COME OUT TONIGHT - 1999
by Richard Laymon
Headline, Leisure Books
It's been a long while since I've read anything by Laymon. Years ago a friend passed
me a copy of FUNLAND, which I read and liked enough to go out and try something
else by him. With each subsequent book, however, any admiration was rapidly
reduced until I couldn't stomach another blood drenched page of his brand of misogyny.
I can't recall the name of the book (though I think it might've been one he'd written as Richard Kelly) but I can remember the reason for putting the book down. This girl, after being brutally raped, staggers back to her boyfriend and actually has sex with him in an attempt to rid herself of the memory of the attack. I closed the book up thinking that, though I have a limited knowledge of rape victims, in every article I've read and every documentary I've watched on TV, this type of behaviour is unheard of.
Irresponsibility isn't a word generally bandied about the horror genre. But in this case
I think it's a fair accusation to level at Laymon.
The years have grown since then, along with Laymon's presence on the book shelves,
and just about everybody is raving about him. You can find this out for
yourself by just dropping by various message boards on the Internet. Trusting
this mob of loyal fans I decided to give him another try and picked up
his latest paperback COME OUT TONIGHT.
I really wish I hadn't.
It's a hot night, and as the Santa Ana winds blow, Sherry and Duane are going to
make love for the first time. The only trouble is the ancient condom that
Duane possesses disintegrates while Sherry unrolls it. Being an eager
beaver, Duane throws on his clothes and goes over the 24 hour Speed-D-Mart
for new supplies which is only 10 minutes down the block.
So Sherry waits.
It's during this wait that Laymon gives us all the information we are going to need
about Sherry - over the space of two short paragraphs.
She is approaching her twenty-fifth birthday, has a slender build and very short hair. She
is often mistaken for a boy. But she clearly has breasts. "The mounds
were small, but nicely round. Her nipples were dark and smooth."
Let's not even worry about her hair colour - let's just talk tits. And
she's a supply teacher. That's it for Sherry. Considering she is the major
character of this novel; it's not really a lot to go on - I'm sure you'll
But I'm letting myself get distracted here. Duane doesn't come back so Sherry goes looking
at the Speed-D-Mart for him. There she meets one of her pupils, Toby Bones,
who says he saw Duane leave with a man and offers to drive Sherry around so she can look for Duane.
I don't want to go and give away any of the surprises or twists but from here on out
you have to suspend belief that any character will act rationally. Laymon
obviously doesn't care too much about credible character development and
people in this book just do things as Laymon sees fit in order to move the plot on.
For starters - Sherry, who is searching for her boyfriend, actually agrees to stop
during the drive around for something to eat. Perhaps there's something
wrong with me but I think I'd be a little more eager to find a missing
partner. Also - let me put a little scenario to you. You've just been
sexually attacked and beaten. You're hurt and bloody but you've managed
to reach a place of safety. It's a restaurant so there are people about;
probably even a phone. What would you do? Phone the police, I bet. I know
I would. I certainly wouldn't go straight to the restroom to clean up.
I also have a problem with the way Laymon handles his female characters. Any man that
crosses Sherry's path during COME OUT TONIGHT only judges her on how she looks - even to the point where two teenagers
who find her body are thinking of indulging in a spot of necrophilia.
This looks a sure bet until she regains consciousness. Then they dress
her in a string bikini (honestly), but only after cleaning up her wounds thoroughly.
Sherry is put through all sorts of shit during the course of the book but how can
you truly care about a character when all you know about them is their
haircut and breasts? Like I said, we are given no other information on her.
Sherry is not alone here. Every woman in this book is put through the grinder -
usually with no clothes on. There's even a girl who at first is crying
while being raped but suddenly appears to enjoy the act. To explain this
you have to know she is fat and had a crush on the boy for years.
Excuse me while I smack my forehead with my palm. Of course - that would explain
it. Stupid me.
Someone needs to give Laymon that excellent article by Doug Winter. Then he might realise
that horror is an emotion and not just a way to put nubile young women
through torture and rape at the drop of a hat. If you want to know why
there is a demise in horror literature, my book buying chums, I present
to you the evidence for the prosecution: COME OUT TONIGHT.
It's a juvenile book aimed at an equally juvenile audience. Do yourself
a favour and don't bother with it.
BookWyrms? I'll give it one for the Steve Crisp cover and the section where Laymon
talks about Hemmingway . . . because he's reminded me there are other
writers out there who I'd rather spend some time in the company of.
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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