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OTHER ARTICLES
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Story Time

Laymon Obit in London Independent

Report by Jack Adrian
Copyright March 19 2001 by The Independent (London)
Reproduced by permission from The Independent, Obituaries, 19 March 2001

Richard Laymon
RICHARD LAYMON
THE HORROR writer Richard Laymon was a prophet almost entirely without honour in his own country. An American working in what is almost purely an American tradition - that of the "stalk-and-slash" and "splatter" genres - for most of his life he could only get published in the United Kingdom, where his fan following was impressive, highly appreciative and very vocal. This despite the fact that his first published novel THE CELLAR (1980) was the very epitome of American Gothic grisliness - vile troglodytish creatures dwelling far beneath the site of a gruesome slaughter-scene emerge at intervals to terrorise the local inhabitants, maiming and killing the males, sexually enslaving the females.

In effect Laymon was merely updating just about any novelette submitted to the old "shudder" pulps such as Horror Stories and Terror Tales of half a century before, but with lashings more sex and, as it were, lashings more lashings. The result sold over 200,000 copies and gained a four-week residency on the B. Dalton bestseller list.

His second novel in the mainstream (a young-adult "stalker" tale, Your Secret Admirer, had preceded The Cellar), THE WOODS ARE DARK (1981) bombed so badly, however, it virtually destroyed his career, at any rate in his own country.

Laymon always insisted the book was sabotaged by an over-eager editor affected by what might be termed (after the man who heroically wrestled Thomas Wolfe's notoriously flatulent prose into shape) "Maxwell Perkins- itis", an infamous syndrome amongst American book editors who view the work of their charges as a kind of tabula rasa that requires a good deal of close attention. Thus in an excess of editorial creativity, The Woods are Dark was rendered virtually unrecognisable to its author, was published, and then proceeded to do no business at all in the nation's bookstores.

A decade later Laymon rewrote it back to its original form for his British publishers. It then sold, like all his books in the UK, massively in both hardback and paperback. In later years, in interviews Laymon rarely spoke of US publishers save through clenched teeth, lauding his British publishers (first W.H. Allen then Headline) immoderately.

Laymon was born in Chicago in 1947. He attended both Willamette University, Oregon, and Loyola University, Los Angeles, gaining a Master's degree in English literature at the former, as well as a teaching credential and enough librarianship credits to become a certified librarian. At one time or another during his twenties and early thirties, he taught English at high school, edited small-circulation mystery magazines, published a short-lived paper for pipe-smokers, and clerked in a university library and a junior high. He was also a legal report-writer.

At the same time he cracked Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine aged 22, and later sold to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Mike Shayne as well as the "men's mags" Cavalier and Gallery. His tales were in the "dark suspense" genre rather than detective stories, and once The Cellar was published he began to gain commissions from editors of original horror anthologies.

His "difficulties with publishers" were to an extent exorcised in THE STAKE (1990), a vampire novel whose main protagonist is a writer of horror stories. Self-justificatory rants against purblind, greedy and doltish editors form an unusual counterpoint to the obligatory shrieks, groans, choked gurgles and meaty "thwacks" of hammers socking stakes into centuries' old hearts. Laymon otherwise rarely used his stories for propaganda purposes, preferring to let his customers have their bloody bones unadulterated.

In the main his books chronicled, in fairly repulsive detail, a breakdown in the civilised norm. BEWARE! (1985) starts off with the discovery of a crowd of ruptured corpses (destroyed by a blood-mad, invisible "force- creature") and keeps gear-shifting upwards after that.

In BLOOD GAMES (1992) girls on vacation from university gather at an abandoned hunting lodge (scene of a frightful massacre years before) in the Vermont woods to play "dares", thus sparkling off the spirit of the place and creating fresh carnage.

SAVAGE (1993) was atypical of his output and an interesting experiment he didn't quite bring off: his hero, a young boy, called (alas) Trevor is in Mary Kelly's room when Jack the Ripper murders her (allowing Laymon to bring into full play his fearsome descriptive skills in the depiction of Kelly's appalling dismemberment). The Ripper takes ship for America, pursued by Trevor who (in old age) tells the story in a curious mix of over-researched period thieves' cant and Old West vernacular.

There are no morals in Laymon's books ("Stephen King without a conscience," the writer Dan Marlowe once commented). Evil men get their come-uppances, but so do total innocents. He wrote of an entirely arbitrary and godless world, a dreadful reflection of our own.

Richard Carl Laymon, writer: born Chicago, Illinois 14 January 1947: married (one daughter); died Los Angeles 14 February 2001.

End Skull



STORY TIME
BOOKS BY RICHARD LAYMON






"IF YOU HAVEN'T READ LAYMON, YOU'RE MISSING A TREAT!"
-Stephen King

"RICHARD LAYMON TAKES IT TO THE MAX!"
-Dean Koontz

"LAYMON IS ONE OF THE BEST WRITERS IN THE GENRE TODAY."
-Cemetery Dance

"LAYMON IS AN AMERICAN WRITER OF THE HIGHEST CALIBER"
-Time Out

"LAYMON RIDES HARD AND FAST AND DEEP."
-Gothic.net

"LAYMON IS INCAPABLE OF WRITING A DISAPPOINTNG BOOK."
-New York Review Of Science Fiction

"RICHARD LAYMON IS A LEGEND IN DARK FICTION CIRCLES."
-Scary Monsters Magazine

"THE MAN KNOWS HOW TO HOOK A READER."
-feoamante.com

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