse of a young woman. She has a stake buried in her chest – or as Larry would write in his account of the story:
“Somebody hammered a pointed shaft of wood through the heart of a woman. He left her inside a lidless coffin, and hid her corpse beneath the stairway of an abandon hotel in the town of Sagebrush Flat.”
Larry gets dragged by the throat into a ghoulish mystery. Is this young lady a real vampire, finally stopped by a vampire-hunter – or the unfortunate victim of a crazed, deluded killer?
There is only one way to find out for sure, and that is for Larry to pull out the stake.

Interesting real-life tidbits:
There is little doubt that Richard Laymon based Lawrence Dunbar on himself. Like Dunbar, he was writing books in the U.S. and the U.K. (at the time of the printing, his books were doing better overseas then in his own country).
Having met his wife Ann and his daughter Kelly, I would say they are both very similar to the fictional characters, Jean and Lane.
Plus, I have it on good authority that Pete and Barbara are based on friends of the Laymons who would go on trips with them.
I strongly suspect that he chose the name of Barbara, just so he could make a reference to Night of the Living Dead – no proof, just a very strong hunch.
Laymon told me on the phone that he was trying to get Leisure to re-release the book, but Zebra Books still had a contract with the novel. It was re-released instead through Pinnacle Books (a Kensington Publishing company that also owns Zebra Books) and it did very well.

Ranting and raving:
The Stake was one of Laymon’s personal favorites – he mentioned it in numerous interviews as such. I imagine he wrote the book standing up because he was so inspired, so super-charged with the concept, he didn’t want to waste valuable seconds by taking the time to sit down.

Mike’s blurb:
The Stake is Richard Laymon’s biggest and boldest vampire adventure. Don’t make the mis-stake (I know, bad pun) of not reading it.

Bite
by Richard Laymon

Publishing history:
Headline (UK), 5/8/97, ISBN: 0747251010, 6.99 pounds.
Leisure Books (US), 6/1999, ISBN: 0-8439-4550-8, $5.50, 378 pgs.

The Review:
Bite was easily one of the best horror novels of 1999. The story begins when the protagonist, Sam, gets a late-night visit from his former girlfriend Cat, who he hasn’t seen in ten years. She comes knocking at his door wearing only a silk robe.
It turns out that Cat is being victimized by a vampire named Elliot, and she wants Sam to hide in her closet with a stake and destroy him.
Sam sums up his own predicament: “Things had started fairly simple: weird but simple. I was supposed to ambush Cat’s vampire and kill it.”
Killing the vampire is the least of their worries. When they try to find a place to bury the stiff in the desert, they run into a psycho biker named Snow White.
The rest of the book is a comedy of errors and terrors.

Interesting real-life tidbits:
Don D’Auria, Leisure Books senior editor of horror and westerns, said this to me about Laymon and the book at the 2000 World Horror Convention:
“I was really thrilled to be able to publish Dick. I loved his stuff and always have. I was one of those people buying his imports (from England, Australia and New Zealand) over the Internet.
“He’s a brilliant writer who couldn’t get a break from the New York publishers just because he was writing horror.
“The first book we did with him, Bite, was one of our top sellers ever. He just needed somebody to publish him in America.”

Ranting and raving:
This book has great comical barbs and a reader-friendly, conversational narrative. Throw in a plot that twists and turns like a chiropractor’s nightmare and you have one weird and wild adventure.

Mike’s blurb:
I loved every page of it. Californian Laymon is a hot writer in England, Australia and New Zealand, and after Bite he finally got some long overdue attention in America.
Bite has bite – buy it!

The Traveling Vampire Show
by Richard Laymon

Publishing history:
Headline (UK), 6/1/2000 (hardback), 12/7/2000 (paperback), 17.99 pounds (hardback), 6.99 pounds (paperback), ISBN: 0747220522.
Cemetery Dance Publications (US), unsigned second edition with artwork by Alan M. Clark, ISBN: 1587670003, $40 (hardcover).
Leisure Books (US), 3/2001, ISBN: 0-8439-4850-7, $5.99, 391 pgs.

The review:
THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW
Come and see – the one and only known VAMPIRE in captivity!
– VALERIA –
Gorgeous! Beguiling! Lethal!

So starts the text of a flyer tacked to power poles and trees all over the rural town of Grandville. It’s a hot August morning in 1963, and with this sexy, scary announcement of a one-night-only, adults-only event outside of town, things are starting to get hotter.
For three teenage friends, this is definitely a performance that cannot be missed. Although they’re underage, and the show is at midnight (they have a curfew), the teen pals are determined to attend at any cost.
The rest of the day, night and book revolve around the trio’s adventures and discoveries. As midnight approaches, so does the terror.

Interesting real-life tidbits:
Laymon re-read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and Stephen King’s novella The Body, just to make sure his story would not be too much like theirs.

Ranting and raving:
Take Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, Stephen King’s The Body (which was turned into the movie, Stand by Me), Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life, Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night, and the movie Matinee – then throw in plenty of horny adolescent fantasies (these are teenagers, after all – that’s what’s on their minds all the time) and a generous sprinkling of humor and nostalgia (à la the early Sixties).
Toss all that into a high-speed blender and grind it together and you’ll end up with a macabre masterpiece like this. Richard Laymon won a posthumous Bram Stoker Award for this book.

Mike’s blurb:
This is a coming-of-age story with fangs – another vampire masterpiece by Richard Laymon.

Links:
Leisure Books: dorchesterpub.com
Headline: hodderheadline.uk.com
Cemetery Dance: cemeterydance.com
Pinnacle: kensingtonbooks.com

If you like this blog … please … please…. PLEASE …. check out my book I KISSED A GHOUL, which is a tribute, to the late, great Richard Laymond

(The original cover for I KISSED A GHOUL)

….

(The new cover for I KISSED A GHOUL)

(Larry Nadolsky’s tribute to I KISSED A GHOUL … hopefully, someday a graphic novel — if any publisher is interested)

I KISSED A GHOUL:

Amazon:

B&N:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-kissed-a-ghoul-michael-mccarty/1109722872?ean=9781620077436

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s