The Cellar (Richard Laymon)

Some say the best things in life are free while others say you have to pay an admission fee. Richard Laymon books are somewhere in between. Its nice to pick them up at the library but I don’t really mind paying either. Providing they are cheap and easy in some bargain bin…I love the fact that Laymon can make even the most overly used clichés seem new to the reader. I knew exactly what was coming, yet I didn’t. Stock characters are going to get themselves in over their heads in a creepy town with a history of people who ‘just go missing’. And yes, everyone’s gonna go into this demonic, evil house (at night) when they know they shouldn’t.

Like Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Laymon got no respect. He never found a big American audience for his work during his lifetime. He pumped out thrillers alongside Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, John Saul, and Stephen King, but never achieved the fame and fortune of his contemporaries. Critics dismissed his work as too sexiest and/or too violent. Publishers found him a little too prolific for their tastes. At least Dean Koontz helped by saying: “you’re going to have a good time with anything he writes.” Fortunately, Laymon found an audience overseas. His sales in England and Australia during the 1980s and ‘90s kept his literary career alive. He was able to eek out a living, feed his family, and keep a roof over their heads.

This alone qualifies him as a literary hero.

The Cellar is a blend of creature-feature and crime thriller, like From Dusk ‘Til Dawn. Now I need to add some warnings here. Do not read this if fictional scenarios involving child rape, and a ‘rapey’ theme in general, revolts you too much. Laymon does write like a man in long raincoat who sits at the back of a cinema, his eyes darting everywhere… The story takes place in Northern California where an unknown “beast” has been killing people at a house known as “The Beast House”, for over 50 years. One of the families of the victims buys the house where the killings have occurred and makes it into a tourist attraction.

Laymon’s prose is just the way I like it: concise and to the point. The events described in this book aren’t over dramatized, they just happen. Donna and her daughter Sandy flee their home to head up North, trying to run away from Donna’s ex-husband and Sandy’s father – Roy – who has just been released from prison after serving six years in the slammer for raping his daughter, Sandy. Nice guy.  Along the way Donna and Sandy have car trouble which leaves them stranded in a town called Malcasa Point, which is the same city where the “Beast House” just happens to be. Here they meet Jud and Larry. These two men are on a mission to find the beast living at the “Beast House” and kill it.

Jud is somewhat skeptical to the beast being a real thing, while Larry swearing it does exist because he is the beast’s only known survivor. So, will Roy find Sandy and Donna? What is the beast? Is it real? You will have to read the book to find out! Definitely no classic, this story was still an overall enjoyable read. It sort of reminded me of the movie “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” That’s the feel that it has. It is easy to like and identify with Laymon’s good characters. They are usually in great danger of course. Or dead. The bad guys in his work are so awful you are booing at the page, eager for them to receive their just desserts. The abrupt ending in this one has left me with questions that I hope will be answered in the next books.

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