Written by GradyRichards
The "At a Glance" segment is an overview on the career of a professional horror author, not an author discovered on Wattpad.
Richard Laymon was born in Chicago in 1947. A long time Californian, he became author of over thirty novels and more than sixty short stories in magazines such as Ellery Queen and Cavalier and in anthologies including Modern Masters of Horror and Night Visions 7. Although not a popular name in his native country, Laymon enjoyed success in the UK and Australia, only starting to rise in American publishing houses in the days prior to his tragic death in 2001. Although his works were slow to rise, he is known as being a prolific horror writer of the 1980's and -90's whose influence has inspired writers such as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Bentley Little, and Jack Ketchum—the best-selling horror writers of today.
I first discovered Richard Laymon in a Borders book store in 2008. I was perusing the horror section, looking for the next addition to my growing collection of horrifying paperbacks. I'd never heard of Laymon before—he'd somehow skimmed beneath my radar for his few years of American publication—but he had a few titles on the shelf, which meant he wasn't a one-and-done horror author.
Even still, I almost didn't buy one of his books. I'd read the descriptions on the back, found some intrigue there, but nothing which compelled me to damn the torpedoes and throw my money at the clerk. However, of the other candidates on the shelf that day, I'd read many of their books and knew what to expect from them. There were some I hadn't read, but many of them were Lovecraft rip-offs or had other disadvantages in my Elitist perspective. Unwilling to leave the store without giving something a chance, I purchased Richard Laymon's novel Island.
And I haven't stopped reading Laymon since. From where I type this, one of his novels is at my left elbow... fifteen more are on a shelf beside my desk. And the collection is growing.
Island, my first glimpse into the work of Richard Laymon, was impossible to put down. It's about a young man who becomes trapped on an island with a few gorgeous gals in bikinis after their boat explodes. But they aren't alone on the island—and people are getting killed left and right.
At first, I didn't know what to think about Island, or Laymon for that matter. I'd never read a horror novel so fixated on sexuality and pleasures of the flesh. It seemed the writer spent an inordinate amount of time describing the look of the ladies in their skimpy bathing suits. But I came to realize that this wasn't necessarily the vice of the author, but of the narrator.
The story is told from the point of view of Rupert, the main character. A horny and sexually repressed young lad, it's understandable that he locked in on such pulchritude and sexuality, rather than dealing with the horrific killings going on all around him. I forgave him that and followed him throughout this intense tale... all the way through the twist ending.
I remember setting the book down. I'd read its 504 pages in two sittings—only taking time off to sleep a few hours. And when I set the book down, I went straight back to Borders and bought Into the Fire, The Cellar, and Beware—the only Laymon novels remaining on the shelf. And I've been a die-hard Laymon fan ever since.
Since reading Island, I've come to learn that sexuality does play a large part in what Laymon does. Most of his books revolve around some sort of sexually depraved theme or plot. Into the Fire is about a woman who is kidnapped and brought into the desert to become a sex slave to a man from her past. But she's saved in the second chapter, by a peculiar man driving around the desert in a school bus full of mannequins, and things get intense from there on out. Resurrection Dreams is about a lunatic who experiments with resurrecting dead bodies for many reasons, some of them perverse. Beware is about a woman being stalked by a man she'd turned down years ago... a man who has gained the power of complete invisibility.
Sometimes, I erroneously picture Richard Laymon as a pervert and would-be rapist who turned his depraved attentions on fiction instead of violating real women. But deep inside, I know that he simply understood the adage that “sex sells.” His books often incorporate rape and other violations, but as an author of visceral horror, these things are hardly shocking to the audience. Like Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon is a master of honest physical horror—and he never looks away from a painful moment.