SAVAGE - 2000
by Richard Laymon
Headline Feature (UK)
When I first started visiting HorrorNet back in late '98, a lot of people started
talking up Richard Laymon's writing. Unfortunately, at that time he was
still published mainly in the United Kingdom (since then, Leisure and Cemetery Dance have brought over more and more of his
work). Then the World Horror Convention came around in March of
'99, and people continued to talk up Laymon, telling me I HAD to
pick up something of his.
So, I wander over to the Borderlands Books table and strike up a conversation
with Jeremy Lassen (editor, FREAK PRESS).
"What's the best Laymon book you got?"
He browses some hardcovers and I add "One that's easy on the budget." Fortunately
at WHC 2000 in Denver, I had no such budget restraints and walked away
with some nice hardcovers. I even managed to get them signed! Pretty sweet.
But I digress.
So Lassen and I get to talking, and we settle on SAVAGE. I fork out the extra bucks
for the English edition, thinking "nearly $20.00 for a paperback?
He damn well better be good!" I head back toward my hotel room to
drop it off in the safety of my luggage, not wanting to pour beer on my
new rather expensive collection.
And lo and behold I step into the elevator with none other than Richard Laymon and his wife
and daughter. But did I know this? Nope. I'm standing there with SAVAGE under my arm, and I'm standing with this average looking family, and making
bullshit small talk like,
"You folks enjoying the con? Great! See ya."
And I get off on my floor and am none the wiser until several hours later
when Brian Keene points him out and says
"Oh, by the way, that's Richard Laymon."
But again, I digress.
So the long and short of the review: is this paperback worth the $20.00 I paid for?
The plot surrounds fifteen-year-old Trevor Bentley, who has the misfortune of catching
Jack the Ripper in the midst of one of his notorious murders. After a
scuffle and a chase that ends in the cold River Thames, he boards a boat
and is knocked unconscious by one of the passengers. When he finally awakens,
he finds he is a prisoner of Jack the Ripper, along with the other passengers,
an American family. By torturing the young woman he is holding in the
cabin with Trevor, he coerces them to take him to America, where he hopes
to find kindred spirits amongst the savage Indians.
After several unsuccessful attempts by Trevor to convince the others to fight back (as
well as a few interesting exchanges in which the Ripper attempts to sway
Trevor into his own cruel line of thought), they finally land in
America. Trevor hurls himself overboard and eludes the Ripper, becoming
the boat's sole survivor.
He soon embarks on a journey that ultimately takes him across the still-nearly-infant
United States and into the Wild West . It reads a lot like Huckleberry
Finn's trip down the Mississippi, yet Trevor's adventures make Huck's
look like a walk in the park. Trevor learns of love, learns to shoot,
faces survival in the Western deserts, and much, much more before the
final confrontation with the Ripper.
The book carries a heavy Western feel through much of the book, with a strong spirit
of adventure. Yet the Ripper's cruelty and nasty deeds are visceral enough
for the most avid of horror readers. He's very much the villain you love
SAVAGE has a little of everything: an evil villain, a young, coming-of-age hero,
romance, suspense, and adventure. It's a book I'm sure to come back to
time and again when the reading pile wears thin, and in my humble opinion
it's a modern classic. I give SAVAGE five BookWyrms, and a tip o' the hat to Lassen for putting it in my hand
(and to the HorrorNet Cabal for turning me onto Laymon, period).
This review copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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